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Short Story: Learning to be Lazy

If she was an animal, she would be a house cat. Content to laze her whole life, draped bonelessly over things while watching the world pass.

Her brother was cut from an altogether different cloth. He was more like a dog, always on his feet, ready to do something. He faced life with a determination not to waste a single moment, which meant that when he actually needed to stop and rest, he didn’t know how.

Fortunately for him, she, expert on doing nothing, was willing to help him out.

They lay side by side on his bed, her easily stretched out on her back like a cat basking in the sun, her brother doing a very good impersonation of a stick insect. The only time he broke the straight line his tense body made was to cough or grab a tissue, and the occasional attempt to escape.

The blanket shifted. She reached out to press her brother back down without even opening her eyes.

“What do you want? I’ll get it for you,” she said.

“Just want to stretch my legs,” her brother said in a hoarse whisper.

“Nope. Walking is still work.”

“Restroom.”

“You just went.”

“I want to go again.”

She opened one eye. “If you need to go every ten minutes, you need to see a doctor. So? Do I need to make the call?”

Her brother’s gaze slipped away from hers. “… No. I’ll stay.”

“That’s what I thought.” She shifted onto her side so that she had a better view of her brother’s face, especially the deep lines etched onto his brow. She couldn’t help but press a finger to the furrowed skin and try to smooth it out. Her brother gently nudged her hand away.

“Don’t come too close. You don’t want to get sick.”

“I do, actually. Then I can laze in bed all day.” She grinned.

Her brother’s lips twitched. “Let’s trade.”

She released an exaggerated sigh. “Sadly, fatigue isn’t contagious.”

Her brother replied with a smile as tense as the rest of him. She shook her head in exasperation.

“How are we related?”

“We both like pineapple in savoury dishes,” her brother said immediately.

“That’s true.”

“And we like honey in our coffee.”

She smacked her lips. “Yum.”

Her brother continued, listing all kinds of delicious food combinations that made her want to make a trip to…

She frowned and pushed herself up on her elbows to give herself the extra height to loom over her brother, which didn’t really work because the bed sunk beneath her but that wasn’t important.

“I know what you’re doing. I’m not going anywhere. Not even for food. My job today is to teach you to be lazy, and I’m going to make sure you learn it. Go to sleep!”

She dropped back onto her side and ran her fingers through her brother’s hair, the way her parents used to do when she was younger. Just enough pressure to be felt, unhurried and regular, drawing rhythmic patterns into his scalp as if she could pull the tension in his body out with her fingertips.

In the end, they couldn’t remember who fell asleep first, but the important thing was that her brother finally gave his body the rest it deserved.

She rewarded herself with another nap.

~End~

Genre: slice of life, family

Short Story: Why It Happened

Start from The Thing That Happened, then How It Happened first.

 

~Why It Happened~

Her plans for a quiet day popped like soap bubbles the moment her brother wrapped all six feet of himself around her like a determined koala around the last eucalyptus tree in existence.

“Help me!”

It didn’t matter how old they were, or what the problem was. She could never reject her brother’s cry for help. And that was why, three hours later, she found herself at the activity hub, hanging around the water fountain with a pill in her pocket while her brother smiled stiffly on the other side at his stalker admirer.

According to her brother, the pill was designed to create smoke when in contact with water. All she needed to do was drop the pill in the fountain to create a fake accident. Her brother would run away, allowing his friend to swoop in to save the girl and hopefully take her heart too.

Trying very hard not to draw attention to herself, she let the pill roll off her fingers and slip into the water with a silent ripple.

Followed by a loud bang.

Smoke immediately spilled out. And not the tame little tendrils her brother described. It was like a whole city’s worth of thunderclouds, bursting out of the fountain like students after the last exam of the year.

She reared back, arm over her nose as her eyes watered. Blinded by the smoke and ears ringing from the confused screams around her, she somehow stumbled out of the complex.

One little pill ended up causing a huge incident. And to add insult to injury, because of how suddenly the smoke exploded, her brother instinctively protected his admirer all the way until they safely evacuated the building. Which meant that not only did he fail to cut ties with her, she had now fallen even harder for him.

“Help me!”

Another day, another plea from her brother. Considering what happened last time, she should say ‘No’. N. O. No. She practised the word in her mind until she felt ready to say it out loud.

“Alright.”

~End~

 

Genre: family, general

The Thing That Happened | How It Happened | Why It Happened

Short Story: Coming Down

Follows after Going Up. You’ll want to read that first.

 

~Coming Down~

He loved hiking. Together with other people, on his own, it didn’t matter, as long as he could feel the breeze on his skin and smell the earth in the air.

He took a deep breath and let it sink into his bones, still tired from the intense three three month case his team just closed. He hoped his little sister didn’t mind his reticence this hiking trip. It had been so long since he could relax outside like this. He just wanted to be outside.

It wasn’t until after their lunch break at the lookout point, as he watched his younger sister try and fail to stand, that worry and fear replaced his contentment.

He crouched to find his sister’s skin hot against his palm. His mind helpfully pulled up the memory of her laboured breathing behind him while they walked up the mountain trail. He had thought then that they were just normal exertions of a typical hike.

“What’s wrong?”

His sister was reluctant, but he interrogated criminals and witnesses for a living. Eventually, he coaxed the truth out of her.

The culprit behind his sister’s condition: fever.

“You could have told me. We can hike another day.”

She shook her head. “What if you get a new case?”

There was nothing he could say to that, not when the exact same thought was the reason he planned this hike even though lingering exhaustion still pulled at his body.

With a sigh, he shifted his backpack so that it sat on his chest and turned around to present his now free back to his sister.

“Get on.”

First silence, then a rustle of fabric as too-warm arms wrapped tentatively over his shoulders. He hooked his arms under his sister’s legs and pushed himself to his feet. His legs wobbled traitorously beneath him.

“Am I heavy?” his sister asked.

At peak condition, he could carry his little sister with one arm. He wasn’t at peak condition now, but he was still more than able to bear her slight weight down the trail back to their car.

His lips curled in a grin his sister couldn’t see. He hopped and made her bounce at his back, startling a laugh out of her.

“Nope. Not at all.”

~End~

 

Genre: slice of life, family

Short Story: Going Up

“Let’s go hiking together, just you and me,” her older brother had said… three months ago.

It wasn’t his fault. For the past three months, a group of serial arsonists had demanded all of her brother’s time at work. The only times she saw him was when he was asleep, curled just inside their door, too tired to even drag himself the extra few steps to the couch.

So she slipped pillows under his head, draped blankets over his prone body, refilled his bag with fresh food and clothes, everything but wake him to bug him about the promised hiking trip.

But nothing lasted forever, even crime, and the day came when her brother and his team’s hard work paid off and they caught the arsonist group. Even then, she waited. She didn’t have the heart to bother her brother when his greatest achievement was dragging himself all the way to his bed before falling asleep.

Finally, her brother recovered enough to bring up the hiking trip. Her mind was ready.

Her body wasn’t.

Hiding her trembling limbs under a poncho blanket and a steady headache behind a smile, they confirmed the details of their hike. She had a few days. She thought she would recover her health by then.

She didn’t.

It didn’t matter. Another case could steal her brother from her at any moment. If he said they were hiking, they were hiking.

Walking up a mountain trail had never been this difficult. It took all of her attention to put one feet in front of the other and not slide off the path like runaway jelly. It left her with no brainspace for anything else, let alone an actual conversation. Fortunately, her brother was still recovering from his intense three months, so he wasn’t in a chatty mood either.

Her stubbornness carried her all the way to the lookout point, and no further.

Her brother’s eyes narrowed as she smiled nervously up at him, unable to stand on her unresponsive legs. Without a word, he crouched down to meet her eyes.

“What’s wrong?”

~To be continued in Coming Down~

 

Genre: slice of life, family

Short Story: The Old House

The house had been left alone for so long that the spiders had completely taken over, staking their claim with massive sheets of gossamer.

Her brother turned to her.

“It’s not too late to change your mind,” he said.

She shook her head. “I’m not selling our house.”

Her brother frowned and took a step in, only to back out straightaway with his hand over his nose.

“You might want to air out the place first,” he said.

Even from the porch, she could smell the musty, stale air, but it was still bearable. She walked in, and backed out as quickly as her brother did. The air inside was even worse than she imagined. It wasn’t just the smell. It was the oppressive, moist weight that slithered over them like oil.

They both shuddered on the porch of the old house.

“Do you think anyone would break in if I leave all the doors and windows open?” she mused aloud.

“They can try. In fact, them breaking in will only help clear the cobwebs away. There’s nothing inside anyway, right?”

She looked at her brother, but he didn’t appear to have a clue of the significance of the house. Their house. The one they had lived in centuries ago before they were forced to flee.

The eyes on her brother’s face was bright, his smile easy. She returned it with her own brittle imitation.

It was better this way. He didn’t need to remember. She would do the remembering for both of them.

She faced the house and clasped her hands together.

“Well, the house isn’t going to air itself out. Let’s do it.”

~End~

 

Genre: fantasy

Short Story: His Bed

The bed on the right is his. Always has been, always will be until he gets his own room. It’s the one thing in their shared room that he does not share with his sister.

But something that isn’t his is on his bed.

“Is this yours?” he asks his sister.

She scrambles onto his bed. “No. What is it?”

They lean in for a closer look. It looks like a maple leaf, but deep blue instead of the iconic fiery red.

“What’s that?” his sister asks as her hand reaches out. She presses her fingers to the unusual leaf.

And that’s when the problem begins.

In the blink of an eye, two things happen.

One, his sister vanishes.

Two, so does all traces of her existance.

Gone is the other bed. Gone are the puzzle erasers she collects on her side of the table. Gone is his sister from all the photographs in the room. It’s just him, in a too big room that looks like it has always belonged to only one person.

The blue maple leaf remains, deceptively innocent on his bed. He doesn’t know what it has done, or where his sister has disappeared to, but the leaf is all he has.

He looks at the blue leaf for a long time. Can he accept what just happened? Can he just let things be?

No. Where his sister goes, he follows. That’s what little brothers do.

He picks up a pen and leaves a note for their parents, just in case he doesn’t make it back in time.

(What if they don’t make it back at all?)

Sis went missing. I’m going after her.

He sets the note in plain sight and reaches for the leaf.

No turning back.

He disappears.

~End~

 

Genre: fantasy, family

Short Story: In The Water

Her hair waved around her as she floated in the water. She watched the dark tendrils, letting them distract her so she could last just a little longer without fresh air.

Someone said something above the water. Water garbled the words out of recognition but she still recognised the voice that said them. She should go up, but she still had some air in her.

She looked at her brother, who looked back. He pointed up to the surface, then showed three fingers. She nodded.

Three. Two. One.

They surfaced at the same time and gulped their first breath in awhile. Beside the pool, their father set a tray of food on the table. The savoury smell cut through the chlorine and made her mouth water.

Her brother dove like an eel into the water. She chose to keep her nose above the water and doggy paddled her way towards the delightful smell.

They could continue their competition after they fuelled up.

~End~

Genre: slice of life

Short Story: Unchanging Past

Genre: fantasy

 

I was born with one brown eye and one black one. The brown eye sees things as they are, and although the black one does not always see the things in front of me, it can see much more.

It sees the past.

The best thing about the past is that it’s reliably unchanging. The worst thing about the past is that it’s tragically unchanging.

Growing up, I watched my neighbourhood like episodes in a long running drama series. I watched birthdays, movie nights, backyard games, and bed time stories.

I also watched breakups, angry silences, bullying behind doors, and final goodbyes.

I have watched the lifetime of strangers, good and bad. I have watched decisions stacked upon decisions and their spiralling consequences push people down the inevitable path. I have watched enemies become friends and family become strangers.

The lives I always end up returning to belong to a pair of cheerful fraternal twins who lived in the house across mine many years ago. The two siblings began life like one soul in two bodies, only to slowly drift apart over the years due to a multitude of misunderstood intentions, thoughtless actions, and nursed hurts. They both ended up moving as far away as possible from each other to live identically bitter lives until they both passed away from the same disease.

How tragic, I muse as I watch the familiar scene once more. My next thought is a familiar continuation, If only.

If only they had talked things out that night.

If only they would swallow their pride and apologize.

If only they had turned left instead of right.

No matter how many ‘if only’s cross my mind, nothing changes, because the past is the past. Irreversibly unchangeable. I can only take the lessons I’ve learnt watching the past to shape my present.

~End~

Short Story: Contradictory Companion

Genre: slice of life, family

 

His sister was the most venturesome person he knew. She always looked out for new locations, unique flavour combinations, limited time events and more.

His sister was the most fearful person he knew. She kept her bag packed with emergency supplies, first aid essentials, and even spare clothing.

“You never know what will happen,” she would say when asked, right before doing something crazy like throwing herself off a cliff into a lake below.

The contradiction made his sister a great travelling companion. She had a knack for finding the obscure and interesting in every area, and he could follow along without fear knowing that his sister had already prepared for all kinds of disasters. The only price he had to pay was following his sister’s punishing pace.

“This way!” his sister said as he was still gaping at the mind blowing bioluminescent underground waterfall, the fifth hidden gem they had found that morning.

“Right behind you.” He snapped a hasty picture and jogged after his sister to the next grand sight.

~End~

Short Story: The Dragon on My Homework

There’s a dragon on my homework.

The tiny lizard nuzzles my book, but otherwise does not look like it wants to set my homework on fire.

I don’t know if I should be relieved or disappointed about this.

Anyway, dragons are rare. Baby dragons even more so, and this has to be a baby dragon to be able to fit on my desk.

I cautiously approach the dragon, trying to look as non-threatening as possible. If the dragon is willing to enter my room, perhaps it – I note the non-branching horns – she won’t mind becoming my familiar.

The dragon merely looks at my hand, which I take as an encouraging sign. Here goes nothing. I touch her head.

She vanishes.

Someone giggles outside my door, and I realise too late what the dragon actually is.

An illusion created by my mischievous little brother.

Well, if he wants to use his hard-learnt, world changing skills to play a trick on his precious family, so can I.

I slump in disappointment and use the movement to hide my own spell. In my disappointment, I pull my drawer open to bring out a container of delicious looking cookies and put them on my desk. But…

“Hmm. Need milk,” I say aloud and rise to my feet, giving my little brother ample time to scamper out of sight.

As expected, once I am out of the way, my little brother sneaks into my room straight for the cookies. He curls his fingers around my cookies… and can’t pull them out. He has fallen into my sticky trap!

“Ah hah!” I jump back into my room. “I knew it was you.”

I close the distance between us in a few strides and loom over him.

“Attack!”

With both hands stuck to my cookie trap, my little brother can only squirm as I tickle him mercilessly.

“Will you play tricks on me again?” I pause just long enough to ask.

“Yes.”

I tickle him once more.

“Will you play tricks on my again?” I repeat.

“Yes!”

As I continue to tickle him into submission, a part of me keeps an eye on his breathing while the other part tries to figure out how I can stop without breaking character. Fortunately, my brother gives up first, and it is a relief to release him from his torture.

“So what did we learn today?” I prompt him.

“That I make good dragons,” my little brother says with a proud smile.

“Ok, I’ll give you that. And?”

“Don’t eat your cookies because it’s a TRAP!” He bolts out the room in the blink of an eye.

I shake my head and sigh in exasperation.

That cheeky kid.

~End~

 

Genre: fantasy, family

Check out the related fic The Sleeping Dragon on My Homework.

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