The Brother Who Wouldn’t Die




I can remember that day so clearly. My older sister, and I were driving back home from a
shopping spree. The weather was sunny and warm. Perfect for summer. We were both in
high spirits because we had found some really great deals for clothes. We had spent the
night in a hotel, blissfully locked away from the cares of the world. The news had been
getting darker and darker. Talks of a doomsday drug were all you ever heard about.

It gets old after a while so my sister and I decided to take a little vacation and forget about
everything. Nothing could change in just one night. We really wanted to continue in this
blissful ignorance so we didn’t listen to the radio and we took some very rural back roads
to get home. Little did we know, a lot can change in one night.


We finally made it back to our home town. Main street was quiet. Eerily quiet. No cars were
parked at the local cafe for breakfast. The music that usually blasts from the pawn shop
was silent. Nobody walked the cobbled sidewalk. The single traffic light blinked morosely. 


People always say hindsight is 20/20. We should have seen that something was wrong.
The town didn’t bustle, it was dead. But we didn’t think much of it. We just wanted to get
home. 


Our family owned a farm a few miles past town. It wasn’t a very big farm, but it provided
what we needed. We lived in a two story plantation style house. It was like a mansion
compared to some of the other houses in town.


I might have been oblivious in town, but I noticed right away that something was wrong
here. None of our chickens were out, the dogs didn’t greet us. Most noticeable was the
front door stood wide open. The screen door hung on a single hinge. My sister and I
looked at each other. I saw the same growing fear in her eyes that I’m sure was reflected
in mine. We both bolted out of the car. She ran inside. I followed more slowly, afraid of
what I might find. 


Nothing was out of place. The chairs were upright, papers on the table. My sister was
calling frantically for our parents. Over and over again she shouted their names. Nobody
answered. Where was our baby brother? He didn’t answer either. Mom was always
scolding us to look after him. He was several years younger than me. His conception
had been a surprise to Mom and Dad. She wasn’t supposed to have any more kids. It
makes him all the more special in their eyes. We were supposed to take care of him,
make sure he didn’t get into trouble. But now we couldn’t find him.


My sister met me in the dining room. The fear in her eyes was elevated. There was a
thump from above. It sounded like something hit the roof. We dashed up the stairs and
came out on the balcony that overlooked the backyard. The french doors were wide
open. One of them banged against the house in the breeze. There he was! He was
sitting with his back to us, legs dangling through the gaps in the railings. He broke one
of the rules. He wasn’t supposed to sit like that. 


I opened my mouth to tell him to get away from the rails, but my sister grabbed my arm.
I looked at her. She was staring at our little brother’s back. It was small, too small. And
dirty. Why was he dirty? Mom was death about keeping him clean and spotless. Something
was wrong here. I closed my mouth. I tentatively stepped onto the balcony, it creaked
ominously. My sister told me to be careful. She stayed off the balcony and waited. I crept
forward, carefully placing each foot. Why was the balcony falling apart? What has
happened? 


I called to him. Softly so I wouldn’t startle him. He turned slowly. When I saw his face my
hands went to my mouth. He was hurt, hurt terribly. A massive gash traveled from his
forehead to his chin. His eyes looked glazed over. At that moment the balcony gave way.
He disappeared with half the balcony crashing to the ground. He didn’t make a sound.
My sister grabbed me and yanked me to safety.


We dashed downstairs. Hoping to ...what? Save him? Surely he was dead. A second
story fall with all that wood? No one could survive that let alone a little boy. We ran outside.
A pile of broken wood was scattered across the lawn. One lonely foot stuck up in the
middle of the worst of it. 


We ran forward. Wood flew through the air in our haste to uncover him. At last the final
piece was off him. We sat back, tears flowing down our faces. Blood covered him. His
eyes were open, unfocused. We failed. Our only little brother was dead. We hugged each
other, crying. The ground should tremble with the force of our grief. 


There was movement. Unbelievably he sat up. His eyes were still unfocused and glossy.
Dead eyes. We couldn’t move. Shock held us in place. How could this be? He looked
at us. He didn’t make a sound; didn’t cry. He was always a baby. Cried at everything.
Yet when he should have been killed he didn’t cry? 


I reached out to him. He took my hand. It was cold, so very cold. I pulled him close to me,
held him like I would never let him go. My sister put her arms around both of us. Tears of
joy in her eyes. To her he was alive. Couldn’t she see? Something was wrong with him.
Yet he was moving, he was alive.


She picked him up and gingerly carried him inside. We took him to the bathroom to clean
him up. I ran upstairs to get him clean clothes. When I got back, he was sitting in a bathtub
full of bubbles. My sister looked at me. I could see the confusion in her eyes. She pointed
to a splinter the size of my hand. She had taken that out of his little body. He acted like
nothing had happened. He still didn’t cry. Why?


He sat in the bathtub looking straight ahead. He didn’t blink. His hand held a sponge and
was slowly making little circles on his arm. My sister looked at me. I shrugged. We left
and closed the door behind us. We went to the kitchen and started making lunch. Doing
something normal seemed to help. Our parents are gone. Maybe they would come back,
maybe they wouldn’t.


Minutes passed. Ten. Fifteen. He came into the kitchen. His eyes unchanged. He looked
even worse after the bath. His clean skin and clothes just made the wound on his head
look worse. His eyes appeared dead. His skin was no longer the light brown he was so
proud of. It was ashen. He just stood there, not moving. I guided him to a chair and put a
plate with a sandwich in front of him. He stared at it for a minute. Slowly he picked it up and
took a bite. He ate mechanically, methodically. He gave no sign that he liked it. I made sure
we made his favorite: peanut butter and banana. He didn’t say anything. His silence grated
on me.


My sister and I sat down to eat our sandwiches. The wound on his head began to look a
little better. It was already half the size I remember it. It was shrinking, closing abnormally
fast. The food seemed to be helping. His skin didn’t look as ashen. But his eyes never
changed. They still appeared dead.


Our brother is dead. We know that. But we will protect him and keep him alive as best
we can for as long as we can. He is our baby brother and we love him, no matter what.

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