A silence from both of them balanced in the air, a complicated brotherly comfort, a few long seconds of the lifetime they shared, the best and worst and both at once. Then mostly the worst taking over, an unspoken corrosion eating its way through, always prompted by the living scar that was Marty; his body and having to take care of it.

       He was a monstrous marvel, long stretches of his anatomy scooped out once upon a time and patched over with artificial flesh that left no ghastly marks.  Cosmetically he’d been put back together “as good as new” at the time.  This was over five decades ago, back when medical science was in its Second Skin infancy, its specialists still sort of floundering with their own brilliance.  

Studying Marty was akin to admiring artistic surrealism.  Impossibly deep ravines dragged across him in random patterns, leaving him deformed and mostly disabled (certainly disabled enough for the complete State benefits package).  What’s surprising was that the man was alive at all. A true testament to what was once a possible future of surgical rehabilitation.  Since that time such wild medical efforts have been deemed inhumane.  Just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should.

       Nowadays they would let a case like Marty go.

       Regardless, there now was Marty.

       By far the most noticeable of Marty’s “scooped out” ravines ran from just below his right earlobe and across his mouth which is gone all together.  He had no lips, no teeth – just a rounded absence between nostrils and chin, as if half his face had been somehow erased.

       For all but four years of his life (and some change) Marty was fed nutritious and vital fluids through plugs in his side, fully balanced liquid meals like the one Carl had been preparing since coming in.  He then poured the blended three-course meal into its rubber pod and popped it securely into the pump.  On the menu, the same fulfillment Marty would get from a salad and steak dinner with a heavy asparagus side.

       When Carl opened his brother’s shirt to get to the intake plugs, Marty’s second most amazing scar was exposed.  About half a baseball sized chasm running from the edge of his right collarbone, down through his rib cage side, and stopping just before the hipbone.  With no surgery marks or hardly any discoloration, to consider this scar a scar  at all seemed a discredit to the fantastic science that had saved Marty’s life. It was also a fantastic science, though, that had put his life in peril in the first place.  That science was more than fantastic – it was super ultra-fantastic.  Atoms smashing into each other at the speed of light and even faster, blowing apart in negative black lava bubbles with glowing green outlines and electric shadows, electrons and neutrons spurting everywhere like so many glass marbles white hot and melting and this was how Carl always thought of it, even now as he drifted into the weird memory of what had happened to him and his brother on a day in July over fifty years ago.

       Carl is 7 years old, Marty is 4.  There is holiday-like hype at the department store in the city, the one they get to by going through the spinning bridge.  A line of people zigzags out of the building, around the corner, down the block.  They’ve all come to buy the THING.  It’s not a toy.  The boys don’t understand what this Thing is, only that there’s a magical excitement for it.  

What seems like a longest day later the boys are at the store counter, Ma trying to make light of her sons’ God awful behavior.  Dad has had enough is enough and never again and get the fuck out of there before he kills them himself.  He has the Thing in a sort of tin can in his hands. A miniature garbage can.

Back at home Dad opens the can and Carl and Marty could play with that and ONLY that.

“THIS,” he tells them as he raises the Thing with warning shooting out his eyeballs scarier than any policeman, “this you do not touch.  There’ll be big trouble if you do.”

Well, of course these are the only words all little boys need to hear.  The brothers would have their hands on it in no time.

Carl snapped to with the sound of the processor.  Making sure Marty wasn’t too near, he slid the pillbox from his pants pocket, the nuggets shaking around inside.  The sound of them loose, the very feeling of any extra room in the container had his heart dropping.  The box wasn’t stuffed full.  There were only five left.  He was already running out and he had only taken one!  

And now, he thought, another one has to get used up, has to go into Marty’s fucking processor, melt to nothing in this cocktail dinner.

“Or how about I forget?”