Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hollow World Book 4 Chapter 6



Graham was aware that his nephew stood but a few feet away, but could not pull his eyes from the obol that very man had given him a few days before.  “I don’t need this!”

“You will,”  The Pennyman said, “If not now, then later.”

Graham snorted and hopped down from atop the car.

“Why have you not attacked yet?” 

Graham smiled, and looked towards the setting sun, and then looked east, to where the moon, almost full was beginning to rise.  “At your mothers request, I wait for the moon to begin it’s ascent to the heavens in it’s full glory, as I will, as we will.”

The Pennyman nodded, “I tire of being topside.  My place is not up here, my soles long for the ancient wood of my ferry, my hand the feel of the long pole, my legs the gentle rocking of the rivers.”

“This place bears a great resemblance, both in appearance, and demeanor to my kingdom below.  These humans are nothing special.  They are not in need of saving, they are in need of punishment.”  Graham said, turning the coin in his hands over again.

“You killed my father, you are no different from these humans.  If anyone should be punished, it is you.”  The Pennyman said letting his bag down on the ground beside him and stepping toward Graham.  “When you came to me, you spoke of how careless, how reckless, how destructive these people were.  You told me about their indiscretions, their lawlessness.  And here,” The Pennyman threw his arms out wide, indicating the whole camp, “You have people who follow your every command, killing, torturing, maiming people.  And they do it without emotion, not because they have none, but because you suppress it.  Tell me uncle, how does it feel to kill?”  He was beside Graham then, having disappeared and reappeared as Graham had blinked, his hand around the man’s neck.

“You can’t kill me, that would make you no better than I am.”  Graham rasped, his body’s lungs crying for air.  He tried to shift to one of the men around him but something blocked him.  

“Can’t?  Oh, I can,” Charon squeezed harder, making Graham’s eyes bulge slightly.  “But I won’t.”  He said, releasing the man from his grasp.

Graham crumpled to the ground, coughing and gasping for air. “You are no better than they are, cowards, hiding behind their wall.”  He said as he stood up.  He walked to the edge of the mountain, keeping an eye on the Pennyman, who followed him.

“I don’t need this,”  He said looking at the obol still in his hand one last time.

“You will.”

“No, I won’t,”  Graham said as he pitched it off the side of the mountain, losing sight of it as it descended into the coming dusk.

Charon smiled and left the man, who walked back into his camp, pulling off the sun-bleached white jersey, the numbers eighty-eight equally white stitched upon it’s back.   He wore a yellow stained undershirt beneath it that clutched to his body and cracked when in moved.  He peeled this off as well, in pieces, and summoned one of his troops, a peace officer in crusty riot gear.  He ordered the man to strip and dressed in the body armor.   He took the jersey from where it lay crumpled near the fire and almost threw it in but thought better of it.

“I did say I’d return it, didn’t I,”  Graham said, smiling.  He handed it to the nearly naked police officer and commanded him to take it to the killing field outside of Boulder City.  He went with the man and called a pair of torchbearers to walk with them, carrying their massive torches with them.  They walked down the side of the mountain.  He could have just shifted all four of them down to the edge of the field, but he felt the mortals within their walled city deserved the show.

It took the better part of two hours, and by then, the moon was high overhead and the torches were not needed to see.  They walked to the edge of the barren field, the flames illuminating dark stains upon the dirt where his men had fallen before.  Graham stopped, ordering the other three men to continue walking, waving the white jersey in the air as if it were a flag.  He could hear the calls of alarm from atop the wall.

Laughing, Graham concentrated, and the bloodstains began to seep back into the ground, leaving the spots clean again.  The blood resurfaced as a sticky crimson puddle in the center of the field, about a hundred feet distant from the gates, his flag bearer at it’s center.

“Stop.”  Graham commanded, parting the puddle around the man’s feet.  “Drop the jersey.”  This was done and the man came back to stand beside Graham again, leaving the two torchbearers standing in the center of the killing field.

“You have served me well,” Graham’s voice boomed across the open field, echoing back from the nearby mountains.  The pooled blood began to climb the men’s legs, but they stood motionless, emotionless, holding their torches high.  “And now I ask one last thing of you.  The war is coming.  Show those within their cage what they are up against.  Show those that oppose us that tomorrow night, under the full moon, what awaits them.

Simultaneously, the torch bearers set their ragged clothing on fire.  They stood there passively as the flames danced down their bodies.  The blood beneath them began to shift and move in the sand.  It appeared to be running from the flames, but soon it too was on fire, the flames dancing over it like oil.

Graham turned and began the long trek up the mountain, the flag bearer trailing behind him.

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