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The Boys Who Saw Death

I have walked side by side with death. In the kingdom of Fortada death was common; death was a way of life. Every once in a while, an important person would die and people would mourn, but after a week or two, everything would go back to normal. For my twin brother and I, death was the only way. We had never seen our parents but were told they died from a fast sweeping disease. It seemed plausible, especially since we had seen people dying from awful sicknesses on a weekly basis, as well as having everyone in the village vouch our parent’s death. We were raised by our grandmother who did what she could. She was an old but strong woman, in her late 60’s, which made her one of the oldest women in the village. She had powerful hands that could alleviate discomfort and aches but were still quick enough to dice carrots effortlessly.
Our family was known as a lineage of blacksmiths who were once the leading producer of iron weapons and other tools for the kingdom, but now with no real men in the family, this duty was assigned elsewhere. Rather than continuing to weld, our grandmother decided to take care of the royal family as a nurse. Although most nurses in the kingdom were looked down upon, the royal family developed a liking towards our grandmother. Perhaps it was because she was an obedient worker, or maybe because she was just good at her job. We had no idea why they liked her; we had never even met the King…
Fortada is a fairly large kingdom, completely surrounded in circular fashion by large grey stone blocks, piled fifty feet high. A large castle stood at the front of the kingdom, allowing outsider’s entrance through a bridge located in its center. The wooden bridge lowered and climbed up depending on the situation. It was operated by a few gates keepers who pulled steel chains to either allow entry to people such as messengers and knights or deny entry to assassins and enemy soldiers. When fully lowered, the bridge would lay across a river that would have been impossible to pass otherwise. The river that ran across the entire face of the kingdom was dark, murky and about 30 feet deep, inhabited by alligators and other treacherous creatures. When the bridge was fully lowered one could see the bustling kingdom through the large oval shaped entrance. Although the front of the castle facing the outside world was windowless, there were small holes that soldiers could attack enemies from. Architecturally, there were three evenly sized domes spread across the roof of the castle with golden angels sitting on the top of each. The walls facing the kingdom were decorated with colored glass, along with other portrayals of Christianity. There was a large wooden cross facing the kingdom along with Christian paintings. Fortada was beautiful externally but not as much internally.
Childhood was not all that great for us. Growing up without a father made life quite difficult for my brother and I. We were socially awkward, quiet, and as unmanly as it gets. We felt like outsiders in our own kingdom. We weren’t the most intelligent but we were rather religious. God or better yet the fear of God played a large part in our lives. But then again, it played big part in every villager’s life at the time. My brother and I would sit on the dirt and watch in envy as other boys learned how to be men from their fathers. Learning how to hunt, and fight like knights. We were not fighters; we were petty, weak sixteen year olds. Our family was the one making the weapons, not using them. I remember the day when this all changed.
My brother and I were coming home from town with food for our grandmother’s soup. She had not been feeling too well but still managed to fulfill the basic duties of a guardian. It was pitch black outside but the dirt tracks were dimly lit by surrounding fire torches. There absolutely no one out, from what we could see. We were in no man’s land. When we were about halfway home, we crossed paths with an older boy named William who was a soon to be knight. He was older than we were and was about the size of both of us put together. He was an alpha man and we were betas. So we did what any beta would do, avoid eye contact and keep our heads down when walking past a man of such stature. As we nervously walked by, I felt a jolt of energy from behind.
I flew onto the floor, dropping all the food from my hands. My knees had been scuffed as well as my hands and face. My brother James was in utter shock. He had never been in a situation like this and was frozen in fear. Fear was all we knew.
“Hey loser, what have you got on you?” he said.
“Uhh, nothing just food for our grandmother” I said as I tried to get up.
“You guys are pathetic” he said.
He walked over to me and kicked me in the ribs sending me to the floor gasping for breath. In that instant my brother had had enough. James lunged at him and punched him in the back. William seemed unfazed by the attack and immediately turned around and delivered a mammoth punch to his mouth. He flew to the ground, revealing that he was just as bloody and battered as I was. Was this how we were going to die? As feeble men who had accomplished nothing in their lifetimes? It was time to be a man, not a boy.
James, with a bloody foaming mouth said “Leave us alone.”
He stepped towards me and said “How about I end your useless life” as he took out a knife from his pocket. “It’s not like anyone would even care if such a useless person died anyway.”
He charged towards me with the knife and for the first time, I looked another man in the eye. Time had slowed down. I looked him dead in the eye. With all attention on him, and unwavering eye contact, the thoughts ran through my head. “DIE, DIE, DIE” I whispered to myself in anger and pain. I held my gaze thinking it would be my first and last. William stopped dead in his tracks. Freezing, looking at me as if I were the grim reaper and had come to take his life. I kept my gaze firm. I could sense the fear building up. He remained still with a horrified look. Why hadn’t he run away by now? Was he really afraid of me? I began to feel linked to his mind as if I could control what he did and what he thought. I whispered what I’d hoped would happen to him. “Die…” I said with a sly grin on my face in a cold hearted tone. I felt a pulse in my brain and was stunned for a fraction of a second when William collapsed onto the floor. I immediately looked at my downed brother with eyes of regret. He looked at me with a bloody grin and eyes of hatred. After a few minutes, it was apparent. William was dead. We picked up the food and ran home, promising to never reveal what had happened. It was a secret, our secret.
The next day, we awoke to a knocking door. We knew exactly why our door was being knocked on. Our grandmother slowly limped to the door, coughing along the way. When she finally opened the door, a knight dressed in polished armor with a sword tucked to his side stood in front of her grief stricken. Before she could even open her mouth to speak, the knight said “A knight has been killed.” Grandma’s eyes widened as she stood in utter shock. There were only a few dozen knights. She knew we were not in war, so how else could a young and valiant knight been killed?
“How was he killed?” Grandma asked.
Little did she know, the killer and witness were standing right behind her.
“There were no signs of injury, so we are not sure.” the knight said.
“So he just dropped dead?” Grandma said.
“God may have special plans for him. He was the most promising knight in the land” he said while turning his back.
“His burial will be held tomorrow.” he said walking away.
Grandma looked at us for a brief moment and then hobbled off into the kitchen. We seemed to be in the clear…
At the burial, the finest knights and soldiers as well as the king were in attendance. I was surprised that we were given permission to attend the funeral. It was probably because of grandma. Everyone was in a somber and heartbroken state. They had no idea how or why such a bright knight had suddenly dropped dead. My brother and I felt as if we didn’t belong in such a congregation. We had a pact that we would never reveal what had happened. No one else cared about us, except grandma. So we wouldn’t care about them. Instead, we would use this time to see what we were capable of.
“William was a great knight.” The king said.
My brother wanted to see if he had similar abilities to mine. He looked directly in the eyes of a knight standing, listening to the speech. A few seconds later, the same man said, “No he was not a knight.” In that instant, every person snapped their head in his direction and looked at him confused and with disgust. Not only had he talked bad about a great prospect, but he had done something that was unheard of in the village, talking over the king.
“What did you say?” said the king.
“Umm…nothing sir, I didn’t say anything.” said the knight.
“You are right that he was not a knight at the time, but he sure as hell would have surpassed you in time.” said the king.
“You’re right your highness. I am sorry.” said the knight.
Thankfully the king did not take this too seriously. Usually a peasant would be burned at the stake for such an act, but this knight was in higher standing. After all, his comrade was just killed.
It was now clear. My brother and I were gifted with powers that allowed us to manipulate people and even kill them if we pleased. It was as if we were living Gods. Now we just needed to learn how to use them quickly and efficiently, like a second nature.
About two weeks later, our grandmother was terribly ill. It was as if her health got worse and worse after we had killed William. She was on the bed, wheezing but still able to speak a few words. It was clear that she would not make it through the night. Hours before she had continuously said “I love you both, with all my heart.” We loved her too. She was the only one who cared about our lives. She was the last living person we cared about. As time went by, her breathing became deeper and quicker. It became harder and harder to do the most basic task, breathe. Minutes before her death, she spoke.
“They lied.” she said.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“You’re parents weren’t killed by a disease.” she said in many breaths.
“What??” James said.
“The king, he killed them!” she said with everything she could muster.
Her body then collapsed like her soul had been ripped out. This was it. Grandma had passed. The only person who cared about us on this earth…gone. We had been lied to, but it was not her fault. It was the people who had kept it from us and wanted it to stay that way.
James looked at me with ghastly eyes. I returned the glare. Death was coming.
We stormed out the door, seeking retribution. A village stands to protect and inform those who inhabit it. Fortada failed us. For this, we would destroy it. We broke into the first house. A family of four, mother, father, daughter, and son. The mother and father woke up immediately, confronting us.
“James, John?” the mother said.
“Heh.” I smirked.
We looked at them, with the eyes of death and they immediately collapsed, meeting death. The children ran out of their rooms and met eye to eye with their parents killers. The fact was, they were innocent victims who were related to the cause. It was not their fault, but someone had to pay. They were spared and would understand in time why this was done to them. They would pursue us, like we pursued their parents. We looked away from them and ran off into the night.
We went from house to house ruthlessly killing anyone involved. Killing after killing, we became immune to weak emotions. We did not feel sorrow, regret, or pain. We only felt hatred and power. After a few murders, killing became as easy as breathing. After wiping out nearly everyone, we slowly walked to the King’s castle.
As we approached the castle we noticed that there were guards standing in front of the doors to the two entrances. They looked like they were drifting off to sleep when we confronted them. They quickly snapped out of their doze and assumed an upright stance.
“What are you boys doing here?” Guard 1 said.
“Yeah shouldn’t you guys be sleeping?” Guard 2 said.
“Goodnight, forever.” James said.
They collapsed to the ground. We took the key for the door from one of the guard’s pockets. We opened the door and walked in. We walked into every room, killing its occupants before they could even open their mouths. After randomly walking through the castle, killing everyone in sight, we came face to face with double wooden doors adorned with bells and gold in a vine like pattern. We rushed through the doors awaking the King and the Queen. As soon as the Queen got up, she dropped right back down, dead. The King was in utter shock. He had never been in such a situation before.
“What are doing here? Where are my guards?” he mumbled hurriedly.
“Dead” I said.
“But…why…who are you…two?”
“You killed our parents…why?” James said.
“Your parents…were different!” the king said.
“They tried to organize a peasant revolt. They were always very sympathetic towards those runts. The kingdom was nearly overrun. They had to be killed. Please don’t kill me.” he continued.
James glared at him. The king took a dagger close to his bed and started stabbing his torso repeatedly.
He lifted the dagger upwards. He stabbed his left temple and dropped to the floor.
“Our parents were good people.” James said.
“They stood up, like we have.” I said.
We exited the castle and begun a trek to a nearly enemy kingdom.
As we ventured towards the kingdom, we encountered bandits and merchants, many of which we killed, especially if they had taken us lightly. We stole food and water but didn’t bother stealing anything materialistic because it meant nothing to us. We were supreme and godlike in nature. Anything we wanted was ours for the taking.
After the nearly two day journey we approached the enemy kingdom. It was a bright August afternoon. As we got closer, we began killings off any armed soldiers that were camping on the rooftops. We got closer to the gates keeper when James glared directly at him. The gates keeper immediately began opening the doors to the kingdom. The entrance was the size of Fortada’s but had metal bars that rose in front of a large wooden door. When the bars to the door finally lifted, we killed off the gates keeper and started our stroll into the kingdom.
As soon as we entered, villagers started screaming and running. Rather than kill them, we just continued to stroll along, with menacing glares, daring anyone to challenge us. We were the new authority whether they liked it or not. Anyone armed or confronting was killed instantly. After surveying most of the kingdom, we began to hear horses and other rowdy men charging at us from behind. The horses were well ahead of their knights. We turned towards the horses, and began plucking the knights off them, snapping their necks. As soon as the soldiers behind them registered their impending death, they froze. The king revealed himself, from behind the knights.
“Who are you men?” he said.
“Everything you are not.” I said.
“We are death.” James continued.
“Interesting…You men will be great additions to this kingdom. Take what you want and do as you will!” the king said.
Suddenly, the villagers started to smile and grab us as if we were saviors. We had just killed dozens of their fellow villagers but they viewed us a godsend? It felt great to be loved by a whole kingdom. It felt too good to be true.
That night we had a feast of epic proportions in the King’s castle. We sat alongside the king, nobles, and other high class individuals. They didn’t dare to say anything out of line to us. Everything they mentioned was in regarding to how they could better pamper us. After eating, the King called for a group of women to come out.
“These are yours, as well as any other woman you want.” he said.
This was the life. Although we were supreme beings, it felt better handed to us, rather than us just taking what we wanted.
Treatment like this continued for months. We ate like kings, slept with any woman we wanted, although most of them were throwing themselves on us, and had villagers worship us. Life couldn’t get any better. The only thing that we had to do for the village was protect it. Every now and then enemy soldiers would come and we would neutralize the threat rather quickly.
However, over time it became rather redundant to James. One day James came up to me and said
“John, I want to explore the world.”
“But isn’t this life great?” I said.
“Yeah but life is about more than being powerful.” he said.
“Well, I plan on staying here for as long as this treatment lasts.” I said.
“I’ll see what else life has to offer. If I’m not back in 6 months, something is wrong.” he said.
“Ah, you’ll be fine brother. I’ll stand post here and laugh when you come running back for such treatment!” I said.
He left shortly after. The days flew by and the months passed on. I didn’t let it faze me because I knew he’d be alright. He was practically immortal and could fight entire armies, singlehandedly. A week ago a villager told me that James has been away for 8 months. James had told me to send people to look for him after 6 months. Who knows…maybe he found a kingdom that gives better treatment? Maybe he found discovered something interesting? All I know is that he must have been alive and kicking. So I sent out a few dozen villagers to go looking for him, to show him that I actually followed his advice.
Yesterday, while having lunch, a villager returned, telling me that he had located James in Fortada…dead. My heart immediately started racing. My vision blurred as my eyes begun to water. No this could not happen. He is immortal, we are immortal. I began to take deep breaths.
“This cannot be true. It wasn’t James you discovered.” I said.
“He was on the floor next to a bed with a body on it.” he said.
“There was no blood. He was just laying there, dead. I found this piece of paper in his hand.” he continued.
I grabbed the paper from him and opened it up. It read, “Gods are not meant for earth.” What did this mean? Was James not happy with whom he was? I know we didn’t ask for such abilities, but who would turn them down. We had the power to do anything we pleased.
It has only been one day, but now I’m beginning to understand James. This was not a blessing but a curse. No one deserves so much power. Being able to control life or death is something no man should have power over. We had no friends, it was all an illusion. We were a tool, used for well being of others. We were at the top of the world and had nothing to accomplish, no reason to live. We only had each other, just like the old days. Now, I’m alone, as I close my eyes…and think about death.

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~ by billyfrawley on December 6, 2011.

2 Responses to “The Boys Who Saw Death”

  1. Is there anything that needs to be explained more?
    Did I end the story too abruptly?

  2. hi Billy. This is a pretty chilling story that proves the saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” These two “heroes” are not admirable–any way you could help us relate to them more would be effective; that way, you can show us how the average person might respond similarly to such newfound power.

    Your first question: Perhaps you could describe the two boys more and earlier in the story. We keep hearing about a “we” and don’t learn who the “we” is until a quarter into the story.

    Your second: I think it’s a good ending, but maybe you could explain more deliberately how this brother, too, becomes sick of mere physical gratification. Life is more than that, right? What makes life truly meaningful? And how *should* power be used? These are two profound questions your story has the potential to offer suggestions for.

    My last piece of advice: avoid slangy language from our own time, such as “loser.” It pulls us out of the fantasy of the story and locates us in reality once more. We’d rather get carried away by the world you create.

    Mostly, this is very evocative and creative writing, Billy–nice work!

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