[The following is a fictional representation of the helplessness I felt at the time of the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Another coping method is donating to one of the following relief organizations found here.]
Two men stood perched on the rooftop ledge of Boston Public Library on the warm afternoon of April 15, 2013. Marathon runners had been crossing the finish line in singles, pairs and groups of all sizes for the last couple of hours. The men looked down on the peaceful and celebratory atmosphere of Boylston Street.
"Another minute or so," said one of them. He was wearing a sleek black two-piece suit with a black button-down shirt and a skinny black tie. Black shoes, belt and sunglasses completed his ensemble. Even his hair was a slicked up coal-black. If it weren't for his relatively pale complexion, the man could have been made entirely out of shadow. His brother was just as pale, but his gray eyes, white-blonde hair and all-white tunic, belt, pants and sandals set him apart rather dramatically.
"I absolutely hate this part," the brighter brother remarked. An explosion rocked the street below them, followed by the briefest of inhaled breaths before the screaming started. A second explosion ten seconds later sent waves of chaos smoking up and down Boylston. The shadow brother took a seat on the ledge.
"And now, we wait."
Hours passed and still the brothers watched. Initial shock and panic had quickly given way to an emergency response. Personnel ushered the unharmed innocents to safety while clearing a path to allow medical professionals to tend to the untold wounded. If the brothers had been flesh-and-blood men, they certainly would have drawn attention to themselves high up on their observatory perch, even amidst all the confusion. As it was, their nature allowed them to watch, to remember, and to apply what they had learned at a later, more appropriate time.
"You're supposed to be the civil one between the two of us," the dark brother said, absent-mindedly picking at his fingernails. "And yet you continue to let these events play out instead of preventing them."
"There is no justice without a crime, you know that as well as I, brother," said the other man. "Would that neither of us were needed."
The dark brother scoffed.
"They created us. Without them there is no us. I'd say it's safe to assume the inverse, though I suppose we could always travel elsewhere."
"A quarrel for another day, brother. We have work to do." The white-blonde brother moved to the edge of the roof. "I should like a closer look." He stepped off with no more hesitation than a man walking down a flight of stairs on a Tuesday morning before work.
"You always look and never feel," Brother Dark said to no one but himself. "If you did, like I do, you'd already know what's to be done."
He stood with a sigh and dusted his hands off by clapping them together, then took a step off the roof and floated down to survey the carnage from ground level. By the time he landed, his brother was in the thick of it, moving between people like a breeze, investigating every aspect of their demeanor and every detail of the scene.
"What are the casualties again?" he asked, keeping his attention on the wounded.
"At the moment, a pair dead, twelve dozen wounded," answered Brother Dark. He liked using obscure figures to inform his brother, who was annoyingly emphatic about getting the hard numbers. To Dark, numbers were about as useful as a Band-Aid on a shredded leg. Three people died in an accidental car crash this morning in Sargodha, Pakistan. Does that make their lives worth any more or less than those who bled out on the streets of Boston? No. But do three innocent lives blown apart by a sadistic bomber deserve more of an emotional outcry? Absolutely. That was a fact Dark knew in his core, but something his brother was simply born without.
"Are you ready to move on to phase two yet? I think this one's pretty obviously mine to handle," Dark said. He stuck his hands in his pants pockets as his brother watched the rivulets of blood begin to wind their way toward the sewer drains.
"Not just yet," his brother replied.
"C'mon, I'm practically bursting from all the raw emotion here!" Dark stopped just short of physically throttling his plodding brother.
"That's exactly why I'm taking my time. They're all overwhelmed; so are you. I wouldn't be doing my job if I let you get carried away with your feelings before doing my due diligence." If his white linen pants had actually been made of white linen existing on the mortal plane, then the brother's knee would have been stained with the blood of innocents as he practically crawled along the pavement gathering evidence.
"Well, do all the diligence you want, but at the end of the day we both know that the sword will fall while your scales stay silent. I'll spend my time figuring just how exactly I'm going to take these bastards apart."
The Brother of Light stood and took one last look at the scene.
"Think quickly but stay your hand a minute more. It's time to have a chat with our culprits, to hear their side of the story. Though I daresay that I'm leaning towards letting you have your way with them."
Dark spread his hands out in front of him as if placating his new ally.
"That's all I needed to hear. After you."
Not being tied to the laws and limitations of the mortal realm, the brothers weren't bothered by such things as physical barriers or constraints of time or lack of information. They simply had to do and it was done, ask and it was answered, conceive and it was so. In short order they'd located the whereabouts of one of the bombers, for it had been a group who organized the event and not the demented machinations of a solitary lunatic. For the time being, one criminal brought before the scales or the sword would do.
So it was with a bit of dramatic flair that the brothers walked through a steel-and-concrete-reinforced wall in the subterranean bunker hideout of Walter P. Sully and nearly caused the young man to have a heart attack on the spot. Walter regained his composure long enough to reach for his AR-15 and unload a number of rounds in their direction. When his clip ran dry and the brothers remained entirely unharmed, Dark asked the man to kindly take a seat. Walter promptly wet his pants and complied.
"Walter P. Sully," Dark began. "We are the not the police, the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security. We are your one chance at salvation," Dark pointed to his brother, "or your quick release of death," then he gestured to himself. "Though, in your case, it might not be that quick. That's up for my brother here to decide."
The Brother of Light appeared to dim slightly in the poorly-lit bunker as he approached Walter P. Sully and took a chair opposite him. He sighed long and low, folded his hands together and began his interrogation.
"Here's what we know, Mr. Sully. You and your younger brother Charles were orphaned at an early age when your father, Staff Sergeant Anderson Sully, was killed in action during the Gulf War. Your mother then married Reginald Boudreau, a man with no significant occupation who could roundly be described as a raging and abusive alcoholic. When Boudreau beat your mother so badly she landed in a coma, you stood up to him and kicked him out of the house, threatening to end his life should he ever be seen again. Then, you and dropped out of high school to enlist in the service in order to pay your mother's medical expenses. Your brother Charles followed in your footsteps a few years later, but soon lost his legs to an IED in Fallujah. While Charles returned home and received prosthetics, his benefits soon ran out and so did the pain medication and psychological therapy sessions. Charles took his own life a year ago today. That same day, you and your fellow soldiers concocted this plan of yours with the aim of achieving what you saw as revenge for the way you and your family have been treated. We'll be paying your friends a visit soon, but for now, is there anything else you'd like to add?"
Dark had to give it to Scales, he was unnervingly thorough in his investigations. For a moment there, even Dark had been swayed by the sob story that made up the formative years of Sully's early life. That was the problem with emotions, they were tides that could pull you out to unfathomable depths or deliver you safely to the warm beaches of a tropical paradise. His brother had reason, but Dark still had a trump card.
"Mr. Sully?" Dark prodded. The young man's face had drained of all its color leaving him looking as pale as the two bodies his bombs done in. The fear of death had shaken him, but not to the point of repentance.
"I don't know who you two are, but if you know all that stuff about me then you know that I don't regret a single thing I did today. People got hurt and people died. Over there, people get hurt and people die. Nobody cares, nobody does a damn thing. What I did today, that's for my dad and for Charlie. What I did today, that's justice."
The Brother of Light suddenly stood up to his full height. His white-blonde hair brushed the ceiling of the bunker and glowed brighter than the sun as all the light in the room was amplified by the towering figure. He loomed over Walter P. Sully and cast the quivering man into a very small shadow.
"Don't talk to me about justice, boy. I am Justice. And I'm the only thing keeping you from the executioner's blade." The Brother composed himself once more and stepped back, smoothing the front of his already immaculate tunic. "I'll give you one more chance. Will you recant here before us and submit to the will of the people and the justice of the land?"
Sully's pupils went black but the fear was still not enough to shake the man's foundations.
"I will not. I put my faith in the Almighty."
"He doesn't show up until after we're done with you, so it's us you should be concerned with for the moment," said Dark. The Brother of Light looked back at him.
"Considering his upbringing, I still think we should let the courts and the people hear his case and pass their judgment...unless you have anything else to add, brother?"
Dark stepped forward into the fading light of his brother's own casting. His eyes were stormy, not the full-dark pupils of fear, but the open windows on a sea of raging emotion: hatred, anger, violence, helplessness, fear, despair, all of it. If his brother allowed, Dark was about to pour it all into Walter P. Sully. It was time to play his trump card.
"Those victims, brother...the ones that died," Dark began. "Earlier there were just two."
"Go on," said his brother, knowing what came next would be the deciding factor.
"Another has just passed away from his injuries...an eight-year-old boy."
A moment of silence passed between the brothers. Walter P. Sully let out a tiny sob. The spirit of Justice looked back at his dark brother.
"He's all yours."
All light went out in the room. Walter P. Sully tried to lunge out of the chair but found that he was bound there by some impossibly heavy force. A dim light, like that of the earliest possible hint of dawn - or the last fading hope of dusk - began to glow in the room. Walter P. Sully could just make out the face of Brother Dark.
"You know me, Walter. I've been with you all these years." Dark's voice was barely more than a whisper, a rustling wheeze in the darkness. "I've festered within you and now, like a septic wound left untreated, I've returned to pay your hatred back on you in full."
The sound of a long blade being drawn cut through the stale air of the darkened bunker.
"Forgive me, I should have introduced myself as my brother here did before me. Some call me the Erinye, the Fury, katakiuchi, the blood-feud. I am the embodiment of the hatred and despair felt by the hundreds of victims, friends and families resulting from your actions here today, and countless more before you. They may not be able to exact their revenge upon you, but it is the only purpose I was made for."
Walter P. Sully felt the cool steel of Dark's blade glide across the space just in front of him.
"My brother offered you salvation as Justice; I bring you damnation as Vengeance. Your death, like that of your victims, will not be quick, but it will be much sweeter."
Dark's blade point touched Sully's ankle ever so gently, but his lower leg exploded in a blast that left nothing but fragments of bone sticking out like a spear below his kneecap while tendrils of shredded skin and muscle clung to a useless frame. Sully had time to register the pain. Dark kept him from the blissful effects of shock with what unnatural powers he'd been granted. Sully would know the pain of more than one-hundred victims and it would all be visited upon him in the next few minutes.
Another touch of the blade shattered Sully's second leg in much the same manner. The murderer finally found his voice. He cried out for Jesus and his mother, for anyone who could help him. The "I'm sorry"s started much too late for Justice to step in and save him. This was Dark's show now; Vengeance could not be denied.
Two more taps of Dark's ungodly blade disintegrated Sully's arms like a front-row blast of ball bearings traveling hundreds of miles an hour as they shred flesh, bone, lives and families. Sully was down to half a man but that's more than he'd started as that morning. His tongue still wagged, still begged for forgiveness and salvation.
"Oh, help me, God! Please! Help me, Lord! The Father! The Almighty!"
Dark's sword point scratched the cleft of Walter P. Sully's chin. His lower jaw exploded on impact sending teeth ricocheting around the room. His tongue hung limp against his blood-spattered neck. Vengeance looked back at Justice in the gloom; he nodded. Their work done, the Brothers turned to leave. Dark got in one last parting shot.
"Tell the Almighty we said, 'Hello.'"
A rending explosion filled the bunker with smoke and fire. The Brothers walked through the wall and disappeared into the night. The charred and amputated corpse of Walter P. Sully was left behind for authorities to find in their own time. They had only to follow the trail laid out before them.
Two men sat in a cafe in Cambridge, Mass. One wore black jogging attire, the other wore a white suit; both ordered black coffee. The twenty-four hour cycle of CNN was reporting breaking news of the FBI's discovery of an underground bunker where the charred remains of one Walter P. Sully, believed to be involved in the Boston Marathon bombing, were found, apparently the victim of one of his own bombs. Whether this was accidental or self-inflicted, they didn't know at that time. More information as we receive it.
"Feeling better?" the man in the white suit asked.
"Much," answered the jogger, sipping his coffee. "You have no idea the intensity of the hatred for that man. It's never quite as palpable as in the moments after an event like this."
"Well that's the problem, isn't it?" asked the man in white. "Emotions cool off, people forget, criminals lounge around in the system until long after the ill will has lost its fire."
"That's why you're here, Brother," said Dark, clinking his coffee cup against the man in white's. "'Cooler heads prevail,' or so they say."
Another news blast broke in. A second suspect had been found in his East Boston apartment. The man had apparently hung himself to death. More at 11.
"Maybe heads haven't cooled off as much as we think," said Dark with a laugh. The man in white shrugged and wrapped his hands around his coffee mug.
"Not all Vengeance ends in death; not all Justice ends in life. We're not so different, you and I."
"Well, we are brothers, after all." The two clinked cups once more. They drained the remaining coffee and left a twenty on the table before walking outside.
"It's nice to pretend to be one of theml every once in a while," said Dark. "A pity we don't get to do it more often."
"We've still got plenty of visits to make, so don't get used to it."
"It never stops does it?" Dark asked, rhetorically.
"No," his brother answered. "No it does not."
*All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.