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remember to breathe

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You can still remember, in vivid detail, seeing a Kaiju for the first time, sitting in the school cafeteria nursing a flavorless meatloaf and the last of a carton of chocolate milk. You had your first test of the new school year in your next class, Science, and you hadn't studied for it at all, spent the night helping Yancy build a bookshelf from scratch in the garage. You still had dirt under your fingernails, even, picking at it a little at time while the cafeteria television droned on across the room. There was a crowd of people watching the TV, the same group that always seemed to be fixed to it, students and school employees mixed in together. You never had much care for television, really, preferred to make your own adventures with Yancy, at least when you were younger. He's wasn't so much for the adventuring anymore, spending all his time with some girl you didn't really know, but you were doing okay on your own, dirt in your fingernails and all.

There was a commotion under the TV, you don't actually remember what your first thought was, but you remember the sound of a lunch tray dropping after the sudden silence that followed, the stillness that slowly crept over everyone in the lunchroom, yourself included, dirt under your nails forgotten about as you watched the Golden Gate Bridge crumble under the destructive force of some...thing.

Lunch ended and you'd all shuffled on to your next classes, subdued and vaguely terrified at what little news you'd managed to catch. When you got to Science class, there was no test. The little TV in the classroom, squished into a corner and probably the same age as you, was blaring the news report, and a haggard-looking reporter said things like "payload" and "doesn't seem to be affecting it." You could feel a panic bubbling up in you, an angry, twisted thing the likes of which you'd only ever felt when you and your mom were trapped in the car in a sudden blizzard, and you'd screamed and screamed until you couldn't scream anymore, and Yancy had to calm you down, tell to keep breathing, keep breathing. You kept breathing as you asked for a hall pass and got a wave of acknowledgement in return, the teacher already too caught up in the traumatic scene on the screen to pay attention.

Yancy had shop class sixth period, an extra elective to fill up his course load before graduation. You knew he liked it though, liked being able to make and destroy something with his own hands. It's what he was building the bookshelf for, extra credit or some bullshit excuse so he wouldn't have to just say "I like doing it," though you were pretty sure he was also actually building something else in the class, a music box or jewelry box, something for your mother for a Christmas present.

You never made down to the shop class room, though, as Yancy smacked into you as you rounded the corner of the hallway on your way there, his eyes wide, his expression matching how you felt, crazed, concerned, and more than a little scared. It wasn't a look you were used to seeing on your brother, and he knew it, schooling his features into something a little calmer after recovering from your collision.

"I was just coming to look for you," Yancy said, still gripping your shoulders. He was wearing his favorite shirt, a ratty old thing with the words "Bee happy" on the front and a stupid looking bee underneath, the lettering all peeling off. You hated that shirt because it was so stupid, so random, and so completely unlike the rest of his wardrobe, but today you gripped back at him and held onto it like your life depended on it.

"Beat you to it," you replied, releasing his shirt wrapping your hand around his wrist, grounding you both to the moment, pulling you towards each other and away from the hushed whispers in the classroom closest to you, undercutting the screeching television in the corner.

"Care to get out of here?" he said, pulling you towards the shop room garage. He'd already gotten in trouble for ducking out of school early several times the previous school year, but you figured that maybe this was an exception and no one would notice.

You were right. No one noticed anything other than the news for five days. Neither of you even bothered to attend school after the second day, staying at home and huddling together on the couch your parents had purchased only a few months earlier.

"I wish we could do something," Yancy said on fourth day.

"Like what?" you'd said back, sharing the sentiment but also strongly aware of the fact that you were only fifteen, that you still had a Science test to take and that you still had never studied for it.

"I don't know, something." There wasn't much new news footage that day, so you'd gone to bed early, your parents both insisting you returned to school the next day. When you awoke, Yancy was still out in the garage, and he'd finished the bookshelf without your help.

It was months later before you heard the word "Kaiju." You think maybe you'd heard it once before after watching one of the old Godzilla movies during your study hall free period, one of those weekly themed movie days or something. It was a phantom of reality, a fictional thing you'd heard and then filed away never to be thought of again. Except there it was, on the TV, again and again. Yancy grew restless after high school, bounced from job to job while you finished your education, absorbing history and literature and everything, anything you could to distract yourself from the changing world around you, while Yancy waited, for the next Kaiju to attack, for the next thing he could destroy and build better with his hands, for you to graduate high school.

A month after you do just that, the two of you sign up for Jaeger Academy, and suddenly Kaiju is no longer a word that creates panic in a fifteen year old; it's just an obstacle you can handle, as long as your brother's by your side telling you to breathe.