He knew it hadn’t been there a moment ago. He had only turned away from the old oak tree for a moment, to yell at Jeremy. Jeremy was a tattle-tale, running off to their mother when Kyle had only pushed him a little bit. It didn’t even hurt Jeremy. But Jeremy was six. He was still a baby. He was always telling on Kyle.
He had only looked towards the backdoor as Jeremy ran away for a moment, so when he turned back towards the tree and saw the glowing red tesseract suspended a few feet in the air under the lowest branch of the tree, Kyle was startled by its appearance. He looked towards the backdoor again. His mother hadn’t appeared, yelling at him for hitting his brother, which meant maybe Jeremy had changed his mind. Maybe the baby wasn’t going to tattle. Kyle turned around again, but it was still there.
He slowly walked towards the strange object until it was only about three feet away. It was floating at his eye level now. He stared right into the red glow, feeling it warm his eyes and release a sense of calm throughout his thin body. His fists, which he hadn’t realized had been tensed as if ready to fight, opened and a tingling sensation rushed through the phalanges. He stood still for a moment, unable to take his eyes off the four dimensional cube.
* * *
Jeremy had intended on telling their mother that his big brother had hit him, but then Kyle had yelled at him and called him a baby. Jeremy wasn’t a baby. He was six. He was in first grade. Babies didn’t go to elementary school. Babies didn’t get to walk the four blocks to school. He was not a baby.
So he went into his bedroom instead. Let Kyle think he was tattling on him. Maybe that would scare him. Jeremy climbed onto his bed (a real bed, not a baby bed like their three-year-old sister had to sleep in with a piece to keep her from rolling out of bed at night) and peeked out the window that looked over the backyard.
He saw his brother first, standing stock still and staring at the tree he was always climbing even though their mother didn’t like it. He was angry at his stupid older brother, always calling him a baby and challenging him to do things Jeremy knew their mother wouldn’t like. But his big brother was brave. Braver than Jeremy. He climbed to the top of the tree, not even scared he might fall and break his neck. He even stood up to that mean kid at school on the first day, punching him in the nose so that the kid would never pick on the younger kids again. He even held their new baby brother when he was only a couple of days old. Jeremy had been to scared to hold the tiny baby. He was sure he’d drop him on his head and break the baby.
Then he noticed that Kyle wasn’t looking at the tree. He was looking at a weird red thing that kind of looked like the Rubix cube Kyle had worked out before knowing what it was. He’d found the silly thing in a box of their mother’s things and hated how all the colors were mixed together. He turned it a couple of times, noticing that the pieces moved in a certain way. A few minutes later, each side of the cube matched. When he’d shown his mother, he thought she was mad by the way she looked at him. But he hadn’t been punished. She just ran into her room and called someone. A week later, that doctor had run all those silly tests on him. Asking all those questions. It all seemed like such a waste of time.
But this thing wasn’t exactly a Rubix cube. It was all one color, and it glowed like the Simon game their little sister had broken last week. The glow almost seemed to pulsate as it floated above the ground. Jeremy was about to open the window to yell out to his brother, when he saw Kyle raise his hand towards the thing. Kyle looked like he was reaching out to touch it, and then he was gone.
Jeremy blinked his eyes, hard. His brother was gone, but the thing was still there. He jumped off his bed and ran as hard as he could to the backdoor. He yanked the sliding glass door open, but he could already see the thing was rising. By the time Jeremy was standing where his brother had stood, the thing was higher than the tallest branch of the tree. He yelled out to it. He yelled STOP. He yelled KYLE. But the thing just kept going. He watched it until it was a mere speck in the blue sky, like the balloon he’d accidentally let go of at the fair last month. Just a colored speck in the sky, and then nothing.
Jeremy’s heart pounded. He kept his eyes trained at the spot in the sky where it had been. He stared hard, willing himself not to blink in case it came back into view. His eyes started to burn. Jeremy kept his hand at his brow, shielding his eyes from the bright noon sun. Then, as if a voice had whispered it directly into his mind, he knew where he had to go.
The hills behind their school. He didn’t know how, but he knew that’s where he would find the cube. That’s where he would find what happened to his brother.