BrothersA Capstone Final Project
Cortney BulinENGL 487Professor Schaffert28 April 2016
Ever since I was in high school, I have been planning a novel befitting for my original characters. The story of two orphaned English immigrants struggling to find a way to survive in The New World during the 1850s and onward has been stirring in my mind ever since I created the two main characters, Charles and Peter. Their life story first began when I was a freshman in high school, with a two-page short story that would be the catalyst for the beginning of their story in my headI have since decided to use it as the prologue for the novel, seeing as it introduces the characters to the readers, just as it introduced them to me. After that story bequeathed itself to me through my hands and onto paper, I wrote five short stories in chronological order detailing critical times in the brothers lives, highlighting crucial experiences that shaped them into the troubled young men they ultimately become.After high school, I temporarily abandoned their stories and went on to start other novels, which of course I failed to finish. College and obsessions kept me away from them, and it seemed like nothing I wrote (except for fan fictions about Red Dead Redemption and creative projects for my English classes) really sparked the creative flame within me, and as I end the second-to-last semester of my college experience, I return to my characters with renewed vigor and happiness. They were always there throughout the years, poking and prodding at me, beckoning that I put their life story to paper. At long last, I return to the brothers and am now confident enough to continue my work planning, writing, and editing their life story, both in the form of a novel and in a comic book series.This final project has been the spark I was needing to get back to the brothers. This is the beginning of their storyPrologue
Nebraska, 1856An enervated sigh escaped sixteen-year-old Charles as he stopped at the top of a hill and surveyed his surroundings. The brown and white mare he led halted and stood quietly beside him. The young man looked down at the vast stretch of prairie that lay before him. To his left, far off in the distance, stretched an expanse of woods and a stream that ran along the tree line.His breath suddenly caught in his throat as his eyes fell on a small cow-town that sat between him the woods, some four-hundred yards away. There! he thought with a spark of hope. It had been weeks since hed seen anything remotely close to civilization. Right there is where we should try. I hope theyve got everything we need.His thoughts paused as his fourteen-year-old brother Peter walked up beside him leading his black and white gelding. They exchanged tired yet auspicious looks before gazing down at the settlement.Peter motioned with a nod to the woods and said, Those woods could be a good hide-out for us after we sneak through.Charles nodded. Aye. Well go there as soon as we get done.A small breeze suddenly crept up and rippled through their soiled hair and tattered clothing. Peters gaze drifted down to his feet as he became lost in his thoughts. He frowned with guilt as he thought, I wish we didnt have to do this.Whats wrong?He flinched and flicked his gaze up at his older brother, noticing the worried look on his face. Eh? Whats the matter? Youre awfully quiet.Peter sighed heavily and looked down at the settlement with pity. He stayed silent for a while, wrestling with his thoughts. I dont want to do this, Charles, he murmured. It just feels wrong.Charles nodded empathetically. I know.His little brother looked away at the tall swaying prairie grass that stretched far beyond his sight. A wave of homesickness surged through him as he found himself recalling their long-forgotten home back in England in his minds eye: he remembered their farmhouse, the barn and paddock, the pastures and the fields; he recalled herding the cattle from the pasture to the barn and milking them for the night, the long days of hard work; he thought about their parentsOi!He flinched and looked back at Charles. What?You all right?Im fine, he answered quietly as he looked back at the town.For a time, the brothers and their horses stood silently and watched the smoke drift up from out of the chimneys and get carried off by the breeze. They jumped when the gelding, Rio, shook himself and blew loudly afterwards.Perhaps the people there are asleep, Charles thought hopefully. His hope rose slightly at the thought: it was, at the very least, eight oclock in the evening. The sun had begun to set, streaking the sky with a wonderful palette of color.Right, then. Lets be off.Peter said nothing as he took a swig from the flask slung over his shoulder.Charles frowned. You dont have to keep on with that every time you dont wanna talk.Well, it works, doesnt it? he replied with a small grin before he took another drink.Charles rolled his eyes and shook his head. For a while, he kept vigil for any signs of life down below. Nothing stirred in the town. Convinced, he turned toward Koda, his paint mare. Cmon, he suggested to his brother as he grabbed the saddle horn and cantle.Peter stood staring at the ground, rooted in place by shame. No.Charles sharply turned back around. You what?I saidno, he responded hesitantly, well aware of his older brothers temper. His eyes flicked from the ground to his brother and back.Charles frowned. Lets just get this over with andIm not going down there, Charles.Why not?Because.Because why?Peter hesitated, then looked up at him and bravely stated, Because its just dodgy.Who bloody cares?!I do, and Im sure the people down there do as well! We shouldnt have to steal from them! If we steal from them, then how are they gonna survive?Charles glared at him cynically. Then thats their problem, not ours. Now stop it andNo! Im not gonna steal!Fed up with his brothers heroics, Charles turned around sharply and demanded, What choice do you think we have, Peter?! Using his fingers to count out the things on their list, he said fiercely, We have no clothing but what we wear right now, no blankets, hardly any food or water for both ourselves and the horses, and no money! How else do you think were gonna get all these things? Eh?! He pointed down at the houses sharply with one steely finger. Either we steal the things we need now or we dont survive at all!Peter frowned and, after a short time, bowed his head in defeat. He sighed bitterly and said, Fine, Ill go, but next time aroundThere always will be a next time, Peter, so dont think that were getting out of this! We dont have a choice, and we never will! Whether you like it or not, this is our lifestyle now, so just stop complaining and live with it! Now cmon!Peter looked up at him with remorse. Angrily, he walked up to him and stood by his side.Lets just bloody get on with it and get the blemmin hell outta here, snapped Charles as he mounted Koda. He viciously threw the reins at Peter, who caught them after they slapped smartly against his arm. Slowly, he went around Koda and mounted Rio, then followed his older brother as he carefully guided his horse down the steep hill and towards the town.
The white glowing moon was bright enough for all to see that night in the small town; all was quiet and serene, no sound audible except for the soft clopping of hoof falls as the two weary travelers rode abreast of each other on their paint horses. They walked their enervated equines down the muddied, well-trodden main street until they came upon a general store, which was, as far as they could guess, the only shop in town.Charles turned his mare down into a dark alleyway between the shop and an old bank. His brother reined his horse after him and urged him to a trot to catch up. Once they were reunited, they stopped their horses and dismounted without saying a word, then led their horses out of direct sight from the main street and tied them behind a large wood shed. Once they were out of sight, Charles looked around to make sure they werent being watched or followed. His brown eyes swiveled about warily; he had seen plenty of things enough to get him and his brother this far, and he was determined to continue their survival. Trying to calm his anxiety, he scratched his short, scruffy beard and mustache. He shivered from the cool evening breeze that blew down the alley, rustling his soiled clothing and tossing his dark brown hair that reached past his ears and the middle of his neck.Damn that bloody wind, he swore under his breath.His words caught his sibling off-guard. Peter looked curiously at him and asked, Eh? Whats wrong?Keep your voice down, you twit!Like an abused animal, Peter flinched at his older brothers sharp command. He was two years younger than his senior, and he still didnt have the common sense or the experience Charles wished he had, especially when it came to a thing like this. His sibling looked at him, his light-blue eyes glinting with naivet; he winced when Charles threw him a sharp glare, reminding him of why they were to keep quiet and what they were doing here in town. Averting his older brothers gaze, Peter ran a hand through his short, sandy blonde hair and muttered, Sorry.Sorry wont do us any good if we get caught, you daft bastard, Charles retorted as he stepped around his younger brother and walked down the alleyway. He stood in front of the middle window in the store, peered inside, and nodded in approval. Aye, thisll do, he murmured to himself when he saw mostly everything that he and his brother needed within the store.He flinched when his brother rushed up beside him to peer inside as well. Do they have everything we need in there? Peter exclaimed.With a suppressed snarl, Charles shoved his brother away and said, Shut it, Peter, and just stand there! Youre gonna bugger this all up if you keep on.Without another word, Peter stood still and waited for his brother to take action. He watched as Charles inspected the windowsill for a moment before feeling around on the bottom for a grip.Hmm, if this damn thing had a handle, he grunted as he tried to open the window. For several seconds, he tried to push it up, but no matter how much he strained, it wouldnt budge. He paused and squinted as he bent toward the window. Bugger all! Its locked from the inside. He straightened from his bent stance and sighed, running a hand through his hair, causing his bangs to curl upwards towards the uneven part in his hair. Were gonna have to bust it out to get inside.Brilliant, muttered Peter, putting his hands on his hips. Is there another way we can get inside?I doubt it.Well, how about the front door? Itll probably be easier if weThey probably have a bell hooked up on the door, so were not going to try that. He let out a string of curses as his strength failed him once more.Charles, theyre going to hear the bell anyways, so why dont we justHe whirled around and silenced him with a threatening glare. Peter stepped back and looked down at the ground in submission, biting down on his lip. Only when Charles finally turned away did he dare look back up again.Bollocks! Charles whispered harshly as he finally gave up. He stepped back from the window, panting and glowering at it like its sole mission was to make him off as a weak fool. Behind him, Peter stood silently waiting. Muttering under his breath, Charles retreated back behind the wood shed. As his brother came to stand beside him, he took out two burlap sacks from his saddlebags. The brothers faced each other and exchanged befuddled looks.So what now? Peter inquired softly.Theres bound to be a back door. Cmon. He beckoned his brother to follow as he turned and made his way quietly around the back of the store. Sure as day, a back door stood between them and survivaland theft. Without looking at each other, the brothers slunk up against the side of the building, one on each side of the threshold. Right, said Charles, his breath quickening. We get in, grab what we need, and get out, savvy? Whatever you do, do not make any noise! Got it?Peter nodded. He swallowed nervously at the thought of what they were about to attempt.Okay, then. Once inside, Charles motioned with a nod for him to follow, tossed him his bag, and breathed, Start grabbing, but be quiet! Dont arse around.They went about snatching as many valuable things they saw fit to survive off of for the next several weeks. The store was set up in a most efficient way: rows of racks were set up throughout the store, so they didnt have trouble finding what they needed. Along the east side of the building stretched a long wooden counter. At the corner sat a cash register. The brothers eyes fell on this with glee. With a sly sneer, Charles strode over to it, opened the drawer, and beamed with delight as he extracted large handfuls of money. Walking back up to Peter, he held up the wad of cash and smiled brightly.Peter beamed back at him, but as Charles turned his back to him to take a revolver from the display case, it faded into a sad frown. In such a short amount of time, theyd fallen so low. Mum and Dad would be so disappointed, he thought with a conflicted countenance as he went to the nearest rack and grabbed food and cooking supplies. He glanced over his shoulder at his brother; his eyes fell on the bulging bag dangling from his strong hands, and his eyebrows rose with amazement. Blimey, hes fast!Charles studied the revolver he held in his hands. It was a fine weapon, a .44 revolver. Smiling with satisfaction, he stuffed it in his bag. Turning back to the display case, he looked at the other weapons before him and took out a Winchester repeater.Peter watched this and asked in a loud whisper, Charles, what are you doing? We dont even know how to use those.He looked up from stuffing the rifle in his bag. Well learn, you git. Besides, its better to have them than not; you never know when were gonna have to defend ourselves, Peter, or when well have to hunt if were short on meat.Peter didnt reply as he watched him stuff a couple boxes of ammunition into his bag. Hefting it up over his shoulder, he went over to Peter.Oi, what all you got?He opened up his bag and peered inside it. Odds and sods, really. Food, some boozeWhat kind?Peter rolled his eyes as his brother began searching the bag intently. As if you need that, Charles. Remember a fortnight ago when we were at that boozer?Charles grinned up at him. Not really. I was shitfaced, remember?Peter frowned, remembering how ludicrous it was as he helped his inebriated sibling up the stairs and to their rented room. A silent moment passed. Charles continued on his frenzied search for his favorite alcohol. Finally, he straightened up from his bent stance and held up a medium-sized bottle.Thats the dogs bollocks, that is, he commented, tapping the bottle with his index finger. Thats what got me pissed up that night.Peter squinted in the dim moonlight and read the label. He looked up at his older sibling with a cocked eyebrow and asked curiously, Whiskey?He nodded and smiled. Aye, its good. Put that in your bag, along with this. He hastened over to a rack of alcohol, grabbed two more bottles, and handed them to Peter.Peters eyebrows rose with amazement. Are you mental?Charles grinned devilishly. Im making you try some of that.Bollocks! Im not a tosspot like you. Shaking his head, he wrapped the bottles with rags to prevent them from damage before stuffing them in his bag. Standing up from his packing, he reached for another bottle, but his hand accidentally brushed the edge of the rack instead, causing a bottle nearest the edge to teeter dangerously. He couldnt react in time to stop it from falling off the rack and shattering loudly on the floor at his feet. He froze with his arm still outstretched as he stared down at the mess, mortified with his mistake.Charles flinched and whirled around, eyes wide with terror. You git! he hissed. Watch what you're doing! Peter carefully withdrew his hand from the rack. I didnt mean to!Alarmed, Charles put a finger to his lips.The brothers froze in their spots; they barely breathed as they strained their ears to pick up the slightest noise.Suddenly, a slight thump sounded in the still and quiet night.Simultaneously, they flinched and gasped. Charles tied his bag and warned, Come, lets get the hellThump. Thump. Thump.They exchanged horrified expressions before looking around frantically. It sounded likeFootsteps, whispered Peter, and Charles gaped at him with horror.Suddenly, the creak of the back door sounded, followed shortly by heavy footsteps as someone entered the store.Immediately, Charles dropped to the floor. To his horror, his brother was still standing. Mortified, he reached up and yanked him down to the floor. They hid behind a rack on their hands and knees.Peter looked back at Charles, too scared to know what to do. Charles put a finger to his lips, then cautiously leaned up and looked through the lowest shelf on the rack. Following his lead, Peter did the same, and the two of them gasped at what they saw.From what the racks could allow, they saw the torso of a burly, middle-age man, but what scared them the most was the gleaming Winchester repeater he held ready in his monstrous hands. Oh, my God! Were dead for sure! Peter thought, his eyes widening in terror. Clueless of what to do, he looked back at Charles and whispered, What do we do?Charles licked his lips nervously. II dont know.They tensed and looked back through the shelves as the shopkeeper started forward, his gun at the ready and his index finger hugging the trigger. He slowly walked past the first two rows of racks, searching for the trespassers. Alright, you sons-a-bitches, come out where I can see you! I know youre in here!Quickly, Charles ducked back down. Nervously, he ran a hand through his hair.Oi, what do we do? Peter whispered again, looking to him for guidance.Charles frowned and bit his lip as he suddenly thought up a plan. Right. Heres the plan: Ill distract him while you go and get the horses and load them up with the bags.But what if you get hurtor worse?Ill be fine. Just go when I tell you, alright?Still unsure, Peter searched his eyes, desperately trying to think of another way for them to escape unscathed. He swallowed nervously. Dont be cheeky with him, Charles.He leaned back up and surreptitiously peaked through the racks. Sure enough, the shopkeeper was still standing by the back door, looking around for them with his rifle poised. Without turning around, he whispered, Give me something to throw. He beckoned with his hand, and from what he felt, Peter gave him one of the bottles of whiskey. He frowned at the soon-to-be loss. Get ready to run.Gathering his courage and energy, Peter nodded and said, Ready.Without further delay, he leaned around the desk and threw the bottle to the left side of the shop on the opposite side of the broken window; the glass shattered against a rack, the pungent liquid splashing everywhere. Immediately, the man swung his rifle around and fired without delay. Charles whipped back around the desk and said to Peter, Ill distract him, now go!Before his courage could fail him, he stood up and yelled, Oi! You daft fucker, Im right here!Without hesitation, the shopkeeper aimed at him and fired; Charles shied to the right and ran behind the nearest rack. As the man advanced upon him, Peter grabbed the bags and dashed to the back door. He yelped with surprise when he heard the rifle fire off again; a bullet embedded itself in the doorway, barely missing his head. He ducked as he ran outside and escaped around the corner towards the horses.Enraged, Charles relinquished his protection and threw himself at the man, grabbing the rifle firmly. For a moment, the two of them struggled over dominance of the firearm until at last the man shoved Charles into the nearest rack. Crying out in pain, Charles slunk down to his knees and was knocked to the floor when the man bashed the butt of the rifle against his right cheek. Panting, Peter ran up to the horses and flung the sacks up and over their rumps. He quickly tied them to the saddlebags before he grabbed the reins of his brothers horse and mounted his gelding. Hastily, he spurred his horse to a lope towards the back of the store, leading his brothers mare all the while.Charles cried out in pain as he felt the mans fist bash against his face once more, and he fell to his knees, catching himself with his hands. Blood ran thickly out of his nose and stained his sullied shirt. Exhausted, he tried to get up, but he screamed and fell back down as the man kicked him in his side.Come on, boy! Get up! Fight like a man! goaded the shopkeeper as he came to stand above him.Dazed, Charles looked up at him with loathing and wiped the blood off his face with his sleeve. Determined not to lose or be made a fool, he stood up and faced the man, his face contorted into a pained glare.Alright, you wanker. You want me to fight like a man? Ill fight like a man. He struck the man in the face with all the power he could summon in his right arm. The man stumbled back into the display case, clutching his bleeding nose.Enraged, Charles strode up to him, grabbed him by the collar, slammed him down on top of the case, and began repeatedly punching him in the face. His anger raged like wildfire within him, scorching the very blood in his veins and replenishing his muscles with renewed energy and the lust for revenge. As he raised his fist for another blow, he paused at the sound of hooves skidding across dirt, followed by Peters voice yelling, Charles! Get the hell out of there!Looking over at the back door, he saw Peter atop his horse with Koda waiting anxiously beside them. His brother beckoned frantically and yelled, Come on! Lets go!Looking back down at the man, Charles gave him one last hard punch before dropping him and making a break for the back door. Yet somehow the man, in his delirious and beaten state, sat up, raised his gun, and pulled the trigger. Charles screamed and fell to the floor as the bullet ripped through his left arm.CHARLES!Peter watched helplessly atop his horse as the man rose and walked over to Charles, who lay on the ground clutching the upper part of his arm and groaning in agony. The shopkeeper pointed the gun down at Charles head. From the bright light of the moon, Peter could see the whites of his brother's eyes as he looked up at the man with ungodly fear.NO! DONT KILL HIM!The man looked up at him, startled for a moment, before raising the rifle and pointing it at his head. So youre the other one, then? he growled. Struck with terror, Peter watched as the mans finger went for the trigger.Seeing his brother in mortal danger, Charles swiftly kicked the shopkeepers legs out from under him. The man howled in pain and surprise, and as he fell to his knees, Charles got to his feet, wretched the gun out of the mans hands with his right hand, and started for the back door, gasping and clutching his profusely bleeding wound. Oh, no, you dont! snarled the shopkeeper as he struggled to stand.Without thinking, Charles raised the rifle and fired, shooting the man in the chest. He fell limply to the floor. Not knowing what just happened, Charles looked down and stared at the hole in the mans chest; blood had begun to pool underneath him. Mortified, he stumbled back into the display case.Peter stared at the body as well. For a long moment, he sat on his horse dumbfounded. You killed him, CharlesBy Christ, you killed him!Charles gaped up at him, speechless and incapable of thought or action. He had yet to fully comprehend what hed done.He didnt have time to comprehend the atrocity as he and his brother suddenly heard voices coming from outside the front of the store. Through the front windows, glowing torch lights approached; sounds of people yelling and footfalls became audible.In shock, Charles stumbled to the back door. He leaned heavily against the threshold as he turned and stared at the dead shopkeeper.Terrified, Peter seized his brother by the sleeve and yanked him out the door. Cmon! Lets get the bloody hell outta here!Finally, Charles snapped out of his trance, and without bothering to put his feet in the stirrups, he flung himself onto Kodas back and gathered up the reins. The brothers spurred their horses into a frenzied gallop down the alley and out of town, disappearing in the darkness as the townspeople entered the shop.