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'blood on blood'

brigits_flame Entry
Prompt:
Ranch
Word Count: 1,815

Ranch



The plains stretched out in all directions. A flat, featureless expanse broken here and there by lonely farmsteads and ranch-houses. A ranch like this one. The colours of the plains are muted, the earth a dull grey-brown below a sky perpetually in cloud. When the sun dares to venture out it is weak and sickly, a pale light which only serves to make the overcast sky appear even more forlorn. The only beautiful time of day here is twilight when the sky takes on a deep grey-blue hue. It is a storm-laden sky but it is the only time of any strength or depth of colour. Even the dark of night seems somehow insipid in comparison.

The ranch itself is old and in need of repair. A sadness hanging over the broken down fences and peeling paintwork, a stench of neglect and abandonment that pervades like a tangible miasma, creeping into every nook and cranny. This is where I grew up. I'd like to say it was different then, that the sky stretched out above me, an untainted expanse of brilliant blue, that the sun shone strongly and brightly from dawn 'til dusk but that would be a lie. Lie seems too harsh, that would be a dream. A dream of an idyllic place where colours were vibrant and the air was warm. It is not this place, this tainted place.

The gate hung at an uncomfortable angle, and swung limply in the gentle breeze that neither cooled nor refreshed, creaking arthritically with every gust. A metal sign lay half buried in the grey dirt. I kicked the earth away to expose white lettering, cracked with age. 'Ghostland Cross Ranch'. Never had the name been more apt. The ghosts of my childhood, of my past, lay inside. I looked up at the sprawling building before me. Years of modifications and improvements by generations of my family had lead to a mish-mash of architectural styles. It was never an ugly building, just one which lacked any true thought or planning. A casualty of pomposity, each descendent trying to outdo the last. It cried out for someone to give it some care, to remove the worst of the accoutrements and to restore it to the ranch-house it could have been. Should have been. It was too late now. If I were ever to inherit the building the kindness thing would be to raze it to the ground. Lay the ghosts of Ghostland Cross to rest for good.

I walked cautiously past the broken gate and up towards the porch. Dead vines and cobwebs adorned the woodwork like fungus. I wondered again why I was here, why the blood call had been so hard to resist. I'd put all memories of this place out of my mind when I left, or at least I thought I had. Deep down I guess I knew that Ghostland Cross wouldn't let go of one of it's own that easily. The summons was bound to come sooner or later. Despite my disgust at being here a small part of me was intrigued. Why call me home and why now? I took a deep breath and knocked on the warped wood of the door. The noise rang out loudly and echoed back at me, sounding more confident than I felt. Slowly the heavy door creaked open. The interior of the hallway was dark and dusty. I sniffed the stale air in disgust and hesitated. A voice came from within. “Michaela. Knocking before you enter? I see you've grown some manners. We'll have to beat that out of you. I wonder what other bad habits you've picked up little sister.” I should have been preparing myself for hearing my brother's voice again but foolishly I hadn't. It was too late now. I inhaled deeply and strode into the house.

A hunched figure sat in semi-darkness on the stairs to the first floor. It uncurled slightly revealing it's face. A face I new all too well even though it had changed and aged since I'd last seen it. The skin appeared almost yellow and stretched thinly over sharp features making for a man who seemed far older than someone just 7 years my senior. The eyes were still sharp though, black as coal and just as cold as they'd ever been. He grinned, displaying a row of stained teeth. “Stephen, “ I said, “I wish I could say it was a pleasure. I see you haven't lost your looks. You must be a hit with the ladies.”
He sneered in response. “Oh yeah, I slay 'em.” he snickered at his own joke. Repulsion coursed through my body as I looked at the hunched figure of my brother. “Michaela Lynch,” he spoke again, “Welcome home.”
“It's not Lynch anymore. I left that name behind a long time ago.”
“Really”, his voice raised in surprise, “Don't tell me the little dyke got married?” He sneered at me contorting his face into something even more repulsive. He could have been attractive, my brother, if his poisonous temperament didn't shine through his features.
“Don't tell me you expected me to keep the family name? After all our family have done?”
“You should be proud of our family's achievements little sis. I am.”
“Well, unlike you I'm not a sadistic bastard.” His eyes lit up and I knew I'd said too much.
“Really? I know it was you Michaela. I know you did the old man in and I know it wasn't pretty. You enjoyed it. Deep down you enjoyed it. We share the same blood little sis. I know the thrill the kill brings.”
My head spun and I fought not to show how much his words it home. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing he'd rattled me if I could help it. My father was my last kill. The last kill I swore to myself I'd ever carry out. As much as I hated to admit it Stephen was right. I had enjoyed it, but then he'd had it coming. He'd raised us to live for the kill, to get our kicks from spilling innocent blood. It was no excuse. By taking his life I was no better than him but it marked my last act as part of the Lynch clan. I'd left Ghostland Cross Ranch before they'd even found the body, what was left of it.
“That was a long time ago, Stephen. I'm not that person anymore. Why did you call me here? What do you want?”

“I want you to take over the clanship,” he said. For the first time he looked vulnerable. I couldn't help a snort of laughter from escaping my throat.
“You've got to be kidding me. Why are you giving up your position as head of the clan? And why in heaven's name would you want me? What about the others?”
“What others? You mean our esteemed siblings? They're dead. Some got caught, some got too cocky and some just plain pissed me off. We're the only ones left, you, me and Mother.” He gestured to a wizened old woman lurking in the doorway. She sneered at me and I gave an involuntary shudder and turned away.
“So what about you Stephen? No heir of your own huh? I guess you should have spent less time killing and more time thinking about the future. I bet the old man would be so proud to see his clan in such capable hands. No wonder he always hated you.” It was a cheap shot. Stephen had never been Dad's favourite. In fact I'd been more favoured than my big brother. Dad had had high hopes for to bring glory to the ranch but the killing had started to repulse me. The only way I could survive was to get away. My father had fought to keep me, his golden daughter but I had broken free. I hadn't meant to kill him but he'd made it clear that if I left only one of us would survive. A lifetime of looking over my shoulder, waiting for the strike didn't appeal. My brothers and sisters were too stupid or too afraid to venture too far from the ranch, preferring to stick to familiar hunting grounds and the protection of the clan.

Stephen's face contorted in anger. “At least I tried to do the family proud instead of running scared,” he spluttered.
“Look at this place Stephen. You've spent your life playing at having your own little empire without planning or taking proper care of anything. The ranch is falling down round your ears, the rest of clan are dead and gone thanks to your impetuousness and stupidity. The only reason our mother is here is because she's too lazy to leave. You really think you've done the family proud?” Stephen tried to lift himself up from the stairs to meet my onslaught with obvious difficulty. “You can hardly stand up straight Stephen. How exactly to you think any of this has been an success?” His shoulders sank and his head dropped. When he eventually raised his eyes to mine there was the glisten of tears.
“Truth, little sis? I don't have long. I never expected you to come back to the ranch but I thought if I could entice you here I could maybe convince you to come back. If that failed I figured you'd be so incensed that you'd put me out of my misery. I know you can do it. I've seen you kill cleanly and fast. Please.”
“No Stephen. When I left here that was the last time I ever wanted to spill another person's blood. You've brought all this on yourself with your greed and stupidity. I'm not going to help you die. Don't get me wrong, I don't like the thought of you living any more than you seem to, but I won't raise a finger to help you.” I turned and left letting the porch door creak shut behind me.

I stopped on the porch and leant against the rotting wooden post trying to process the sight of my brother vulnerable and asking for my help. As I took a breath and began to leave, to walk away once again from my past, a shot rang out followed by a scream. I turned and slammed open the porch door. Stephen lay a the foot of the stairs, a .35mm pistol in his hand in a growing pool of his own blood. My mother was hysterical, alternating between sobbing over my brother's body and screaming and cursing at me. I took one last look at my family, what was left of it and turned once more to go. My mother's cries followed me down the driveway and across the plains as I left Ghostland Cross Ranch and my former life, finally, forever.

Comments

katden
Jun. 9th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)
Oh My!!
So, teaser....what is "the clan"?
Do tell.
This was so very creepy, sad, and angst ridden. I love it! Great job on the imagery in the beginning: the description of the landscape definitely makes a reader feel forlorn!

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