PROLOGUE

"Abomination!"

The two naked boys leaped to their feet as their mother burst into the attic room, screaming the word. They cowered together in the far corner, their pale, slender bodies shaking with fear, clutching one another tightly, their eyes wide with fright.

"Abomination!" the woman again screamed, a nineteen year old girl aged beyond her years, her mousy brown hair in disarray. Her dry, work worn hands, so slender that they looked more like claws, held so tightly the old shotgun that they appeared to be the bloodless white talons of death. "Leviticus! Chapter Twenty! Verse Thirteen! 'Abomination'! Haven't you learned anything? Look at you! Look at you! You got the Devil in you! Sinners! Sinners!"

"No, mama, no! Please don't hurt us! Please!"

The woman looked into the fear filled brown eyes of her son, the boy she considered to be her natural son, and for a moment her body relaxed, her expression softened. Her son. The only good thing that came from that worthless son of a bitch (God forgive her for her unchristian thoughts) who, as everyone knew, had walked out on her. Abandoned her. Abandoned Christ. And for what? Debauchery! Wickedness! Evil! Sins of the flesh! And now look. Now look!

The softness went out of her expression. The woman's body stiffened again, her muscles tightened. Claw like hands blended with cold dark metal, her weapon of righteousness, her means of destroying Satan.

"What does it say?" she screamed. "What does it say?"

"What does what say, mama?" Tears were streaming down the faces of both boys, but begrudgingly from the boy with the blue eyes. It made him angry to be so afraid. It made him angry to cry.

"The Good Book! The Bible! Leviticus Twenty Thirteen! What does it say?"

"Mama, please!"

"Do you know?" The wild eyed woman turned both her glare and the double barreled weapon upon the blue eyed boy. "Do you remember your lessons?"

"Leave us alone," the boy screamed belligerently, frightened to death and feeling righteous anger at the same time. "Leave us alone! We're not doin' nothin' wrong!"

"Nothing wrong? Nothing wrong! Look at you! Look at the two of you, naked as the day you were born and without shame! Without shame!" The boy's angry tone of voice and refusal to admit to his 'sin' did not make the situation any better. "How can you say that? How can the two of you do this...this...wickedness?"

"There's nothing wicked in love!" the blue-eyed boy screamed back at her, tears streaming down his angelic thirteen year old face.

"Love? Love! Abomination! That's all it is! Abomination!" Lizabeth paused for a moment, her face again softening just a little. "I blame it all on your father. He's the one that brought sin into this family. Him!"

"He ain't my father!" the blue-eyed boy screamed back.

"I'm your mother! He's your brother!" For a moment the double barreled weapon moved back towards the brown-eyed boy. "So he is your father!"

"He ain't! And you ain't my mother!"

"Ungrateful little wretch!" She clenched her jaws so tightly together as she regarded the boy that her gums started to bleed, the blood staining her yellowed teeth, her face again hardened, almost masculinized. "After everything I've given you! After bringing you to Christ!"

"I don't want your Christ! I never wanted your Christ!"

"Cal, please!" the brown-eyed boy pleaded, turning his fearful gaze upon his brother. "Don't talk like that."

"But it don't make no sense," Cal said, turning his eyes upon his brother. "All that talk in church about love and all the hate...in the name of Jesus!"

"Cal!" The boy tilted his head in the woman's direction as if to remind him of their situation and that this was not necessarily the best time to stand up for what he believed.

"I don't care anymore, Petey. Let her shoot us if she wants to!" Cal turned his tearfilled blue eyes upon the woman, hard eyes filled with anger and hate. "Let her shoot us...in the name of Jesus!"

"You wicked heathen!" the woman screamed. "Heathens! Both of you! Naked savages! Animals! Devils! Leviticus Twenty Thirteen! 'Both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.' Not on my hands! Not on my hands!"

"No! Mama! Don't!" Petey implored.

Cal simply stood there, holding his brother, his naked body trembling with fear but standing his ground. His eyes like ice, hard and cold, daring the woman to act.

"Not my hands!" she screamed, setting the stock to her shoulder, peering down the dual barrel of the weapon. "Not...on...my...hands!"

"Mama...Lizabeth...please!" Petey cried out.

"Dear Christ, forgive them." A single tear rolled down her cheek.

And she fired the weapon, once, twice. The double explosion was horrendous in the dry and dusty attic. For the woman there followed a deafening silence. She simply stood there, the smoking shotgun in her hands, seeing, being aware of nothing but the result of her action--the pale, pure, fragile bodies of her "sons" insulted by lead, shattered, broken, exploded, torn flesh and blood splattered all over the wall behind where they stood. Warm blood on her own face, soaking her dress...on her hands.

She dropped the shotgun. There was no sound as the weapon hit the floor, at least no sound that she could hear.

My God, she thought, I've been punished by God! I'm deaf! What have I done? What have I done?

Before her the shattered bodies of the two boys laid in a pool of their own deep red blood. Petey's eyes no longer implored. Cal's eyes showed no more anger, no more hatred, and now they were only cold because they were lifeless. Two boys, both thirteen years old, never to see their fourteenth birthday. Never to...

"It is on my hands," the woman cried, staring at the blood staining her sallow flesh. "It is! My God! My God! What have I done? What have I done!"



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