I held brother’s arms and father his legs. Together, we carried his corpse to the basement. Mother walked along-side us with the strings, fretting like always. Downstairs, I cut brother’s clothes away from the wound, red and dark discoloration upon pale flesh. I was crying then, silly girl that I was. First time’s always hard like that, no matter how many times it comes around.
We got him down, laid out on the table, and father got to work with the chemicals. He wasn’t wearing gloves, and his hands were burn-bright where drops had spilled. The whole room smelled of those compounds, bitter and sharp.
I tapped my hand on the table while he worked. Maybe she’s Musical, mother had once said of me after stilling my hand. She said it like that, with the capital M, because music was not something that we understood in my house. To be fair, I couldn’t remember the remark, but it had been repeated to me often enough. It was one of our family’s memories, a select group of which we passed down at our evening meals.
“He’s ready,” father said.
Mother and I were too short to reach the ceiling, but she was short and fat where I was just small, so it fell to me to clamber up on the table with brother’s corpse and stretch. When I was there, mother handed me the first string. Each of them was a meter in length, their color shifting between gritty white and sterile clear. They felt like rubber, but the impression was shaken with each contraction. At the ends, the strings bore a metal hook ending in a sharp point.
I worked that tip into the weak wood above the table. Father did the other end. “Look away,” he said before he started, but I was too curious to not see. The chemicals had softened brother’s shoulder enough that the hook penetrated without difficulty, and father worked the metal in without a wasted motion.
Father looked up when he was done and smiled up at me. I knew he was pleased I hadn’t looked away. “Take the next string,” he said. “Act. Don’t think.”
I made him proud.
There were no problems until the final string. The wood proved more resilient than it had before, and, as I shifted my weight to get the hook in all the way, my knee brushed brother’s arm. And his treated flesh gave way.
Jumping back, I almost fell. Far worse, I sent one of those precious chemicals vials crashing hard to the ground.
“We have to finish,” father said when I went to clean the mess. Mother offered to do the last string, but he wouldn’t let her. “It has to be her,” he said. “She needs to grow up.”
So I did it. I didn’t want to, but I shot up anyway and did as told. One does not disobey one’s father or one’s house.
Brother got up within the hour. His movements were jerky, and we could all see the strings. But all that was to be expected. As time passed he grew smoother, and the incident faded from our minds as the strings receded from view. Every once in a while he slipped up and revealed his lack of memories, his cluelessness about the past, but we were careful to ignore those moments and he, in time, grew to understand life in our home again.
He was the first of our current generation. After him, father fell from a ladder, and mother, later, had a breakdown and tried to run away. She’s as good as new now, though; we re-strung her.
I’m the last one who remembers my brother’s death. In time, I too shall forget.
The household will go on, though. Undying. Unchanging.