“Well, then maybe the line should end, don’t you think, brother?”

Steff came down the steps and stood to the right of the siblings. He held the knife that had recently been embedded in his shoulder. Blood seeped through the gauze. Blane laughed.

“Oh, not this again.”

Before anyone could react, Steff leapt forward and dropped low, his arm snaking out and catching Blane halfway up the left thigh. He yelled and leapt back, a look of shock on his face. Steff didn’t wait, but moved in again, the knife a blur as he went for the other leg. When Blane shifted to avoid the cut, Steff suddenly twisted and pulled the knife upward, catching the underside of Blane’s right arm.

“What the fuck, Steff?”

There was no response except a slow pacing sideways in a circle, watching for his next opening. But Blane had his guard up. Steff felt something shift under his foot, and paused to determine that it was a small stone. With a quick motion, he rolled it back and onto his toe, heaved it up and slammed it toward Blane with his instep. When Blane slipped out of the way of the projectile, Steff darted in again and took a slice from just under the ribs. Blane hissed, his palm going to his midsection and coming away red. He shook his head.

“Don’t do this, Steff, you won’t win. All this time, you’ve been down there getting soft while I’ve been up here honing my skills.”

Steff stayed silent, the knife held almost casually in his right hand while the bandage on his left shoulder turned vibrant red. Blane let his head drop and closed his eyes. When he lifted it, he nodded.

“Very well, brother. Let’s dance.”

The two men circled each other, their focus exclusively on one another. Casey tugged at Cassandra’s arm, whispered in her ear, “C’mon, let’s go while they’re distracted.” Cassandra shook her head.
“We can’t just leave him, he’ll die.”

Steff smiled and lunged with a stabbing motion, which Blane easily dodged, reaching for Steff’s outstretched arm. At the last second, Steff pulled back and kicked out his leg, connecting hard with the side of Blane’s left knee. The older brother’s leg buckled and Steff gave no quarter, racing in and slashing back and forth until Blane’s chest and forearms were covered in cuts.

Cassandra began to hope.

Blane switched it up so the knife was sideways in his hand, reflecting how Steff held his. He feinted as if to slash at his brother and then crossed with his left, punching Steff in his wounded shoulder. Steff yelled and went down on one knee. Blane stepped forward but Steff somersaulted out of the way, tucking his right shoulder against the ground and coming up to a low crouch. His teeth were locked in a grimace of pain. He watched his brother as he tried to catch his breath. Blane wasn’t having an easy time of it either, favouring his leg and bleeding from a number of places on his body.

“You’ve been practicing. I’m impressed. I’m not very happy about the state of my shirt though. It’s not like I can just pop down to the shops and get another.” He lifted the shirt by the hem, eying the half dozen slices taken out of it. “Seriously though, Steff, that’s enough. I don’t want to hurt you anymore. Just go home. I’ll finish up here.” He turned and suddenly realized they were alone.

“Damn it! I’m so not into this right n-” his sentence finished with a grunt as Steff barrelled into him, tackling him into the dirt. Steff sat up and hammered Blane in the ribs, feeling the satisfying sensation of at least one giving way. While his brother gasped for air, he cast his eyes about, looking for his knife. And then his leg was on fire. He’d forgotten Blane had one and it was now sticking out of his thigh. Blane threw a punch Steff could see coming, and he dodged, but not fast enough to protect the side of his head from the glancing blow. His ear started ringing and he saw stars. Falling onto his back, he spied his knife lit by moonlight a short distance away. He tried to push himself along the ground with his good leg but his brother stood up, wavering, his hand pressing gently on his ribs. He sighed and walked over to the knife, kicking it further away before lifting his foot and resting it on Steff’s shoulder. He applied just enough pressure to elicit a whimper, then a bit more, a dark smile on his face.

With a fierce yell, Steff reached for Blane’s knife, still in his leg. He pulled it out and thrust as hard as he could, aiming for the inside of Blane’s thigh. The scream let him know he’d hit his target. His head fell back and he smiled a bit as the pressure left his shoulder.

He hoped he’d bought Cassandra and Casey enough time to get away. He couldn’t see which way they’d gone, or even where his brother was for that matter. It must be late if the moon had already set. The autumn chill of the dark woods started to make itself known, as blood seeped from his various wounds onto the ground beneath him. He had a fleeting thought that he probably shouldn’t pass out if he could help it, but he was just so tired.

Maybe now the nightmares would stop.


Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash