“We don’t need to do this.”
I cocked the gun, the barrel aimed straight at his heart. “I think I do.”
His hands were by his sides, his face drawing a strain between disappointment and pity. Regret was etched in there somewhere, I could see it. We didn’t end up here by design – this was, as they call it, a culmination of actions and words you can never take back.
This – gun pointed at my brother. This would have been unimaginable a decade ago when we still had each other’s back. When belief didn’t get in the way of love. And when our parents were still alive. I was only avenging them after all, five years in the making.
“Apologise,” I demanded.
“Why? I don’t regret what I did. It had to be done”. Always so arrogant, oh so sure of himself. His stand on the world, his disposition. Never compromise, never waver in the face of adversity. That’s what he used to tell me. If only I had half the courage to pull this trigger, as easily as he would have were he in my position now. I doubt he would have hesitated.
My brother, the political actor. The one behind the strings of the President. Speaking in his silver-gilded tongue as he always has ever since he learned how to talk. The one who orchestrated, no – directed the death of our parents. “They were enemies of the State, Amir,” he interjected, as though having read my mind.
“They, Mother and Father, were our parents. The only people we ever knew!”.
“And they tried to indoctrinate us from young. Don’t tell me you’re swallowing all that ideological bullshit even now?”. I gripped the handle, finger still rested on the trigger. “Oh, poor boy,” he smiled. “You think you still do.”
Bedroom. Bodies. Blood. Two shots and a splattered headboard. I remembered him standing at their bedroom door, gun in hand. It was half past midnight, and the loud two explosive noises woke me up. He turned around to face me, his pained expression half hidden in the dark. He left as I ran into the bedroom, both Mother and Father seemingly asleep, if not for the holes in their heads.
“How could you stand by him? After everything he’s done to our people.” Just shoot already, I tell myself. But I couldn’t, not without knowing first. I want to hear him confess at gunpoint. A dignity he took away from our parents. Even if it’s a lie.
He sighed, then sat.
“I know you won’t shoot me, Amir. So, don’t even start.” He took a box out of his pocket. Kretek. His favourite. He lit the cigarette, a small flame illuminating his worn face in this abandoned room. Why was he being so damned casual, like he always does. I set the barrel on him, the aim unwavering.
He then told stories we both already knew. Of our people, our proud history and heritage. Lies, he called them. Alternative histories with a messianic slant to keep us blind to the truth of our people. Bedtime stories our parents fed us, stories of prophecy, grandeur and destiny that were fabricated. “Religion is a dangerous thing,” he breathed, a trail of smoke punctuating his point. “And they both tried to make us their soldiers.” His jaw tightened.
“So, when I left for university. Well, obviously the State knew who I was. Who Mother and Father were – leaders of the Resistance. They brought me in and…” he fell quiet. “Do you know how it feels like to learn that everything you thought to be true, a lie?
“The way your soul shreds at the very light of truth. The abyss you’re left in while trying to make sense of a life that’s just crumbled before you”, his face was grim now, his breathing deep and expression pained. Lost, almost. Hurt at the very memory of his internal fissure. He closed his eyes. “It took me months to come to terms. And when I did.”
He stopped there, taking another drag of his awful cigarette. The room smelled like burnt cloves now, an aromatic nuisance I grew up with at the back of the schoolyard and in the garden when our teachers and parents weren’t watching.
“I think deep down; you and I know what we were told was a lie.”
No. It wasn’t.
“If not, you’d have shot me thirty minutes ago.”
The door banged open. I whipped around. Pain. I fell. Searing pain. I couldn’t stand. Couldn’t focus. Bleeding calf. He was walking. A shadow in the dark.
“Don’t worry –“ he pushed my chest with his foot, “We’ll fix that soon enough.”