By Melanie Wong Sze Yen
* This work is purely fictional.
I feel my world crashing before me. There is this roaring in my ears, distracting me from the world as it blurs around me.
When I first saw my brother in the crib in the nursery, I immediately fell in love. It was then that I knew I would do anything to keep him safe. In the first few months, my parents wouldn’t even let me near the nursery in fear that I might disturb my new brother. I found this absolutely ridiculous because he adored me. Every time I appeared in his field of vision, he would smile and give me a happy gurgle. I would even sneak into the nursery at night to visit him. As I grew up, my parents got busier with work, leaving my brother and I to our own devices. I was ecstatic. I no longer needed to sneak around the creaky floorboards in hopes of my parents never finding out about my late-night visits.
It’s not true.
My brother was always there for me. Even when I got constantly bullied and picked on in school, I knew that my brother would always be there for me. He would hug me and kiss my cheeks, silently comforting me in my anguish. When I got better, we would take a walk in the park. We would joke around and sit by the pond while watching the ducks swim past. Sometimes when we laughed, we got weird looks from other people who were relaxing in the park. I didn’t care. Not when I had my brother around. When we were together, it felt like we could take on the world.
He’s real; I know it.
He’s not real?
My parents took me to a doctor today. A psychiatrist. I don’t know why. He asked about my childhood and what I used to do as a kid.
‘Normal kid stuff,’ I replied, confused.
‘What about your. . . brother?” he questioned.
‘What about him?’ I asked.
‘What does he do when you aren’t around? I heard that you two are close, to put it mildly.’
‘What normal boys his age does. He has adventures. He’s particularly fond of pirates,’ I smiled.
‘Right,’ he said and paused as he tapped on his notebook with his pen.
‘What’s going on? Why am I here?’ I asked. He grimaced, and I knew there was something he was not telling me.
‘Is he dying? Is that why my parents took me to see you? To prepare me in case he dies?’ I continued.
‘I think you’re misunderstanding something,’ he begins, but I cut him off, standing up.
‘No! Tell me what’s going on!’ I yelled. Then, silence fell upon the room, with my harsh breath being the only sound that could be heard.
‘Your brother,’ he began. I locked my gaze with his. I felt dread pooling in me.
I ran to the park where I used to spend time with my brother. I ran past the pond where we spent most of our time watching and feeding the ducks. I ran past the familiar trees, along the path that we always walked on together.
It’s not true. It’s not.
I ran until I was out of breath and my throat felt like it would blister due to the dryness. I collapsed beside my brother’s favourite oak tree. On my hands and knees, I tried to catch my breath and process what the doctor said to me. It can’t be true. It can’t be.
‘Your brother,’ he began.
‘He is not real. He was never real. Your brother is merely a figment of your imagination to shield you from the harshness of the world you encounter. Imaginary. A friend to chase away the demons when nobody would,’ he spoke.
It all made sense. Why people would stare at me every time I laughed with my brother. (Seeing an insane child laughing to himself).
Why people whispered among themselves when they saw me talking with my brother. (Saw me talking to myself).
Because my brother, my brother. . . never existed.
My brother who was never born.
Because he died in my mother’s womb.