Do not leave me here without him.
He would follow you anywhere.
You were both born on the same day to the same mother, but not to the same set of odds. When you were born the gods rejoiced; flowers fell and storms thundered and waves crashed harshly against the shore. Your brother, stumbling after, found himself clutching at their faded edges.
He would follow you anywhere, and you would do the same.
Everyone tells you that soon you will spend your days on Mount Olympus, surrounded by gods and merriment–that you do not belong in these mortal’s fading concept of life and of time, their short-lived love. But all you know now is your brother, and he is laughing and happy, and he is here. If you leave you will lose him, and so you will not go.
They have asked you, every year, to follow them to their gilded palace. Filled with lights too bright and glaring, filled with false merriment and cutting smiles. Every year, you have asked them, “Can my brother follow?”
Every year they have said no, and so every year you have responded in kind.
“I will not go anywhere that you cannot.” You remember the afternoon you told it to him, one after your father came to invite you again to stand beside his golden throne. You wondered if anyone, even your mother, remembered that the boy beside you marked another year that day as well.
He grips your hand, and he smiles, and you know that this is the smile that sunlight has so gladly followed. “Neither will I.”
Neither of you know yet that this is not something you can control.
Even though he cannot match your birth, he follows you in greatness. The two of you fight and wrestle and run and ride with talent to match. Every step he takes is in time with your own. Every breath fogs the same air as his, twin exhalations.
Every day is elating.
Every day is crushing.
(You realize it on a day when the sky is motionless and the air is hot. The two of you are climbing, racing–and then he is tumbling, falling, and you are left clinging to your thin rock ledge with your fingers, your other hand clutching his. When you reach the top, both his palms are bleeding, the blood bright and red. You look at your own, the skin still soft and unscathed.
He is laughing. You are afraid.
The days become a countdown to the end of his mortality, to the time where he will finally die and you will not, protected by a birthright that you did not ask for.)
He marries before you do, to a boy with bright eyes and a brighter laugh, whose skin smells like olive trees and rosemary. You cannot imagine a reality where you hold a mortal’s hand, where you promise to keep them safe, when you will not be able to follow them into the dark.
You would follow him anywhere, until you couldn’t.
The two of you chase trouble as if it will never chase you back. You run and you climb and you challenge and you stand, defiant and grinning. This is how you two have faced the world.
The two brothers you steal from deserve it, you know. They’d scorned you, scorned your brother. Why do you stay here for him?
They cannot understand that you cannot leave without him.
So you devise a trip, a trap, a game. You and your brother will stumble and hide and steal, things that you do best. It is a plan that leaves the end of your day triumphant.
The words are full of panic.
You turn and a blade whips toward you, glancing off as if you were made of bronze. You see your brother, on the ground, and you cannot reconcile that he is not where he is supposed to be, why he is not hidden. And then the blade clangs against you again, except for this time it hits your own sword, which you have somehow drawn from your hip. He is fast, and you are surprised, but your father has never been bested, and so neither have you.
The boy who attacked you is now lying in the dirt, and he is dead.
(He is younger than your brother, who is also on the ground. The red seeping into his shirt is that same dark red that seeped from his hands. These mortals bleed so quickly.)
You rush to your brother, you drag his head into your lap with wet hands. His breathing is heavy.
His breathing begins to still.
You see the boy who drew his sword on your brother, know it is him from the fear in his eyes as he looks to the twin of his own blood, seeped deep into the earth.
He aims at you while you are still on your knees, and he is much, much quicker than his brother used to be. His first hit lands against your shoulder. His second glances across your arm, against the shuttering body of your brother.
This fight would be easy if you could bring yourself to let him go. Since you cannot, you drag the sword from the sheath against his side and swing at the boy above you.
(You think, in hindsight, it is not you that kills him. You were too far away for the blow to have gone as deep as it did. You are not sure who saved you. You are not sure you would thank them if you knew.)
Because after he is dead, you are left with the knowledge that you have killed two boys and that your brother is still dying next to you.
“Do not leave me here without him!” you scream into his chest, and his weak fingers scrabble against the fabric of your shirt.
“Do not let me go without you,” he whispers against yours.
He slips from this plane. He drags you with him, and you follow.
You are not alone.
Shelby MC is a queer writer from the heart of Texas that would rather live anywhere else. They live with their five cats and their laptop, and do their best to write often and well. You can find them at shelbychild.tumblr.com (where they will soon be screaming about their upcoming podcast.)