In this world, consequence cannot bear the harshness of catastrophe. Mistakes are given lighter punishments. Falling stars shoot through the night sky and occasionally grant wishes of observers below. It is a softer place.
The Foundation did not have to suffer from its judgement errors as harshly as in other worlds. Employees worked in relative peace; some even found the time to grant small mercies.
When the Foundation first asked Cain to reunite with his brother, he took three days to decide. On the third day, he agreed on the condition that the only person who could abort the mission would be himself. The Foundation took three more days before agreeing.
Cain settled by the coffin that held his brother in a white room. He didn't know if Abel could hear him in there; maybe Abel was sleeping. The thought made him smile a bit—at least Abel's habit of long naps hadn't changed. Regardless, he spoke his apologies in a language to which they were the sole survivors.
"Say, brother, good morning. Shouldn't you be tending to your sheep? They're all down the hills, scattered. Their children have fled our lands and fill the cliffs as mountain goats, the deserts and savannahs as camels, oryx and antelope. Good morning, good morning brother."
Three minutes later, Abel stepped out of his coffin, drew a blade, and tried to decapitate his brother. Cain did not move to dodge; any wounds delivered to him would simply reflect back to the attacker. Abel's head fell onto the floor, then caved in on itself as a pile of dust. The coffin swung shut.
Cain coughed, ran his hands over his own neck and winced. "Good to see you too."
Every two days, Abel would leave his coffin and try to kill his brother. Sometimes, Cain talked to the coffin. For two months, this futile attempt at discussion was all they had.
Eventually, Abel's anger simmered down enough to allow a question from his lips. "Why, Cain? Why are you here?"
"I came to ask for-"
Abel did not allow the conversation to continue. This went on for another month. He would ask the same questions again and again, finding himself unable to face any answers.
Abel had been a colicky newborn; the only thing that soothed him was his mother's lullabies. So Cain sang as Abel slept. He breathed a soft, haunting melody that dwelt on brighter days.
Later, the tattooed man stepped out of the coffin and into the white room. His bare feet made soft padding noises as he stepped towards his older brother, watching him with the patient gaze of a farmer waiting for his crops to fruit. "Why. Why did you do it. Why are you here, now, after killing me and leaving me." He extended arms, pressing them against Cain's clear skin. "Leaving me to these people, with their marks on me, all their marks! Tell me!!"
"I was young and jealous. I got older. Time carved its wisdom into me. I'm here now because… because I still love you. Please forgive me, Abel. Everyone we knew as children has left to God's garden." The older brother leaned forwards to pull his sibling into a tight hug.
"My beautiful baby brother, it's just us now," he choked out.
Abel drew a blade. Clutched the hilt, then let go. He leaned into the embrace, clinging tightly. "It's not fair. It's not fair. You are so untouched. I can't leave a single wound on you." He spoke, soft as moonlight. "And yet look at me. Look at all the things done to me. You used to be my hero, but this… you let this happen to me."
"I see it, Abel. I see what I've done. I take full responsibility. I'll earn my title back, if you'll have me. This, I promise with everything I have." Cain swaddled his brother in his arms, rocking him back and forth and stroking his hair.
Abel clutched Cain's shirt, his body trembling as he wept. His fingers began to soften and collapse into dust. His brother continued rocking him as he, too, crumbled. By the time their tears reached the floor, they could only wet the dust that remained.