Above, a bright crescent moon cuts a sickle around dark clouds. A soft moonlight spreads across a field in what appears to be the middle of nowhere, at first sight. Dirt, grass, rocks. In the distance there might be low mountains. What could easily be an eerie scene is made comfortable by the ease of the figure whose presence is already planted in the field, a tall and narrow man, hands in the pockets of his black overcoat. And, by homey sounds in the distance: music played by real hands, not by speakers. Talking, laughing.
Looking across the horizon, upward, his head tilted to the smiling moon, it can oly be a pose of one whose thoughts are stretched far. Past the horizon. Broader. And at the same time, closer to home.
On a sound much closer, perhaps the disturbance of earth underfoot, a narrow face weathered quite smoothly by time turns to face a new presence. "A beautiful night, brother."
Though the earth indeed surrenders with the weight of walking, crunching beneath tall boots, it can't exactly be said to be disturbed. Not really. Perhaps it's only biding its time.
But the man making these imprints pauses when turned on, his fisted hands swinging guilty at his sides until they become open palms, a welcoming gesture into the night. The ratted cuffs of his striped jacket sway around his wrists as he turns them in a practiced motion too elaborate for an empty field, but by now ingrained. "So it is." Words agree, but a tick in the face, an agitated turn of the head with no smile to mask it: these are the things that, as brother and empath, the narrow man can use to divine a common truth — his sibling is sullen.
Yet the footsteps take up again, an eye cast out to that dark horizon. "One of those nights makes you glad to be around a warm fire and good company." Though they are conveniently lacking in both of these out here in the yonder, witnessed only by that slice of the moon.
The other man, the older of them, though not by many years, replies — small in challenge, large in questioning and largest of all in insight: "I know why I'm not by the fire — why aren't you." A matching accent roves his words. Though a visitor couldn't tell where they stand, there are no rolling green hills to suggest the voice belongs to this land. They're nomads of a certain breed.
He turns his back to the moon, his hands in the pockets of his well-used but well-cared-for coat to face his brother. "Who've you spoken to, Samuel — " It's a calmly spoken need-to-know, more than it is worry. "I can see it. What's got you down?"
"Peering at my emotions, are you." Chuckled out it's a joke; thinly. Brothers know each other better, they know when one is concerned. A hand speckled with twisted rings raises, tilting black-painted nails at the elder. "I'm here because of you, what else," he continues once more in the jovial vein, but it doesn't hold up against his next thought.
It could be that dishonesty causes this hesitation, but it's more likely the jealousy. "Dear Lydia… noticed. You left an empty seat at the table. Can't have that, now can we." Behind him, the merriment of the others in the distance, framing Samuel's critical face with a ring of cheap lights and rich colors even as the moon halos Joseph and the rest of the world. "Something outside the family concerning you, perhaps. Brings you out here, brother."
Eyes narrow, crinkling corners and quietly gauging Samuel. If the elder brother noticed the words perhaps not matching to the rest, which surely he did, he doesn't make note of it out loud. "It was … but it should be done now, over with and no more of your concern." The words are spoken casually — breezing calmly past the firm order it really is.
"Did the family start dinner without me, then?" His mouth a straight line, Joseph takes a step across the field, glancing at Samuel with what could easily be suspicion. The festive colours splash across his face as well now, and it's that merriment in the distance he looks out at.
Samuel's next gesture is flippant, seemingly as strictly orchestrated to undercut his brother's authority as the words that accompany it: "Yes, well, I may have gotten a bit ahead of myself with the meal. We had so much to talk about, the others and I. And you weren't there." Yet through it remains a carelessness about his delivery that eases his intentions. In a way, he means it and doesn't see the problem; in another, he knows he's being a punk.
And, in yet a third, he balks against that look Joseph is giving him, shifting like he's got a bad itch — shifting back to his indignation, in some part to keep the focus off of himself. "But shouldn't I be concerned? Here my own brother, doing things that matter, not just to me, Joseph, but to the whole family, and I have to hear about them from somebody else. You tell me what part of that is right."
"It was only but a momentary concern," the man known as Joseph replies. "There was no need to spread fear and worry." Straight to the point. He doesn't want to argue; he isn't. A hand shifts inside his deep pocket, turns something over that is hidden within. "You know we would have dealt with it, as a family, if we needed to." He continues to look into the distance, the not-so-far-away lights. "Tell me then Samuel. What did you hear?"
"I thought that was the point of a family, Joseph, to take care of things together." Samuel is not finished being of dual nature. Eyeing his brother across the way he both sneers and speaks out of a sincere intensity. Righteous settles into his shoulders as he's questioned back and he twists a foot in the earth, watching the swirl of the dirt, the puff of dust, and bits of grass flatten and then spring resiliently up again. "But it doesn't matter what I heard, does it. It's all… over with and done." His hands come in front of him, fingers arcing out and then falling away: poof. Gone.
As his gaze flickers away to that stretch of land in moonlight instead of carnival light, neither can reflect in his eyes, leaving a dark look in them and moody shadows across his proud face. "Forces me to wonder…" he comments thoughtfully, aside; he drops those eyes to inspect his hands and the shadowy moment is over. There's only an arrogant, pensive sniff and then he thumbs his nose and looks to Joseph, repeating louder for the other's benefit: "Forces me to wonder what else you may be keeping from me."
Joseph's hands slide from his pockets and he extends them both, one to clap the other man's shoulder. The other holds a small object that he glances at as if checking the time. Though the size and shape of a pocket-watch, it's not. He holds it with care. It's a compass. Above worn reds and gold cardinal points, it points north — toward the colorful sprawl ahead in the distance, where a Ferris wheel lights up the dark.
A smile cracks the thin mouth of the older brother for the first time. Subtle, but present. he answers smoothly off Samuel's words as he starts to stroll home. "You're keeping me from my seat at the fire."
Pressure on his shoulder mollifies Samuel, but only in that his head bows, a younger sibling deferring to the discipline of the elder: concerns trivialized. Buried, their sentiment remains, overshadowed only by the whirling of the compass that wisely points the way to make-shift hearth and home.
That smile is not greeted by another, Samuel's face having returned to something dour with the way he's so easily dismissed. Although turning with the motion of Joseph's leaving footsteps, his brother does not immediately follow, no, not in that thin shadow. Boots planted in the good, green earth, he finds his hands have become fists again, curling into themselves with the brewing of discontent that continues even after Joseph's figure is quite far.
The rumbling starts quietly, deep ground; if it weren't for the distant location, it could be mistaken for a truck rumbling by somewhere. Swiftly, it grows louder, dispelling the notion and simultaneously heralding the rending of the ground in a fierce jagged line. Cutting a broken swarth right behind those boots, the earthen violence is done almost as soon as it begins. Rumbles dissipate, the sound of some underground creature settling back into place.
Tension eases from Samuel when it's done, the flare dying, the urge past. But as he stalks towards the glowing lights of the Carnival, the field in which he stood remains scarred.