Wind chimes sounded gently from outside the window. Summer birds flit through boughs of trees, landing naught for a moment to scoop a wandering insect. The first sign of rain was haze on the horizon, nothing but a whisper on the wind. A swing gently swung from a playset left to rot.
“There once were two brothers. One, small and sharp of wit. The other, strong in body and heart.”
The scent of grass drifted in the window; the window left askew. Squirrels scampered, their steps ponderous and devoid of purpose. Rolling thunder fell from the grey clouds, echoing over the hills. One deflated ball sat in the overgrown lawn.
“They would play together: chase, hide, laugh. Around and around they would go. The small one was always slower, and the strong never able to hide for long.”
Warm drink – metallic on the tongue, rough in the throat. Lizards basked in the last sunlight before the approaching grey, and far away the first raindrops fell. Pattering into the sand, long since forgotten castles of might and splendor turned to mush.
“One day the first brother fell, disappearing into the ground. He had naught the strength to climb out, nor the voice to call for help. But the second, the second brother tried everything he could to rescue the other.”
Hailstones clattered off the thin metal roof, skipping across the ground and coming to rest in growing puddles. The last summer bird thrashed as it died, pummeled and drowned in the mud. Rusting away, a forgotten tricycle weathered the storm.
“But he failed. The first could not escape, and as the ground caved, the first brother vanished. The second could only start to dig, with the only hope to find a corpse.”
Lightning flashed across the sky, followed closely by thunder. Buried were the nests, the dens, the burrows. Gone, under the mud and ice. But a single swing creaked under a rotting playset.
“He dug until his fingers bled but nothing could be found, no matter how deep he dug. The first brother was gone and the other blamed himself. He was one of two, now one of one.”
The first rays of sunlight broke through the grey skies. From the hollow in the tree: a survivor; a summer bird chirped its song. One deflated ball peeked from the puddle in which it sat.
“The brother couldn’t find peace. Days passed, then weeks and months. Even after years he knew he was one of two. Not one of one. So he made a choice.”
Freshness, the kind that follows summer rains, drifted in the window left askew. Renewed by the light pools of golden light, squirrels resumed their scampering, their playing. The rusty tricycle remained where it was, water dripping from the handles.
“The brother went to that hole in the ground – the earth now weathered by time – and laid himself to rest with a stake through his heart.”
Long shadows of evening light fell across the hills. Trees swayed on their slopes, gently singing their song, and the animals carried on. But one rusty tricycle was left forgotten in a yard of overgrown grass.
“In the last flickering moments, the first brother’s shadow fell across him. Now he knew, he was never just one of two or one of one. He was strong, in body and heart, but never had he realized that he was himself first. A brother and a person, now nothing but another stone in the sand.”