The War of Words, a short story by Criss Tripp at
Frances Yeung

The War of Words

The War of Words

written by: Criss Tripp



“He’s always been a better man, and an even better writer. But now he’ll never know what I feel, just like it didn’t matter. But it matters, he mattered, as much as he was smarter. Oh, my younger brother, the martyr. The world must read your words and understand of your caliber.” Will Tripp mutters underneath his breath, as he stands underneath a moonlight night, as a fighter.

“I’ve been looking for him, and he knows that I have been.
He just doesn’t know that I finally found him.”
Will Tripp says to himself, as he looks out from a distance.
There’s a lone home, standing alone in the darkness.
Just like he has been, as he has easily blended in.
He’s slowly breathing in, wearing his brother’s favorite pitch-black hoodie.
He’s no rookie, but he’s not known, nor is he new.
Yet nobody knows, where he is, nor where he has been.

“I secede to be seen. Supersede to succeed. Then proceed like a pro needs.
Quid pro quo nobody knows me.
I’ve lived clean to believe, too succinct to be freed. As sucking the succulent seeds,
I’m buckling with reluctancies.
He’s defeated me. Defeating me. Ripping the seams, of my seated dreams.
Nothing ever seems like it’s seen to be. Just like me, and tonight – He will not see me.”

Will says to himself again, like he stands at the end of a sentence. He stares blankly at the darkest house that tends to stand alone. Much like he does, he hates both himself, as well as the man that both discarded him, and neglected his very existence.
So now he stands solo, he’s alone in the darkness of night as this two-story home is. He’s peering out at the structure of solitude that resides in the middle of a large clearing in the woods. The aged house stood surrounded by an overgrowth of dead vines, several tall trees, tall weeds, poison ivy, and several arrows. So many arrows. Much akin to a final standoff between the cowboys and Indians. But this wasn’t a desert. It was a forest. Yet, the level of dehydration and imminent death still lingered in the air, like it would with a standoff in a desert. It just wasn’t a desert. It was a forest. So, one would assume that all this greenery brought a level of hope to the inhabitants. But there most certainly wasn’t any. Not here and most definitely not now. The lonely wooden cabin had hundreds of trees erected around it, that stood at the height of skyscrapers or goliaths. Just being a witness to the overwhelming height and quantity of them, was intimidating enough to say the least. But not to him. Not to this lone dark ranger. He knew of intimidation well and being endlessly surrounded by his enemies. Being outnumbered stacked with the odds against him, wasn’t something that was foreign to him. He’s here for one reason alone, and he won’t leave until he’s acquired his chosen end result. No matter what the price.

Will Tripp utters the words in his mind:
“Sitting in the dark blindly, smoking beside a tree.
With suicidal tendencies, would please and ease the relief.
As bleeding would deplete feeling, the desperate need in me.
As crazy as it seems to be, killing will set me free.”

He’s sat and waited in his position, performing area reconnaissance. Much alike his younger brother has back in his military days, serving as a U.S. Army Sniper. He lays in wait and thinks back to all the war-torn stories his younger brother had told him. As much as he was jealous of his younger brother, he knew very well, that he never was able to live up to his legacy. But tonight, he wishes to change that. He knows everything that he’s done wrong previously. Just as well as he knows that he cannot alter the past. He can, however, change his present, and his future. On this night, he plans to do just that. He’s grown tired of living the life that he’s lived without his brother, and so he remembers his stories. If just to serve as a means of motivation, for him to earn back his trust and respect. Despite that his younger brother’s dead. By putting an end to the one man who has created them both – yet has chosen to not live up to being a real father to either of them. Instead, their father decided to divide them, by not living up to his title of father. He has decided to live up to his name. Cross. Cross Tripp.

“Tonight, it’s time, I must decide. Which way to Cross, which way to die.” Will says silently to himself. As he slowly makes his way towards the war zone that’s been left of his father’s old house. There were so many broken arrows, stuck inside the overly grown and decaying trees. Even though he could see all the arrows decorating the area, there was no way anyone would ever believe him if he told them. That’s if he lives to tell the tale.
Will walks up to one of the many shot up trees and reaches up to pull out one of the broken arrows. He holds the broken arrow in his left hand, and studies it. He then says to himself.

“Reminiscing and reflecting on the past, and all the bad that has happened.
Compliant like I survived out of a tragic accident by magic.
Combined with resigned reactions, like a destructive habit gone tacit.”

He tucks away the broken arrow piece into his back belt loop. Then continues walking through the trees riddled with shot up arrows. As he slowly continues walking through the darkness, he looks around at the ridiculous number of arrows stuck in all the trees he’s passing. The moonlight guides him along, like God wants him to see this.
He continues thinking to himself as he says,

“I’m not extremely religious. Nor a religious extremist.
I’m an aging aggressor, tempered as a weathered defector.
I’ve infected the direction of my method, with separated senseless weapons. “

He pauses for a minute, as he notices he is finally standing in front of the house. He stares at the back door, and notices several dim lights are on inside the house. As well as the back door has been left wide open.

“Tired of trying to be better. But never will I ever be remembered.
For surrender isn’t as glorious as it seems.
Defeat upon decreased seams. Losing battles recessed into a keen dream.
Never to be seen, nor believed.”

He takes a deep breath, then exhales as if he’s taking in the first breath – of his last breath, before he walks into uncharted territory. Finally ready to face his demons, his father, and find out what’s on the other side of that door.
“My recession into this dimension, has become a development, that nobody will mention. Nor question the lesson I’ve tested.”
Will says to himself.
“Flee or scream, this isn’t a dream. I don’t need to be seen. I just need to be freed. This is the time to make things right.”
He recites to himself one last time, as he slowly creeps into the dimly lit house.

“Into the dark, into the unknown. Though solo is bold, I revel on my own.
All I have on this earth, is my body, and my words.
There’s only one way to fully know. So now, I Will, will fully go.”

He makes his way through the doorway, investigating every inch like an abused animal, uncertain of what may be awaiting him around the corner. He passes through the small hallway of his father’s old house like a shadow and remembers the fear he once felt there as a child. He remembers running upstairs and hiding under his bed with his younger brother. Whenever their mother had said those two little words, that put as much fear and pain into both young boys, as she uttered – “He’s home.”
Now, Will was older, and ready to deliver due recompense upon his father. He says to himself “Now, it is I, who is home. Oh, how the tables have turned.” He lurks further into the house, ready for anything. At least he thought he was.
There’s a body lying face down in a pool of a dark red liquid, on the living room floor.
“It can’t be…” His mind starts racing along with his blood pressure rising.
“It can’t be him…It can’t be…” He stops and stares at the motionless body, laying on the floor.
“I don’t believe it…I won’t believe it…” He starts shaking as he tries to grasp the reality of the moment.
“No…No…No… this isn’t happening. This can’t be happening…Not like this…”
He leers at the body for almost a minute. Even that didn’t seem long enough. So, he continued to stare. Until he felt like he’s gotten enough justice. Even though he thought he never could. He’s allowed himself to satiate himself with the moment. Not just for himself. But for his younger brother. Criss.
Thinking back to how many times he’s thought this image in his head, and how many times he wondered what it would feel like in that exact moment. Now he knows, and he can only feel regret.
“I have been watching him and wanting to put an end to him. Looks like he beat me to it. Forgive me my dear brother. I’ve tried. But I’ve failed you. Again….”
“I’m sorry….”
Will feels an enormous amount of guilt. As the unforgiving sense and scent of loneliness starts sifting through him, shifting him, just as it so easily sets in, and inexorably starts sinking back into him…. again.
Maybe it never left. But now, he’s got nothing left.
His body starts shaking, as he feels his throat dry up, and his body falls cold. A chill runs across his skin and makes his arm hairs stand. It’s in that moment when he realizes that he can’t, and he falls to his knees. He wants to, but he can’t. He struggles to breathe. But he can’t. He wants to see, but he can’t. His eyes are burning far too much. The overwhelming amount of salt accumulated from his tears, depletes him of the rest of his energy. Then Will remembers another one of his brother’s poems. As he lay lifeless on the floor.

“She was my dynasty. My best destiny.
My manifested harmony, into the epitome of a symphony.
She was pure bliss to me. My absolutely everything, when she was next to me.
I felt exempt to exemplary. She was my energy and anergy.
To me, she was like an elegy, and an alleged allergy.
She was ecstasy.
She was a dream within a dream, along with what it was meant to be.”

Will lay on the floor defeated. Completely. Laying in a puddle of his own tears. Shame. Guilt. Self-Hatred. Depression. Cowardice. Doubt. Doubt. Doubt. That’s all he can think and feel….is doubt. He’s left alone on the floor, drowning by himself. Left alone with the word doubt.
He is alone now. He has nothing….

“Wwhat hhave I done…?”
“Wwhy did yyou have to leave me…?”
“Wwhat am I sssupposed to do now…?”

Will says out loud shakily.
To no one.
His voice echoes throughout the hollowed-out vestibule previously acknowledged as a home. Much like his own body has been seen and felt to be. The only people that are aware of this skeleton structure of a house, are all known to be dead now. Much like Will is inside now.
Then, a strong wind blows inside the empty vessel called a house. Which pulls Will out of the dark trance of certain death, dreading life, the endlessly alluring looming doom, and a soullessness existence. He’s the only living person in this room – how!?
Despite his name, he’s lost all his own. All over the old home, he’s still left all alone.
The all-encompassing loneliness ironically begins to leave him. Much akin to the beginning of a terrible storm, and the slight raindrops before it develops any serious interest. The interest slowly builds like a promising stock just hitting the market. But nobody wants it. Just like nobody wants him. Nobody needs him. Nor cares to fully see him, hear him, or try the bites and taste the lies he’s so easily fed to everyone. After the word of his brother’s death, Will lost himself. Even though Will betrayed his own brother, he still held onto Hope. He still believed in a future for himself. Even though, nobody else did. Even in that moment – Will stood alone there and then too. Even when Will’s brother was alive, Will still fought to be known and trusted. Criss fought for Will. Maybe more than Will fought for himself.
Will sits up on his own two legs, as he pushes his upper body off the floor. He leans back resting atop on his legs, and he realizes he’s seated in a ritual Muslim prayer position. He remembers his brother’s stories about serving in the army, deployed in the Middle East. His brother had always revered God and respected the idea of a God. It’s in that moment Will thinks to himself. “I can really use one right now. I can use a prayer. A friend. A brother, and a father.” Ironically enough – he didn’t have any of them. But what he really needed most of all, was an answer.
“I need to get up. Maybe he left something behind for me. That’s it. It has to be.”
“Maybe our father held onto something that brought him here. To this point.”
Will then lifts his head up and looks back over to the lifeless body of his father. He stares at it once again. Longer than he did before. He remembers the amount of fear he used to feel because of him. He remembers being forced to run from him. Hide from him. If just as a matter of self-preservation. Even as a young child. He had it beat into him, and very early on knew that him and his brother had to run from him and would never fully feel any real love from him. Will remembers running from his father and using his younger brother as a defense mechanism. So, Will wouldn’t be hit by his father. Even as a young child. He was scared. Will developed a means to protect himself. Regardless of the outcome…. Will stands up and continues to look down on his father’s body.
“I thought I was doing the right thing…”
“…. But I was wrong.”
Will closes his eyes, whilst tears start gliding down his face. He remembers his childhood. As well as all his previous decisions as a young older brother.

“…. I’m sorry…. brother…. I was wrong.”
“…. I should have never left you.”
“…. I was wrong, and I’m so sorry. I wish I could have been the brother for you, that you needed me to be. But I was just as scared as you were. We were both so very scared, and so very weak. I’m so very sorry. I wish I could have been so much stronger a brother than I was for you. I’ve wronged you, and it’s far too late to change that now. I just wish that you could hear me, right now.”

Will looks up towards the ceiling and starts hating himself. More than ever. But he takes a deep breath and soldiers upstairs towards their old bedroom. It’s what his younger brother would do. Criss might have hated himself deeply, but he never allowed himself to be seen wasting time feeling sorry for himself. Will doesn’t want to live the rest of his life living his past mistakes. He’s done it once before. But not anymore, and never again.

“Once more I reach into the darkest recesses I proceed. Where we both used to breathe, we both used to bleed, we both used to creep, and we both laid in peace. Where our beliefs fell to pieces, and we both laid underneath. We both watched and waited, as I watched you fall to sleep.”

Will says softly in a conversational tone to no one, as he walks into their darkened old bedroom. He turns on the lights, and all the memories come pooling back along with all the past feelings. He remembers their secret hiding place and decides to take one last look under the bed. It gave them so much hope and propagated security like a blanket. Fear dissipated when they were there together a mess. Not entirely. But enough for those little fragile moments, while they hid under the bed.
Will pulls their old blanket up atop their bed to reveal their little hideout. He lays his stomach on the floor to see the full picture of their old safe haven.
That’s when he sees what seems to be an old children’s shoebox, that has seen much better days. It looks dried up, and tattered. Almost brittle. But intact enough to maintain itself as a solid housing to holster anything that will fit inside it.
So, he reaches for it, and pulls it out from underneath the bed.
He grabs the old shoebox and realizes it feels almost weightless.
He sits on the bed, with the old artifact in his lap and notices there’s no dust on it. It might be old. But this tiny decrepit parcel seems to have aged better under the bed. He smiles and marvels in knowing the bed has protected yet another vessel from becoming more weathered than necessary.
He removes the lid and finds an old picture of him and his younger brother as toddlers. In the picture, Will was helping his younger brother stand up off the floor. Criss had just started learning how to walk, and Will was already able to on his own. So, he was helping him up. Like an older brother should. It was such a simple and natural gesture. But it spoke volumes to Will right now. More than ever.
He puts the picture in his pocket and puts the box back under the bed. He makes sure to cover the bed back up with the blanket. Like the little box needed to be preserved just a little longer. He then gets up to head back downstairs. Before he leaves the room, he turns back to face the bed, and he takes out the picture he just found. He then says out loud, as he’s staring at the old photo.

“Tired of trying to be better. But never will I ever be remembered.
For surrender isn’t as glorious as it seems.
Defeat upon decreased seams. Losing battles recessed into a keen dream.
Never to be seen, nor believed.
But I believe, and I wish I tried more to be better.
So, you wouldn’t have had to.
I’m sorry brother.”

Will puts the old photo back into his pocket for safe keeping. He then shuts off the light, and heads back downstairs. To leave this all behind….
As he flipped the light switch off, simultaneously an old song started to play from what only could have been coming from the ground floor. He then nervously and cautiously walks down the stairs. For the first time on this night, Will begins to feel the one thing he never thought he’d feel again in this house…. fear.
As Will creeps down the stairs, step by step, he dances with uncertainty in his head, like it never left. Uncertainly he oozes down the stairs like a puddle of mud or quicksand. Despite the fact he is descending, the closer he gets to the bottom, he feels like it’s up to his neck. The tension and pressure are rising, as the fear spreads through him. Like a cancer. The unbearable weight crushes his chest, as his body starts trembling.
He gets halfway down the stairs when he can hear the song’s lyrics.

“There was a boy. A very strange, enchanted boy.
They say he wandered very far, very far, over land and sea.
A little shy and sad of eye. But very wise, was he.”

As pleasant and calming as the old song sounded. It definitely did not calm him. Just as he gets to the bottom of the stairs, he hears the next verse.

“And then one day, one magic day he passed my way.
While he spoke of many things, fools and kings,
This he said to me:”

…. As he makes his way into the living room, he’s hit with a shocking realization that chokes him to the point of wanting to pass out….

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved, in return.”

…. his father’s body….
…. it’s fucking gone….

He stares at the pool of liquid laying stagnant. After carefully looking at the puddle on the floor, he thought previously had been blood, the final line of the old song resounds throughout the decrepit house.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved, in return.”

The song crackles off into a dead silence. Yet seemingly the only thing Will had thought was dead, quite possibly wasn’t. Dead bodies don’t just move themselves he thought. Did somebody move his body? Or was he still alive? It’s in that moment when Will knows he must get closer.
…. Maybe it wasn’t blood.

Will shakily walks up to the remnants of where his father’s body once previously laid. He can see a trail of what seemed to be spilled blood.
He thought it was. Just as he had trusted it to be. It had to be. What else could it possibly be…?
Will slowly walks up to the liquid spilled along the floor. He bends down and brings his face close to it. Close enough so he can smell it.

…. wine…?
…. It’s fucking wine!?

A loud thud breaks the silence, then everything fades to black.

Some time passes, but it’s still night.

Will wakes up, with a pounding headache, and gorilla duct tape over his mouth. He’s thoroughly wrapped up in chains, and his wrists bound behind his lower back, tied by some rope. He doesn’t know what happened. Nor where he is precisely.
Will’s head is bleeding, but his injures aren’t as serious as his current predicament is. He wakes up choking from smoke, as much as he’s trying to gain some recollection from what’s previously elapsed. He takes a good look around, but he can’t see much. He just knows that he can’t move, and his father’s body, has been found. It’s directly in front of him. But now, he knows he’s dead for sure. He sees a dead stare coming from his father’s open eyes. He’s not moving, nor breathing either. Yet now, Will can only choke on smoke, and begins to fear his fate will end similarly. The only simile he can see, is much like the irony that proceeds. A familiar voice is heard in the background. His back is close to the ground, yet he doesn’t feel grounded. Will looks up with his limited mobility and sees a man that he never thought he’d see again.

His brother.
Wearing the very hoodie, he was previously wearing.

Criss looks into his brother’s eyes from a distance and says to him,

“Frequently falling fragments in a labyrinth; I don’t need to believe it’s happening.
Failing to flail, and fall, in a stale stall; It’s not like I’m going to end it all.
I’ve been choking alone on hope and hoping to hop to a place that I know.
So, I can hope to not have to choke, on yet another false positive note,
And fully be able to divulge the broke bulge in my throat.
I broke down a bow to a boat, to battle with a bolt.
I wrote down, when I rode down, to rattle what I spoke.
I’m about to bow in a bout, and now I’m allowed to explode.
But I’m broke now. I’m well-endowed to end doubt, yet I don’t know how.
As I just spoke aloud, I’m around a drought, to arouse a sound to drowned.”

Criss moves his face close to his brother’s. So, their faces are merely inches apart from each other. There’s no mistaking this is happening, as Criss looks abhorrently at his older brother – and says:

“But this time my dear brother, I’m not the one who’s going to be drowning now. For now, I’m going to be the one to end this right now. I’ve been living for so very long in the shadows. I’ve been watching the both of you. Closely. So very closely. But neither of you, have ever been close to me. I’ve hated you both. Your negligence. Your ignorance, and your increasing level of selfishness.”

Criss steps backwards for a minute. Then turns back towards his brother.

“I’m tired of choking alone on false hope. Now, it’s your turn.”

Criss starts to walk away then stops with his back turned. He brings his left hand to cover his eyes, whilst still looking away from his tied-up brother. Then he says out loud.

“I’ve been looking for him, and he doesn’t know that I have been.

He also doesn’t know that I finally found him. I have found him.
Now it is I, who finally gets to kill him.
I’ve been watching him and wanting to capture him.
I have long since studied him, and tonight – I get to end him.”

Criss Tripp throws his pitch-black hoodie over his head, and heads outside away from the old actively burning house. The plan has been set, and everything is on fire. He’s killed his father and left his only older brother alive, to burn inside of the house that they were both raised in together. Low and behold the irony. The younger brother walks away happily. Fully knowing the flames tend to build, dance, and destroy everything from his past life, and his neglecting family. Criss walks away from the old burning home and says out loud to himself.

“This isn’t a tragedy. It’s encapsulated finality.
I’m finally finding, I’m completely done with fighting.
As I release the binds that tried to destroy me.
There’s nothing else in this world that will hold me.
I’m not holding anything anymore, nor am I hurting.
I’m walking away from everything and everyone that’s hurt me.
I finally get to live my life and end their control over me.
It’s finally time I end the roaring war raging inside of me.
It’s no longer worse for every war I’ve heard is completed.
This silly war of words can finally be defeated.”

Criss turns to face the house that he once called home, that has finally been set ablaze. Fully aware that the only two people that have plagued his entire life, will finally pay the price, and erase everything of their names.

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This publication is part 97 of 103 in the series 13 Days of Halloween