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Thursday, 19 August 2010

“Kasper” Version 2

A while back I wrote a short story and made it available on my blog. I am now including for your reading pleasure a revised version of this short story…

My brother was always creating new worlds with his stories and when he wasn’t writing he was reading books. He enjoyed creative writing so much that his Mathematic teachers would complain that his books were filled with stories and not arithmetic.

Kasper let me in on his imaginary world. Double-dinking on his bicycle, we dressed like medieval knights or sometimes go as pirates. We scrapped together old clothes and raided the tool shed or the kitchen as our props required.

I couldn’t have asked for better years with Kasper, but it wasn’t to last.

I was ten, when it happened. It being the day my brother was walking down a street, after school. Some unlicensed driver, whom had no right being behind the wheel of a car, clipped Kasper. My brother fell to the ground and hit his head.

Kasper was taken to hospital. He hasn’t been awake since.

Before the accident, Kasper was a very light sleeper. Mum says he just had so much going on in his head, that he didn’t know how to shut down.

I don’t have to tell you how much I miss my brother. Sometimes I tell myself that his coma is just a very deep sleep.

A lot of people who knew Kasper visited him in hospital. But after a few weeks of Kasper’s radio silence, the visitors faded away. In the end it was just mum, dad, and myself.

A year passed and Kasper continued to sleep. The rest of us could only wait. My starting high school was barely a blip on the radar. Dad continued to work. Mum though wanted to quit her job so she could stay with Kasper. She took some extended leave, but dad convinced her to return to work. Mum wasn’t particularly happy with Dad. She accused him of not caring enough for Kasper.

Dad immersed himself entirely in his work. Believe it or not, he was once the sort of man that placed high value on family time. Not any more. Now he practically lived at his office. I guess it was his way of dealing.

Mum worked in an office all day, she would later visit Kasper in the hospital, then she’d come home and clean the house in its entirety, even if it wasn’t dirty. Then she’d start the process all over again in two days time.

I hated the mindless entities my parents had become. The silence in the house practically screamed at me. Empty voices, empty hearts.

A few times I climbed out of Kasper’s bedroom window. His room was very close to our old tree house — our castle in the sky — making it easy to climb down from our ancient American Craftsman style home. Sometimes I would ride my bike and visit Kasper. It was easy enough to do. The hospital staff recognised me and despite the visitor policy, they let me stay with Kasper.

When mum and dad realised I was stepping out at night I was in a world of trouble. It was the first spark of life I had seen in my family in ages. But it wasn’t good, because that’s when the comparisons began.

“Kasper wouldn’t do this. Or that. Kasper wouldn’t break the rules.”

“Of course he wouldn’t. He’s in a coma.” Slap. My cheek burned for a few hours. After that I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with either of my parents.

I started hanging out in Kasper’s bedroom. It was quiet, but I could sense my brother’s remaining ambience. The room had his musky boy smell and it contained his history. I knew which creaky floorboards to avoid. I also knew about the strategically place furniture covering dubious looking marks on his rug. There were also his journals lining the shelves above his writing desk.

One afternoon I sat down next to Kasper. I had a book on my lap. It was a yellowed exercise book that had been decorated with stickers and primitive, homemade illustrations. The book was the first in a large collection that had been written by Kasper — the stories which he had written to entertain me when I was sick, or bored. I found the book in Kasper’s bedroom. I turned a page and began to read.

Each day I read back to Kasper the stories he had written. It was the journal of an adventuring brother and sister. The pages were filled with daring escapes in exciting and dangerous lands waiting to be explored.

Weeks later, I had already read out loud almost every book that had been written by Kasper. There was just one left. Sitting next to Kasper for the hundredth time I turned the first page.

It was an early evening, when the sun spiralled toward its final burn, setting the horizon on fire. Here, the brother and sister came upon a rise of a craggy hill, down which the path divided ways. In one direction stood a yet unexplored mountain. In the other, was a beach, on which a small rowboat was berthed. Further out in the bay floated a greater ship with filmy white sails.

The sister moved forward toward the mountain, which called to her with a challenge. She stopped walking as she realised she was alone.

She called to her brother.

The brother shook his head. Then he turned to the ocean and began walking toward it. The sister felt uncertain, and didn’t know what to make of her brother’s choice, “Wait! We never go to the ocean. We always have been mountain climbers. Why this sudden interest in the ocean?”

The brother faced his sister, “Look, I don’t think there is any way I can properly explain this to you, because I hardly understand it myself. But tonight I have this feeling that I am supposed to go to that ship. That’s my path and I must follow it.”

The sister considered this, “I can’t say I’m comfortable with travelling on water, it’s just never been done before, but I’m willing to brave it with you by my side — as always.”

The sister begins to walk toward the beach, and her brother holds out his arm blocking her.

“No! You aren’t getting it. That mountain called to you didn’t it? So that’s where your path lies. But it’s not mine.”

The brother turns back toward the ocean and the boat that awaits him.

The sister began crying, “But we’ve been together so long. How do I go on without you?”

I dropped the book, and it landed on the ground with a crack, slapping me back into the real world. Hot tears flooded my face.

I stared at Kasper in disbelief as he lay on the hospital bed, hooked up to the machines that kept him functioning. Did he know what was coming? Was it any coincidence that he wrote of a parting between our fictional selves, on the eve of his accident?

I stood up out of my seat and climbed onto the hospital bed. Taking care to not disturb the tubes connected to Kasper. I lifted one of his arms over my shoulder as I lay down by his side and wept. I cried for the first time in ages, something that I hadn’t allowed myself to do in ages. My tears could have filled centuries. There were just so many thoughts pushing through, forcing me to deal.

Firstly, there was the realisation that Kasper may never again wake up. On top of that, there was this other feeling. Knowing that even if there hadn’t been the accident, my brother still would have parted ways with me at some point. Before the accident he was growing up and he may not have wanted to keep up with our story games.

I lay next to Kasper and remembered another time when we camped out in the backyard. We lay on the ground like this and gazed up at the stars. Kasper could point out any of the constellations. I thought he knew everything. I smiled and began to feel calmer. I settled off to sleep, with my ear against Kasper’s skin, listening to the rhythm of his slow heartbeat.

“Just because you’ve left me, doesn’t mean you can let me go.” I whispered into Kasper’s side.

I must have fallen asleep, as I had awoken with a start. I could feel someone was in the room with me. I scanned the dimly lit room. Groggily thinking a night nurse must have come to check on my brother. But there was only Kasper.

“What the…” I looked down and saw Kasper’s shaking hand on mine. I glanced at his face and in the dim light I could see his eyelids trying to open.

“Kasper?” I touched his cheek.

Lightly he touched my hand. “Chloe, you never left me?” His voice was broken and brittle.

“Sometimes little sisters look out for their big brothers.” I hugged my brother. “Welcome back.”