Path of Endurance chapter 21
After walking separate routes for years, the Fury siblings finally reunited and had an outing together where they always had been; the Strike. Beer flowed like it had never stopped, laughter echoed in the corners and lifted up the ceiling into new hight. They shot pool until the last orders, after which they walked almost hand-in-hand back into their apartment. Their home. Back to the safe haven.
A wave of shock pierced both when the front door opened. The pale moonlight lit the apartment just enough for them to see the mess, the complete chaos inside. All furniture thrown around, all drawers opened and their contents emptied on the floor. Everything messed up. Without speaking a word, the siblings scouted the house for damage.
"It's official," Brianna declared, after a while. "We've been burgled."
Her eyes lay on her empty gun cupboard. She didn't possess weaponry that would have had any antique or rarity value. It was obvious that someone had wanted to disarm her. She was glad Bryan was oblivious of the scheme that probably was going on behind their backs. Had he been aware of her suspicions, he would have risked himself.
"What the hell they wantin' your pieces for, Sis?" he asked.
"Probably some street gang preparing for a turf hit," Brianna shrugged, giving her everything to sound plausible. "Extra work for us, I'm afraid. Dammit."
Brianna picked up random stuff here and there and put them on their places, when Bryan came to her from his room, holding an empty box in his hand. "Oh, shit man..." he sighed. "They took the money for the studio time."
He felt Sis's gentle eyes on his face. Brianna was almost able to hear his heart break. She had been aware how much he had wanted to record his demo, she knew how much he had been working to gather the money. Bryan sat on Brianna's bed with his head down, gritting his teeth. The sight shattered Brianna's heart into tiny pieces, bringing tears into her eyes. She never wanted to see her brother heart-broken ever again. She pulled her battle knife from her shin holster and struck it hard into the floor, directly between two boards. Using the knife as a lever, she pulled a few boards off the floor to reveal a hidden iron box underneath. She took it out, sat next to her brother and carefully opened up the box. It was full of money ? hundreds of dollars, perhaps over thousand dollars. Brianna had been piggy-banking all the time, putting everything she could afford aside. "I have saved this for you, Bryan," she whispered softly. "I want you to go to college, study and get a real job, to lead a normal life. I don't want you to end up like me."
"No buts, Bryan. I know it's your life, and you do like you please, but I must try and guide you, since you have been my responsibility ever since you were born. I want you to be happy, but you must think rationally and consider the possibility that you might never earn your living with music."
She handed the box over to Bryan. "You can use enough to get the demo recorded now," she said. "After that, please think carefully before using it."
Brianna's words vested her brother with greater feeling of responsibility than he had ever felt. In this rusty iron box was Sis's blood, sweat and tears, something beyond just money and a ticket to a better future. Her eyes told it all; she could open the door for Bryan, but he was the one who had to walk through it. "But no matter what you decide to do, Bryan," she spoke. "I will always stand by you."
Once more her black nails ran through Bryan's silver hair, before she stood up. "Now, let's hope they didn't raid our fridge as well. I had a 20-pack of Budweiser there."
Bryan felt his heart race into world record. He handed over the money to the Studio 88's owner, who counted the amount a few times before finally giving Bryan a fake smile and welcoming him to the place. Everything was set. The stage was set. Bryan walked inside the voiceproof booth, right in front of the microphone and put on the headphones he found nearby. The director was right on the other side of the glass, making final adjustments to the sound. Finally Bryan was able to hear the music from the headphones. The familiar music. His music. The music he had heard from the strange void given by the Hero, whose name he never knew. The void had absorbed his feelings and thoughts, his love for his sister and the pain he had felt, and composed the piece he was now recording. He would give it everything he had.
This is for the Hero and the Heroine. The God and the Goddess. The Man and the Woman.
Meanwhile, Brianna was enjoying her day off. Bryan wouldn't be home until evening; it was her chance to dip herself into Absinthe and doze off, to rest after everything she had been through. But she knew it wasn't over. Far from it. But she didn't care. She drank Absinthe. She drank, even after the room began to change into colorful fog and the furniture began to move and change forms. Brianna opened the third bottle and poured the green liquid into a tumbler, missing it almost completely. She heard rain beating the windows of the house, but it all seemed distant and unreal. "...did you ever smell the rain, the humidity in the air?" she heard herself sing softly, stopping for another sip from the tumbler. "...did you ever feel the pain, depending on what you will dare?"
The sweetest pain you ever felt, it's fun and desperation. Emotion which you cannot steal ? love has no date of expiration.
It was not her voice that carried on the rest of the song. Brianna was hardly able to sit up on the sofa to look around into the psychedelic mess that once was her living room. "Who... who's there?" she muttered, hearing no answer nor seeing anyone. She automatically reached for her Desert Eagle on her hip, but it wasn't there. Neither was the knife in the shin holster.
A faint form appeared into the misty psychedelia, right behind the sofa, right in front of Brianna's eyes. She reached to punch the form, only to fall over with the sofa and hurting her face on the floor. Her fist only grasped emptiness. But the form remained there, intact, as real as ever, calling her name in a soft, but metallic voice. Brianna held her bleeding nose, looking up where she assumed the form's eyes located. "You ain't real," she spat with an ever-growing anger for the illusions surrounding her, isolating her from the reality she suddenly began to miss. "If you were real, there would be a few yards of wall on the neighbor's side right where you're standing at."
Brianna stumbled up, still holding her bleeding nose. She cursed herself, cursed the Absinthe, cursed the overdose of thujone she suffered of. She cursed the illusionary figure that had scared her shitless. Picking up the sofa from the floor and putting it back the way it was, she sighed. "That guy ain't real... I lie down, close my eyes, and when I open them up again, he will be gone."
Doing so only proved her wrong. The form came closer, elegantly and gently, becoming more and more detailed. Part of Brianna recognized him, but her mind was too enshrouded in the illusions of Absinthe that she couldn't bring his name into her consciousness. He pointed towards the door, directing Brianna's attention to there just as it was kicked in and men with firearms rushed inside, shooting everything into pieces. Brianna jumped up in fear, into the form's arms, her brain struggling whether she saw was true or not. She was able to feel the form, his arms around her, his beating heart and his gentle stroking. She felt the intruders' bullets piercing her body, the burning pain of hot bullets penetrating her and breaking her bones. She gasped air to scream, but nothing came out of her throat. The form held her, looking her into her icy blue eyes.
This is meant to happen, Brianna.
It is meaningless to struggle against it.
You chose the life of a bodyguard.
Every bodyguard dies protecting those they must.
You and I are no different.
"P... please!" Brianna tried to scream, but her voice was not louder than a whisper. "I... I don't want... to die!"
That deed is not well done when, after having done it, one repents, and when weeping, with tearful face, one reaps the fruit thereof.
Brianna couldn't hear anymore. Her eyes became heavier than ever, until she wasn't able to hold them up anymore. She collapsed on the floor, like an autumn leaf that falls from a tree, just to remain on the ground lifelessly.
Hours later Brianna shot her eyes wide open. She was lying on the sofa, the front door was where it always had been, there were no signs of shooting or intruding visible. There was no one else in the room besides her. She slowly stood up from the sofa, fearing her aching head would explode any minute. She knew Absinthe was known of causing illusions. She would never drink it again; as a matter of fact, she would dispose of the rest of it.
It was only when she reached for the bottle on the coffee table that she realized she had never bought Absinthe. The bottles on the table were Budweiser. She took back her shaking hand and sat down on the floor. She couldn't understand what had just happened. Was it all a dream, an illusion... or a premonition?
Bryan rushed home from the studio, almost going through the front door to tell Sis the great news. She was making sandwiches for dinner like usual, when Bryan came in the kitchen corner and tossed a brand new demo CD on one of the counters. "I made it!" he cheered, more joyous than ever before. "And know what, they loved it! Said it definitely works its way up the food chain. It's franchise!"
Brianna turned to look, smiling. "I'm so proud of you, Bryan. You have finally made your dream come true."
"Almost," he said. "I'mma send it to the local radio station tomorrow. They look for new artists so I think I have a chance getting on top of it. Sis, I made it! I'm on my way to stardom!"
"Slow down, bro," Brianna said, shoving a sandwich into his mouth. "Eat now so you have the energy to dance around all evening about it."
It was then when Bryan actually realized how hungry he was. The siblings sat down in the living room, enjoying the food Bryan ate a good half of the sandwiches while telling everything about the recording session. Brianna listened, honestly interested in her brother's happiness, but still slightly worried of the illusion she had had earlier that day. It was like she could still see the form on the wall.
No. It really was there.
Brianna became more white than it had ever been, as her face tried to hide her shock in vain. It really, truly stood there, right behind Bryan, as real as ever. It was not a mere illusion of alcohol or thujone, it was as real as Bryan and Brianna.
The time has come, Brianna. Do what you have to do.
With no further claims, the form faded, disappearing into the shadows of the corners. Bryan noted the shocked look on Sis' face, and immediately scouted the room for the source of her shock, finding nothing. "Sis, what is it?" he asked. Instead of replying, Brianna sprung up from the sofa, grabbing Bryan by his shoulders and dragging him into his room. "Sis, what the heck are you doing!?" he cried out.
Brianna pushed him on his bed and crouched down to the same level with him. "Bryan, listen to me very carefully," she said, doing her best to keep her voice from cracking. "I want you to stay here. Don't come out, no matter what happens."
"Shh," Brianna crossed his lips with her finger. "You have to trust me, Bryan. I cannot explain, you might not ever understand why, but what is important is that you trust me now. Stay here, hide if you have to, but whatever you do... survive, Bryan. Stay alive."
With that, she placed a kiss to her brother's forehead. "I love you, Bryan. You are everything to me. Don't ever forget that."
She left, closing the door behind her, but taking one more look at her brother before the door shut completely. Bryan ran to the door, already reaching for the door knob, but finally deciding against it. He wanted to trust her. She had always been right. She must know why. Her word was not to be questioned. Sighing heavily, Bryan sat back down on his bed and held his head in his hands. He couldn't understand, he just couldn't... but maybe it was for the best.
Brianna was sitting with her back towards the front door when the hell broke loose. In the deepest reaches of her mind she heard the door kicked in, the weapons cocking and she felt the infrared lights being aimed at her back. But she didn't open her eyes to look at the intruders. Instead, she kept her book of Japanese wisdom firmly in her hands.
Upon the sound of the front door being kicked in, Bryan sprung up from his bed, ready to rush into the living room when once again Brianna's words stopped him. He silently squeezed himself towards the door, sensing the danger and the smell of death lingering in the air. He knew full well, just like Brianna, what was to come. Gasping for air, Bryan felt his legs collapsing beneath him. He pressed his forehead against the chilly door, doing his best to fight his tears.
Brianna stood up, turning around firmly. She faced the flashlights without slitting her eyes, creating an illusion she had been immune to pain, on drugs, insane... anything to leave an eerie image of herself behind her when she would finally depart. She saw the leader of the intruders approaching her. She recognized the mohawk, the accent, the voice, the style, but they had lost their meaning years ago. She no longer knew the man, nor did the man know her.
"Brianna... long time no see," the boss grinned. Brianna knew he grinned; she saw the glimmer of his white teeth in the darkness. "You seem to have gotten yourself too deep into our business lately..."
"Just shut up and get to the point, I know what I have done," Brianna said. "You are here to make an example of me. Get on with it."
"Whaa!? You in a hurry somewhere? I ain't never seen someone with so hurry to die. But okay, whatever, if you really want so."
Brianna felt it somewhere in her subconsciousness; there were three goons and the boss ? the boss was in the middle, two goons on either side, one behind him. The rightmost goon stretched his finger to pull the trigger of his gun. Like a lightning Brianna sprung forward, shoving the goon's arms aside to create an opening. Grabbing his collars she dropped down on the floor, kicking the goon over her. By the time the goon realized what happened, Brianna had already crushed his head under her boot. Feeling the two other goons ? the boss was seemingly unarmed ? pulling the triggers, she took an elongated cartwheel away from the bullets to take her place again in front of the goons.
One down, three to go.
"Defiant to the end, are ya?" the boss laughed. "Not bad, Brianna, you're fast. You really are. Let's see if you are fast enough. Fire at will, guys."
The sound of gunfire frightened Bryan. He slightly opened the door of his room to see what was going on in their dark apartment. He was only able to see the gunfire, and the shadowy figure of his Sis fighting for her life. She had managed to hide from the first wave of bullets, but the second wave hit her in her right thigh and shoulder. Refusing to give in to the pain, she pulled her combat knife out and rushed towards the second goon, again parrying his weapon aside and, now that she had created another opening, plunged the knife into the goon's guts. She quickly retreated her knife and threw it at the third goon's forehead. Now there was only she and the boss.
Three down, one to go.
Brianna turned her attention to the boss now. He was wandering in the dark, lightless apartment like a regular in an off-license store. "Where is your brother, Brianna?" he asked. "Bryan, was he?"
He called Bryan a few times. Bryan was able to see his shadowy figure, but wasn't able to recognize him even though he looked very familiar. He swore he had seen the mohawk and heard that Harlem accent earlier, he just couldn't say where.
"Bryan is not here," Brianna replied. "I don't know where he is."
"Ah, the teenagers!" the boss laughed. "They ungratefully run off from the shelter you provide them with, only to return back in tears because someone didn't please them enough. Tell me, Brianna, is Bryan a typical troubled teenager?"
"What do you care? Come here so I can finish you off, just like I did to those goons of yours."
The boss laughed again, stepping closer to her. "You truly are in a hurry," he said. "You planning to go somewhere?"
"Yeah, it's bingo night.?"
"Hahahaha! You were always so funny girl, know that? It's a real shame I have to kill you."
To prove his intentions, the boss drew out a massive knife and lunged at Brianna. She barely managed to dodge the first wave of attack ? the boss was something else than his petty goons. He was fast and lethal, and he knew what he was doing. Brianna knew from the very beginning she was no match for him. She was just target practice. While she was dodging the second wave of attack, the boss saw an opening, just big enough for him to dig his knee into Brianna's ribs, cracking a few of them instantly. Every bit of air blew out from Brianna's lungs as she fell on the ground. Gasping for air she forced herself up, parrying the boss's knife the best she could. She felt the cold steel cutting her arms, eventually making its way up to her shoulders. She landed a quick roundhouse into the boss's gut, actually forcing him to back up, but the pain made sure she didn't get enough power to it to knock him out of the game. It only seemed to anger him. Brianna managed to land one more kick to his guts before he grabbed her arm and twisted it into a painful lock behind her back, forcing her on her knees. She cried in pain as she felt her bones slightly shatter.
The cold steel of the boss's knife burnt Brianna's throat by merely grasping it. "Listen to me, Brianna, and listen good," the boss said. "This is all your fault. If you hadn't started fucking with our business, you wouldn't have to die. Your brother wouldn't have to die. We will hunt down and slaughter your brother, but you are not there to protect him this time."
"You're wrong, you bastard," Brianna hissed. "You may have defeated me, but my brother has ten times the power I have. You will never be able to kill him. So do your worst, you wussy! You don't frighten us!"
At the same time Brianna felt the knife slitting her throat open. Sharp agony shot through her instantly as she collapsed on the floor, twitching uncontrollably. The boss left, stepping on her and closing the door as he went. Brianna was left alone on the cold floor, slowly but surely suffocating into her own blood. She was remotely aware of her pulse that was still beating to some extent, but getting slower and slower with every passing second. Giving her all, she tried to concentrate on things around her, rather than the burning pain on her throat, or what was left of it. Vaguely she saw a pool of dark red syrup beginning to surround her, finding it unreal that it was all actually from her. When everything began to darken and all her senses to cease functioning, she heard a sound. She wasn't sure what it could be, it wasn't a human voice. Was it... a door opening somewhere near? Looking at the direction, she saw a from approaching her quickly. She felt the tormenting pain of being turned over on her back and lifted slightly up into someone's arms. Focusing more, she was able to make out Bryan's shocked face in the darkness.
Bryan felt warm tears falling down his cheeks. He couldn't believe what he was seeing; Brianna dying in his arms. He couldn't even understand why. Why would someone want to kill her? How could she have lost? How could she die? How could she leave him? He found himself crying her name. Brianna forced an assuring smile on her lips. She lifted her hand on Bryan's cheek with the last ounce of her strength, looking at him with tired eyes. But eventually everything became dark. Brianna couldn't feel her pulse anymore. She couldn't find herself breathing anymore. She felt her hand drop down lifelessly on the floor as the last breath escaped her and her consciousness was shot into darkness and oblivion.
Bryan pressed the bloody body of Brianna against himself, crying helplessly. Not knowing what to do, he tried to seek comfort from her, without success. Desperately he reached for the phone on the coffee table, and with shaky fingers he dialled a number. "L...L...Lei?" he staggered.