Sometimes he's there in her mind.
"You have been singing again, brother," she says to him and this always makes him smile.
"Only for you."
Echoes of her brother's voice rise and beat against the glass walls of their home. He only sings when no one else is around. Sometimes this is when even he himself is absent, and Quon will sit on the beige carpet of the hallway with her head to the side and listen to his nothingness resound. Rich caramel of his notes wraps tendrils around her throat and around her ears and fills her nose to stopping; Quon thinks about not breathing so she can better hear the vibrations, but her life module keeps her lungs going, infusing her body with electrical impulses beat beat beat.
It is uncomfortable, the module. She likes to remove it whenever she can and exist like a fresh blade of grass. Supple. One that is so new to the world that it bleeds milk-sap when you squeeze it; maybe those types of seeds never existed, not really, but Quon likes to believe that she is their embodiment when all her clothes are off. Then she can sylph through the halls.
One day when she strips off everything, she will be able to remove herself as well. Flesh will be left upon the bed and she will escape her body like a spirit flying free through the air. Transcend into pure sound. Upon doing so, she will be able to swallow her brother's music whole and bury all its sad despair deep deep deep where the noise of its agony may never be heard again.
She will ingest it. It will go away.
Then maybe he will stop.
Her brother is not someone she is meant to love. Quon knows this because she has been told to wait for one who looks very much like her brother, but is the perfected model. They will know which model is perfect because that will be the one which is; that makes sense, does it not, Quon? they say and she nods because it makes perfect sense.
They say this every time she hears her brother's dirge in the air. Where is the Ollin, she asks, and always it is later, he will come later, and also, he will come when it is time for him to come.
It will be a relief when the Ollin finally shows. Then she will not have to wait for the time to be perfect, because it will arrive on the Ollin's heels. He will look like her brother, but he will be perfect, and he will be perfect because she will love him. That is how she will know.
Just as it is also true for Quon that she will love the Ollin because he will be the right one.
These paradoxes are like bird wings. Unfolding ever, opening in her hands as she holds them up to the sky. Glass panels form the walls of her room so that Quon can always see the sky; the blue, blue sky, and the blue ocean around them all. They are the same color as the pattern on her stomach.
Blue. All she sees is blue. Sometimes it mixes with red, like how her hair darkens in the bath while her brother is brushing out each tangle with careful pianist's hands. The webbing of her fingers is red when the sun shines hard through it, brilliant, turning her translucent in a warm womb's hum. Her brother's seal is red, and his expression crumbles when she touches it, crumbles into something equally human while it tries to conceal sorrow. That is red. He is red, no matter how many times he watches the storms over the ocean.
So blue dominates. Blue owns the world, and she is a creature inside a cage colored of it.
This is deliberate. That is what her mind also says, quietly, in the very back where it translates her brother's songs out of habit. Or instinct. Quon is never sure which word is true, and the sounds are round as circles when she mouths them over and over again.
Her brother is not the one she will love because her brother is not the version in the machine. This makes sense, does it not, Quon? and she nods.
When her brother sings, she does not always like it. The sadness in his voice is one that stains the fingers to touch, the mind to comprehend. She does not tell him this but he can see it anyway. He knows when she enjoys a moment and when she does not. He knows that his voice hurts her because it is the melody of a swan-neck snapped, but he cannot keep his heart from singing any more than she can avoid listening to it. Every inch of the walls oozes his melody at times when he has been drinking late and she has been playing the piano while thinking of the Ollin.
Then she goes quiet, quiet so she can hear him sing, and when he is done having his shoulders shake and his teeth grind and his face twist when he thinks no one is looking, then she touches his chin. It is important for him to stop being so noisy. He is not the perfect copy, so she can do nothing about the problem, nothing nothing nothing and the sky is very blue after the storms wash their glass house clean.
Everything goes mute when her hand finds his face. Her brother knows he is loud. He tries to be quiet. He can see that she does not like it when his heart is howling.
She is an aria and he can translate her.
"You have been singing again, brother," she says, and this time it is raining outside. This is true in the same way that the love-who-is-not is also true, because water is streaking down her brother's face. He tastes like salt when she leans down, touches his cheek with the tip of her tongue.
"Why can't you love me?" he asks, looking up to her. His hair is as undone as his face. "What have I been that is so unforgivable?"
"I cannot love you because you are not the Ollin, dear brother."
"I would give you everything. Everything," he repeats, lowering his head to her lap and speaking the words into her thighs. Her dress is folded in his hands where his fingers are twisting, twisting, all the violence deep inside him of emotions buried so long they have begun to feast upon themselves for warmth.
Quon puts her fingers in his hair because he seems to like it, and because his eyes are making her clothes wet. "It will never be enough," is her answer, and this is as cruel as it is sweet. "It was too late for you."
And this is also true, even if she did not know it before the words flew out of her mouth like baby birds. If her brother were a literal song instead of notes trapped in a flesh-shell, it would be one that breaks off halfway, where the musicians were forced to drop their instruments at gunpoint. Instead he tries to search within his crippled soul for the rest of the stanza. Sing his life's breath out, repeating his half of the music again and again and ever unable to find the proper conclusion.
Broken. Quon can see what he is missing. But she cannot open her mouth and sigh out sounds that will undo those knotted chords, the ones that line her brother's back like so many slotted ribs, leak from the weeping Mu-scar on his belly.
He is not the Ollin. He is not the right one that they have told her to love.
Quon does not know if it is unfortunate or if it is terrible. The business is not hers to decide. She has not been told to decide it, so she lets her brother's fingers brush her hair and she lets her brother's tears run down her bare shoulder, but she does not give her part of the music to finish his. When he sings, the pain in his voice is so loud that Quon wants to stop listening, plug her ears with her fingers and close the world shut behind her eyes.
The world is blue. It is made of glass that lets her see the sea-sky, the waves that dissolve into the horizon line. Red is the pain of the human, pulsing on her brother's stomach. Her fingers trace the mark even while he shivers beneath her hand, and Quon smiles.
Violin-instrument rasp. "Quon..."
"Shh." A whisper like the first drizzle of rainfall. "Be still."
Paradoxes flood her brother's throat until he has no voice left. Water fills his eyes until they close. Even when her brother is suffused with jangled sound, the melody is more tolerable this way.
Blue surrounds their cage. Red enters the walls on occasion as a visitor, but in the end, Quon will always dream of blue.