|Facebook: Alexis Balsis
My Name is Liu Woods,
You?d never expect someone like my brother to be compassionate, especially after what he?d done. Yes, he was still alive, and yes, I saw him once more before he ventured off on his own, leaving me and all the pain he?d inflicted on the citizens of the small town behind him. He visited. My lips were zipped from day one, and when he asked, I told him word of how he always went off scotch-free for years and that no one had ever found anything. Even if I knew he was smarter than to leave evidence at a crime scene, I also knew he was careless of his actions and indifferent to the feelings of anyone he didn?t know. He left me in the dust, confused and unaware as to why he came back.
My name is Liu Woods, and my brother is still alive.
It was at that time of year where the frost begins to melt from the branches of the trees, tiny, colored blossoms put in their empty place. The time where the ground is slick and muddy and the grass is carefully graced with droplets of rainwater. I wandered near our home in the woods (ironically) as I always do, letting my thoughts run away with me as I kicked up pinecones in my path. A bitter cold wind whispered through the air that sent chills down my spine. The sky was tinted with specks of purple, pink and orange; the colors of sunrise. My breathing was slowed and steady. I was at peace.
In the distance, a path directed my way. I had never gotten far enough down this trail to see what was on the other side, so throughout the day I paced up and down as far as I could walk before the sky darkened.
It was what I was doing at that moment?the moment a twig snapped a few yards away.
My heart leaped over itself. Normally, sounds like this in the forest wouldn't so much as frighten me. But this noise was unusually loud, sharp enough to make me stop mid-stride, in fear of what was to come. I became paranoid. My breath hitched in the back of my throat. My lips curved into a small, thin line. I saw my vision dart around, awaiting any danger.
And there it came?a pair of feet coming out from the thick spread of bushels.
I pivoted on my heels and ran as fast as I could to the nearest tree, hiding as much of myself behind it as I could. I closed my eyes and slowly counseled myself to believe I made myself invisible to whatever emerged from the woods moments ago, and soon the breath I had withheld before comfortably escaped my lungs like a cool breeze. I breathed in the scent of pine, relaxing myself, shifting my body weight to lean against the tree.
I?d been told I was the type that got too worked up over the little things. I guess it was true, then, because whatever was there before was gone. Right?
Oh, how wrong I was.
I opened my eyes and regained sight only to be met with a pair of deathly white, unblinking eyes staring back into mine, the corners of his mouth, cut deep into his cheeks, rising into a sullen smile.
I jumped just enough to slip on the slick, middy ground beneath me and helplessly fell. Panic and terror of the unknown surged through me, burning me straight to the core. My chest felt like it was on fire. I grabbed whatever I could reach behind me and tried to stand up as quickly as possible?
And he began to laugh.
I paused, watching as he erupted into a fit of maniacal giggles in front of me. My scarred brain dragged my interrogating demeanor up through the fear, and my thoughts raced in my mind as I made vital connections.
I?d recognize that laughter anywhere, even after this long.
There, in the flesh, was Jeff?my long-lost brother.
I tried to speak but failed miserably. It was like the words I wanted to scream, everything I wanted to tell him?it was all caged in the back of my throat, unwilling to try to escape or to make noise as it was held back by utter shock. All that was emitted from my throat was a muddled squeaking noise.
I stared at him, with something blazing in my eyes?anger, terror, happiness?my mouth dropped agape. ?Je??h-how, I?wh??
?Three years, Liu,? he said, and involuntarily began laughing again. ?Three years!? he spoke through chunks of hysteria. His hair, burned and singed to an angry black color, was tangled and dry, hanging by threads on his head. And he was very, very pale, like the healthy tan color of his skin was drawn out with a syringe. The parts I couldn't see was covered by a white, blood-soused hoodie and black pants. His skin shaped the bones on his face and hands and wrinkled at the corners of his lips when he smiled. It made him look forty years older than he really was. Disgusting, even.
But he was here. I couldn?t have it any other way.
I finally became content enough to speak: ?Jeff,? I snarled. ?Where the fuck have you been??
?Oh, relax,? Jeff made a gesture to shut me up. ?Can?t a guy just have a nice visit with his handsome brother? How?ve you been, man??
?That?s what I want to know about you,? I said, and pulled myself off the ground. I gandered at his hoodie soaked in blotches of red blood. I grimaced, ?What is this?? I pointed to it.
He looked down, clenching some of the fabric, and grinned. ?Oh, this? This is my job. It?s what I love to do.? His gaze met mine once again. ?I do this for a living. I do it so I don?t get bored. I get bored so easily. This?this makes my life meaningful. Makes it have a purpose. Makes me have a purpose.
?That one time, when Randy and his gang tried to kill us, and I came in and hurt them? That was?that was fun. God, Liu, it was exhilarating, watching them fall helplessly to the ground. They couldn?t do anything. I had the power. I knew I could protect you. And that made me so happy,? he smiled a bit.
?Fuck, Jeff?? I said, my tone coated in disbelief. ?What?s wrong with you???
?Me? Nothing. I?m just getting my fill of adrenaline,? he said with a wicked grin. ?I like having power, Liu. I can dominate anyone I please. It makes me feel like I?m on top of the world, on cloud nine.
?Ever since that day, I loved the feeling. ?I wanted to experience it forever. I wanted to be happy for as long as I lived. I wanted to smile forever.? He pointed to his mouth and the cuts on the sides. ?I wanted experience the world all the time, too.? He then pointed to his eyes, bloodshot, the eyelids cut right off. How?how could he do this to himself?
He looked me up and down. ?What about you? How has your life been??
I thought, What has gotten into him?? I don?t believe this. I really, genuinely don?t believe him at all.
But then, as if on cue, the images played in the back of my mind like a black and white movie. The sound of breaking flesh and the gagging noise of my parents choking on their own blood surged through my thoughts like the twisted melody of a childhood music box. Their screams drowned out by terrifying, insane laughter and absolute horror. The sirens wailing outside moments later.
A fiery, billowing anger rushed through me. ?Y-you killed our parents, you bastard!? I screamed, and his face noticeably fell from shock. I just needed to tell him this, to tell him everything. I wasn?t going to hold back. I spoke, tears stinging my eyes: ?What the hell were you thinking? There was no one to take me in and I had to go to a fucking foster home with a bunch of people I didn?t know! They were replacements, for Christ?s sake!?
?No, asshole, I will not ?come on?,? I snapped, on the verge of tears, my hands clenched into fists, drawing blood with my nails. ??For three years, three goddamn years, all I wanted was to go home! I wanted to go home and see Mom and Dad again, and I wanted to spend time with my brother: Jeff! I wanted to see you again! I wanted everything to go back to the way it was! I just?? A few tears broke and ebbed down my cheeks in steady lines. ?I felt so alone. I was crushed. I wanted my brother back.
?But you,? I snarled. ?You?re?you?re not at all like you used to be. You?re not my brother. You?re not the Jeff I knew three years ago.? I wiped my eyes free of new tears that were developing. ?After all this time, you finally come back?like?like this?? I gestured to his pale, torched physique. He was frowning; even with the corners of his mouth slit, I could tell. ?How am I going to live with myself, knowing that this is what I made out of you? A sick, horrible, twisted version of someone I cared about??
I hesitated for a moment. ?You?you didn?t have to stand up to those kids that day, Jeff. You really didn?t.?
My brother?s jaw dropped slightly. There was a long, deafening silence between the two of us as we stared at each other, seething rage running through my veins, through my head. It was blinding?I couldn?t think. The tension was heavy on our shoulders. The cool breeze that came before blew swiftly again, ruffling the strings upon Jeff?s head, making a piece of blond hair fall onto the bridge of my nose.
And he muttered, through the sullen quietness, ?I-I?m?I?m sorry.?
The words pierced through my heart. They hung crudely in the air. My gut wrenched, and I began to sob.
Jeff didn?t come rushing to me that time. He knew that I didn?t want him anywhere near me ever again. And he was right, but he didn?t hesitate to try to help. ??Liu??
?No, Jeff.? I sniffled and wiped mucus from under my nose. My eyes shut tight, forcing more tears to escape and fall to the ground beneath me. My vision hazy, I looked him straight in the eyes. Those gruesome, ungodly, horrifying eyes.
And I told him, through clenched teeth: ?Get out of my sight.?
Jeff faltered to speak again. He shoved his hands in his hoodie pockets and turned around, averting his gaze from mine. He left me there, and I wasn?t sure if I was happy or disappointed or confused. I didn?t know if I had made the right decision, to let him go just like that. But it was probably best for me.
He sighed and spoke, his back still turned to me: ?Hey, Liu.?
I didn?t give hint of an answer.
?Thank you. For being there, I mean. For thinking about me.? The cheekbones on the side of his face shifted and I could tell he was smiling. ?I?ll be thinking about you.? He began to walk in the other direction, down the place I never walked, until he was only a speck of dust in my blurred vision. He faded away, completely, into the distance. I knew I'd never come across him again.
There was a moment of terror, regret, penitance. A pang of guilt struck me in the chest like a heavy drum mallet. My lungs felt full and ready to burst. My head ached with the unbearable pain of being smashed over the head with something glass. I couldn't speak. It was like I was struggling to find the words to say?the words were once again caged within me, forever.
And I collapsed to the ground beneath me, crying.