I hate how the chemicals took the hair from his head and the color from his cheeks, leaving the freckles around his nose to look like blood splatter on whitewash.
And the machines that tick and beep. Tick and beep. Over and over.
His eyelids flicker open momentarily.
I cross my arms, lower my head, watch my tapping foot.
“Isn’t there someplace else you’d rather be?” he asks.
I force the smile he expects, knowing that’s my sign, my cue, to leave the scent of the sickness the antiseptics can’t dispel.
* * *
Where I would rather be is in that hospital room with my younger brother. Not crawling through the broken back window of this empty and derelict building where dust snows down to clog my nose and make my eyes water.
But I find a spot in a dark corner, sit, and press my back into it. I rest my pack next to me. There, in the gloom, I sit. I smoke a hitter or two and wait.
Wait for something to go bump or bang or boo in the fucking night.
* * *
“Rewind it,” he says and points at the computer screen on his lap. He’s afraid to rewind it himself because of the needles in his arm, because of the tubes under his gown.
He’s better today, excited by what he sees in the videos of the old building. He chews at his bottom lip. Sometimes his mouth falls open in wonder—like it did that time we camped in the backyard and watched the stars fall—and I can see the small gap between his bottom front teeth.
Remember, I want to ask him, when we would skip rocks across the river? Remember how you would make UFO sounds as the rocks bounced and then how hard we would laugh?
* * *
Another building like all the others I’ve spent countless nights in for him. Dust swirls, beams creak and settle and all I can see is whatever the night vision on the camera allows me to see.
And that is nothing.
I have a voice recorder on my lap. I hit the button.
“Give me a sign,” I say, “of your presence.”
Speak into the red light. Let me know you are here. Make your voice ring out through the static. Blah and blah and blah.
I squeeze my hands into fists. I hate it here in these places. I don’t want to be here. I want to be with my brother, remembering the blanket castles we used to make, and how we would hide in them and pretend nothing else existed.
* * *
He can’t sit up today. His eyes are drowsy, red-rimmed. His irises float back and forth, and I am scared. Terrified.
“Play it again,” he whispers.
Enough, I want to say to him. Please. Enough.
But I play it again.
“Did you hear it?” he says, and then his eyes roll closed.
I heard nothing.
Nothing but static.
His eyes open again and he stares at me. Into me.
“Danny?” he says.
* * *
Another building. Another broken window. More dust. More dark. Another corner. A sip from a bottle. Tears.
“Show yourselves, goddamn it!” I yell. “Show me you’re here.”
He needs to see you. I need to see you.
To see something.
Something other than nothing.