Once upon our time.
The brothers Rose live in a concrete forest. High up among the choking fog they have a small brick hut; up there with all the other brick huts, another blinking light in the darkness.
The elder Rose is a hunter — he tracks wild images across the cityscape and imprisons them forever in a small metal box, traps them in an eternity of replays, bends them to his will, flickering always on silver screen cages.
The younger Rose is a woodcutter. He wades out into forests of stories, and carefully selecting one, takes it down with his axe. He prunes unnecessary branches and crafts fine wood from its bulk.
The brothers Rose make; in the tales they tell they unfurl their petals for the world. In the burning fires of his stories, in the dripping meat of his films, their blood red beauty is on display.
The elder Rose is in love. His lover sings to the trees, with a faltering, wavering voice of indescribable fragility- and the great hulking metal beasts of the forest stop to hear her tune. She sings of bodies, and old friends, and the stars. The elder Rose sleeps with her in his arms, and they dream of magic.
The younger Rose is in love. His lover is a shapeshifter; at once a lion, ruling all things, or a sparrow, flying free on wings of lace, a biting snake or a slinking fox, quick as light. She challenges the younger Rose, she races and wins, and he loves her all the more for it.
One fateful day, the brothers Rose, deep in the shadows of concrete trunks, sunk in the boughs of freeways and backstreets, hear a song. A song of moisture and music, of future and of past, and all at once rain starts to fall from the smog grey sky. It drips down tiled roofs and puddles on black undergrowth.
The brothers Rose peer into the wet, and, entranced, watch Them emerge: beautiful, tall and lithe, with hair black as nightmare. They dance toward the brothers, to the rhythm of the rain, feet falling quiet and soft as raindrops on the carpet of autumnal lives. The rain has soaked their pitch-black hair to their faces, so when they sidle up, their eyes are hidden. The brothers Rose hold them close and warm them against their hearts, and peeling back the inky hair they stare into innocent eyes, and fall, uncontrollably, unthinkingly, in love.
The elder Rose splits his life in two. Half he gives to his fragile voiced love, and half he gives to his black haired beauty. When he is with one he dreams of dancing feet and hidden eyes, and when he is with the other he dreams of wavering notes and private jokes. He never has the right dream and the right love at the same time. The elder Rose tells himself that he is happy, that he blooms bloody red.
The younger Rose ends one life, and starts another. He breaks a shapeshifting heart — his axe thudding deep on the chopping block, blunt and painful. He commits himself to his rain soaked love, and burns piles of word before her to keep her warm. He shuts out the guilt, and walks deeper into the shadows of city streets in search of trees to tell, stories to fell. The younger Rose convinces himself that he is happy, that he blossoms in a spring of green.
The brothers Rose wither.
The elder Rose lives his existences in secrecy, hiding his half lives from his half loves. His first love knows, of course; her songs become sadder, her voice breaks. His rainy woman knows, of course, and demands full life, and leaves when offered half. So no one is happy, and the streets ring with music less often, and no feet dance through no puddles and the elder Rose catches none of it, cameras whirring but empty, screens blank.
The younger Rose burns old wood, his words long since charcoal; replaying old choices by the flickering repeats of the fire. Hidden beneath the shade of her long black hair, his dark beauty’s eyes wander, and she leaves him for another, and he has not noticed. Swinging his axe, writing every twig and leaf, he is suddenly alone. His shapeshifter has grown stronger, flown further without him, on wings of anger, and all behind him is blackened scorched earth, and nothing grows, and no one is happy.
When questioned, the brothers will say there was magic in the droplets of rain that fell that fateful day, and even in the shelter of their hooded cloaks they were utterly incapable of resisting; drawn as they were to that clearing; seduced, as they were, by the night.
The truth is simpler; the truth is beautiful; the truth is cruel. The brothers Rose make beauty, open themselves to the scent of summer and blossom in the dewy mornings of a quiet city. They make art, around and of themselves, and are beautiful.
But pull yourself close, hold firm against their chests, allow them past the solid protection of your rib cage, entwine them too about your heart, and you will learn painful truth: the closer they hold you, the tighter your embrace, the deeper their thorns pierce. Wrapped in beauty, the brothers Rose love and lose; impaling themselves on their own jagged barbs, red blooms stained with their own blood.
The brothers Rose grow through the cracks in the concrete pavement, scattering scarlet petals against the grey fairytale city.
And live, ever after.
Michael Burrows is a screenwriter and poet from Perth, Western Australia interested in music, love, the Second World War and the written word. He has had stories published in the journals Voiceworks, DotDotDash, Aurealis and Control, and was nominated for a Western Australian Science Fiction Award for his piece in the journal Trove. He currently lives, breathes, eats, sleeps and writes in London.