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  • Writer's pictureWhitney Pearl

Intelligent Design (Excerpt)

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

*All the trigger warnings*

A blur of burnt Auburn hair and rage--that’s what his brother looked like, Zeke mused, as he leaned down to slit this bastard's throat. There it was, the fear, which he loved to drink in from their eyes as he watched them die.

The tip of his knife taunted and twisted, sending rubies of red trickling down the leathery throat of the Executioner. A twig snapped behind him, and he knew his fun was over, sensed the presence there, ready to pounce. His blade dug deep- rending the flesh of the filthy throat in one clean swipe- his revelry in this draining of life cut short.

He spun, wicked knife poised, and raked it up this one's abdomen, grunting as it plunged deeply and allowed organs to spill forth. He didn’t get to watch the life leave this one, it just dropped like a rock, death spilling onto the forest floor along with it’s entrails. He rolled his shoulders, peering around him for confirmation they’d killed every last one.

They hadn’t.

But his brother would take care of that.

He leaned lazily against a fallen tree, wiped his knife on a clump of moss and looked on with amusement as Einar wrestled the last Executioner to the ground. Einar had somehow lost all of his weapons, but Zeke knew it would hold no bearing on the ending of the Executioner.

His brother was larger than him, a towering figure, pure power barely harnessed inside a human body. His skin was deeply tanned-- though at this particular moment, most of it was covered in muddy blood-- and as he pinned his opponent to the ground, it seemed the muscles might leap from under his skin. Years of rough living had taken their toll on Einar, yes, but even Zeke had to admit- he was impressive.

Einar’s jaw clenched as he picked up the rock and slammed it down on the executioner's head. Murder bloomed in his eyes, a blue ocean of fury- death- swimming there. The executioner was dead on the first blow, but he brought the rock down again, blood spraying upon his brow. And again, now spattering his chest. And again. And again. And again. Einar’s rage was the only instinct driving him.

Zeke just looked on, feeling a tug of surprise at this vicious killing. It wasn’t Einar’s usual style. But Zeke waited, until finally, some other life returned to Einar’s eyes, and he looked down with shock at the bloody pulp he’d created against the rocks.

“Get a little carried away, eh, brother?” Zeke teased.

Einar grunted, and leaned back on his heels, surveying the considerable damage they’d dealt. He leapt up, and smirking through the blood and brain matter on his face, replied, “I suppose so, brother.” He strode off, collecting weapons, and leaving eight crumpled bodies in his wake.


They stopped at a small spring which trickled down a cleft in the mountains, and washed their bodies, feeling the need to be presentable, for Greta’s sake, at least. The blood lust appeared to be catching up with Einar. Lethal as he was, he never had managed the aftermath of killing quite so efficiently as Zeke, who just couldn’t quite muster up the guilt that ate away at his brother. Never-mind that those… men-- if they were worthy of being called that-- had deserved every last bit of suffering they’d been given.

Zeke could see it in Einar's eyes; he was dwelling on what had brought this hunt about. Zeke's own eyes felt suddenly glassy, as he was pulled back three days in time.

Fleur, a precious girl, named appropriately for the flowers, had been out picking berries when they’d heard the scream. Ah. There it is… the guilt. Zeke had watched her daintily step into the woods, mousy brown hair gleaming in shafts of sunlight, small body swaying to some music which moved her, just moments before. He’d thought about joining her. But in the end, he hadn’t been there, and by the time they’d tracked her down the next day, she was dead.

They’d found her body stashed at the base of a tall oak tree, fingers twisted at sickening angles, slashes of scythes down her pitifully thin frame, and evidence of other...activities apparent between her cold thighs.

Einar had gone still. The color drained from his face, as he’d stooped, gathered her small, broken body into his own coat, and taken her to a stream. Zeke followed along, numb. Something had frozen over the moment he'd glimpsed the pale, dead skin of her back, stark against the early spring grass. The grass had stuck up in cheery tufts through her stiff, broken fingers... Einar wept as he washed her in the cold water of the stream, hoping to spare her family the horror of the truth of what had befallen her. Then he’d bundled her up, and carried her corpse, swaddled to his chest like a newborn babe, back to camp. Zeke, still quite numbish, had looked onto the proceedings, nausea swirling in his gut, and fury tightening the muscles at the base of his neck. There'd been nothing for him to do, not then, but he'd felt the wrath building with each staggering step toward camp.

They hadn’t stayed for her burial.

Einar had turned silently to her mother with promised vengeance swirling in his eyes. He’d gathered his blades and left- Zeke instantly fell into step at his right shoulder. It’s where he’d been, all of his life-- at Einar’s right shoulder, barely visible in his shadow.


Coming back to himself, Zeke gave his shoulders a shake and glanced over at Einar, who was somewhat frantically scrubbing his face now, as if he could wash away the memory. He watched Einar give himself a similar shake and pinch the bridge of his nose. A few deep breaths later, and his brother returned to the spring on the side of the mountain with him, back from whichever nightmare he’d been visiting: God knew they both had plenty.

Einar placed a hand on Zeke’s shoulder-- he somehow always found a way to bring comfort to others, even at the cost of his own torment-- and said, “It is done. We will tell Fleur’s mother it is finished.”

He gave a curt nod, taking the offered comfort in the strong hand gripping his shoulder, comfort in Einar’s now confident stance, comfort in the truth that justice was served,

“It is finished,” he replied.

They turned toward home, humming Fleur’s forest songs, swaying to the same music which had always moved her, eyes burning with unshed tears. Elk were bugling in the distance: a hollow call that sang to the very heart of men. A jet engine roared from miles away, reverberating through the woods like a hundred booming drums.

The deathsong echoed in the trees.

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