by David D. Levine
$0.99 (Short Story) ISBN 978-1-61138-226-6
Tony Collina’s brother has just died in a steel factory accident. His friends urge him to take a stand against the factory owners, but it’s 1937 and Tony has a family to support. What he’s forgetting is that brotherhood changes everything, whether it’s the fraternal ties of the union or the undying bonds of blood.
“Brotherhood,” a short story that first appeared in the anthology Haunted Holidays, is also available as part of Space Magic, the award-winning collection of science fiction and fantasy stories by David D. Levine.
Tony sat up in bed. “Who’s there?”
At first there was no sign of what had woken him. Sofia snored gently beside him, and little Bella breathed peacefully in her crib beside the bed. Similar sounds came through the door, where Anna and her two children slept in the living room. Six people made a tight crowd in the four-room company house, but Tony could not shirk his family obligations.
Just as Tony was about to settle back down and close his eyes, he saw something move. It might have been the curtains stirring in the fitful breeze, but no — it was at the foot of the bed. Something rippled in the stripes of yellow light cast by the street light through the Venetian blinds.
Tony’s eyes snapped open and his heart pounded. “Anna? Is that you?”
“Don’t you know me, you moron?” The voice was familiar, but it sounded like a long-distance telephone call from the bottom of a freezer, and the hair rose on the back of Tony’s neck.
Tony squinted into the darkness. Was that a human figure perched on the footboard? Or was it just a shadow? Tony could see right through it to the Blessed Virgin on the wall behind it.
“You’re not Gus,” he hissed. He gripped the sheet so tightly he felt it start to tear.
The figure leaned forward, the stripes of light shifting across its face, and Tony thought he saw Gus’s big ears and prominent Adam’s apple. Just like his. “Who else would know about the deal you and I made with Walter Ailes?”
Goosebumps pricked Tony’s forearms. “I never should have let you talk me into it in the first place.”
The shadow seemed to shake its head. “I’m sorry about that, now.”
Tony closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose hard. “This is a dream, right?”
“Maybe. But even if it is, there’s one thing I want you to remember when you wake up.”
Tony let go of his nose, stared at the shadowy figure.
“You’re going to have to decide who your real friends are, little brother. Ailes gives you money, but…”
“I have Anna and your kids to support! There’s no way I can back out now.”
“Don’t make the same mistake I did.” And then, without transition, Gus was gone.
Tony gazed on the face of the Blessed Virgin. Her cheap printed smile was not very comforting. It was just a dream, he told himself. But then he put out a hand to the footboard where his brother’s ghost had sat. The wood was cold under his fingertips, though the July night was sweltering.
Tony put the pillow over his head, just like when he was a kid, and shivered until he fell asleep.