Full of Emptiness

I miss my brother. It has been three weeks since he went missing. Nobody knows where he might’ve gone.

The last time anyone saw him was at the police station. He’d been arrested for driving under the influence. This came as a shock to me and everyone who knew him because he doesn’t drink alcohol or use drugs. He doesn’t even drink coffee, and I know he’d rather suffer through a headache than take an aspirin.

But, apparently, on the night of May 24, he drove his car into the middle of someone’s yard in a neighborhood not too far from our home and started revving the engine. It was loud enough to wake up the entire neighborhood. When the police came, he wouldn’t get out of the car. He just sat there, staring at them through the windows as he continued revving, over and over.

He didn’t resist when they broke the driver’s side window, unlocked the door, and pulled him out. He was even cooperative to a point, though he refused to speak. When they asked him who he was, what he was doing, where he was going, and how much he’d had to drink, he just stared at them, expressionless.

They decided to tow his car and toss him in the drunk tank to let him sleep it off. But he didn’t sleep at all. The guard at the police station said that my brother stood in the middle of the cell all night, staring out with an eerie, blank expression. Then, he disappeared. As in, he was there one moment, then gone the next. Like a magic trick.

Shocked, the guard checked the cell and found that it was locked. Then she asked a couple of the other drunks what happened to him, but they said they didn’t know who she was talking about. They said it was just them in there, and it had been all night.

There are security cameras all over the police station. But somehow, he managed to avoid them all, that is, all except the one overlooking the main entrance.

In the video, you can clearly see him slowly walking out of the station before he disappears offscreen. A couple of uniformed officers pass him by as they enter the building, but they pay him no heed. One is the officer that arrested him. She later said she didn’t recall seeing anyone there at that moment.

From there, it’s as if he ceases to exist. There are no traces of him left. The search parties have all been unsuccessful. He’s just gone.

In our small community, there has been nothing but talk of his disappearance. This has unfortunately led to a lot of gossip and rumors. Some people say he was on the run from a malicious, esoteric organization with which he’d had bad dealings. They say he bribed the police as part of an elaborate scheme to disappear without a trace. Others say he was on a new designer drug that somehow enabled him to sneak out of the police station undetected. Still others say he renounced his life and joined the Amish, and that they’re keeping him hidden in some barn somewhere out in the lonesome countryside.

I don’t know if there’s any truth to these stories or not, I just want my brother back. We all do. His friends and his family, and everyone he loves. My parents are inconsolable. It’s as if time has stopped inside the small apartment where we live.

The door to my brother’s room remains closed. I peeked inside it once, about a week ago, thinking about him. It was as he left it, spartan, without any decorations, just a bed and a writing desk with his laptop sitting upon it. The bare white walls seemed to echo its emptiness.

Looking at the laptop made me emotional as I recalled how he and I argued over his loud typing. When he typed, he pounded the keys hard and fast, making a sound like a machine gun. The noise carried into my room, impossible to ignore. He typed all day and all night, and it nearly drove me crazy. He and I would fight and scream at each other over it, but he never changed. “I have to get the thoughts out of my head,” he said. “I have to get them out as fast as possible, or else I’ll lose them forever!”

I… I have to admit that it is nice to finally have some peace and quiet, though I’m ashamed to say I feel this way.

As I lay in bed during yet another night of no sleep, I stare at the ceiling in my darkened bedroom. The shadows seem to swirl around up there, black on black, darkness upon darkness, curling into a deeper darkness still. Then, I hear something.

It’s the sound of typing.

A heavy staccato rhythm, clacking away, just like my brother used to do. But that’s impossible.

Is it?

I slide out of bed and into a pair of shorts and a shirt, then creep through the darkness of my bedroom toward the door. I hear someone whispering beneath the sound of typing. My brother used to talk to himself while he was writing, and I could sometimes hear his under-breath whispers from my room. But it doesn’t sound like him. It sounds like… someone else.

The sound of typing echoes off the walls inside the hallway. It’s so loud, I’m surprised it doesn’t wake my parents. But then again, natural sleep doesn’t come easily in my household these days. Mom finds her way to nightly unconsciousness with pills, Dad with booze. They’re both likely dead to the world until the drugs run their course.

The typing seems to intensify as I approach my brother’s door. There’s a faint light coming out from under it, spilling into the hall. It’s a pale blue hue, like that from a laptop screen.

I hold my breath as I reach for the doorknob. But then, I decide to knock. I rap upon the door, lightly but firmly. The typing stops.

In a voice that’s meek and strained, I call out my brother’s name. But there’s no response.

My hand trembling, I reach for the doorknob and start to turn it. The latch bolt slides out of the strike plate, and then the door opens an inch, two inches, three. The glow from the laptop screen reflects off the walls, filling the room with a spectral luminescence. A dark silhouette sitting behind the desk cuts through the light.

I hear my brother’s voice say my name, and yet it’s not his voice. It’s… different somehow. Empty, hollow.

“Come see what I’ve written,” he says. “I wrote it for you in particular.”

His strange use of the phrase, “in particular” frightens me for some reason, though I don’t know why. As I approach, I consider putting my hand upon his shoulder, but then I decide not to.

Standing behind him, I lean down to read the screen. Despite the amount of typing I heard, which went on for at least a few minutes, there’s only a single sentence written upon the page:

“It does not want a name.”

I shake my head and scoff. “What does that mean?” I say. “And for that matter, where have you been? Mom and Dad are beyond worried, and me as well. What is going on?”

He turns his head to look up at me, but his face has disappeared. His eyes, nose, and mouth replaced with a smooth surface like that of a mannequin. The laptop screen turns off, filling the room with darkness. I can’t see anything as I hear him scoot back from his desk and stand. I instinctively take a step backward.

“It’s safe,” he says. But the voice isn’t his. It’s robotic, devoid of emotion or inflection. “It’s safe. It’s safe. It’s safe.”

I turn around to run, but find myself encircled in shadow which somehow forms a solid wall around me. No matter how hard I push, I can’t get through.

“It’s safe,” he says. He’s standing behind me now.

“N-no, please,” I say.

He places his hand upon my shoulder and I jolt upright. For the briefest moment, I catch a glimpse of the universe before it formed, before the Big Bang, when pure nothingness filled the infinite void. A primordial emptiness, devoid of matter or substance, yet somehow… alive.

Full of emptiness, or empty of fullness, the result is still the same.

“It’s safe.”

A moment of comprehension passes through my mind. A tiny piece of the nothingness still exists. Somehow, it escaped being destroyed by the cosmological event that formed the universe. It desires a return to the way things were, when nothing was all there was.

I hear a steady hum like white noise rising all around me. I reach up and touch the smooth surface where my brother’s face used to be. It’s still him inside, I can feel it. But it’s as if his essence is draining away. I’m losing him more and more, moment by moment.

I feel the urge to follow, to pursue him down into that black hole of emptiness. I think of my parents, how sad they’d be if both their children were missing. But then, it’s only a matter of time before they join us, too. Then we’ll all be together again, forever.

I look up to where his eyes would be, nodding as I put my hand onto his shoulder. Then we sink into the shadows, becoming one with the nothing.