Status: this is an INCOMPLETE FIRST DRAFT, and has only undergone minor edits. if something seems weird just leave it be


Funeral Candles

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Deep. In. Out. Do not cry. Do not, under any circumstances, start crying. You lose if you cry.
Water swam at the bottom of Mobreigh’s vision. Ah hell. Hell. He tried blinking it away but it stuck to his eyelashes, and then one single stubborn drop dared to break free and run down his face. He could barely feel it. He could barely feel anything.
Mobreigh watched, still fighting his tears and trying in vain to steady his breath, as the officiating assistant archivist, lit only dimly by the lanterns that hung in the wooden posts that dotted the city, droned on and on and on about the importance of community in the face of loss. About the dire importance of friends and family for support in dark times such as these. He tuned in for a moment.
“It is important to remember in times of strife,” the archivist was saying, “that we are not alone. Our community has grown one number smaller, and we must knit our circles tighter now more than ever. Do not be afraid to rely on your peers for support through your grief, and never forget that you are not alone. We are all a family under these trees.”
Well, Mobreigh’s family was shrinking dramatically fast. His brother's body leaned supported against the side of the memorial tree, a bag tied carefully over what remained of his head. A few candle stubs stood on plates on either side of him, casting an uncomfortably warm light on the corpse. As Mobreigh glanced over at it - it? Three days dead and Selsdon was already an it? Oh, that was disgusting. Mobreigh was disgusted with himself. Was he really this numb?
Definitely more numb than he had expected, for the ceremony moved on and simply stood there, his head foggy with… Well, with something.
The party shuffled around him and a strong hand gripped Monreigh’s shoulder, directing him forward. He glanced up at his sister's face as they walked. Tika was one of the hardest people Mobreigh had ever known. She had passively seen so much happen, stood there unfazed as wrongdoers fell by her hand. He had never seen her face this red, this puffy, this full of raw hate.
For who, he wondered.
Herself? Unlikely. Tika was never the kind of girl who would take blame where it was not due. She had nothing to do with Selsdon’s death. The archivist, then? The real one, who had shot him in the head in their own bed? Possible, but also unlikely.
That left Selsdon himself, Mobreigh thought as the group came to a stop by the corpse.
Hell, what a stink. Of course Selsdon had smelled like blood and rot plenty of times during his lifetime, it was a drawback of his job.
Death was too, once you looked at it that way. They had all known the risk.
Selsdon had known the risk. He had known he would have to be perfect, to never make a mistake. That or leave his two younger siblings all alone with nothing but each other for support.
And what kind of support could Mobreigh even offer?
He was too young to make money, and too miserable to offer encouragement. And too weak to offer protection, he grimly added to the list as he grabbed one of Selsdon's arms (cold, unbearably cold) and heaved with the rest of the group.
Selsdon had been a big man. It took five people to lift him horizontally. Mobreigh on one side, Cate the archivist and Selsdon's girlfriend on his other arm, cousin Jay and cousin Finch on the legs, and Tika at his feet. She had gotten the most important position. She steered the group, awkwardly shuffling out of time with each other, to where the railing loomed. There were no sounds except the planks creaking under heavy feet, the wind through the branches, and the not quite occasional unconcealed sniffle. Mobreigh's shoulder hit the railing. He looked to his sister, grinding her teeth, staring straight ahead of her with anger in her dark eyes.
She bent her knees, lowering herself to the ground. Preparing to heave. The group followed. She nodded once, twice, and on the third nod all five of them groaned and straightened, throwing all their might upwards. Mobreigh's might was very little.
And oh god, it mattered. Rather than sailing smoothly up and over, Selsdon’s knees hit the railing and crunched. He teetered for half a second, an eternal half second, before he tipped the right way and fell.
Gone forever. For real.
Breathe in, Mobreigh. Breathe out. Deep.
Tika’s hand met his shoulder again. She ushered him away, away from the pain and the weeping that had broken out. It was quiet, each person trying to hide, trying desperately not to start something. Every single one of them had failed, but Mobreigh could not move himself to care. Tika either, it seemed.
There had been a formality, years ago, where the undeserving family of the deceased had to wait around for everyone to touch them, hug them, exchange empty sympathies. Mobreigh was glad that had been done away with. He was barely keeping it together as it was.
And there he was, walking away from his brother for the last time. Towards a small house that seemed an eternity larger without him. Some of the wood creaked under their feet. The wind had picked up in the past minutes and leaves rustled all around. The trees themselves leaned this way and that, though everyone who lived here was more than used to it. Only a few who had known any different were alive these days. Soon none would be, he thought to himself while he walked.
To what would likely be the worst night of his life.
Mobreigh balled his fists, finally feeling some small spark of the silent anger that had consumed Tika over the past few days. So it was going to be the worst night of his life? He’d had plenty of those already. Fucking bring it on.
See if you can tear me down.
Tika’s voice interrupted him, raw and hoarse. She had screamed when she first heard. “Hey Mobe.”
Mobreigh looked up at her, as much of a response as he could muster at the moment.
She met his eyes for a moment, then looked away, ashamed. “Would… Would you mind if we slept in the same room tonight? It doesn’t have to be yours. I don’t wanna be alone. I know it’s weird.”
She’d been strong for so long. Tika had always been a rock, for both her older and younger brothers. Seeing her this worn down hurt almost more than losing Selsdon did. Mobreigh had, deep down, always been ashamed to look at him. To look at what he himself could never be. But Tika had loved him with all her heart, and Tika had been broken down completely.
It took Mobreigh a moment to find his own voice again. “Of course,” he said. “That’s fine.” It was all he could manage and he hoped it was enough.
Tika only nodded in response. In thanks, he could tell. She had always been a girl of few words and the three of them had been a tightly knit family. They knew how to read each other.
Tika’s hand did not shake when she unlocked their front door. It creaked a little, no one had done proper maintenance in a while. And after she hung her coat up, she simply turned around and drew Mobreigh into a hug.
It was tight. Tika was a strong girl, it was part of her job. It was comforting to just have her hold him. Maybe the archivist who had spoken had said something true.
It was good to not be alone.a
He let himself cry on her shoulder. He had no idea how much time passed. It could have been mere minutes, it could have been hours. Tika was crying too, he half noticed at one point. They simply stood there together, two siblings sharing in their grief. Two people, letting themselves bleed while they still could. Before they had to stop the flow and start healing, if it was at all possible.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be too bad of a night after all.