THIRTY-TWO, 2.0

Ian stood watching his brother’s touchdown, mouth agape, eyes stinging. He could feel drool dribbling down his chin, and his hands were curled into fists. No one was looking at him, which was good. He could only imagine the shivering mess that he would look to be from the outside.

As soon as the episode was over, Ian collapsed into his chair, wiped his chin. He held his head in his hands, and when his mother touched his shoulder, Ian looked up at her and tears were streaming down his face. “Your brother is amazing,” she said, not for the first time tonight.

“Sure is,” muttered Ian, placing his head back in his hands.He tried not to think of the vision, but for the rest of the night all he could see was the blazing fires around his brother’s corpse.

Jesus, Ian thought to himself, Why this again?

When they were kids, Ian just didn’t pay any heed to the visions. He was always at odds with his older brother, didn’t matter the game, so sibling rivalry, a little misplaced anger, made sense. Tag, they’d push each other, not just tag each other. Football, the rules of two-hand touch didn’t matter, it was always tackle between Ian and Tony. Even breakfast, Tony would smother Ian’s bacon and eggs in the dog’s food dish, throw it back on his plate, then laugh when their mother, too tired to notice, practically spoon-fed the dish to Ian.

So, being kids, Ian would fantasize about payback, about pushing Tony down a hill, pinning and suffocating him, or force-feeding Tony until he vomited. Once his fantasy became even darker, and Ian imagined stripping Tony’s skin from his body and burning the rest of him into ash. It was horrifying, and creepy.

And, at the time, delightful.

But then, like now, Ian had gone into a sort of trance, and when he’d awoken he was horrified and standing on the ledge of his apartment building. Luckily no one had been around, but now there was family everywhere, and the team’s owner in the next box.

Now, if anyone had seen Ian go into his trance, he would’ve been toast, sent into hiding and never heard from again. He loved his brother, and wanted to shout it to the room.

They were competitive, sure, but both had been in this same position in this same game twice before. They were, simply put, the best of the best. Though he was younger, Ian had retired two years prior, to focus on his family and start his own gardening commune. He rarely spoke with Tony and the rest of the family, who often didn’t call him on Thanksgiving.

He’d been surprised about the invite to the family’s box to watch the big game, but then again, an appearance meant a lot to everyone involved and his specially tailored Gatorade jacket garnered him a few hundred grand. Not that he needed the cash, but these days there was little more to his own name that the money had stopped flowing in.

His mind flickered to the vision of Tony’s burning corpse, and Ian put it out of view, deciding to stood up and clap instead. He even managed a smile, and hugged his mother — who immediately tensed at his grip.

Ian would never stop loving and rooting for his brother.

And Tony would never see him coming.

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