setting: a small town in some unidentifiable portion of America, probably in the midwest. scene opens on myself, frater shinma, and the lugubrious captain mollie walking into the casino/brothel that serves as the cultural center of this town. men and women alike cluster around the cigar-scarred wooden gaming tables, dimly lit from above by gas chandeliers. to the right is a staircase with an ornate brass railing that leads up to the red silk brocade- draped second floor. toward the back of the room, half hidden in shadow, is a bar, to the left of which is a small window, which looks out on a packed clay backyard. just inside the red and black drapery at the entrance is a small brass chair with a red cushion, upon which sits a monkish man of about 30, with shoulder length red-blond hair and startling blue eyes.

and so it begins... after looking around for a while, the three of us become separated; talking to people and playing games. i approach the man on the chair and ask why he seems so uninterested. he explains that he has lived in the brothel all his life, and that his mother "works upstairs". i express interest in the building in all of its functions, and he offers to show me around.

we go upstairs to a red brocade draped hallway, which is obviously the beginning of the brothel, and he introduces me to some of the women. after some brief chatter about the decor, and what a nice, studious boy my new companion is, we go back downstairs, and he leads me past the bar to a previously hidden flight of stairs under the window.

the basement is a very organic sort of darkness, reminiscent of certain parts of nightbreed. a very dimly lit hallway stretches in front of us, and he walks me down to the end of it and opens a small wooden door. i enter the room and he follows, closing the door. the room appears to be a monk's cell, with a small bed, a plain wooden chair, and a bookcase as its only furnishings. the walls are rough hewn, and appear yellowish in the candlelight that is the room's only illumination. we sit and talk theosophy and literature; he shows me his books. then mollie comes in, and takes me aside. "i know what you're thinking," she says, "you can't do that. he's your brother's brother." and i, thinking she meant a close compatriot of my brother, reply, "he sure gets around, doesn't he?" and i turn to resume my conversation. she stops me; "no, he's blood. he's your brother's half-brother." and i reply, rhetorically, "well then, i have to, don't i?" she looks afraid, and then shrugs blandly and leaves the room. the man has been examining a crack in the wall during this exchange, and he turns to resume our conversation, with a smile. my older brother's smile. same soft, thin, red lips; same little pointy teeth...and as the shock settles in, the adrenal response wakes me.