Wednesday, April 25, 2012


4 - Let the Red Flow Freely

            The problem Hillfieldologists face when studying the chapter of the town's history involving the Loyalist-killer Joshua Murray is a paucity of primary sources. Very little exists pertaining to Murray's life whatsoever. He was born in Derry, Ireland in the mid-eighteenth century and immigrated to the American colonies with his mother when he was still a young boy. They settled in Monmouth County, New Jersey where Murray grew to become a stonemason, married, and had four children. Murray was a staunch Patriot and when the Revolution erupted, he immediately enrolled in the First Regiment Monmouth Militia. There is no evidence that Joshua Murray ever rose to a rank higher than Private, but by 1778 he had earned himself an indelible reputation that persists to the present day.
As a member of the Militia, his official enemy was the Royal Army and its allies. But Murray made a name for himself by killing Americans still loyal to the English crown, and he did so with an idiosyncratic savagery that quickly made him a hero among Patriots and a virtual bogeyman to Loyalists. Allegedly the Monmouth Militia, recognizing the psychological value of Murray's wave of terror, encouraged and even covertly funded his bloodletting activities. We have no idea when he started targeting Loyalists or what the ultimate motive behind his violent distaste for them was. For many years the popular theory was that Murray, being a native Irishman, had been brought up with a particularly venomous loathing for all things British. In recent years however, this theory, being based solely on an ethnic stereotype, has lost traction. It also fails to explain Murray's single-minded hatred for Loyalists. There is no record of him attacking the Royal Army with any more vigor than every other man in his outfit. To date, however, no historian or Hillfieldologist has posited a viable alternative (Mark Krasker's "Defense-in-Girth" theory is not viable).
Complicating matters further is the lack of consensus amongst historians as to how much of Murray's terror is apocryphal and how much is to be believed. Hillfieldologists are lucky that the only surviving primary source attesting to his butchery is Filman Hazelworth's diary. It gives a detailed account of Joshua Murray's brief stay in Hillfield and the horror he brought with him. Hazelworth writes, "Less than one hour passed between Murray's ingress into the environs of the town and the occasion on which he claimed his first victim… He was retribution made manifest, invoked from Providence by Edwards himself." Debate still rages amongst Hillfieldologists as whether or not Hazelworth's word should be accepted at face value -- a debate that has triggered mutual recriminations across the internet and at least one visit to their clubhouse from Hillfield's finest.
Joshua Murray entered Hillfield on August 28, 1779, riding a massive ink-black donkey. His head was entirely hairless save for the wide bushy mustache that hung down past his mouth. Every stitch of clothing he wore was a deep burgundy, and the cross that hung from his neck was carved, likely by his own hand, from stark black-and-white stone. The Town Fathers immediately ran out to greet him with the rest of the populace looking on. The town's leaders invited him to speak with them regarding Colonel Tye in private, and Murray silently followed them into the meetinghouse. Approximately forty minutes passed before the pillars of the community emerged into the street. There is no record of what transpired or what words were exchanged in the meetinghouse, but we are able to make reasonably educated guesses in the hindsight of the following events.
Emerging from their parley with Murray the Town Fathers assembled the entirety of Hillfield's citizenry along Main Street. A few minutes later the Loyalist-killer emerged from the meetinghouse. Standing in the center of Main Street he announced in a guttural brogue that he was willing to protect the town from, as Hazelworth reports, "the darkies swinging from King George's teat." Before he would assent to do so, however, he insisted that Hillfield had to be cleansed of its Loyalist taint. He wheeled around and pointed to a one Mr. Lemuel Truburgh, owner of Hillfield's first bank (and ancestor to Elihu Truburgh, who would transform Madsen, New Jersey from a redheaded stepchild of a city in Philadelphia's shadow to one of the major metropolitan centers of the Twentieth Century). Murray had Truburgh brought forth and accused him of not only harboring Loyalist sympathies but of directly colluding with the British. Shocked by the accusation, the people looked to their civic leaders for their opinion. The leaders watched silently, so the people followed their lead and bore witness to the bloody spectacle that unfolded.
Filman Hazelworth writes,

The dreaded archangel tied M. Truburgh's hands to a nearby hitching post. He drew from inside his great coat a nightmarish blade the full length of a man's forearm. He quoted from Scripture -- Exodus I believe, "If they cry out to me, I will hear their cry. My anger will be aroused and I will kill you with the sword." I'm sickened to even commit what followed to paper. M. Murray cut into M. Truburgh's leg and the poor banker screamed like a dying pig. M. Murray cleaved away the meat from his bone, which he finally tore out with his bare hands. He held aloft the bone from M. Truburgh's body and again quoted from The Book, "The cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it before Saul. Samuel said, 'Here is what has been kept for you. Eat.' " Poor M. Truburgh was killed with his own bone through his mouth and the back of his skull.

            Whether this horrific scene happened precisely as described by Hazelworth, if at all, Joshua Murray managed to convince Hillfield that he was the man to protect them from the wrath of Colonel Tye.

Red, White, and Black & Blue

Saturday, April 14, 2012


           The Great Hall was built from marble quarried by the first men. It stood un-ravaged by time and the elements, perched atop a rocky outcropping, nestled within the brilliant azure of the unsullied sky. Thick as an ocean of sackcloth the sea of clouds gently rolled past, insulating Olympus from the ignorant mortals below spoiling for divine retribution.
            Inside the Hall torches hung from columns and shone like shrunken suns. The gilt in the floor caught the torchlight and ran through the stone like veins of molten fire. The dining table straddled the length of the Hall like the Colossus of Rhodes. Carved from a grove of fir long since destroyed by Man, it stood draped in a cloth of purple. The table hosted bowls of grapes, pomegranates, figs, plums, dates, and olives; cisterns of soups and stews; loaves of bread; plates of beef and bird with greens and several bottles of wine.
            Around the table were six chairs. One sat vacant. The others held five immortal beings, older than recorded time, without a smile on a single face.
“Dad, what are we doing here?” Hebe asked.
            Zeus was seated at the head of the table. “Ask your mother,” he answered, wiping the corner of his eye with a finger.
            Hera, seated at the foot of the table, didn’t wait for her daughter to address her. “We’re here, child, because it’s been ages since we’ve supped together as a family,” she said. “So, tonight, we’re going to have a pleasant dinner together.”
            Hebe weighed her mother’s words between narrowed eyes. “So where is everyone?” she asked.
            “Who’s everyone?”
            “Poseidon, Demeter, Hades…”
            “No, no,” Hera said, waving her finger dismissively. “Just us. No aunts and uncles. Just your father and I and our children.”
            Vulcan mumbled from behind his sooty un-kept beard, “Not all the children.”
            “Yeah. Where’s Ares?” Aphrodite chimed.
            Zeus head popped upright. “Oh, he’ll explain that if he bothers to show up.”
            Hebe looked back to Hera. “What’s going on, Mom?”
            “What do you mean?”
            “All of the sudden you’ve got the urge to bring the family together? Where’s this coming from?”
Hera blanched. “I have always cared about maintaining a tightly knit family. I spent all day preparing this meal and I intend for us to enjoy it.”
            “Really?” Hebe replied dubiously.
            “Yes, really. Now go get the lamb. It should be done by now.”
            “Why me?”
            Zeus rolled his eyes about. Vulcan bowed his head, casting his eyes away from his sister’s ill-advised defiance. Aphrodite looked on, her eyebrows arched in delight. “Because,” Hera answered, “you are goddess of servitude and you’re going to fulfill your familial obligations tonight. Go.”
            “What about the nymphs or priestesses or…”
            Hera hardened. “I’ve sent them away for the evening. Now fetch.”
            Hebe rose and skulked toward the kitchens. Vulcan watched his sister leave, then turned to his mother. “Who cooked?” he asked.
            Hera turned impatiently toward her son. “I just told you. I did.”
            “Well, what was Hestia doing here earlier?”
            “Hestia was kind enough to lend me a hand in the beginning.”
            Vulcan furrowed his brow. “Wait,” he said. “I saw her spooning the fasoladainto the cistern.” Aphrodite shook her head as she twirled a knife between her fingers.
            “She helped and, regardless, I’m the one responsible for the crops that went into the meal,” Hera snapped back.
            “But Persephone handles the harvest.”
            Hera slapped Vulcan across the face. “Fucking toad!” she spit. The sound of the impact reverberated through the hall and down out of Olympus. The one side of Vulcan’s beard held the shape of his mother’s open palm.
            Aphrodite leaned over to her husband and quietly said, “You really shouldn’t speak anymore.”
            “Listen to your wife, beast,” Zeus added.
            Hebe entered the Hall carrying a roasted lamb on a platter of silver. The air grew succulent as Hebe approached the table and the platter gleamed bright enough to be seen by the Three Sisters. Hebe hoisted the platter over the table and let it drop with a metallic thud. She took her seat and said to Hera, “Don’t punish Vulcan because you can’t cook.”
            “I don’t care who cooked,” Zeus moaned. “Can we eat?”
            “When Ares arrives,” Hera answered.
            “Should I go find him?” Aphrodite offered.
            Hera cast a frigid gaze at Aphrodite. “Better you not. I’d hate for you get lost and delay the meal longer.”
            “I would never be so disrespectful.”
            “Not to you at any rate, Mom,” Hebe added.
            Zeus soothed Aphrodite, “You stay here, dear. Ares will be along.” Zeus looked back at Hera. “It’s just a question of before or after the meal goes cold.”
            “We are eating as a full family,” Hera reiterated.
            “I’m eating,” Zeus announced and reached for a slice of pita.
            “Don’t touch that food,” Hera commanded.
            Zeus froze and slowly looked up at Hera. Every fiber of Olympian authority radiated from his cold steel eyes. “What?” he snarled through clenched jaws.
            Hera raised her open hands in supplication. “I apologize. My tone was out of line. But I would humbly implore you to abstain temporarily. Not for your son’s sake, but for your wife’s.”
            Zeus and Hera eyed one another from across the table.
            “I intend on drinking,” the king of the gods said.
            Hera nodded compliantly.
            Zeus grabbed on olive and popped it into his mouth.
            Hera bowed her head with the slightest twinge at the corner of her mouth.
            Her husband grabbed the bottle of wine before him and leaned back in his seat as he filled his goblet. He returned the bottle to its place with one hand and drank deeply with the other.
            “Dad,” Hebe started, “you’re not planning on getting drunk before Ares gets here, are you?”
            Zeus refilled his goblet as he addressed his daughter. “My libations are none of your business, my little old maid. That’s first. Second: for Ares’s sake, I hope not.”
            “Please don’t be too hard on him,” Aphrodite hummed with the scent of mandrake on her words. “Yes, he can be a little wayward, but he means well enough.”
            “He’s the god of war!” ejaculated Vulcan spitefully.
            “So how does the personification of destruction mean well enough?”
            Aphrodite grinned at Vulcan like a master smiling at his dog. “Simple husband,” she started slowly, “war stems from Man’s passions, which, I think you have to admit, I am the authority on.”
            “War is a consequence of hate,” Hebe said. “Not love.”
            “What’s hate but the mirrored reflection of love, dutiful sister?”
            “Don’t call me, ‘sister.’ ”
            “I’m sorry. Are we not both the daughters of Zeus Almighty?”
            Hera scoffed with a nasally chortle. Zeus turned to the goddess of love, his beard dripping with vino, and said, “Ignore the two and their scornful mother, pet. Whatever punishment’s coming Ares way, he’ll walk away from it.”
            Vulcan offered, “With or without a limp?”
            The king of the gods turned his head to his aesthetically displeasing son. He smelled the sulphur and smelt ore waft off the hirsute god’s person. He saw the flakes of iron fall from Vulcan’s beard and land like snowflakes on the table. Zeus’s lips curled and he grabbed Vulcan by the ear, yanking it to within an inch of his mouth. “Do you want me to break your other leg? You insolent sub-being?”
            Hebe jumped in, “Dad…”
            “SHUT UP!” bellowed Zeus. He turned back to the silent cringing Vulcan, still an inch from his face. “Do you want to sit in your caves with the Cyclops forever? Never again look across the earth from the peak of Olympus?” Zeus raised his hand, opened to a claw. The hand flickered like Greek fire for the briefest moment, and stood raised to Zeus’s own sky clutching a lightning bolt. Zeus brought the lightening, crackling and writhing with the anger of a viper, toward Vulcan’s face. “You think you’re grotesque now? What do you think you’ll look like after I thrust this into your face? The gorgons will fear your gaze!”
            “Smite him! Smite him!” cried out a voice. Everyone turned toward the entrance of the dining hall to see Ares standing there; robes disheveled, fists clenched and eyes saucered in excitement. “Do it, Dad!” he cried.
            Hera bounded out of her seat. “Where the hell have you been?” she screamed. “I’ve been slaving all day over this feast!”
            Ares looked at his mother with an expression blank enough to render him faceless. “What do you mean?” he asked innocently.
            Hera’s widened eyes flashed red. “What do I mean? You have the temerity to keep us waiting for approaching an hour – after the time and sweat I’ve poured into this meal today – and you…”
            Ares, his face as still as the Lethe, interjected, “That’s what I’m talking about. You cooked?”
            Zeus closed his eyes and shook his head with an inconspicuous grin. Aphrodite covered her mouth with a closed fist as her abdomen throbbed with chuckles. Hebe rolled her eyes with a slackened jaw and Vulcan, massaging his manhandled ear, frowned.
            Hera stared at her eldest son with an ashen face that have scattered Furies. “ZEUS!!!” she roared.
            “Where were you?” Zeus asked rising from his chair. “Do you know what I’ve had to endure thanks to you? Your mother’s been carrying on about her gruel without pause. I’ve had to listen to your sister’s incessant egalitarian prattle.”
            Hebe leaned over to a Vulcan. “This is my life,” she said under her breath.
            “And the only thing smart about your brother,” continued Zeus, “is his misshapen mouth!”
            Ares started to the table and said, “Yeah, but his mouth’s not the only thing on him misshapen. Right, Aph?” he asked with a wink to Aphrodite. Aphrodite smiled back as Vulcan glowered and took a sip from his goblet of wine.
            “Ignore your brother until I’m finished with you.” Zeus told Ares.
            “Yeah, but that was good, Pop. Admit it.”
            “He will not until you account for where you’ve been!” Hera barked.
            Zeus turned to Hera and proclaimed, “Don’t tell me to ignore a swipe at Vulcan. I’ll enjoy Ares’s mockery all I want. In fact, I think I’ll join in: the next time Athens angers me, I’ll order Poseidon to release Vulcan.”
            Ares laughed and added, “Hey! Why does Cerberus have three heads? So Vulcan’ll lose count!”
            Zeus chuckled and said, “Good one, son. Sit down.”
            Vulcan leaned over to Hebe and whispered, “You want to trade?”
            Hera burst out of her seat. “That’s it?” she exploded. “A few jibes at Vulcan’s expense and he’s off the hook?”
            Zeus said, “Can we eat now?”
            “Not if that’s all you’re going to…”
            “If you sit down and let us eat, Ares will explain himself.” Zeus turned to his martial son. “Right?” he asked.
            “Whatever you say, Pop.”
            Hera regarded her ne’er-do-well-except-on-the-battlefield son for a second of silence, and slowly sunk back into her seat. “Fine. Eat,” she said.
            Zeus tore into a leg of lamb and said to Ares, through a mouthful of meat, “Placate your mother.”
            Ares turned to face Hera. “So what’d you want know, Ma?” he asked.
            Hera leaned forward in her seat, “Where – were – you?”
            “Ma,” he started, “I’m sorry I’m late. But you have to believe it wasn’t my fault.”
            “Whose fault was it?”
            “Thor’s,” Ares said.
            Vulcan and Hebe exclaimed in unison, “Thor!?!”
            Hera pointed a stern finger at Ares and said, “How many times have I told you not to associate with the Aesir?”
            “It didn’t start out like that,” assured Ares. “We were both working. I was stirring up shit with the Persians and…”
            “They’re not the Persians anymore,” interrupted Hebe.
            “The Seleucids, the Parthians, the Sassanids! The point is…”
            “ ‘The Sassanids?’ Do you have any idea what millennium it is?”
            “Hebe,” Aphrodite editorialized, “nobody cares how smart you are.”
            “She’s right, Hebe,” Zeus added through a mouthful of stew.
            “Yeah, now go get your fucking shine-box, Heeb!” Ares chided.
            “It’s ‘Hebe!’ ” she insisted.
“Whatever, Jew. Anyway, I’m stirring up the brown people, getting them to start in on the Hebes again, when Thor shows up and says he’s already got something in the works and he doesn’t want me queering up his game. I tell him it’s my turf by virtue of geography, to go prod a metal band into burning a church. He goes, ‘Don’t you have a diner to run?’ ”
            “Son of a bitch,” snarled Zeus.
            “I’m sure he didn’t say that,” offered Vulcan.
            Zeus and Ares spun their head around. Zeus glared thunder at Vulcan and spit, “What makes you so sure?”
            “What do you mean?”
            “Oh, did we lose you?” Ares asked his brother.
            “Well…” Vulcan inched gingerly, “I just mean… how would Thor know Greeks own diners?”
            Aphrodite turned to her husband with an opprobrious flip of her tresses and said, “The same way you would know that Hindis run convenience stores and whatever the brown people are run gas stations.”
            “If you had an intellect to speak of,” added Zeus.
            “Yeah,” chimed Ares. “Anway, we’re about…”
            “Well, doesn’t…” Vulcan re-started.
            “WHAT!?!” spat Ares with a murderous sparkle in his eyes. Vulcan bowed his head toward his plate and kept silence. Ares continued, “So we’re about to throw down, when it occurs to me: we’re both gods of war. Let’s work together and finagle one ginormous dust-up.”
            Hebe mouthed noiselessly to Vulcan, “ ‘Ginormous?’ ”
            Ares kept going. “So I send Thor over to the Jews. I get the Persians, or whatever they are, to cross into Jew land and kill some of them, and Thor gets the Jews to go batshit and bomb half of their capital.”
            “Fine,” Hera said. “But why are you late?”
            “Well, Mom, you have to understand. When it comes to warfare nowadays, you have to get a little creative sometimes. With all these bombs and germs and things that can kill thousands in the blink of an eye, it takes a little time getting people to confuse unchecked aggression with self-preservation. You have to make them ignore all these international treaties and human rights bullshit…”
            Hebe crossed her arms over her chest. “You went drinking afterwards, didn’t you?” she asked.
            “We had one drink.”
            “It’s never just one drink with the Aesir.”
            “How do you know? Were you there?”
            “Well, they do live in a beer hall,” Vulcan offered.
            Aphrodite leaned into the table across from Vulcan. “At least your brother was doing his job. What have you done recently? Digital downloads? CGI?”
            “I’m only responsible for the Hadron Collider and gene splicing…”
            “Terrific! You gave Man the tools to do our jobs. That’s tantamount to treason.”
            “Man likes what I do.”
            “Not as much as he likes your wife and me,” hissed Ares.
            Vulcan glowered as his brother and wife smiled knowingly and too-affectionately at one another. “Fighting and fucking like animals,” he stated. “You’re what prevents Man from realizing his potential. I’m how he’s going to evolve.”
            “Stop talking over your head, Vulcan,” said Hera.
            “No. He’s right,” said Hebe.
            “No,” Zeus started. “He’s not.”
            “Think about it, Dad. Technology allows Man to understand the nature of the world without blindly prostrating himself to us.”
            “Man can see the bones beneath the world’s skin with greater clarity. But he will never see the full form at once as we do.”
            “Why not? He gets closer every day.”
            “Because we allow it.”
            “Man paves his own roads.”
            “Man has the capacity for what he does because we exist.”
            Hebe and Vulcan shared a complicit look of judgment.
            Zeus saw the look and bellowed, “What does that look mean?”
            Hera sat up in her seat and told her husband, “Forget them, Dear Heart. Vulcan, pass your father another cup of wine.”
            “I’ll pour my own wine,” Zeus said and did so. He quaffed the wine in one gulp and poured another, emptying the bottle.
            Ares turned to his mother, “So, Mom, why are we here?”
            Hera blanched. “Why does the idea that I want all of us to sit down as a family require such a stretch of your imaginations?”
            “Because,” Hebe said, “you hate the lot of us.”
            “That is a wicked lie!”
            “Oh c’mon, Mom. You think Vulcan’s a monster, Ares’s a brat, and I’m an ingrate as far as you’re concerned.”
            “Vulcan has his problems, as we are all aware, but I think I deserve a little more credit than counting him a monster.”
            Vulcan jumped in, “Then why won’t you call me, ‘Hephaestus?’ ”
            Zeus answered, “Because I forbid it.”
            “Your mother has the floor. Zip it, creature.”
            Hera continued, “And Ares, despite fulfilling his obligations, would benefit from a little maturity.”
            “What do you think of that, Hebe?” Aphrodite asked.
            “I think I don’t remember anyone addressing you, harlot.”
            “Pardon me, Mom, but the discussion is open to everyone, correct?”
            Hera bristled at Aphrodite’s use of her maternal title. She answered, “Quite,” then turned back to Hebe. “And as far as you’re concerned, I do not think you an ingrate.”
            “Oh really?”
            “Truly and honestly, my thorny rose. I only wish you would take pride in your duty as an Olympian.”
            “Am I not allowed the same freedom as Man?”
            “She thinks she’s better than her duty, Mom,” Aphrodite opined.
            “I do not think I’m better,” asserted Hebe. “But some of us are not as naturally inclined to our duties as others.”           
            “And what do you suppose that signifies?” asked Hera with her chin accusatorily toward Hebe.
            “It signifies that we should hold dominion over our strengths.”
            “And what are your strengths, Hebe?” asked Aphrodite with a silken hiss.
            Aphrodite and Ares burst into laughter. Zeus grimaced and shoveled lamb into his mouth. Vulcan looked at his sister, a proud little smile peaking through his tangle of beard, his eyes yearning to reach out and hug the goddess of servitude. Hera stared at her.
            “Don’t laugh,” said Hebe. “Change is what life is all about.”
            Zeus wiped bits of meat from his face with his forearm. “That,” he said, “is the flaw in your argument, little girl. We are the Olympians. We are beyond life. We do not change.”
            “Everything changes, Dad.”
            Ares chimed in, “You’re just jealous no one has a hard-on for you.”
            Aphrodite said, “I don’t know, Ares. I think Vulcan may.”
            Vulcan looked across the table at his wife. The skin beneath his beard went red and his pupils to near pinpricks. “What did you say, whore?”
            “Hey, hey! Easy!” Ares ordered.
            “I sit here, absorb every insult thrown my way, and now I’m expected to endure accusations of infidelity?”
            Hebe laid a gentle hand on Vulcan’s shoulder. “Don’t, Vulcan.”
            “Yes, I will!” he screamed as he bound to his feet, sending his chair crashing upside-down and prompting Hebe to snatch away her hand in fear. Vulcan turned to Aphrodite. “You dare accuse me, all the while making me a cuckold?”
            “I said easy!” snapped Ares.
            “Seeing as you’re one of the many my wife spreads her legs for, my brother, you have no room to speak!”
            Zeus stood up. “That’s enough.”
            “No, it’s not!”
            “I am telling you it is. Now take your seat and calm yourself.”
            “Tell me, Dad, if I fucked you, would you defend me?”
            Zeus’s face turned to rage-blasted iron. He growled under his breath, “Do you lack the wits to know who you are speaking to?”
            Vulcan walked directly toward his father. “I don’t give a good gorgon’s fart who I’m speaking to! It’s bad enough you fuck your son’s wife, but to fuck your own daughter?”
            Zeus drew back his hand. He summoned a bolt of lightning just as Vulcan withdrew his hammer. He had it raised above his head, ready to devastate his father’s skull. Zeus had his bolt aimed at his son’s heart.
            “STOP IT, NOW!!!” Hera screamed with bloodcurdling ferocity. All eyes at the table turned to look at her. They saw the queen of the gods on her feet, holding herself up with the dining table. She was trembling. Her eyes summoned storms from the depths of Tartarus and rained down fire from the peak of Olympus. She turned her head toward Vulcan. “You shame yourself, Vulcan.”
            The forge of Olympus spun around to face his mother, aghast.
            “Your foolishness doesn’t surprise me,” Hera continued. “But this blatant disrespect…”
            “Gaea’s cunt!” spit Hebe. “You of all people!”
            “Is that why it’s just us here? Why no Athena or the twins? So you won’t be reminded that you, Queen of Olympus, are married to a cad and too spineless to even acknowledge it?”
            Hera backhanded Hebe across her face. The slap rang throughout the Great Hall like a gong. Her fingernails had drawn blood, a pencil-thin slice across Hebe’s cheek. Hebe held the side of her petrified face as Hera spoke, “You will not forget your place again. You are to serve and begin doing so without complaint or comment immediately.”
            Hebe looked up at her mother. Her face remained unchanged, uncowed.
            “Go get the Corinth 484. Now!”
            Ares and Aphrodite watched with sadistic smiles as Hebe slowly rose from her chair. Vulcan, his broken will as plain as the broken nose on his face, watched as Hebe bowed to her mother and left the Hall.
            “And fetch my purple shawl!” Hera cried out as Hebe exited.
            “Let me make this perfectly clear to every one of you,” said Zeus as he took to his feet. “Things are as they are because that is how they should be. That is how they should be because I will it. Your dissatisfactions are utterly immaterial. Vulcan will endure my scorn. Hebe will do as she is told. And Hera will remain a loyal honorable wife regardless of how I comport myself with mortals.” Hera smiled at her husband. “You will,” Zeus continued, “fulfill every duty, obey every command, and endure every indignity I choose to bestow. That is how it should and will be.”
            Zeus took his seat.
            “Does everyone understand?” asked Hera. Her children replied with silent nods as Hebe entered with a bottle of wine and her mother’s shawl. “Did you hear that?” Hera asked her.
            “I did, Mother.”
            “Pour the wine.”
            Hebe touched the lip of the bottle to a jewel-encrusted goblet and poured the Corinth 484.
            Hera turned to Vulcan. “You will offer your father wine and supplicate yourself.”
            Vulcan promptly rose from his seat with a grunt. He gingerly took the goblet in both hands, turned, and hobbled over to Zeus. The king of the gods turned in his seat to face Vulcan as he fell to his knees with a moan. He offered the goblet to his father. Zeus swiped the goblet with one hand and drained it in one gulp. He haphazardly tossed it onto the table.
            Hera smiled. “Good,” she said. “Everything is as it should be.” She turned to her husband. “Isn’t that right, Dear Heart?”
            Zeus’s eyes were narrowed. His brow was glistening with sweat. He tried to swallow.
            “What’s wrong, husband / brother?” Hera asked. “Is everything not as it should be?”
            Zeus, his groans buried alive, clutched his throat.
            The others, mouths agape, turned to face their mother. Hera’s eyes were solely on the agonized writhing Zeus. Hera calmly walked over to her dying husband. “Do you remember the prophecy from all those years ago? That you would be killed by your own son, just as you killed old Chronos?”
            Zeus looked at Vulcan with through welling tears.
            “No,” his son whispered.
            “Oh, the toad would never attempt such treachery intentionally,” Hera clarified, picking up the goblet and swirling around the remaining drops of the murderous libation. “But I knew an invisible hand could nudge poor pathetic Vulcan into coincidentally committing patricide. As long as the poison comes from his hand, everything is as it should be. Don’t you agree?”
            Zeus, rocking violently in his seat, fell backward to the floor. He breathing quickly shallowed.
            Hera loomed over Zeus and said, “Dear deluded Hebe is correct on one account: everything changes. The mortals have no desire to cower before a cavorting reprobate of a patriarch. And neither do I."
            Zeus squeezed one last terrified tear from his eye. His tortured breathing ceased and the shell that was the God of the Sky and ruler of Olympus stared unblinking at the marble ceiling of the Great Hall.
            Hera turned and returned to her seat. “My shawl,” she said and Hebe promptly handed it to the new lord of the Olympians. “A goddess will now sit atop Olympus,” she said as she wrapped her purple shawl around her shoulders.
            “Yes, she will,” echoed Hebe.
            Without warning the shawl sparked to life with furious illumination. It burst into a tall whipping flame. Hera screamed as the fire immediately consumed her. She shrieked and the fire died as quickly as it was born.
            Everyone leapt to their feet as what was once Hera collapsed into no more than a small hillock of ashes on the marble floor. Everyone but Hebe.
            She and Vulcan met one another’s eyes. Vulcan smiled, fear curling the corners of his mouth more than glee.
            “Don’t worry,” Hebe told her brother with an embracing smile and a tone forged in Vulcan’s own fires.
            They looked at Aphrodite and Ares.
            Ares said, “I’m sorry.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


3 - The Redcoats Are Coming!

            When open warfare finally erupted in April, 1775 between the nascent United States and the still-waxing British Empire, Hillfield came to a standstill as it debated whether to declare themselves Loyalists or take up the Patriot cause. The town's population was still predominantly Quaker and generally considered the violent revolution advocated by the Patriots anathema. On the other hand, the town's citizens found the British to be insufferably snotty and exceptionally annoying. Perhaps predictably the town fathers ultimately settled on a policy of unofficial neutrality. Hillfield would not openly declare for either their fellow Americans nor for their English overlords. It was also decided that in the event a contingent from either army was to enter the town or otherwise make demands of the citizenry, each situation would be dealt with on an individual basis.
            Isolated deep in the wooded tangle of the Pine Barrens, Hillfield remained untouched by the fires of the Revolution for the first four years of the war's hostilities. During that time life in the small town continued uninterrupted, the town's residents only peripherally aware of the conflict over their future. But on August 4, 1779, Colonel Tye brought the war to Hillfield's doorstep.
            The escaped slave had been born (or branded, rather) Titus Cornelius by his former owner, a Quaker from Monmouth County, northwest of Hillfield. Prone to drink and eschewing the Quaker practice of educating their slaves and freeing them upon their twenty-first birthdays, Tye's owner had been known as an especially unforgiving slaveholder. Shortly after Lexington and Concord Virginia's last royal governor offered freedom to all slaves who escaped and took up arms under the Loyalist banner. Tye wasted no time. He quickly escaped to Virginia and was soon back in New Jersey, armed and uniformed with the intent of crushing the colonists' rebellion. While Tye's exact date of birth is unknown, it is believed that he was still in his mid-twenties by 1778. By that point he been granted the honorific of "Colonel" for his tactical ingenuity and charismatic leadership, despite the prohibition of blacks as commissioned officers in the British Army, and been given the command of one of the most dreaded Loyalist units in the country. The Black Brigade was an elite guerilla unit of two dozen former slaves committed to supply seizures, hit-and-run attacks on Patriot outposts and detachments, and assassinations of important American leaders.
            However, when his British commanders had not given him specific missions, Tye regarded the Black Brigade's standing orders to be the liberation of slaves, particularly if those slaves belonged to Quakers, and to do so with extreme prejudice.
            On August 6, 1779, two days after Tye arrived at the secluded hamlet of Hillfield, Filman Hazelworth, a tanner, recorded the eventy of the 4th in his diary:

The Black Brigade - twenty-three ink-black negroes on twenty-three ink-black horses - rode slowly, almost sleepily, down the thoroughfare. At the head of this obsidiun (sic) mass rode a single bright eye. It was he - the Colonel Tye - astride a steed white as milk. Of a paler complection (sic) than his fellows, the Colonel was the embodiment of patrician class and command. His carriage was that of Cornwallis himself. His likeness would not be misplaced were it displayed in Charring Cross, such was his austere comportment and stentorian resolve. His compatriots, meanwhile, seemed freshly plucked from the deepest jungles of the Dark Continent, for if they be any indication, Africa is as dark of soul as it is of skin.
The Colonel, the picture of gentlemanly eloquence informed us, the townsfolk, of his identity and that of his brigands. He requested, with utmost politeness and as a fully-authorized representative of the English Crown, a litany of provisions that, were we to acquiese (sic) to their requisition, would leave our settlement on a rather frightening brink. We relented, of course, with little argument for fear of raising the ire of the Colonel's savages.
Once the provisions were delivered in full, the Colonel demanded the town's entirety of slaves and indentured servants be brought forthwith. This we did with far greater consternation. The Colonel addressed our negroes sweetly as a governess, inviting them to cast off their shackles - they were not shackled at all - and join his Brigade. Our blacks, having grown accustomed to our munificence and having been well trained, did not move or make an utterance. It was then the Colonel, betraying the primitivity of his race, ordered his men to go forth and assault our women, which they proceeded to do with ferine abandon. With the rapine concluded, the Slave Colonel demanded we free our slaves before his return in September. If we had not done so upon his arrival, he swore to raze Hillfield to the ground.
            Tye and the Black Brigade wheeled around and rode out of town, carrying their requisitions back to the Loyalist keep in Monmouth County.
            The people of Hillfield trembled at Colonel Tye's promised wrath. But they were a proud and stubborn and not altogether intelligent people and were loath to bend to a man they considered to be little more than a dark-skinned terrorist. Their deeply-prized neutrality had been violated alongside their women. They determined to violate with equal violence the vengeance of Tye and his savages.
            It was then that Hillfield turned to the only man they believed could exact that violation.

Let the Red Flow Freely