It was 6am. She did not need to check her phone’s clock. Andrea could hear the shuffle from next door, and knew that her brother was about to make his way downstairs through his bedroom window. A ritual he seemed to do each morning for over a month. She heard his window open, followed by his perfect landing. Each morning, he left home and returned twenty minutes later in the same way. No one seemed to notice Peter’s absence, except her. Today she decided to find out what he was up to.
Andrea was not sure why her older brother left the house each morning at the same time, but she felt it had something to do with the bullies at school, since it began about the same time. Peter was 16 and one of the tallest in his year- it crushed Andrea watching her big brother getting punched by the boys in his year. She knew she should have done something about it but she couldn’t- it all happened too quickly. Since then Andrea had hated herself for not standing up for her big brother and so felt personally responsible for his welfare.
Like the past mornings she watched Peter pick up his back pack and run through the driveway carefully concealing himself under the shadows of the building.
Andrea knew the only way she could help her brother was to follow him. She had tried a week ago to talk about it, but he grew more distant and upset. She did not want to tell Mum because she wanted to be sure she knew what she was talking about. As if rationalising why she had to follow Peter, Andrea spent the next minute convincing herself as she pushed her window up, she was afraid of heights and only realised then how high the duplex was, so shut the window. She made her way downstairs as quietly as possible through the back door. She ran to the front of the house facing the street. She could not find Peter ‘I wasn’t fast enough’ she thought. She walked a hundred yards up the street and instinctively took the lane on the right as if heading towards the city. That was when she spotted the green jumper and the black bag pack. She ran after Peter who was walking at a much faster pace. As she closed the distance between them she noticed that Peter had not once turned around- they were only two metres apart, and she was sure she had made enough noise for her brother to know he was being followed.
Peter had made so many turns already that Andrea knew it would be a bad idea to go back home alone without getting lost. Andrea observed Peter’s demeanour and she realised something was not right. She was convinced it was her brother- this was his jumper and his back pack, however his gait was weird. He seemed to be slowing down and staggering. Something was not right. She summoned up the courage and finally called at him, ‘Peter, where are you going?’
He stopped walking, as she attempted to touch him, he began walking even faster now, not once turning. Andrea felt for her phone to call her mum, but there was no network service. So she ran after him.
‘Peter. Stop!’ Andrea reached for his arm like a little girl trying to get her father’s attention.
Peter stopped walking, but did not turn to look at Andrea.
‘Listen, whatever is happening to you I can help you’ Andrea still had her hand on his arm, and tried to get a better look at Peter.
His eyes were unblinking and stoned. He refused to look at her.
‘Peter, let’s go home’ she said, trying to get him to look at her. ‘Home is that way’ She pointed in the opposite direction.
He suddenly pushed her aside and kept walking, not looking at her.
Andrea watched as Peter walked away, but she was not sure if she should still keep going.
Andrea and her family had just moved into the neighbourhood, she had no idea where she was, and for some reason her phone was not working.
She ran after Peter as he made his way into a dirt path now. There were no buildings at this part of town just bare land, and make-shift homes. Andrea tried to remain calm, and maintained a hundred yards from her brother. He stopped at one of the shanty structures and took out a parcel from his back pack and turned in her direction, as if heading back.
She watched Peter’s expression, there was nothing to see, he looked trance-like, almost as if he was sleep walking. He strolled past her, not once acknowledging her existence and walked on the same path he had come from. Andrea followed her brother home. She watched him climb up into his window.
The kitchen light came on just as Andrea made for the backdoor.
‘Who is out there?’ Andrea heard the fear in her mother’s voice. ‘My word, what happened to you? Where are you coming from?’
Trying to calm herself down, Andrea uttered the first expression in her mouth, ‘It’s Peter, I think he sleep walks every morning’.