I Am My Brother's Keeper

I Am My Brother's Keeper
by Steve Doyle

I never learned the origin of his fear. Most people are afraid of death; my brother feared life. Eternal life. He harbored an unshakable conviction that he was doomed to roam the earth for eternity. My brother thought he was a vampire.

The first time he spoke to me about it was at our grandfather's wake. Jimmy pulled me aside and whispered that he didn't think grandpapa was really dead.

“Are you mad?” I asked. “Of course he's dead. What do you think?”

“What if he rises again?” Jimmy asked with all seriousness. I would have thought him joking had it not been for the fear evident in his wide eyes. He actually entertained the notion that grandpapa might sit up at any moment.

“If he rises again,” I remarked, “I'll personally run out to get him a sandwich as I'm sure he'll be quite famished.” Jimmy walked away from me, apparently unappreciative of my dark humor.

Shortly after the funeral his nightmares began. Jimmy would awaken in a frenzy, always mumbling something about walking in the night and craving blood. I knew such foolishness found fields of fertility in the imaginations of young boys, but still, I would sit with him and stroke his blond hair until he fell asleep again.

One day he came to me with a solemn countenance and asked me to make him a vow. He wanted me to see to it that upon his death he be bound hand and foot and that a stake be driven through his heart.

“What the devil are you talking about?” I asked.

“Just swear to me!” he pleaded, blue eyes begging for my fealty.

Partly to humor him but mostly because I never expected him to predecease me, I gave in to his morbid wishes.

A sad day it was when we laid him in his little coffin. Of course, I never told our parents about the promise I'd made and had no intention of keeping. Drive a stake through his heart, indeed!

Jimmy was placed next to grandpapa in the family vault in the basement of our house. Sometimes of an evening I hear him scraping, but I dare not open the crypt to let him out. I dare not!

© 2007 Steve Doyle
Original fiction debuting at Residential Aliens.

Steve Doyle, of Marlborough, MA is an active member of The Herscher Project, an online group of artists and writers from all over the globe, and The Lost Genre Guild, writers dedicated to promoting Christian Speculative Fiction. His work has appeared in Wayfarer's Journal and an anthology, Light at the Edge of Darkness, available from The Writers' Cafe Press. He is currently working on his first novel. Visit his website at www.doylebooks.com.