The Dark Box
Warner Reiler sat down heavily on the couch. His eyes were fixated on the table in front of him, the glass glittering in the afternoon light that streamed through the windows. The bright prisms hurt his eyes as they danced around the box.
The box was small, of course. It didn't need to be any larger than it was. The wood was polished to a shine, a sharp contrast to the gray ashes it contained.
Rest in peace, Dad.
"Warner?" He turned his head to see Ryan in the doorway.
"Hey." His response was short and succinct. His little brother would never understand - he had spent far less time with their father than Warner and and far more time listening to music in his room. Ryan would grieve, sure, but not the way Warner was. He wouldn't feel the heart-wrenching pain as sharply or for as long.
Ryan crossed to the couch, sitting next to him. "Are you alright?"
Warner resisted the urge to snap at him. That wasn't fitting behavior for twenty-nine going on thirty. Instead, he took a deep breath and put an arm around his brother's shoulders. "I'll be fine. How are things in Boston?"
"Cold." Warner let out a brief laugh, and Ryan smiled faintly at his success. The merriment faded, though, at his next sentence. "I don't think I'm going back, though."
"What?" Warner stared at his brother. "You've wanted to live in Boston since we were kids, Ryan."
"I know... but Dad... it was a car crash and Boston, it's-it's filled with cars!" Ryan sighed, resting his forehead on his hand. "I just... I don't think I can do it."
Warner tightened his grip on his brother's shoulder. "Hey, it's OK." Ryan gave him a tight smile. "Besides, you can just drown out the cars with that radio of yours," Warner added, laughing lightly.
"Close the blinds," Ryan said, "Live like a hermit forever." His smile was beginning to grow back.
"Exactly." The brothers laughed. Ryan stood up as Warner let go of him. "I'm going back out to calm down Aunt Tanya, OK?" Warner nodded.
Ryan laughed again as he exited the room, pulling the door closed behind him.
The moon was up now, filtering through the windows onto the glass table. The dark wood of the box seemed almost black in the near-blackness.
Still Warner sat on the couch, staring at the box. His mind was million miles away, floating among the memories of his childhood. Laughing with Dad on a family picnic, golden sunlight flooding the scene... the two of them knocking on the Ryan's door every five minutes to tell him his music was too loud... laughing as Ryan slammed the door in their faces every time...
Warner sighed, the first sound to echo in the room since Ryan had closed the door earlier that day. He had a sudden urge to touch the box, to feel close to his father one last time. He reached out... his fingers trailed over the wood... "I love you, Dad."
Warner felt a shudder rip through his body. The carpet was rough against his cheek. Why was he on the floor? He opened his eyes.
He was sprawled on the ground, hand near a small black object. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again, trying to see the lump better.
It was the box, tipped on its side, ashes that had tumbled out of it nearby. Warner blinked in confusion. What was going on? Slowly he climbed to his feet.
"Warner?" The voice was low and unmistakable. "Oh my God - Warner!"
"Ryan?" He turned and saw his little brother standing in the doorway, eyes wide and all the blood drained from his face. "Ryan, what's wrong?" The younger one stared right through him as if he weren't there. "Come on, talk to me." Still no response. Warner turned his head to where Ryan was staring-
Oh my God.
A body was splayed out on the floor, dark hair spread around the head and wide blue eyes staring into nothingness.
"That looks like me. That... that looks like me. Why does it look so much-Ryan?" Ryan had stumbled over to the body, grabbing the wrist. "Ryan, I'm right here. Ryan? Come on, bro, talk to me- Ryan!" His brother had let out an animal scream. It echoed in the room, twisting off walls and becoming more terrible each second it continued.
Ryan grabbed the body's shoulders, shaking violently. "Warner, wake up!" The older brother could only watch in wide-eyed horror as the only family he had left broke down before his eyes.