The Vanishing Mediator

Having fun on the internet.

kaleidoscopic

An Easily-Distracted Tale by Chris/0

Nathan ducked.

An Xbox 360 controller, its analog sticks worn smooth and shiny by years of sweaty-thumbed gaming, flew over his head. It arced gracefully through the air before colliding with a wall and breaking.

As Nathan turned to follow the crashing sound, several pieces of the once-controller rebounded back into his face. A particularly large one struck him in the forehead before landing softly on the carpet. The sharp pain instinctively drew his hand. When he pulled it away, a bright streak of blood had left its mark.

“Sorry, bro,” the thrower said, more with embarrassment than sorrow.

Nathan was sure that his brother was the product of some hideous genetic experimentation. Identical twins were supposed to be just that.

Identical.

But Noah, who had never raised his voice to a fellow human being in his life, would become mind-bogglingly angry at inanimate objects at the drop of a hat. Especially if he’d been holding the hat in the first place. Whereas Nathan understood that things didn’t take actions; it was the people controlling them that did. And it was usually one person in particular.

“What the hell, Noah!?” Nathan shouted. “Did you get sick of being beaten by Chun Li, and you wanted to get your ass kicked by me instead?”

Noah shrugged noncommittally. “It’s not like I was aiming for you. I don’t know what came over me.”

“When it stops being fun, you’re supposed to stop playing.”

“But… it was still fun. And I’ll pay for the controller; it was mine anyway, you can check under the battery cover.”

“That’s not the point,” Nathan said, hunting for a tissue. “The point is to try to minimize the collateral damage. Like me. See?” He pointed at his forehead. “I’m collateral. This is damage.”

“Well, then go get a Band-Aid. I’ll clean up the pieces, and when you get back, it’ll be like it never happened.”

“Yeah, all right, fine.”

Nathan walked across the hallway to the bathroom. Checking in the mirror, he could see that it wasn’t a deep cut, nor was it very wide. But it was enough, it would do. Ask for him tomorrow, and he’d show up with a big ol’ Band-Aid smack in the middle of his forehead.

At least he didn’t have any dates lined up.

He tried to align the Band-Aid at a rakish angle, but eventually gave up and just let it sit where it wanted.

Satisfied, Nathan crossed the hallway back into his shared bedroom. Noah was on his hands and knees, still gathering pieces.

Looking down, Nathan saw a piece that had bounced all the way to the doorway.

“Hey, doofus,” he said, not without friendliness, “you missed one over here.”

Noah turned. “Oh?” he said. He tried to stand up, but a foot caught on his shoelace, and he tumbled.

His head smacked into the carpet. With a groan, he slowly pulled himself up. Nathan could see the bit of plastic that had once been at his feet, but now it was stuck in his brother’s forehead. He reached out and plucked it from there.

A small, red drop welled up and slowly trickled down between Noah’s eyes. The sharp pain instinctively drew his hand. When he pulled it away, a bright streak of blood had left its mark.

Nathan and Noah looked at each other in silence for a moment.

Then both exploded with laughter.

After rolling around on the carpet and catching their breaths, Nathan went back to the bathroom and got a Band-Aid for his brother. He put it on at the same angle as his own.

“There,” he said firmly. “Now we’re identical again.”

“More so every day,” Noah laughed. “Or so Mom says. And I guess we’re identical on the inside, too.”

Nathan rolled his eyes. “Red?”

“Yeah, red. At least we can agree on colors.”

“Maybe not, if you were foreign,” Nathan said.

“If I were foreign, then we wouldn’t be twins.”

“Sure we would, we’d just be foreign twins.”

“Oh, shut up,” Noah joked.

You shut up,” Nathan joked right back. “I’m not kidding, though. Different languages have different words for colors.”

Noah couldn’t tell if Nathan was still joking. “Yeah, they, uh… They kind of have different words for everything. That’s why they’re foreign.”

“No, no. That’s not what I mean. Take the color pink. We, in English, have a separate word for a light shade of red. People would look at you funny if you went around calling it ‘light red.’ But we have no word for ‘light blue.’ In Russian, though, they have cиний (sinii) and гoлyбoй (goluboi)—dark blue and light blue, respectively. They’re just as different from… uh, medium blue? Well, to a Russian, they’re just as different from baseline blue as pink is from red to us.

“Blue is oppositely troublesome in many East Asian languages. In Japanese, for example, the color of leaves and ‘go’ traffic lights is considered to be blue, or (ao). Even though they’re no differently colored than here in the US. Ironically, the word they use for other things that are green is (midori), which comes from the verb for when the leaves grow on a tree. The same leaves that they would describe as blue!”

“OK,” Noah said, holding up his hands in surrender, “maybe our brains aren’t identical.”

Nathan scoffed. “You should see me try to draw a picture. I envision a tree, I get a blob. And you’re the guy who could draw a blob on purpose and make it look good.”

“You’re a blob,” Noah joked.

“No, you’re a blob,” Nathan joked right back. “C’mon, grab another controller. It’s time to give you that ass-kicking I promised.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, both simultaneously shouted, “I call Cammy!”

They stared each other down.

“Fine,” Noah said. “It’s a mirror match.”

Each boy’s eyes darted for the other’s Band-Aid. After a few seconds of stifled giggles, they exploded into laughter again.