Short Fiction


Imagine, if you will, that you are in a room. The wallpaper is vibrant, and the curtains remind you of your mother’s house. They are white, perhaps, or maybe blue. You aren’t certain, as they seem to change every time you glance at them. The furnishings are sparse; a chair, behind which you stand, and a desk, behind which He sits. You’re certain you didn’t see him enter, and you’re positive he wasn’t there when you got there. How did you get there? You can’t quite seem to remember.
“Can I tell you a story?” You hear his voice, but don’t see his lips move. You want to ask where you are and who He is, but instead nod, yes, I will listen. “Thank you,” He takes a deep breath. “To be honest, I’m asking for advice, really. My sons just don’t seem to get along.”
You smile. Of course they don’t, brothers never get along. You think of your own children, playing at home, under the tree. The tree? The Christmas tree. It’s Christmas Eve, and you can’t wait for them to unwrap all the presents you got them. Tommy would be ecstatic when he finally got the new baseball glove he’d seen every other boy on his team get last year, and you were pretty sure Charlie would like the book he’d gotten him. To be fair, he wasn’t sure what to get Charlie, but he thought that getting him a book on acting was a good idea. If only Tommy would stop teasing the poor boy. It’s unfortunate the two ended up so different.
“Exactly!” He said. You saw his mouth slid into a smile. “They’re just so different. Mike and Abe are, you know, very normal and all that, but Luci and Cane, well…”
You frown. Had he said Cane? Like the walking stick?
“No, no. C-A-I-N. Cain. He’s my second youngest.”
And none of them get along at all? That seems even worse than your boys.
“Oh, they don’t all know each other that well. Luci and Mike came first, and they got along for a bit, but when Abe and Cain came along, ah, well. I liked Abe and Cain maybe a little too much. Mike was fine with that, of course, but Luci refused to acknowledge them. Ironic, really, since Luci’s become such good friends with Cain.”
You shake your head. If you knew how to fix brothers constantly squabbling, you wouldn’t have Tommy and Charlie fighting all the time.
“Do your boys hurt each other too?”
You stiffen. You remember what felt like years ago, but was really…a month ago? Two?
Right. Tommy was angry after losing a game in the playoffs. He wanted to cool off, but Charlie was practicing for an audition. He’d been memorizing a monologue, when Tommy burst in:
“Shut up.”
“Tommy, I’m busy. Go away.”
“Why weren’t you at my game, a-hole? Do you not care about your own brother?”
“Tommy, I was practicing for my audition.”
“So I’m not good enough for you, am I, loser?”
“Leave me alone, Tommy.”
And Tommy lost it. He had so much testosterone and rage built up that it all just exploded outward. Somehow, a bat found its way into his hand. Charlie didn’t stand a chance.
“But that wasn’t your fault, was it?”
You’re not sure. Sure, you taught your boys that hurting others was wrong, but you should’ve been there for Charlie.
“You would’ve picked a side?”
That’s not picking a side. That’s defending the people who need help.
“I see.”
You could tell He didn’t.
“Maybe I’m just out of touch. Should I try to see my boys more?”
Couldn’t hurt, you guessed. When was the last time you’d seen your sons? You were heading out, pick up some last-minute presents from the store.
“I do suppose it’s been a little long since I’ve checked in on Luci and Cain. Maybe I’ll drop by in a week or three.”
You nod. But you wonder, was there really that much else you could say to help? You look around, but don’t see any obvious exits. Were you trapped in this room? And why couldn’t you remember how you’d gotten there…
“Right, right, sorry for not explaining everything–”
Anything. He hasn’t explained anything.
“Sorry for not explaining anything. And I’m sorry for dumping all this on you. I just wanted to get it off my chest. I haven’t had met such a kindred spirit in years.”
You haven’t met anyone in years?
“You know what I mean. One single father to another.”
Your eyes widen. For the first time, you really notice the chair in front of you and collapse into it. Your wife…four years ago today…
“Oh. I guess I made a mistake, there. I hadn’t realized it had been today.”
You can’t help but think back to it. Christmas Eve, and you’d gone out with your wife for a drink after a job well done. The boys had been put to sleep, the presents had been set out, and you both were so incredibly exhausted. A drink wouldn’t be too much to ask for, would it? Of course it was. You weren’t that drunk, but, after all, did it matter how drunk you were? Or did it matter more that she had drunk enough to make her blood thinner than it should be, so when the windshield shattered and slashed her in a thousand places she…
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
You look at his face. He did seem sorry, but that wasn’t enough.
“You-you sure say sorry a lot, don’t you.”
He looked taken aback. “You can speak? That’s incredible.”
Trembling, you rose from the chair. “Of course I can speak. Do you mind telling me why you had to mention-why you had to mention…” You collapsed down again, sinking back into your seat. Feeble. Weak. Unable to save your wife, unable to help your sons, unable to even support them.
For a while He sat there, silent. Eventually, he rose, and turned to look out the window behind him. You were sure that wasn’t there before. “No one remembers my wife.”
“What? Your friends forgot about her?”
“Everyone forgot about her. They just assumed I did all that I did alone. Silly, really. Of course I had someone with me, helping me along the way. She was the love of my life. But in the end, she was lost all the same.”
Outside the window, storm clouds rolled in. Thunder rumbled, and rain began to fall, splattering against the window. He gave a small, sad smile. “I have a…brother. He keeps things balanced, naturally, and, well. The balance was starting to shift unfairly. So, my brother made things equal.”
“Your brother…killed your wife? Is he in prison? Did he get away with it? Oh my god, that’s horrific.”
He flinched, “No, he didn’t go to prison. He got away with it, in a manner of speaking. But I worry that it was the loss of my wife that so hurt my children. I didn’t know how to care best for them, how to grieve with them.”
Realization dawned on you. Your wife had taken care of your sons, had enjoyed spending time with them–whereas you did your best, but still only thought of them as children. “Thank you.”
“Of course. I hope you learned from my mistakes, and realize that what happened wasn’t your fault.” He smiled, “It was nice talking with you.”
“Wait,” You interrupted, “One last question: where am I?”
He frowned, “I thought you’d figured it out. Are you truly still confused?”
“A dream?”
He bit his lip, “I’m afraid that I have some unfortunate news, then. While you were driving home from the
bar, you crashed. Again.”
“Sorry? What do you mean?”
“You’re dead, son.”
You sit there, confused. It’s not possible. Another crash? It’s Christmas Eve, and your boys will be wondering
where you are when they wake up. Tears coming to your eyes, you realize you’ve given your boys the worst Christmas gift of all.
He stood there, watching. Silent.
“This is all your fault!” You scream, accosting him with all your vices. Blaming him for making you an addict, an alcoholic.
“It’s not my job to make sure you all stay happy and content. I gave you life, gave you freedom of will. Is that not enough?”
“You would orphan my sons?”
“Blame me if you must. It’s not my fault no more than the bartender who gave you your drinks.” He scowled, “That’s all you people ever do; blame me for your own damned suffering.”
“Then who are you? The Devil?”
He laughed, “Worse. Much worse.”

You wake up. You see the bottles strewn on the floor. You are sure you had drunk out, not at home. Was it all only a dream? Or, was it a second chance?

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