The darkness smirked on, and the minutes bled away. By the time that Phillip and Peter had walked briskly to the grassland, it was a quarter to twelve, midnight.
Phillip threw out his working hand, indicating the mile-squared piece of scrubland that meagrely grew around. It was a question, and Peter knew that the wave was directed at him.
“How should I know?-” he asked, but then- “Oh!”
And he beckoned for his brother to follow him over the dirty, and harsh, ground, heading what seemed to be forever deeper. Phillip felt this, as he was being led. He didn’t know where, or why, he was going, but it felt that at any moment, some big secret would unravel straight into his hands, and he would be the well-pleased kitten.
Soon, it was as though the men were standing in a field that a farmer has neglected to care for. For as far as Phillip and Peter’s eyes could see, untamed shrubs, of a colour that would have labelled other plants as ‘sickly’, sprouted out the solid earth and wound themselves forward through the acrid air. Peter jumped back from a rather leafy yellow plant, worrying about the fact that it could, at any moment, grab his leg and pull him to some thorny hell in the world below.
“About here,” he announced, once the feeling of being a hundred percent sure in mind had arrived, along with the feeling that the amount of safety was only half assured.
In the cracked ground in front and behind the men shot up short, russet-coloured shrubs, menacingly spiky, and painful to the touch. Phillip ran his eyes up and down the line of red; it was eerily captivating.
“And what do we do?” Phillip urged.
Peter shut his eyes, and tried not to inhale too much of the dust and the acidic pollen.
“It’s not what we have to do, Brother, but what you have to do. After all, you were part of the everything at this very beginning.”
Peter remembered what he said after he had spoken, but he did not realise how he come to say such things, or their meanings, until minutes later, when echoes of the words were then scattering across his synapses.
“I suppose that I was the one who chose Aidelle as my partner throughout all that life brings...and I was the one who chose to go off to war, and put both our lives in jeopardy and such emotional turmoil. I was the one who said ‘no’.”
Peter placed his slender fingers together so that they rested under his chin, but then he quickly pulled them apart, confused, when he saw the self he had become. He hoped, dearly, that he hadn’t given total bodily control to the spirits of time.
“That is a start, indeed.”
“So what is it that I need to do?” Phillip demanded once more.
“Brother, that is up to you...” Peter murmured, solemnly. He resisted the growing urge to drop his head, and pull it back up in slow motion.
“I don’t know!” Phillip exclaimed, “I’m not...I...”
“Well, all life is up to you,” Peter’s gaze settled on to his brother, despair littering his eyes. Peter so wanted to help, but his thoughts were no longer linear.
Phillip frowned. He shrugged his left shoulder, and tried to shrug the right. He wishfully wanted to wrinkle his nose in the rare way he did when he was thinking with great concentration.
Finally, on a sudden whim, he kicked out at a thick clump of waist-high green shrubbery nearby. The plant resounded back, a metallic clang that was awfully familiar...although not quite to the pampered and scholared hands of Phillip and his brothers.
Gasping, Phillip (with a dazed Peter’s help) lifted out the bronze iron shovel.
“I guess time wants you to dig,” Peter said, incredulously.
“But...” Phillip indicated his right arm, snug in its white linen barrier.
“I...think that you yourself are the only one meant to complete this task. I-”
“I don’t even know what I am meant to do!”
Peter let out a short, sharp laugh.
“I think it’s pretty obvious: you’re meant to dig.”
Phillip gave him a deadly glare which said, above everything, ‘oh really?’
“I don’t know what I’m meant to dig for. This is ridiculous,” he snarled.
“This is life.” Peter shrugged.
With a brotherly half-shove, Phillip took the heavy shovel unsteadily in his left hand, lifted it above the patch of weeds, and wedged it down, strongly, into a split in the cracked ground. The family strength did not fail at this vital time.
Instantly, the rust shrubs uprooted with him, and the little scars across the ground snapped and widened, zigzagging quickly to become a long snake in the grass.
Instantly, the tear in time opened.