The glen is full of clovers and bees. Little flowers spread over the ground in a carpet of white-on-green speckles. The morning dew coats everything and the air is sweet and crisp and bright. The sun is a warm touch on my skin, I think it cradles us as it shines.
Our homes are made of stone and covered in moss, with colored glass in our windows and sweet clover hugging our walls. Vines trail up and down the sides, lazy and confused.
In the daylight, my home is full of life.
At night, the glen changes to something else entirely. Cold stone is lit by the flickering orange glow of our fires, voices fade into whispers, and the air fills with the scent of smoldering clovers. The night is vicious and dark.
We are people of the day, and we let the night be.
Even I let it be. Even after I held its hand. I belong in the warmth of the sun.
Around my neck hangs a clear glass pendant, immortalizing my first four leaf clover. Everyone gets their first one set in glass, and with it comes something special. My mother’s came with the blessing of sharp wit, my fathers came with a knack for finding lost things. My best friend’s came with an impeccable sense of balance.
Mine came with a bridge to the night. The night and I are not friends, but now there is understanding between us, and my nightmares have stopped.
My brother found his clover today.
When a child finds their clover, it is a celebration. Today, however, instead of the laughter and shouting, there’s a stillness sweeping over the glen. They are all staring, and no one is staring more than my brother. The world at that moment feels strangely off-kilter, and because of this I stand close beside him.
His clover has five leaves.
There’s no knowing what the clover brings him until it is set in glass. I am unsettled as I take his hand and lead him to the glazier, but then he looks up at me and the wide-eyed surprise is giving way to excitement. I smile at him and watch as he hands over his clover to be set. We wait together, and I’m not letting him see my nerves. I don’t want him to be afraid, he’s dreamed of this moment his whole young life.
The pendent comes out, finished, five leaves spread perfectly in clear glass.
My brother picks out a leather string to hold it and hangs it around his neck. I’m watching carefully, waiting for him to find out what it brings. He’s looking down at it, and for a moment he goes entirely still.
A soft breeze whispers past my ear, and I smell a hint of smoke. I try not to hold my breath. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my brother so still and quiet, as he stands there with his fingers lightly touching the glass.
When he looks up his eyes are black as the night, with a warm glow flickering inside. His voice is soft and distant as he speaks.
“This one carries a curse.”
His hand drops to his side, and just like that, he walks out. My heart is beating triple-time, filling my head with noise as I follow after my brother. I wait for him to tell me more, but slowly I realize what he said is all I get.
The bees stay away from him. The other children follow suit. I can’t blame them, he isn’t the boy he used to be. Clover wilts in his shadow. Somehow, I know where my nightmares went.
It’s weeks later, and I walk outside in the dead of night. Not far, I’m still inside the warm glow of our family fire. My brother is there and we sit with our backs against the cold stones, staring into the flames, and I offer him my hand.
His fingers are frost, but mine are brown from the summer sun, and they hold enough heat to share.
“There are no shadows here.” He says.
He means “Not nearly as much as a forest can hold.”
I nod and whisper, “The oak by our creek holds a few.”
I mean “You don’t have to go.”
His fingers tighten around mine, and for a moment, there’s something of my little brother there. The one who drags me early out of bed to make the first footprints in the morning dew. The one who talks my ear off about something he’s made up on the spot. The one who raises an eyebrow when he tries something new.
“I do not belong here. Not anymore.” He says.
He means “The sun is killing me, the way night used to torture you.”
I sigh and nod again. “I know.”
I mean “You should find yourself a place you love.”
I love the warm summer breeze and carpets of green, I love the speckles of white flowers and the taste of honey, I love the light of a cloudless day and the glint of color in the windows. I turn my head to catch the flicker of fire in his eyes. He’s almost curled against my side.
I have grown to love the warm glow of flames in pools of black. I have grown to love the cool surface of stone beneath my hot fingers.
“I’ve never been to a place darker than here.” He says.
And he means “I’m scared of being alone.”
I touch my pendent. I was so little when I’d found the clover inside. “The dark is not so bad once you’re acquainted.”
And I mean “You would not have to be alone.”
The fire pops, sending sparks into the sky. We don’t speak again, but when the flames have died and the embers are buried in their bed of ashes, I sneak into my room and grab a few of my things.
My book of pressed flowers, my dresses in various shades of yellow, and my glass figurines.
My brother grabs nothing, he waits for me outside. When I reappear, his lips almost smile, and we fade into the night.
Far away, there is a place deep in an old, old forest where strange things dwell. The canopy of leaves overhead glows with the light that fails to pierce through, throwing the ground below into a green-tinted world. Mushrooms and ferns fight for the forest floor. A stream runs through the trees and disappears into a cave’s mouth, winding its way through the maze inside.
Parents warn their children to stay away from places like this. “That’s where other things live, and they’re best left alone.”
I don’t blame them, this forest is a nesting place for the night, and I used to let the night be. Even after holding its hand.
My brother still doesn’t tell me about his curse, but sometimes he disappears for a couple days. Sometimes there is panic in his eyes and he asks me to tell him about before he found his clover. Sometimes, he is quiet and empty, and I’m not sure if there’s any of my brother inside.
But most of the time, he is beside me, learning and growing like any boy should. He loves this place. I haven’t told him yet, but I think he already knows. It’s growing on me as well. It speaks a language I have only started to learn, but I am falling for its deep, inky tones.
I used to let the night be.
Now I speak to my brother in ways only night would understand.