By A. Diallo Jackson

His name was Osiris, and he sat sweating madly in the dark. Bang, bang. And then he was dead.

The brother had kept him locked in the basement. It was hot down there, musty, and the air seemed stale. Either a question, or a glance—it took very little to call forth the rage. Then he would find himself alone and in the dark. He hated it, that dismal cellar. When he was there he could hear someone call his name—but he didn't know who.

The Louisiana sun shines through the cracks in the outer walls and ceiling, making thin walls of dusty light that run the length of the living room floor. He sits in the doorway at the top of the steps, watching his perspiration drip down. It splashes, hammering down as clear drops of liquid. But to him they seem more like drops of crimson. The brother is not here and he is happy. Inside, he clicks the old black and white television on and waits as it snaps and crackles to life. He watches the TV but he does not see it. He is savoring the moment that the brother is away. He hears the world around his house. The humid swamp; it is real to him. Natural. When he feels that he is a part of it, the voice is not there. His thoughts drift outward. Away from his body, he can see the swamps. He can see the town. He can see the red, dusty road that leads to his home. He can see the green tattered truck speeding toward him. Bottles of JD sit empty on the tattered seat. It is the brother. He is home.

He turns the TV off and watches the picture disappear into a single pinpoint of light. It fades into the far reaches of the screen and becomes nothing. In his mind he follows it, but the noise of the wheezing truck brings him back. The brother walks in, a shadow, his face cannot be seen. In his eyes are the rage, and the red, and the madness. From the distant reaches he can hear the voice whispering his name. You do not know who you are it says.

You do not know who I am his brother says. The brother strikes him across the face with the back of his hand. Salt washes over taste buds. The crimson flings across the room to the floor in tiny speckles. Fire ants he says. The brother strikes again. Soon he will not know where he is. He will only know that he hurts. Eyes close and he takes in the pain. Ribs feel the sharp sting of boots against them. Ragged pants are thrown off. He cries as the pain rips into his rectum. The bastard comes. Through his closed eyes he can see red. It is the color of crimson. A single beam reaches across his face. Soon the light will turn black. And then he will be nothing.

It is dark again, and he is alone in the basement. There is nothing he can do now but wait until the morning. He sits tonight, tied to the furnace in worn flaxen rope. The air is cold, but he is not. The sound of the voice is nearby. It calls out from beyond the house. It tells him things, not all of which he can understand. Listening, like a student to a teacher, he learns what he must do. He embraces the voice for the first time since he's heard it. He has made a choice.

Morning brings a mixture of hot and cool blowing breezes throughout the house. The latch to the basement is undone and he has been untied. He does not open his eyes but listens as the truck coughs again and again, then sputters away in a decrescendo of sound. Stepping into the light he waits patiently for his eyes to reacquaint themselves with the day. His clothes are torn and he smells like vomit. Every breath is a chore. Lungs labor, straining to fill with air. Blood, in thick globs, dully splat on the floor as he coughs. He wants to lay there and wait for the night. The voice says no, so he pulls himself down the hallway to the old room, shuts the door and waits.

The night has come. He sits on the bed—warm, smooth, steel rests against his face. The voice tells him that this is the right thing. If he does not do it then it will one day happen to him. On the bed he remembers them. Their faces, smiling as he rushed through the front door. Their faces worried as he limped in after playing roughly in the fields next to the barn. Their faces red, and bloody, at the site of the crash. Their faces pale, and cold, and lifeless as they rested in wooden boxes at the "home". He looks for their faces now, as they would be today, but he cannot see them. The voice says they are gone and will not come back. This is the right thing to do for them. This is the right thing to do. He tells himself that this is so, as he hears the truck pull tiredly in front of the house. He feels the steel in his hand and he trembles.

He imagines the brother looking like a saint, cheerful and alive. From the bedroom window he sees him walk up the wooden steps as they squeak and squeal the arrival of Him. He hears his name called out, echoing down toward the basement. Of course he is not there. The floor creaks into the kitchen. His name again. Footsteps down the hall. Gait quickens. Outside twilight casts long dim shadows into the bedroom. He is one with the darkness now. It is his friend. Footsteps in the bathroom. Remember the voice says. His name again, but he does not recognize it. He does not know who he is. The floor moans is pain. It is creeping toward him. Feet shuffle down the corridor and stop beyond the door. Pause. Waiting. Remember it says. The knob turns slowly. He can feel the heart pounding. Hot blood races as it courses through the temples. The body throbs. Sweat covers the palms. It rolls lightly down the barrel. Remember. The door opens slowly. A face that he cannot see. A name is called out. He answers with raised steel. He hears his name. The brother steps inside.

His name is Osiris, and he sits sweating madly in the dark. Bang, bang. And then he is dead.

Copyright 1997 by A. Diallo Jackson

In the writer's own words:

"I'm a recent graduate from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Master's degree in English Literature/Creative Writing. I'm currently working on a sci-fi novel and screenplay, after writing a historical novel completed in July of 1997. I have the synopsis for the world's greatest green lantern story and am just waiting for my chance to make right the mess that has become Green Lantern. I live in San Francisco, am 25, and I need a car."

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