by R.T. Allenson
I was born and raised in Adenburg, in Manchester Street just across the local train station where my father worked as a mechanic. My mother who I never saw until she died in ’93, was a businesswoman permanently stationed in Gaelstrom. I would follow her path away from Adenburg, when I came of age though I don’t aspire much to be a businessperson myself.
My childhood was mostly uneventful but was made a living nightmare by my older brother, Charles. We were exceedingly different, in both appearance and mannerisms. Whereas I was of passable stature and of quiet demeanor, he was short, boorish and simply of heinous countenance. I didn’t mind his hateful behavior until I came of puberty, when it became obvious that it seemed as though it was imperative of him to torment my every waking moment like a malign spirit perched upon my shoulder. My father would constantly tell me that he was just jealous of me for not only was I much favored by my relatives, but also because I was relatively intelligent. Despite this, he was an aspiring writer with the best penmanship in the school and though it was a slight redemption to his otherwise hated conduct; people cared little for it, as his writing was macabre and as salacious as he.
Being his brother, I was both feared and mistreated by my classmates who through my brother’s actions, was made as a scapegoat for all the troubles he caused. I didn’t have many friends at school as my brother’s reputation always, always preceded me. And if by some miracle that I indeed gained a friend at school, he would always drive them away with his antics. The devil. I recall a quote that goes like hell is other people and I suppose I am testament to that, as my brother indeed made my life a living hell.
Looking back though, I think he was misunderstood. But by the very acts he did in retaliation, I confess that I had a hard time empathizing with him. I could not even approach him once he started rambling about so and so and glad that I did not, for he might have done something to me that I’d regret and hate him even more for.
My father would be constantly called over to school, regarding my brother who did every manner of mischief possible. From vandalizing the girl’s room with obscene drawings to stealing test answers and stealing money from both his classmates and even his teachers. Charles was infamous for what he did and when he had his fill or rather, was suspended from school; he would turn his devilry towards me. And how hateful was he, a blight to my very person; as if he treated me no different than the animals he tortured almost every day or the people who he slighted. No respect at all, not even to his own blood.
It began with little nonsenses, pranks if you will or another of the sort. I did not entertain his mischief at all and only ignored it, though that didn’t stop him. This kept on till I was seventeen, when his antics became dangerous; both to the people at school and to myself. Setting fire to the teacher’s lounge and pulling off his own version of the Stalsburg heist, it became apparent that there was no hope at all to remedy his now vile, appalling behavior.
He was too young to be incarcerated, so he was sent to a youth detainment center were he was placed until he came of age. My father had little to say in the matter but my mother visited Charles regularly until she died. I of course, was glad to finally berid of the monster that was my brother.
I…I only visited him once, before today I mean and he was in a rather sorry state. Eyes sunken low where once the gleaming gems of hatred were set, scarred of visage and bruised and in general, half the man he was known for. Prison is unkind and it easily unmakes a man of such pride. I was sort of sad to see him yet happy as well that he learned his lesson well, that he found out that there are things crueler, more powerful than him. He gave me nothing save a half-finished ‘book’ he managed to write in jail, shamelessly titled “Charles” which was sort of an autobiography. I managed to finish three chapters till I threw it across the room, in disgust. Either he’d taken parody and wrote himself as an unreliable narrator or he really believes himself to be the wronged party. Misunderstood, I suppose but deluded all the same. And when he was taken back to his cell, he kept on blabbering about God or something. Cruel irony, I suppose; that the devil may seek redemption. The prison warden however, was disturbed with my brother’s path to faith. Though he bantered much about how strange my brother was I was more disturbed by his claim that Charles had supposedly killed another prisoner and feasted on his flesh.
I don’t really know what to expect of him right now, if he’s just playing me or he’s seriously ill. And as much as I hate him for everything he’s done and caused, he’s still my brother.
The November air in Adenburg is as how I recall it, cold and sickly with a taint of solemnness that reminds me much of the past. The bus had traveled much, about three hours or so from Gaelstrom but for now it is left unmoving because of the traffic jam near the intersection. My fellow commuters are growing impatient already, typical of Gaelstromians, easily anxious and hotheaded; a stark contrast to Adenburgians who are more calm and slow at pace. I, unfortunately have grown also impatient due to my stay in Gaelstrom. I can’t help but feel grave annoyance towards the cars outside though hardly, I can do nothing about it. I suppose these things just sink right into you, become part of you in time.
From the window, I spy a few commuters exiting the bus next to us, irritated as they commence walking to their destination. Presently, I follow suit.
I went north; past the bus I was riding and a few other cars, on my way towards Adenburg. It’s unusual for traffic jams to last as long as this, thirty minutes or so? Is it payday or something?
“And where are you going?” Erupted a voice from behind. I turned around and saw a woman, about my age standing, staring directly towards me with her hands on her hips and a disgruntled look on her face. “Why are you going there, to Adenburg of all places!”
“D-Do I know you?” I reply hesitatingly.
The brown-haired woman walked closer towards me, almost stomping in the paces she made. She let out an irritated grunt as she stood inches from me, her hands twitching uncontrollably.
“Don’t pretend you don’t know!” She scowls. “It’s me you idiot, it’s Sylvana.”
That name. Memories of a bygone day, like water that ebbs in the mind. A chill on the back of my neck and an effervescent feeling I cannot understand.
The brown haired woman smiles with a hint of malice that I couldn’t quite grasp. She holds me; warmth seeping through her hands to my own, warmth on my face and my neck.
“I..I thought you were at the ward…”
Her hold turns into a full embrace.
“They couldn’t keep me.” She cackles. “But..the hell, what are you doing here?! Of all times you’re coming back to Adenburg.”
“I’m here to see my brother.” I reply, giving her Charles’ letter. She fumbles about it for a moment and then scoffs at it, crumpling it and placing it in my hand. “He’s…dying, and I thought of visiting him.”
She rolls her eyes. “But Tony, of all times! You can’t go back to Adenburg. It’s too dangerous.”
“Why, what’s the threat? Wait, you do not believe that little terrorist threat over at Stalsteder? You do know that they’re just using that to–”
“No, no!” She screams, shaking my body. “It’s quite different, the danger. And you’ve got to believe this Tony. I’m the only one who knows.”
Cold breath escapes from my mouth, a choked response. Coming from Sylvana, any information is worth investigating. She was sent to the ward after she mutilated herself with a knife, screaming blasphemous names and of a pale man that follows her. Delusional, to the point of believing she can control air and earth with a whistle.
“Look.” She says. “Just come with me to my place and I’d explain it all. Do you have some copper with you?”
“Good.” She grabs my hand and leads me to a parked car. A saloon car; last year’s model by the looks of it, a few bumps and scratches at the side from close encounters with other cars. “My place isn’t far, just a few miles west. Good to see you again Tony.”
She chuckles as we get in. The new car smell hasn’t faded at all. She smiles as we speed off to her house or, wherever she is living now. Three years since we last met and still I cannot find reason as to why she persists in my mind like a captured image that cannot and will not be destroyed. I open the window, letting in the crisp November air in. And like a wave of mist, the memories of a bygone day are washed away by the expectant, unknown present.