Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chapter Twelve

As he watches his brother return to life, the third little pig wonders if he is going mad.

A sound heralds this hideous resurrection – the eternal scratch-scratch-scratch at the front door. This is the youngest pig, the one who no longer sleeps or rests. The one that is dead, but still hungers.

For how many days has the pig of brick been trapped in his home? How long did it take for his brother, the pig of sticks, to grow weaker and weaker and finally, feverishly, die? He no longer trusts the accuracy of the tally marks on his wall. There is no light to tell the time; the sun and the moon and the stars have been blocked out by the bricked-up windows.

And now the burial shroud begins to twitch. The pig of sticks returns from death. There is a scratch at the door and a twitch from the shroud and a squeal from the pig of brick. The sound must have excited his brother outside, for the scratching grows more frantic.

The pig of brick whimpers something unintelligible, his voice rusty from days, perhaps weeks, of silence. His brother’s passing had been a cold, lonely, painful ordeal. To lose even that is to lose the final semblance of stability in this house, this lightless tomb.

Like a newborn learning to move, the pig of sticks struggles out of his shroud. He falls from the bed, soundless and peaceful, and crawls in the darkness toward the warm, living flesh of his brother. He does not recognize the sound of his own name, nor is he moved by the pleas and tears.

A dead brother scratches outside and a dead brother crawls inside, and there is nowhere to run. Despite living in a land full of wolves and other treacherous creatures, the pig of brick was always a pacifist at heart. There are no weapons in his house - he’d always fought with his wits. But what good are they when he is going mad?

For the first time, he flees. How many times had his brothers done the same? His house of brick had always been the last refuge, the safe haven from the big bad wolves of the world. But now that world, that story, is over.

Down into the cellar he runs, the pig of sticks clumsily bumping down the stairs after him. No matter how much the pig of brick begs and pleads and cries, his brother doesn’t understand.

The pig of brick stumbles over something in the darkness – a small spade. Practical to the end, he’d planned to bury his brother in the soft earth of the cellar, before the shroud began to twitch. And he realizes he may not have weapons, but he does have tools.

It is a horrible thing to take another’s life. It’s a nightmare when it’s someone you love. And his poor brother, the pig of sticks, so carefree and laughing in life, so weak and grateful on his sickbed, so undignified and lost in death, looks up at the spade but does not flinch away.

Again and again falls the iron head of the spade. The shadows hide his brother’s patient face, and the pig of brick tries to tell himself he’s just splitting wood. It doesn’t work. He keeps his eyes and mouth clenched shut as specks of liquid splash onto his snout, and wonders if he is going mad.