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GendoTheGreat
09-30-2003, 12:47 PM
When I took note of VN's plea for more GF fanfiction I started working this, but I had no idea I'd finish so fast. I give you part one of Beginning from an End.

EDIT: Working title "Skeletal Tales" has been scrapped in favour of what should be the final revision above.

Beginning From an End

Prologue: The End

It was bitterly cold that night. Heavy winds plastered a thick layer of sleet over my sitting room window where I sat in my favourite armchair, lost in the random pathways of my mind. The remnants of what had been a roaring fire smouldered brightly in the fireplace, bathing the room in an eerie orange glow.

The fire popped and cracked loudly, snapping me out of my reverie. The blanket that had started out draped over my shoulders had slipped down behind my back. I started to feel cold, despite the fact that the room had retained most of the heat from the fire. Shivering, I hunched over and pulled the checked blanket more tightly around me. Psychosomatic or not, I was cold. I leaned still further forward in my chair and tried to make myself more comfortable. No mean feat, with bones as old as mine. After much painful shifting, I managed to get myself better set. It wasn’t long before my mind began meandering aimlessly, as was its wont, and I was soon lost once more in my own private world, a haze of musings and thoughts half-formed.

Sitting half-folded over in my chair, I had just started to doze off when something roused me again. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled and stood on end as it became apparent that I wasn’t alone in the room any more. I opened my eyes and my vision swam as I tried to get the room into focus. I blinked a few times. My eyesight wasn’t so good under any circumstance; I was straining heavily to see in the semi-darkness. I would have jumped in shock, had I only the strength to do so, when I realised that there was someone standing directly in front of me.

“Beth, is that you?” I croaked hoarsely. Beth was my live-in carer. An attractive young woman of about twenty-two, she had long blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that never seemed to leave her face. She had been assigned to me through some program or other by a local charity she worked for. She usually came in to get me ready for bed about now. In fact, she was late. But no, it couldn’t be her; Beth was short and slight, this person was tall and broad, and reeking of cheap aftershave to boot. A man, a complete stranger, was in my house, standing over me.

“Who are you?” I quavered, my bones creaking in protest as I lifted my head, straining to put a face to the shapeless mass. The man’s only response was to shift his position slightly, and as he did so I felt something small and hard pressed against my scalp. I squinted, trying to get whatever it was into focus. Despite my being half blind and more than a little senile, there was no mistaking the glint of gunmetal as it reflected the embers of the dying fire. In the blink of an eye, gradually rising panic had shifted into full-blown fear.

“Beth… BETH!” The shouted plea issued from my dry throat as little more than a pathetic squeaking. I was shaking violently now, but I barely noticed it. The cold, my tiredness, everything seemed to disappear. My mind was filled with that gun.

“She can’t hear you.” The man spoke for the first time, making me almost-jump again. He had a deep, slightly nasal voice. “No-one is coming to help you, old man.”

A cold feeling of a different kind crept over me now. “What have you done to her?” I croaked, the gun forgotten for the moment.

His response was casual, almost indifferent. “She was in the way,” he said with a shrug.

Realisation hit me like a kick to the gut. She was in…? Oh no…

For the three years she had been with me, Beth had been the only bright spot in twenty years of misery. She rose every morning at six to perform her daily tasks, afterwards she would sit for hours talking to me, or reading to me, or just sitting in companionable silence, as though there were nothing else in the world she would rather be doing than keeping me company. The fact that I would often drift off to sleep or become disoriented and start muttering nonsense to myself in the middle of a story or conversation never seem to faze her in the least. She would simply cut herself off until I had collected myself, and then continue as if I’d been listening intently all along. She seemed to be able sense, too, when I was slipping too deeply into self-pity or melancholy, and was always ready with a joke or a song to pull me back from the edge. Her happiness was infectious; when I was with her the years seemed to melt away, and I became young again. And the shame and humiliation of having to be lead by the hand through the most basic of day-to-day personal tasks such as bathing and eating were made bearable only by her cheerful acceptance of it all, and her wholehearted dedication to making my life worth living. She was, inward and out, the most beautiful and selfless person I had ever known. And now…

Tears welled up in my eyes. “You bastard.” I sobbed, “Why? She was no threat to you.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” he replied callously, “better to be safe than sorry.”

“You heartless son of a bitch. She was just a child - ”

“Enough of this!” he cut in harshly, “you and I have business to settle, and there can be no interruption until we are done.”

“What do you want with me?” I groaned. The question was merely a formality; I no longer cared about who he was or why he was in my house holding a gun to my head. All I could think about was poor Beth, and the needless and utterly senseless waste of her life.

“I am here this evening at the behest of the honourable Don Pittorino…”

I looked up sharply, the name snapping me out of my funk. “P… Pittorino?” I stammered. “No, it can’t be…” My heart sank like a stone. “It isn’t possible!”

The stranger snickered. “Believe it,” he replied. “You made a grave mistake. Don Pittorino never forgets those who have wronged him. You should have kept your head down, old man.” He lifted the gun and cocked it, before placing the barrel squarely against my forehead. “Now you will pay for your crimes against the Family.”

“Please,” I begged in a hoarse whisper, “I’m an old man. In a few years…”

“What might happen to you in a few years, Krieg, is of no concern to the Family. It’s the principle that counts. You of all people should realise that.”

I made no response to that. What was the point in arguing? I was done for, and I knew it. There would be no bargaining. Any pleas for mercy would fall on deaf ears. Had I been twenty, or even thirty years younger than I was I wouldn’t have had a hope of fighting this man off, and even if I could it wouldn’t have mattered. Frank Pittorino had found me after all these years, and he still wanted me dead. I had better chance attempting to stay the hand of the Almighty himself than of stopping Pittorino. The game was over, and I had lost. I slumped in my chair, hopeless, helpless and utterly defeated.

“So, are we done chatting?” the stranger asked.

I remained silent. It was not a question.

“Good,” he said, “then we can get started.”

The man took one step backwards. The gun, though, never left its relative position. The man cleared his throat. “Johannes Sebastian Krieg, many years ago the Pittorino family took you in and made you one of its own. You spat in our very faces when you chose to repay this great kindness by betraying us. For this, you are sentenced to die.” Pittorino always did have a flair for the dramatic.

“Any last requests?” my would-be assassin asked, half-mockingly.

“Yes,” I answered softly “what is your name?”

“My name?” he considered the question for a moment, “Thomas Ricci. Why?”

“Ricci,” I repeated, almost to myself, “I’ll remember that name.”

Thomas Ricci laughed at that. “It’ll do you no good where you’re going, old man,” he said nastily. “Say goodnight.”

There was a sudden explosion of pain and light behind my eyes, and I knew no more.


-----------------**********---------------


“That’s it,” I declared aloud to no one in particular. “No more, I’m done for the day.” I slammed my pencil down on the papers littering my desk and leaned back in my chair, stretching and yawning and knuckling aching eye sockets. I was right in the middle of a really good groan when something caught my eye. I stopped groaning and frowned instead. The ceiling fan was giving me that accusing look again.

“What?” I said defensively, “what do you want from me? I work hard, don’t you think I deserve the occasional half-day? Bah!” I said when it didn’t answer, “what would you know, you’re just a ceiling fan. And I don’t work for you anyway!” I finished triumphantly, making stabbing motions at it with my finger for emphasis. “What do you have to say to that?”

The fan still stared at me, but this time it was a look of defeat. Trust me, I can tell. Never one to push my luck, I decided to clear out while I was ahead. I stood, pushed my chair in and made for the door, stopping briefly at the top drawer of my desk for my cigarettes and my wallet. The door was made entirely of frosted glass, with the word “Accounting” stencilled across it in thick black letters at about eye level. My mind subconsciously unscrambled the letters from the backward state in which they appeared to me as I opened the door and stepped through. I had put the key in the lock when I remembered that I hadn’t turned the light off. I quickly reopened the door and reached around the wall for the switch. I found it, and flicked it up. I closed the door again and locked it, the word again flashing in my mind’s eye with my second glance at it. ‘Accounting.’ I mulled it over for a moment. Accounting. Jeez, talk about your destinies. I shook my head and turned away from my office, toward the lobby and freedom. The old, bare floorboards exaggerated the thumping sound of my footsteps I headed down the main corridor.

On entering the lobby I found the office secretary intently focussed on something to do with her non-existent fingernails. Whatever it was, it was no doubt deeply important and vital to the continued existence of the company. I gave her a cheery wave as I breezed past the front desk. “Howzit, Janice?”

She glanced up and gave me a non-committal grunt before turning back to her ‘fingernails’. Wow, I must have caught her on a good day. I had one foot out the front door when I turned to address her again, “Janice? In case you didn’t pick up on it, I’m taking the rest of the day off. Can you be sure and tell the boss?” My boss, Ajene, was an easy-going guy, almost to the point of dereliction. As long as we all did our jobs, we could show up one hour in the week for all he cared. I was up with my paperwork – ahead, in fact - but he took a very dim view of employees who were absent without leave. I had to be sure he got my message. “Janice?” She grunted again, making a little waving-away gesture with her hand. I took that as a yes.

Familiar big-city sounds and smells greeted me as I stepped onto the streets of El Marrow. The sun was painfully bright after the monotonous glow of the florescent lighting of in my office. I tried to raise my hand against it, but the glare from the ivory-white bones of my fingers just made things worse, so I gave it away and started up the street. I was heading for the bar & restaurant joint I usually went to for lunch, but a quick glance at my watch told me it was too early, so I stopped on the corner to lean against the building. It was still the same one I had just walked out of, a big old thing that took up an entire city block, built in the art-nouveau style that seemed to be a recurring theme in El Marrow. The eyes I no longer had had adjusted to the light by then, so I leaned against the bevelled corner of the huge sandstone structure and let the sun warm my bones. It felt good. I pulled the pack of smokes from pocket and lit up a coffin nail. I still haven’t decided whether it’s ironic, or moronic to still calling them that. I took a deep drag, exhaling gratefully. I watched the pungent white smoke as it drifted lazily around my head before rising up and dispersing, lost against the dazzling azure sky. Fluffy white clouds slowly chased each other across that same expanse of blue, as though the entire city had done as I did, and taken itself out for a collective smoke. I made another contribution of my own.

Why was the sky blue, anyway? There was a time and a place where I knew the answer and could have simply rattled it off the tip of my tongue. But here, in this place, I had long since given up trying to figure out that kind of thing. I took another deep drag on my cigarette and savoured the feeling of the sun seeping into my aching marrow. I sighed contentedly.

It was a great day to be dead.


My name is Johannes Sebastian Krieg. This is the Land of the Dead. This is my story.

-----------------------------------------
That's it for now. I have no means of spellchecking and my only proofreader is me, so feel free to point out all of my mistakes. When I get it cleaned up a little more I'll post it on FFNet.

VampireNaomi
09-30-2003, 01:51 PM
Wow... Your style is simply amazing! I've read many fanfics and only few writers actually manage to make me think that they are good! And you've clearly done it, you know.

I already like your character Johannes and the part about the shooting was my favourite. After all, the Pittorino family and stuff warms the heart of a Godfather maniac like me. Sigh, long live the Corleone family...

And as for the grammar, I found no mistakes. That doesn't mean there isn't any, English isn't my language so I rarely notice small errors. I'm a bit disappointed for not having Manny and others in this, but I am most certainly going to read every part and review them all.

By the way, is Beth going to show up again or was she just a minor character?

Once you post this on FFNet I will review again AND add this to the list of my favourite stories.

GendoTheGreat
10-03-2003, 07:42 PM
I've done as much revising as I care to, and this is the final result. I'm posting it on FFN as I type this.

Naomi: Thank you for the kind words, I hope the final product lives up to them.
is Beth going to show up again or was she just a minor character?
Let me put it this way; Beth is my best friend's name, and I borrowed some of her qualities and put them in my character. Draw your own conclusions. ;)

Beginning from an End

Prologue: The End

It was bitterly cold that night. Heavy winds plastered a thick layer of sleet over my sitting room window where I sat in my favourite armchair, lost in the random twists and turns of my mind.

The remnants of what had been a roaring fire smouldered brightly in the fireplace, bathing the room in an eerie orange glow. The fire popped and cracked loudly, snapping me out of my reverie. The blanket that had started out draped over my shoulders had slipped down behind my back. I started to feel cold, despite the fact that the room had retained most of the heat from the fire. Shivering, I hunched over and pulled the checked blanket more tightly around me. Psychosomatic or not, I was cold. I leaned still further forward in my chair and tried to make myself more comfortable. No mean feat, with bones as old as mine. After much painful shifting, I managed to get myself better set. It wasn’t long before my mind began meandering aimlessly, as was its wont, and I was soon lost once more in my own private world, a haze of musings and thoughts half-formed.

I had just started to doze off when something roused me again. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled and stood on end. Something was amiss. Gradually, it dawned on me; I wasn’t alone in the room any more. A build-up of salty discharge stung my eyes as they snapped open almost of their own accord, causing them to tear up. My vision blurred and swam fiercely through the tears, defying my efforts to get the room into focus. A few hard blinks cleared my eyes, but to little avail. My eyesight wasn’t so good under any circumstance; I was straining heavily to see in the semi-darkness. I would have jumped in shock, had I only the strength to do so, when I finally realised that there was someone standing directly in front of me.

"Beth, is that you?" I croaked hoarsely. Beth was my live-in carer, an attractive young woman of about twenty-two with long blonde hair, blue eyes, and a smile that never seemed to leave her face. She had been assigned to me through some program or other by a local charity she worked for. She usually came in to get me ready for bed about now. In fact, she was late. But no, it couldn’t be her; Beth was short and slight, this person was tall and broad, and reeking of cheap aftershave to boot. A man, a complete stranger, was in my house, standing over me.

"Who are you?" I quavered, my bones creaking in protest as I lifted my head, straining to put a face to the shapeless mass. The man’s only response was to shift his position slightly, and as he did so I felt something small and hard pressed against my scalp. I squinted, trying to get whatever it was into focus. Despite my being half blind and more than a little senile, there was no mistaking the glint of gunmetal as it reflected the embers of the dying fire. In the blink of an eye, gradually rising panic shifted into full-blown fear.

"Beth… BETH!" The shouted plea issued from my dry throat as little more than a pathetic squeaking. I was shaking violently now, but I barely noticed it. The cold, my tiredness, everything seemed to disappear. My mind was filled with that gun.

"She can’t hear you." The man spoke for the first time, making me almost-jump again. He had a deep, slightly nasal voice. "No-one is coming to help you, old man."

A cold feeling of a different kind crept over me now. "What have you done to her?" I croaked, the gun forgotten for the moment.

His response was casual, almost indifferent. "She was in the way," he said with a shrug.

Realisation hit me like a slug in the gut. She was in…? Oh no…

For the three years she had been with me, Beth had been the only bright spot in twenty years of misery. She rose every morning at six to do whatever needed doing around the house and attend to my morning ablutions. Afterwards she would sit for hours talking to me, or reading to me, or just sitting in companionable silence, as though there were nothing else in the world she would rather be doing than keeping me company. The fact that I would often drift off to sleep or become disoriented in the middle of a story or conversation never seem to faze her in the least. She would simply cut herself off until I had collected myself, and then continue as if I’d been listening intently all along. She seemed to be able sense, too, when I was slipping too deeply into self-pity or melancholy, and was always ready with a joke or a song to pull me back from the edge. Her happiness was infectious; when I was with her the years seemed to melt away, and I became young again. And the indignity and humiliation of having to be lead by the hand through the most basic of day-to-day personal tasks such as bathing and eating were made bearable only by her cheerful acceptance of it all, and her wholehearted dedication to making my life worth living. She was, inward and out, the most beautiful and selfless person I had ever known. And now…

Tears again welled up in my eyes, blinding me. "You bastard." I sobbed, "Why? She was no threat to you."

"Maybe, maybe not," he replied callously, "better to be safe than sorry."

"You heartless son of a bitch. She was just a child - "

"Enough of this!" He cut in harshly, "you and I have business to settle, and there can be no interruption before we’re done."

"What do you want with me?" I groaned. The question was merely a formality; I no longer cared about who he was or why he was in my house holding a gun to my head. All I could think about was poor Beth, and the utterly senseless waste of her life.

"I am here this evening at the behest of the honourable Don Pittorino…"

I looked up sharply, the name snapping me out of my funk. "P… Pittorino?" I stammered. "No, it can’t be…" My heart sank. "It isn’t possible!"

The stranger snickered. "Believe it," he replied. "You made a grave mistake, old man. Did you really think we would forget? Don Pittorino never forgets those who have wronged him. You should have kept your head down, but you stuck it up like the old fool that you are." He lifted the gun and cocked it, before placing the barrel flush against my forehead. "Now you will pay for your crimes against the Family."

"Please," I begged in a hoarse whisper, "I’m an old man. In a few years…"

"What might happen to you in a few years, Krieg, is of no concern to the Family. It’s the principle that counts. A smart guy like you should realise that."

I made no response to that. What was the point in arguing? I was done for, and I knew it. There would be no bargaining. Any pleas for mercy would fall on deaf ears. Had I been twenty, or even thirty years younger than I was I wouldn’t have had a hope of fighting this man off, and even if I could it wouldn’t have mattered. Frank Pittorino had found me after all these years, and still wanted me dead. I had about as great a chance of staying the hand of the Almighty himself as I did of stopping Pittorino. The game was over, and I had lost. I slumped in my chair, utterly defeated.

"So, are we done chatting?" the stranger asked.

I remained silent. It was not a question.

"Good," he said, "then we can get started."

The man took one step backwards. The gun, though, never left its relative position. He cleared his throat. "Johannes Sebastian Krieg, many years ago the Pittorino family took you in and made you one of its own. You spat in our very faces when you chose to repay this great kindness by betraying us. For this, you are sentenced to die..." Pittorino always did have a flair for the dramatic.

"Any last requests?" My would-be assassin asked, half-mockingly.

"Yes," I answered softly, "what is your name?"

"My name?" He considered the question for a moment, "Thomas Ricci. Why?"

"Ricci," I repeated, almost to myself, "I’ll remember that name."

Thomas Ricci laughed at that. "It’ll do you no good where you’re going, old man," he said nastily. "Say goodnight."

There was a sudden explosion of pain and light behind my eyes, and I knew no more.





----------*****----------





"That’s it," I declared aloud to no one in particular. "No more, I’m done for the day." I slammed my pen down on the papers littering my desk and leaned back in my chair, stretching and yawning and knuckling aching eye sockets. I was right in the middle of a really good groan when something caught my eye. I stopped groaning and frowned instead. The ceiling fan was giving me that accusing look again.

"What?" I said defensively, "What do you want from me? I work hard, don’t I deserve the occasional half-day? Bah!" I said when it didn’t answer, "What would you know, you’re just a ceiling fan. And I don’t work for you anyway!" I finished triumphantly, making stabbing motions at it with my finger for emphasis. "What do you have to say to that?"

The fan still stared at me, but this time it was a look of defeat. Trust me, I can tell. Never one to push my luck, I decided to clear out while I was ahead. I stood, pushed my chair in and made for the door, stopping briefly at the top drawer of my desk for my cigarettes and my wallet and the back of the chair for my coat. The door was made entirely of frosted glass, with the word "Accounting" stencilled across it in thick black letters at about eye level. My mind subconsciously unscrambled the letters from the backward state in which they appeared to me as I opened the door and stepped through. I had put the key in the lock when I remembered that I hadn’t turned the light off. I quickly reopened the door and reached around the wall for the switch. I found it, and flicked it up. I closed the door again and locked it, the word again flashing in my mind’s eye with my second glance at it. ‘Accounting.’ I mulled over it while I shrugged my coat on. Accounting. Jeez, talk about your destinies. Shaking my head, I turned away from my office toward the lobby and freedom. Old, bare floorboards exaggerated the thud of my footsteps as I strode down the main corridor.

On entering the lobby I found the office secretary intently focussed on something to do with her non-existent fingernails. Whatever it was, it was no doubt deeply important and vital to the continued existence of the company. I gave her a cheery wave as I breezed past the front desk. "Howzit, Janice?"

She glanced up and gave me a non-committal grunt before turning back to her ‘fingernails’. Wow, I must have caught her on a good day. I had one foot out the front door when I turned to address her again. "Janice? In case you didn’t pick up on it, I’m taking the rest of the day off. Can you be sure and tell the boss?" My boss, Ajene, was an easy-going kind of guy, almost to the point of dereliction. As long as we all did our jobs properly, we could show up one hour in the week for all he cared. I was up with my paperwork – ahead, in fact - but he took a very dim view of employees who were absent without leave. I had to be sure he got my message.

"Janice?"

She grunted again, making a little waving-away gesture with her hand. I took that as a yes.

Familiar big-city sounds and smells greeted me as I stepped onto the streets of El Marrow. The sun was painfully bright after the monotonous glow of the florescent lighting of in my office. I raised my hand against it but the glare from the ivory-white bones of my fingers just made things worse, so I gave it away and started up the street.

I was heading for the bar & restaurant joint I usually went to for lunch, but a quick glance at my watch told me it was too early, so I stopped at the corner of the block and rested against the building, fumbling in my coat pocket for my cigarettes. The building was still the same one I had just walked out of; it was a big old thing that took up an entire city block, built in the art nouveau style that seemed to be a recurring theme in El Marrow. The eyes I no longer had had adjusted to the light by then, so I leaned against the bevelled corner of the huge sandstone structure and let the sun warm my bones. It felt good. I finally got the pack of smokes and a lighter from my pocket and lit up a coffin nail. I still haven’t decided whether it’s ironic or just moronic to still call them that.

I took a deep drag and exhaled gratefully, watching the pungent white smoke as it drifted lazily around my head before rising up and dispersing, lost against the dazzling azure sky. Fluffy white clouds slowly chased each other across that same expanse of blue, as though the entire city had done as I did, and taken itself out for a collective smoke. I chuckled at the thought as I stared up at the sky and made another contribution of my own.

Sky. Where did it come from? What is it made of? What’s above it? And just why is it blue, anyway? There was a time and a place where I knew all the answers and could have rattled them off the top of my head. But here, in this place, I had given up asking these kinds of questions; the answers simply did not exist. I took another deep drag on my cigarette and savoured the feeling of the sun seeping into my aching marrow. I sighed contentedly. Why ask questions, anyway? It was a great day to be dead.



My name is Johannes Sebastian Krieg. This is the Land of the Dead. This is my story.