The North Brothers: Epilogue

This is it, the last post in this series. A week late because I was visiting a friend and would you believe it, I forgot my laptop. So no work to be done in days, not even real-life work I was supposed to be doing.

Anyway, here you go.


  1. 14th December

 

I still don’t know why I collected these writings. Maybe I just want something on this world to tell the truth about what my brothers and I are; what we did. Even if it has to stay a secret.

I might have killed them, but I helped that girl. Doesn’t that show that we don’t have to be monsters? If they are, it’s not my fault. Something was wrong with them before they died. Even after decades of hiding in that house, of killing vermin and rabbits, keeping away from people, after I forgot how to speak and almost how to think, I still did not attack her. Maybe I only gathered these diaries to remind myself of that when I next forget how to be human.

To remind myself that there is hope.

And who knows, perhaps there is hope not just for me.

Jesse North

 

 

Forget it, Jesse. It’s your fault and your self-righteousness won’t change that. You might have slipped away for now, but I’ll find you.

Until then – wouldn’t it be just awful if this little book of yours got lost, forgotten somewhere anyone could find it?

James

 

 


Well, and that’s it.

Thank you so much for reading.

This account will continue to be somewhat on the quiet side for now, as I am about to write my thesis. The occasional short stories will continue, just no new series for now.

I do have one or two ideas, though 😉 A sequel to this rather open-ended little piece above is among them.

Till then, have a good one.

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The North Brothers: Chapter 23

So, technically, this is the end. Next week, there’s a short epilogue-like chapter, and then it’s back to the occasional short story (which will come more frequently then, I was just rather busy these past few weeks).

Enjoy!


  1. Abigal Murray’s Diary, 9th December

 

We should get into our boats and paddle to the mainland.

Finally they believe me, but that doesn’t change anything now. The five missing men are dead, everyone knows that. Nobody dares go up to the house. I told them there’s only two of them, but they are half-convinced the Norths have a deal with hell. They said that if I can get them into the village, they’d take care of them, but they won’t go near that hell-house again.

Of course I forbade my parents to come, and took the path cross-country. I know they’ll follow, but they’ll take the road. If I’m quick, everything will be over once they arrive.

I went at daybreak. We never saw them in the sun. I am standing in front of the house, scribbling what might be my last words.

It looks deserted. No hammer blows, no smoke from the chimneys, no sudden movements behind curtains or dirty windows.

It’ll be over soon.

 

I entered the house through the same window as last time, because all doors had been locked. This time I felt the thorns, and each time I pulled myself up the window seemed to climb up the wall, away from me.

But, hands bloody, clothes torn and back bruised by the rifle, I made it.

There are still piles of leaves everywhere. In each corner something appears to move, only to reveal itself as the wind playing in the dust.

I checked the room with the painted box first.

Now I at least know what happened to the Five. The Norths cleaned up, but everything smaller than a chicken’s egg they left. I guess I should have cried or thrown up, but I’ve seen Donnie’s body. I don’t know what could be worse than that.

Something slithered down the chimney. I lit a match and threw it on the bed, where it listlessly chewed on the damp sheets.

“No,” a familiar voice hissed from a pile of curtains tucked into the fireplace.

I lit another match and set the remaining curtains on the floor on fire. It lit up faster, the fabric wasn’t as rotted.

“Put it out,” the voice begged.

“No.” For lack of further flammable materials, I left the room. Above me I heard the rustling as the thing with the glowing eyes made its way through the ceiling.

I kept clear of the cupboard where it snatched me the first time. It might have saved me from that monster the North brother became, but it will have to find a new home. This one needs to go, together with its owners.

I looked at the ceiling. “If you can’t stand sunlight either, wait for me in the cellar. I’ll get you more curtains.”

The scratching stopped for a moment. Then it started again, directly above me, as if it were trying to scratch its way to me.

“You know I need to do this.”

I opened the door at the dark end of the hallway. At the far end of the room, thick curtains hid a bay window, pooling on moth-eaten cushions.

I left the door open and lit the next match. I almost tripped over another box standing in the middle of the room. Big enough for the older North brother. Very slowly, listening for the rustle of my clothes, my own breath, I bent down.

Not a sound. As silent as a dead man’s coffin. But I didn’t believe it. With long steps I crossed the room, out of the circle of light from the door. I ripped down the first layer of curtains, but the next was nailed to the window frame.

The match bit into my fingers. I dropped it and it went out. I tore at the curtain, but it was too thick. Not a single thread ripped.

A gust of wind hit my back as the door slammed, killing the light with a bang.

Claws dug into my neck, pressing on my speeding pulse as if to check it. A second hand pried my fingers from the rifle.

“How many people know that you’re here? Tell me the truth and I’ll let you leave.” He didn’t even try to make his lie sound convincing.

“Everyone. The entire village.” At least I could tell the truth. Even if he killed me now, he was fucked.

He let go. His arm brushed against my shoulder as he walked past me. The cushions sighed and dust tickled my nose.

“Can I get half a day?”

What in the world was I hearing? They were supposed to be monster, coldblooded murderers, wild animals. Yet he sounded like a man who had worked too hard for too long.

“I just want to leave this island.”

“You can as soon as you undo your brother’s crimes.”

“Are you speaking about the five workers, the family over the hill or that boy? All my fault, you know. Seventeen days, eleven corpses. That’s a record even for me.”

Donnie is just a part of a record – his, not his brother’s. I shot the wrong monster. I was prepared to kill the wrong man. I was so sure.

A loud crunch sounded from the bowels of the house. It sounded like it was trying to retch us up.

“The boy was my brother.”

Another match lit up between us. I hadn’t noticed I’d dropped them.

In its light, he looked normal. His skin had the same golden shine as mine.

Again, the house retched.

“Have you brought someone with you?”

“He was my brother!”

His eyes snapped back to me from the twilight behind me. “He would have disappointed you one day.”

The put out the little flame as I lashed out and my hit missed him. His hand gently pushed my arm down.

Gently.

I felt sick.

“If you had brought something with you that could kill me, I would let you try.” He sighed and got up. “Sit on that bench and wait for the night. Then you can leave.”

I did not move. He pushed me down onto the bench with fingers that were as cold as Donnie when I pulled him out of that pond.

“What can kill you?” I asked.

“Nothing so far.”

I tripped over my own feet in the darkness. He caught me.

“Careful. You’re already smelling of blood.” It didn’t sound like a threat. Or a friendly warning. His voice showed no emotion.

I wanted the rifle back. I wanted to hear him beg, pleas for mercy, apologies. A reason.

“Why?”

“I could forget myself if you bleed.”

“That’s not what I meant!” He gutted Donnie like a pig, but he wanted to spare me. Why?

If there was anything, he didn’t tell me. He didn’t say anything. Just walked up and down the room. Slowly I could discern shapes again, him, the big bed, the box.

He did not speak to me and I not to him.

At some point a knock sounded at a faraway door.

“Who did you bring?” Still, his voice sounded unconcerned.

“No one.” The curtains meant he truly couldn’t leave the room. Even if he wasn’t afraid, if he could stand his own against us all, they wouldn’t have tried to hide. With the three of us, maybe we could drag him out into the sunlight.

My parents shouted for me.

“No worries, Abi. I locked all the doors.”

Below us, a window shattered. His shape moved to the door and a key clicked in the lock.

“They are your parents?”

I nodded, which he saw even in the darkness.

“They needn’t be hurt.”

“I’ll be silent,” I promised, and even tried to hold my breath.

He leaned against the door while my parents made their loud way up the spiral staircase. The one with barely any windows.

“What about the other one?” The thing from the ceiling had helped me, but then I had lit its home on fire.

“William isn’t here anymore.” He spoke in a low voice, as if he truly meant to let my parents leave.

“I meant the other one. The one that crawls through the walls and uses the chimney as a lift.”

“There is no…” He thought for a long time, while only a few centimetres behind him my parents knocked on the door and called my name.

After they left, he spoke again. “Brown eyes, blonde hair and about your age?”

“It was not human.”

“Of course he isn’t.”

The second door to the room started to rattle. Again I heard my name.

“Take your parents and go. You set stuff on fire? It will have no use, the house is too damp.” He pulled me to my feet, pushed me past the coffin and towards the door leading to the hallway.

Behind the second door the ceiling crunched again. My parents screamed and made for the hallway.

“He thinks he’ll own the house if he stakes me.” James North raised his voice. “William says you need oak! Finding some yet?” He scoffed. “Your brother’s death had no meaning. Nothing had any meaning since my brother died. You shot William? You can shoot me as often as you like. Once I’ve dealt with my brother’s murderer. He should have died.” His voice became so low it was hard to catch. “Instead he passed it on to him.”

He unlocked the door and opened it wide enough for a ray of borrowed light to fall through.

“I ask you for a bit of time.”

I nodded.

His affairs are older than mine. Our time will come.

He gave me a key and the rifle, pushed me out of the door and locked it behind me.

I got my parents. After the front door closed behind us, a voice that needs not waste air for breath carried through the broken windows.

“Jesse?”

“We have time until nightfall,” I told my parents. We went down into the village, packed our things and loaded old Bill’s sailboat, who stepped out of his cottage with packed bags the moment we did.

The entire village gathered outside when we saw the smoke rise. Dusk was falling, and the church shone a warm light on the cemetery.

The house did not burn.

“Wait for me,” Patty asked us and went into her house. She came out with a bag of her own. None for the Father.

Some dogs barked as their owners led them onto the boats and their paws sounded almost like a child’s naked feet, outside after bedtime.

The North Brothers: Chapter 22

Just two more chapters.


  1. Father Monroe’s letter of farewell, 8th December

 

Lord,

Forgive me, for I will sin.

I offered salvation to the monsters. That alone should condemn me for all eternity. Yet even worse, one of them accepted. I promised to pray for its soul.

Which soul?

I cannot pray anymore. I don’t know what to say. Even writing comes slowly.

“God doesn’t see me,” it said. “He doesn’t hear my prayers.” It thinks You hear mine. I know You don’t, but those teeth could have scared me into promising anything. Into doing it, too.

After the brown-haired devil had left, the other one sat at the foot of the stone. William. A human name seems so unfitting. It looks human enough, just those teeth, pointy enough to be different, yet such a minor detail you miss it until it’s too late.

A patricide. He has become the monster he always was. What could the brother’s crime be, to even look the part?

“Forgive me,” William begged. “Forgive me.” Again and again, until I moved. I wanted to get away from its monotonous whimper, from whatever it might do afterwards. But no sooner had I moved than he grabbed my leg.

His fingers dug into my skin deep enough to bruise. I stumbled and fell. The devil’s eyes lit up, fixed on my scraped hand. He reached out for it, but stopped, hand in mid-air. He looked over my shoulder, moving his lips as if speaking to someone. I saw nobody, but maybe the devil only shows himself to his servants.

Is that a good sign for me?

“It was justified.” His focus snapped back on me. The abomination gripped my wrist, looking at me with eyes big as a child asking Is my dog in heaven now.

“Of course it was,” I said and tried to pry his fingers off me. These things are stronger than their grey skin and thin limbs suggest.

“Shut up!” it hissed at the air next to itself. It let go of me to lash out at nothing.

I crawled backwards. What lurks in hell’s night that scares even this devil?

Lord, if I am dead, how can my heart race like it’s trying to escape my chest?

“Stop!” It hit the faded writing. The name John North went up in dust and shards of marble. Two of those stabbed the pale skin left and right of one blue eye.

The eyes are windows to the soul. His burns.

He pulled the shards out. Two drops of blood too dark painted deeper shadows on his face and ran dry quickly. The wounds disappeared.

It heard me scramble away. Its head shot around, fast as a cat’s. It screwed up its face as if trying to send real tears after those of blood. But its eyes remained dry.

“John North deserved everything,” it said. “But what about us?”

This thing looked just like its victims moments before their deaths. A terrier shows more respect to a rat.

“You deserve three times that.”

The look it gave me made my limbs go numb and cold. “You swore the Lord.”

How could I even think of showing this thing the way to salvation? Might be I don’t deserve your mercy, Lord, but if I don’t, then neither does William North. I promised to pray for his salvation, but I won’t lie. Not to You. I am the only one whose salvation I pray for. I know now I cannot help anyone but myself.

“The devil picked me, not the other way around.” It stroked the faded name next to John North’s. “James said there never was a devil, just our youngest brother and his damned curiosity. But he never deserved any of this. He didn’t deserve to become a murderer. I cannot hate him for passing it on to me. You say we are being punished for our sins? We didn’t have time to sin before we died.”

The faded name received a nudge that was almost gentle.

“This grave is empty. I never found him, even after he killed me.” It lifted its gaze, again to something invisible to me. We were alone, no sound, no movement hinted at any spectators, as much as I wished for someone to divert its attention.

“It was only justified.” The next hit tore its pale skin and smeared the family name with clotted blood. “My mother, my brothers, James’ mother. Me. Why should our father be the only one to die old and happy?”

The invisible one had nothing more to say to that. The devil rested its head against the stone.

“James was blind.” It took up a shard and started to wipe out the name of its human father, brows drawn together and tongue tucked between its teeth. Each hit sent the teeth deeper into the tongue. The thing paid no notice to the fact it slowly bit the tip off its own tongue.

I rose and slowly backed away. My church was so close. If only I didn’t open the doors again I would be save. They need to ask me for admittance. My mistake was to grant them sanctuary here, believing them human just because they are scared. Isn’t their lord afraid of mine, too? Would I assume he had a soul?

I climbed over the wall, but as I looked up from my feet, the devil had disappeared from the grave. Too many shadows lurked between the graves. The abomination could be hiding or gone. This is their realm.

I only saw mine, white-washed walls and patched roof, tall and comforting, while running towards it. The key to the side door jangled in my hand.

I dropped it when I ran into the almost human figure suddenly folding out of the dark.

It held me upright, staring at my vestment as if it were burning its eyes.

“James was right,” it lisped with its torn tongue. Its fingers dug into my face, bending my head down, despite my resistance. I scratched it, but the wounds healed faster than my eyes could follow.

I begged for your mercy, Lord. Did you not hear me? Do I really have to grant it to myself?

The open mouth, torn by its own sharpened teeth, remarkably human since the massacre, came closer. It smelled of old blood. I never thought I’d learn what that smells like.

As I tried to push it away it bit my hand. Some bones crumbled like those of a chicken.

I had no time to scream. It pressed its hand on my mouth and nose, broke my left knee with a kick. Its bite tore out my cheek and broke my jaw.

My blood stopped following my pulse. It was being pulled out of my body.

“You are not better than me,” it whispered in my ear before disappearing into the hills.

I crawled the last steps towards my church. None of my injuries should be deadly, yet I can barely think, forming words is becoming harder each minute and my memories turn on and off like an electrical light. Yet my vision seems sharper than ever. It is still dark, but I can see each letter clearly.

Something is changing inside of me. I have to hurry. The chandelier above the altar should carry my weight.

The cross is hanging behind my back, and although I cannot see it, I can feel its judgement.

Forgive me, Lord.

The North Brothers: Chapter 21

It’s technically still saturday.


  1. James‘ diary, 8th December

 

What have I done?

A long time since I last had this thought, but last night it came back. It sprang up while I carried body parts into the moor, bag by bag. Soon I’ll have drained it, buried under a pile of corpses.

Corpses that are my sole responsibility.

William says we’re the devil’s children, our only purpose to kill. It was easy to stick to that, listen to the hunger and nothing else. Killing was fun, pure laughter. But when I walked into the room painted with blood, not even my hunger stirred. If anything, it made me feel as sick as that wretched fish stench.

When was the last time I drank? My reflection in the dirty water showed me it had been too long. Shadows hid eyes that were too bright and my teeth slowly dug into the inside of my lower lip. When I looked down at my hands, trembling with the weight of the bags, I could see every muscle, every tendon beneath strained skin. Every vein filled with strangers’ blood.

I tried to think logically. No use delaying our departure for another murder. We had to leave as soon as possible. How strange that we should have to flee from the place of our birth and death faster than from any other.

But my thoughts kept creeping back to the bag and its contents at my feet. A single finger had rolled out from. And that thought came back again.

What have I done, what am I doing, what will I do?

The answers are easy enough to find, but somehow I don’t want to. Sitting on my old pile of stones, I stared at the mess in the bag. At night, and in the mud even more so, all colours look the same. Brown, muddy, dark, even the blood. When I think of drinking, maybe ripping the priest’s throat out, what comes out of him is that half-clotted stinking stuff rather than sweet flowing blood.

The same as comes out of me if I’m cut.

What…

Before the thought could reform itself, I jumped up and kicked the bag over. Body parts rolled out and the brain that William so carefully placed back into its skull sunk into a pond.

I reached into the bag and threw the rest in. Hair stuck beneath my fingernails together with scraps of meat. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the smell of dead blood – and fish again, always fish. In Paris I never walked to the Seine, I didn’t last a week in Hamburg and in my first and only night in Venice I let a victim escape after she fell in the canal.

Blood smelled like an invitation once. It drowned out every other smell, sound, sight, feeling. What have I done to lose that?

I don’t even remember the family. I know I killed them, but when I try to recall the taste and smell, I smell smoke and see the house burn, as brightly as the sun.

Not even the heat of my own body can I recall. All I feel is the heat of a blaze, either flames or the sun. Sitting in the damp moor I felt the cold in the marrow of my bones.

Blood on my skin. It was always warm.

But what I smeared on my face then and there was cold. One day the cold will be the only thing left to us.

I bit the first human part I could reach. I don’t know what it was.

My stomach heaved, but I forced the meat and some clotted blood down. My teeth grew with the hunger, reacting to that sad trickle of wasted blood.

What I felt next I do remember. I tried drinking dead blood once.

It burned. I retched up smoke, coughed out ash and vomited black blood. I couldn’t close my mouth around my teeth and my eyes’ light reflected in the water, grey as boulders and as moved by the pain burning my insides.

A short moment of warmth and it was over, the pain fading, hunger and cold all that was left.

What I had vomited smelled more of death than the tower. I tried to let it disappear into the water, but it had already mixed with the mud. My stomach cramped once more, but it was empty.

When I pressed my hand to it, I could still feel the warmth. The ash was already cold, but beneath my skin, the fire still echoed. Yet it was nothing like the warmth of a living body, even I know one so hot would be doomed to die.

I let my organs cool before returning to the house. How could I not have noticed that it is no warmer than the outside? All this time I had this image of the hallways lit up, the fires crackling and me snuggled up on an armchair, wrapped in at least two blankets. An image from the past. I have since learned what true cold is.

As I searched the silent house, calling William, I felt colder still. Neither he nor the holy man was to be found. The priest couldn’t harm him, I told myself.

Yet he could fill his head with his spiritual nonsense.

The church was empty, too, but I caught a figure climbing over the back wall of the cemetery. Another was already moving along the graves.

While I ran after them, I realized it was Father’s grave they stopped at. The priest in his dark robe hovered behind my brother like a guardian spirit sent straight from hell. Only he looked up as I walked up behind them.

“Who is John?” he asked me.

“Shut up.” My hissing voice, muffled by the teeth growing into my gums, made him back up until he hit a stone.

William shot up as if Father had caught him doing something forbidden. His eyes were fixed to the grave.

“We don’t have time for this, William.”

“I came home for this.” His voice sounded as small as it always had when he dared disobey Father. I tried to pull him, even reached out for him slowly, but he slipped away.

“Just one more moment. Wait for me at the gate.”

“Fine. But I’ll take him.” I gripped the priest and forced him down the path. He looked at William like a dog being sold by its beloved owner.

“We had an agreement!” he shouted.

“Another one of your poisoned words to my brother and I’ll rip your head off.” The thought to spill all his blood felt more satisfying than drinking it. More proof of his uselessness; didn’t I visit him to help that? “What did you put in his head?”

“Me? I have no power over him.” He tore at my hand. “I am trying to save my soul.”

“Will you pray the Ave Maria for him thrice or what? What agreement did you make?”

The priest turned pale. I pressed his arm until I could feel his pulse. He hissed with pain and gave up. “Salvation.”

“Charlatan,” I snarled. But I let him live. William had the greater damage from him.

“You came to me seeking the same.”

“I still don’t want salvation.” I licked my clotted blood from my gums and spit.

“Then you will never leave this island.”

I had no time to think about his answer. A tortured wail resounded through the valley.

William cowered in front of the grave and screamed. At some point he ran out of air. Guttural sounds escaped his throat, as if he’d forgotten he needed air to use his voice.

“Breathe.” I took his hands from his ears. “What happened?”

He sucked in air as if he needed it to live and looked up.

My face scared him. He tore free of me and curled up at the foot of Father’s stone.

“Forgive me,” he said. “Forgive me.” It became a litany he repeated until I wanted to sew his mouth shut. I tried to reach him by calling him, sitting him up, but every time he glimpsed my face he squeezed his eyes shut like a scared child.

“Salvation,” said the priest. “Or none of us can ever leave.”

“What bloody for?” I screamed. William’s voice drilled into my head until I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. “We cannot be saved.”

“Who is John?” the priest asked again.

“Our father has nothing to do with this. He never knew what we became.”

“He knew,” William said behind me. I resisted the urge to turn around. Not having to see my face seemed to help William speak more clearly. “It’s why I killed him.”

The next look at my hungry mask made him shrink back.

“Forgive me.” He rocked back and forth. With every me, he hit his head against the stone under which he out our father.

I should have felt more. As a good son I should have ripped him apart. But I left both of them there and returned home, lighting the first fire burning in this house since who knows when with the curtains from William’s room.

The death of John North. The smell of fish. Maybe the priest is right. Maybe we can never leave the isle behind. He offered me salvation, but how could that be possible? I have to kill. I know what happens when I don’t.

The North Brothers: Chapter 20

One short step closer to the end. The beginning, if you don’t know what you’re reading, is here.

This week: William is still not right in the head. Next week: A secret is revealed.


  1. William’s diary, 7th December

 

I killed those people on Saint Nicholas Day. The devil will be proud of his child.

My first father is not. His hatred for me oozes from the walls, smelling like mould. I shouldn’t have brought James along. He likes the house too much. I should have come alone and set fire to it. Then go to Father’s grave and toss his bones into the flames. Maybe that would have shut him up.

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The North Brothers: Chapter 19

Yet another vampire horror chapter. Here is the first, and while you’re here, why not follow for weekly chapters and occasional short stories?

This week there’s more priestly worries. Next saturday, after ten long weeks, William gets another chapter.


19. Father Monroe’s scribble, 6th December

 

Now I know what is happening. This island never existed. I died and descended into hell. Whatever my crimes, they must have been terrible. Since I can’t remember dying, maybe the life I do remember is fake as well. Maybe I am a murderer thinking himself a holy man. The holiest on this island.

After tonight, I am certain the holiest man was the worst sinner in life.

Whatever I did, I repent. I am sorry. When have I atoned enough? Continue reading

The North Brothers: Chapter 18

A vampire horror in which even the monsters have monsters.

Nearing the end now. Only five or six chapters to go. The first is here!

This week: As promised, some proper blood and gore. Next up: Dealing with that.


  1. James‘ diary, 6th December

 

That bitch from the cemetery nearly burned William. I have no idea what she was looking for in our house. The rumours must have gotten the best of her, I suppose. Now of all times she comes, when I almost got him back to normal. Was she the one who did that to him in the first place?

The entire day I spent wrapped in curtains atop my brother’s coffin. The stench of burnt flesh seeped through wood, fabric and the hand I pressed to my nose. I spoke softly to him, but I doubt he bothered to hear me. No human I ever killed made such sounds as him.

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