Jared has decided to follow the history and myth of an ancient creature in an attempt to help his brother, Jon, overcome a tragedy. They meet the twins, Seth and Aiden, who seem to hide a secret of...
Authors: BYASed Opinions (tm)
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to previously created characters or actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Authors hold exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
Seth stared at the dirty water, imagining what creatures might lurk beneath its surface. It was easy to picture the various possibilities as they moved along the river. Almost as easy as blending out his uncle's voice and the chatter of the tourists. He already knew everything his uncle Pete was saying, and he had no interest for what the tourists talked about with each other.
A flash of movement in the water nearby caught his eye, but Seth had spent hours watching the river ever since he could remember. He knew it was just a fish. At the most, it was a snake.
One of the trees they passed distracted him with its roots and branches hanging into the water. It just seemed to be so close. Seth felt the urge to jump, to reach for one of those branches, to grab it and climb as high as he could.
He rubbed his hands together without realizing it, practically feeling the rough touch of the bark against his skin. If he were to reach the top, he could look around, see nothing but green from all three trees and their leaves instead of the stuck down here with the muddy water and its banks.
Seth's blue eyes followed the fall of one such leaf into the river. He leaned forward to see it better. As he tried to focus on it, something at the edge of his vision moved. When he turned though it was gone, just large ripples where something had gone back under again.
"Why'd you even want to go on the tour? You hate being around tourists."
Of course, even in private moments like this, there was no way Aiden would ever not be welcome in his world. Seth wrapped one arm around his twin’s shoulder pulling him forward.
"Look. The ant has a boat." His finger pointed at the little leaf floating on the surface of the water, dancing with the waves created from their own boat.
Aiden was quiet for a while, eyes narrowed as he stared at the leaf. "I don’t see any ant. You're just imagining things now."
"No, it's there. You've just ruined your eyes with all that reading you do."
According to Seth, reading was quite the waste of time. He only did it when he had to for school or when he thought the cover of a book looked interesting, usually meaning bloody, enough, which was a rather rare occurrence.
Aiden’s smirk showed that he did not take the grudge Seth held against reading all that serious. It was mostly founded on blaming books for taking away Aiden’s time. For six years of their life, they shared their own world and spoke their own language. Sometimes Seth really did feel that school had taken part of his brother away from him.
“When we get home, we’ll burn all my books, and then I can see imaginary ants, too.” Then, of course, sometimes he would prove to him that even eight years after learning to read, Aiden would still always be Aiden. They would always be them.
“You might think you’re joking, but don’t be surprised when you can’t find your books tomorrow.”
“You wouldn’t!” Seth had sounded serious enough to alarm Aiden for a moment.
“What’s the matter? Getting antsy now?”
“Oh, very funny,” Aiden replied dryly.
“I am, actually.”
Aiden smiled at his brother’s smirk. Seth seemed so much younger than him sometime although there was only a few minutes difference between them. There was something childlike in the way Seth looked at life as his personal adventure, without a care in the world.
At fourteen, Aiden felt like he knew what life was about. He felt about a hundred years old as he watched his brother explore their surroundings, completely absorbed in his imaginings and explorations. The ant in its ‘boat’ passed them by, but neither twin noticed. Seth was studying the trees, and Aiden was studying his brother as he watched the world.
They were identical twins, physically the same even if their views on things differed. Despite that, they got along splendidly. It did not bother Aiden that they looked so much alike, recognizable even from afar with their fiery red hair. It ran in the family, even though their Uncle Pete’s showed signs of graying. It was more blond than red anyway, but he resemblance was undeniable, even they did not all share the same color blue eyes.
Right now there was intensity to Seth’s, as if they were focusing on something in the muddy water he did not want to lose sight off. Probably another ant on a boat, Aiden mused, fascinated by Seth’s ability to be this absorbed in his observations. Not even his hair falling into his face seemed to bother him. That amazed Aiden as he kept his fairly short, easily annoyed with it getting in his eyes. Seth’s was starting to grow past his shoulder-length already.
Well, at least that way no one confused them anymore. Aiden had a sneaky suspicion that his brother had grown his hair out for the sole person of having a reason to punch people who tried to call him a girl with it that long. It was a surprisingly far to easy mistake to make.
Despite how he looked, Seth really was not very girly. He just liked any excuse to punch someone. Aiden always felt a bit responsible when his brother got into a fight. After all, he was older. The big brother protective role was supposed to be his. His mother used to always tell him to take good care of Seth, and Aiden intended to do that.
“Boys!” Neither twin was sure how long their uncle had been calling for them, both turning to him at the same moment with almost identical expressions. There was a strange mix of annoyance and amusement in Pete’s voice.
“Help me tether the boat. We’re going on shore here.”
The excitement grew among the tourists as Seth stood up. He immediately stepped down into the water and waded the few steps to land. He caught the rope his brother threw him, tying it around the trunk of a tree in their usual routine.
“Watch out for crocs.”
Those words made the tourists very careful to avoid the water completely, leading to a uniform sigh of relief when Aiden installed a little gangway. One by one the tourists got off the boat, taking the hand Seth offered as an aid on the final step. Luckily, this time none of the tourists found it necessary to shriek when the boat swayed a little.
The tour resumed once everyone was on shore. It took all of ten seconds for the twins to silently communicate with their eyes before they vanished between the trees just as their uncle started to talk about how this island used to be a crocodile-nesting place.
They had both heard the speech hundreds of times already, along with all the other stories their uncle told the tourists. It was far more exciting to go exploring by themselves. They moved just far away enough that everything else became a distant murmur and exchanged amused smiles when they stopped at exactly the same moment.
“Narrow escape”, Seth remarked as he crouched down at the edge of the river, holding on to a tree with one hand as he looked down into the water.
“After you kept interrupting him with those smart ass comments the last tour, I think he’d sooner push you into a river rather than want you around right now,” Aiden chided. Well, he tried to but he knew that Seth was unconcerned with it all. Of course, he had predicted right.
“You can thank me for rescuing you from boredom later.”
Aiden could not help snorting at that, shaking his head, but Seth already seemed to be quite taken with watching the river so Aiden let his own eyes wander. His gaze followed the sunrays to where they hit some wet leaves on the ground, making them glitter and gleam, beautiful in spite of their bland brownish color. Slowly, careful not to lose the angle, he squatted down, forgetting about everything but that one beautiful picture. His eyes widened when one of the droplets seemed to catch the rays and filter them into all colors of the rainbow. Moments like this made him wish he owned a camera able to catch it permanently.
In the blink of an eye, the absolute beauty was all gone, lost with all the other drops that had gathered on the leaf. Aiden felt stupid for wanting to rub his. He shook his head in an attempt to get rid of that feeling, stopping in mid motion when he thought he saw something else, just there by the river.
Without thinking, he went closer to the water, staring down. It was only the skin of a snake, half floating along the surface and the rest caught on some twigs. He thought it had been something else, something bigger and more dangerous. The skin was beautiful on it’s own though, another picture he wanted to catch on film.
Aiden turned to call Seth knowing that his brother would get much more excited about a big piece of snakeskin than he ever could. Sometimes twins had their moments of not understanding each other. But there was that movement again, just in the corner of his eyes. He turned to look back.
The impact was hard and sudden, too strong and sharp to even feel the pain. Aiden heard someone scream for help and for his uncle. He wasn’t sure whether it was him or his brother. He saw Seth running towards him, the knife he always had on his belt in his hand now. Aiden had heard of crocodile attacks before. They never ended well for the victim. He could not pull himself free no matter how he struggled.
It happened too fast to even think. It happened too fast for his body to keep up, but part of Aiden was clear and calm, just looking into reptilian eyes, far older than his own. He had no time to be scared, but there was time enough for the pain to begin blossoming along his flesh where muscle and skin was torn and ripped apart. There was time to watch how Seth desperately tried to force the jaw open by stabbing into it with his knife. Everything moved to fast and too slow at the same time.
In that moment, he had the weirdest urge to tell Seth that it was okay, but then everything just got slower and fainter until it all was gone.
The turbulence didn’t bother him.
The sky was a sea of washed out clouds, bright enough though that it hurt to look outside the plane’s window. Jonathan pulled the sunglasses down over his green eyes and leaned his head against the back of the seat.
If he didn’t stop looking out the window, he’d just keep imagining what would happen a wing or engine fell off. It would be nothing but one bleak color to fall through. He couldn’t see below him or what they might hit. They were flying over water though, according to the map on the screen in front of him. So many thousand feet above the sea…
They would have a long fall right now. It didn’t scare him to think like that, even as the plane gave a sudden shake and jerk that made his brother spill his drink all over the front of his shirt. At Jared’s curse Jonathan had to hide a small grin.
He almost wished one of those invisible bumps in the air would send them hurtling downward. Almost. Jared was the reason he didn’t want that.
But still he thought about it.
Maybe if they crashed into the ocean, he could hope his brother survived even if Jonathan himself did not. The thrill of the fall skirted his subconscious as something exciting. It was made all the more alluring by the fact he would not walk away from it.
He thought about death a lot lately.
Maybe he should go sky diving sometime. It had to be more exciting than being trapped on a plane. Still, he reluctantly admitted, just to himself of course, to being curious why Jared was dragging him all this way.
It made him think of them, though.
Anything was better than thinking about them.
“Could this flight be any longer?” Jonathan muttered, mostly to distract himself from his thoughts. His words lacked any real frustration.
“I think there’s just another hour or so,” his brother replied. Jonathan watched as Jared tried in vain to clean the cranberry-apple juice from his shirt, before sighing and sinking back into his seat. “What are you complaining about anyway? You slept through most of it anyway.”
“Then I woke up and we were still on this trip. Are you sure we’re actually moving forward?” Jonathan turned to point out of the window accusingly. “I’m positive I’ve seen that cloud before.”
Jared snorted derisively, more interested in throwing his cup and the bit of juice that was left in it away as the flight attendant walked by than in listening to his brother’s whining. He glanced at his phone, which he should have turned off, but he never bothered with that when flying.
“Yeah, I’m right,” he informed his younger brother. “Just a bit over an hour to go. You could read some of the books I brought,” he suggested, already digging out the journal and several other books of about the same thickness, just a little smaller in size.
Jonathan rolling his eyes said it all. Apparently he had not deemed it worthy of a mature reply. Instead he put his hand against his forehead, forming an 'L' with his thumb and index finger, but his heart was not really in it. “Why did we have to go to Australia? Could’ve just gone to the library without you noticing the difference.”
“And here I always thought you were the adventurous one.” Jared smirked, ignoring the loser jab and leaning back into his seat, eyes closing. “Where's your sense curiosity?” It came out teasing, but there was a hint of regret. Jonathan heard it, though hating that he was hurting his brother still with how much he had changed over the past year.
“Damn, I must have forgotten that at home.” Besides growing weary of being on a plane, Jonathan didn’t really feel that it mattered why they were here. Or why he was anywhere. Or if he was anywhere. He glanced out of the window again, but he was just too aware of Jared watching him. It made him feel guilty. At least for Jared's sake he should care, so he turned to him again, reaching for the journal. “Alright, you win. Why are we on this trip?”
“I always win,” Jared reminded him, other eye opening as a grin spread across his face. “One of the many rules of being a big brother.” He reached over and opened the journal for Jonathan. The date was several years before Jonathan had been born.
“Alright, you win. Why are we on this trip?”
“Because you always start at the beginning.” At the beginning of the journal was a description of their parents’ first trip to Australia.
“Maybe you do. I start at the last page to decide if the book's worth reading.” Jonathan ran his hand over the page, recognizing his mother’s handwriting. It was painful to look at, but Jonathan somehow only registered the pain.
Jared watched his brother’s face carefully, searching for a sign of emotion, maybe for the beginning of tears. Nothing changed in his expression. He wondered whether that was a good or a bad sign. Speaking again, Jonathan interrupted his brother’s thoughts. “Alright. I still don't get why you want to do this, though. Why follow them?”
“To experience a bit of the world I guess. For having the money, we certainly haven't traveled much. I didn't know which way to go so I figured it might be nice to retrace their steps a bit,” Jared replied, sounding for all the world like he didn't have any better reason than that. He did though, refusing to lose Jonathan as well, especially like this.
Judging by his shrug and nod, Jonathan seemed to agree that this made sense in a way. Jared wished his brother hadn’t just taken this for granted, that he wouldv’e kept needling him about it, just as he used to do, asking why a thousand times and still not being satisfied. On the other hand, maybe there was more to Jon’s lack of curiosity than simple indifference.
Jared wondered. Did his brother realize how he worried about him? In that case he must be feeling guilty enough without hearing it said out loud. Jonathan seemed to prefer looking for a different explanation.
“Is that some kind of spiritual thing?” he asked. “You spend too much time reading books about mythology and all that.”
“It's a kind of traveling thing,” Jared replied, amused, “to experience a new atmosphere.” He easily ignored the comment about reading too much. There was no such thing as spending too much time reading, that concept simply did not exist for Jared. “There happens to be plenty of myth and folklore I have not yet studied.”
“You’re a freak, you know?” Jonathan smirked, fulfilling his task as a little brother to inform Jared of things like that. “What myth and folklore that you haven’t studied yet do they have there?” Even though Jonathan always pretended that his brother's lectures bored him, and they sometimes probably really did, Jared hoped that in this case he was genuinely interested. At least a bit. Not nearly as passionate as Jared, of course, intent to study and find out all about it. Jonathan just liked to listen and close his eyes and believe for a moment.
“There's a few, actually,” Jared stated, having looked up as much as he could online, at the library, and at the bookstore. He had kept to the better known myths and tales and not the one specific to what he was investigating. Not when it seemed to tie so closely to the last venture their parents went on. “There's Ayers rock and the dream land. Where the aboriginals believe you cross from the mortal realm to that of the dreams. There’s their view on zombies and such, you might find that quite fascinating actually.”
The flight evened out as the clouds thinned, and the pilot turned off the fasten seatbelt sign once more. They seemed to have gotten through the turbulence. It was barely a moment after that his brother's head came to rest on his shoulder.
“Zombies?” Jonathan asked. Jared smiled a little and let his little brother's head rest where it was. That simple action and his next words reminded him of a time where his brother was not as distanced as today. “Sounds lovely. Tell me about them. Anything like those in the movies? And where is that place where you cross into the realm of dreams? I want to go there. See if I can get through.”
At least until those last three sentences.
“Well,” Jared started, “not zombies like in the movies. More like a spiritual belief in the dead coming to life, or a spirit or soul being dead while the body lives on. They have some views on bodies being possessed and such along the same lines. Supposedly there's a way to turn a person into a zombie. Or something like that. I don't know, there's very little I could find on it.” He did not really intend to go deep into the rainforest himself. At least that was not the plan yet. Right now, as curious as he was, gaining Jonathan's focus and interest was his priority. “And Ayer rock, it's apparently the gate or path into the dreaming land...but more as a passage way after death.” So he had very little intention of letting Jonathan explore that avenue either.
“Dreaming land...” Jonathan sounded rather dreamy himself, and Jared would have bet good money that he was about to make another mention of wanting to go to Ayer’s rock to find that passage way, but then he saw him swallow and slightly shake his head, biting his lip for a moment before saying something else. “Is dreaming land like a that place where people go when they sleep? I swear I saw a cartoon like this when I was a kid, can you remember?”
“Yeah, something like that, I guess.” He paused to consider the question, trying to remember such a cartoon. Jared really hoped his brother did not become too fixated on this Ayer's rock. He felt a niggling of regret at having mentioned it as he thought about all the ways it could be taken. He'd have to keep an eye on Jon, maybe even two. He smiled though, despite his worries. The flight attendant's voice broke into his thoughts, informing them the plane would start its descent soon, and to please take their seats and buckle up. “See, almost there.”
“Of course, just when I got comfortable,” Jonathan sighed in a manner that suggested that the whole world was out to get him. “Poor me.” He added, to make sure even Jared got the point before he scooted back over, shifting so he could buckle up his seatbelt. “You have to tell me more about that zombie-stuff some time, sounds like an interesting pastime, turning people into zombies.”
“Might turn you into one. Zombies are much quieter and complain less.” Whiny kid, hard to believe that he was not a teenager anymore. Smirking, Jared put his tray up and started packing up his books and the journal. “We'll check into the hotel and rest a bit, grab something to eat. Sound good? Just take it easy for the first day or so.”
Instead of replying out loud, Jonathan simply gave Jared a thumb up though he really didn’t care either way. Jared noticed the spark leaving Jonathan’s eyes once more, leaving the blank gaze he had come to hate over the last few months.
The plane’s descent distracted him from his bleak thoughts. Jared looked out of the window, feeling in his heart the same excitement he had felt every time a plane landed ever since he had been a little boy. This was a new country, and new adventures awaited him here. Childish, maybe, but it still filled him with excitement, although he was a lot better with masking it these days.
Only when they had already hit the ground, rolling slower and slower finally until they stopped, did he turn to look at his brother. Jared had expected to share a smile with him, but Jonathan looked at nothing, mind far away. The moment the chime indicating the seatbelt light turned off and everyone else started to get up, Jonathan did as well, immediately without looking back. Jared lost him in the shuffle until he was at baggage claim.
Jonathan already stood with their luggage, having pulled it off the carousel. Shaking off the air of bitterness at so suddenly being left behind he joined him, gesturing to their bags. “Nice service, how much should I tip?”
“Just the usual ten percent, Sir. Now let’s get the fuck out of here. I hate airports.” It felt as if Jonathan was back in puberty, hating everything or being bored by it. Jared said as much, earning a less positive finger up in his direction than the thumbs up earlier had been.
Despite his annoyance at his brother’s attitude, Jared smiled at the man in a suit holding up a sign with their last name. He had made arrangements with their hotel so they would have a driver and private car waiting for them. They followed him toward the car park, fatigue from a long trip starting to catch up to them. Jared didn’t exactly fancy hanging around at the airport any longer knowing that a nice hotel with a warm shower and a soft bed was waiting for him.
They weren’t the only ones who had noticed their name on the sign the driver had held up. With a secret smile the hotel’s name that had been written on one corner of the cardboard sign had been noted. The man left the arrivals terminal carrying nothing but one small black suitcase.