The Morelli Bros. (Chapter I, Part IV)

With solemn expressions, they gazed into the darkness of the alley before them. A trail of blood was the only marker that anyone had recently been here, for only silence was left to greet them.  Over the street behind them, the lamp flickered erratically.  Something was in the air, a smell that neither of them recognized, a rancid promise of death for any brave or foolish enough to continue.

“Wha-” Luigi began to ask.  The rest of the words, much like the breath from his lungs, were stolen from him as the air was suddenly, ferociously, drawn into the dark.  Several seconds passed, seemingly into minutes, and the brothers found themselves being pulled along with it.

The ground rumbled beneath their feet and debris fell from the buildings on either side of them. “Mario,” the young of the two exclaimed.  It was the first word either of them were able to utter since this had begun, but it was a detail that neither would later remember.

Luigi slid past his older brother, trapped in the clutches of the unseen force. Desperately, he turned and reached toward his stockier sibling, seeking with hands that were just out of reach of the other’s.  Mario, who had just managed to grasp onto the corner of the building to his left, could only watch in horror as events unfurled before him.

It was as if in slow motion.  As his brother slid past, he spun himself ninety degrees, until the two were face to face.  His brother reached toward him as the wind sucked his feet out from under him.

“No!  Luigi,” Mario screamed with new-found breath, but by the time the words were out, his brother was gone.  The darkness had swallowed him whole.

“No,” he screamed with raw emotion.

What happened next took only a split second of reality, but for the plumber in red and blue, it felt as if an eternity.  It was a moment that through the eyes of another, determined what kind of man he truly was.

He held onto the corner of the building by the tips of his left hand’s fingers, a grip which had begun slipping, along with his will to continue.  There was no explanation for what was happening around him.  He had no words for what had taken the woman they had come to rescue, nor could he fathom the loss he had just suffered.

The pain of watching his brother being stolen from him was great, but greater still was his own resolve.  He would not succumb to whatever it was that had ahold of him!  With a grunt, he rolled his right shoulder over, turning himself so that he was able to grab ahold of the wall with his free hand.

He knew that he wouldn’t last much longer.  Either the darkness was growing stronger, or his arms, weaker, and it was only a matter of time before it claimed him as well.  He growled in determination, fighting with every last bit of strength he could muster, but it was no match for the power he was up against.

He had managed to pull himself only a couple of inches closer to the street when the brick crumbled, sending him spiraling head over heels into the darkness.

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