Los Hermanos

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This short story was inspired by the sleeve notes of a French LP I was translating for a friend. The notes began, "Dans notre monde", providing the opening words of the work. The atmosphere I have tried to evoke was also influenced by the music on the album; a dramatic, dark and primitive form of folk music.

Submitted: August 09, 2011

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Submitted: August 09, 2011

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Brothers

In our world there lie those poles that bind and break and push and pull, until life itself is formed and sealed. Between these poles we eke and scrape those scraps of merit that make the days.

Important and potent our time is wrung between that we do and those who count, as equal to the breath that sighs on and on to the final thought, each one as vital as the last, as urgent as the next, but worth no more than a memory in passing.

Scenes are familiar, universal; a blood red beat, primal rhythm, the first harsh light that drapes our world. Bright from pole to pole, with all the years that rise and fall, burning, burning in between.

 

I hoped for rain but none came. Grey skies threatened and threw their cape, ashen, but the dust blown wind still rattled in the throats of the empty old men; whistling mouths, lips parched on parchment skin.

Where do I begin? With the rolling weeds that stumble blind from house to house; with the crease-cracked walls, white as heat, dried and dead; with the boiled blood and bleached bones, thrown into bags of leather skin, pinched and pricked. Or with the town that stank of death, cold, damp charnel, the sickly smell of man as god.

Diablo is my brother; I am Diablo’s brother. The grammatical complicity rings like a bell. It pleases me. I ran, once, from my childish sleep, chased by the scrape of cicadas, wet and wild, my brother dead and dying still in the amber phial of sleep. My cries drove back his deep decay and he stared in the dark, flies still crawling from his mouth.

Now, my brother sits behind our bottle and shares that guilty knowledge. A brother is power in this small place, a single force of marketable duplicity. We have our trade, as other men, and tools and tricks and words and deeds. In the warm and windless nights bodies creak from twisted trees and dusty lands change hands.Our eyes are raised to test a knot, to pull a chain of simple gold, to tease the stars, the sky, the temporal air that shifts and slides with time. To live this way, in endless flight, restores those powers that man has lost, to hunt, to take, to breathe with thought.

 

The dust cleared and settled, the engine roared away. We two stood, a stain of sweat growing beneath the glare. The distance swelled and silence returned. A rifle strap bit deep through dirty cotton, the wood bound butt bounced below. Machine oil ran like water, melted by the sun, down the long, blue barrel.

The farmer drew a knife when we arrived, a silver blade his last remark. As I write I still grow old. His daughter shot a scream that burst and broken glass shone in the sand, rust blood dripped and dried on bright white walls. No one heard, the world did not cry and father followed daughter; darkly dead and buried neat in the dry, frigid earth.

 

I read a newspaper once. It fell from a wagon that trundled through town, yellow with fruit and lost on the track. Despite the marriages, death and days, the creased and cross edged paper held no familiar names. I threw it, in disgust, at Diablo’s feet. He laughed loud and long, I could almost see the flies.

Diablo does, Diablo dares and I follow his light, though I too can shine. And even if the world exists that does not know Diablo, that scatters papers from laden trucks , messages from gods, Diablo’s world is just as real. We are our gods, our word still spreads. But, for now, the heat holds us to our chairs.

As we sit and table talk, burning our throats with rough-necked rum, a distant face ducks and glances from the grimy bar. Greedy eyes and lighter skin; a trader from the town. I close my eyes and see him now as he bucks and breaks on the jagged rocks, then his hand on my shoulder.

“Los Hermanos?", He strains, his voice thick with rich spices. Diablo nods. I turn and study the hand that lingers too long. My look melts his bones to chalk, his beating heart to pulp. His fear grows and slides.

"I need some help...", He spits in nervous salivation. He senses my gaze and removes his hand, still shaking. Diablo draws a chair close with his foot, it scrapes like nails on the rough wooden floor.

"Present your case and Diabolo will decide."

The tidy light struck like a blow and the doors of the bar swung shut behind us.

"I like your story friend and with your money you have our faith. Los Hermanos will shine your light and spread the truth that you have bought.“ Diablo grinned and gripped the trader’s hand.

"Remember though, my friend, that you too have been touched by Diablo. If I fail and fade, yours shall be the purgatory that falls; I shall be your Charon."

 

That evening we sat, high above the valley. The liquid glow lay amber on the ground illuminating each rolling grain. Diablo turned, in each eye a perfect sunset.

"Are you happy, my brother ?"

I shifted on the sand and met his golden gaze. I couldn’t find an answer. The rough spirit still pulled at my gut, my brain still numb. Happy, am I happy? Do the days struggle by, is each night painful in its leaden fall? My body and mind bend and change, distilled with all my sweat and labour. My feelings cast a clearer course, mirror my Diablo’s closer and closer with each passing life. The trader too has paid a price though can he know the cost? ln his mind his truth is warped, he sees himself the buyer, yet he is what was bought. And all the while my suspicions grow.

 

This binding spiral has no end and the beginning is lost back, back, so far back beyond sight or remembrance. So much blood and strong belief has passed, the shirts and sleeves steeped and soaked in wine warm red. The feeling grows like doubt and despair that this has always been. The memory of my dream fades with the suns dark shadow.

"Yes, I am happy brother."

Diablo smiled and the night overflowed from the sidereal valley.

 

The voice of Our Lady rang from the sandy tower of the chapel. It sailed the streets of the virgin day, pricking every conscience, shaking every sin. I struggled from sleep but lay awake. The restless sun winked and flapped in the flimsy drapes, a shaft of dust-blown light burning as a golden flame. Diablo’s bed was empty. He loathed the bells and, every morning, rode through the yellow wastes, far from the town and its little church. The sun burnt its path to a cloud cracked zenith and Diablo returned, sweat and soak. The fall of hooves on the scorch dry earth and a faint sweet smell carried him to the room.

“You seem happy“, I thought aloud and surprised at the sound of my voice. Diablo stared with burning points of deep blue light, then he laughed.

“Today is a day to celebrate, my brother, not a day to judge. Today, this day, our Dies Nefastus is a day that will live beyond our lives."

He pulled two rifles from beneath his unmade bed, he clicked and slammed the oily breech and threw one to my hand. "Come on“, he said, his features blank, "Its time to go."

I thought and I did but I did not ask.

 

The Jeep rattled and sighed in the arid eve. My brother drove, tugging the wheel through the broken surface, his face grim and taut. At length he sighed and saw the issue in my eyes. He gripped the wheel tight and answered the question I had not asked.

“Yes“, he began, in a voice softer than his own, "I have a philosophy in life, on life, of life. Mine is the substance of hatred and honour, pressure and pride, free will and force, beauty as a goal and beauty as a source for all the stuff of this world.“

I closed my eyes and listened to his voice: the rasping engine and the hard, rattling road sang in the warm rush of air and broke his words into a whisper of sound.

“Though you have your doubts, I know we have done well ..., we will always be brothers, you and I." He took my empty hand and squeezed hard, his eyes fixed to the track that lay ahead.

We rolled to rest at the head of the jostling valley and coughed the dust from our clothes. Night was near and the last pale light lingered, purple and low. Diablo’s arm fell around my shoulder like a shawl and we climbed together toward the lighted farm, hanging like a lantern from the ridge. Orange clouds of rosy dust marked our path, kicking, stumbling and scraping over the stones, up and on.

At the centre of a hollow in the rise of the slope, Diablo stopped and slowly shouldered his rifle. The air moved and scraped, the valley sighed a whisper.

For moments long, the world revolved around us and the silence drummed in my ears. The heavy weight of pregnant air forced upon my body urging movement that would not come. We stood as statues, gripped in stasis.

At last, a step clicked, distant and a small stone tumbled towards us, tripping scree and raising dust like fire. Diablo stirred and shouted to the fading hours. In response, a thin dull line of army green closed around us, barrels poised in sinister bloom. A light flickered on higher ground and the sallow trader peered from the blackened back of an armoured car. He lifted his greasy hat and flames of red hair licked and spat around his face. Within and without, Diablo remained a voiceless, unchanged expression. The sweat of our climb cooled and dried in the lines of his face. A shout echoed sharp command, a sudden spring of rifle shot. I fell to the ground, pressing deep into the earth. Diablo ran towards their noise, through the crack and scream of molten lead. His movement drew their shining fire but he did not fall. His shirt dripped, split, scorched and evil.

Further, further, spitting teeth from his bloody mouth, he moved towards the barrel flames, flashing and smoking defiance. Up the dying hill, step by step, his body twitched and jumped at every bullet bite.

Drawing close, Diablo cleared the rocky ridge, swaying slightly in the still silk twilight. The firing stopped, a foot of empty air between the green and the red. Diablo pushed forward, forcing strength, and the soldiers crossed their collective soul. Across the lines the column turned, eyes toward the trader. Diablo seized a trembling arm and kissed the traders mouth, a crimson kiss of broad slash red, air bubbling and popping from the corner of his mouth. The trader screamed and Diablo slipped to the scarlet soil. The soldiers turned once more and the bitter taste of blood burned in my mouth.

The bodies lay on the darkened ridge all the cold night, while the soldiers sang and slept their dreams.

 

The light of day brought ants and flies, crawling food on the cold dead meat. The bells of Our Lady swelled from the valley, distant and sweet. And, as the carillon of muted hope fell on the acuminate ridge, Diablo’s dead eyes stirred and woke; sudden, dry and wide, fixed on the growing sky. A voice, someone’s voice, hung from the open throat, sanguine and sonorous.

“Wherever I found a living thing, there found I the will to power: and even in the will of the servant found I the will to be master. Neither necessity, nor desire, but the love of power is the Devil of mankind. You may give men everything possible, but they are and remain unhappy and capricious, for the devil waits and waits and must be satisfied“

Diablo’s eyes closed once more and the voice faded into dust, blown and buried in the salty earth.

 

Keith Flamée

 

 


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