Sparks crackled and floated into the night sky, the small fire’s light illuminating the young man tending to it with an orangish glow. He jabbed at the burning log with another stick, his expression blank as he threw that into the fire as well, watching as the flames licked up the wood with a satisfying crackle. It was late, and he knew that he should go to sleep, but there were too many things on his mind. Nights like these were the ones that troubled him the most, because he could never stop the thoughts from going back to thinking of him. He thought of all the good times and the bad times, and everything that made up their mess of a childhood. Still, however messy, it was what made him want to hold him even closer... but now he wasn't even there anymore.
The sound of breaking glass echoed through the house, making Chris flinch at the sudden noise. He didn't dare to breathe as he stood frozen in the darkened hallway of his family’s suburban home.
"Chris, I'm scared... What's going on? Why is that man here again?" A soft voice asked. Chris looked down at his brother, Felix, whose soft brown eyes shone with fear and worry. The older sighed, bending down to the 7 year old's height to look him in the eyes.
"Oh, it'll be fine Lix, just go to bed, okay?" He reassured him with a gentle smile. Despite his confident words, they couldn't have been further from the truth. There was something, very, very wrong and it wasn't sitting well with him. Although he was only 10 years old, he knew that whatever was going on, wouldn't end well. Call it a premonition if you will, but that unsettling feeling just wouldn't stop bugging him.
"Okay... but come up soon." The young boy said as he headed back up the stairs to their shared room.
Chris stayed. He needed to know what was going on. As terrified as he was, he had to find out the truth, even if it hurt him in the end.
Walking quietly down the hall of their small home, he headed towards the living room where he heard laughing and yelling. Broken shards of glass were strewn on the floor, along with a scent that had become familiar in the last few days. It was pungent and made him gag, but he pressed on. Slowly he made his way towards the couch.
"M-Mom?" He called hesitantly. A beat of silence.
"Are you okay? I heard something breaking and I was worried that something happened? Is that man still here? Did he hurt you? I-"
"Krystal, what did I tell you about shutting up those annoying kids of yours, huh?" The man's voice boomed, causing Chris to freeze in place. He despised that man, and everything that had happened since he'd arrived in their life. The sound of his mother's laughter filled the room.
"Oh, don't mind about him~ he's harmlesss. Chris, honey, why don't you be useful and hand us another one of those bottles there." She drawled on, clearly not in her right mind. Chris glanced over at the table to see the bottle she was talking about. That was the source of the pungent smell, and no doubt the reason for his mother's odd actions. He bit his lip.
"You shouldn't be drinking this anymore... Please stop!" He begged. He hated seeing his mother like this. He wished things could just go back to the way it all was before. Back before any of this ever happened. Back when they were all happy, and smiling and a family.
"Chris, be a good boy now~" His mother continued, but the man grew angry.
"Do what your mother says!" His loud voice boomed, making Chris jump.
"NO!" He exclaimed, suddenly seizing the bottle and clutching it to his chest. "You can't have it!"
"You little brat! GIVE THAT TO ME!"
"Hon, just leave him-"
"You're too soft to teach this disrespectful boy a lesson, so I'll do it for you!" The large man rose to his feet and made a sudden movement towards Chris. He couldn't dodge it. He wasn’t fast enough... He wished he'd never found out the truth, because it hurt like hell... although, no matter what, he had to protect Felix from it even if it meant sacrificing himself, and he promised always would.
“Chan, you’re still up?” A voice intruded into his reminiscent thoughts and dragged him back to the present. Looking up, Chan saw Jisung, one of the first people to find him after the incident all those years ago. He was ever caring and wise beyond his years, a true friend.
“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep.” Chan explained, as he watched Jisung settle down on the ground next to him. Now the two of them were illuminated by the fire’s light. It seemed a little less lonely now with two silhouettes, but the darkness was still present.
“You miss him, don’t you?” The younger male asks in a way that sounds more like a statement than an inquiry. Chan glanced over at him, not sure who he was referring to. “Your brother, I mean.” Jisung clarified, before continuing. “I know you always tell us that you believe he’s alive and that you’ll find him one day, but I’m sure you can’t always think like that. I’m sure you must miss him a lot.”
“Yeah, I do… Felix was everything I had after we were kicked out of our home by our stepfather. He was a really bright kid, and when he wanted something he did everything it took to get it. It was almost scary sometimes, hah... When the outbreak happened and our lives turned hellish, all I could think of was keeping him safe and surviving this mess. Then one day we were surrounded by zombies. I really thought I was making the right choice at the time, but I was so stupid. I drew the zombies away from him so he could get away, but we were separated from that day forward.” Chan explained, before shaking his head. “I told him to trust me-to expect me to return to him, but it’s been two fucking years, and what have I been doing? Well, clearly not searching hard enough.” His knuckles were turning white from how hard he was clenching them.
“It’s not your fault, Chan. You’ve been trying as hard as you can. It’s those zombie bastards that are the problem here. We’ll keep on looking for him.”
“That’s the thing. We’ve been looking for two years, and yet we’ve found nothing. Not even a trace! How could I leave him on his own and expect him to be fine out there? What if I thought I was saving him, but I actually sent him to his death? Maybe me believing he’s alive is just me delaying accepting the truth.”
“You survived out here on your own before we found you. Don’t give up hope! I’m sure Felix-”
“You don’t understand! Even if he is alive, I’m sure he’s given up on me by now! He probably wouldn’t even want to see me. Maybe I should just accept that he’s dead. It might be better that way.” A moment of silence passed after that. Then Jisung shook his head and sighed.
“Chan, usually I never doubt you but I think you’re wrong. If I’ve learned anything about you in the years that I’ve known you, it’s that you’re not someone who gives up easily, and I know your brother will be counting on that, and you’d really be letting him down if you quit now. You should have a little more faith in your brother. Felix doesn’t sound like a guy who’d give up easily either. I believe he’s out there, and just wait. I’m sure you’ll find him sooner than you think.” With that Jisung patted Chan on the shoulder and then stood to his feet, stretching. “Well, I’m off to bed. You should do the same, or you might start aging faster than you already are. Plus, keeping that fire up for much longer might attract some unnecessary attention. ‘Night.” He stated before turning to head back to the tent, leaving Chan to stare after his disappearing form.
He supposed Jisung was right. He shouldn’t give up. He knew that Felix wouldn’t give up on him, he was too stubborn to do that-always had been. They were family, and that meant the world to him. The light from the fire was no more than a few coals, so Chan kicked some dirt over it before deciding to retire for the night as well. He wanted to find his brother if it was the last thing he did, and in the end it just might be. He just hoped he’d get to see him one more time.