Phaedos, then Atlas, by rhetoric
Word count: 1,355
He had been sent to find his brother.
Phaedos stood in his chambers, staring at the packed army bag and the travel tickets beside it. He had less than two hours until his plane took off.
He wondered if he should miss the plane.
It had been so long ago, he thought, surely it was behind them; they were brothers, after all, twins even! Certainly his brother would see his need and understand.
Certainly, he thought again, hoping to reassure himself.
He found himself walking down the hall and before he realized it, he was before Atlas’ curtained quarters. A replacement door was being fashioned in the basement, but until then, someone had hung curtains to block off the open sight of her chambers. The curtain was navy blue silk with delicate lace trim in a delicate pattern along the edges. He cleared his throat and rapped his knuckle against the stone wall. “My Queen?”
“Come in, Phaedos,” she said; her voice was far-off and wispy. He lifted the curtain gently to the side and walked into the room.
“I am about to depart; is there anything you wish of me before I leave?” He kept his eyes low, watching her shadow on the floor instead of the light upon her skin.
“Yes,” she said, gesturing to a seat. He didn’t see the motion of her arm but for in the in-and-out shades of her shadow, but he moved to take a seat regardless.
He waited for her to speak.
“I wish for you to tell me why you intend on taking a mission for which you already know the outcome.”
He paused, perplexed by her statement. “My Queen, I do not understand.”
“Look at me, Phaedos Elias.” Her tone was regal, demanding but with a gracious air. He lifted his eyes and met her gaze; for a moment, he felt trapped in that gesture – everything else faded away, but her eyes had him in their hold and he felt the slow loss of his own awareness.
He willfully shook the feeling from his mind, keeping his body in tight control.
“You already know what you will find in Ko Si Chang,” she said.
“I’m afraid I do not, your majesty. What is it that you think I will find?” What was she getting at?
“Nothing, Phaedos; and that is exactly my point.” She gestured with her hand again and he rose from the chair instinctively. She did not need to announce his dismissal.
He bowed gently and said, “Take great care while I am away, Atlas.” He left the room.
He fetched his bags and ticket from his room and made no other stops on his way out of the mansion. His bike was in the small garage a few yards from the walls of the house. He was speeding down the road, not allowing thoughts to fill the empty silence in his head. He did not want to think; about anything.
The streets were mostly empty all the way to the small non-commercial airport. Phaedos ditched the bike in the parking garage and made his way across the open lot to the plane marked number 181.
Eighteen hours later.
Ko Si Chang was all hustle and bustle; it had grown from a small beach town into a city that never slept. He’d liked the quainter side of Ko Si Chang. Though the city had grown dramatically, it had taken him less than half a day to scour it for any shredded piece of evidence that his brother still walked the streets.
He walked the path up the cliff-side to San Jao Phaw Khao Yai, stopping at the base of the multi-level temple. He took a slow breath in as he stepped onto the holy ground surrounding it.
To his right he could see the stairs leading up to his goal destination. He took them two at a time, as he always had; and he knew the sound of his steps on them in a familiar way that eased the tides of his mind.
Already, he could feel the peace he sought. He climbed the stairs faster, his footing sure though he never looked down. Reaching the top, he allowed the view to grab hold of him and plant him where he stood. The entire island stretched out before him, until the edges sank beneath the water and all he could see beyond that were the murky waves of the sea.
He did not know how long he stood still, staring at the view as the sun crept across the sky, but it was late afternoon when he shook himself from the stupor and respectfully touched the head of the small Buddha shrine. Instinctively, his hand reached for the bell.
Three rings, and two familiar eyes met his. The Buddha smiled a wide smile at him and spread his arms wide. Gratefully, Phaedos hugged him.
It had been much too long, he thought to himself; he had waited too long to see his old friend.
Buddha released him and sat on the ground, facing the wonderful view. Phaedos imitated him, sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor. They sat in silence for a long time, and it was a content silence. They had rarely ever needed more than that from each other.
But this was one of those times.
Phaedos sighed, eventually, and let the sound break the stillness.
“What is it that troubles you, Anicetus?”
“What if he does not want to see me? What if he chooses to remain where he is, in favor of saving my one true destiny in this life?”
Buddha did not turn to look at Phaedos; he kept his gaze firmly on the gleam of sunlight upon the water in the distance. “Then you will make the necessary adaptations,” he said.
Phaedos let a few moments pass before he said, “My own brother hates me.”
“He does not.”
“I deserve it,” Phaedos said, his words heavy with the guilt he wouldn’t release.
“He does not hate you because you do not deserve to be hated,” Buddha said, “And you are brothers, so go to him for the help that you need.”
Sixteen hours later.
Atlas stood in her chambers for a long time. She was not certain how much time passed; she saw the changes of light beyond the glass but her mind was occupied with other thoughts and she did not keep track of the sun, when it was in sight, or the moon when it broke open the night sky.
No one came to find her, not after Phaedos left, and so she remained lost in her own trance.
She heard him enter, but the knowledge never found words in her mind, it never broke her stream of consciousness. Eventually, he cleared his throat and said, “Your Majesty?”
Snapped from her stupor, she lifted her eyes to Elseron and offered him a gentle nod of greeting, returning her gaze to the window. “Yes, Elseron?”
It was the silence that came from him that alerted her enough to glance over to him.
Concern flickered across his features but he erased it. “You have not moved from that spot in over thirty-six hours, Princess. I worry that you should eat something, but I am certain you have been taking care of yourself.”
It was the first time since he had left her, thirty-six hours ago, that she recalled their conversation; it was also the first time she realized she’d not mended the wounds she’d dealt to him.
“I’m afraid it slipped my mind,” she admitted. She tried to relax her shoulders but her body was stiff and reluctant. She knew, suddenly and with great certainty, that she was incapable of getting herself to the kitchen to make something to eat.
How had she been standing for thirty-six hours, still and quiet, without even a minor twitch? Her muscles burned with exertion and new strength just with the small movements of her arms and shoulders.
She forced her body to turn so she could face him completely; the sudden motion was too much for her. Her eyes met his and all she could see were the artic shades of blue in his eyes. She said, “Els,” but the overwhelming unconsciousness took her speech first, her ability to stand second, and then everything faded out.