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There are very few things in this world that are as fickle as human life. Like the ephemeral flame of a candle, our light can be suffocated at any moment. We often take this fact for granted and live as if we have been given the blessing of immortality. This fallacy, however, is exposed every so often.

Be it in the fall, when discolored leaves drift away from the branches of trees, or perhaps as we travel down the highway late at night, and our headlights bring the corpse of an animal into sight. For me, it was when I witnessed my brother die before my very eyes.

My toes sank into the warm grains of sand underneath my feet. I sat on a towel, my chin resting on the palm of my hand. The gentle motion of the waves carried the pleasant aroma of saltwater towards me. I closed my eyes and bathed in the sunlight, smiling to myself as I enjoyed that perfect day. That pleasant moment, however, was short-lived.

Suddenly the brilliant warmth that had soaked my body disappeared and was replaced by a large, looming coldness. As my vision returned, I saw a large shadow standing over me. I spun around, but it was too little too late.

I sprung into the air, screaming bloody murder. A cold liquid drenched my skin and clothes.

"Holy fucking shit," I cried, grabbing my towel and wrapping it around my body. The rough texture of the sand ground against my skin, but I overlooked it for the time.

A burst of booming laughter erupted from the burly man in front of me. He hunched over, one arm covering his mouth, the other gripping a bright red bucket. I rolled my eyes, sighing heavily while drying myself off.

"Mr. Funny man over here thinks he's a fucking comedian," I muttered under my breath. I lifted the black strands of hair that covered my face and tossed them over my shoulder, revealing my eyes. I gave him my signature death stare, which had been meticulously crafted over the course of nineteen years of enduring dumbass pranks.

"Come on man, lighten up. You're always so up-tight about everything nowadays. Not everything needs to be so serious," he said, dropping the bucket and placing his hands on his hips. He pretended to give me a stern look before chuckling to himself once more.

I turned my head away from him to showcase my disapproval. Admittedly, he was a pretty funny guy, but I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of knowing I thought that. Instead, I shifted my attention to the blue cooler that sat to the right of us.

"Yo, I brought that with us for a reason. You wanna have a drink, or do you just wanna act like a dick head some more?"

"Who says I can't drink AND act like an dick head," he replied in the snarkiest tone imaginable. For a moment, he broke through my defenses and elicited a smirk from me. I hoped he wouldn't notice it, but judging by the pleased grin on his face, he caught me red-handed.

We clinked our glass bottles together and took a swig of our beverages.

"Hey, you didn't get that zero calorie diet coke shit did you," he asked, raising his eyebrow in suspicion.

"What the hell are you talking about? This is the real deal," I responded.

He folded his arms and glared at me, scrunching his nose up in disgust.

"You... do know I'm trying to lose weight right? I'm getting fat, man."

I sarcastically nodded my head in agreement. Of course, the gym rat of the family would need to "lose weight". Standing up, I walked to the edge of the water, looking down and viewing my reflection. My brother soon arrived and stood by my side, placing an arm around my shoulder.

"Look at us, man."

I turned and eyed him warily, expecting some kind of sarcastic remark or stupid joke to slip from his lips. It never came. He simply looked into the water at our reflection, a grin plastered onto his face. My head turned back to face the ocean. We had grown. Gone were the days where we would play in the backyard, pretending that the sticks and stones we wielded were swords and shields. The chubby baby faces we both once had were replaced with sharp jawlines that sported hair.

That being said, we would both be lying if we said we no longer held any "childish" qualities. Though my brother was far more open about them, mine were more... dormant. They manifested during that moment, however, as my lips curved into a mischievous grin. I placed my hand on his back. He had gotten me earlier with his water bucket, and that was something I couldn't just let go of. An eye for an eye.

His eyes widened and he let out a meek gasp as I shoved him into the water. With a splash, he sank beneath the surface. From my stomach erupted thunderous laughter, for I had finally gotten my revenge. Only, my incessant laughter ceased once I realized that the submerged body of my brother had not resurfaced. It wouldn't be unlike him to stay underneath the water to scare me, so I waited for a few moments. A few moments became seconds, and seconds became a full minute. I grew increasingly worried and rushed into the water, groping underneath the surface, feeling for my brother.

As soon as I felt a mass of skin within my grasp, I pulled upward with all my might. I clung desperately to the man within my arms, dragging him back to the sandy shores. I laid him down on my towel. The black and blue bruise on his forehead was large enough to be visible. I smacked his cheek, softly at first, then more forcefully.

"Fuck... no no no this isn't fucking happening right now...", were the sole words I uttered as I shook his body...

I clawed at my pockets and ripped my phone out from inside them, furiously dialing for help...

I never knew how beautiful my mother looked in black. It was a color she never wore, and I wish it stayed that way. Friends and family from all over the country gathered to celebrate the memory of my brother. I looked down towards the note cards I firmly gripped in my hands. My eyes glanced over the first few words I had written on them.

"I would like to thank everyone for coming today. Today is not a day of grieving. Rather, it is a day for our friends and family to come together and celebrate the life of my brother, James White."

I tucked the notes into my pocket for the time. As the service progressed, my father must have noticed my growing anxiety. My leg shook as my time to speak approached. I felt my father's hand softly pat me on the back. It was comforting and gave me just enough strength to persevere. Finally, it was my turn to speak. I stood up and walked to the front of the room. Turning to face my family, I removed the note cards from my pocket and began reading.

Time seemed to slow down that day. Each word that exited my parted lips took forever to do so. I made my way down the script, choking back tears in the process. It wasn't until towards the end of my speech that I broke down, gripping the wooden podium before me and sobbing into my sleeve. My father approached and firmly embraced me, before leading me back to my seat. Extending his hand, I offered him my notes, and he took to the podium.

"James was a brother, a son, and above all else, an amazing human being. May his memory be cherished forever, for all the smiles he gave to those around him. James, I hope that you're somewhere out there looking upon us. We want you to know that we love you, and that..."

My father paused for a moment. I hung my head down, preparing for what I would hear next. With a hefty sigh, he finished his sentence.

"We hope that you know we forgive you... for taking your life."

Typing this has been rough. It's hard for me to put down the bottle for long enough to focus. The way the glass presses against my lips is the only thing that comforts me anymore. I need the courage to write my thoughts down, and it doesn't matter what the source of that courage is.

For five minutes and twenty-eight seconds, my brother's heart stopped. That's what the doctors told me, anyway. It was a miracle they were able to resuscitate him at all. I remember the glimmer of hope sparkling within me as I heard the news. That feeling sunk beneath the depths of my stomach, however, and was replaced with guilt. I was the reason he almost died... what would he think of me? Would he understand that it was just an accident? How could he forgive me if I couldn't even forgive myself?

What a fucking joke.

Ultimately I don't know if he forgave me or not. I suppose at this point, it doesn't matter. When I saw him again for the first time since the incident, he didn't say a word to me. His lips never moved once. In fact, neither did his face. He had this... blank stare about him. It was as if he simply saw through everything he looked in the direction of.

I take a swig of my drink.

Occasionally, I would catch him talking to himself. From what I could tell, his words were mostly an incoherent jumble of noise. All that I could derive from what he was saying, was that he "missed" something. What this thing was, I did not know. More importantly, I didn't know where my brother went. It was like he was an entirely different person. I missed his smile. I missed his laughs. I missed his dumbass pranks. I missed my brother.

Another swig. I need to keep it together.

He often wouldn't come out of his room. When I did go to check on him, I would simply find him slouched over on his bed, murmuring to himself. Other times he would simply sit in a fetal position in his room, rocking back and forth while staring ahead at the blank wall coated in white paint.

Another swig.

His eyes were as lifeless as they appeared while he laid unconscious on the beach. He ate. He slept. He drank. More than anything, he rambled on and on to himself about... about nonsense.

Another swig.

The embrace of the liquor provides me with the warmth I've missed. A white capsule bottle sits beside me. I keep reading the label on it over and over. It's so distracting.

There was a night that I remember. There was so much ear peircing screaming

Another swig.

I burst into hims room to find him clawing at his face. His nails were tearing into his ownskin. He was screaming so god damn much, but those eyes... those eyes remained soulless even as he duginto his own flesh.

Antothr swig

he stood there and just screamed and screamed and fucking screamed and he fucking screamed and just stared at me and would not stop staring at me while he screamed.

anthrr fucking swig

he bashedhis his god damn faceinto th fuckng wall so much and his screams stopped when he collapssed and godthere was so much fucking blood coating his faceandfinger s and

another swi

god this shit. Is almost fucking empty

the only tjing he left was a paper

"I need to goback." it read

its empty. The glass is empty. both of the bottles are empty.

five minutes and twtny eight fuckin second

what the fck did he see. what did yousee james? Whatdidyou seethat made you likethat. whatmade you so desprte to leav this world. whatmade you break when youcame back to us

i want to see it too james. I wanttoseeitwithyou

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