A Chapter by YouoweYoupay

Down with tyranny

17. Hypocrite

Lumio’s back was turned toward me as he lay in his bed. He rustled in the dark, the sound of skin against skin.

“Lumio!” I hissed, “Lumio!”
“Beya,” he muttered irritably. An owl cooed outside our window, “How many times have I told you not to wake me up like this.”

I scrunched my nose, sitting up in bed, “Liar! You only scratch your leg with your foot when you’re half asleep. Half!”
“Since you’re such a bright lad,” he mocked, his voice muffled under the covers, “would you kindly spare me your investigations and cut to the point?”
“Why are you here in Guloc? Rumi’s letter said you were not coming back tonight.”
“I had to return.” he explained, “I saw our father in the Pillory Square. And you know the rest of it. You were there.”

The future vision of my father armed with a pitchfork against a vengeful horde must have given Lumio quite the scare. I would have returned as well.

“Can you see visions of the past as well?”
“What do you mean?”
“Can you see our great grandfather? How did he look like? How did he fight in the war? Can you take a glimpse at the life he lived?”
A pause.
“No…” Lumio replied, a little disheartened, “I can only see the future.”
“Do you wish to see him? Our great grand obi?”
“No, Beya. I do not.” I could not the see the scowl on his face.
“Do you think…” I hesitated, “Do you think maybe he could have been a good man? Unlike the stories we hear?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.” he shuffled in his bed, “Can we sleep now?”
“Are you in love with Fifo?”

   He lay still for a moment, his back facing me, before twisting and sitting up in bed.
“She’s our cousin!” he reminded me, scandalized, “And she’s betrothed to Antob.” I could see his normally neat, brown curly hair disheveled with sleep and also surprise.
“I know, I know.” I nodded in the dark, “But you act so lovingly around her, almost as if she’s made of glass!”

And you wear such a sad face at the mention of her.

“Of course I care for her, she is part of this family. But I’m not�"”
“All I’m saying�"all I’m saying is…” I clarified anxiously, “I would never hate you if you fall in love with the same woman I love.”
“Because I am a man as well, and I understand. I perfectly understand, brother.”
“Beya, enough.” He was trying to sound stern, but he was failing. It was too dark to distinguish any redness of embarassment on his face.
“And above all, you’re my brother…My dear brother.”
Lumio sighed, nestling under his blanket again and turning his back on me.
“Do you promise me?” I asked.
“What now…” Lumio muttered impatiently.
“Do you promise you will come to me first if you ever fall in love with her? Or any other woman?”
“I promise. Are you happy now?” he slurred, sleep drawing him into stillness.
I fell against my bed with a sigh, my arms folded beneath my head.
“Although I can’t imagine you marrying a mortal woman…” I speculated, staring at the ceiling, “A river maiden, perhaps, but not a human�"”
“Beya, I am not going to marry a river maiden.” he refuted, his voice more alert and focused now, “Now let me sleep, for the last time, brother.”

But Lumio never slept that night. He scratched his leg every now and then, tossing and turning, sometimes throwing his arm over his eyes with a soft groan. My eyes did not rest either. I stared and stared at the moldy ceiling, thinking about my great grand father, how he sat in the dungeons of injustice all those years as his own family spat on his name. I thought about his urn at the abandoned memorial temple. How his ghost shoved me and I fell, scraping my knee. I brushed the coarse, dry wound with my fingers. I deserved it. I could have said nicer things to him…

The next morning, I woke up to the sound of my father chopping wood in the front yard. My mother leaned against the open window and stared at him dreamily. Hammering his axe against the wood, he made certain that she noticed the vigor still persistent in his bare upper body. It had always brought him a sting in his heart, hearing our family and friends tell him: ‘Father grows old and gives his youth to his sons.’ And being constantly reminded of how much Lumio resembled him offered my father no consolation. Thus, this morning, he ordered my brother to step aside his usual chore and to give his old man the chance to prove to us that he was no less stronger, no less handsome than his younger son. More importantly, and after standing helpless as Kais Ulia took the family’s beloved cow away, it was my father’s moment to shimmer with recovering pride in the effect of last night’s heroic intervention at the Pillory Square. His gardening pitchfork became the talk of our village; a gentle, useful tool in the day, and a frightening weapon in the night, repelling the wicked and protecting the weak..

My father gave my mother a smug smile and she laughed. Her response drove his axe down harder, splitting the wood thunderously. I ignored the nauseating scene and greeted him the way he expected me to.

“Father, I am grateful to be alive, healthy, well fed and united with my family this morning.”
 My father regarded me with a single nod.
“Blessed be you, son.” he wiped the sweat off his brow, receiving a jug of water from my hands.
“Father,” I started, “Are we obliged to invite the Ulians to a redemption dinner every month?”
His eyes flickered to me before raising the jug to drink. 
“You know the answer to this.” his voice was not friendly, but I pushed forward.
“But, father…remember when Jaraan’s father told you that you needn't trouble yourself? He said it twice. I heard him. Doesn’t this mean he forgives you?”
He slowly placed the jug on the grass, silencing me with his glare. My words hung half-way in my throat. Only when I lowered my eyes to my sandals did he return to his work.
“They’re just words, Beya. They mean nothing.” he said more softly, slashing another log of wood with a grunt, “Our remorse is rightfully theirs…This will never change. And a boy your age ought to concern himself with school. Am I wrong?”
Our neighbor’s rooster crowed.
“No, father.”

When I barged into my classroom, out of breath and late as usual, I could barely hear Memah Lina’s scolding. Jaraan’s seat was empty. And all the boys threw either worried or curious glances at me. The air was strained and dense, as if a giant had been sitting on the rooftop of our school. Loa explained to me the reason during the lunch break. He stealthily approached me after making certain that he had not been followed or watched. He towered over me and the more agitated he grew, the taller and thinner his legs stretched.

“Beya, what have you done!” He whispered. I shrugged in oblivion, “This was your last chance to make amends with Fareed! Your last chance! How could you feed it to the dogs!” He whimpered, pacing back and forth and rubbing his hands together, “Worst of all, he’s convinced that I am your accomplice!”
 “Loa, calm yourself.” I wisely placed both my hands on his bony shoulders, “Calm yourself, now. And speak to me more slowly. My father always says the slower you speak, the more likely you are to be understood. Now tell me �"”

But I trailed off as I watched Loa’s face turned whiter than chalk. When I turned around to inspect what scared the life out of him, Fareed and his minions were on their way toward us, sprinting at the speed of the gods.

“Beya, they’re coming, they’re here!” he panicked, “Run! We must run!”
And in that aspect, Loa the Scarecrow proved to be the wiser of the two of us.

We ran toward the nearest teachers’ main chamber, boisterously shouting for sanctuary. I had shown adequate bravery last night, today I gave myself permission to bask in my cowardice.

A few days ago, after Fareed turned against me, loudly vowing to hang me by my ears, I sought the protection of a gang of boys who called themselves: ‘Down With Fareed’. They had been the victims of his never ending tyranny. But soon after Memah Lina paired me with Fareed to complete a mathematical exercise, where I offered him my brains in exchange for his loud, unstuttering voice, we became friends again and I naturally retained my membership to his own gang who were known as: ‘Long Live Fareed’. The deadly error I had made was forgetting to unsubscribe from ‘Down With Fareed’ and the news of my hypocrisy spread like wild fire.

But just as the Fareed and the boys caught sight of us at the doorsteps of the teachers’ chamber Memah Lina placed one hand on his shoulder, shaking her head slightly. She spoke to him, and Fareed, panting and snarling like a bull at first, gradually lost his menace. I did not hear. The playground air was whirling with the clamor of students. But whatever she had told him, it washed his eyes with a peacefulness too dangerous for me to believe. I flinched doubtfully as he approached us hesitantly, hands in his pockets and shoulders slumped. Loa yelped like a girl.

“Beya,” Fareed started, the strangeness of his sympathy holding my focus, “Your brother is ill. He’s very ill. You ought be by his side.”

© 2020 YouoweYoupay

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Wow. What a finishing paragraph. That was *MMMFF!* Grade A writing. The scene before it was so different that the jarring reveal hit exactly as it should. With an echo and a ricochet. It was perfect! Oh and also I fear for poor Lumio! Is this why he returned? Oh you can't do this to me, Aysha. You simply can't!

Posted 1 Month Ago

This chp opens with a stunning piece of dialogue between the 2 brothers in bed together. Everything about this feels authentic, plus there's a delicious amount of tension that you convey, along with their feelings for each other. Another clear strident chapter unfolding with the utmost of care to your story pacing (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 2 Months Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on December 5, 2020
Last Updated on December 6, 2020
Tags: Short novel



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