That night and all the nights that followed for the next month or so were bland pageantry which allowed us to continue our art, but without any passion. And so, when the elections came and went and when Griton was ousted and disappeared, and when the capital seemed to feel normal Luke changed everything forever.
We had struggled with the power of the serums, both of us had, but the serum was my dream, not his. He held onto my wish and supported it, but he decided that he no longer wished to chase greatness with me. He wanted nothing but his solitude and calmness. He had had that before I pulled him from the safety of his haven back when I worked for the Imam. But on that island, so far from what he knew as home, he lived in a fear that I had not seen. I had assumed and I had not paid enough attention to my brother. I had not cared for him as much as I had cared for acclaim. I had put myself before him and Luke paid for that.
I awoke to a silence that I had not heard since I was on my farm in The Gulf. It isn’t as much a silence caused by the absence of sound but a void caused by the drowning out of sound by a nefarious and all-consuming numbness. Knowing straight away that there was something wrong I walked to the kitchen and saw Luke sat in a chair, slumped across the table, one arm atop it and the other hanging beside him, his face lying on the table. In his hand a glass lay on its side. A damp patch no larger than a fingernail where its rim met the wood of the table. I thought at first that he was asleep or passed out drunk. But that hope was swept away at the very moment I tried to wake him and felt the cold skin of his hand.
Looking down on my Luke’s lifeless body, his large and rough hands reminded me of my sisters’ hands in that storm so very long ago. They had held hands as they died of exposure and malnutrition and the image of their little hands has remained with me always. Luke’s hands then joined them in my mind, as if he was keeping the girls warm now in that cold place. Beside myself, I remembered then and rushed to the container of serums in a box next to my bed. I ran back to Luke with the serum and grabbed a kitchen knife. I placed a bowl below his hand which hung by his side and slit his finger with the knife. I gulped down the first serum and prepared the second, then I drank his blood to find him in that cold place.
I don’t know how much serum I took but I shot into that cold place like a lightning bolt and again found that group of floating beings. They all still held themselves in that silent formlessness that could only be described as a blank calm. I couldn’t feel any emotion, not joyous or sorrowful, just the cold. Just the cold. I waited and hoped that I would see Luke arrive there but after a long time of hovering in between worlds there was still nothing but that cold calm. I was beginning to worry and think that he had gone somewhere else, then one of the figures moved toward me, again glowing, and not with light, but rather with a sense of commonality. It was her. She saw me, and soon, there behind her another moved forward, a younger being, one that felt new to that place, yet familiar. I felt her kindliness toward me and knew. I could not see her and hear her but I knew. I felt Zarinah. And she was happy.
Just before I woke, the very moment before the serum was spent, a light appeared above the group beyond my mother the women who I loved. As it had with Zarinah the light burst and gave way to a new being, one that held an orange energy to him. But as that light descended into the crowd it blinked down through the crowd and shot away into a murk of shadow below them. Then it was gone and I awoke. Alone. Again and again I went to that place that day. I repeated the steps over and over and waited to find my brother. But he each time I went there through his blood the connection to that cold place weakened until in the end all that could see was a bleak abyss where nothing remained. I refused to believe that Luke did not reside in that cold place. I did not know where he was, or even if he was, but I couldn’t let him go. Not like that.
The following morning I awoke on the kitchen floor, Luke’s body still propped in the chair and across the table, the bloody cup still in my hand and a pool of red vomit on the floorboards next to me. I didn’t want to believe that he was gone, and worse still, that he was lost beyond that cold yet familiar place. And so I took up my supplies and packed up all the vital pouches of dust and seeds and bottles of serums. Then I left. I walked the roads of the island and lived wild, sleeping in fields on those warm nights. I didn’t see or speak to anyone. I didn’t cook, living on fruit and the leafs. I just walked and watched the birds fly. I listened to the wind and the ocean and the waves destroying themselves on the shore. I walked all the way east to the volcano and beyond it to where I could see the mainland on the other side of the water. It seemed so close. All that time I carried Luke in my heart, I talked to him when I sat and took in the views of a place where we could have lived out lives. I listened to his silence on the sand of the shoreline as the tides rushed in and out under my slow and pained watch. I walked with him in those rolling fields of green and brown. And I kissed his cheek each night before I slept. But most of all, I missed my brother.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey