A Tall and Small Collection | Soren |

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Chapter Three | A Brother's First Glimpse

Soren rested for nearly ten minutes before electing to get up and begin transporting the fabric scraps back to his family. He started with one of the heavier pieces, a soft, thick maroon fabric, and began the trek back. He rolled it up and placed it on his back. The path had become more familiar with time, but Soren knew he had to keep his head up if he didn’t want to get lost. After all, he hadn’t implemented Rey’s plan yet.

While he walked, Soren had a moment to think. If he remembered correctly, Brady had said he was going to make sure the cat couldn’t roam the halls; yet, Soren didn’t remember seeing him on his way to the apartment. This was a bad sign. Brady should have been either near the entrance Soren created or somewhere along the hallway.

Soren shook his thoughts from his head. Brady wasn’t brave enough to go out into the room on his own without backup. If Brady had gone out, he would have left the cover off or some other blunder obvious for even a human to notice.

“Soren!” The sudden, jubilant cry of his youngest brother, Rey, was enough to send his heart into a rapid shock which just as quickly dissipated. He could see his brothers’ round, smiling faces peering out from around the final corner. Soren had set very specific rules to make sure his brothers didn’t wander off. One of those rules were boundaries as to how far his brothers could actually travel from their cots; and they were almost at the edge.

Soren smiled but stared at them warningly. They knew better than to go beyond where they were told unless it was an emergency.

“Hey bobbins,” he said thoughtfully. “Look what I borrowed.” Soren tugged at the fabric on his back. Their eyes widened in wonder as they stood at the edge of the wall bouncing back and forth on their toes, eager to see what their brother had brought home.

“Ohhh! Wow brother! You’re the best! It’s so soft,” said Dorian in awe as he reached out and touched the fabric, squishing it between his fingers.

“Yeah!” Rey agreed while mimicking his brother’s movements.

“Okay, okay. Let’s bring it over to the pile,” Soren instructed. The youngest eagerly obeyed and took an armful of fabric, not caring part of it dragged the ground, and carried it to their supply pile. The middle child did the same. After they successfully carried the maroon cloth to their supply pile, Soren pointed back down the corridor.

“Hey, you two didn’t see Bra…er… your dad, did you?” asked Soren. The youngest two exchanged quick glances with one another before shaking their heads.

“No, he left this morning and said he was going to stand guard,” replied Dorian. “Why?” Soren, in a split second, made the decision to not worry them, but also to tell the truth.

“No reason,” muttered Soren. “I didn’t see him in the corridor and thought he might’ve gone back. He’s probably just further down and I didn’t see him.” A flicker of worry sparked in the boys’ eyes, but they trusted Soren and his instincts.

“Anyway,” continued Soren. “I need to get back. There’s more cloth than what I brought back and some special thread for navigation.” Rey’s eyes twinkled.

“You mean you’re going to use my idea?” he asked eagerly.

“Sure thing bobbin,” replied Soren. “Hey, do you two want to come with me and help bring back some borrowings?” The brothers’ leaped into the air cheering. They had never been borrowing before and this would be the first time, even if it was just gathering supplies with their brother.

Before they left their camp, Soren made them promise to listen to every command he gave regardless of how they felt and to be especially careful near the entrances. His brothers only had glimpses of the human world and possessed little knowledge about how to actually borrow – something Soren was slightly ashamed of. He knew he was young at the time, but Soren’s father, Aaron, and his mother, Emma Lee, had taken Soren out borrowing for the first time when he was Rey’s age. It was a risk, but Soren was glad he had the knowledge to protect himself and provide for his brothers.

His brothers agreed instantly and sprung at his heels like summer crickets. They were excited and nervous, two things Soren hoped would keep them on their toes. He followed the passages, ensuring his brothers memorized the way, before reaching the outlet. Dorian and Rey had been whispering excitedly up until this point. Now that the electrical cover was ahead, they seemed less certain, their steps faltering as they clung closer to one another.

Soren, seeing this, gave a reassuring smile. “It’s okay to be nervous and scared, but you can’t let that get to you. It’s that gut reaction that helps you make quick decisions. Turn your nerves into strengths.” The pair of twinkling, pale blue eyes blinked several times as they approached their eldest brother. They spotted the fabric a few feet away in the dust and plaster filled hallways and, in their moment of bravery, trotted up past their brother, being as quiet as they could, and began rolling up the fabric.

Soren watched, a smile curled on his lip, before glancing at the wall cover. [They’ll have to learn sooner or later. What if I didn’t take them out and just let them peer through? They’re young, almost too young, but… if something happened to me…] Soren could still see the jaws of the cat bared at him and feel its hot breath near his neck. He shuddered and shrugged it off. [They won’t be able to rely on Brady for any useful training. Guess that’s my job.] It was decided.

“Hey, do either of you want to take a peek into the apartment?” he asked. The brothers, who were quiet efficient at rolling up cloth, snapped their gaze from their current task to look at their brother, eyes wide with excitement but also hesitation.

“Yeah!” exclaimed Dorian, who Soren quickly gestured to lower his volume. “Oh, sorry.”

“Remember, we have to be quiet in the walls. In camp, we can talk normally. Here, we have to be a little more careful,” reminded Soren. Dorian nodded eagerly and was on his feet in an instant.

“I will. I’ll be the most careful! I’m ready.”

Rey, on the other hand, seemed less certain. He twiddled his fingers the way their mother used to when she was thinking hard about a problem, before nodding hesitantly. “I wanna see too.” Soren nodded once and approached the outlet.

“Now, what’s the most important thing right now?” he asked. An impromptu quiz never hurt him.

“Don’t be seen and don’t get caught. If that happens, don’t say anything no matter what,” answered Dorian with little hesitation. Rey, befuddled by the question, simply nodded an agreement.

“Those are all important, but that’s not completely the right answer,” stated Soren. “The most important thing right now is to check and make sure without a doubt that the room is clear of humans and animals. It’s kind of hard to see, so you have to listen.” The brothers watched as Soren pressed his ear against the cover and propped it open slightly. They held their breath and listened.

“What do you hear?” asked Soren. The brothers didn’t have a clear answer, nor did they have a guess. To them, it seemed quiet in the room. “You don’t hear the lady’s shows? You don’t hear her shuffling slippers in the other room? You don’t hear her cat pawing at the door?” Each prompt Soren gave seemed to make the sounds that much clearer. The brothers nodded.

“You heard all that the first try?” asked Rey. Soren’s lips tugged into a cocky grin.

“I’ve had a lot more practice than you little bobbins. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it. For now, I can tell you there’s nothing in the room, but the old human will probably be back soon to clean up the mess her cat made when it was…” Soren hesitated, not wanting to tell his brothers about his close encounter with the cat. “Playing on the desk.”

Soren unscrewed the cover and pressed it open just enough to step out into the human world. Before he did, he paused and took a deep breath. He stepped out over the threshold of the wall and onto the ground. He motioned for his siblings to stay back. Soren didn’t doubt his senses, but he wanted to ensure his brothers’ first steps outside the wall were safe. He checked on one side and then the other. He stayed crouched and low. When he saw the coast was clear, he motioned them forward.

Dorian stepped out first, checking from side to side just as Soren did. Rey followed close behind, slightly clumsier though. Their eyes widened as they stared up at the vastness of the human world. Everything enlarged and out of reach. Soren could see they were beginning to get overwhelmed. Reassuringly, he reached out and grasped both of their shoulders.

“I get it’s overwhelming,” said Soren, keeping his voice low. “But you’ll get used to it in time. I’m still getting used to it honestly.” The smile on his face did reassure his brothers. The moment reminded Soren of when he finished his first borrowing trip and the look on his parents’ faces. The nostalgia was momentary, but much needed. It also reminded Soren that, sooner or later, his brothers would need to start their training – and that he was already behind.

They elected not to walk around the room, much to Dorian’s dismay, and proceeded back into the walls. They collected the fabric and, after a few trips, managed to bring everything back to their camp.

While his brothers organized the fabric and picked some out for themselves and their beds, Soren began constructing training regiments for his brothers. He couldn’t call himself a decent older brother if he couldn’t prepare his younger brothers to survive in a world full of humans.

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