Saturday, October 15, 2011
Posted by Jonathan Martin
Not a stocking hung by the fire with cheer. Graham watched as the chimney collapsed in on the apartment building. He knew what day it was, but they had celebrated days earlier, under the full moon, with two other Ancients. One of which, a petit blonde woman, stood before him, backlit by the raging flames of the building his soldiers had just set ablaze.
She opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, he interrupted her.
“Graham,” he told her.
“You have had many names throughout time, but that one fits you not,” she said, with the trace of a German accent that her host had once had.
“Be that as it may, they chose their champions, and I,” he paused, whether purely for effect or to search for the correct word, she could not be certain, “adapted accordingly.” He smiled as the roofs wooden crossbeams began to warp in the heat.
“And now you are doing?” She asked, turning to watch the flames, before looking at the half dozen other blackened pits that had once been tenant buildings.
“I’m clearing the battlefield.”
“Do you really think they will attack us here?” She asked, her eyes a little wider.
“No, but it never hurts to be prepared. Besides, it gives my army…”
“Our army,” she interrupted him.
He smiled, and the flames’ reflections danced a macabre jig upon his teeth. “Our army. It gives our army something to do for the next few days. He smiled again as a trio of screams arose from nearby. “You will have to excuse me,” he told his companion before issuing the command to bring the interlopers to him.
Awaiting their arrival, he strode to the nearest pyre and, fishing among the burning remains, pulled out a flaming two by four. Another three minutes he waited before he caught sight of the three screamers, two middle aged women, and an elderly man, his graying beard long and unkept.
They were forced to kneel before Graham, who approached the man and asked, “Do you know who I am?”
“You, you’re the Nightmare Man,” stuttered the old man through bleeding lips.
“Ooh, I like that,” said Graham, “But you should call me Graham. Did Peter send you?”
One of the aging man’s companions, a stout brunette, responded, “Peter?” before being cut off by Graham.
“Of course not, Peter does not know we are here.” He flashed his yellow teeth as a thought occurred to him. Turning to the man, he spoke. “How would you like to become part of my army. It is fine to have soldiers who do as they are told without fail, but sometimes it is necessary to be able to think for yourselves.”
“Burn in hell,” The old man spat, blood and spittle striking Graham in the face.
Irritated, Graham wiped his face off on the faded jersey he still wore. “No, but you shall,” he said, and shoved the makeshift torch in the man’s face, catching his beard on fire. Again he waited, this time until the man had stopped writhing, before turning his attention to the brunette.
“I will gladly join,” she said enthusiastically as his gaze fell upon her.
“I don't believe you,” he said, and pressing the torch against the dirty blouse she wore. She did not scream for nearly as long as the man had, but when she was silent, he turned to the last of his captives, a chubby, raven haired, asian woman.
“Go,” he told her, and she sobbed as he spoke. “Go west. Tell everyone you pass that the war is coming. Everyone.” He turned to his men that still held her, and nodded, mentally commanding them to release her.
She fell to the ground as the hands supporting her let go, and she sat their crying, with Graham standing over her, as the petit blonde with her annoying German accent approached, accompanied by the other Ancient, a clean shaven, middle aged white man.
“Was that necessary?” The newcomer asked.
Graham chuckled. “Which part? Had I not killed both of her friends, she would not have done as I instructed.”
“But letting her live…” The bald man started, his voice raspy from years of smoking.
“She is still right here,” Graham said, trying to sound like he cared, and failing. “It will matter not, they can not stand before me, and any that try will be crushed under foot.”
“When do we move to White Sands,” the blonde woman asked, tiring of the newly released prisoner. “I grow weary of this place already.”
“You may leave whenever you want,” Graham offered, “But my soldiers will not move until the winter has released it’s icy grip. The human race has grown soft in the years since we ruled this land. They would not survive the march, and I can not win this war without an army.”
“Yes, and you would do good to remember that,” the third Ancient added, looking down at the blondes bare feet, her toes a ghastly shade of bluish gray.
“I will find another body when this one no longer suits me.” She snapped back, before turning away from the two men and storming off toward the house she had claimed as her own, some two miles distant from the battlefield that Graham was preparing.
Both men chuckled.
“How many soldiers did you bring me, Carl,” Graham asked the other man. “She is right though.”
“How’s that?” Carl asked, ignoring the question.
“These new names do not suit us.” Graham smiled, before forcing his question again,
“How many troops?”
“I brought in two hundred and thirty-four, plus two more cannons.”
“Good.” Graham grinned, before turning to follow the same path the blonde had walked off by.
“Yes, Carl,” Graham chuckled at the absurdities of the names, but stopped smiling altogether with Carl’s next question.
“What of your grandson.”
“He is... he is content to do his job I think.” Graham said, his voice almost a whisper.
“Are you certain?”
“What choice do I have if he is not?”
“I am not sure…” Carl said, before striking off, away from the houses, deeper into the apartments. “We will have to keep an eye on him,” He called out over his shoulder.