Last year I read many of the short stories included in “The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories,” which is this really great anthology edited by Ben Marcus. I read this for the last class I ever took in college, and one of the stories that we were assigned to read was a story called “Two Brothers,” and it’s by Brian Evenson. Two Brothers (I’m not going to put the quotes around it from this point forward because it’s clear it’s a title of a story, as I’ve already introduced it, and because it’s annoying to keep typing those), is a short horror story basically. It’s genre is gore. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that this was an assignment, because if it hadn’t been, I absolutely would never have encountered a story like this one.
It’s not a long story, even by short story standards. I think I read it in about half an hour. I read it while I was sitting at a Noodles restaurant, because this was back when I used to go straight from class to work, but with just enough time to get food and do some homework, but not enough time to go home, in between the two. So here I am, finished with my Wisconsin Mac and Cheese, sitting in a booth at Noodles, crying as I read this horrific story.
I’m not going to spoil it, because I actually do think people should read it. I especially think you should read it if you’re like me, and you don’t typically read stories of the gore and horror genre. I haven’t read the story in like six or eight months, since that day in the Noodles, and I still crisply remember certain chunks of language, and even more powerful, the feeling it evoked from me. I remember swallowing hard at a particular sentence. I remember shaking my head with tears in my eyes, wishing the story would end.
While what I’m describing is obviously unpleasant, and I won’t lie, reading Two Brothers was one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had whilst reading, it was insanely intense. What a massive accomplishment for a short fiction writer to, with such a small amount of words, provoke a reaction from a reader that is terrible, massive, and everlasting. I will never forget that story, that is certain, and I will never forget the whole experience of discovering it. It hung with me for days and days, holding a command over my mood and thoughts like an obsession.
I think it takes encounters such as these, to show a writer just how powerful language is. There was no sad music or intense lighting, no actors crying or explosions going off. Just words on a page that will haunt me every time I think of it for the rest of time.
Check out this story if you’re into that sort of thing, if you’re not, check it out when you’re up for a challenge. It will be well worth it, even if at first it doesn’t seem so.