It rained over the Rosenberg estate.
A day's worth of packing luggage into the truck and, soon after it left, the clouds arrived. Inside of the several story house, little life was expressed as it once had. The antique clock ticked away, being the only thing making sound for the last three hours. Günther poured himself another shot of brandy, already finished with the bottle set at the mini bar. There was plenty more where it came from and he intended on finishing every last drop.
Wilfried put out the last bit of his cigarette, grinding it into the ashtray, his previous remainders fashioned into a crooked mess of the day. No matter how many he smoked, his hands still shook at the recent news. The only way he could keep them steady was the urge to occupy himself with his psychology book from school. His eyes went through the words, but none of them stuck in his head. It was as if he was reading ripples in a rainstorm, nothing but chaotic lines with so much going on around them.
Despite being only a few years apart, the two of them couldn’t be any more different. Günther had made himself into a powerhouse though unrelenting training, the scars and bulging veins on his skin showing the effort he has gone through. Wilfried, on the other hand, took to the books rather than the gym. The muscles in his eyes from shifting left to right were only surpassed in use by the ones in his mouth. But no matter how much he liked to talk, he was stone silent ever since he arrived at the house.
Plucking a fresh cigarette from the crinkled pack, he flicked his lighter over and over again, having trouble to get a flame started. Günther headed back to the chair he’d been slouched in all day, returning to the deep groove his dense body had made. The sound of the lighter continued, followed by the clanking of ice in a glass. Staring over at his brother, Günther’s grip tightened on the armrest. Finally, the fire stuck, the clock returning to be the only rhythm.
Günther cleared his throat after a nice long sip, deciding to break the ice after such a long and unintentional vow of silence. “You are ruining your lungs, you know.”
Smoke came out of Wilfried’s mouth as he spoke. “And you are ruining your liver. You never hear me bugging you about it.” He lay himself down on the couch, holding his cigarette between his fingers near the ground, the book in his other hand. His unkempt blonde hair fell over his face, having to be brushed aside to avoid catching fire.
Günther rubbed his scruffy beard irritably. “You’re barely twenty. Don’t you care about your health?”
Wilfried coughed out a laugh, dropping his book onto his chest. “This is coming from a guy who takes punches in the head for a living.” Rolling to his side, he looked over at his brother, receiving a glare of disdain. “Please, spare me your hypocrisy. I bet you’re only telling me since you want to tell yourself.”
Günther set the glass down hard enough to spill its content, standing up aggressively. “Oh, quit acting like you know everything. Just because you go to college doesn’t mean you own the place.”
Wilfried tilted his head, lifting it off of the decorative cushion. “No… it doesn’t. Mother does. And once she returns from her operation, we will go back to our normal lives.” With a huff, he lazily rolled onto his back and covered his face with his jacket’s sleeve. “To think, she called the both of us, thinking only one would arrive.”
Günther’s green eyes went cold. “I gave her my word I would help her.”
“Well, so did I.”
Günther put his hands up, returning to his chair. “I didn’t even want to talk to you. I just thought it would be nice to care for once.” He took another sip to calm himself, needing it dearly.
“Oh boy, you care about me so much. I’m just tingling inside. Eighteen years of you beating me senseless and on this special day, you decide to care. And you care so much about yourself that if someone put the two of us together, they’d end up with a fully dead body.”
The glass flew across the room, crashing into the fireplace. The flames flared from the newly added alcohol, the shattered bits twinkling in the reflection. Günther shot out of his chair, looming over his resting brother like a falling tree. “Don’t say that word!”
“You’re cleaning that up,” Wilfried quickly stated.
“You think you’re funny saying that?! Mother just told you about Greta’s death today and you’re here making jokes.”
Wilfried slowly sat up, almost puzzled at the outburst. “Are you seriously still up at arms about that? That was practically a year ago. What is worrying about it going to do for me? I’d say more, but I fear you’d go crazy if I did.”
“That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I went to the funeral. I had to hold mom in my arms as she’s crying her eyes out. You didn’t, but I did. You never cared, but I do!”
Wilfried ’s face didn’t move in the slightest, as if his neutral expression was chiseled into marble. “Good for you. Now, can you let me not care in peace? I have studying to do. I planned to enjoy some time alone — not to argue with some screaming maniac.”
Right as Wilfried returned to his book, it was snatched out of his hands. Flinging the book into the fireplace, Günther pushed his brother back down as soon as he tried to get up. The massive muscles stretching his t-shirt showed he could overpower his little brother without even trying. Knowing it was impossible to fight back, Wilfried stayed down.
All Wilfried could do was glare down his nose, as confidently as he could. “That book wasn’t free, you know.”
“What are you going to do about it, you big baby?”
“Well, there’s nothing much I can do but wait until morning to get another. Unlike you, I stay diligent with my education.” Trying to get up again, Wilfried was pushed down, harder this time. “Easy! I’m just getting up to get something to eat. Or is that against the law now?”
Günther backed away, allowing his brother to pass. The light in the kitchen turned on, the first time a switch has been flicked all night. As pans rattled in the other room, Günther bent over before the fire to pick up the glass shards that encircled the brick ledge. Dropping pieces into a cupped hand one by one, he headed to the kitchen to throw them away. The shards jingled into the trashcan, Günther washing off his hands right after.
Looking over his bulky shoulder, he saw Wilfried tending the stove. Pushing the spaghetti noodles further into the boiling pot with his wooden spoon, he glanced over at his brother, not saying a word. Keeping his eyes on his cooking, he moved over to the other pot that had the sauce bubbling. Opening the refrigerator, Günther got himself a cold water bottle and guzzled down the entire thing; his mouth dry from all the drinking. Grabbing another, he closed the door and leaned against the counter.
“When did you learn how to cook?” His tone was more judgmental than anything else.
“If you lived on a campus, you wouldn’t be surprised. Between studying and classes, there’s not much time to head to the local burger joint several streets away. If only things were like the old days where there was a diner on every street corner. Man, I’d love to live in the old days. I was born in the wrong time, the wrong country,” he glanced at his brother, “the wrong family. Some luck, huh?”
“Why do you hate our family so much?” Günther asked it quietly and without any anger.
It was enough to get Wilfried’s attention. After putting the pasta in the strainer over the sink, he put his hand on the counter, fully facing his brother. “Give me a reason to like our family and maybe I’d consider going easy on you guys. You know our history, you know about dad, you know about all the things our family has done, and still you think there is something respectable about us. What is it? Because we’re related? Is that why I should like you?”
Günther just looked down, thinking he could find the answer in his water bottle — finding nothing but a distorted reflection of the world around him.
“The only one I can respect is mother,” Wilfried continued, “because she actually took care of me. Not very well, but she tried her best. She’s not perfect, I know that.” As he put the food on a plate and poured the sauce over it, he saw his brother still looking down in silence. Getting another plate from the cupboard, he fixed up another helping of food, setting it on the other side of the sink, next to Günther. “I also know that you didn’t eat a thing today. A big guy like you has to to eat or else you’d collapse under your own weight.”
Günther moved his head towards the steaming plate, his stomach hurting from its emptiness. He grabbed it by the edge. “... I’m sorry I burned your book.”
Günther lifted his head, his eyes absent of their usual flare. “I’ll pay for a new one. Tomorrow, I’ll get it for you. You don’t have to go into town for it.”
Wilfried circled around the table, setting his plate at his usual spot by a long forgotten habit. “I know.”
Following his brother to the table, Günther sat opposite of him, as usual from back in the day. “You know?”
“Of course. You do this every time. You ruin something of mine, then you apologize, then you repeat. Besides, it’s not the first time our family’s been involved in a book burning. Now, let’s eat our food before it freezes over.”
Rain pattered against the window, the cold seeping in. Being away from the fire, the only source of heat was from the dying stovetop and the electric chandelier dangling over the dinner table. With a house so elegant and modern, it was surprisingly absent of a heater. Even though the insulation was good enough for one to not be necessary, it was one of those nights where it would have been good to have one. Günther was barely through half of his meal before he stopped; twirling his fork hesitantly.
“... Do you think he really did it?”
Wilfried picked up a napkin to wipe off all of the sauce covering his lips. “Just because I study psychology doesn’t mean I can read minds. I can tell why you’re thinking something, not what you’re thinking of.”
“I’m talking about dad. Do you really think he killed Greta?”
Wilfried huffed, slamming his napkin down on the table, the utensils and plates clattering. “I’m tired of everyone talking about Greta. Greta this, Greta that, Greta, Greta, Greta! A whole year and she’s still the star of the show, even after being a no-show.”
“You still haven’t answered the question, Wilfried. I want to know your opinion, as a person studying psychology. I mean, the police said he was schizophrenic.”
Wilfried continued eating, talking with his mouth full. “Yeah, so?”
“We both know he was into that occult stuff. All of those books on the shelf he didn’t want us to read, all of those things he would bring home from all over the world.”
“Just because he has a strange hobby doesn’t mean he’s mentally unstable. The two can’t be connected like that. It would be like if a furry was considered a cannibal due to the fact they dress up like a meat eater. Relatable, but not connectable. Not even close.”
“You think so? I mean, doesn’t schizophrenia happen right away? How does someone go from normal to crazy just like that?”
Wilfried finally put his fork down, realizing he wouldn’t finish his food any time soon. “Well, if you happen to read from that book you threw in the fire earlier, you would know that schizophrenia is one of those disorders that develop, rather than be born with. Bipolar, you’re born with. Autism, you’re born with. ADD and ADHD, you’re born with. Schizophrenia is genetic, yes, but can be suppressed and triggered by what happens in our lives. Addictions are also genetic, but that doesn’t mean we all follow the things we are at high risk at being addicted to. But, I don’t know about you. I don’t know if you are born to be an alcoholic or not.”
Günther ignored the remark. “So what you’re saying is he is able to be normal for his whole life, until something triggers it?”
Wilfried nodded. “More or less, yeah. It can be a gradual encumbering stress that activates it, or it can be a traumatizing event that has it happen all at once. The thing is, I’m not the one who tested him and I wasn’t there when it happened. All I know is that Greta is gone and dad’s in the nuthouse.”
Günther squinted his eyes, scratching his blond beard in thought. “You seem to be taking it pretty well.”
Wilfried stood up, taking his plate to the sink to wash it off. “Let’s just say I’m not surprised at any of this. From the second I was carried into this household, I was the black sheep of this family. The day I moved out was the day I started living for once. Right when I was able to, I changed my last name to Heine.”
“What’s wrong with Rosenberg?”
“It’s embarrassing. I couldn’t consciously keep that name and be proud of it.” Wilfried returned to the table to sit back in the chair. “Not by a long shot.”
“I never knew you changed your name. It feels like you changed everything completely ever since you left.”
“That’s the plan.”
“Don’t tell me you have a girlfriend now? I’d feel bad for the girl who’d have to put up with a mouth like yours.”
“Yes, I have a girlfriend. I met her in class and helped her with studies. It’s been going good so far. Of course, everyone back in the day thought I was going to have a boyfriend, but now I have a girlfriend.”
Günther laughed heartily. “I bet she’s a big time nerd, huh.”
“Oh, yeah. She’s always playing video games instead of studying. Thankfully I’m able to tutor her and keep her attention. Can’t say that for the teacher.”
“How many years you have left in collage?”
Wilfried tilted his head in thought. “I think about two more remaining and I get my bachelor's degree. Then after I get a job, I’ll work on my master’s.”
“What kind of job are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. I’m used to dealing with nutjobs when I was living in this house, so maybe working at an insane asylum would be right at home.”
Günther chuckled as his chewed. “So you don’t know, then.”
“There’s plenty of choices. But of course, I’ll do what pays best. Lord knows I’m not getting anything else out of our family’s inheritance.”
Günther kept his head down, not responding to the remark.
“So what about you? What have you been up to? I hear you’re in MMA now. Any good fights?”
Günther looked around, scratching the back of his head. “Not too many, but I keep the crowd going. That’s for sure.”
“Must be awkward for you to fight someone who can beat you up for once.”
Günther gulped, returning his brother’s glare. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Wilfried scoffed. “Don’t act like you forgot. Nearly every day you would leave me with a bruise or a bump that made mother’s heart skip a beat. My wrist that cracks every morning, my knee that is crooked, the dent in my collarbone. I bet you remember every one of those, maybe even better than me.”
Günther sighed, getting up to drop the plate in the sink and let it sit there. “That was in the past. We were just kids messing around.”
Lightning cracked outside, the wind howling louder. Wilfried smiled, the way a shark would when it smelled blood. “Of course. You were messing around. You know... I can mess around too. What makes you think I didn’t poison the food you just ate? Or maybe that water you were drinking? You don’t know if I opened it before, you didn’t even bother to check.”
Günther took a step back, feeling a pain inside. He didn’t know if it was poison eating away at his innards or just the paranoia of it getting to him. “You’re lying! You wouldn’t do something like that.”
Wilfried stood up, his grin as smug as ever. “Trouble is, you don’t know. Maybe I was born a heartless killer? Ever thought of that? Father did it so easily, maybe I could do the same thing.” Walking out of the kitchen, he turned off the lights, leaving his brother in the dark. “Goodnight, Günther. See you in the morning.”
Günther stood there, in the pitch black kitchen, the lightning crashing behind him. The rest of the night was long for him, even after he got to bed. While Wilfried slept like a baby, Günther laid there, staring at the painting of Cain and Abel their parents bought at an auction. Its image appeared with each lightning strike and each strike embedded it into his mind further. He turned to his side, trying his hardest to get rid of his constant thoughts.
Gently, he felt the sensation of someone putting a hand on his shoulder, as if reaching from behind him. Turning around to see, there was nobody with him. The heavy covers hovered over his back, but that was all. He closed his eyes, but sleep took its time to get to him. As he finally did, he dreamt of his deceased sister; enjoying it for all it was worth.
It stopped raining over the Rosenberg estate in the morning, a grey sea of clouds still hanging above.
Wilfried ate breakfast in front of his laptop, slurping his cereal with milk. The room was just how he had left it those few years ago, even the overfilled closet untouched. All of the paintings and decor had been dusted to say the least, as if he never left. The webcam recorded all of it, a skinny girl with glasses on the other end. Used to his habits, she ignored the noises as she changed channels on the television, its sound muted.
“So how is it living with your brother again?” She asked, a little too cautiously. “He’s not listening to this, is he?”
“Not at all. He’s in town doing some errands. But I got him good.”
“Oh, great. What did you do this time?”
Wilfried stifled his laughter, hissing with joy. “I made him think I’m out to get him.”
Ada squished her face at him, pursing her little lips. “Willy! Honestly, that’s the worst thing you could do. He won’t want to talk to you ever again.”
“That’s the point,” Wilfried stated, reclining back in his chair and putting his hands behind his head. “At least this way he won’t bug me for the rest of the stay.”
“How much longer is it going to be?”
Wilfried sighed in annoyance. “Two more days. What a way to spend a chunk of my winter break, huh? But don’t worry. Right when I get back, we’ll go somewhere good. Your choice.”
“That’s if you come back. With the way you talk about your brother, I thought he was a wild dog you kept chained in the back yard.”
“We would have chained him up, but the neighbors would complain, most likely.”
“You dork.” Ada giggled, the kind that was contagious. Batting her eyes, she sighed, a hand coming up to hold her head on her desk. “... I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
They stared at each other, both wanting the screen between them to be gone for good. A sound interrupted their silence. It was faint, but both of them reacted once they heard it. The sound of a high pitched cry, one from a yowling animal.
“You never told me your mom had a cat,” Ada said, giggling in delight.
Wilfried looked at her suspiciously, his eyes shifting. “I thought that came from your end.”
Ada shook her head. “No, it’s definitely from yours.” She clapped her hands with joy. “Oh, bring him over here. I want to see your kitty cat.”
“But we don’t have a cat,” Wilfried corrected. “At least… not anymore. It must be coming from outside. Probably from one of the neighbors, most likely.”
Ada slumped her shoulders in defeat. “Aww, I to see it.”
“Why don’t you just get your own cat? I’m sure your mom would—” He was interrupted by a door closing, it’s slam loud enough to rattle the window a bit. “Great, Günther’s back.”
Ada grabbed for a book next to her screen, wiggling it with sarcastic enthusiasm. “That’s okay. I had to study anyway.”
Ada grinned as she held the computer mouse to end the call. “See you later, dork.”
“Bye bye, darling.”
Closing the laptop, Wilfried got up to greet his brother from the banister. Leaning over the wooden railing, he didn’t see anyone at the door and couldn’t hear any sound from the other rooms. Making his way down the stairs, he looked in the kitchen to only find the dishes from last night still there by the sink. Even in the living room, he was alone, no sign of his brother. Leaning against the grand piano, he tapped some keys at random, thinking.
“Günther you in here?”
Waiting for a reply, he could hear a quiet humming. Not humming from an electric current. One from a girl, in a tune he remembered hearing when he was growing up. A tune that was entirely made up by his sister. Stepping lightly and following the sound, he was lead back to the stairs.
Right in front of the stairs, the door squeaked. The door to his sister’s room. With a loud creak, it slowly opened up, completely dark inside. Wilfried stood there, stopping abruptly on the step. The door slammed behind him, making him jump.
Günther threw his car keys onto the table by the door, a grocery bag in his arm. Giving his younger brother a quick glance, he continued into the kitchen, the paper bag rustling loudly. Turning back to the top of the stairs, Wilfried saw the door was completely closed. Shaking his head and blinking hard, he kept his head down as he hurried to his room, avoiding eye contact with the door to his sister’s room. Locking himself in, he moved the chair to wedge it under the doorknob, securing it.
His hand was shaking again as he grabbed his nearly empty pack of smokes. Trying his best to steady his breathing while he lit his lighter, his sharp breathes nearly put out the flame as soon as it went on. Finally, after almost giving up, the much needed nicotine entered his lungs. Lying back onto the bed, he moaned softly, the stress releasing. His heart slowed down to a safe level; the trail of smoke in his hand slithering towards the ceiling.
It was the memory of her. Just thinking of her made his body lose control. Touching the dip in his collarbone with his fingertips, he closed his eyes.
Leaves fell from the tree, covering the grass in a brittle blanket of orange and brown. He saw the window to his brother’s room pass him by, changing to the view of the living room down below. The ground made contact with a painful recoil, his body hitting it from the side. In a fraction of a second, he heard a sound similar to a leaf crunching, but one that came from inside of him. His first instinct was to get up without thinking; quickly falling flat again with a whimpering cry.
“Why did you push him?”
Her voice. The kind that can make a man’s heart burst into flames for two different reasons. His reason was the one where his blood boiled.
“I didn’t think he was going to fall.” Branches creaked as Günther climbed his way down to Earth. “He’s always a big baby about every little thing!”
“You best get daddy. All we need now is for him to die and for us to be blamed for it.”
“What’s the hurry?”
“Just go! Before mom comes and hears us.”
Greta came into his view, the door opening in the distance. Her smile was as innocent as ever, her piercing blue eyes staring down at him. The freckles on her face folded into each other as she giggled happily. “Looks like you hurt yourself pretty bad, baby brother. Remember, you did this to yourself.”
Tossing his head away from the sight of her, he could see the fragment of a splintered bone sticking out of his skin. His collar was drenched in blood, a small pool forming in the grass. With two pale little fingers, Greta touched the piece of exposed bone — the reason she was giggling. He grunted in pain, the slight pressure sending a fire through his body. He could already feel faint, his vision growing dim.
“Mommy and daddy can’t help you now. You’re not telling anyone anything. You got that?”
He coughed, only able to whimper weakly. A swift snap made him scream in agony. Greta held the tiny fragment of her brother’s collarbone up to her joyful face, blood running down her hand from the wound she opened further. Holding the sharp bone against his neck, she pulled his head back to expose his artery.
“If I find out you told anyone, I’ll make sure it’s the last thing you ever say. Got it?”
Nodding only caused more pain, but he did it to save himself from what would come if he didn’t. With tear filled eyes, he was left to lie there, helpless. She casually skipped into the house, humming her made up tune. The tune he would always hear when she knew she got exactly what she wanted. The tune that would haunt him as he tried to sleep on restless nights.
Every time he heard it, the pain and dread would return.
A cloud of smoke wafted upwards. Turning over to his nightstand, Wilfried turned on the light, the shadows growing as the sun fell. He didn’t plan to go to sleep, but he wasn’t ready to leave the bed. Getting under the covers, he continued to inhale deeply. But no matter how many times he did, his body stayed on the alert with no chance of resting any time soon.
Downstairs, a bottle of whisky clanked against the glass full of ice. Günther downed the alcohol in an instant, holding the empty glass as he reached for the fire poker. Stirring up the fire, he lazily held himself against the brick ledge. A small sound got his attention, barely audible over the pops of the wood. The sound of a girl giggling.
Setting the glass on the ledge of the fireplace, he followed the sound up the stairs. Only one of the doors up there was open. Walking up the dark steps, he crossed the hallway and into the even darker bedroom. Nothing could be seen inside, not even a hint of light from behind the window curtains. His fingers crawled along the wall in search for the switch.
It clicked on.
He felt like falling to his knees at what he saw. Her room was just how it was back then. Her make up mirror at the corner near the closet. Her dresses and skirts scattered on the floor. The photos of her on the wall when she went horseback riding and birthdays and graduation.
She was also on the bed, looking over to him in a pleasant surprise.
Greta tipped her head to the side in delight, her red hair flowing off of her shoulder. “I thought you’d never get here,” she whispered happily. “What took you so long?”
Günther couldn’t find his words. Looking back, the door was closed and already locked. He could see himself in the mirror from across the room, his clothes and face being the same as they were ten years ago. Back when his sister was alive and just barely starting high school. Back when the two of them would spend nearly every day together — every second they could.
Greta sighed, getting out of the bed. “It doesn’t matter. I’m just glad you came.” Her white nightgown fluttered from her steps, the sight of her slender arms and legs making his heart pound in his chest. She grabbed his hand pulling him on her way back to the bed. “It’s been so lonely without you. I don’t think I could have slept a wink if you didn’t come. Thank you for being such a good brother. You’re so sweet, you know that?”
Both of them sat on the bed, Günther still saying nothing. All he could do was stare at her, seeing her moving again, hearing her talking to him again. He felt like breaking down into tears, but it was beyond that. Greta looked down at his hand, seeing his knuckles scuffed and scabbed over. She pouted playfully, tenderly holding his cheek in her other hand.
“Günther, did you get in a fight again at school?” Giving his wounds a quick kiss, she giggled quietly. “You need to keep that anger of yours in check. What am i going to do if I lose you, big guy? Can you keep yourself calm?” She put his hand on her face, her warmth soothing to the touch. “For me?”
Günther nodded, his eyes blinking hard. He felt like he was suffocating. Greta smiled, the kind of smile that made his heart melt.
“Good. That makes me happy.” She continued to kiss his hand, her lips softly caressing his aching knuckles. Kissing a trail along his index finger, she got the tip of his finger with her tongue and guided it into her mouth. Gently sucking on his fingertip, she moaned deeply. Taking it out, she rubbed her face against his palm, closing her eyes. “I need you,” she whispered sharply. “I need you so much.”
Günther slide his hand down her body, holding her narrow sides with both hands. Leaning in, he kissed her, the tears finally coming out of his eyes. Both of them panted, Greta’s chest heaving. Günther moved his hands up, squeezing gently. It was enough to make Greta gasp in pleasure, a short giggle coming out of her.
Günther slowly pushed her down onto the bed, getting onto his knees. Greta reached her arms outward, longing for him. Crawling over to her on the covers, he rubbed her thighs up and down. She bent her legs up, following his hands with hers. Leaning in, Günther stuck his head under her nightgown, the heat feeling wonderful on his face.
Greta winced, biting down on her fist to stifle herself. Her breathing intensified, becoming sharp. She curled up to grab at his head, holding it in her arms. Grunting softly, she fell back against the mattress, her head hitting the pillow. Günther came up to give her another kiss on the mouth, the two of them holding the kiss for as long as possible.
“Don’t tell dad,” Greta said, repeating it over and over again. “Don’t tell dad. Don’t tell dad. Don’t tell dad…”
Wrapping her arms around him, she continued to huff loudly, her breathing slowly subsiding. Both of them lay down on the bed in silence, holding each other tightly. Günther kept his eyes closed, feeling the desire to smile again for the first time in so long. He was with Greta again and nothing was going to separate them. Sleep overcame him, having the first good night of sleep in years.
“... Don’t tell dad.”
Dark clouds rolled over the Rosenberg estate, making the morning seem the same as it was the night before.
Wilfried entered the house and hurried up the stairs, heading straight into his room. Locking the door and setting a chair in front of it was routine now, another habit for the lineup. Lighting up a cigarette from one of the fresh packs he bought, he opened up his computer and clicked to call. Once the face of his girlfriend appeared, he felt like he could breath again. Their voices were muffled in the other room, but enough to hear something coming from the other side of the wall.
Günther jumped awake, sweat pouring down his face. The room was dim and empty, white sheets covering everything that his sister had once owned. It was unnaturally cold in the room. Looking up, he could see that the lightbulb on the ceiling was removed at some time prior. He stayed in the bed, shivering — but it wasn’t because of the cold.
“So how’s your mother doing?” Ada asked as she rubbed her wet hair with a towel. She was already clothed, but the call came when she had just got out of the bathroom.
“Good. She’s doing good.”
Ada sighed, crossing her arms. “Okay, what gives? There’s something bugging you.”
Wilfried looked away from the screen. “Nothing’s bugging me. It’s nothing, honest. I’m just freaking out over nothing. You know me.”
“Yeah and I know you like to lie too.”
Blowing out a stream of smoke from his cigarette, Wilfried looked up at the laptop; Ada’s eyes filled with concern. “It’s just the house. It’s getting to me. All of the fond memories.”
Ada leaning in closer, her wet hair dangling over her chest. “Look, I don’t know what it was like when you were growing up. Just the things you told me about is enough to make me worry about you being there with your brother. I don’t know why you don’t just leave the place and come back to the dorm.”
Wilfried huffed irritably. “Because I made my mother a promise. I told her I’ll take care of the house while she is gone and I’m sticking to it.”
“It’s the inheritance, isn’t it?”
Looking down, he tried to hide the guilt on his face to no avail. “Listen, my family is loaded. My mother is the only one who would care for me in the entire house. She was the only one who was nice to me, at all. The only thing I want is to make sure is that she doesn’t die thinking that I didn’t care for her. I want to make sure that out of all of her children, I appreciated her the most.”
Ada smirked with a huff. “How noble. It’s practically unlike you. Especially for one of your family members.”
“Can’t you give me some credit? You wouldn’t be saying that if you lived with these people, believe me.”
“Have you even seen your mother’s will?”
“Actually, now that you mention it, I haven’t seen it since my sister was the sole heiress to the estate. Now that that kind of thing can’t happen, I’m sure mother crossed off her name and scribbled on another one.”
“Why don’t you go check then? Maybe then, you can see if all of this is worth the trouble.”
Wilfried put his cigarette out in the ashtray by the laptop, getting out of his chair. “You know what? I think I’ll do that. I’ll let you know once I find out. Then if it’s all good, you and me can go for a night out on the town. I pay, you play.”
She chuckled with delight. “I like that sound of that. See you later then.”
He coughed, pointing a finger at her. “And don’t forget to study today. You can go out with your girlfriends, but make sure to study right after. You’re going to be all rusty when you return if you don’t.”
Ada rolled her eyes, smiling. “I know.”
“You know, but you don’t do it if I don’t tell you.”
“I know,” Ada said, softly. “Later, dork.”
Turning the computer off, Wilfried unlocked the door and took the chair away, keeping it close by for later. Sticking his head out into the hallway, he saw that both of the other doors next to his were closed. Seeing he wouldn’t be bothered, he made his way to the end of the hall, to his mother’s room. Once he opened the door, he stopped, nearly closing it back up. What he saw made his legs stay where they were and a lump caught in his throat.
The figure of a woman in a dress, standing there in the darkness. His hand swung up on the light switch, revealing what it really was. The bust of a dress form mannequin was in the middle of the bedroom, its three wooden feet planted on the elegant carpet. Chuckling to himself for being foolish, he began searching through the room and rummaging through the drawers in search of any kind of document.
Opening the middle drawer to his father’s nightstand, he saw a writing booklet with a pen in the spiral. Taking it out and reading through a few lines, he realized it was a journal his father would write in every night. The booklet’s pages were filled with entries, several years worth. As time went on, his writing became more abrupt and hurried. Only a quarter into the journal and he could tell there was a significant difference in the amount of time put into the writing.
Greta and Günther seem to be inseparable. The two of them seem to disappear together right when they come back from school. I’m just glad they get along nicely, unlike Wilfried.
He flipped through a few more pages.
Wilfried went to the hospital again. This time for a broken leg. The doctor said part of his kneecap is missing, but he will be healed in no time. I swear, Greta is absolutely absent minded when it comes to babysitting. I just hope he doesn’t get addicted to painkillers with all of these mishaps.
The pages fluttered as he skipped near the end, with an entry catching his eye.
I’ve lived in countless houses and this very one is the last one I would want to spend eternity in. I must not attach myself to this place in any way. I just hope the children don’t become rotten brats because I am inattentive. Their mother is used to it, but I don’t know if they are. If I die, I wish for it to be away from this house. At least that way I won’t have my emotions keep me trapped in this place for good.
Too many memories and none of them worth remembering. How I wish I could forget. How I wish it wasn’t true. It’s too much to admit. Wilfried has been gone for nearly a year and still his words burn a ring to my own circle of hell.
That was the last entry. Casually putting the booklet away, Wilfried looked under the bed to find a folder. Opening it up, he tried to stifle his urge to laugh at the pictures inside. Murder scene photos of his sister’s body, taken where she was found in her room. Killed in her sleep, in what was once a white night gown.
Blood covered what little remained of her freckled skin from multiple stab wounds, enough of them to make her look more like a shredded slab of meat that fell from a butcher’s hook than a human being. Her bed was heavily drenched and stained, droplets splattered upwards along the headrest and wall. Parts of her fingers were severed as if during an attempt to blindly stop whoever was attacking her. It didn’t take a forensics expert to tell that the killer continued to stab her long after she was dead.
Grinning, Wilfried flipped through the pile of pictures and files. The picture of the murder weapon was between the reports. A military dress dagger from the old days, the one that Wilfried’s grandfather wore with his uniform in all of the photos of him scattered around the house. Seeing that the folder was only Greta related, he put it away and reached under the bed for more folders. The bed’s skirt made it impossible to see under there, his fingers patting aimlessly in the darkness.
“Come on, where is that stupid will?”
Getting up, he circled the bed and went under for another go. Lying on his stomach, he couldn’t seem to find anything light enough to be documents, everything his fingers touched being too bulky or soft to be useful in finding it. Grabbing for his lighter, he decided to flick it on, keeping it low so it wouldn’t light the bed’s underside on fire. He could hear a quiet dripping sound, hoping it wasn’t coming from the lighter’s fuel casing; it was old and beaten and on it’s last leg. Once the flame stayed, Wilfried jolted back, his breathing making a sharp stop.
Blood shined in the dim light, wet red hair clinging to the sides of what could barely be a face. Its pink stained teeth were bared wide, severed strands of its lips dangling off of tiny sinews from the side. Pure blue eyes stared at him, the eyelids torn into shreds and still bleeding — along with the rest of its crimson stained body. A low gurgling bubbled out of its throat as it opened its mouth weakly, blood and teeth pouring out of the sides. With torn-apart fingers, it crawled at him, reaching its arm out close enough to swat the flame out.
Backing out of the bed as fast as he could, he got to his feet and doubled back. Bumping into the wall, Wilfried pressed himself into it, keeping his eyes on the bed’s skirt. Nothing came out of it. Closing his eyes, he got the chance to breath again, panting heavily. The shaking started again; his heart going all out.
At the doorway, Günther stood. Crossing his massive arms, he leaned against the doorframe. “What are you doing in here?”
Wilfried kept his face blank, something he had plenty of experience in. If the room wasn’t so cold, he would have been covered in sweat — only feeling flushed instead. “Nothing. I was just seeing if mother had any recent keepsakes. You know, to see if she had done anything nice after I have been gone for so long.”
Günther hummed, nodding. Walking up to Wilfried, he stood next to him. There was a dimness in his eyes, hiding any color it had behind a shadow. Looking down at his hand, he pulled up a text book and offered it to his little brother. Wilfried took it, sighing in relief.
“I didn’t think you would actually get it,” Wilfried said with a nervous chuckle.
“It’s like you said: I always repeat myself when I do something wrong.”
Wilfried held the book against his side, hiding his quivering fingers. “Thanks. It was rather unexpected.”
Günther looked down, raising his face back up quickly. “So, are you making anything for dinner today?”
Wilfried nodded his head. “Sure, I can make something. Maybe like in an hour or so.”
“Good.” Günther headed out of the room, his feet pounding hard against the floorboards. “I’ll be taking a bath then.”
“What would you like to eat?” Wilfried called out to him.
Günther held onto the doorframe, twisting his head to the side. “I’m not hungry. I just wanted to know where I can find you.”
Wilfried scratched his collar subconsciously, the dent in it itching. “Oh… okay. Just let me know if you’d like for me to make anything.”
The tub’s faucet squeaked closed, the water ending its downpour. Günther sat in the tub, his head down towards the water. It was quiet enough to hear the water coursing through the pipes behind the walls and the steady drips from the faucet. Steam rose off of the water’s surface, the cold air in the room making his face freezing while his body was blessed by a soothing warm. With his eyes closed, he didn’t even notice the lights went off.
Humming back to life, the lights resumed to buzz. A gentle movement in the water got his attention, a foot coming out of the water by his shoulder. It was a girl’s leg, slim and pale. He saw who was in the tub with him, sitting across from him. Seeing that she got his attention, she giggled with a lustful sigh.
“We spent so much time in this tub together. Remember? This is the same place you promised me you would get me all of the inheritance. That was so nice of you. I never had anyone do anything nice for me. Only you.”
Günther held his knees close to his chest, trying to curl up into a ball.
She rubbed his skin with her toe, the feeling making him shudder softly.“Aww, what’s the matter, big guy? You look troubled.”
Putting his cheek against his knees, he fought back the tears that tried to come out. “... I miss you.”
Greta stood up, water dripping off of her body. Bending over, she pulled Günther’s arms away from his knees, pushing him back into the tub’s rim. Sitting down on his lap, she touched his chest, moving her fingers up and around his shoulders. Water dripped from her hair as she kissed his lips, bringing her arms around his neck. He felt every part of her under the water, Greta reacting from the tingle she got when he brushed his fingers over her chest.
“You’re my only brother,” she mumbled next to his cheek. “Especially after what the other one did.”
The words got Günther’s attention, having him ease Greta’s head back to look her in the eyes. Those baleful blue eyes. “What did he do?”
Greta held her brother’s chin, her own face dropping into an emotionless glare. “He killed me. He’s the one that did it. He’s the one that took me away from you.”
“You know what you have to do. Make him feel the pain that I had to feel. Make him suffer the way he’s made you suffer. With him gone…” She gave him a kiss, making it last; her voice turning sweet again after. “... we can be together again… forever.”
Günther close his eyes, holding her tightly. The only noise coming from the bathroom was the sound of Greta humming, the same tune she always had.
Wilfried closed the refrigerator, putting a head of lettuce on the cutting board. Grabbing a kitchen knife from the holder, he chopped up some lettuce to put in the large bowel waiting on the side. Günther’s feet pounded down the steps, slowly and uneven. After a while, he entered the kitchen, holding a bottle of whiskey. Wilfried glanced over his shoulder, continuing to cut the lineup of vegetables.
“Hey, I know you’re not hungry, but I’m making a salad.” He chuckled as he poured the cut lettuce into the bowel. “Everything is fresh, so you know nothing’s poisoned.”
Günther sat at the table and kept his head down, only bringing it up to drink more from the whiskey bottle. Emptying it out with a long swig, he slammed the bottle down, almost hard enough to have it shatter in his hand. Wilfried could smell the alcohol sweating out of him from across the kitchen, as if the bath he took was in a tub of gin. Putting a plate of salad in front of his brother, he returned to the stove. Keeping his hand on the bottle, Günther kept his eyes on the plate, but didn’t budge to touch it.
“I’m making a roast tonight, so it’ll be another thirty minutes. That salad should keep you occupied while you wait. I hope mom doesn’t mind us eating it.” Turning around, Wilfried saw his brother wasn’t eating. “What’s the matter? Is it not your thing? I know you didn’t eat the entire day and starving won’t do any good. Especially when you fill yourself with booze like that.”
“You know…” Günther’s breathing got louder. “... You know everything, don’t you? You’re not the only one here that knows things.” He got up from the chair stumbling along the table and using each chair as a crutch. “I know things too, little brother.”
Wilfried rolled his eyes. “Oh, great. What is now?”
Günther pointed a finger up at him, his eyes shaded by his furrowed brow. “I hurt you when we were kids. You had to have kept a grudge for that. Anyone would. But you hurt me for the rest of my life. I know that you killed Greta. All this time it was you!”
“That’s impossible and you know that. I was in the university when she died. How could I kill her when I am several cities away? Can you tell me that?”
Günther shook his head, unfazed by his reasoning. “I don’t know how you did it, but you killed her. It’s the only explanation. You were the only one who hated her. You were the only one who had any reason to kill her. Nobody else, only you.”
Wilfried crossed his arms. “It wasn’t me. It was father. I know because…” he sighed deeply, closing his eyes, “... because I told him about what she did. With you.”
Günther’s hand lowered, his mouth hanging open.
“I was ten years old. Mother told me to get the two of you for dinner. I opened the door, thinking the two of you were reading since I heard whispering. When I opened the door, there you two were, in bed and too occupied to notice you were being watched. On my last day in the house, I told him what I saw, thinking that I would never have to deal with this family ever again. When I heard he killed Greta, I wasn’t surprised… and I was glad he did it for me.”
Günther’s grip tightened on the bottle’s neck. With a quick swing downward, he broke it against the table and charged towards his brother. The jagged end of the glass stabbed into the wall, missing Wilfried as he dodged to the side. Catching himself on the refrigerator’s edge, Wilfried saw the knife he was just using, still covered in bits of carrot and lettuce. Grabbing it, he held it up in defense, the blade shaking violently.
Günther took the broken bottle out of the wall with a powerful swing, drywall flying through the air from the long gash he created. Moving back, Wilfried was sliced by the longest end along his forearm, the blood taking its time to appear. Taking a swing of his own, Wilfried got his brother in the hand, right on the webbing between his middle fingers, knocking the bottle onto the counter. Ignoring the pain, he went for a punch with his other hand. Wilfried held the knife outward, Günther’s fist going straight into the blade.
Reeling his hand back, Günther looked at his wound, the blade having gone through his index finger and into the base of his thumb, stopping at the bone in his wrist. Without saying any cry of pain, he pried the bloody knife out and slowly glanced upwards, any hint of humanity gone from his face. Panicking, Wilfried bolted out of the kitchen, holding his wounded arm. As he turned his back, Günther threw the knife at him, the blade missing its mark and skittering along the floor, leaving a trail of blood behind it. Going through the hall, he entered the living room, the front door on the far end of it.
The piano played over the pounding of his frantic steps, in a tune he knew too well. Greta’s tune. He gasped as he heard someone crawling over the banister from above, his legs frozen in fear. Blood dripped from the body as it leaned over the front entrance and fell onto the bottom floor, it’s limbs breaking and its bones poping through its skin. Cracking and snapping in and out of place, its arms pulled it forward towards Wilfried.
He stepped back as it got closer, the low gurgling sending chills all over his body, his breathing so sharp that it hurt his lungs. Distracted, he didn’t see Günther come in from the side, tackling him into a slide across the wooden floor. The fireplace burned near them as they struggled, Wilfried trying his hardest to keep his brother’s fists in place. The blood covering the both of them allowed him to slip out of Wilfried’s grip, his fists raising high to come down over and over again. At first, the blood covering Wilfried ’s face was from his brother, but soon it became his own.
Every punch sent blood into the air, spraying across the brick of the fire place and the curtains of the window near them. Teeth lay beside Wilfried’s head, cracked and shattered. His eye dangled off to the side by the nerve keeping it connected to its socket. Another punch bursted the eyeball with a dull pop, vitreous humor mixing with blood. Panting, Günther gave one last punch before finishing, holding himself over his brother’s motionless body.
Slowly getting up, he could feel his hands again, the blood still pouring out of them to no end. The drops followed him as he walked away from the living room, stumbling more than before. Holding himself on the wall, he stopped to catch his breath. Over the pounding of his own heart, he couldn’t hear the soft scrap of metal behind him. A pain shot through his lower back, hitting him so hard he took a step forward.
Looking down, he felt the strong push going through his insides. Blood formed around his shirt as it moved outward, the fire poker’s tip coming out of his stomach and tearing through the fabric. Wilfried yelled furiously behind him, twisting the poker and jerking it around as much as he could. Twisting around violently, the fire poker tore further across his torso, ripping out of Wilfried’s weakened grip. With the last bit of his strength, Günther took him by the shoulders and threw him towards the fireplace.
Wilfried tried to catch himself, but only stumbled around blindly. Landing face first on the brick, his head entered the roaring fire, spreading down his neck and onto the rest of his body. He was too weak to scream and too weak to move, but not too weak to feel the scorching flames engulf him. Pulling out the fire poker, Günther tossed it to the side, having it roll along the living room. Falling back against the heavily stained curtain, he sat back and watched his brother burn alive, a faint smile lifting his lips.
As he held his intestines back from pouring out of him, he heard a soft sound coming down the stairs. Greta stepped into the living room, wearing her white night gown. As she walked up to him, the piano began to play for him, the tune that she was known for. The pain was gone. The only thing Günther felt was the joy of seeing Greta again after she was gone for so long.
Kneeling down in front of him, she held his head in her arms, bringing his face gently to her chest. Her soft whispering voice sent pleasant chills through his body, a sensation he’d longed for ever since she left. “Don’t worry, little brother. Everything will be all right. I’m here. I’m here now. You have nothing to worry about.” Holding the sides of his face, she kissed him, the feeling more real than ever, just like the first time they kissed.
He coughed as soon as she pulled back, blood spraying the floor at his side and dangling off his mouth. Finally, the damage caught up to him, the smoldering hiss of his brother’s body being the only sound in the house. Staring up at Greta, his body went limp, his eyes staying open. The sound of the fireplace continued, as well as the oven cooking in the kitchen. Greta slowly headed back up the stairs, the door to her room closing behind her.
A day’s worth of fighting, and soon after it was over, the clouds arrived. Inside of the several story house, little life was expressed as it once had. The antique clock ticked away, being the only thing making sound for the next three hours before the fire department arrives. Günther’s organs poured out of his body from the side, his hand falling lifeless. Wilfried’s skin was blackened and cracked, just like the book that was tossed into the very same fire.
It rained over the Rosenberg Estate.