Saturday, January 21, 2012
Posted by Jonathan Martin
“Where are we?” Graham asked again through clenched teeth.
“I told you. Somewhere we can talk. In private.” The Pennyman smiled, sitting down in the snow.
“Not here!” Despite the fire in his eyes, Graham’s teeth chattered.
“Then I will be seeing you…” The Pennyman stood, back to his uncle, and took a step.
As he began to fade, Graham called out. “Wait!” Immediately the Pennyman’s form came into focus and he again sat down in the snow, smiling up at his uncle.
“This was not part of the deal!” Graham towered over his nephew, peering down his badly weather-scarred nose.
“Neither was this wonton destruction. Besides, if you want to win this war, you need to stop wasting your soldiers.”
“Bah! What are a few of these mortals? They matter not to me. I have thousands more.”
“And that is all you have. You have no more souls left. And neither do your brothers and sisters.”
“You think we do not know this? We were Gods, and our followers have been reborn, and we will be Gods again!” Graham was seething with anger. “Are you turning your back on your father? On your family?”
The Pennyman smiled as he stood. “On my family? No. It is you who have turned your backs. On
your followers. Know this…” He grabbed Graham and pulled him close, their noses touching. “I helped you out as a favor to my mother. My task now is to return our charges back to the underworld. Be careful lest I forget some of yours, as you seem to have done.” Grabbing ahold of Graham, the Pennyman strode forward, off the side of the cliff, both men disappearing into the wind and clouds
“Son of a bitch!” Graham shouted before realizing he was again standing amongst the burning ruins of his winter camp. The grotesque head of his sacrifice lay at his feet, a small obol pressed between her lips. He reached down, pocketing the coin and kicking the head into the nearby flames. He listened to the crackle of the flames around him, reveling in the smell of smoke that filled his nostrils and the heat that chased the numbness from his hands. Sufficiently warm, he made his way through the maze of fallen buildings until he came at last to the clearing where his soldiers had assembled.
His ranks, nearly fifteen hundred strong, stood as he approached, men, women, and children rising in a wave. Graham climbed atop the hood of a wood paneled station wagon, it’s windshield smashed out. “I have been promising you a war for some time now, even given you a taste of things to come.” He shouted, waiting for the excited whispers to die down. Waiting for the news to make it all the way to the back. He could have just as easily spoke into the minds of each of the Others gathered before him, but it would not have reached everyone in his camp. A week previous, a group of fifty-two men, who now stood front and center before him, had approached his camp and offered their services to the winner of the pending battle for supremacy. They had brought their own weapons in addition to a stockpile of bullets that they had contributed to the army. Graham smiled, his wind-worn lips cracking, before he continued. “Today we begin our march towards that war. Today we continue to reclaim what is rightfully ours.”
A shout went up from the men in front, the chains hanging from their belts rattling as they pumped their fists in the air.
Graham raised his own hands, flat out, calming his new soldiers. “The road will be long, and some… many of you may not make it to the end. But those that fall will earn n honored place when I regain my throne. Those that survive will live in my new paradise!” This brought another cheer from the men in front, which quickly spread amongst the Others. “Gather your belongings and make sure your supply carts are ready. We march in an hour!”
He stood atop the car and watched as his soldiers bustled about. The weapon carts that they had spent the winter months building were filled with spare guns and ammo. The two cannons were inspected and declared worthy of travel, their firing teams standing silently by as four men took ahold of each cart, and began to trudge to their place in the column of soldiers that was forming.
Satisfied that no further direction was needed for his army, Graham dropped down from the car and walked amongst his men, looking them over. They were a ragtag group and he knew that he would need more if he was to win this war. More guns, more supplies, and more men.
“Sir!” His name was David Jenson, but his men all called him Davey Boy. His jacket declared he was a member of the Gargoyles, or at least he had taken it from someone who was. He was the most outspoken of their group and had become their leader of sorts, or at least the one that Graham had chosen to speak to.
Graham looked the man over, the black leather jacket hiding a dozen tattoos on his arms alone. Two gold loops hung from his left ear beneath salt and pepper hair that was pulled tightly back into a ponytail that hung down to his shoulder blades.
“Where are we going? We will need supplies shortly.” Davey asked.
Graham smiled. “I know just the place, they will have plenty for us.” And he thought to himself, both in food and weapons.
“Sir?” Davey asked again, looking Graham squarely in the face. He suppressed a shudder as he saw what he thought were the reflections of the still burning buildings in the man’s eyes. He blinked and looked again, making out a new detail in the fire, a large Wal-Mart sign hung broken, a wall of cars lay trashed and on fire around it.