The Brother

Oh, the drama.

Let me tell you about the last time I saw my brother, Platte. It’ll be quick, I promise you.

We were running across the Flint’rye Forest, violet moss squashing under our footsteps. At the end of the forest’s north walls, there is a cliff. I managed to slow my run enough to only teeter on the edge of the cliff, while Platte slid, ending up with his feet over the edge. I looked beyond his feet, to the yellow mists of the Falls, and imagined what it might be like to tumble down, thousands of feet, pondering all of life in the final seconds of my life. Then he tugged at my ankle, pulled me back.

“Told ya… you wouldn’t… do it,” he said, catching his breath.

“I woulda if you weren’t here to pull me back.”

“You were just standing there. It’s boring.” He was already on his feet, wiping violet stains from his legs.

“Like you’re any more exciting,” I called after him. I watched the Falls for a few more minutes as the sun set behind me, shadows of the Flints extending, reaching out to disappear into the yellow below.

“Dad’s going to be holding his cane when we return.” Platte was already a hundred yards ahead of me, but I could hear him clear as crystal. He commonly threw his voice, a feat that was easily accomplished in the forest, to be sure, but easier still for a Vox.

“Then you should walk in the door first. Tire him out.”

“I’ve never beat you home before.” By this time I caught up with him and slowed my steps, which was a struggle for me. Platt had always been much smaller than me, less than half my size. “Beside, you can take his punishments better than I.”

“He’s an old man. His hits will stop hurting soon as he dwindles in age.”

“Only several thousand years to go. Do you think we’ll both live that long?”

Before I could answer his ridiculous question by pointing out that our Mother only lived to the young age of eight hundred years, a wind took hold and cycled us into the air, up past the Flints highest heights, and we slid across the lowest clouds above our kingdom. An ice patch caught my body and grabbed hold, so I slept, frozen, for three days.

By the time I awoke, I was already dangling above the violet moss, hanging from the fingers of an elderly Flints that had obviously grown weary of saving the lives of our people day after day.

Platte was nowhere in sight.

“Platte! PLAAAAATTTTTTE!” He did not answer my call. The entire road home I called his name and heard only my voice as echo.

At home, I went straight for our food box and chewed on meat of all kinds for over an hour, catching up on days’ worth of hunger. Before starting my fourth Beast leg, I took a breath — and smelled a lingering scent that had filled my nostrils and invaded my taste buds.

I looked over to our father’s study, and there he was. Dear old Dad, cut from ear to ear, body doused in his own dried blood. His right hand remained clenched around the handle to his cane.

“I’m disappointed in you.” I wiped my eyes. My father’s voice was booming through the house, but his lips did not move. The sensation of his corpse yelling at me drove chills through my heart.

Then I realized, as Platte emerged in the doorway, that my ears had heard the workings of a Vox.

“Ah, you found my stash.” Platte emerged, his trill voice returning to normal. He had just woken up. “Don’t eat all of the legs, the Beast was quite plump and all eight legs are hearty, should last us through the month if we ration it right.”

I stared in disbelief. “…Dad…?”

“He’s dead, you can see him right there.” Platte moved aside, gesturing at Dad’s body as though presenting a prize Beast. “He cracked me a good one when I came home late, then seven more times when he saw I was alone.” He bent down, showed me the back of his head. Bruises and bones protruded from his head, his skull throbbing as blood flowed under his skin.

“Oh, Platte…”

“I can’t feel a thing. Not any more. Don’t you see, though, Trent: We are finally free!” He grabbed my arm and guided me into the study. I tried to resist but Platte’s grasp was tough and he pulled me with much force. “Look, see his latest works.”

Stacks of books were holding up a telescope at Dad’s study window, pointed at the sky. Night was falling, but Platte promised me that when the sun finally set, we could analyze Dad’s latest studies, and continue his course of field work. “A new destination, don’t you see? We can finally go where he wanted to go, do what he would’ve done, and create a whole new — ”

I don’t know why I punched him, it didn’t feel good. It felt wrong, and dark, and dangerous. After the Chambermen arrived and locked him away, still unconscious, I did exactly what Platte wanted to do and I left on the journey to continue Dad’s work.

And now Platte has finally caught up with me.

I wonder how he escaped?


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