Future site of Greater Manhattan Savings & Loan
Lunch is always a vastly appealing thing, for he finds he is now always hungry come mid-day. Shuffling his rump back so that his shoulders are braced against the base of a skid-steer, the god of terror removes his yellow hard-hat and shakes his head. The shorter dreads still feel odd as they tickle the back of his neck. He was not happy to have to shear them off, but the pay he would get working in this construction company had been enough impetus to hand Thrud the shears last week. He smiles as he opens his new lunch pail, recalling how his wife had grumbled as she hacked through his ropes of gold, vowing to find a dagger to use instead of the dull scissors.
He paws around in the food, finds one of three meat and cheese sandwiches his woman had packed, and rips into it without washing his hands. Men above call down to him to join them on the girders. He smiles yet continues chewing in solitude. He is pleased with his job. It has only been a week, true, but he likes the physical labor. The nudge his sire had given the foreman had been propitious indeed, for where else would a man such as he, unskilled and unable to barely read English, locate employment that paid over forty dollars an hour? He shall be forever grateful to his father for shoving him at the same employer Ares himself had worked for years ago. As would his wife and unborn child, for now he could make the payments on the house they sought to purchase in Forest Green. The sale of her golden crown had procured the down payment. He only had forty years of a mortgage to attend to now, and a college fund to establish and bills and…
Another male voice shouts his name; this one jerks his thoughts from his responsibilities and his ham and cheese on wheat. Deimos stops chewing for a moment. He spies the lanky man weaving through the plethora of construction vehicles, piles of lumber, bricks and cement mixers. A smile lifts his lips as he climbs to his steel-toed Redwings.
“Got to say, this isn`t the safest place for a handsome bloke like me. I`d hate to get me nose cracked by some flying two-by, you know?”
“Chadwick,” Deimos grins and gathers the man in a sleeveless green t-shirt and skinny jeans into a bear hug. After the god of battle terror is done thumping the gangly man he releases him. “You have changed the styling of your hair. I approve.”
Chadwick reaches up and runs his palm over the swatch of red gelled hair that lays flat to his scalp. “Yeah, well, you know how it flies, right? Man has to make some changes to announce he`s growing up. You got a nice bit of a trim yourself!”
“Oh, aye,” Deimos pats the man one more time then motions to his lunch spot, “`Twas for safety reasons that I cut them. How do you fare my friend? I have not seen you for a few weeks. Have you found gainful employment?”
“Yep, I`m tending bar at a swank club. The dosh is pretty good and I found me a flat too! You`re looking dapper as ever,” CW runs a critical eye over the dark red do-rag, flannel with no sleeves, filthy jeans and enormous shitkickers. “Married life treating you good?”
“I cannot complain. Thrud is learning to be domestic. Her attempts at cooking are not pleasant, but the nights with her are.”
“That`s what I like to hear!” Chadwick laughs then waves away the offer to sit. “Reason I`m here is, well, I missed you ruddy arse-holes to be honest. It`s been four weeks since we come back east. I was thinking, if you think the old ball and chain will let you of course…” the Brit winks then rolls his green eyes when the towering man shoving a sandwich into his gob-hole looks at him blankly. “Your wife is the old ball and…never mind. If Thrud says you can, you want to go grab your brother and make a small trip to Virginia? Just one last boy`s night for old-time’s sake, think?”
“I shall have to call her and let her know we are going, but aye, I should like to do this!” Deimos announces, fishes his cell out of his front pocket and calls home. “She is packing our belongings,” D whispers while the call rings through. “We are purchasing a home in the village of Forest Green. It has two bedrooms, one for us and one that we shall convert into a nursery for my son.”
“Nice,” CW gives a thumbs-up to the news. “So you know the sex already?”
“Nay, but I will not sire females. My seed is too potent to make-”whatever he was going to say ends abruptly when his lady love finally figures out how to answer her new cell phone, a gift from their sire and his consort. After a rather lengthy and belittling conversation about drinking, losing half a day’s pay and acting an ass in public, Deimos is ready to go.
“She is quite easily riled now that the babe fills her veins with hormones,” Deimos explains after they make up some excuse for leaving early and relay the sad story to his foreman. “Or so my father`s consort tells me is the reason for her unpredictable behavior.”
“Yeah, we gingers are known for our fiery ways,” Chadwick leads his buddy to his new car. Well, new to him that is. Deimos eyes the rattle-trap with concern. “No worries,” CW grins and slides behind the wheel of a bluish-grey `84 Chevy Caprice. “She runs like a dream!”
“If you say so,” Deimos tosses his lunch pail into the littered backseat and folds himself into the front.
“So, where do we find your brother?”
“I shall guide you there.”
“Right then, off we go!” Chadwick leans over to crank up the tunes.
Marymount Manhattan College
221 East 71st Street
Finding Alexander isn`t hard. Deimos knows his way well through the winding halls of academia. He has come here often enough to pick up his sibling over the past several days. When he pushes through into the psychology department’s library, he finds his twin where he knew he would be: buried behind mountains of journals, tomes and papers. The walls are either shelves of books, windows or posters of Freud, Adler, Binet, Pavlov, Jung or B.F. Skinner.
Phobos glances up when two shapes approach, a pencil between his teeth, earbuds crammed into ear-holes, notebook filled with scribbling on his lap and a very glassy-eyed look.
The torpor slips when he sees his twin. It evaporates completely when he spies Chadwick peering over the mound of back-reading, research and homework he has to make up before the fall semester starts.
“Dude,” Alex mumbles around his number two, spits it to the desk, tugs the buds free then pushes from his seat to gather his best into a rib-crushing clench. “Good to see you, man,” Phobos whispers beside Chadwick`s ear.
“Same mate,” the Brit replies then breaks free to smooth down his shirt awkwardly. “Looks like you`ve been hitting the studies,” CW motions to the heap of literature.
“Yeah, well, I kind of fucked around and missed the first year, so now I`m cramming nightly to make it up,” Alex raps knuckles with his twin then plants his denim-covered ass to the edge of the library table. “It`s amazing what the promise of a new psychology wing from the CEO of Whyte Pharmaceuticals will do for a dude that`s a year late for enrollment,” the fear god confesses sheepishly.
Yeah, his father`s fiancée had really come through for him, as had his father Alex must concede. If not for them, he might still be in his room, alone in the dark, contemplating the tastiest topping for an asphodel salad. He had been close to ending it all just so that he could maybe grab a glimpse of the nymph with rainbow ribbons in her hair. Too damned close he can now see. His main Brit talking rattles him from the dark place he had just crawled out of.
“….you look like you need a break,” CW states. Phobos begins to balk. Chadwick cuts him off sharply. “I`m not taking ‘No’ for an answer,” the lean man argues. “D here tells me all you do is study or sulk. You think Sara would want you to stop living, do you?”
“I`m still living, true? I just need to do this. I need to do this for Sara, and like, for the others who are left behind to deal with losing…” he begins to choke up then darts a fast look at the ceiling. CW grabs the back of Alex`s neck and squeezes.
“Look mate, I`m not saying you shouldn`t hit the books if that`s what stiffens your wanker,” Alex snorts loudly, “All I`m saying is that you need to step out and shake the webs off. Bloke can`t just study and cry in the loneliness of his room, right?”
“Fuck you,” Phobos counters with humor, slapping the hand from the back of his neck. “I`m not sitting in the dark crying and cutting myself, I`m good, solid, you know?”
“Right, and I`m Mary Queen of Scots,” Chadwick counters. Deimos is paging through a thick psychology textbook, his brow wrinkled as he works at deciphering the words. Finally he gives up and places his brother`s tome back where he found it. “Let`s go knock back a few pints and catch up.”
“One night shall not slow your scholarly goals too badly, my sibling.”
“Okay, yeah, fine. I know when I`m beat,” Alexander tosses his hands in the air theatrically, “A cold one wouldn`t taste too bad, to be honest.”
“Bob`s your uncle!” Chadwick grins then loops an arm around Phobos` shoulders.
Lake Haven, Virginia
“Man, this place hasn`t changed much,” Alexander comments after he and Chadwick drop into rickety wooden chairs by a sticky table in front of the stage. The walls are vibrating from the cover being done, pretty nicely, by the replacement band of fem metal-mongers. Chadwick reclines back in his chair, tipping it back from its front legs. Smoke and lust still permeate the air. The lead singer, dark-haired and curvy and nearly as hot as Joan herself, drops to her knees to pelt out the song, her eyes roaming over the fear god who ignores the open invitation. “Still reeks of hard-on and stale beer.”
“Yeah, I never noticed how pathetic this place was to be honest,” CW shouts, a smile lifting the tiny bit of red-hair under his bottom lip when Deimos returns with a pitcher of beer and three shot glasses on a tray. “What do you figure that says about us?”
“Dunno,” Phobos shrugs, reaches for the pitcher and fills three speckled glasses, “I can get into your head and see what I find.”
“Nah, I`ll pass on the psycho-shit if it`s alright with you,” CW takes the glass and tosses back a long draw, “You might find I got me a secret desire to fondle your goolies.”
Deimos lowers his glass to stare across the table at the Brit.
“Dude was kidding my blood,” Alex chuckles at the horrified look his twin wears.
“Ah yes, I knew that,” D covers quickly. Chadwick guffaws then lifts one shot glass into the air. The other two do the same.
“So, here we are, back where it all started. Do we drink to the past or the future?” CW asks, rolling his eyes to the stage for a second. The lead guitarist is a nice little number with hair so red it could only come out of a bottle. Still looks nice though he admits when she winks at him as she struts past.
“The future,” Phobos is quick to say. They toss back the Jack Daniels, cough lightly at the burn then chase the whiskey with more beer. “The past sucked, you know?”
“Not entirely,” Deimos offers, refilling their glasses with cold Coors. “We had many fine adventures, did we not?”
“Nothing will ever erase the pig farm and bloody ants from my mind,” Chadwick grunts and gifts the redhead a return wink, “I still go out of me way to stomp on any ant I bloody see.”
“True, I guess. We did have some times,” Alexander mulls, sipping his brew and running his sight over the plank walls and signs still hanging akimbo. “Guess sometimes I get too wrapped in what we lost to see the good times. Nothing like analyzing yourself,” he grumbles under his breath.
“What exactly is it you`re studying? I mean, I know it`s mind-shit and all,” Chadwick asks, waving at a waitress for three more tastes of Mr. Daniels.
“Alexander is hoping to become a licensed grief counselor,” D interjects much to Phobos` surprise.
“Yeah, true there. I didn`t think you listened, or cared, about what I`m studying, broski,” Phobos yells then pulls his arms back to make room for another round to arrive.
“I am very proud of you, my brother. I wish I had the skills to become learned and help those who have lost loved ones.”
“I`m proud of you too, blood. All grown-up, married, working your ass off to support your wife and kid-to-be,” Phobos replies with sincerity.
“Man, if you two don`t stop soon, I`ll be forced to make a run to the ladies room for tampons,” Chadwick tosses out. Deimos slaps the Brit upside his head soundly, nearly spilling him from his seat to the filthy floor. “That`s more like it,” CW mutters and rubs his skull, “So, a grief counselor, huh?”
“Totally for cerealz,” Alex shakes his hair from his eyes, slaps a five into the waitresses palm then hands her back the slip of paper she had shoved into the neck of his t-shirt. The curt toss-back of her phone number sends her off in a snit. “So, yeah, grief counseling, I go to one, you know? Ever since we got back. My Pops and Eliza made me.”
“He was lingering in the darkness of loss,” Deimos offers then slugs back his Jack. The other two follow suit. The burn isn`t quite as bad this time yet still brings tears. “We grew worried for him. Our sire feared he would never come back from the depths of his mourning.”
“Sorry mate, and I mean that with all the love I can have for you. I know how much you loved her.” CW offers solemnly.
“Sara, you can say her name now. I can say her name now,” Phobos sighs into his foamy Coors, “Yeah, I love Sara. That`s not a gone thing, maybe never will be, but so anyway,” Alex drains his glass then folds his arms to the table once again, “Talking to that dude helps, like so much I can`t believe it. I decided to do the same, maybe just be there for someone who loses all the light from their life and is drowning in the sea of despair.”
“I think that profession suits you, chum,” Chadwick states, his long legs splayed under the table.
“Yeah, it`s cool, mostly,” Alex nods with a slight twinge of melancholy. “Nights are tough, I miss her next to me, and like, every time I look up at the stars…”
“To the past and the future,” Deimos suddenly announces, lifting his cold one high into the air. “To the loves we knew, the losses we suffered, the laughs we shared, the battles we waged, and the life and loves that still lie ahead of us!”
Phobos lifts his glass, glad for the interruption of his dark mood.
“To the past and the future!” all three shout as the band plays on.
This final issue of ‘Sons of War’ gets its title from the song, ‘Rise Today’ by the band Alter Bridge. The lyrics seemed to fit perfectly for the epilogue. Give it a listen and see if you agree or not.
I`d like to take just a minute or two to thank each and every one of you, the readers, who have been so supportive and kind throughout the run of ‘Sons of War’. Your comments have meant the world to me. When I first came up with this idea of twin gods roaming the country accompanied by a kick-ass soundtrack, I never imagined it would be so very well received. I`m touched and awed by all the encouragement you`ve shown Alex, Deimos, Chadwick and of course, our sweet Sara.
We`ll keep up with Phobos and Deimos via periodic vignettes that will touch upon them and how their lives are going. To keep up with the Sons of War, check out Mickey`s Tavern Writers Guild.
Since my boys story is told, it`s time for me to move onto a new online prose series. We`ll be seeing the first issue arrive on Monday, July 16th.
‘Bloodlines’ will center on a descendant of a famous monster hunter, her best-friend who happens to be a ginger and a witch (You ‘Sons of War’ readers know her already. *Winks*, a pack of werewolves, a den of vampires and other assorted dark beasts and creatures. We`ll be seeing lots of action, romance, humor, fangs, fur and magic. I do hope to see you when my next original fiction tale, ‘Bloodlines’ debuts on the 16th of July.
Yours in fiction-