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Ax, Awl & Trowel « back


On the night of the full moon, when the circle hung low and fat in the black night, a brother came to his sibling's temple. Using tricks with words, he passed invisibly by the guards at the gates. He slipped in through an open window like a current of moist air. In the main hall, he crouched at the foot of one of the many statues carved in his brother's likeness, and ate his own shadow. He accessed the secret panel behind the altar in the central worship room, and descended the spiral stair into the four-chambered room.


On the night of the full moon, when the sky wept triangles, a brother woke from his lengthy slumber. He washed his face clean of the tears that had unconsciously slipped from his eyes during his sleep, and drew on a robe of winter silk. He placed his crown on his head and lowered his veil about his face. Instrument of his office in hand, he went to meet his brother in the room of the heart.


On the night of the full moon, when the wind whispered of betrayal and murder, a brother finished sharpening the edges of his tool. His naked body was covered with oil and dust, and as he went through the city to the temple, young maidens turned in their beds and whimpered, clutching their bellies as if to shield babies they might have someday from the sharp blade of the passing ghost.


"You." A brother said to his sibling when he saw the other. The other took advantage of his brother's surprise and cut his throat. Blood splashed upon his veil.


He had always known one would kill the other, but for a long time he thought it would be his hand, his maimed hand shortened by the tool of his other brother, that would strike the blow. Not as revenge for the loss of that finger, but for the loss of so many other things. The blow he had dreamt about, had planned for so long, was to fall because that was the nature of the world. The young take the place of the old. Sons become fathers. Students become teachers. The world twists by the very virtue of this cycle. It was not his place to stop the procession.

And yet, here his brother lay—broken and torn, covered in blood.


Was it because they had forgotten him that he came back and struck down his flesh? Was it because they had twisted the fabric about themselves (fathers and sons, students and teachers) and left no room for a third that he had returned? Was it because his was the flaw that broke the perfect symmetry of the universe?

His hand so steady. His stroke so precise. So like his brother's geometry.


"Who?" A brother asked when his sibling raised his weapon. The body on the floor gave no answer, nor did the wielder of the ax. The brother raised his trowel, his triangle to his brother's circle, and their two sharp lines bit at each other (falling stars, o falling stars).

Behind the veil, his brother was faceless and voiceless, and only the flutter of the fabric from his breath gave credence to the idea that he was real, that the brother of the trowel faced flesh and blood and not phantasm. The ax was swift and sure, but his hand was equally sure on his instrument, and he turned aside each stroke.


The first fallen brother did not weep, for he had already foreseen this event. He had woken from a dream to find it consuming his reality. If he closed his eyes and opened them again, would he wake up? Could he dismiss this world as easily as he had dismissed the phantom world of his imagination? Could he unmake so readily all that was about to pass?


He let go of the ax, no longer needing the subterfuge of its arc. His brother laughed, teeth sharp and white in the ghost light of their dream, and raised his trowel to deliver a killing strike. The lost brother raised his hand as if to beg for mercy and, as his brother hesitated (savoring this brief moment, o how it matched his need, his dream, his falling desire), he revealed the awl hidden so long in the palm on his hand. His brother's elation deflated as the point of the weapon pierced his heart.

When both his brothers lay side by side, he took up the ax. He took his brother's twisted hair and his other brother's twisted fist. His face obscured by the veil of the temple and his body hidden beneath silk and blood, he vanished. His limp, a lie held as truth for so long, was abandoned in that room, along with everything else that remained of the world that was.

Already, the tower was falling.

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