Fantasticoe -- 2012
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The Transmigration of Sin 

Alexis Berman

The 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.  Look away.

The 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.

We close our eyes.


The 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.

“What’s so funny?” a boy behind us asks and we open our eyes to see him walk past, drenched.

“I can’t believe you fell in,” the laughing one responds, clutching his sides.

His smile is innocent, enjoying the game he and his brother have played many times before.

The wet one sits, pouting, beside his companion.  “Why are you so mean?”

A childish question, but wise, looking deeper than he ever realizes.

Calming down, the boy shrugs.  “You’re the one who wanted to get it back.”

“Isn’t it all we have?” the wet boy responds, pulling a strip of faded cloth from his pocket.

We 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.

He lays on his back and gazes at the billowing clouds, white and inviting.  “Can you see her face?”

“Of course.”

They 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 still holds.

“Do you think she watches us from the sky?”

“Mom has to watch us from somewhere.”

The 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.  

They 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 last forever.

“Hey, brother?”

The one who never questions opens his eyes.

“Mom left to find the most precious thing right?”

We feel our hands clenching.  Tell him to stop asking questions.  It’s better to stay like this than to move on.

“What if we found it?  Do you think she’d come back?”

“She’ll come back anyway.”

Our entire body tenses.  This has to stop.

“But when?  What if she never finds it?”

“She will.”

“But don’t people always find things faster together?”  He chews his lip for a moment.  “Can we help her?”

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.  

“Yeah, 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.”

Our 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.

“How do we start?”

Accepting defeat, we lay on our back.  Thunder cracks and something wet slides down our face.  Make it stop.

“We follow the brightest star.  That’s where the most precious thing has to be.”


Something 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 lips.

The 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.

Everything 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.

We cover our ears.


The 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.

“How do we keep going?”

The questioner’s voice is deeper this time, but still rings with hidden wisdom.

“We’ll just need a boat.”

He 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.

“Where can we get a boat?”

“We’ll just follow the shoreline to the right.”

They 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.

“Why right?”

“We have to go somewhere.”

They 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.

“Can we watch the sunrise here?”

Smalls 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.

They should just sleep forever.

The 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.

Stay like that.


“Go back to sleep.”

They 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.

“How much further do you think it is?”

“A 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.

“How do you know that?”

“It’s a long journey, so we have to go until there’s nowhere left,” he replies, voice slurred with drowsiness.

“To the end of the world?”

We 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.

“To the end of the world.”


Something 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.

There’s 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 lids.

A 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.

Our mouth opens, though seeking to turn the sound away or join it, we do not know.  No sound issues forth.


The 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.

The floor quivers slightly to a pair of footsteps and we cringe.  It’s too soon.  We aren’t ready.  We can’t decide.

“Are we almost there?”

No, we aren’t.

“Of course.”

“Who would have thought we’d actually find it?”  The questioner’s voice is energetic and loud, overpowering even the nonexistent.  

No 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.

“After so long, we had to.”

The quiver stops, and all is silence.  We push on our hands even harder, hoping they can make it stay this way.

If they turn around now everything can all be okay, but their decisions are made.

The floor quivers once more and then stops.

It’s our turn now.  We push off the floor with our hands.  We must choose now and so we stand.

A door creaks and granite slides against marble.

If they go through that door the impossible will happen again.

Three simultaneous breaths, shuddering in fear and anticipation.

We 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 nothingness.

“What do you think it will be?”

“Something good.”

The 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.

“Stop!”  Our voice cracks and our ears tremble, unused to our own sound.  

We burst through the door and onto the walkway.  Everything would be so much easier if we could simply find a way to stop them.  

A 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?

“Mother?” a man’s voice calls from closer to the light.

We 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.

“My children,” a woman whispers as the light gets slightly brighter.

We 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 again.

“Why do you hide your eyes?  You have searched so long and endured so much for this moment.  Why would you shy away from it?”

The light is almost too bright to bear, but we keep running.  We won’t close our eyes again.  We promise.

“If you found the most precious thing, why didn’t you come home?”

We can almost touch the brothers.  Their hands block the radiance from their eyes.  They shouldn’t see this.

“Lower your hands and I shall tell you.”

We 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 with love.

“You never gave up, did you?”  

We remember words like these.  They were spoken to us then and are spoken to us now.

“No 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.”

We fall into her arms, through the forms of the brothers, and warmth surrounds us as she envelops us in an embrace.

“Please 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?

Our 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.

“We came here for the most precious thing.”

Those are our words, but they aren’t spoken by all of us.  She tenses.

“I am the most precious thing.”

She claws into our back and blood begins to sizzle and boil away.  Instinctively, we attempt to pull away but she grasps us even tighter.

“How could you say that?” the questioner asks.  “She has to be our mother.”

She’s only our mother because that’s what we really wanted and what we really sought.  We know that now.

“Since when did mother glow?” the confident one demands.

Something 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.

“She loves us.”

“She isn’t our mother.”

She 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.

The one who always knows the answers, the independent one, turns more directly towards her.  “Why are you trying to deceive us?”

“I 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.”

“Just leave it.  If we can be happy with her that’s enough.”

The confident one turns back to his brother.  “Didn’t we come here to find our mother?”

“Stop this...” three voices whisper into the void, all one person even though one person was once two.

“Brother, you’re hurting her.”

“Brother, you know we have to leave.”

“I don’t want to suffer anymore.”

Three individuals.  One being.

She stops stroking our hair, arms loosening in resigned shock.

We 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 always together.

One 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.

We look at her.  She looks at us.  Her eyes glint with grief and we can feel warm liquid coming from our own.

“Please, 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.

“We’re sorry, but we can’t change it.”

As 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.

The sword drops and its owner rushes forward.

We swear never to fight again and that we’ll always be together.  That’s what we think and what we believe, then and now.  

The 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.

Slowly, 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.

“Don’t,” she begs.  “Don’t do this to me again.  I love you.”

We 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 her.

We 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.

She reaches out her hands.  “Please, we can protect each other.”

If 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.

We can’t do it.  

We 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 at it.

We 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.

The 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.