“It’s been a year since the mysterious crash of Flight 198-C near the US-Canada border, and since then there has been no developments. The only information we had so far is the strange communication from the pilot before the plane went off the flight path and has since never been found. Just this week, we received a report of a Canadian hiker who claimed that he found a piece of the plane wreckage. Investigators are being sent out and we may soon have more answers to what happened to the passengers of Flight 198-C. In other news…”
I continued gazing into the TV, my eyes glazed over with fatigue. Though I had seen the report about the crash, my mind drifted and I went catatonic as the reporters droned on about a community event. This was not unusual for me, not in the last year anyway.
“Something wrong there, chief?” Carl the bartender chided.
Normally this kind of comment would bother me, but I had chatted with him enough over the past couple of days to know that he was a nice enough guy. Besides, culturally I was more American than Native American. Despite my forced grin, part of me wanted to throw something at his head.
It was time to be honest with him. “Did I ever tell you the reason I’ve been hanging around here? The real reason?”
“So I suppose you’re not vacationing?”
“No…” I wanted so badly to start really going into it, but my mind wouldn’t let me. Shifting uncomfortably, I turned slightly away from Carl. His eyes noticed the sadness in mine.
“You don’t have to say anything. I’m just being nosy, so don’t mind me.”
“No, it really is okay. I uh…I know you mean well.”
“Just don’t tell the others.” Carl smirked at this,jokingly pointing his thumb towards another customer.
“It’s my brother.”
“Your brother? I didn’t know you have a brother.”
“Oh...I’m sorry to hear it.”
“It’s alright. It’s been a year so…I’ve had to time to process, ya know? I was able to forget about it just enough to function. Until now...”
“Wait a sec...” The bartender stopped and I swear I could see the hamster running the wheel inside his head.
“The plane crash...he was in it, wasn’t he?”
“How did you know?”
“Well, it doesn’t take much to put it together, Chogan. I’m no detective but I know one thing....nothing happens around here. Ever. People pass through every now and then, but vacationers are even less often. This report about the crash comes in and suddenly here comes a guy visiting and inquiring about all the local business. There’s just nothing else for it.”
“Hah. I suppose you’re right.”
“Damn skippy, eh? You been trying to talk to the police, too. We’re the closest thing that represents a town to that plane crash. I understand wanting to know more but…why come here at all? You’d get all the information from the news.”
“To tell ya the truth...I don’t rightly know.”
“If I was a betting man - and I am - I’d say you need some closure.”
“Maybe. Maybe I just want to feel like I’m doing something. I had no idea he was even flying when I got the news. He was coming back from a vacation in Canada and then...he just…wasn’t there. I didn’t have any connections or expertise to go finding the plane myself. And so now...”
“You wanna be here when they find something. And seeing it for yourself might help, too?”
“Yeah...I suppose so.”
“So…how’s about a drink on me? To your brother.”
“Sure...that sounds nice.”
“What’s his name?”
“Kevin. Kevin Durant.”
“Then here’s to Kevin Durant. May he rest in peace, and may his brother Chogan find peace here. Cheers!”
I took my shot, feeling the alcohol make its warm path down my throat and into my belly. Carl laughed as I coughed, and I looked over to see that he had taken a swig of water instead. He totally set me up...
“Haha, yeah. I don’t drink on the job, house rules. Been a while since you had some real stuff, friend?”
“Yes, it has. I gave it up a while back. Been itching for some this last year, though.”
“Stress’ll always do it.”
“Agreed. Say, I heard there’s a reservation nearby. That true?”
“There is. The Algonquian tribe isn’t far from here. In fact, they sell crafts to some of our local stores. Why do you ask?”
“I dunno really. I guess it’d be neat to, you know...”
“Meet one of your people? You Algonquian?”
“Well, yes. That’s what I’ve been told, anyway. There’s a lot of tribes but I’ve never actually taken the time to learn about my own people. Does that make me weird?”
“I’m leaning more towards ‘lazy,’ but who am I to judge?”
I shot him a warning glance.
“It’s not weird. I get it.”
“What is there to get?”
“Well, when you stand out because of how you look it can be good, but more than likely it can be bad. You wanna fit in, so you try to separate yourself from what makes you different. I mean, am I wrong to assume that you were picked on for being Native American?”
I couldn’t help but feel defensive, but he was right about the last part.
“Yeah, I was.”
An image of high school flashed through my mind. I saw the hands of three boys shoving me into a locker. Another of some kid tripping me in the hallway.
“Exactly. So you don’t embrace your own culture. In fact you don’t even bother learning about it. Getting into that only makes you feel like you stand out more.”
As nice as Carl had been to me, I didn’t like what he was doing. He’d only known me for two days, so he couldn’t sum me up that simply. But what I think I didn’t like the most was the fact that he was right.
“Yes. But that doesn’t mean I hate who I am.”
“Does it though?”
I shot him a dark look.
“Okay, okay. I’m just rattling your cage. Trying to get you thinking.”
“Well, you got me thinking enough...”
“I’m sorry if I offended.”
“It’s alright. Either way, I think I better turn in. It’s getting late. You got other people to worry about.”
“What, you mean that one guy?”
Carl motioned to the corner, where a man sat nursing a bottle. At their gaze, the man lazily lifted his head up and slowly dropped it back down.
“Yeah, I see your point. So hey, what shop do the Algonquians bring their crafts to?”
“Leroy’s General Store. You know, the one of five shops we have here. It’s practically a metropolis.”
“I gotcha, smart ass.”
“Always better than being a dumb ass. Haha!”
I shook my head and handed him my card to pay off my tab. As he swiped my card, I couldn’t help but think about Kevin. He was my whole life for a while. Trying to be as good as he was at everything was a fool’s errand. He was the favorite, but I still loved him and he loved me dearly. Knowing I was adopted never changed that. Thinking about it made my heart pound, and for a split second I thought I might lose it.
“Here ya go. Thanks for the talk, Chogan.”
I was thankful to have a distraction from my thoughts.
“Yeah, me too.”
“Just do me a favor. If you find what you’re looking for, stick around for a while longer if you can. Or at least say goodbye before you leave.”
“I’ll do what I can, Carl. Have a good night.”
Not trying to be rude, I hurriedly made my way out into the frigid cold. It’s not that I didn’t want to say ‘yes’ to Carl’s request, I just couldn’t concentrate when Kevin was fresh on my mind and getting me all emotional.
Trudging through the snow, I walked the small distance to the cabin that I rented for the week. In any other circumstance, staying here would have felt quite cozy. The deer heads and bear skin rug made me feel like I was some kind of pioneer, which starkly contrasted to the city life I was accustomed to.
Making my way to the couch, I pulled out some pictures of Kevin and I as kids. We were both on a swing, and the sun glinted off our smiling faces in our glorious days of youth. Things were so much simpler back then. There were stressful times, but I always had Kevin there for me. I was never really close to my dad, and my mom had passed away after Kevin and I graduated. Who was I to turn to now?
Unable to hold it back anymore, I dropped the picture and wept into my hands. Sadly, the one consolation was that I didn’t have my father around to see me like this.
“No sissy-crying in this house.” He would say. Then again, this came from a stone-hearted man who ultimately only cared about accomplishments. He was the one that made Kevin the favorite. Mom loved me and always found a way to tip the scales the other way.
Things were so different now. But then again.
“It can be different in a good way, right?” I thought. “Maybe it’s all just a test. Maybe…”
Maybe it’s all bullshit.
“Why did you leave me, Kevin? You’re such an asshole...how could you do this. This is your fault.”
I knew the notion was bullshit, but it made me feel better. Deep down, I knew that it was no one’s fault. Sometimes things just...happen.
Or do they?
After wrestling with my sporadic thoughts, I decided that I was just too tired to think straight and went to bed. The snow picked up again soon after, and I was lulled to sleep by the soft trickle of snowflakes on my window.
“Huhhh?!!” I bolted upright in bed, fully alert.
“Must have heard something...” I thought.
Wanting to dismiss the noise as animals, I listened for another moment without getting out of bed. There was nothing, so I fell back onto my pillow. Yet before I fell asleep, a noise caught my attention.
It was a soft rattling that I couldn’t discern. Reluctantly getting up, the noise persisted, and I grabbed my bowie knife. Out in the den, it soon became clear that the sound was coming from my front door. The wood rattled again, and seeing it made me lower my knife.
“Wind,” I huffed, and began to turn back to the bedroom. Just as I was crossing the threshold, a loud BANG spun me around to face the door.
“Not the wind.” I whispered, and readied my knife again. Walking softly, I gradually made my way to the door. The knockings were very aggressive as I could see the door bending inwards Whoever was doing this was very strong. Maybe I could sneak up on them and...
“Who is it!?” I called out, sounding more scared than confident. My plan had changed, because once again I had chickened out. There was no answer, only more banging.
“Stop that, now!”
Now only a few feet from the door, I hoped that I would see the perpetrator through the side window, but the angle was too off.
“C’mon, Chogan. Just open it and stab ’em if they try to get in.”
My pep talk didn’t work at first, but I was able to convince myself before long. If I didn’t approach this person now, they could bust in while I was sleeping. That was much less preferred.
Holding my breath, I threw the latch off the door and swung it open in one quick motion. Raising my knife I stepped back and prepared to fight. Yet, after I saw who it was I immediately dropped my knife.
My brother was standing in the doorway, layers of ice covering his body. Blood was caked around his face, one eye was protruding from the socket with a deep claw mark. Bits of his flesh hung off as if something had gnawed on him.
I couldn’t move. Kevin took a step forward and lunged for me.ns126.96.36.199da2