Title: The Brother Voice
Generations of American Voices Book One
Author: William T. Delamar
Genre: Historical Fiction
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 2
Identical twin brothers, who can think to each other, fight on opposite sides of the Civil War.
Sel and Hol Danner, identical twin brothers who can exchange thoughts without actually speaking, grow up together in Frederick, Maryland. When the American Civil War breaks out, they separate for the first time in their lives. Sel fights for the North because he hates slavery. Hol fights for the South because it's "home." Cora Dee Soyer, who loves them both, can't pray for either side because that would be praying against one of the boys. The boys discover they can no longer think to each other until the two sides meet at the Battle of the Monocacy at their home town. Brother against brother is real and reflects actual history. The changes in their lives reflect the massive transformation in all lives during this period of American history. It's as though the world is turned upside down with things never being as they were.
Sel didn't know if he had been asleep, but he bolted awake. A breeze stirred along the ridge from the south. The moon was higher. There was a thin veil over it and a faint halo around it. The tree shadows moved with the breeze.
What was it the old women always said about the mist that hung in front of the moon to make a halo? It was a mantle to hide the spirits of the restless dead from mortal eyes. It was supposed to keep evil on the other side but sometimes it slipped through. Old women always had time to talk about evil spirits and possessed souls and people who changed to animals at night.
A low cloud cover moved along the ridge from the southwest, and the moon with its veil was partially blacked out. Like shoveling dirt over a fire, he thought. The light died and so did the shadows. Just as the last light was buried, Sel saw a figure standing on the edge of the ridge against the sky to the west. The clouds passed over the moon and everything became the same blackness, including the round-shouldered figure with the pointed hood.
It could not have been more than five and a half feet tall. Sel stared at the spot but saw nothing. He looked to see Hol still asleep and got up. He kept his eyes trained at the spot so he wouldn't lose it and moved through the brush toward it. He knew no evil spirit could be lurking there, but what person would be standing in the night. It had to be something else. He listened intently as he cautiously approached the spot.
"Anybody here?" he asked.
The moon broke through for a moment and there, standing right in front of him, was a small cedar tree.
"Pointed hood," said Sel. He swatted at the tree with his hand and turned back into the darkness as the moon's light was swept away again. He made his way to the lean-to.
"What're you tramping around in the woods for?" said Hol, sitting up.
"Just checking so no demons get you, lazy bones. Looks like we're about to get some rain."
Hol yawned. "Let's put another side on this lean-to."
Sel had already found two limbs to act as a frame. The first few drops came as they finished. They crawled in and got settled.
"The woods needed this. It's awful dry. Wouldn't take much to start a fire," said Sel.
"Yep. I'd just as soon it'd held off 'til tomorrow. Time to sleep."
This time, Sel went to sleep right away too.
It was not a heavy rain, but it was steady. The wind died and Sel and Hol kept dry. The rain stopped before daybreak. Sel dreamed of a beautiful girl with long black hair and large blue eyes, running through the forest, laughing at him. Hol shook Sel.
"I heard her laughing. Just now, I heard her laughing," he said.
Sel laughed. "You heard her laughing in my dream. Don't you know the difference between a dream and the real thing?" Sel laughed again. "Go to sleep," he said.
"No. It was the real thing. I didn't know about your dream. I just heard a laugh. It woke me up."
"Aw, Hol. Lie down. It's not sunrise yet. She just laughed in my dream. You woke me out of it. Go to sleep. You didn't hear her laugh."
Hol lay down, reluctantly, but was soon asleep again. Sel didn't sleep. Day was close by. From one side of the double lean-to, off to the west, he could still see stars. The rain had passed over and soon all the clouds would be gone. There was no breeze, and there was no sound anywhere. He rolled out of the lean-to and smelled the clean air. The sky began to grow light first then the tree tops. Birds made their noises and day flooded down the mountain.
Sel walked to a clear spot and gazed down into Middletown valley to the west. It was completely filled with a white cloud-like mist which appeared almost solid. The top of the fog was definite with knobs and domes as far as the eye could see to the south. It looked like yeast dough had risen in the night to engulf the earth. Solid white vapor covered the valley. Were the arches and humps haze, or were they the turrets and rounded roofs of a fairyland, somehow left behind as day streaked in across the sky?
Northward, as the valley ended where mountain met mountain, the fog formed a solid roof line against the hillsides. It was odd to see a tree here and there rising through these clouds of stone. There was no sign of movement. It looked as though the world had stopped.
Sel knew with sudden sureness God had fitted this in with everything else. It was as though God had shown him a miracle. He walked back to his brother and yanked the support poles out of the lean-to.
"Get up you lazy loafer."
They didn't talk while they ate. They had avoided the problem they both knew they had to resolve. They both knew there was no point to arguing because they each knew what they were going to do. They stepped over to the edge of the woods and looked east at the sky and down into the fields that lay to the north of Frederick. They kept putting off talking, but both knew they had to make a decision.
When they finally spoke, their conversation sounded almost rehearsed, as though it were a summary of what they already thought.
"The war is started and we can't stop it. Hol, I can't fight to separate the North and South. And I can't fight in favor of something as dirty and wrong as slavery."
"I don't care about slavery, but I know one thing. I can't fight for the North." Hol's voice got louder. "I don't care what Governor Hicks says. Maryland is South, and this is where I was born, and this is what I'm a part of, and this is part of me." Having said that, Hol relaxed a little. "Every time I'd shoot at a gray suit I'd think of everybody I know. I might as well shoot at Mother or Cora Dee."
"Well, Hol, if you shoot at a blue uniform, I might be in it. Think about what that means."
"If you shoot at a gray one, I might be in it."
"Look, Hol, you don't care if the Union splits or stays together. You don't care if the slaves are freed or not—"
"Dang it!" shouted Hol, "you don't know what I think about the slaves. I don't even know what I think about the slaves."
Sel grabbed his brother by the shoulders. "I know you don't know, and unless you do, you don't care who wins. So, if you don't go with me, why don't you stay home?"
"Damn it, Sel," said Hol, shaking free, "you know I won't stay home. I'll stay home if you stay home. But I won't sit here alone. And anyhow, I don't want the dang Yankees taking over the South like they owned it. They already think they own Maryland. And if you went off and I stayed here, Cora Dee would think I was either afraid to fight or too dumb. And every time Mother would look at me she'd think about me sitting it out and you fighting." Hol stopped to catch his breath. He turned away and stared toward Frederick.
Sel kicked a stone and watched it tumble down the mountain. He watched a hawk sail on a current. He looked at the sun rising in a cloudless sky. "Damn."