Chapter [???]: Byron remembers
⦿ Early Awakening Era: Garrison, 2018
He was there in the yard, the autumn wind sweeping maple leaves across the dirt ring. Presently, his belly and bleeding face were pressed into the center of this dirt ring by a military boot. The boot came off, and he heard a voice from above.
“Get up, lad. And pick up your stick.”
His uncle did not refer to any of the many sticks scattered through the yard, an ever-increasing phenomenon now that the groundskeeper had to be let go. Byron was ordered to rake the dirt ring free of sticks each day. There were only two other sticks in the dirt ring. One of these sticks was in the veiny hand of Seamus Dueley. And the other was in the dirt, a foot from Byron’s broken nose.
From this angle he could almost see the words etched into its wooden polish: “Who dares to say forget the past, to men of Irish birth?
Who dares to say cease fighting, for our place upon this earth?”
Seamus kicked the stick toward his nephew, such that Byron could now clearly make out the words along its other side:
“Let remembrance be our watchword, and our dead we’ll never fail.
Let their graves be to us as milestones, on that blood-soaked one-way trail.”
Byron used his stick to press off the ground and wiped blood from his eyes. Blearily he looked out at his uncle, who looked back at him bare-chested, as if he were eying an earwig that had crawled into one of the meatpies he gorged on.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, boy, I give you a couple swigs of your dadai’s Jameson and you’re fightin’ like you’re banjaxed. No wonder he named ye after a fecking British dandy.” Seamus started circling to Byron’s left, cuing Byron to circle the other way.
“Though truth is it was my brother who made ye soft, dinn’t he? ‘Don’t want me boy raised like we was,’ he tol’ me. How the feck he end up with this fancy house of his, eh? How you think he’d gotten all that Hell’s Kitchen money, eh? I tell you, it was because ye da was a nasty one ‘fore he got bewitched by yer ma’s poetry.”
Byron struggled to keep his wits. He knew his uncle was trying to make him slip.
“Bloody banshee, that one. Wailin’ all day fer me t’go easy on ye. I tell ‘er that if it’d been yer da raisin’ ye, ye’d’ve ended up a complete faggot. If I hadn’t come over to clip that ginzo killer of his, bet ye’d be thinkin’ ye’d learn how this world works from all them books he got stocked up in there, wouldn’tja?”
“Aarghah!” Byron yelled, swinging his stick at Seamus’s temple.
Seamus blocked it casually and kicked him backwards. “Takin’ the initiative. Very good, son. Give it another.”
“I’m not your son!” Byron feinted high then swung low.
Seamus stepped out of the way and used Byron’s momentum to throw him into the dirt.
You’re getting your ass handed to you today, said the voice inside.
Quiet, Slif, I need to concentrate.
Give us control. We’ll show him like we showed that moron Eric during recess.
“Well get up.” Seamus peered down imperiously. “A true foe ennt gonna wait fer ya.”
Byron got up and dusted himself off. Once again the two circled each other. Their breath made fog in the autumn air.
“Comon!” Seamus hollered, spittle flying from his mouth. He beat his bare chest with his free hand. Seamus made as if to attack then stopped. “Don’t flinch, Byron! Let’s go!”
This time Seamus came at him with a flurry of blows, each time striking away Byron’s defense. “Keep your guard up! Find an opening! Don’t back down!”
Finally Seamus pushed him to the ground and held his stick across Byron’s neck. “You need ta learn the hard way, lad! This world’s a hard place. Ya need t’learn how ta strike before it has ye on the ground, belly up!”
You need our help.
No. If you hurt him, he’ll take it out on her.
You had your chance. It’s our turn now.
Byron felt himself losing consciousness as Seamus pressed into his windpipe. From somewhere within, he felt a wicked smile crest upwards. Then everything went black.
When Byron awoke, there was blood on the dirt. This time it wasn’t his.
Seamus lay next to him, breathing yet unmoving.