Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Sacrificing Brother (A. Cain Arlini)

There was a chink, the sound of ice moving in a glass. The room was lit respectively, it was not too bright nor too dark. There were no windows in the dining room and if there were, the sight was not worth the look. The room was, like the rest of the house, decorated with reds, off-whites, creams and browns. It was finely dressed and not pompously rich. The room showed the owner to be rich, the kind that was not to be flaunted, but also not to be hidden. Every object in the dining room had a purpose and there was not much art.

A. Cain Arlini was not a man for the arts. He did not care for paintings or play, and certainly not musicals. He did dabble in a book or two, but they never struck a fancy or even a chord. Cain was just a man. Cain also had a very peculiar interest in pulps. While his brother, Abele, read books avidly, watched plays with awe and listened to concerts in rapture, Cain found solace in horror comics. He kept that fact hidden.

The inhabitants of the dining table was an older man, who sat at the head and had a pepper-and-salt mixed with chestnut clean-cut and short hair, an older woman, who was black-haired and devoid of wrinkles and also sat across from the older man, and two men, who were in-between their 20s and 30s. The man was the Father of Cain and Abele. He was highly respected, and also highly feared. His name was Adem and he ran mostly illegal businesses (and a very nice theatre for opera, which they had named The Globe). The woman was the Mother of Cain and Abele and her name was Ava. She ran the opera most of the time and was the reason why they owned the theatre. She had a relentless love for opera. The two last men were, to lightly put it, very special. The one on the right hand of Adem was Abele. He had darker brown hair and the same colour eyes. The one on the left side of Adem was Cain. He had the same colour hair as his father and his eyes were the same brown. Abele’s hair looked soft, the cut made him look kinder than his brother, who’s hair formed horn-like flips. This made Cain look imposing and devilish, which made Abele look like a victim when near him. They both were the same height and almost the same weight. Abele was skinnier by default and it gave him a look of incompleteness. Cain was more filled out, but he was not portly. None of them were, in any way, overweight or chubby. Despite what most people thought, they were not twins. Cain was a year older than Abele. Abele’s leg was bandaged and, if one looked closer, he had several small cuts. Cain tended to look at his brother menacingly from time to time. The reason was because Abele would not be silent.

“If you insist, youngest son, then we might indeed see the opera. Zukerman, that would be the Arianna the papers have been gibbering about these days, will be our lead soprano. The Globe is showing Tosca.” Ava said. Abele was about to mention something happily when the cook came out, followed by four waiters, to announce that dinner has begun. They were treated to Cain’s favourite dish: softly roasted lamb, cooked spinach, whipped potatoes and a mushroom sauce. It was always divine. Disobedient or rotten cooks lost hands, if they were lucky, and cooking a dinner for the Mother and the Father of Cain and Abele was the worst time of the year for the cooks. Cain made sure to personally visit the kitchens to announce that his parents were coming and that the food was to be perfectly celestial. The cooks did not dare to try and quit then. They had heard the stories of bits and pieces of arms or legs found in waste bins. Cain did not like pressure and finding a magnificent cook on short notice entered his list of ‘pressure’. After the cook announced, fairly bluntly, on what the dish was, the waiters strode forward and placed their dished in front of each person.

“I shall now allow the masters and mistress to dine,” the cook said and left. If one looked closely, they could have noticed the small shaking in his legs.

Adem looked at his dish, teasingly amused, “I suspect that this is all you eat, oldest son? This is all you ever serve us.” Abele smiled and nodded in agreement. He received a small kick underneath the table; he made no movement, he did not dare to show to their parents any thing such as fighting.

Cain, pretending to be amused, answered, “It is a fine dish, father. It is both respectable, but not pretentious. I have found that a superb lamb is hard to find and this is a perfect dish to show off my cooks’ skills. Do not worry, though, we will certainly not be dining on the same dish every night.”

Abele, muttering under his breath, said, “Every day would be better… There is breakfast and lunch, of course.” Cain arched an eyebrow at his brother.

“Did you say something, brother? Is something not to your liking?” he said, there was an undertone warning.

“O-of course not, brother. The lamb is d-divine. I love it. I was c-complimenting on the dish.”

“I do hope so, brother.” Cain took a sip of his red wine. There was a small silence, except for the chinking of silverware on good china.

“I was saying, Abele, the Globe will be showing Tosca. Perhaps we ought to go this week?” she offered. Abele and Adem nodded. Cain was neutral.

“I have yet to see this Zukerman. I have heard that she is outstanding,” Adem said. “When is the best time to see it, dear wife?” Abele looked from his father to his mother as they discussed the times that were best to view the opera. He avoided his brother’s gaze; he knew that they were not benevolent and kind looks.

“I would like to do it this week, if that does not displease you, my oldest son. It would be a nice family outing,” said Adem. Cain politely bowed his head slightly.

“No, it would not displease me at all, father. When would be the best showing, mother?” he said. Ava gave a pause, thinking. Abele ate his potatoes and ate around the lamb. He always felt bad eating lamb. He did not really care about the animal itself, but he just had an inner, distinct feeling that when his brother served lamb, something was not right.

“The weekend is never the best, of course. That is when all the commoners come. Today is Wednesday, so they do not play tonight. There is no time, anyways. They do play tomorrow. Do you have anything for use planned, dear older son?” Ava replied and asked. Cain remained control of his face, but his hand was white-knuckled. He had planned on them to see a play. His family did not take well to plays, but adored operas and musicals. He never minded operas, only when they were obstructing something far more interesting. In this case, the play was on outside and natural rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was to be done without costume and only natural sets. There were the necessary masks, of course, and the natural lighting. He was quite looking forward to it. It was like his brother to ruin his brilliant plans.

“No, mother. I did not have anything special planned for tomorrow. If you wish, we shall go.” He responded. Silently and mentally he was hitting his brother over and over again.

“Good. Tomorrow, then.” Ava concluded. She gave a nod, and asked for a pardon. She was tired and full. Cain gave her pardon. Adem, Abele and Cain silently ate for a while. Adem then asked for a pardon and left to join his wife. Cain glared across the table at his brother. Abele looked down.

“S-sorry… b-b-brother.” He said.

Cain continued to glare at him. Awkwardly and ashamed, he began to eat his lamb. Cain picked up his knife and Abele automatically gave a small flinch. Cain slammed his fist down onto the table. Abele stared at his brother. Cain sat like that for a while, trying to control himself. He was forced to not harm his brother for the whole of the week. Abele looked down at his lap and stared at it intently. One of the lesser cooks came out to take the plates. He gingerly took Adem’s and Ava’s. He did not come back. The moment broke and Cain dropped the knife onto the table. He sighed with exhaustion. “Go, dear brother.” He leaned back in his chair while Abele scurried off. Cain stood up with effort and lumbered towards his quarters.

He changed into his favourite pyjamas (black and warm) and lay in bed for a long time. He finally closed his eyes and slept.

It was day. He was sitting, nay, kneeling on grassy land. His hands were wet with blood and his eyes were closed. He felt a presence. It was not the person beside him and it was no ordinary presence. It was, he supposed, The Presence. Then the person beside him spoke and he groaned internally. He opened his eyes slowly as the person beside him waved and said, “Wot’s… er… your name?”. It was Abele. Cain elbowed him, hard. The angel stared at Abele.

“Are you daft, brother? Who the hell do you think he is? He’s the Metatron,” Cain said. Abele looked at his brother, confused.

“Who’s that?” Abele asked. Cain glared at him. Even though they never read the Bible, on principle (for it gave them the shivers), they did learn Christian mythology.

“Shut up,” he retorted. The angel looked from one to the other. He looked fairly bored and extremely annoyed. Cain felt he understood.

The angel rolled his eyes and began to speak: I AM THE VOICE OF GOD. (“Oh, said Abele quietly and received a glare from his brother). GOD THANKS YOU, ABEL, FOR YOUR GIFT. HE ACCEPTS IT GLADLY.

The angel bowed and looked as though he was going to take off. “Hey now! Wait a minute. What about mine?” Cain asked. He was not just going to allow his present, whatever it was, to be ignored.

The Metatron looked at him momentarily, as though thinking of what to say. This made Cain a little uncomfortable. That, then made him a little scared. He hardly felt uncomfortable or scared. Finally, He (despite that the he in question was, in fact, genderless) spoke again: GOD DOES NOT ACCEPT YOUR GIFT, CAYN. PLEASE TRY AGAIN.

Cain stared as the angel flew off. His gift was not accepted? What was better about Abele’s gift? He looked over at the stone slab which held their gifts. Cain was a slab of cut meat, from what it looked like. Abele’s was plainly a lamb that was slaughtered. Did God prefer whole lamb? Cain felt his anger rise like never before. The more he thought upon it, the more it rose. He could not temper and cool it. In the background, off miles away, he heard a stammering apology. Cain spied the knife he used in front of him. Without thought, he grabbed it. He rose and faced his brother, who was beginning to back away. Cain took a step closer. His brother fell. Cain screamed and lunged forward with the knife. He was blind and deaf in anger.

Cain was confused. In front of him stood his brother. His brother stared at him, surprised. Cain noticed that he was sitting up. He also noticed that his fist was a centimetre away from Abele’s head. Cain regained his composure. “What is it that you want, dear brother?” His brother wrung his hands.

“W-well, the servants were busy with our mother and father. I th-thought you might want to get up.” Abele looked down.

“Yes... well, thank you then. Leave, I need to change” Cain said slowly. Abele left quickly and thankful that his brother did not strike him. He was trying to remember a dream he had. He was fairly certain that he had heard it before. He shook his head. He found that the dream was slipping away into his subconscious and sneaking out the door into forgetfulness. By the time he was standing in front of his bureau and putting on his trousers, he could only faintly recall that he had a disturbing dream and nothing more.

Cain looked over at the clock on his bedside table and rolled his eyes. It was 6 a.m. Cain always awoke at 8 a.m. Sometimes he woke up later, but he would lay there, thinking, or read or listen to the servants talking. Cain loved laying there in the morning, basking in the pause of time before he would be forced to work and play politic games. Abele had taken that away from him today. Abele had taken away a lot of things today. First the outside and ‘natural’ theatre and now his lounging time. Cain knew this was not going to be a good day. He stood, staring, at his rack of ties, picking up one, placing it back and nodding his head. He wanted to, if anything, wear one of his favourite ties today. He finally found what he wanted and walked over to the mirror, tied it and left, smiling.

The tie was black with a red tear-shaped drop bordered with white.

A/N: This took a long time to do. I ran into homework (well, I was on vacation before; I miss it) and school and I kept watching movies instead of working (this week was Pirates of the Caribbean, both movies, and Nosferatu). So it got put on hold. I was in the middle of the dinner conversation and it probably seemed a little boring compared to the movies I was watching, so I kept saying 'after this movie'. Anyways, I finally sat down yesterday and today and finished it off.

I did the big 'author no-no' and copy-pasted, haha. I wanted to keep the dreams the same, just from different perspectives. I hope it wasn't too boring. I think it's because I love that dream way too much. I love the Metatron; he is based off of Alan Rickman's performance in Dogma. My dad (who is, basically, my editor) looked at me while he was reading and asked 'Have I seen this before?'. I told him it was from The Sacrificial Brother and he responded with 'Oh'. The fact that is seemed very familiar, but not so familiar as to directly correlate with my previous story is very amusing. I wanted that to happen. I wanted to make them seem as though they could have come from anywhere (or anytime).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Sacrificial Brother (Abele Arlini)

A bird fluttered down by the window on Abele Arlini’s New York-styled apartment. The apartment was on one of the upper floors, the eighth, to be precise. There were nine levels. There were only two other rooms that were in use on the eighth floor and no one questioned about the ninth. There was not a lot in Abele’s apartment. The living room was currently a mess, the reason was obvious. A table was overturned and the couch was sliced. Old bullet marks splattered the walls. A chair was broken and forgotten about, the leg was somewhere unknown. The sole lamp was in a corner, smashed, and looked as though it was thrown. There were no lights except for the sun from the window. There were two windows looking into the room, but one had been long-smashed (most likely by a bullet or five) and the occupant of the apartment had boarded it up. The room had a general look of unlived in, not because the occupant was busy and away, but because the occupant had long since learned that anything nice and decorative would be a waste of money.
The bird on the windowsill cawed, denoting it as to be a carrion bird of some sort. “Not dead yet,” said a sniffled voice behind the mangled couch. There was another sob when a hand reached up to the couch and the man stood up, with difficulty. The wall behind the man was covered in blood, with good reason. Abele stumbled from the couch to the wall and entered his room, where he kept the bandages. A wide streak of blood was painted at thigh-length on the wall. When Abele sat down on his bed, a pool formed. His left leg received the most attention from the knife. An arm, a bit of his chest and his face had also received some small gashes or two. His face had begun puffing up from being hit by the handle of a knife.
The gash had finally ruined the faded-to-nondescript-coloured pants. Abele dug underneath the bed and produced a first aid kit. He proceeded to take of the pants, with painful difficulty. His eyes watered a lot in the effort. Abele was not fond of pain, to his never-ending despair. He took out a pad and wiped as much excess blood as he could. He took out a leathered stick, a needle and a cat-gut thread. He put the leathered stick in his mouth and threaded the needle. He began to sew up his wound. The bird outside the window was given a chorus of whimpers and sobs, a period of silence (from Abele regaining his composure) and then another chorus. It finally ended and the bird cawed out and left for something tasty.
With his leg finally sewn and bandaged, Abele tended to some of the lesser wounds. He decided against putting on a different pair of pants, but put on boxers. He walked back into the living room and then to the kitchen. Abele dug into the refrigerator and at the back in some corner, he found a piece of meat. He held it to the right side of his face. He also found a glass in some cupboard and poured sink water into it. He sipped it with care as he sat at the mangled couch in the living room. For a while he sat there silently, but a knock finally sounded from the door. Abele looked fearfully at the door but the knocker called out that it was just Ana. Abele limped to the door and let her in.
Ana was, to put it bluntly, an old crone. She had assumed the role of babushka on the floor, but she wasn’t really Russian. Abele never questioned where she came from and the only time he had entered her apartment made him guilty when he asked where Mr Ana was. When he had peaked into her room, out of small curiosity, he found a shrine to a middle-aged man and a strapping young man. Abele did not question on her family, ever. He did not even know her last name. Everyone called her Ana or some form of Mother from different languages or homelands. She was shrunken and bent, like all old crones, and held a firm and caring face. She was not the grandmother who spoiled or the elderly who scorned the young. She would scold the foolish but bandage their wounds. She did have a head-scarf and shawl, which amplified the elderly lady feel. Abele was ever-grateful to her for all she has done for him.
Ana tsk-ed at his bandaging job. “I bet you didn’t even wash off your leg properly.” She went into his kitchen and grabbed the rag and a bowl of water. She placed the bowl on the floor and unwrapped his shoddy bandage. She washed off the wound which had slowed down to a small ooze here and there. She sighed sadly, “You always get the brunt of his anger, poor Abele. The Irish-folk will be having a dinner tonight. They asked me to extend the offer to you. Cabbage, potatoes and a nice hearty and heavy drink. Father Abbán’s son, Aidan, you never met him, but he had a bonus at his workplace. They’re celebrating while they can.”
Abele nodded, “I don’t have any more food. I would like to come, if they have enough.”
Ana stood up, “There, done. I see that your sewing has improved. It is much better than the last one. You better change and I will find my old crutch. I must get back to my cleaning.” She spied the smear on the wall. “You better clean that up. Ah, and do you have any more wash for me? You must have. You always do.”
“They ruined my pants, but the sheets need to be cleaned. I've got blood on them again.” He added a sorry after he saw the look on Ana’s face.
“Don’t give me this apology, Abele. You have no apology to give. You do not have another pair of sheets, I expect? The Irish-folk may be able to spare one.”
“Oh, no. I can sleep without sheets. I don’t want to bother the Irish-folk.” Abele looked down at his feet. He didn’t like getting help like sheets and clothes and food from others. The sheets and clothing tend to get ruined before he could give them back.
“I will get you the crutch. The Irish-folk can give you the sheets after dinner. Bring your dirty ones to me and you might as well bring the pants. No waste in cloth. We will make more rags or bandages from.” She left his flat.
Abele sighed and went into his bedroom, where he stripped the bed. He dug into the chipped dresser and found another pair of muddled pants. He gathered up the pants and limped out of the apartment. He entered the apartment two doors down to the right of his. He placed the sheets in the hamper by the door and placed the pants on a chair. He looked around, waiting for the crutch so he could leave the flat. Ana appeared carrying his crutch and accepted it nervously. He had an inkling that this belonged to the young man in the shrine. He bowed slightly and said ‘thanks’. He left quickly, hoping to not rub off more of his bad luck onto her.
Abele returned to his apartment. He dumped out the dirty, red water that was left in the bowl and filled it up with new water. He began to clean off the wall. He was forced to abandon the crutch for a while, in order to clean up the blood sprinkles on the floor that trailed off to the bedroom. He picked up the needle that he had used and plopped it into the bowl and carried it all to the sink. He washed the needle and bowl. After he was finished, he limped over to the couch and slept awkwardly.
Abele awoke to a knock. He began to sit up when the door burst open. A relatively tall and very thick man walked in. The door had flown off its hinges for not the first time. The man stood aside as a taller, thinner and much smarter looking man entered the room. There were a lot of similarities between this man and Abele. For one, they were about the same age. They both had the same eyes, were the same height (except that Abele hunched and this man stood straight) and had the same facial features. Abele had a softer look about him while this man looked harsh. The main reason was the clothing style. This man had a suit. Abele had what was once a suit, but was now merely indescribably clothing. This man had finely combed hair, which was brushed back and naturally formed a sort of horned look to him. Abele just had hair.
“Hullo, brother,” said Abele. He sat silently after that. The man stared at him harshly.
“I suppose it is too much to tell you not to call me that. No matter, you will dine with me, tonight.” The man said. Abele gulped.
“I-is it too much to a-ask why?” Abele said. The man smiled, almost darkly.
“Why should I not dine with my one and only brother on occasion? Do I need a reason to embrace my fellow kin and offer him a seat at my table?” The man looked as though he excepted an answer. He got none, except for a look down. Abele was sure that whatever he answered with would only irk his brother. “Perhaps my dear and only brother does not wish to dine with me?” the man said.
“O-oh, I would l-love to dine with you, brother,” Abele said. The man’s smile grew even darker.
“Lovely. You will come with me. My servants will dress and wash you properly.” Abele stood up, leaning on the crutch, and walked forward. “You will leave that here.” Abele obeyed and place it on the couch and hobbled forward. A different man from the one who forced through the door stepped forward and Abele leaned on him. They walked out into the hall and towards the stairs to the exclusive ninth floor. A young man across from Ana’s flat had looked out and watched Abele go up the stairs. He went back inside his apartment and told his father that Abele will not be able to join them tonight and to forget about the sheets for a while.
Abele was dumped into a bath and properly washed off. His cuts and bruises were given salves. His leg was given a finer dressing. His puffed cheek had gone down considerably. His hair was combed and he was given a new and shiny suit. He was also given a fine wooden crutch with comfortable padding. He almost looked presentable if it wasn’t for the rabbit-in-the-fox-den look. The servants shoved Abele out of the washroom and closed the door. He looked around to see if his brother wanted to give him anymore orders and found none. He limped off to his room. He stood in the doorway and looked behind him. He relaxed a little and entered the room.
Abele had not been back to his room for almost a month. He inspected his bookshelf, desk, dresser and bed, making sure nothing was touched. Nobody but the dust-maid had entered the room. No one wanted to. Abele sat on his bed and laid there. After a few minutes, his brother knocked on the door. Abele responded quickly with a ‘come in’. His brother entered the room and closed the door. Abele stiffened and stared at the closed door.
“Why such the look, brother? I will not harm you here,” Abele’s brother said. Abele sniffed, almost wanting to sob.
“B-but you always hurt me, brother.” Abele did not look at his brother as he said this.
“Oh, but I will never hurt you here, dear brother. This is your room.” Abele looked as though he was going to say something, but his brother stopped him. “I did not come here to bicker with you. Mother and father are coming here tonight. It would do you best if, as always, you did not mention our little… ah, squabbles.” Abele nodded sadly. “Good... You will stay here for a week and then you may return to your filthy flat.” Abele’s brother nodded and turned to leave the room but Abele stopped him.
“What will be tonight’s dinner?” he asked. His brother looked back at him but did not turn to face him.
“Lamb,” he said and left.
Abele continued to lay there, staring up at the ceiling. Normally he would read or write in his diary, but he did not have the energy. He dozed off and fell into the dream-world. The dream disturbed Abele. He and his brother were wearing tunics and they were shepherds. They were both happily friendly. One day, on the first of spring, they went to a hill each with offerings to a god (or, as Abele though, maybe the God). They stood at the stone and both killed their offerings of a lamb a piece. To Abele’s surprise, his brother took some of the better pieces of meat and placed them into a cloth. He then wrapped the grisly meat in the fat. Abele merely killed his lamb. They said their prayer to their god. There was a flurry of feathers and wings and Abele, no longer able to bear it, looked in front of him. There stood a man with white wings.
“Er... hullo?” Abele said. The angel looked down at him. Abele waved. The angel arched an eyebrow. “Wot’s... er... your name?” Abele asked. The angel stared at him dubiously. His brother elbowed Abele in the ribs.
“Are you daft, brother? Who the hell do you think he is? He’s the Metatron,” said Abele’s brother.
“Who’s that?” Abele asked his brother.
“Shut up,” said his brother.
The angel rolled his eyes and began to speak: I AM THE VOICE OF GOD. (“Oh, said Abele quietly and received a glare from his brother). GOD THANKS YOU, ABEL, FOR YOUR GIFT. HE ACCEPTS IT GLADLY.
The angel bowed and looked as though he was going to take off. “Hey now! Wait a minute. What about mine?” Abele’s brother asked.
The Metatron looked at him momentarily, as though thinking of what to say. He spoke again: GOD DOES NOT ACCEPT YOUR GIFT, CAYN. PLEASE TRY AGAIN.
The angel bowed and left quickly, so as not to answer another question. He had a lot of things to do, mainly sort out that nasty list of who had Fallen and who had stayed in Heaven. Abele and his brother watched the angel fly off. When he was out of sight, Abele’s brother stood up. Abele realised what had just happened.
“Er... I am s-sorry, brother. I-I just do not like gutting lambs. It m-makes me sick. I can give you s-something if you w-want...” Abele saw the look on his brother’s face and began to back up. His brother had the darkest and scariest look he could ever remember seeing. His brother reached down and picked up the knife he used to skin and gut the lamb. Abele was about to turn and run when he tripped over a rock. He fell and hit the ground.
Someone pounded on Abele’s door. He sat up and realised he was on the floor. He returned to his senses and said ‘come in’. He was still dazed and very disturbed. He could have sworn he had heard that story somewhere. He felt he would have recognised it, but the more he though on it, the more it faded to a wisp and then to nothing at all. His brother entered.
“Why, brother, are you on the floor? Have your days in the apartment turned you to an animal? Should we just put a dish on the floor for you to eat at dinner?” His brother said. Abele looked down.
“W-well, I was having a n-nightmare. I f-fell,” he explained. His brother looked unconcerned.
“Straighten yourself up and get out here. Mother and father have arrived.” His brother turned to leave.
“Cain?” Abele said and his brother turned around.
“What?” Cain, the brother of Abele, said.
“Oh... er... I suppose it’s nothing.” Abele said silently. Cain stared at his brother, then left to tend to his guests.


A/N: I have always been fond of the Cain and Abel story. Something about two brothers fighting and fatricide that interests me. Abele is just the Italian version of Abel. I made the older version of Cain to be Cayn (somewhere I saw it spelled like that in a medieval painting/picture). There isn't another version of Cain, apparently (unless I want to do somehing like Kain, but I think that looks a little tacky and not very Italian). The two of them were based around Gaiman's Cain and Abel from The Sandman, which in turn is based off of the Cain and Abel from House of Secrets and House of Mystery (more comics). My Abel is skinnier than Gaiman's. He is about as good looking as Cain, he just gets beaten. They are younger, too. They are in their 20s-30s. You can tell I also got Abele's suttering from Gaiman.

This is a story for the 22/7 Blackwell Society of Fiction (a writing club). The first challenge was to write about your pen names (mine would be Abele Arlini and A. Cain Arlini). I don't like how I have to post on the forum, so I just make a link to here. ((I am hoping for the challenge at the end of next year will be something revolving around our pen names again and I can have this as a four-parter; I still need to write Cain's story)).

Oddly, I found that everyone's name started with A. It sets Cain's name out from the others, so I like it. Actually, Cain's first name is Andreau (Italian version for Andrew), so it's really A. Cain Arlini. Just plain 'Cain Arlini' did not settle well with me. It sounded awkward.