whispers of the damned echo,
pulsating as they resonate in our heart. The
bodies hang, desecrated, on
dead trees, eerie in their stillness. We
open our mouth, lips forming
words as the tongue dances, but utter no sound.
sky looms over us, crimson
clouds waiting to rain red. We should find
shelter, but that would be too
kind for the sin we have committed. A crack
of hatred and the flash of
dead dreams resound across the sky.
close our eyes.
breeze carries the scent of
spring flowers, a sweet perfume, and moist ground,
recently bathed by a
thunderstorm. The smell of that storm, the
peaceful smell which only
comes after such storms, still hangs in the air
along with the others. A
child laughs and there is a crinkle of grass as he
falls, still laughing.
so funny?” a boy behind us
asks and we open our eyes to see him walk past,
can’t believe you fell in,” the
laughing one responds, clutching his sides.
smile is innocent, enjoying
the game he and his brother have played many times
wet one sits, pouting, beside
his companion. “Why are you so mean?”
childish question, but wise,
looking deeper than he ever realizes.
down, the boy shrugs.
“You’re the one who wanted to get it back.”
it all we have?” the wet
boy responds, pulling a strip of faded cloth from
mouth the word “no” because
they’re still together, yet still unique, and
still close, but they take each
other for granted. They think they’re one
being, not understanding that
being one hurts so much more.
lays on his back and gazes at
the billowing clouds, white and inviting.
“Can you see her face?”
don’t remember her face and
wouldn’t know it if they say it. She left
when they were so young that
all they really remember is that she liked the
piece of cloth the inquirer
you think she watches us from
has to watch us from
two boys settle deeper into
the soft grass, gazing up at the drifting clouds.
They smile at the same
ones, seeing familiar or comical shapes.
They squint their eyes at the
same time, wondering where each cloud’s journey
ends. They share a dream,
even though one will always question the meaning
and the other merely wishes to
keep moving on. It is the same world
perceived from two different angles.
close their eyes as night
begins to fall, the chirping and buzzing of
insects filling the air with a
lively symphony as the breeze caresses their
faces. The moon shines
brightly in the velvet sky, with glittering stars
decorating the smooth sky.
We sigh. The world itself feels
content. Some things should
one who never questions opens
left to find the most
precious thing right?”
feel our hands clenching.
Tell him to stop asking questions.
It’s better to stay like this
than to move on.
if we found it? Do you
think she’d come back?”
come back anyway.”
entire body tenses. This
has to stop.
when? What if she never
don’t people always find
things faster together?” He chews his lip
for a moment. “Can we
push forward even as our eyes
close once more, dreading what is to come.
It hurts to even stand, but if
we can stop them it’s worth it.
we’ll help here, and when
we find the most precious thing she’ll tell us we
did a good job, and we can
all come home together.”
feet slide over the wet ground
and we fall, shuddering. The decision was
made before the conversation
even began, the brother’s gauging each other until
the time was right and their
minds were both made. We couldn’t have
stopped it. Nothing could
have, nothing did.
do we start?”
defeat, we lay on our
back. Thunder cracks and something wet
slides down our face. Make
follow the brightest star.
That’s where the most precious thing has to
thick and wet hits our
face, clouds losing hold of their bloody rain.
It quickly comes down in
torrents and we lower our face, letting the
viscous liquid run down until it
falls to the thirsty ground. It tastes
metallic as it slips between our
droplets sound like bodies
thumping against the ground and the wails of the
damned, of everyone, increase
with the thudding rain. Even falling from
the sky it surrounds us in
warmth, protective as it smashes against skin.
is harsh. The
ground beneath us drinks, but does not yield.
The rain pounds against our
sides and a sudden gale whips it all around us.
It wails with the world,
a banshee determined to see vengeance for what has
happened. A banshee
determined that someone pay. Everything is
in a red haze.
cover our ears.
metallic taste turns to salt.
It is a salt we can smell, mixed in the
odors of dead fish and seaweed.
Water splashes over us, encasing us in a
chill. The ground beneath
us is an equally cold stone. Slowly, we open
our ears to accept the sound
of pounding waves.
do we keep going?”
questioner’s voice is deeper
this time, but still rings with hidden wisdom.
just need a boat.”
is still so sure of everything
and we can easily imagine him looking around the
empty coast, scanning the
horizon for any signs of other people. They
have no map, and had never
left home before this journey.
can we get a boat?”
just follow the shoreline
to the right.”
should go left instead, away
from the nearby fishing village with the name we
never remember and towards the
unknown. Things could only end better if
they went left.
have to go somewhere.”
shouldn’t have left home in
the first place. The most precious thing
isn’t what they think it is,
isn’t what we want it to be. A mother isn’t
worth it. They’ll never
get to show what they find to her anyway.
we watch the sunrise here?”
stones grind against a
boulder, one smoothed from the waves at high tide,
and there is a soft sigh of
relief. We curl our fingers and remember the
warmth. The brothers
are leaning against each other, back to back,
overlooking the ocean. When
they’re together nothing seems so cold and they
share a camaraderie that they
can only share with each other.
should just sleep forever.
sun rises slowly, turning pale
mist into vivid colors as it warms them. It
shines brightly on the
confident one’s face. His brother stirs,
shifting so they can both face
the light as it sparkles off the ocean.
back to sleep.”
should stay content and enjoy
the sunrise. Don’t ask questions and don’t
plan for the future.
They won’t see many more days like these.
They should enjoy it.
Our eyes remains firmly shut. We don’t
deserve to see the warmth.
much further do you think it
ways,” the confident one
replies nonchalantly. The questions his
brother asks may be wise, but
there is a certain wisdom is accepting happiness
where you can find it.
do you know that?”
a long journey, so we have
to go until there’s nowhere left,” he replies,
voice slurred with drowsiness.
the end of the world?”
lean back on the ground and the
larger stones press into our back. The
crashing waves are not enough to
drown the words. We cover our ears once
more, but it won’t help.
The decision has already been made, and
nothing will change it.
the end of the world.”
slams into our chest,
the mist, suddenly heavy. Light bursts
through the haze and it’s over.
The pounding stops. We lay, unable to
move from the weight of the
rain. The sticky liquid slides down our hair
and face and leaves a trail
we can feel. The ground beneath us feels
hungry and pulls us in.
a brighter light out of
the corner of our eyes and an inviting warmth.
We lift our head, shivering
in the warmth. The light is too bright,
hurting our eyes even through the
new sound joins the cries,
steadily growing louder and more persistent until
it cuts into our ears,
despite our efforts. The light sings a
funeral dirge for the lost world.
It is slow and dissonant with the screams,
no rage accompanying its
steady cadence. It slices through our heart
and soul, despite their
already tattered shape.
mouth opens, though seeking to
turn the sound away or join it, we do not know.
No sound issues forth.
ground beneath us is now
smooth and hard, and seems to push up on our back.
Have we been spat out?
All around us things growl, moan, and
scream, creating any sound and any
combination of sounds imaginable. They are
that which does not exist,
that which should not exist.
floor quivers slightly to a
pair of footsteps and we cringe. It’s too
soon. We aren’t ready.
We can’t decide.
we almost there?”
would have thought we’d
actually find it?” The questioner’s voice is
energetic and loud,
overpowering even the nonexistent.
one, and that’s why they let
you. If anyone had guessed at the
consequences, guessed that this could
happen, they would never have allowed it.
so long, we had to.”
quiver stops, and all is
silence. We push on our hands even harder,
hoping they can make it stay
they turn around now everything
can all be okay, but their decisions are made.
floor quivers once more and
our turn now. We push
off the floor with our hands. We must choose
now and so we stand.
door creaks and granite slides
they go through that door the
impossible will happen again.
shuddering in fear and anticipation.
open our eyes, panicked, to see
a large door the color of night stand most open.
The two brothers are now
significantly older than when they started and
stare into the darkness beyond.
A single walkway stretches forward, barely
visible through the
do you think it will be?”
brothers glance at each other
once more, as if to verify that they are both
still there, and take a step.
We have to end this.
Our voice cracks and
our ears tremble, unused to our own sound.
burst through the door and onto
the walkway. Everything would be so much
easier if we could simply find a
way to stop them.
light glimmers ahead of us.
In sudden terror we turn, but we can’t see
the entrance anymore.
What do we do? How did they get so far
ahead of us?
a man’s voice calls from
closer to the light.
spin back around to see that
the light is slightly blocked by the brothers as
they stand before it.
It’s too late. We’re in the sanctuary.
children,” a woman whispers as
the light gets slightly brighter.
run towards the brothers.
We have to stop them. This can’t
happen again. This isn’t
their mother and we don’t want them to get hurt
do you hide your eyes?
You have searched so long and endured so
much for this moment. Why
would you shy away from it?”
light is almost too bright to
bear, but we keep running. We won’t close
our eyes again. We
you found the most precious
thing, why didn’t you come home?”
can almost touch the brothers.
Their hands block the radiance from their
eyes. They shouldn’t see
your hands and I shall tell
attempt to grab their arms,
reaching desperately to both of them, but it’s too
late and our hands merely
follow theirs down. We can feel the tension
drain from their bodies, and
ours, as the light washes over them. We can
see her in all her beauty.
She is the loveliest woman we have ever seen
and her eyes look upon us
never gave up, did you?”
remember words like these.
They were spoken to us then and are spoken
to us now.
matter what happened and what
obstacles blocked your way you continued in the
quest for the most precious
thing.” She reaches out her hand. “I
have never been prouder.”
fall into her arms, through the
forms of the brothers, and warmth surrounds us as
she envelops us in an
stay with me forever.”
She speaks to us and what we were. Has
she always known this would
happen, always spoken to the now and the then?
clothes begin to smoke from
her touch and our cheeks burn. We should not
be in her arms. No
human should look upon her, much less touch her,
be held by her.
came here for the most
are our words, but they
aren’t spoken by all of us. She tenses.
am the most precious thing.”
claws into our back and blood
begins to sizzle and boil away.
Instinctively, we attempt to pull away
but she grasps us even tighter.
could you say that?” the
questioner asks. “She has to be our mother.”
only our mother because
that’s what we really wanted and what we really
sought. We know that now.
when did mother glow?” the
confident one demands.
wet slides down our
face. It is not nearly as thick as the
previous rain. The boiling
of our blood and the burning skin hurts, but it
isn’t the reason rain falls.
For the first time we can remember we are
held by someone who is not us.
isn’t our mother.”
clings tighter to us and we
remember thinking she had been in pain when she
clutched at her sides.
Instead she claims us. Mother or not,
she will defend us more than
any other person ever would.
one who always knows the
answers, the independent one, turns more directly
towards her. “Why are
you trying to deceive us?”
love you both.” Her voice
is strained and honest. “Why won’t you
accept it? I’ll give it to
you however you prefer.” She strokes our
hair, attempting to be gentle
even as her radiance burns. We have already
grown numb to the pain.
“I can be your mother or your lover.”
leave it. If we can be
happy with her that’s enough.”
confident one turns back to
his brother. “Didn’t we come here to find
this...” three voices
whisper into the void, all one person even though
one person was once two.
you’re hurting her.”
you know we have to
don’t want to suffer anymore.”
stops stroking our hair, arms
loosening in resigned shock.
pull away and look at her and
for a moment we stand just ahead, and between, the
two brothers. For just
a moment we can feel ourselves, separate but
of the brothers rushes past me
holding a sword he found while searching the ruins
of a great city. He
never thought he’d use it. The other brother
cries out and lunges
forward, tackling the attacker. The hit the
ground right at her feet.
look at her. She looks at
us. Her eyes glint with grief and we can
feel warm liquid coming from our
don’t do this,” she
whispers. We look back down at the fighting
brothers. This will
never happen to us again, but it will always
happen to what we were until the
decision is made. We remember that now.
sorry, but we can’t change
the brothers tumble the sword
twists in a hand until one of them shouts.
He never really knew what to
do with that sword, no matter how much he
pretended and his brother now has a
stomach wound. He rolls over, eyes cloudy
from pain, and keeps rolling to
the edge of the walkway.
sword drops and its owner
swear never to fight again and
that we’ll always be together. That’s what
we think and what we believe,
then and now.
brother reaches out
desperately for his falling sibling, but he’s too
late and moving too fast.
They fall off the edge together. The
silence deafens us.
cautiously, we walk
forward. Our eyes never leave hers and we
pick up the discarded sword.
We remember warm arms wrapping around us and
howling wind. We
remember darkness and the silent decision.
she begs. “Don’t do
this to me again. I love you.”
look down at the blade for a
moment. Rust and blood cling to it and color
it crimson. We give a
sad smile. Time never seems to pass here.
No matter how often we
find ourself in this place everything remains the
same, except that this sword
always seems a little rustier and to hold a little
more blood. We look at
killed our brother, our very
self. It wouldn’t be that hard to kill her.
We can’t live with her
after she caused us so much pain, but can we kill
her? She loves us more
than we ever loved ourselves and values us more
than we ever valued ourselves.
reaches out her hands.
“Please, we can protect each other.”
we are to absolve our sin we
know what we must do, but we can’t. A world
without a God is better than
a world with an insane one. A world with a
sane God is better than a
world without one. No matter what, the
cycle must break.
can’t do it.
can’t not break her heart and
we can’t kill it either. She’d let us do it
if we wanted. She’d let
us do anything. We clutch the sword.
This time we won’t stain it
more. At least then she won’t have to stare
drop the sword and smile, the
most sincere smile we have ever given. Then
we fall to the same side as
the individuals before us.
light fades as we rush away
from her. She screams and it follows us,
even after we can no longer see
the light. In the darkness and amidst the
cries we whisper the one wish
we deserve to have granted.