Brad’s and I sit together on an astroturf lawn in Dummy Town. The red light inside him is a ruin of a real sun, a junkyard shade, apocalyptic, forgotten, discarded. My brother is a ruin, and I’m a nice place to live. So I crawl to him, sick and on my stomach, to hide in the weeds from the idea that I’m not like him.
He’s quiet today, low flame and blue lights that are warm but distant. All I used to know about being justified was the cold light in his eyes that would come out when he was being some distant part of himself, some dragon half.
Side by side, maybe it’s easy to tell that we are unkillable things. That we know the value of self-destruction better than most, and fear it only a little. That we would gladly and happily immolate the truth from ourselves to be the substance of the ash left behind. The silt in the wind, it’s all the bodies of our race brought to nothing by a sense that the war would end if there were no more dragons to fight. And in the ash and ruin of this world, the dragons wait for the wind to sort them, just so, and be reborn from nothing.
I’m really scared.
Where am I, Brad? What is this procession of hot winds I’m walking? Where’s Rosie? Why am I here? What the fuck did I do now?
I don’t have to tell him it’s of me I’m scared. There’s nothing else on earth worth fearing, to the two of us. Because we’re two children, and the children of dragons rarely understand justification. They just do it, out of instinct. I watch my lovers do it; test the world for substance.
Brad takes my hand, ever more assured of himself in his justification than I.
We just don’t know when to stop.
Because there is no stop, and no end, even at the bottom. At the bottom, there’s up. At the top, there’s down. Brad can never sit still.
Bravo sleeps in a tent alone, his cot held up from the damp ground of the lowest part of Dummy Town, long down the hill and the closest thing to Denton for miles. My ruined house lies on the edge of the place nuclear weapons are tested. It was once furnished and laid out with water and roses, but felt too false and contrived and so we let the desert take it. We let the bomb have it, and now it’s rooms are empty, whitewashed, and falling in on themselves. Scorch marks in the walls make me sure of how it got that way.
Brad lives in the ruin of war, a place where Christmas is impossible and snow has never touched. In the dark warmth of his streets, I know that all dragons will approximate what an angel does inside with falling ash and a well-placed plume of smoke to blot out the stars. Facets of him come out with the night, to be in the gently falling space and reminded of a place we know is home. All the Lost Boys stand idle, their faces upturned, cigarettes burning, letting their lashes burden themselves with ideas of people to parent us, people to care for us, people to make us feel that we could care for anything but ourselves.
Brad, what’s an angel?
We hardly know, me and Brad, and have maybe never known the whole of our short lives. Justif Hyde stands in the ash and doesn’t meet my eyes. But then, he never does unless he’s about to jump.
Some...someone who...can love us.
Where? What darkest part of the universe would we find monsters like that, Brad? People willing enough to be torn to pieces and put back together again. He touches his mouth softly, picks off a flake of tobacco from his cheap Asian cigarettes. His shoulders hang his undershirt thin off him like a hanger, his shoulders rounding, caving in his narrow chest and thin waist to something meaner and doglike. Long hair hangs in his eyes, a shade of blonde I know well because I hide it in my roots.
You don’t know what you’re talking about, Evie. They’re fuckin beautiful. And nothing else is.
It was Nick who told me plainly what a dragon was in words at the time I would never hope to understand. I wonder sometimes if he understood it in his long memory, but the words have always come back, over time, surfacing at any moment when they’re needed the most; how like the movies to do so.
It’s not the violence that sets men apart, alright, it is the distance that he is prepared to go. We’re survivors. We control the fear. And without the fear, we are all as good as dead.
It would never be the willingness to kill that made a dragon different from other men. Not it’s anger nor it’s ferocity in the face of a threat. It would never be our fire, never our bloodshed. That’s any being, any man, any angel matched to us inch for inch. We are not set apart by our violence.
Brad struggles with this as I do. But. But. Nick, listen, we are violent as fuck. We got. We got this bitch on lock. I got my knife Evie you got yours?
Nick shakes his head, that is in that moment as patient as Adam’s.
No, what sets us apart from even the angels is the distance we’re prepared to go. The end to which we are willing to be brought; the search - the tireless fucking search - for the end of anything. The beginning again. It’s not that you have knives, lovelies. It’s that one day they will eventually be used on your own throats.
In the secret place where dragons meet, tail to tongue, is a constant and pained cry that I feel no one really knows but us or maybe even me. I’m not sure where I start and they end; if Adam feels it too; if Nick would scoff at it’s repetition in my heart. I just feel it, echoing and hollow, running the length of space between Brad and I, the one thing that never gets answered.
Please, I want to believe.
Brad dies. He, as the soldier who doesn’t come home, will always die. It’s his wasteful, ignorant job. It’s the measure of him up too soon, that makes our war a tragedy, for all of us to lament that he’s so young, so young. And me…I never die. I go home and tell people what it was like. Life and death, is what we traffic in.
It’s the taking of Brad that makes it impossible to believe. The perpetuation of a cycle of unjust death. But the Watchtower is a place of balance, and justice, lorded over by the fulcrum of the shadow of our existence, and on either side of the shadow, an advocate. Brad died, to create a tragedy. Now you live, Evelyn. It’s not a tragedy unless he’s remembered. It’s not a loss unless he’s lost.