Authors: Glen Krisch
Brother’s Keeper Book 1
Copyright © 2014 by Glen Krisch
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This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
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ISBN: 978-1-940161-90-7 (ebook)
JournalStone rev. date: December 5, 2014
Library of Congress Control Number:
Printed in the United States of America
Cover Art & Design: Cyrusfiction Productions
Edited by: Aaron J. French
"And the Lord God said: "Behold, that man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever."
"I think that it would be good if a conscious effort was being made to get as many people as possible introduced to the wilderness."
Marcus Grant stood on the swollen banks of the Black Hawk River, watching the white chop churned by three weeks of spring rains disintegrate upon reaching the concrete and steel abomination that spanned its width a hundred yards downriver. He eased onto his haunches and flicked his fingers over the water's surface.
It's a good day for the world to end
He had been tasked by the Arkadium with learning the history of this water, to know its every depth, twist and turn. The river originated from a natural spring hundreds of miles to the east at the border of Michigan and Indiana. For over a century, man had tamed and contorted its flow with unnatural levees and a series of three constricting dams. The river coursed through Indiana, crossed over into Illinois near Kankakee before bisecting the entire state. By the time its flow reached the Mississippi, it teemed with the effluence of several million industrialized people.
"In the end, there is a beginning," he whispered, his fingers casting rippled waves from shore. Through his studies he learned to not only understand the water's pain, but to identify with it as well. The tiny waves broadened, becoming more linear as they gave their energy to the slurry barreling toward the turbines of the Black Hawk Dam. He imagined the waves not diminishing, but instead gaining momentum, picking up speed by the second until they crashed into the dam's machinations, crushing them under its mighty roar. The devastation from his imagined wave was similar to what would soon be unleashed by the Arkadium.
The Arkadium's time had finally arrived. Waking from a long gestational slumber, rising from the silence that had kept them hidden in plain sight for millennia, ascending to their rightful place in the world. His contribution to the Arkadium's awakening would take place here, in sleepy Concord, Illinois. One small impact rippling outward, one small impact birthing larger and larger calamity until the sun rose and fell upon the damage meted out by his people.
And then the world would begin again.
Craig Miller called out from behind him. "Marcus?"
He'd been drifting, dreaming of tomorrow. In the distance, he heard riotous birdsong, the clack of hammers repairing roofs damaged by the toll of a long winter, the perpetual buzz of lawnmowers, truck engines, and the cement factory a quarter mile upriver.
What would endure?
What new sounds would fill the auditory void?
"Hmm...?" he grunted, still transfixed by the water.
"It's time. We're ready."
Marcus stood, knees popping. His black buzz cut was in the process of growing out and had an awkward, haphazard look. His arms, once covered in tattoos spewing all manner of hatred, were now blacked out to the wrist. Clean of H since finding the Arkadium two years ago, his frame had regained the power of his youth: 6'4" without shoes, with a well-muscled wingspan longer than his height. Instead of being a gifted athlete growing up, he'd chosen a different path, one that included a progressively vicious and immoral trajectory, one that led to multiple arrests before he could legally vote.
But that version of Marcus no longer existed. He now walked a different path. The only path. This new Marcus was respected, obeyed, and if need be, feared. He'd experienced similar regard in his former life, but those reactions had been built upon a foundation of violence. It was different now. His brain and leadership dictated how people reacted to him, not his muscle or short temper.
He sighed, wondering what this shoreline would look like this time tomorrow. He turned away from the Black Hawk, the ripples cast by his fingers long since diminished but still spreading in ever more microscopic waves, still impacting everything they touched.
"Let's get on with this," he said, trying to hide the excitement in his voice.
His most trusted followers, all upstanding members of the tiny hamlet of Concord, accompanied him on this symbolic trip to the river. They fanned out before him, wearing the clothes they always had on any other Tuesday morning. Suits and ties for the office, fresh-pressed blouses and khaki skirts for the classroom, workout gear for the gym.
"Are you ready?" Craig Miller asked with a knowing smile. Craig and his wife, Mandy, were the first people he met when Adam had assigned him to the region. They'd helped him find housing and provided meals and friendly conversation during his first days here six months ago.
"I've been ready my whole life," Marcus replied.
The Millers had made Concord their home just after their honeymoon in 1975. Mandy was a retired school teacher, Craig, an architect for a prestigious firm in St. Louis. They moved here knowing this moment would be in their future. For their entire lives they had studied and waited in silence, knowing that at some point they would be standing among others of their kind along this bucolic stretch of shoreline, and that their actions would help bring about the end of industrial civilization.
Craig Miller handed Marcus an object wrapped in oiled cloth.
"Let this all end," Marcus said, and accepted the bundle.
"And in the end, there is a beginning," Craig said in response before returning to his wife's side.
Marcus unwrapped a crude, but effective, knife. Craig Miller had honed it himself, chipping the flint with a bulky hammerstone. The weapon's weight felt both good and reassuring in Marcus's hand. Miller was a faceless cubicle monkey in the old world, but after the Election, he would prove to be an invaluable asset. Besides being the best flintknapper for a thousand miles, he was also an expert in firecraft and the identification of native flora. Marcus looked upon his people, all with their own secret avocations and skills, and knew without question he had finally found his destiny.
Austin Collins and Hector Sanchez, two men in their late twenties, stood near the three symbolic leaders of Concord: Mayor Bill Stauffer, Sheriff Howard Hubichek, and city planner, Margo Lipton. The three kneeled ten feet from the water's edge, their mouths gagged, their hands bound behind them. Marcus supposed their names were unimportant, but he liked learning the details of things. Details had meaning, power.
Marcus stepped into the river, the cold spring water creeping up his jeans.
"Bring me Stauffer."
Collins and Sanchez grabbed the mayor by the shoulders and forced him to the water's edge. The six-term leader of Concord was an old man, but it took all of the younger men's strength to get him into the water. Once the trio was knee-deep in the river, Collins kicked the mayor's legs out from under him. With his arms bound behind him, it became much easier.
"Get the other two ready," Marcus said. "I want this to go quickly."
Marcus gave Craig Miller a brief glance, then the spindly architect clamored into the water and took hold of Mayor Stauffer's shoulders. Panic filled Stauffer's pleading eyes. Though the gag muffled his cries, it also drowned out all of the surrounding din but for the morning birdsong. Marcus thought it was a good tradeoff, all things considered.
Marcus didn't pray over Stauffer, or even speak to him. The mayor was a mere object, a figurehead of a former time. This wasn't about him, only what came after him.
Marcus took the flint blade and raked it deep across Stauffer's exposed throat. Blood spurted into the air before Miller eased the dying man into the water. A crimson cloud trailed away from the writhing, sinking body.
"Bring me Lipton," he said to Collins and Sanchez.
The process repeated until the three leaders of Concord spilled their lifeblood to the wounded waters of the Black Hawk.
"By this time tomorrow, this water will have no name, will no longer be bound to its current masters. Soon, it will flow freely, and in so doing, it will return to health. In its health we will find our own salvation."
Marcus made his way for the river's steep bank. Collins and Sanchez stood waiting, their hands extended. They reached down and helped him out, his jeans dripping blood-tainted water.
A few of his followers tossed white flower petals into the river. The flakes of pure white bobbed along the surface, pulled along by the blood-stained current, disappearing in the distance, eventually swallowed by the gaping maws at the peak of the dam.
"Time to get started, folks. Our life's work is about to begin," Marcus said, his excitement for once reflected in his voice.
The longtime residents of Concord disbursed at his word, following tasks that would soon set them all free of modern civilization. Car doors slammed, engines turned over, and the group filed away in tight formation.
Marcus watched the river long after his followers set about their duties. Brief glints of white-painted facades lurked in the wooded hills surrounding the river: rich people's homes untouched by the rank water below and separated from the working class toiling at their feet. The woods grew to the shoreline. And below the dam, a scrub flatland extended to the hills; this tranquil valley acted as both the millennial floodplain bent to the will of man, as well as the location for Concord's suburban stock homes and local business district.
Marcus walked slowly toward the dam and looked over the edge to the valley below. The weakened river flowed behind blocks of still sleepy homes housing the working class, their small dreams and unquenched souls. This land would soon return to its historic construct, to be reinvented at nature's whim.
He had been searching his entire life for a deeper meaning than the promise of his ordinary upbringing. He'd followed many paths, most of which led to destruction and self-ruin. But now, as a member of the Arkadium, he had discovered a desire bordering on lust that filled an emptiness that nothing else in his experiences had ever come close to filling.