Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
He never got along with adults after the war. Only the children. I remember him needing to angle himself just a little bit to fit his wide shoulders through our front door. He was all grunts and one-word answers.
He was married once but she left him after the war. She said that the humming his augmented body made at night made her feel like she was sleeping next to a refrigerator. Then she’d pause, glance at him and add, “In more ways than one.”
He was my older brother. I was one year too young for conscription when the troubles started. I remember him leaving. That was the last day I saw him as a pure human.
He spent four years out there. He had medals. He’d been honorably discharged after the war. I didn’t know him any more. I no longer recognized him as my brother.
He’d show up here every Sunday for dinner.
Both his eyes were perfect circles, white plastic insets that could see in the dark and look through walls. They looked like child-safety outlet covers jammed into his eye sockets. Light blue tracery zigged and zagged back to his grey-haired temples and down each side of his neck.
We always gave him the cheap glasses and cutlery because of the lack of delicate motor control in his massive skin-sheathed hand-machines. When he walked, one foot clanked.
We’d serve him a turkey dinner or roast beef which he ate obligingly to fuel the biological components of himself but it was always disconcerting to see him finish his meal with a big glass of oil.
After dinner, he’d mess up my child’s hair and do magic tricks. The decommissioned weaponry that the government took back left large hollow compartments in his back and one quarter of his chest. With clumsy sleight-of-hand, he could make objects ‘appear’ out of those compartments.
He could make miniature lightning bolts between his fingertips that would dim the lights and make his own hair stand on end like Einstein.
It made me shiver; thinking of how many of the enemy must have died screaming and blackened under those sparking mitts.
My theory was that the indirect and subtle world of adults was confusing to the changed cyborg soldier mind of my brother. The only time I saw him smile was with my child. His nephew.
Children were pure, straightforward and had no idea that he was frightening.
We probably would have tried to find a polite way of stopping him from coming over if these nights weren’t the highlight of our son’s week.
I’m looking at the two of them now, laughing on the living room carpet while one of my brother’s hands runs around by itself. My son’s laugh sounds like a normal child’s laughter.
My brother’s laugh sounds like crushed tin cans being rubbed together at the bottom of a well.