All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
This was written for the Gothic Story contest.
The morning of the execution the daylight arrived diaphanous and beautiful. The snow was delicate and lovely. Whisky looked over the scene with a small smile remembering Mallory and him and all their heuristic philosophy and many adventures. There was no resistance, only acceptance and pride that made him sit up and do his best to remove the blood from his mouth. He didn’t think about the villager draconian ways or his brother’s monumental betrayal. He only thought of those evenings during the dying month and how he wished that winter had never come.
The village of Nonspe was a miserable place no matter how much the lush greenery of the forest surrounding it, the bright blue sky that shined down rather menacingly, or the sparrows who sung songs that grated on the ears; miserable.
That's what Whisky James, son of Hector James, was after being woken by raucous laughter and a slammed door. The boy closed his eyes but was assaulted viciously by dreams bearing pitchforks and sharp tales, welcoming him to more angst.
Whisky James was a somber boy, pale and fragile, red locks always combed neatly over his amber eyes. He was thin, yes, dreadfully thin, so thin that he could fit between the barred windows and sneak out onto the tracks when Hector was none the wiser.
The motions were made, sitting up, rubbing the sleep from dull eyes, pulling one leg off the bed and onto the floor, then the other, grabbing the leg braces off the rickety brown nightstand, fastening the buckles. ‘One foot in front of the other, yeah, that's it, Whisky boy,’ is what his father, Hector James use to say before his mother-
Hector James was philodox who loved the sound of his own voice; particularly when it was sprouting out grotesque slander. The churlish man found keeping a job hard and not keeping a bottle harder. The kind of man whose tongue loosened, then his wallet, before becoming morose and beginning the vicious cycle again. He whose wife was-
-gone was the hair in his face, Whisky made his way to and out the door with no small amount of hesitance. Stepping into the hall and to the right four steps down was his father surrounded by friends like vultures waiting for their prey to drop dead. Dead drunk that was. Whisky passed through the kitchen and to the back door as quietly as one could.
Not quiet enough.
“That your boy, Hector?” Asked one of the men. Whisky stopped, shifted but didn't turn to them. He recognized the voice of Simon Seyes, a morosoph and a rather fatuous man. Whisky inwardly sighed.
“Yeah, that’s little Whisky, all right,” said Simon. ‘He has a thin neck’ thought Whisky to himself standing next to the wall, arms behind his back, not making a sound. The embodiment of seen and not heard.
“What that on his legs?” Another vulture asked beady eyes zeroing in on his small figure, the vulture smiled showing his yellow teeth. Whisky smiled back and hoped his looked sharp.
“Braces, helps him walk, I told you about the accident,” said Father counting his coins proudly even though he had much more the night before.
“Poor boy,” grumbled a man,” Wish my wife would give me a son.” he had looked away sharply.
“Yeah, he’s a survivor. Good mornin’ boy!” greeted his father.
“Mornin’ Pa. Sirs.” his head dipped in subservience but his back was straight, posture perfect, voice even, prideful.
“Manners, ain’t see much of them these days. Beat them’ into him at a young age, eh Hector?” grinned an obese man who spilled his fat over the sides of his chair, Whisky grimaced smelling the man far before seeing him.“Naw, he came with them the full packaged deal, just like his maw,” he bragged, not even looking up again.
“What happened to her-” Whisky left the charged air and went back into his room, back to his window. He didn't need the mysterious story told to him again. It was created for intrigue, to inspire pity, ironic, a secret made to gain attention. It was-
At last, his throat was sore and his eyes burned and his muscles ached from being unable to move. The cold soon blackened his fingers and toes. He was left alone with his recollections of summer and his contempt for winter. But Mallory never came. Whisky sat on his heel and looked towards the wooden pillar where the burned woman was looking up at it with no expression watching mesmerized as the snow scraped off the ash and burned flesh leaving her feet bloody and raw. She looked up at the pillar and cried,
“Noooo!” it came from his mouth, the shrill sound, the manifestation of the desperation of humanities want to live. It was ripped out of him scratching and biting he looked every bit of a boy possessed, his eyes blown wide, yellow disks of golden fire.
“Noo, please, I ain’t do it!” He pleaded, struggling against the cuffs only to be tied to the pillar. He wept and wept and wept even when the people were gone even knowing that tomorrow would be his last. No one came but the burned woman who sat by his side and wailed with him long haunting sound full of no hope.
His new home, Ol’ Sounders Place was a nostalgic memory of the world before men. Fauna took over the land with a vengeance, reclaiming reigning over the open land. He reminisced the day he and his Pa moved into the village a month ago and settled into the renovated pig slaughterhouse easily which had appealed to Whisky’s morbid sense of humor and his father's groaning pockets.
Whisky remembered their last venture into Nonspe, the wasteland of grey-brown shanty houses made of wood, stone, and mortar. The people there stood around pretending to go on with their days but watched them, ravens in the widows, beady eyes and all, hissing among themselves in the shadows. The girls pointed,’ That that crippled boy?’ and the boys yelled ‘Lives in old man Sounders place!’. They stayed around for a while until they realized Whisky couldn't keep up with their playing or their conversations. Which was all right with him seeing to as their solipsism grated on his nerves.
Next to the slaughterhouse were railroad tracks that seemed weltschmerz, worn down by the world, the day he had first seen it all brumous. The skies pouring over the land with a sliver of silver. This place became his nepenthe, his haven. So he just enjoyed the joy that came with feeling anything but misery, even if anything was nothing at all.
‘The breeding place of hate and suffering’ that's what they called this land. Even so, he stepped carefully in fear of snakes and avoided all the berries and fruit he saw along the way no matter how hungry or thirsty he got. He found himself promptly at home with the petrichor fragrance and the summer heat so he spent his day nonchalantly stumbling down the tracks, undeterred by the awkward knocking of his knees and the click click click of his braces against one another.
“Lovely day, mind terribly if I joined you?” a voice asked from behind him. A scowl emerged on Whisky lips. Ruined, all of it. He was perfectly solivagant making his way down the tracks. He almost turned around and headed home but couldn't find it in him to not finish the trek he had started.
“Do as you wish,” he growled.
“Oh, that's fine, I was going to.” said the voice. It was young but had an odd baritone to it. Whisky kept his eyes on his own two feet just one foot before the other, ‘yeah, that's it, Whisky boy,’ he could hear his father say. Not that he said that anymore, not since-
“Rude.” Whisky ignored him, keeping his gaze on the ground. The boy came up beside him.
“Gotta name?” Whisky asked suddenly. It had gotten silent. The stranger had stopped talking or maybe he hadn't and Whisky had just not been listening… he mentally shrugged.
“And what is that?” all laughing nuances hidden in between the short drawn-out pauses. People's speech had always fascinated Whisky. His father slurred his words, Whisky’s was lifeless, and his Mothers-
He couldn't find anything else to say. The strange boy chuckled, light, and mellifluous.
“A lovely home you have.” said Bella. Bella was a woman from the village who became smitten with Pa when he visited the village stalls last. She was a small compact woman with wheat blond hair and cornflower blue eyes. She was kind and sweet and widowed for her husband had died that spring of fever. She was one of the only nice people in the village. Sweet, Sweet, Bella.
“Thank you ma'am.” Whisky said quietly, taking the ladies coat and hanging it neatly before leading her further into the den.
“Ah, Bella! Nice of you to join us boys for supper.” Hector came from the backroom dressed in a blue dress shirt and work pants. ‘His best’, Whisky thought to himself and he stood near the threshold to the living room his leg braces clinking quietly together.
“My pleasure. I fixed something up just this evening” Bella explained needlessly as she was carrying a pot almost bigger than her. She sat it on the table heavily and smiled patting her ramrod straight hair into place.
“Boy, pull a chair for the lady.” Hector ordered. He could be a charming man when he could. The money definitely didn't come from the mines anyways.
“Yes, Pa.” The small boy said almost on instinct. He didn't say much during this evening just tallied up the number of flies in his father's web. Miss Bella was sweet prey but prey nonetheless. She must be worth something if she was here. He knew of Hector's habits no matter how Hector tried to hide them. It was quite hard when he planned these dinners after all.
“Polite one isnt he?” She complemented. They always said that. They always brought food too. The stomach is the door to a man's heart after all. Whisky fought the urge to roll his eyes. That would not be very polite after all.
“Yes, maam. My pride, he is.” Hector boasted. This much was true. His Pa loved him. He had once told his boy that the truth made the best lies and his love for him was his best inspiration.
“I bet. Where do’ you keep the tin, sir?” The fly- Bella asked. What did it matter? Dalia, Georgia, Selena. Whisky added her name to the B’s list. It was quite short. Maybe she’d be comforted by that.
“No, maam. Whisky, set the table.” He nodded his head towards his son.
“Yes, Pa.” So Whisky did.
“Tell me, what they be doin’ down in the village?” Hecter asked his napkin in his lap and lazy gaze on Bella. It was a ruse of course. He was paying one hundred percent attention to the woman but the half gaze aroused security and comfort and damn if the prey were insecure.
“They be weeded the village for that witchcraft, yes sir, crops failed last year, no sir, not this year.” the woman said proudly her head up and chest puffed out. Whisky would have respected her a small amount more if he didn't have to see the inside of her nose.
“Witchcraft? Who made up that ol’ wives tale?” Hector bellowed in disbelief. His eyes were wide with shock and his forehead was wrinkled. Whisky was glad to know that though he was incompetent as a father he was a skillfull actor. Only his relaxed hands shows that he didn't care either way.
“No tale, Hector, caught a girl down south talking in tongues. That's what happens when folks don't baptise their childs’. Leave them vulnerable for HIM to take them.” Her tone was layered in accusation and pity. Hector listened patiently and twisted the rings on his fingers.
“What they gonna do? Baptise her?” Hector scoffed.
“Nope, theyd burn her, poor dear, no chance for her now, no fixen her.” She said jovially, taking the top off the pot she brought, grabbing a ladle and stirring.
“Whatd we havin for dinner, love?” asked Hector after the brief silence. He knew how to adapt that's for sure. He wasn't one to suffer an awful dinner. Or awful people unless of course they had enough money to buy his patience. This reinforced the notion that Miss Bella had something the snake wanted.
“Oh, my own recipe. Some nice wive’ stew. Fixed it up this evening, I did.” she said, chest puffed out with pride. She started pouring the portions out and didn't even notice the tense silence that came over father and son.
“That- thanks great of you ma'am. Thank you for our kindness.” Hector visibly straightened himself out and pulled at his already loose collar. His hand brushed over a small chain.
“We’ll couldn't let you starve, nice man like you with no wife of your own.”
“Oh, sorry me and my dumb mouth.” She played with her necklace coyfully. The ring of pearls were stiff around her short neck. Their luminescence shined dully from their place.
“No ma'am we don't mind. Whisky knows his mothers in us, right boy?” He placed his hand on his only son's nape. Reassurance or threat, Whisky never knew and never wondered because he never failed.
“Yes pa, shes there.” Forever, always, within me and you...
“Bless your souls, when it happen?” The fly fretted, the whites of her eyes glimmered unpleasantly.
“Horrible winter, too cold, barley anything to eat.” James said in a mournful tone. The play goes on.
“I ‘erd about those winters. Rumor says two men went up north for word got stuck on ‘un those trails and only one came back down. ‘Ate ‘im up. Just couldn't keep up. Just horrible, just horrible! God only knows...”
“Some places even he can not go. Too cold for his angels…” His tone was contemplating.
“Oh, all this unpleasantness! How's your boy settling in?” She perked right up as if she was exchanging rumors of adultery instead of execution and murder.
“Just fine, just fine.” He said arily fully back into his comfortable role as a trustworthy confidant of rich women and Bella as sure as ever that she had snagged another victim.
Never did she know.
They watched him but left him for hours while they prepared, leaving him to redden the snow. Many came out and stood on the sidelines. Girls pointed ‘ That's that devil boy!’ boys yelled,’ I told you something wasn't right with this place!’ Indifferent he watched them look up at his fallen form and whisper to one another intrigued by his blood-stained front and mouth entertained by his torn wrists and satisfied with his glazed expression. Then Whisky looked down on them and he smiled relishing in the shocked whispers and unsettled restlessness that descended over the masses. They glowered at him, called out to him but he just smiled at them. Speak no evil yet they spoke of him. See no evil nonetheless there he was. Hear no evil but his laughter rang loudly haunting and high victorious and mocking.
Whisky shook, shook, and shattered frame rocking on top of his small cot. His hands were wet, dark like ink in the shuttered light of the room. And outside they were watching. He felt it as surely as he felt his heart knocking stubbornly, knocking and it wouldn't stop, it wouldn't stop until it did. And at the foot of his bed, he had thought that he had seen a wendigo grinning, sinning, creature. And in the peach light intruding the scene, he could have sworn the wendigo was him.
Hector might have peeked inside, he could have come back with a gun. He might have stood over his fallen son crying over what he felt must have to be done. He thought about hazel eyes, large and blinking, sunken and weeping, coughing, coughing up lungs. And eyes. And fingers. He swore that this was revenge. He remembered that voice-
“Mind if I joined you?”
Hector remembers the promises that sounded like liquid tenebris, entrapment of the best kind. Even now, James had a type of horrible admiration for his act. That damn perfidious man. He was ferly, both wonderful and terrifying. The man walked in front of him back turned in total trust, or so he mistook the prompt disregard of him as a threat.
“All you want in life for the price of your soul. All the money you could hold, power, luck…” ‘Anything’ he promised silently. He didn't have to say it to have Hector hooked. And hooked he was. Hector didn't remember much about that night,
“Are you the devil?”
“No reason I couldn't be.”
“There's a girl-”
Hector wiped at his son's mouth and sobbed. Burning and regret, burning, and regret, he clenched his wet hands. Yes, regret is a bitter burning feeling. He longed for a nepenthe. The red was bright and deluded around his mouth. Hector's wrath was lit by injustice. He had paid his price last winter.
‘Don't look at me, son, I’m nothing to see’ he thought at Whisky, ‘Don't open your eyes, I beg of you, pass on in your sleep’ silently he prayed. He pressed his nose to his son’s hair strong with the smell of sillage a mockery of all he had lost. He sat there for hours just listening to the wheezing of lungs that sounded familiar,
“Follow me, Follow me.”
“Follow me, please, Follow me.”
“Follow me, Follow me, Soon, it will all end soon.”
“Follow me, follow me.”
And it said,
“Follow me, follow me.”
And it got louder,
“Follow me, follow me, Soon, it will all end soon.” He left never seeing the boy in the corner watching on in regret.
The quiet of the night was broken by the heavy footfalls of one Hector James. This wasn't supposed to happen. He had been promised everything he had ever wanted. He scoffed. He had gotten it. The track's path was cold but his anger kept him warm. Make no mistake, Hector James was not a lugubrious man; he knew his heart was of diminutive size but what was left of it belonged to his son. He remembered when Whisky was young, he was such a timorous boy. He didn't talk until he was four years old and by that time Hector thought he was a mute. Even now, his son showed none of the superciliousness that other boys did. He was content to wonder all day and his legs never stopped him. He was a prideful boy who never wanted nor needed anyone's assistance to get by.
In Hector's trade the use of chicanery was abundant. Loquacious dinners with insipid dinners just like his father and his father before him. But not his scion. His boy was a diffident, well mannered boy and now he lay in bed fading away like a good dream.
Whisky was born in winter. There was nothing beautiful about the violent winds that killed left and right, that shook the house's frame. His boy came into the world small and thin with fiery red hair and closed twitching eyes. His heart had stopped twice and the doctor already had the death certificates half filled out but then the voice-
Follow me, follow me.
Follow me, follow me.
Follow me, follow me.
I have something for you.
Hector escaped the mournful atmosphere of the nursery to smoke outside that viciously cold winter. He leaned against the house and breathed the smoke into his lungs then out counting off the seconds and unused baby names.
“How are you, sir?” A smooth suave voice asked.
“Leave. It's not the time Mallory.”
“The baby?” The question was thrown out casually but that sharp gaze- no nothing was ever casually said but this man.
“As good as dead.” Hector James said gruffly. ‘All you want in life..’ he said, ‘All you want’ was what he was promised. He crushed his cigarette beneath his boot. ‘For the price of your soul..’
“Aw, I wouldn't say that…” He hadn't looked up yet but there was a grin in that voice. He didn't like it. Hector grasped at the metaphorical line.
“What you talkin’ bout’?” He was hooked.
“Another deal? Perhaps?” There wasn't really a question. Hector was a mortal and mortals wanted immortality. The closest a human could ever get to eternity is through the survival of their children.
“What’d you want?” Mallory smiled at the weary man. Hector knew he would agree at any price- other than his own life- this was him and his wife's third try. He knew it might be their last.
“Oh, don't be like that, good sir. A working deal, that's what I want. I want you to bring over a total of seventy women for my side. In exchange, your son will live. What do you say?” Mallory proposed.
“I have a wife!” Hector exclaimed.
“I suppose… But that's not what I’m asking James. Deal or no deal? Son or no son.” The tone was final. Inquiring but final. James shook and pulled his coat tighter from the winds.
“I-” He muttered.
“I’m waiting.” Mallory said in a sing-song manner looking at the light through the second floor window. The shadows of the hunched mother and frantic doctor were very telling.
“I- well I don’t-” Hector stuttered.
“Hmmmm?” Mallory just hummed. A heartbreaking sob floated out from the open window directly into the ears of the two men.
“Yes.” He decided then.
“Good man! Now, what are you gonna name the doll?” Mallory asked the deed done and the man paid.
“I like the name Whisky-”
And so his beautiful baby boy was born under a quarter moon. There was nothing inherently special about the night but the storm was milder, clouds passed over the moon frequently, and around the house the snow seemed to fall black.
And in the distance a train could be heard...
The villagers were in uproar. A tall loud man stood up tall before his pillar. The nerve, the absolute audacity of a crowd of fools needing a rallying speech. Whisky wasn't nervous, he wasn't scared of these void ridden people who destroy others when they can find nothing special of themselves. Brown- grey smudges of the earth. Thick oily liquid stuck his hair to his eyes, went in his mouth and was coughed up red. Laughing, jerring, mocking, calling out to him. Just for a moment before the flames embraced him, he thought he had seen Mallory.
HHHHHahahah!” Whisky laughed. The red gold autumn leaves scratched up his knobby knees. Mallor and Whisky were under the willow tree, the one where they scratched their names and time of birth leaving a space for their death. Whisky started to get up but was knocked down again, the perpetrator leaning against the twisted trunk of the tree holding his hands to his stomach as if attempting to hold back his laughter at the red headed sprawled out form of his friend.
“Mallory!” Whisky growled out but he was smiling so wide he felt the stitch in his left dimple was going to split open. The other golden boy just laughed lousy at him jumping back into his own pile of leaves.
“Everythings dying.” Was what Whisky had said that golden evening when everything was on fire but they’d been smiling. The sound of crunching leaves, the smell of gasoline-
“And everyone will.” Mallory had said simply. Everything was simple with Mallory. Sitting under the tree or running down the tracks click click click, the rhythmic pattern of the clicking from his braces and the thud thud thud of Mallory’s boots, everything was simple-
-cough, coughing holding his chest, Whisky leans over. He holds his chest feeling as though his lungs were going to come up through his mouth. Mallory stops and turns back towards him.
“Whisky, Whisky boy? Come on!” he shouts his usually light grey eyes cloudy with concern. The coughing only gets worse, shaking the small red headed boy's frame. Mallory runs over and beats on his back, comforting but not helping. Whiskys eyes were closed and the taller boy watched in terror as blood covered Whiskys small white hands.
“Shhh, shhh, everythings fine. Shhh. Hush now, eveythings okay.” but his voice was shaky.
“Mal-malloy are you still there?” Whisky asked. His voice was rough and panicked. He looked so much younger than his thirteen years of age. Mallory hugged him, nonchalantly wiping away the blood from the boy's mouth hoping he hadn't noticed it and rocked.
“Shhh, I’m here. I’ll never leave-”
“LIAR!” Whisky screamed. The pain was unbearable and the betrayal worse. There are no words to describe how much pain the sluggish flames caused either lashing or caressing, consuming. He could smell his hair being singed and hear his screaming but was already somewhere else above the scene watching his other self succumb to the flames.
Hector James sat on the tracks with broken bottles around his bare feet. He was freezing his blood like ice deep in his veins. He rubbed his hands together rubbing salt into his cuts.
“Mind if I joined you?” said a soft voice. A familiar voice...
“You, you! Why’re you here? You've took them, you've taken everything. LEAVE!” Hector yelled, taken over by rage. That face, those cold eyes, that monster.
“It's your fault! All. Your. Fault! How could you? Whisky-” Hector accused. His face was a deep shade of puce as he pathetically stumbled to his feet. He cut his hands, Mallory found the muddy black color fascinating.
“Don't. Everything you've wished for you've got. Don't talk about Whisky-boy. Don't talk about your wife-” Mallory’s voice was calm, cold, but his eyes were glassy.
“YOU SAID-” Hector roared his eyes blazing and his hand raised.
“I SAID, all you ever wanted, every wish, every dream fulfilled and. YOU. LOST. IT. ALL. A wife. A SON. There was a price. You refused to pay it so those closest to you did. Because of you! I tried to take my curse back, I tried to stop the suffering but your inability to pay for your mistakes your greedy hold on everything you loved caused everything you loved to perish because in the end everything just wasn't enough for you. Even Whisky…” The end was whispered broken by a small crack in his voice. Grief was a tedious thing.
“YOU STAY AWAY FROM MY BOY!” The tall man thundered. His eyes were a dull amber nothing like the melted prideful gaze. This man was a pathetic imitation of his eyes the color of warm beer, unfocused and bloodshot.
“HES BURNING OLD MAN. The boy is burning and here you are a drunkard and nothing more.” Mallory sneered and turned away watching how the fire fluctuate and twisted into triumphant shapes rising towards the darkened sky.
“Go to hell!” the man spluttered.
“Oblivion waits for you, old man. Eternal darkness and nothingness. You won't even know the difference between death and your own existence. Your money will be gone, your house will be gone, and you'll yell into the void about the unfairty of life and how. YOU. WANT. more.” the last word was said softly,” How completely did you fail when presented with anything your soul desired. I commend you. My whole existence I've found ways to destroy the lives of selfish men and here I am having done nothing but watched.”
And on that note Mallory walked away down the tracks left to roam once again to find men fated for crossroads. The cycle continued again and again but every once and a while he’d stop at a tree with two names scratched messily into its bark.
Here be Whisky Icarus James and Mallory
Here be Whisky Icarus James;
Pride of his father, pride of his mother, and pride of himself.
Here be Mallory;
The inherent fear of death is called life.
In the distance was the sound of a lone train and an even fainter click click click...