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Authors: Glen Krisch

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BOOK: Arkadium Rising
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"I'm gonna climb this tree now. I can't swim."

Jason walked over to his car, keeping an eye on the grassy-topped hill rising above the tree-lined valley. There
was
a circle of people looking down at him. Waiting.

Before he pulled away, he had the sudden desire to shout to the boy, shout for him to jump inside the car so they could drive away. Because nothing good could come of this.

"Let's see what kind of trouble my brother's gotten himself in to now."

He waited for Delaney to respond, but her excited attention was focused on the top of the hill. Jason saw the boy in the rearview mirror as he climbed higher from branch to branch. Jason gave him a reassuring wave. The boy couldn't free his hands to wave back, instead answering with a solemn nod. He reached for another branch and pulled himself higher.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

1.

 

The town was now secure and Marcus and the other members of the Arkadium had gathered at the Black Hawk Dam.

"So, that's your biological brother?" Eldon Pointer asked Marcus as they watched the Honda leave the empty streets below, winding its way through the wooded hills that led to the river's shore.

"That's my older brother Jason. He's a good man. I'm glad he's found his way to me." Marcus stepped away from the lookout point when the car disappeared into the trees below.

"Adam wouldn't approve," Eldon said, following close behind.

"Is Adam here?"

"Well... no."

"Then don't worry about it. I know as our Brother Abel it's your duty to look out for our spiritual wellbeing, but believe me, I've never been this well."

Eldon walked away, not satisfied, and removed a small tattered book from his jacket pocket. He flipped pages until he found what he was looking for, then whispered to himself as he read aloud.

When Marcus's cell phone rang, the group of thirty or so people looked at him in anticipation. His heart surged with adrenaline as he hit the receive button.

"Hello?" he said, trying to keep his voice level. His people, those silent members of the Arkadium, crowded closer. He lifted his hand to stop their advance, then stepped away from the group.

"Marcus, Election Day has arrived," Adam said.

"Thank the Lord."

"Amen, brother. My time is short. I still need to make a few calls while I still can."

"Understandable." Marcus watched the water. It always calmed him. He took a deep breath of misty air, feeling his strength building.

"How have things gone in Concord?"

"Everything's fallen into place," Marcus said, somewhat distracted by his brother's impending arrival. "I'm just waiting to make one last call myself."

"One call to end all calls."

"And then we will begin again," Marcus said.

"This is the happiest moment of my life. All of the members of the Arkadium in all their secluded islands of exile thank you.
I
thank you."

"I should be thanking you. Without your help and guidance, I'd be dead right now."

Marcus couldn't remember much about their initial meeting. Just flashes: hurting for a fix, the worst hurt in all his life. His bones aching deep in the marrow, the air scourging his lungs when he breathed, and simply closing his eyes feeling like a torture reserved for terrorists. He'd found his dealer, a scumbag called the Truth, at the alley doorway where he conducted his business. Marcus had stumbled there with his pockets purposely empty and with the conviction to never give the shitbag another dime. And his next flash of memory found him pounding the Truth's face to a pulp with a brick, and the next, Adam's angelic face filling his field of view after he'd exhausted himself and passed out.
Let me help you, son. Let me show you the way.

"You do realize I'll probably never see you again," Adam said.

"I know. That's how things are going to be from now on. The world is about to become much larger."

"I wanted to not only thank you for your hard work and dedication, but to let you know that I think you would've made a remarkable 'Adam.'"

"That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me," Marcus said, choking back emotion. "And coming from you, the final 'Adam.' What a great honor."

"You would've made an admirable successor. You're a born leader. After the Election, I'm sure your band will subsist as well as possible and return to the land in strength."

"Thank you, again. For everything."

"And if we do meet again, your band facing mine, I will fight you to the death for what little remains."

"As it should be." The hot wind blowing off the river soothed him. He wanted to keep talking to Adam, wanted to never lose the connection with the man who helped him get clean once and for all.

"And if I'm victorious, I will rape your women and plant my seed in their wombs. I will not spare the rod where you're concerned, no matter how highly I think of you."

"Your women would meet a similar fate."

"Thirty minutes until EMP."

The line clicked off. Marcus smiled, his heart full of pride.

"Brother Abel," Marcus called out loud enough for everyone to hear. "It's time for your blessing."

 

2.

 

"Okay, we know my cell doesn't work out here in the boonies," Jason said, thinking out loud. "Can you reach in back and get my laptop?"

"What for?"

"It's a long shot, but maybe I can find a Wi-Fi hotspot. If we can get online, maybe we can contact the cops, or at least find out where the police station is located."

Delaney grabbed the laptop bag from the backseat. He glanced at the lower edge of her angel wings, but only for a second. No need to go down that dead-end path again.

She opened his laptop and fired it up. "I don't think you know what you're doing."

"Marcus hurt that boy. That's enough for me to go to the cops."

"But you don't know what's going on. What if it's not as bad as you think?"

"Can there be any justifiable reason for harming a kid?"

Delaney said nothing. After clicking on a few computer icons, she said, "There's no signal."

"Of course not. Why should I expect any different?"

The car climbed a winding road, leaving the valley behind. Before he knew it, the trees thinned, replaced with long field grass. As he wound the car through a curve, he reached the summit of the hill.

His brother stood in the middle of the road, a reflective dead end sign over his shoulder. Finding Marcus in good health was a pleasant surprise; during the drive to Concord, Jason had expected the worst. But Marcus looked fit, well-rested and no longer heroin-thin. His rolled shirt cuffs revealed his tattooed black sleeves. While not entirely happy to see his blacked-out skin, it was better than what came before. The sleeves covered his Klan ink—his numerous swastikas and other hateful drivel written into his skin before he had even earned his driver's license.

Now it was just one of Marcus's many buried layers, his many tossed away incarnations. Jason noticed that he'd taken out his piercings, also. A loose flap of skin hung from his ear cartilage where a bear's claw once speared the lobe. Marcus had once professed to twenty-two piercings. Now he seemed ashamed of his defiled flesh.

The crowd of three dozen or so people gathered closer to Marcus, looking at him as if searching for guidance. From their penitent expressions, they could've been awaiting a bit of kibble from their master. At least Jason didn't see any weapons. Marcus gave a simple wave of his hand and they returned to their former positions at the peak of the dam, bowing their heads in reverence. Marcus then held up a hand to Jason, letting him know that he wanted him to wait.

"That arrogant prick," Jason said, reaching for the door.

"Wait!" Delaney grabbed his forearm and held it until Jason would look at her. She looked scared.

"What for?"

"Really, what harm could it do? It looks like they're in the middle of something."

Jason watched the crowd and couldn't see a reason not to wait. He didn't see anyone in danger, saw no one held against their will.

"Fine."

Jason listened from his open window to a stooped, gray-bearded man he assumed was the boy's preacher-man as he blessed the water, praising it for being so still for so long. For its patience. The old man assured the great buildup of water that it would soon flow freely, flow as God intended, to nourish the river valley, brightening its shores with wild flowers.

Jason looked from his brother's followers back to Marcus. Happiness washed over his features, revealing a glimpse of the once exuberant boy Jason had long forgotten. He wondered once again what kind of group he'd gotten himself involved in. If he'd really found God, this must be some kind of religious cult. He couldn't think of any particular denomination that would heap blessings on a river.

After the old man finished, he approached the water and dropped a handful of dried flower petals to its silvery flow. The others followed suit, with Marcus the last to act out the ritual.

Jason took a deep breath before shutting off the ignition, his pulse beating in his ears. Marcus spoke to a small circle of brawny-looking men, keeping his eyes on Jason the whole time. When he finished saying whatever he had to say, he approached the car. Jason gathered his composure and stepped out, meeting him at the car's front bumper.

"Marcus, want to tell me what's going on?" Jason stood within a few strides of the open car door. If Marcus or any of his followers tried anything funny, he would still have time to jump back inside.

Delaney opened the side door and stepped out. She walked with dreamy strides away from the car.

"Delaney, wait," Jason called out and stepped between Marcus and his ex-girlfriend.

"I see you took my bait." Marcus extended his hand toward Delaney and she sidestepped Jason and took hold of it. She interlaced her fingers in his and brought his hand to her lips and kissed it.

"You bitch." Jason glared at Delaney, feeling dirty and used. She offered him a bemused smile and wrapped herself around Marcus's arm.

"Hey, don't blame Deli. I needed you here, and there was only one way I was going to make that happen."

"So, you know everything? That we..."

"Heck, that was my idea. I knew you wouldn't be able to hold back when presented with the only thing I've ever had that you hadn't done better."

"How could you let him do that to you?" Jason said to Delaney.

"Marcus wasn't doing anything to me if I remember right. It was all you." Delaney pursed her full lips, then blew him a kiss. "Don't worry. I didn't mind. You're pretty good, actually."

Marcus wrapped his arm around Delaney and kissed the top of her head. "That's my girl."

Jason's legs felt weak. He had to lean back against the hood of the car. He looked at the crowd as it stirred and pulled closer to Marcus. These people seemed so different from his brother. They wore dress casual suits, blazers with jeans, skirts with pumps. They could be a gathering of the local PTA, or one of those silly book clubs their father tried in vain to get them to join. They looked like law-abiding citizens, but they hung on Marcus's every word.

"What is this all about, Marcus?

There was a pause. Jason wouldn't call it a standoff, not yet, not when he didn't know what was going on. The water spinning through the dam's turbines hissed like radio static in the background.

Breaking the silence, Marcus said, "It's Election Day, brother."

"What the hell are you talking about? It's the middle of summer. The next election isn't until the fall."

"It's Election Day. Trust me."

"So, what is this all about, some political statement? Is that what this is about? Politics?"

"Ah, Jason, I'm talking about an entirely different Election from yours, I'm afraid." Marcus pointed to the valley below. "Politics are the furthest thing from my mind."

Jason stepped away from the car and looked to where his brother gestured. His fear of immediate danger had diminished; if his brother meant him harm, he would've already struck. "What... what are you talking about?"

Marcus checked his watch, sighing. "The Election. The selection by God of His chosen people. The Election of those He chooses to carry on, to advance to the next stage of life."

"You're babbling on about God, but you hurt that boy," Jason said, not following Marcus's explanation, but knowing his own rage was growing. His mind flashed with the image of the boy's duct tape necklace, his delicate blond hair clinging to its crinkles.

"And?"

"You sick sonofabitch." Jason charged at his brother. Marcus turned away as Jason threw a punch and his fist glanced off his jaw.

"Marcus!" Delaney cried out and rushed to his side.

Marcus fell to one knee, holding his chin, and started laughing. In an instant, his followers fell in on Jason, holding back his arms before he could get in another blow. Though it felt good punching his brother, Jason's fear was growing. He was playing a deadly game and he didn't know the rules.

"Easy, easy. That's my brother," Marcus said. When he looked at his fingers, they came away bloody. "I hurt a boy? What boy in particular? There are so many. And little girls, and grandmas and soccer moms and factory-working daddies... oh, I lose count."

Jason struggled to free his arms, but the hands of the PTA moms and dads held him firmly.

Marcus consulted his watch again. "Oh, just look at the time! This little impromptu family reunion is about to come to a close. As is most of the rest of the world."

Marcus started dialing his cell phone, the intonations sounding faraway but altogether damning and final.

"What are you doing?"

"Giving back what doesn't rightfully belong to us."

His followers closed in around him, collectively raising their hands toward the cell phone as if to touch holiness cast off by its computerized beeping.

And with the seventh pushed button, an explosion roared through the valley, violently shaking the ground. Jason's captors fell to their sides, nearly bringing him down with them, but suddenly he was free, standing a stone's throw from the damaged river dam. Water gushed through wide fissures where huge concrete chucks had broken away. The force of the waves widened these gaps, sending more and more water rushing down toward the silent town.

BOOK: Arkadium Rising
12.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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