Of all the shit my brother had put me through, putting me on his will had to be the worst. Naming me the sole heir of his inheritance, how generous! Now I had all of his garbage in my apartment. His stupid stinky clothes, the dumb drawing book I bought for him, that goddamn platic figure I thought I had lost when I was 10! What an asshole!
I still couldn’t believe it. That stupid, foolish, self-absorbed cretin had had the gall to go and die. After everything he had put me through, he went and got himself killed while driving. Who the hell did he think he was?
I placed the last box of his belongings in my living room after they had delivered them here. I was panting and sweating, but I was too angry to even feel tired. All his life Steven had put me through hell, first it was the prank wars, which was fair for a pair of children. Then it was the drunken calls and me having to pick him up every time to prevent him from driving while fucking drunk. Then it was running after him so he could complete his responsibilities and finally it was cleaning up each and every one of his messes. Honestly! I felt like I was living his life more than mine.
I sighed, throwing myself to the living room sofa. Not one thank you. No apology. Instead I had every last one of his possessions dumped all over my apartment. The guy was a hoarder.
“Not a single visit.” I muttered before I realized my eyes had become watery.
Weird. I had never cried of anger before, then again I had never been this angry. I cleaned my face and the tears disappeared as quickly as they came.
A quick glance around the house worsened my mood. How could so many boxes make the house feel so… empty? The clutter was probably messenger with my head.
I needed some fresh air.
It was a cloudy day, my favourite type of weather. The wind was chilly and I could hear the small rumble of thunder at the distance. My black umbrella felt strangely appropriate, since the news had only reached me some two days ago. Although I wasn’t grieving, who was going to miss him anyway?
Relax I told myself. No matter how angry I was, that last thought felt like crossing a line. He was probably going to be missed by someone out there, that someone just wasn’t me.
I stopped at a crosswalk, blending into the crowd of people. Most of them seemed to be having a pretty active day, looking around or tapping their foot for the crosswalk light to turn green; there were a few people looking at their phones or making phone calls.
It wasn’t until I glanced to the other side of the street that I saw him. He looked exactly the same. Light, long brown hair, his lanky legs that gave him too much height over me, that annoying little look he’d have that made it seem like he had just pulled a prank on me, even if I didn’t know it yet.
I shook my head, about to tell myself that it was someone that just looked like him, but that wasn’t possible either: I’d recognize that shit-eating grin anywhere.
The light turned green and everyone started to scuttle across the street. I kept looking around, trying to find him again, but he wasn’t anywhere. My search became more frantic, I kept squeezing in between people, moving to where he had been standing. Finally I reached the other side of the street, but found nothing.
Stupid I thought He’s not here, of course. Why would I-
I shook my head, no point dwelling on a mistake from the light.
My walk continued with no particular direction in mind, being honest, I was just trying to tire myself out before I had another night of insomnia. The busy streets slowly faded away, as well as the crowds of people. Less and less houses were around as the number of trees increased, by the time I finally came to my senses the large black gate of the cemetery was in front of me. On any other day I would have marveled at how the “Green Death” initiative had become so successful, planting a plant over each buried body. The cemetery looked more like a garden where people would come to have picnics. Most people who had been buried with trees were at the edges, but more common than that were the flower bushes, red purple, white, and every other color in memory could be found around. I watched my feet to not step over food or pictures people had left around.
I kept walking until I found my brother’s grave. A small sapling on its lonesome at the edge of the cemetery. Not sure with what possessed me, I folded my umbrella and sat in front of the tree, staring at it with all the rage of every chamber of hell.
“Hey.” I muttered “Asshole, you weren’t supposed to die like that, you know?”
Another rumble of thunder, as if the sky itself was agreeing with me.
“What? You thought you’d be able to escape your tap like that? Dream on!” My voice slowly started picking up steam, becoming louder and louder. “I still have my notebook! Every single penny you wrangled out of me and don’t you think I’m going to sell your stuff to get the money back. I’m too busy to make stock of every single trash of yours.”
This time there was only silence, the sky, although still cloudy, made no acknowledgement of my words and the poor sapling simply swayed with the wind.
The lack of response felt insulting, somehow. Like the universe was mocking me for speaking to nothing but air.
“If you were just going to die, then why I leave me that stupid voicemail, huh?!” I yelled again, taking out my phone and throwing it to the ground. It bounced harmlessly in the grass. “I bet you thought it was real funny.” tears began swelling in my eyes again. “Well, congratulations! But guess what? I get the last laugh!” I inhaled deeply, blinking the tears out of my eyes. “You’re dead!”
Reaching a boiling point I could only rest my head on my knee before my cries became louder. My lungs were crushed in the pressure of my screams and my heartbeat rose like it had never before. Alone, lying in the grass and crying my heart out.
“-I promise” The faint sound of Steven’s voice pierced through my cries. “I’m coming back home, I-I need your help.”
Looking up I saw my phone lying in front of my feet with my brother’s voicemail recording playing.
“I mean- No, I… Wait that came out wrong. I’m turning things around! For the better! Of course, I wouldn’t be calling you if it was for the worst. Well, no I would’ve still called if it was for the worst. I promise I’m not drunk!” The rambling went on, the recording lasted for 10:45 minutes.
“I wasn’t.” said another voice behind me.
Whipping my head around I saw him again. He was standing not so far away from me, his hands in his pockets and an awkward look on him, like he wasn’t really sure what to do with himself.
With my tears slowly drying in my cheeks, a small laugh started bubbling inside of me. He’d done it. He took my “last laugh” comment too seriously and now I was going insane. I was seeing images of my brother right in front of me like he was some sort of ghost!
I hadn’t noticed my laugh had devolved into a cackle until I saw my brother’s hallucination give me a weird look. Great, even my hallucinations thought I was insane. Boy! If I thought he was pathetic, then I was below rock bottom!
I deserved this. What kind of self loathing loser comes to the grave of someone they hate only to cuss them out? Ha! Who knew despicableness was a genetic trait?
With one last look at him, I fainted.
When I came back to my senses, I was still lying in the ground but the day had passed me by. My clothes were crumpled and I had to dust my face twice to even be able to open my eyes without bits of dirt getting into them. Despite having had a probably good rest I felt nothing but exhausted. I leaned against one of my arms to stop my from collapsing into the ground again.
“Woah, you really can sleep anywhere can’t you?”
On any normal day, my blood would’ve run cold. I would’ve ran to any hospital or mental ward and asked for help. On any normal day, I would’ve screamed and jumped back away from the - most likely - hallucination. On any normal day I would have cared. Instead I just gave him an annoyed look and let my head hang downwards while I got enough energy to at least sit down properly.
“Here, let me help.” He reached out to me but I slapped his wand away. It felt real, it felt so, so real. The smacking sound even echoed around the air.
“Did you fake your death?” I asked as well as I could with my dry throat.
Out of the periphery of my vision I could see him shaking his head. “No, I-”
“He’s dead, right?” My voice was harsh, demanding. I couldn’t believe my own brain would turn on me like this. I had seen his corpse, I had buried him, there was not way he could’ve faked that.
“I- who?” The hallucination tilted his head, looking around as if there could be someone else who could explain things to him.
“My brother, he’s…” I pointed at the sapling. “He’s dead.”
He looked at Steven’s grave and them back at me. “You mean me?”
“No.” I grew more and more irritated. “Not you. HIM.”
I knew what he was going to say, but I wasn’t ready to hear it.
“No, you’re not! You’re just a hallucination! A figment of my imagination I created to make myself feel better! I’m talking about him!”
I didn’t know what answer I was expecting, or rather, what answer would have made me feel better. Instead I focused on trying to come up with some energy to stand up and walk back home.
Silence reigned in the cemetery. For I second I wondered if maybe I was alone again, but when I looked around I just saw Steven again, smiling.
“You always did hate my ghost stories.” I turned my head back to face the ground, forcing myself to make the hallucination disappear. “I am really sorry, Scar.” I flinch “I-I needed you to know that.”
Tears start swelling up again.
Hallucination or not, his voice was too real. No matter how hard I tried to remind myself there was no way my brother could be beside me right now, I couldn’t bring myself to ignore him.
“Thank you. You helped me out of every situation, even when mom and dad gave up on me.”
“I said, stop!”
“I loved you, lil’ sis.”
I turn around, crying again of anger, resentment and a soul shattering sadness. He had his arms open, waiting for a hug. I broke down, throwing myself for a hug and crying again. I couldn’t understand it and I couldn’t deal with it but I missed him. I missed him so much. The idiot had made my life impossible, but I had been the one who chose to follow him after my parents kicked him out. There was no reason behind that except that no one deserved to be abandoned and now… now he had abandoned me.
“I hate you.” I muttered.
He chuckled. “As you should.”
“How dare you make me sad.”
“I always did have a knack for causing trouble.”
“Why did you die?”
“Guess it was too late for me.”
I broke the hug, looking at him curiously
“The day I died, after I sent you the voicemail I… I made an appointment. Dr. Murphy.” He laughed again. “I knew I shouldn’t have paid in advance.”
“You were on your way there?”
He shrugged. “Maybe I was just not meant to-”
“Stop that.” I interrupted. I had not suffered so much to help someone who was not meant to be happy. “No one is meant to do shit.”
“Hey, look at the glass half-full, I’ll stop holding you back.”
My head started shaking even before he finished his sentence. “I didn’t mean it.”
“I know, but it’s true.”
“You’re going to have a better life now.”
“I can’t.” I stated, matter-of-fact-ly
“Because nothing good can come off your death.” I answered before I even thought of my answer, but like a broken dam the truth started to spill over me. “I don’t want a ‘glass half full’ I just want you to be okay! I want to see that person you wanted to become! I want you to be alive, damnit!”
Steven cleaned my tears and said softly. “But I can’t.”
I sighed, and repeated. “But you can’t”
“And it sucks.”
I laughed bitterly. “And it sucks.”
“But you’re a resourceful person Scar, you’ve always been. Yeah, things are going to suck for a while and I would’ve liked to become a good brother to you, but you know what?”
He ruffled my hair and pinched my nose. “I can leave happy, knowing you didn’t hate me.”
Despite myself I laugh, getting his hand off of my face.
“I never did.”
“Fine, I never completely hated you. And for what it’s worth, I’m glad you actually wanted to become better.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw light starting to come on the horizon, even though it was still covered by clouds. In the brightness I could see how translucent my brother’s image had really been.
“What happens now? Are you going to haunt me?”
Steven just laughed. “I don’t know.”
A thunder crashed somewhere in the distance, but still close enough to make me jump and look to the direction of the sound.
When I turned around, my brother was gone. I looked around for a while, not exactly sure what had just happened. Perhaps I was too disoriented to feel much of anything, or maybe I had emotionally exhausted myself the night before, but there was a certain feeling of peace around me; like a picture that had been off my whole life had finally been put straight.
I picked up my umbrella and walked to the entrance, looking back at the sapling one last time. It looked weirdly more green than before.
“I’ll miss you, Steven.”