O daughter of earth, of my mother, her crown and blossom of birth,
I am also, I also, thy brother; I go as I came unto earth.
I wasn't really the older brother, and neither was he. Though sometimes to see us you'd swear he was, or I was. When he turned his huge eyes on the sleeping future, naming them and wrapping them tight in stories that brought them to life, I'm sure anyone who'd seen the way I smiled at him would have thought I was his big brother. And when he laughed and told me not to worry, that thinking was his job and I'd never have to be afraid of anything, between him and Rem, I know he would have seemed to be mine.
I never thought of it, back then. We'd learned more math and fairy tales than anything about life, enough that the stories Knives made were crazy things that didn't fit together at all, because we barely knew what people were really like. Why shouldn't that woman with the two grey streaks in her hair have eleven children and a flock of pet moths and be President of something? Why wouldn't the little blond boy who looked a little like us be a prince? And maybe some of the stories were true. Even as crazy as they were. If I ever found out we'd guessed right, way back then, that would be the best. Like having my little brother back for just a second.
I loved Knives. I loved Knives and I still love him, but saying that I know I'm thinking about the little boy I spent the first year of my life with. Before Tessla. Before the Fall. Before he changed. And I don't know whether it still means anything, whether loving my sibling Knives has really anything to do with the madman, the monster, the enemy of humanity that has managed to make me hate him.
Wolfwood was a better older brother to me than Knives, and a better younger one, too. And I've loved dozens of people who didn't give me any reason to have to hate them, over the years, here and there. Having had the opportunity to do that, even on this awful planet, means an awful lot. Every time a new town opens up in front of me, full of lively faces bitten by wind and sun, a real smile comes through. And I might hear, ghostly in the back of my mind, 'he's the dentist, you can tell by the way he squints; his children probably sneak their candies so he won't get it into his head to operate on them, and his wife has rules about bringing work home; that woman was crossed in love; this boy is afraid of strangers; they're hiding something and it's tearing the family apart; I bet their father still loves them, but was kidnapped by bandits and will reappear some day with bags of gold....' The voice of a little boy. Memory isn't perfect, so it maybe isn't quite the way he sounded, and every so often the whisper says something that sounds like little boys in general sound, and not like Knives at all. For instance, when it gets into the role and mentions space aliens. That kind of thing was always my job. Knives was reasonable. Knives was sweet. I had very little trouble believing it when he seemed to have forgotten entirely about Tessla, because it seemed just like sensitive Knives to be completely unequal to facing something so mind-numbingly awful.
I don't really feel guilty for that any more. All the feelings have gotten worn out and threadbare over the years, except for the rage that flared up for Rem's sake, and all the other bits of regret and pain that have piled up since then, feeding each other, but occasionally I do remember that I miss him. That younger brother with the wide sweet eyes. That older brother with the warm smile.
I miss him.
I love him.
But that just doesn't mean enough when I hear children crying, and they sound more like the brother I remember than he ever will again.