Tantum Humanus
Started on:
January 22nd, 2006
Summary: This is actually a collaboration between my college roommate and I. He can draw, I can write. So, we're going to try and make a little graphic novel. I said I would just write out a story, and then we could strip it down into a script format. But, that's for later, and this is the actual literary effort of the collaboration. As usual, if you read, please leave a review, and enjoy! Should be completed soon, I am going to run through this one!

Once, it was beautiful. But, that was a long time ago. The house, it once had green lawns, a nice fence, windows kept spotless and a nice tiled red-roof. Now, it had none of that. Where pruned shrubs and blossoming flowers were on the walkway up to the door were now the bony fingers of a corpse that once masqueraded as a bush, and where flowers were had taken their virulent cousin, each gusty wind dropping their seeds to the wind. The cement was cracked, scraped, bearing marks of territorial gangs. A driveway, once holding sharply waxed German automobiles now held a dumpster, overflowed and forgotten. Windows were smashed or boarded up, pieces of the walls were collapsed. Water ran freely from the inside of the house to outdoors.

The beauty that once was held there was all gone, instead overtaken by the greed, decay, malice, and betrayal of nature. Naturally.

There used to be sunny days on that block. Before it became a herald of the drugs, poverty, crime, and destruction it was. Before the arsonists claimed the north side. Before there were the shootings. But, even those seem to have left the neighborhood. It was almost completely empty. The few barrels held beggars, warming around fires. The houses were kept out of, both by the condemned notices on their doors and the nature of their condition. Most of the buildings were beyond repair, and were no better than the outdoors were, to their condition. What once was a nice neighborhood of upper-middle-class suburbia had turned into a graveyard.

The old days. They were far gone. Everyone knew it, too. They knew once, there was something good about the neighborhood, that it was the type that was going to be advertised in fliers to tourists so they would move in. Or, that it was the premier living spot of the up-and-coming yuppies. Urban sprawl had taken its toll. From the domestic ravishings came a gothic imposition, standing more edificial than superficial.

That's why the man was having a hard time stepping off the street. He had walked his way down the long street, all of the other corpses of houses, gardens, old memories, lying in disrepair to greet him. He kept his path straight in the road, not veering to either side of the wrecked neighborhood. But, he had to stop in front of this one in specific. A few bums down the corner saw him, and shrugged him off as another wandering fool who would soon huddle with them on the lit can. But, he would do no such thing. Instead, he stared, taking in all of the damaged details of a home that he knew once to house something so beautiful. The memories were potent.

"I want it to always look like this. Promise me it will be, and we all will be. All three of us."

"It doesn't look how you wanted, not anymore," he said to himself, in a low voice, almost inaudible as a wind swept the words from his mouth. It carried a light moisture. Looking to the sky, the clouds were dark, falling from the heavens to float above, signaling their rain. They even knew, and were preparing to wash it all away. As was he. It was the night to wash things away, to wash away the memories, the past, the pain, all of it. And, however much it took to wash it all away, he was prepared. And, whoever he needed to throw out with the rain, he was going to.

He was hesitant. The street was black, and neutral. Stepping to either side gave him affiliation, lean, and that was hard to do at this point. His foot left the ground, only to return, tentatively unable to step off of the street and onto that old walkway.

The flowers were blooming on the walk, it was fresh. The grass swayed in the wind. There was a small coffee table up at the top, underneath the porch. Sitting there...looking like it should have, when all was perfect with everyone.

Broken tile, weeds springing from cracks in the block, a broken porch, the glass table still sitting in about fifty broken glass chunks, swept into a corner where trash was piled up, tumbling pieces of newspaper still being played with in the wind as they rustled along. Taking a deep breath, his foot finally left the gravel, and stepped up. Each step was a mile, and all of them hard to make as he proceeded upward. Finally, he reached the front door, or what should have been a front door.

The actual door was sitting some ten feet inward, knocked off of its hinges. Police eviction tape and boards of wood had been put in its place, as well as a laminated notice of condemnation and demolition, although the date printed on it had passed and no one cared. One of the funny thins, against all odds, was that there was still light, at least on the small porch. There was a series of lights that hung over the door, a welcoming luminescence, and of all of them, only one bulb still worked, and flickered. It was covered in grime and being swarmed by moths, but somehow, it still faintly glowed. In its' light, Bryant Garo was finally able to look down and see his feet standing on that porch, whereas the darkness hid him before.

Those behemoth feet, hidden inside of the long trench-coat he was wearing, weighed down with implementations of his cleansing, were little compared to Bryant's own gait. He was a massive man, broad chested, square-faced. He had short black-hair, not fancy, just trimmed. Gero's beard was shaved somewhat regularly, but wore a heavy five-o'clock shadow, as his eyes wore bags; he had not slept recently. Rightly so, he thought. Bryant's height wasn't impressively tall, only six-foot-one, but his weight neared the two-fifty marker. The only fat on Gero came from being over thirty years old, but his skeleton retained a fair amount of its truck-like qualities, in being naturally thick. His neck alone was a tree-trunk. He had no misconception about his size, and knew it to be intimidating, so tried his best to be as friendly as he could. He was no Frankenstein, but many would confuse Bryant Gero as a linebacker sooner than a friend.

The bottom of the door, underneath some of the police tape, there was a loose board. He knelt down and slipped in, dragging the bottom of his coat along the dirt. Getting in, he straightened, wiping himself off, looking around. He was standing in the atrium of the house, looking at a staircase in front of him, a larger room to his left, and a hall on the bottom floor running parallel with the staircase back into a kitchen.

Something felt haunting about the way the place looked. The dim glow of the porch light seemed to invade through the barring pieces of wood, acting like a sliced guide, playing low slats on the floor, showing where the carpet had been stained, ripped up, or missing entirely. Water marks, turning it puffed and yellow, were numerous. The house itself had missing pieces of roof where it would drain inside. A few pieces of trash had accumulated in places, even a hobo who had once dragged a barrel inside for heat had left it there, still in a corner, where it had scorched the walls black. Walls were warped, paint peeling, furniture missing, it wasn't the house Gero used to know.

And, yet, it was, in his own mind.

"And here, here is where my kids are going to play. There's going to be a tree, out that window, for them too look at. It is going to be wonderful, and you'll be their uncle, you will. It'll be terrific, just how it always should be. Always welcome in this house, always welcome with me and--"

"You showed. I didn't know if you would," a voice creaked out. Gro looked slowly up. The stairwell came up to a balcony overlooking the atrium that split out into a hall to more unseen rooms. A man followed the words as they rang out off of the disgusting walls. Slowly, he paced out from the cover of the hall, entering the main view of the balcony. Each step he took was slow, methodical, paced. His head looked at his feet, hands clasped behind his back. Finally, when he reached the center of the balcony, standing in the dead center of the stairs below him, he sighed and looked up, locking eyes with the lowered position of Bryant.

The figure stood in near darkness, only having the refracted light playing off of the edges of his attire, framing him. Slowly, he turned again, walking with an importance. He had a slow edge about himself, a sense of respect. Where Gero knelt down to enter, it seemed the marching figure would never do such a thing, not lowering himself. His posture was immaculate, as was the mechanical way he seemed to move gracefully, without any sort of staunch movement in his nature.

"You know it doesn't have to happen. This doesn't. At least, not like this...somehow else."

"Oh, yes, it does," the other man said maliciously, almost happily. "It must come to this, it absolutely has to. What world should men live in without justice, where it is not only wrong, but unjust, to take vengeance on a man who commits unjust upon you? A world I don't want to see. No, we live in a world of justice, and the dole of justice stands in the hands of the capable."

"That's why? Justice? Is that why I got that letter?"

"No...you got it because of something you said to me, a long time ago. You said to me that I should never leave business unfinished, you told me that all the way back to basic training. Those days, in the army, remember? I know you do, when we enlisted together and got our asses kicked together...those were the days. You told me not to leave anything unfinished. Well, this was unfinished."

"No, this is finished, Daniel."

"Not to me, Bryant. Not for her."

"Will it ever be?"

"Of course it will be, by dawn it will be."

A bright flash filled the house. A bolt of lightning, somewhere in the distance, struck, loosing the details from the darkness through the windows spanning the edges of the ceiling. Every corner was brought to vivid light, showing all of the decay, all of the destruction. Where something should have been, was empty, and where nothing should have been, something was there. No imagination was left as the light flooded in. Even the man standing atop the balcony was wrested from visual ambiguity.

Daniel Preslin's figure was tall, lanky, looking of only limbs and no torso. His face was long, thin, and presented with a shaved beard and mustache, equally small and chic. Daniel's eyes were set deep into his forehead, of a noble ancestry. His legs were long, and each step of his was a long stride to other men. He moved with fluidity, his neck craning to support his head. Then, the light was gone, and Preslin was once more veiled in the darkness. Unclasping his hands from behind his back, Preslin brought out a cigarette from a small silver case that glinted in the pale light, then lit it, smoking the long, elegant cigarette. He kept his first breath in long, then let it out with a smile.

Bringing his hand with the cigarette down to his side, his other hand slipped the case back into the inner sleeve of his attire. Daniel seemed to be wearing a suit, oddly out of place in the dirt of the setting. But, he moved then to unbutton the front of the suit coat, keeping his eyes locked on Gero. Bryant was keeping both hands firmly placed on the inside of his simple brown trench-coat, watching for any odd movement to suddenly react towards. But, their eyes were locked, neither blinking, even as the thunder from the far away bolt reverberated in the house, mirroring their tension.

Preslin put the cigarette to his lips, then slipped off the top of the suit, folding it and letting it rest over the balcony, after he wiped some of the dust off, as not to stain his coat. Then, he grabbed it again, exhaling. Instead of dirt on Preslin's coat, it was what was underneath the coat that worried Gero. Daniel was wearing a three-point harness, with a pistol equipped under each armpit, as well as two clips for each on the suspenders on the harness. A cross-body strap held a third weapon, a rifle, on his back.

"This isn't required."

"This is unfinished, and I am going to finish it."

"Why? Why must we?"

"For her."

"Don't you dare--"

"This isn't what she would have wanted."

"Like you have room to say that. Shut up and fight if she meant so much to you!" Preslin screamed, keeping the cigarette pursed in his lips, and quickly whipping out one of his pistols and firing with precision.