User Rating: 4 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Inactive

You didn’t ever enter 239. That was the rule. The Minister and his family were the only ones allowed inside, and that was that. If you were on duty and invited in, you never accepted, no matter what. That was also a rule, but an unspoken one. 239 was the job – the protection. The White Sentinel paced slowly in the yard outside 239 South Fountain Street, thinking about the rules, and listened.

The city was quiet; but not because it wanted to be. Under a blanket of forced silence, the fumes of revolution gathered – heavy, noxious, and volatile – just like the cramped populous living west of Douglas Avenue. Sparks of useless hope sounded now and then from Old Town, but as long as they were fleeting, and ended with decisive shots from his sentries – the Minister was content. His home – large, brick, gated, and guarded, was within earshot for a reason. Despite his family’s complaints, he insisted on remaining close. He was away from the powerful people he governed, but close to those who might usurp him. His family hated it, especially his eldest son.

Owen complained daily about the proximity, the smell, and the noise. What he didn’t complain about was the embarrassment he felt from his privileged friends at his private school in East City. He knew his family didn’t have the money that his friend’s did. But he also knew they didn’t have the power his father did. Hell, without his Dad, the damn Towners would burn their houses, kill their dogs, and rape their pretty daughters on the lawn. Owen hated the Towners, but mostly for the fact that he had to live near them. And hear them. Their stupid yelling. Their screaming. And their pathetic dying.

Owen’s lament was prophetic as a flare fired from Warren Square in Old Town. The orange-red burst peaked in the middle of his window and he heard a doomed crowd cheer its apex. He knew the next, and he knew it well. He leaned toward his window, took a deep breath through his nose, forced his window shut, sat down in his thin white chair, and began to tap away on his keyboard. His professor would expect his theme the next day, despite flares or shots in the night. He flicked his hand slightly to turn up the obnoxious music he loved while he prepared to ignore the stink he knew he couldn’t avoid.

In Old Town there were the first FUMP, FUMP, FUMP of gas canisters. It was a primitive technology that had remained useful in the aftermath of the collapse of the electric grid, and one the Minister had bargained to ensure was kept in constant storage. Many Mid-Western cities had succumbed to anarchy but the Minister had managed to save his own. His methods were brutal, but far better than the savagery surrounding him. The wall had helped. The men atop it with automatic weapons helped even more. The Minister had traded trainloads of wheat for the guns, and while many had died from hunger, at least they’d done it safely. The stories of brutality in other cities overrun with lawlessness remained the Minister’s filter for decision making. Better to die in the arms of your family than at the hand of barbarians, he often thought.

The second round of FUMPs, accompanied by the pops of rifle fire rang out into the brilliantly starry night. When the White Sentinel started barking orders, Owen’s computer went dark and the emergency red alarm lighting came on. Owen sighed and slid out his chair for what seemed the millionth time. He plodded his way to the stairs and started down. The moronic Towners always ran toward his house and they never made it even remotely close. Owen sighed again and shuffled down a stair. The sound of glass breaking made him stop.

The Minister pushed Owen very hard against the railing. Owen watched his father bound down the last few stairs, diving to tackle a strange man who’d just come through their window. The man had cut himself deeply while entering, and the thick blood pumping from his wrist probably made him drop the flaming bottle he carried. His father and the man burst into flames and Owen smelled something acrid and salty. Owen’s dad shed his jacket but didn’t fall to the floor like the intruder. As the intruder rolled, Owen’s father burned and attacked. He leapt upon the man, putting his hands tightly around the man’s throat. They both burned, but only the intruder screamed. The Minister and the man were engulfed in fire. The flames ate their clothes and finally, Owen heard the crackle of their skin turning crisp.

The intruder stopped moving and then The Minister rolled on the entryway rug. He extinguished himself, stood deliberately – with the power of adrenaline, and looked briefly at Owen. The boy stared at his father but didn’t recognize him. The maligned face, the stench, and the protruding whites of his eyes against the wrinkled and blackened flesh around them were simply too much for Owen. He collapsed and peed his pants.

More glass broke, but Owen didn’t move.

Owen lifted his head and pointed to his teary eyes. The Minister, adrenaline waning, shuffled toward the kitchen. Owen heard a shot. He heard his father grunt. Owen saw another man round the corner of the kitchen and instinctively ran upstairs.

The White Sentinel, outside, sniffed the air quickly, and then deliberately. There was the stench of fresh death. And fire. The Sentinel’s ears, focused, heard nothing coming, only a thumping from inside the house. It was a threatening, progressing thump, not a safe one. He’d heard it before, and it had not ended well. The Sentinel knew his orders; he knew he wasn’t to enter the house.

Do not go into the house.


Not into the house. NO! NO!

You may not enter 239.

But nothing was tracking the threatening thump. It thumped with purpose. It thumped with chase. He decided, knowing he’d never work in the gated brick house again, to thrust himself against the side door and enter. It was surprisingly easy.

The White Sentinel stopped short; the Minister lay beneath him, reeking of wet blood and fight and fire. The Sentinel crouched and changed his breathing. He crept forward, moving only toward what he smelled and heard. There was rustling upstairs and he knew that even though his primary was gone, there were others to save.

The stairs posed a particular challenge given his size. The house was old and his desire to go up would assuredly give away the surprise that was his greatest advantage. The White Sentinel paused until he heard Owen scream.

Please,” the boy yelled; “No! Get away!” Please! Help!”

The Sentinel bounded up.

The Towner was speaking, but he couldn’t understand him. He could only understand Owen’s response. The stairs rounded up to the Sentinel’s right. The boy was to the left of the stair landing and the man with the gun right at it. It was perfect – The Sentinel knew he’d be in the perfect line. The man was loud and that masked the Sentinel’s approach.

You are privileged. And it’s my absolute privilege to kill you. You little privileged fuck. You have no idea the suffering we endure. You have no idea the suffering you cause. I’m tempted to let you live to see that. To tell the truth! To know it! But I’m unable to control my rage. I’m not able to look at you and not think of my own boy who starved to death under your Father’s ‘rationing’ rules. Fuck those. Fuck that. Fuck him. And. Fuck you. An eye for an eye.”

The Towner raised a pistol and leveled it with amazing precision at Owen’s head. Owen whimpered and fell to his knees. The Towner pulled the trigger as the White Sentinel slammed into him, pushing him against the wall.

The man’s gun flew out of his hand and skidded toward Owen. Owen stared at it, frozen. The White Sentinel turned for another hit, but the man reached into his boot and pulled another gun. He aimed it at Owen.

The Sentinel’s angle was wrong and he knew it. He could push the man hard – maybe down the stairs to injure him badly and kill him later, but that wasn’t good enough. Owen was still teary eyed and now barely fumbling for the gun. The White Sentinel knew what to do. He knew it was what he was meant for; what he was bred for. He lunged. He lunged with intention.

The man fired the small pistol. He fired twice and one bullet grazed Owen while the other entered the White Sentinel’s body with deadly precision. The White Sentinel yelped and fell with a thud at Owen’s feet. The Sentinel breathed heavily, his giant eyes staring at Owen, who now held firmly the man’s original pistol.

The man was stunned and lowered his gun for a second. It was enough.

Over the dying Sentinel, Owen squeezed the trigger until it wouldn’t fire anymore. He walked over the Sentinel, yelling and firing. His last shot was delivered at point blank range, standing over the man who lay dying already. It was vengeance. Vengeance against the man who’d killed his Daddy.

But it was more than that. Owen was angry at something else. He ran to the White Sentinel who was noisily still breathing. He collapsed on top of him and hugged him. Warm blood began to sink into his own. The White Sentinel didn’t expect the attention but was glad for it. He hoped the boy wouldn’t leave him.

And he didn’t.

As the White Sentinel died slowly, Owen held him tightly. He held him so tightly that hours later they couldn’t be separated. They were bonded in arms. They were bonded by blood.

It was a moment the boy would never forget. For all the years that he acted as the Minister of Peace, he never forgot the Father that saved him, or the White Sentinel who’d made him.



Besides my aspirations for storytelling, I am many things – a father, a husband, a runner, a lover of single malt scotch, someone who’s been trying for three years to swim a mile in under forty minutes (it’s really not that fast), and someone who wonders every day what if, after four years of performing in the nation’s oldest collegiate improv comedy troupe, I had followed my castmate, Amy Poehler, to Chicago and tried out for Second City?  Instead, I built a Marketing career, first in the toy industry, and then in high-tech which has afforded me the opportunity to travel the world.

Attachments area


Donate a little?

Use PayPal to support our efforts:


Genre Poll

Your Favorite Genre?

Sign Up for info from Short-Story.Me!

Stories Tips And Advice