Adrian and Ray Porter have spent their lives battling demons at the edge of hell, just like their father before them. But when the edge rips wider than ever before, can they keep the planet from becoming hell itself?
Adrian and his hot-shot brother, Ray, work for the Brigade, at Station 001 in the city of Fortune on the outskirts of the Gore Point. Adrian is a Stitcher and Ray is a Legion. Together they fight the demons, commonly known as “fiends”, that come from some other dimension, or hell, depending on what you believe. The fiends enter Fortune through Hell Pits in the earth spawning from the Gore Point and it’s the brothers’ job to keep these rifts closed. Adrian wants to leave the Brigade, and Fortune, but can’t because there’s a saboteur helping the fiends wreak havoc in the city.
Ray’s girlfriend, Laurel, wants to leave Fortune as well, but no matter how often Adrian promises that they’ll leave, he’s always pulled back to his Brigade. One violent outbreak follows another, and Adrian has no choice but to help his Brigade keep the city of Fortune safe. Adrian slowly begins to suspect his brother is responsible for the sabotage, along with many of his fellow brigadiers. Over time this suspicion grows stronger and stronger. As the outbreaks continue to grow in frequency and violence, so does tension between the brothers. Will family ties prevail? Or will betrayal tear the brothers… and the world… apart at the seams?
May 16, 2023
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The trees grew strange as they approached the Gore Point, and Adrian Porter finally decided to tell Ray what was on his mind.
“Father James says Dad is going to Hell,” he said to his brother.
But Ray wasn’t moved. He was four years older and officially a teenager now. So of course he knew everything. “Father James likes to diddle kids.”
Adrian didn’t answer.
Ray’s words didn’t really mean anything. That was just the sort of thing he’d been saying lately, now that he no longer believed in the church.
In Adrian’s experience, Father James was anything but a pedophile. He wasn’t even creepy, and Adrian sometimes found the other priests creepy. And really, that right there was the problem. If Father James was creepy, then Adrian would be able to dismiss him same as Ray.
But Father James struck Adrian as reasonable and rational. Father James didn’t condemn kids to Hell for smoking or drinking or having sex or listening to heavy metal music. When new rifts opened and outbreaks spilled into the world, Father James hid like everyone else instead of throwing Holy Water and hoping that God might save him. He was actually a lot like Dad, except he wore a collar instead of swinging a Rollard.
So when Father James said Eldon Porter was going to Hell, Adrian had taken the idea seriously — even if he wasn’t sure whether or not to accept it literally. Father James hadn’t said “going to Hell” like a priest. He’d said it like a scientist reaching a foregone conclusion. It’d come out like a fact about their father, like how he lived on Chance Street and was six feet tall.
“I’m serious, Ray.”
“I know you’re serious. That’s what’s so sad about it.”
At first Ray said nothing else. They walked on, dead leaves and twigs snapping underfoot. It was almost noon and the air was dark gray, like gaseous ash. Ray’s flashlight helped less than it should. About thirty feet out its beam was swallowed by the gloom, as if it’d been eaten.
Ray climbed over the strange, low-hanging arm of a Teardrop tree, then leapt over what seemed to be a long-dead body. It’d been picked down to the skeleton — a grizzly discovery that Adrian took pains to walk around. The bones were surely a suicide.
Even this far from the Flats, Freaks still came here to die.
Ray didn’t even slow. Even though he wasn’t yet out of middle school, the darker side of life behind the Rampart didn’t bother him. He thought like Dad: Life began; life ended; life was random, so why bother worrying?
Adrian favored his mother: There was more to the world than eyes alone could see, and everything had meaning. The best time to worry was when you didn’t know what that meaning was.
Ray stopped short of another Teardrop tree, then turned to face Adrian. Reluctantly, he donned his you-suck-but-you’re-still-my-little-brother expression: the one that diluted his regular know-it-all with a parody of compassion.
“Listen. Hell’s just a word. Dad’s an exterminator, nothing more and nothing less. He’s not going to Hell. He’s never been to Hell, because Hell doesn’t exist.”
But Father James’s declaration wasn’t the only thing Adrian had been keeping to himself. He might as well get the rest off of his chest.
“Matt says Dad crossed a rift.”
“Legions don’t cross rifts. That’d be stupid. You can’t breathe over there without a rig. Besides, it’d be like walking into a wasp’s nest to get rid of the wasps. You kill wasps from the outside, dipshit.”
“Well, Matt says he crossed one.”
“Matt’s a choad.”
Adrian looked down and shrugged, wishing he hadn’t. The ground this far in was teeming with scuttling beetles. Harmless, but unsettling. Half of the crunching under his feet had been leaves, bugs were the other half.
“How the hell would Matt know what’s going on out here?” Ray continued. “He just sits at home all day playing D&D and pulling his dick.”
“His dad’s in the Brigade, too.”
“Yeah. And Dad says he’s a tool. Don’t listen to Matt. I’m your brother. You should listen to me.”
Adrian was considering this twisted bit of sibling logic when a massive cracking sound bent the air around them. It was like the sundering of the forest’s biggest tree.
Adrian flinched. Ray lit up. All this unknown was a splinter under Adrian’s skin, but his brother thrived on it.
Adrian often envied him. Ray’s impulsiveness was always getting him in trouble, but Adrian didn’t know anyone who lived more in the present, disregarding both past and future, lessons and danger. It made him a jerk sometimes, but also fearless.
“Hurry,” Ray said. “That sounded like a big one.”
Ray ran toward the sound without waiting for an answer.
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