Pablo Michael’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: The Secret Not Shared
Benjamin assembled the celluloid movie in the antiquated projector. When he turned on the light, the first frame of the movie illuminated the wall his sister, Edith, standing a hundred feet before their safe house. Nicholas, his older brother posed in the doorframe in his night shirt, still infected with the feared disease that isolated their family from their neighbors and the outside world. This home movie was the only evidence of the bigger secret their family kept. The content of this film wasn’t to be viewed until the possibility of hope emerged for everyone. After Nicolas and Edith bequeathed the documentation contained in the movie to Benjamin, as the youngest and the most vulnerable, he had a premonition morning would be the time his sister and brother would arrive. Then they would discover the truth, about the deadly vigilante gang wars, leaving the deadly disease to rage on like it had, killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. When Ebola spread uncontrolled, gangs from every part of the population attempted to take power, causing the former elected government collapsed. A stillness in the room caught his attention. The threat of more drenching rain from the storm had vanished. Weeks of heavy rain had filled the cracks in the parched landscape, filling the earth’s water table and ending years of drought.
Unlatching the door, he ventured outdoors, curiously. Above him in the darkened sky, the wind separated the storm clouds, exposing the brilliant clear glow of a full moon.
Shivering with hope, Benjamin asked with the sound of wind howling far overhead, “Is this a sign for end of the drought? The pandemic? And the war? How long have they gone on?”
“Too many years, baby brother?” Nicholas answered.
“Nick!” Benjamin wheeled around in his bare, muddy feet and bear hugged his brother.
“Yeah, I’m here. Isn’t Edith here yet?”
“No. She’s coming, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, she and I talked two weeks ago. We decided to find you. We think it’s the right time.” Nicholas’ right hand brushed Benjamin’s hair out of his eyes, getting a better look of his younger brother. “How long has it been? You look like you have recovered from the pain of losing Tim.”
“Yeah. I had to move on. He was the last painful reminder of how it began. I had to forgive them for what they did and wait for the day it ended. Do you really think this is the time?”
“Yes. When I talked with Edith, she suggested I find you, She believed the time was coming soon and we should all be together to make the decision.”
“And then it wasn’t just me. I felt it a couple of weeks ago, when the threats stopped. A few even spoke to me as an equal, offering me food.”
“Edith said a faction of the old government brokered a ceasefire a month ago among the major city gangs, offering them the temporary serum and promising the permanent one, if the violence stopped. Rumors spread to the outlying areas, a week later. The violence stopped where I was living. I contacted Edith. Then we started tracking you down.”
“It’s taken this long series of powerful storms to build my self-confidence that the drought might end, too.” Benjamin glanced at the full moon again.
“Yes, brother. You did say it would take something like this to bring peace. Have you kept the movie preserved?”
“Funny. I set up the film projector, just a while ago. The movie is ready to watch. It’s still in great condition. It starts at our first house with Mom and Dad when we were just kids. You’re in your nightshirt. Edith is standing in front of the house where Mom and Dad were shot.”
“Yeah, I remember it well. I was recovering with an injection of the temporary serum and you were very sick.”
“If it hadn’t been for the serum Mom and Dad left us, we’d all be dead like many of the others. What’s keeping Edith? She should have been here before you. She was always the one to act faster than you and me.” As Benjamin wiped his long hair, his icy blue eyes shone brightly on Nicholas’s face, reflecting the glow of the moon, in the darkness of the waning night.
“She’ll be here. You know how she is. Always making sure everything’s right.”
“She’s still that way?”
With a nod of the affirmative, Nicolas wrapped his arm around his brother, guiding him back into the house.
“Surprsie!” Edith spoke loudly, as if there was nothing to whisper about anymore. “I saw you both out looking at the full moon. Isn’t it fabulous? Peace is in the works. The temporary serum is going to be made available for everyone now.” She hugged Nicolas first, and then her right arm motioned for Benjamin to join in for a group hug. “Why did you start the movie without me? I hope you haven’t gone further than this frame.”
The picture of Edith and Nicolas and their parent’s hideout house from many years before reflected on the wall, as they entered through the door.
“No, I didn’t watch it. It’s just the first frame. I remember what you told me, not to watch it until we all are back together, when the time was right. I knew both of you were coming. That’s why I prepared it.” ” Benjamin answered, irritated with the insinuation he broke his family’s trust
“That’s what Mom and Dad told us if anything happened to them,” Edith confirmed their parent’s wishes. “I can’t believe how clear the picture is. You’ve kept the movie intact.” Edith attempted to wash over any indignant sarcasm she may have made. “We have the promises for permanent peace, once we find out the secret Mom and Dad reveal in the movie about a permanent serum.”
“I still don’t understand why we had to keep it a secret until now. There have been so many times I wanted to find out,… but I waited for both of you, even lost Timothy who we may been able to save.” Benjamin anxiously waited for his siblings to subside with the small talk and get down to business, the movie.
“I know how you felt about Tim, but it was Mom and Dad’s decision to proceed like we are.” Edith asserted the directions spoken to them when the deadly threats began.
“Benjamin, there’s no one to blame but the circumstances,” Nicolas interrupted. “When you became very sick with the disease, Mom and Dad devised this plan. They gave you the last dose of the lifetime serum. Edith and I know the formula for the temporary one, which has kept us and a few others alive until the permanent one can be duplicated again. You are the only one on the entire planet who had it this way.”
“So that’s why I never came down with it again. I haven’t needed another dose of the temporary serum, like you and Edith?”
“Yes, that’s why we’re relying on your judgment to agree with us to watch the movie through to its conclusion?” Edith begged for his answer.
“I’m not hesitating. I was simply waiting for both of you. Let’s turn it on.”
Benjamin flicked the start button on the movie projector. Sitting Indian style in front of the wall they watched each frame of their life stories from the beginning of their lives play out to the end, when their parents were murdered, gathering the ingredients for the serum.
After they had watched the entire home movie, there was a silence in the house, only the sound of water dripping outside from the eaves of the house from a passing shower whispered through the room.
“But why did they give me the only dose of the permanent serum?” Benjamin broke the silence with the question that wasn’t answered in the movie.
“You were too sick. They ran out of the temporary serum.” Edith and Nicholas were old enough for their parent’s to explain the reason.
“Now, do we proceed with Mom and Dad’s wishes, Benjamin?” Nicholas asked, knowing the ultimate answer was Benjamin’s decision. “Edith will take the movie to the government officials. If they notify the CDC to prepare making the formula with you, Benjamin, I will take you to Atlanta, making sure you arrive safely. Your blood will give them what they need them to start.”
“If Mom and Dad believed this was the only way we can find peace, what else can I do? I’m ready to share my blood, on the condition you both get the first doses. I don’t want to lose you like I lost Timothy.”
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Pablo Michaels writes LGBT fiction and has published with Naughty Nights Press, http://naughtynightspress.blogspot.com You can follow him at @bell2mike