"Shards"

Hiya! This short fic is based on Dragonball and its world, but since I turned it in for writing class I made the details ambiguous so it wouldn't be a fanfic everyone else was discussing (how embarrassing!). Besides, not everyone in the class knows about Dragonball and I didn't want to explain things in the fic. You all will understand certain things much differently than they did!
Late note here (4-18-01) - This story was published in my university's literary magazine. ^___^
This is an alternate universe based on my little favorites, Cargo and Dende ::pauses as most people hit 'Back':: and a certain concept in my fic-world, which is basically that these two Namek-jin are Saichourou's grandchildren, rather than direct children, and that their father was a healer named Luma. Thanks to Luma's foresight, Dende and Cargo share one soul, and that's the focus of this little piece.
You must also pretend that Cargo, for one reason or another, stayed dead after he was killed by Freeza in order for this to have any meaning whatsoever. Well, I hope you like, and I'd love feedback as well!

"Shards"
By Amanda Swiftgold

We understand now.
He is a part of me, as inextricably twined as two trees growing from the same spot. Try to untangle the mesh of their limbs and you end up killing both. He is my brother, one part of the same soul that created us. For a while it was almost impossible to separate the 'I' from the 'us'. The 'we'.
Though we are apart now, there is rarely a day goes by that he is not present in my thoughts. To explain this to anyone else will be hard. Sometimes one cannot explain what is merely known.

*****

I was not supposed to be as I am.
It was said, when they thought I was out of earshot, that I held too much of a spirit. A child is meant to have only a piece of soul that grows as they do; a shard of their father's being that they can make their own.
But I have more than that. My father gave me much more than just a piece of himself. At first we were the shared soul. We enjoyed a special state of being together that none of the others could hope to understand. Not even the one who was patriarch to us all, whose spirit was so great it could break into one-hundred-and-ten pieces and there would still be some left over.
I loved and revered him. My father. My father who was also me.
He knew, I think, what would happen to him. What his purpose in life was. He knew that if he returned to the planet I would come in time to be only a shadow. It is said of twins that if the one died the other would never be complete again. That is how it would have been.
And so my brother came.

*****

His eyes were warm but seemed vacant. I had never understood that before now. I had never realized why it was only my brother who seemed to know me, seemed to comprehend what I held inside.
My father held me after my creation, but my brother was me. His touch was the one I responded to, his fingers the ones I grabbed. His face sparked my first smile, not the empty one that watched me with fondness and a certain wistful longing. His name was my first word.
Not even a year passed before my father died.

*****

My father was now our father, and our soul was suddenly rearranged, relocated. His eyes were blank and distant now even as my new brother looked at me, the same expression of amusement my father used to wear uncanny on the baby's face.
The small thing he held was supposed to be his replacement.
At first I think I hated him.
Which one I hated, I am not sure. Perhaps it was both. I hated my father for giving away the last part of our shared soul to this new creature as if it were something that could be gifted away. As if our bond hadn't mattered. As if my love for him could be shifted over to something else, and it would all be the same. And I hated my brother for taking him away from me.
But now I look back, and with the wisdom of added years I can see how much it had hurt him to do so. He knew that his death might kill me, if he'd taken his part of our spirit with him. So he did what a father must, for my own good, even though it was painful.
I still feel guilty for never forgiving him while he lived.
And now he was not there. It was as if he had never been there. It didn't hurt when he died. I didn't even know it. I waited in vain for him to come walking back up the trail, and he never did.
And that hurt the most.

*****

Maybe I was too young to become attached to him, because when he died I didn't feel much. I was only concerned for my brother. I could feel the loss he felt. An ache gnawed at my heart when I looked down from the arms of our new guardian to see him sitting outside.
For hours he would sit. Watching waiting. Waiting patiently for one who would never return.
Did I understand why my father had decided to walk away and die alone? How he had known this was his path in life? I held in me the shards of soul that had been his, but I don't think I understood.
I wish I had, so I could have told him somehow. That I was here for him now; that it didn't matter he was gone. I was there.
However I think that he knew already. He knew.
He also knew that you can never replace someone that you loved when they are gone.
It was several years before he seemed to open up to me. When he would let me walk up to him with my baby steps and take his hand in mine. When he started to smile at me.
There were strange thoughts in my head, thoughts that weren't exactly my own. I knew this when I found myself looking through my child's eyes at my older brother and thinking about how much he's changed, how tall he's getting.
When he noticed this he wouldn't say anything, but would simply lean on my shoulder, chin on my head. I could feel his breath on my skin.
'I'm sorry', he would say, but not to me. 'I forgive you', he'd say, but not to his brother.
I understood. I always understood him.
Even when he didn't say anything at all.
He was five, and I was three.
And then the day the world ended

*****

This was the day that the world ended.
I didn't understand. How could I? I remember the elders being worried, conferring in the corner. I remember the way the air tasted, like sweat and like tears. Something was happening to my tiny world and I could only sit and watch it happen.
I sat with my brother at the table in the house, clutching his hands. We reassured each other soundlessly, taking comfort in the other even as the door slammed open, as tall, alien figures appearing the doorway. They were armed, threatening. The elders protected us as we were forced outside.
There was talking and shouting, but I couldn't hear anything more than a heartbeat. Some of our neighbors fought with the strangers, killing the weak ones. Their leader didn't even seem to care. He just watched, emotionless, confident.
One of the strange men, huge and terrifying, lumbered in, and he alone killed everyone standing there but my elder-guardian, my brother and I. They crumpled and died, their bodies hitting the ground, thrown like toys, smoking, lifeless.
I tasted blood, and fear.
The leader of the men asked questions of my guardian, his bodyguard nearby smirking. Too scared to even cry, I could only watch. Their voices were loud and angry. They wanted something the elder would not give.
The foreigner raised his hand, and there was a flash of light. It made no noise of itself, but the sound in my head was akin to that of a bomb exploding in my hands. I thought it had hit me, but then I realized what had really happened.
My brother's body hit the packed dirt face-down, and he slid that way for a foot before coming to rest. For a moment I was stunned, not knowing what to do, but then I ran over to him. Shook him. Tried to wake him up. But he wouldn't wake up, why wouldn't you wake up? Why wouldn't
Blood pooled beneath his body, running from the hole in his chest as I turned him over, shook him, cried. His face stared up at me emptily, but his staring eyes told me all I needed to know. The monster would get me too if I didn't hurry. I looked up to see our guardian moving to protect me with his body, putting himself in the line of fire. He spoke to me but I didn't know what he said.
My brother was dead.
He was three, and I was five.
Our soul had just been amputated. Let the monster kill me. I don't care.
But my brother's eyes told me to run.
The huge one was fighting with our guardian now, breaking his neck. I could hear it snap, could hear him hit the ground.
My brother told me to run.
So I ran.
And I lived.

*****

Death has shown me two things.
The first is that Death is not black. Death is not dark, but light, a beautiful warm golden light. It welcomes you, promises painlessness. That is what I saw when I died.
The second is that, no matter how you die, your pain is less than the pain of the ones you leave behind.
Death may be beautiful, and it may be painless, but I would rather have life any day. For if you do not feel pain along with joy, you do not exist.
I do not exist. But I am here, just the same.
I did not feel it as our soul came apart, and my pieces went on while his stayed behind. I did not feel it as he lost a part of himself, as I lost a part of myself. There was only the light.
So brilliant.
It takes me in, writhing about me, crystalline and deep. I don't feel so small, so helpless anymore.
Warm welcoming
Eternity.
Oh --

*****

I tried very hard to be as I was before. I tried to pretend I was whole, that I hadn't lost something more than just a little brother. I did not comprehend why it was I felt this way, why I missed him like I would miss my arm if it was gone for good. There were other deaths, and the rest of my people bore them with sadness but also with understanding. They went on with their lives, but I could not.
I really don't know how I've made it so long.
I grew older, and other problems tugged at my attention. The ones I care for need guidance, need competence and caring from their overseer. But I have a lot of time to think, and remember. And now even the distractions of day-to-day life aren't enough to keep me from missing what is so far away.
There is an empty, shivering pit inside me. It cries and it cries for what it used to hold. I can hear its wailing when all else is quiet. I can no longer smile at a child's happiness without hearing my brother's laughter suddenly stilled. It's as if I try to put his memory aside for a moment, and I am betraying him.
I cannot live for two Wholes when I am less than a Half.
It's nights like this that I wish I too were dead.

*****

My brother must not become a shadow. He must live even without me. He is not whole, but he must live. I must keep making sure that he is not just alive, but that he lives. And I will break all the rules to accomplish this.

*****

Blood so dark. In this light it looks black against the whiteness of the floor.
I don't even realize what I have done for several moments. The knife in my hand is bright as a star. The fire in my wrists races up through my veins, throbbing with each heartbeat. Each heartbeat that pumps more blood out onto the floor.
My breath is shaking. I hold my hands out before me. The rivers run down to stain my sleeves. The ring of the knife as it drops is like a bell.
Droplets on the floor, spreading.
It's dark so dark.
Where are you? Where?
This is Death? Is this? Death? This? Is

*****

No! No, it's not possible. No, it's not. I won't let it happen. I didn't come back like this just to watch you die.
His dark eyes are unfocused as I kneel down beside him on the smooth surface of the tiles. He looks empty, broken.
I had just planned to talk with him! Nothing else! I am not trying to escape death I was trying to save a life. I am bound to him. He is my brother. I can't rest until he is safe.
Am I being punished for breaking the rules, for trying to interfere in earthly matters? He won't come with me, not like this!
I feel now what he must have when I died, only slower; life that is fading, dripping away like the blood that streams from his wrists to pool on the floor. Pains like the sound of a drum in my head. We will be separated in death, as in life.
No! I don't want that!
He blinks, just a little. A soft gasp escapes his lips, thready, like the end of a sigh.
Can you see me? I am here.
Slowly I bend down. My hands, ghostly, slide through his dying flesh as old instinct makes me try to grasp his hand in mine. I must take you with me. Don't go. Don't go without me. I am here.
I can tell by the look on his face that he understands.
Leaning close, I touch my lips to his, catching his final breath with mine. With all my will, I call him inward. He is my brother. He is part of me. Mine. I will not let him go.
The touch when it comes is like a death and a conception, a spark and a damper. From the remains of two become one become always and together whole deep bright infinite --
And so I cease to be.
This is not Death. This is Life.

*****

We understand now.
No, I understand now.
And that is as it should be.

Welcome back, my brother. My father. My child. Me.

END.