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It’s a Twin Thing

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They arrived very suddenly in the Wendel’s Fall neighbourhood, a boy and a girl, on a bright, sunny morning, a rare sight for the people who lived there, both the sight of new tenants and that of the sun.

A house had just been emptied, its tenants had moved to a richer, better neighbourhood and scarcely a day later they had come. They had no mother or father, just a guardian who came with them to help them get settled and deal with the transactions.

He was a tall man and dark with hair as black as the night. The boy and the girl went inside as soon as they got out of the car, their faces covered by the hoods of their jackets. The man did all the instructing and loudly too as if announcing to the whole neighbourhood that they were here. 

No one went out to greet him; however, but who could blame them? He did seem to have a nasty temper. He didn’t stay long though, left as soon as his work was done but before he did he called the boy out to talk with him. The boy had pulled his hood down. His hair was white, very unlike the other man. Standing side by side, they looked like night and day.

The conversation was a brief one, it didn’t even last for two minutes. After it was done the man got into his car and drove back the way they had come from. The boy observed the car until it took a turn and couldn’t be seen anymore. He turned toward his door about to go back inside but stopped. He turned around and looked right at me. We looked at each other, none of us making a move but after a few moments he turned away abruptly and walked back inside and even though he was gone I felt the prickling sensation of someone watching me. I looked up and found a pair of icy blue eyes staring at me from the opposite house, their house. Even from so far away I could recognize the colour of her eyes. That’s strange.

Something was there in her eyes, something other than curiosity, an emotion I couldn’t identify, very much like anger but not quite. She vanished a moment later. 

I let the curtain fall. 

************************************

A new neighbour usually meant baking cookies, greeting them and introducing yourselves to them but no one stepped forward not even my mum who always liked being first, no matter what the competition. She didn’t like the twins any better than the other neighbours did. She stayed away from them even though they lived just in the opposite house. 

The neighbours were wary of the newcomers but that did not stop them from gossiping. Rumours started flowing, some laughably childish while others downright nasty. One of the most disturbing rumours I’d heard was that they had murdered their parents and ran away with their money but as there was no evidence, I didn’t believe it. 

One rumour did prove to be true, however. They were said to be twins, the girl and the boy though no one knew their names. They were called the ‘White Twins’ because of their white hair and also because that was their surname.

The twins were rarely seen out of their house. They didn’t go to school even though they were close to my age or so I had felt when I had seen them. The boy occasionally left the house but the girl never did. This led to even more rumours. 

It was strange, no doubt, the way they lived but I’d always liked strange and mysterious. Ours was a town where strange things were a rare occurrence. It’s a mind-numbingly dull place so this new change was very much welcomed by me. I was itching to go and talk to the twins and know more about them but I had to wait for my best friend to come back from her week-long trip to the beach. Mia Price was my partner-in-crime and without her, solving this mystery wouldn’t be interesting. Neither would it be fair to her so I waited. 

*********************************** 

On Sunday I woke up to a dreary, dismal weather even worse than usual. It was raining. A normal person would’ve just cancelled their plans and stayed at home but today was ‘Library Day’ and I won’t miss it for anything. 

I took a quick shower, dressed up in the most used clothes I had, tied my long brown hair into a bun and went downstairs.

As soon as my mother saw me, she shook her head, clicking her tongue in disapproval of my attire. 

“What are you wearing, Diana?” She asked, pointing at me.

“It’s raining outside. I don’t want to spoil my clothes. This,” I said tugging at my shirt, “is gonna need washing anyway.”

“Just do whatever you want. I am not even going to try talking sense into you,” she said with a look of disappointment.

She gave me that look from time to time, especially when our opinions clashed on a particular subject. I didn’t have any great love for my mom but dad was worse. He just sat there with his head buried in the newspaper, unaware to everything else. This is how he’d always been. 

The Peterson Family, the most deadbeat family you’ll ever meet, I thought bitterly.

Mia was to come back tomorrow and I couldn’t wait. She was the only good thing in my life and this wasn’t even an exaggeration. Before her, I always felt empty, dull, colourless but her vivacious personality and positivity toward life changed my outlook too. I missed her even though it’s just been a week. School hadn’t felt fun. I didn’t have any other friends thanks to Julie Holt, the school cheerleader and the classic Mean Girl. Boys and girls alike flocked to her and once she targets someone she destroys their life utterly. Mia had changed that by befriending me and I was grateful to her for that.

***********************************

The library was empty but for Mrs Betty and Mrs Petunia, the sisters who owned it. Most people’s idea of a relaxing Sunday included sleeping in but even so the library was hardly ever full. The only people around even on weekdays would either be students of Wendel’s Fall High studying for exam or elderly people. I didn’t mind the library being empty though. I have always thought of the library as my safe haven, apart from other people, in the midst of books that I loved. I didn’t like listening to the hushed voices of others, complaining about their innumerable problems.

Mrs Betty was pleased to see me, Mrs Petunia less so. She didn’t like me or anyone coming to the library. She thought that we would spoil her precious books. She reminded me of the librarian, Irma Pince from the Harry Potter books although her face didn’t resemble the description in the books but her attitude made up for it.

“Diana dear, I am so pleased to see you. You are the only one who comes to the library anymore,” Mrs Betty said to me as soon as I came to the counter to give back the previously borrowed books.

“Well it’s Sunday so I suppose the others are busy sleeping,” I replied automatically. She said the same thing every time I came to the library on Sunday and my reply remained constant too.

“Good for us. The less people there are, the less mess for us to clean,” Mrs Petunia said coldly.

“Why don’t you go and check the new books that came in? They are in the fantasy section,” Mrs Betty said, looking apologetic for her sister’s behaviour.

I went to the fantasy section as Mrs Betty had instructed and found the new books she had been talking about. I browsed through them and picked up the interesting ones but at the very last row I spotted a book which definitely didn’t belong to the fantasy section. It was titled ‘Mythological Creatures of North America’ by Nicolas Hall. It looked interesting, however. I picked it up too and sat down on a bench to read it. The contents page had so many unfamiliar names. I had never even heard of some of the creatures mentioned here which was surprising because I liked reading about any and every kind of mythological creature. I examined the illustration of a creature on the contents page. It was a human-like creature, pale and thin but with some animalistic features; claws instead of hands and pointed teeth. The book looked interesting so I started turning the pages.

I had just opened the first chapter which was about a creature called Altamaha-ha when there came the creak of the door opening. It was the white-haired boy. He hung his coat on the rack and without glancing either at Mrs Betty or Mrs Petunia, who were eyeing him suspiciously, made his way to the bookshelves. He vanished between the fantasy and fiction section. 

When he didn’t emerge for several minutes I turned my attention back to the book before me. There was an illustration of the creature, Altamaha-ha. It looked like a sea lion but its face was reptilian, like a snake with beady yellow eyes and two slits for nostrils. I started reading the first passage. It described the features of the creature. 

A low, nervous ‘hey’ interrupted my reading. I looked up. The white-haired boy was standing before me, looking slightly uncomfortable. 

“Hi,” I said automatically.

“I’m Jack. Your new neighbour.” He extended a hand.

“I am Diana. Nice to meet you,” I said as I shook his hand.

“Do you mind if I sit here?” He indicated the empty place beside me.

“No. Not at all.”

He sat down beside me. Up close, I noticed that he looked tired. His face was gaunt, his cheeks hollow and there were dark bags under his eyes. Though once you looked at the eyes the other features were forgotten. They were the deepest shade of blue I’d ever seen, though quite different from his sister’s.

“I saw you watching us from your window, the day we moved here.” His tone wasn’t accusing. He was just informing me what he had seen. I still had to be cautious about what I said.

“New neighbours are always a source of interest,” I said carefully.

“I know particularly if they are so strange, eh?” he asked light-heartedly.

“Calling yourself strange? That’s new,” I said with a laugh. 

He smiled though it didn’t reach his eyes. 

“Listen I just want to tell you that…that you should stay away,” he said, suddenly serious.

“That’s random,” I said.

“It would be better if you stay away from us,” he replied with a casual shrug as if he hadn’t just warned me in clear, precise words to stay away from him.

“You’re giving me an Edward Cullen kind of vibe, you know. You’re not a vampire right?” I said trying to tone down the heaviness of the situation.

He cracked a smile at that. 

“I am not. I might look like one,” he said gesturing to himself, his pale skin,”but I am not. It’s just my sister has a very poor health. She had an…incident a few months back. It’s for her. She doesn’t like people visiting.”

“Alright. I will make sure to stay away from you and yours,” I said nonchalantly enough to make it believable. He had come to me purposefully to ask me to stay away from him. There was something going on here.

“Thanks for understanding.” Relief was evident on his face.

“No problem.” 

“By the way, this book you’re reading. Would you mind if I borrowed it?” he asked pointing at the book open in front of me.

“I guess not. I’ll just borrow it next time. Already got a lot of them,” I said showing him the pile of books stacked beside the one I was reading. 

“You like reading huh?” he asked looking interested.

“Of course, I do. Don’t you?”

“I…,” he began but there was the ping of a text being received from the pocket of his jeans. He took out his cell phone and as he read the text his face changed rapidly. All the colour drained out of him.

“I gotta go,” he said grabbing the book, “and thanks.” 

He left in a hurry. It must have been his sister. 

************************************

As soon as I stepped on my porch I had that feeling of being watched again. When I turned around and looked up at the windows of their house, I saw them again, a pair of blue eyes, watching me. They disappeared too soon like the last time but the feeling, the goose bumps that had accompanied, didn’t. 

In the evening, rain came again lighter than before but with all the probability of getting worse. It was hard to concentrate on studying with the steady tap-tap-tap of rainfall on the window glass. I had to complete my homework; however, so I persevered. It took me double the time but it was done before dinner.

After dinner I read one of the books I had borrowed from the library. It was called ‘Bird Box’ by Josh Melarman. The book was so engrossing that I couldn’t put it down. I finished half the book before even realizing it and it was twelve o’clock by the time I put it down, reluctantly.

I have an early day ahead of me better go to sleep, I thought.

I decided to drink some water before going to sleep but when I reached for the water bottle that’s supposed to be by my bedside table, I came up empty-handed. I must have forgotten to bring water today.

I went downstairs to get a bottle of water from the refrigerator. The rain had slowed down to a drizzle now and it was only because of that, that I heard the squeak of tires outside as I passed by the front door on my way back. I went to the door and peeped through the eyehole, curious to know who it was who had drove through the rain to arrive here.

The golden glow of the headlights of a car tore through the darkness of the night. It was parked beside the twins’ house as I had expected. A boy came out of the house, his hood up. He opened the garage. The person in the car drove it inside and the boy closed the garage door. He looked around to see if anyone was watching. He stared at my window for a few minutes but when he saw no sign of another person he went back inside the house. The porch light was turned off minutes later and everything was quiet again. It was most curious that someone had journeyed to the twins’ house in the dead of the night. Who could it be? My first and obvious guess was the man who had come with them on their moving day but it could be someone else. I didn’t know anyone besides him though.

I went to bed, my head full of thoughts of the twins and the mysterious midnight visitor.

Exhaustion had finally caught up to me, however, and as soon as my head fell on the pillow, a deep slumber took me to the land of dreams. I dreamt of eyes; blue eyes filled with hatred, with anger, with curiosity, with mirth and a pair of anxious grey eyes too, my own. 

*********************************** 

I woke up to the sound of my mother’s voice. The first sight I saw as I opened my eyes was mum’s face, grimacing at me. 

“What happened?” I asked groggily, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.

“Nothing has happened yet but if you don’t get to school in twenty minutes, you’ll be late.” She had her hands on her hips and an expression of exasperation on her face.

I got out of the bed and did everything as fast as possible but I was still late. The homeroom teacher, an elderly lady named Mrs Roberts shook her head reprovingly but let me in without a word of reproach. I had thought that the twins would be the talk of the school but hardly anyone mentioned them. People were too busy worrying about mid-terms to care about a pair of weirdos. Mia wasn’t like that. Present her with anything mysterious and everything else becomes unimportant. She was very much interested to know about the twins. I gratefully informed her of everything that had happened in the past few days.

“You actually saw a car arriving at their house yesterday?” she asked after I shared with her the events of last night in a hushed voice. 

“Yeah. I think it was that man who came with them on the first day,” I told her, presenting my suspicion.

“That’s such an easy answer though,” she said, “it could be someone else too.”

“It could be but since I don’t know anyone else related to them, it’s my only guess,” I admitted.

“Well whoever it is we have to get to the bottom of this.” She looked delighted at the prospect of solving a mystery.

“But he told me to stay away specifically,” I said reminding her of my conversation with him in the library.

“Is he your boss? Really Di, it’s not like we are gonna hurt his sister. We just want to know what’s going on, right?” 

“Yeah but what if they are dangerous?” I had no idea why I was playing the voice of reason but something about the sister made me uneasy. There was something uncanny about her.

“Did the guy seem dangerous when you talked to him?” 

“No but he could’ve been pretending.”

“Yeah well I am still going to find out what’s going on,” she said. 

“Maybe we should just leave them alone. It’s not like they did something to us,” I said.

“That’s true but I still want to know. Please? We rarely get to do anything here that isn’t studying,” her voice had turned whiny now.

“I don’t…” I began uncertainly.

“Please, please, please Di. I’ll do anything you ask me to if you let me solve this,” Mia begged. It was a lost battle, I knew. It wasn’t possible for me to say no to her.

“Fine,” I said, giving in,”but we have to be careful.”

“I am nothing if not careful.” She smirked mischievously.

*********************************** 

Her plan was to watch, to follow their every movement.

Her plan was actually called stalking, I pointed out but she reasoned that we had no other way.

I argued that we did.

We could befriend Jack, I suggested, then get his secrets. She made it the second part of her plan and that’s how most of our evening was spent, in watching their house.

There was nothing strange going on and even if there was something happening inside the house we couldn’t have seen it. The curtains were never pulled back, not even once. No one came out, no one went in. It was the most boring watch ever but Mia was persistent.

She didn’t even go home. She stayed over, such was her curiosity about the twins. She even had her dinner brought in the bedroom. I regretted having told her about them. It had been a mistake. I knew how manic she could get when it came to solving something.

“We should go to sleep,” I said after about five hours of constant watching. It was 10 o’ clock and Mia hadn’t moved from her place. She even ate her food while watching it, balancing the plate on her lap and eating one-handed while holding the binoculars with the other. She drank water, though scarcely, the same way. She only left to pee but only after putting me on watch.

“You go to sleep. I am not sleepy yet,” she declared, still stubbornly keeping her eyes fixed on the house.

“But you have been watching them for hours now. We can do it again tomorrow,” I said, the annoyance audible in my voice.

She must have sensed my tone because she came over to me to give a quick hug and say, “I’ll go to sleep soon. Promise.” She went back just as quickly but I went to sleep a little less annoyed than before.

*********************************** 

It was about an hour or two later when she shook me awake, her voice more excited than I had ever heard it before. She all but dragged me to the window and pointed. I saw what she was pointing at. All the three members of the house were outside. The car which belonged to the guardian of the twins was out on the road, ready to leave. The man told Jack something, got inside the car, closed the door and drove away. As soon as the car was out of sight, Jack took his sister’s hand and pulled her back inside. Something seemed awfully wrong in the situation.

None of them looked up at my window this time. This was followed by a long discussion which went on for almost a whole hour. 

*********************************** 

“See my plan is working,” she said proudly.

“Not really. We just saw the man leave late at night, that’s all. We don’t know what they are hiding yet,” I pointed out.

“Yeah but we know that something weird is going on,” she said defensively.

“We already knew that. What I noticed was that Jack treated her sister a little roughly,” I said.

“Yes. He did,” she said latching on to the point,” he could be an abuser.”

“It’s a possibility,” I agreed.

“So do you still wanna befriend him after this?” 

“Yes. It would help us in uncovering whatever it is the three of them are hiding. Once he trusts us, he’ll probably tell us the truth,” I explained.

“Okay but don’t you think it’s a bit weird that he always comes in and goes out during the night?” She asked.

“Yeah I did think that. Let’s add that to the list of questions we’ll ask Jack when we finally befriend him,” I said.

Mia nodded and picked up the binoculars again, intending to watch the house.

I was too tired to talk anymore and trying to talk sense into her was the last thing I wanted to do. I went back to sleep. A few minutes later Mia slipped in beside me.

*********************************** 

Mia was restless the whole day. She kept tapping her foot repeatedly. The noise put me on edge. I was forced to ask her to stop in very harsh tones as I tried to take in the explanation being provided by Mr Jones. She stopped it, looking embarrassed but after a few moments she started drumming her fingers on the desk. I gave up on trying to understand.

Instead I turned my thoughts to Jack. That day in the library he had seemed so amiable if a bit nervous and secretive. He didn’t seem capable of harming a fly much less a person but… appearances can be deceptive. 

My thoughts turned to his sister whom I didn’t even know. I had never seen any part of her except her eyes and they only filled me with a sense of dread. Could she really be a victim of abuse? Was that what made her eyes so…hateful? I hadn’t been able to identify the emotion in her eyes. Was it actually hate? Or was it something else? I pondered over it through the whole class.

*********************************** 

We went to the library straight after school. Mrs Betty looked up, saw us and her wrinkled face broke into a kind, welcoming smile though there was something sad about her smile.

“It’s so good to see you, dear.” 

“You too Mrs Betty,” I replied, returning her smile.

“Mia is here too, I see. How was your trip, dear?” She asked Mia.

“Awful. I missed this place so much,” Mia said sarcastically.

“Oh, of course it’s not easy staying away from our town especially since you grew up here,” she said sympathetically missing Mia’s sarcasm.

“Yeah,” Mia said, looking shocked and amused at Mrs Betty’s cluelessness. 

“Did you hear what happened to Brenda?” She asked abruptly.

“No, what happened?” Normally I didn’t like gossiping but her tone suggested that whatever had happened to good ol’ Brenda Williams was dreadful. 

“They found her half-eaten carcass on the side of the road,” she informed, her voice shaking.

“What? What do you mean eaten?” I asked unable to comprehend what she just said. This was certainly not what I had expected to hear.

“I mean what I just said, dear. I know it’s shocking. I felt like you when I found it. It’s so horrible. Poor Brenda. She was such a good person,” Mrs Betty burst into tears right in front of us. I had no idea what to do. We were saved by the timely arrival of Mrs Petunia, who took her sister gently by the arm and led her to a seat behind the counter.

Mia urged me toward the bookshelves. 

“Are you okay? You look pale.” She sounded worried.

“I’m fine. It’s just so unbelievable,” I said.

“I know.” She agreed. 

“How can there be an animal attack here? There are no forests nearby. Shade’s Haven is surrounded by them but this place is clean of wild animals.” 

“Dusty,” she said suddenly.

“What?” I asked dumb-founded.

“Brenda’s dog. Could it have been him?” She asked.

“I…How…Dusty?” I said unable to form a coherent sentence. 

“I know it sounds wrong but it’s the only possibility. Like you said, this place doesn’t have any wild animals.” Her voice was calm. How could she be calm right now? A woman’s body had been found, eaten by some animal. Did she not care about it at all? I bet it’s just another mystery for her. Everything is just a mystery for her, a puzzle to solve. I turned away from her.

“I don’t wanna talk about it.” Mia sensing my anger didn’t push the subject. She wandered away to another section, to wait for Jack. I looked at the books, without comprehending their names.

It was hard to imagine Dusty hurting somebody, especially Brenda but then again he was just a dog, an animal. They don’t have the same sense of kinship or friendship that we do. I decided not to think about it anymore.

********************************* 

Jack showed up one hour later. He looked curiously at both of us but made no move to talk with us so I decided to go first.

I went over to him and said, “Hey.”

“Hi.”

“What is the deal?” Mia asked him before I could say anything else. Way to be friendly to Jack. I mentally facepalmed myself at her lack of subtlety.

“What?” he asked looking confused.

“What is going on with your family? Are you abusing your sister?” At that suggestion Jack’s expression changed from confusion to anger. He got up.

“I am not obliged to answer you,” he said stiffly before leaving.

“Great,” I muttered but Mia didn’t wait. She followed after him. I had no choice but to do the same.

Outside I found the two of them staring at each other like a pair of angry cats, ready to fight. 

“Wait,” I said before any of them could do something stupid.

“Tell your friend to mind her own damn business, Diana,” he told me without moving his glaring eyes from Mia’s face.

“We just want to help,” I said.

“Then stay away from me. That’s how you can help me. I mean it. Stay away from my family,” his voice was almost pleading.

“I will,” I said. “If you answer my question. Truthfully.”

“What is it?” he asked slightly warily.

“Is your sister safe with you?”

“Safer than she’ll ever be,” he answered without hesitation.

“Then I will leave you alone,” I said.

Mia howled in outrage. She was about to say something when Jack interrupted.

“Thanks,” he said. He turned around and started walking away.

Mia looked at me ruefully. “Why did you let him go?” She demanded. 

Before I could reply to that, Jack had come back. He surveyed me for a moment, ignoring Mia totally. Making a decision he opened his backpack, took out a book and extended it to me. I took it. It was the one he had borrowed yesterday, ‘Mythological Creatures of North America’.

“She’s here,” he said pointing at the book.

Mia stood there with a look of confusion on her face. She didn’t understand what had happened but I did. The book was a clue. 

********************************** 

I had read it twice but still found it hard to believe. It couldn’t be true, just couldn’t be. How could she be a… no there is no way that could be true. He must have made this excuse to hide his true nature, to hide the fact that he abuses her. Yes, that must be it. I am not going to believe this absolute rubbish.

Mia had another view. She believed the book and Jack. She told me as much and no argument I presented could assure her otherwise. She was determined to tell the police. 

“No one would believe us,” I said, stating the obvious.

“They would if we have prove,” she argued. She had the determined look on her face which meant she won’t be persuaded to do anything other than she wanted to but I had to try. 

“How are we gonna get that?” 

“We will go meet her tomorrow.”

“No. She could be dangerous.”

“I thought you didn’t believe the book?” 

“I don’t but…”

“There’s only one way to find out the truth.” 

“And that way might be potentially life-threatening.”

“I am willing to try, with or without you.” I knew she meant it. She won’t give it a rest until she discovers the truth.

“Okay,” I said finally, “but we will have a weapon on us. Just for protection.” 

“Deal.” She smiled wickedly. I didn’t like that smile any more than the fact that I was agreeing to this madness but what choice did I have?

********************************** 

The atmosphere in the school was different the next day. The whole school was abuzz with the news about Brenda. Even teachers were too busy talking about it to prepare us for tests. Everything else seemed secondary compared to the sad and mysterious end of Brenda. I had totally forgotten about her until now. With Jack’s suggestion of what his sister might really be, I didn’t have time to think about anything else but now another thought rose in my mind, it was too ghastly to consider but it could still be true.

Julie caught up to us while we were putting our books in the locker.

“Hey Di and Mia.” She was smiling innocently but I knew the ugly truth behind that smile. 

“Hey,” I said stiffly. Mia ignored her.

“Did you hear about Brenda?” She asked.

“No, of course we didn’t,” Mia muttered sarcastically.

“Here. I got this picture from daddy’s file,” she said ignoring Mia and handing a picture to me.

It was grisly. The person was barely recognizable. Her face was a mass of red tendons and flesh, one of her hands was nothing more than a bloody stump and one side of her stomach had been torn off, her intestines falling out.

“Why thank you, Julie,” I said sweetly, swallowing the bile that had come up to my throat after seeing the picture. She had done this purposefully to scare me or gross me out but I was determined not to show her how it had affected me.

The smile vanished from her face. She snatched the picture out of my hand and stormed off.

“Still think it could’ve been Dusty?” Mia asked after Julie left.

“Yes. He’s a dog,” I said and took a sip of water. The image was engraved in my mind it seemed. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and the possibility that I had considered a while ago, seemed more unlikely. Only an animal could be this cruel and Dusty was an animal after all, no matter how sweet.

Mia shook her head and started walking to the classroom without waiting for me. I followed after her with a sick feeling in my stomach. 

One way or the other, the secret would be out today. 

*********************************** 

Standing on their porch, I was barely able to keep my nerves in control. Mia pressed the doorbell; once, twice, thrice but no one opened the door. Relief spread through my whole body. She wasn’t home. 

“Let’s go,” I said but scarcely had I said that when the door was opened, just a smidge. A pair of blue eyes surveyed us from inside. The same pair which I had seen twice, watching me from the windows of this house.

“You’re the girl from that house. I have seen you watching us,” a girl’s voice said. 

I nodded. Her voice, her appearance all was that of a human girl but that’s how it’s supposed to be, that’s how they draw their preys closer to them or so the book said.

“Why are you here?” She asked.

“We want to talk to you. Can we come in?” Mia asked gently enough. She was still suspicious though and I knew inside her pocket she was clutching the knife she had brought.

“No. Jack told me not to let strangers in,” she replied.

“We just want to talk, that’s all,” I said.

“Besides we know Jack. We are not strangers,” Mia added.

“You know Jack?” Her eyes widened at that information. What was so strange about us knowing her brother? 

“We do.” 

“Come in then,” she said and opened the door. Too trusting. Could this girl really be what Jack had suggested? 

Following her was the last thing I wanted to do but it was too late to turn back now. I had come all this way, might as well find out the truth.

She was short for her age, I observed. Her white hair fell on her black sweatshirt in curls, reaching just past her shoulders. She wore a pair of blue faded jeans which clung to her bone thin legs.

The layout of their house was just like ours but most of it was empty. They didn’t have anything in the foyer, no paintings or pictures. She led us to the sitting room which had a black leather couch, an armchair and a tea-table. There was nothing else in the room. They had been here for more than a week now but didn’t get time to unpack? 

“What do you want to know talk about?” She asked as we sat down. I saw her face properly for the first time and realized how painfully thin it was. Her skin was stretched tight over her skull. She looked underfed just as the book had described. I slipped my hand inside my pocket as well. Gripping the knife gave me a little comfort, knowing that if things went wrong I would at least be able to defend myself.

“About Jack,” Mia answered.

“What about him?” she asked.

“Does he treat you badly?” I asked in turn.

She looked taken aback at the question. “No. Never.”

“Do you know about Brenda?” Mia asked abruptly.

“Yes. Jack told me.” She looked at us with a strange expression. She licked her lips twice. Her face had changed. She looked greedy, hungry. I wanted to get out of here.

“Let’s cut to the chase okay? Are you involved in her death?” Mia asked impatiently. At that the girl burst into tears.

“I…I didn’t m…mean to…to do it. She was a…a nice person. I…I don’t l…like eat…eating nice people,” she said between sobs.

I stood up so fast I almost knocked over the table. 

“What did you say?” 

“I ate her, some part of her anyway. Jack and Greg found me before I could finish her up. They pulled me away and fed me the dog instead. It didn’t taste as good as her but it served. I really didn’t mean to do it, you know. She was a nice person. When she first saw me she tried to help me and I know you are trying to do the same but I am just so hungry.” She stood up as well. Her fingers, which she had cleverly kept covered by her sleeves all this time, had turned into claws. She bared her teeth and growled like an animal. 

I took out my knife and so did Mia.

“Stay away from us,” I warned.

“You think those flimsy kitchen knives would do anything to me?” She laughed. It was a harsh high-pitched noise. Before she could attack us, however, Jack was there. He had just entered the house.

“Jean. Stop,” he said turning her attention away from us. It was all the chance we would have, I thought and ran past the two of them grabbing Mia’s hand.

Jean snarled but didn’t follow. Her attention was fixed on Jack. We can escape easily and then we’ll call the police as we had planned. I was afraid that she would hurt Jack but he had brought that on himself. He should have killed her. He should’ve realized that she wasn’t his sister but an abomination. 

“Wait,” his voice said from behind. He sounded unharmed. I turned around. He was standing there looking angry but okay. 

“Where is she?” I asked.

“She is asleep,” he said.

Knife still in hand, I went to him. I peered inside the sitting room and saw Jean asleep on the floor.

“We need to talk,” he said.

“Yes. We do,” I agreed. 

*********************************** 

He had carried Jean to her room then came back to the living room. 

“Is she secure?” Mia asked.

“Yes. She would be asleep for some time now,” he assured her.

“Good.”

“Why did you come here?” he asked stiffly.

“We had to know if what you had implied was true,” I said.

“Now you do. So leave,” he said.

“Leave? After knowing that she ate Brenda and her dog and that she is a cannibal?” Mia asked, outraged.

“Yeah that situation got out of hand but I’ll be more careful from now,” he said. 

“Careful that she doesn’t eat our neighbours but other people?” 

“Don’t make it sound so bad.”

“It already is bad. She is a Wendigo. She isn’t your sister anymore,” I said trying to talk some sense into him but it was useless.

“It wasn’t her fault. She was forced to eat human flesh,” he protested.

“By whom?” I asked, suddenly curious of how it had all started.

“She was kidnapped a few months ago. We found her in an abandoned warehouse but not the kidnapper. She even helped the police make a sketch of him, though they believed her to be mad because the description she had given was of an old man. The search was ceased a few weeks after she was found,” he said.

“When did the… symptoms start?” 

“She complained about being hungry all the time but it didn’t happen until two weeks after she came back. I found her eating… eating dad. Mom was lying beside him, in a pool of her own blood and…body parts while she fed on him hungrily. She didn’t harm me though. She talked to me, told me how she had been tortured by the old man, deprived of food and then forced to eat human flesh. I persuaded Greg to help me out. He was reluctant at first but agreed in the end.”

“And then you fed her other people? To keep her satiated?”

“I had no choice.” 

“Why didn’t you kill her? She is a monster.”

“She is my sister, my twin and she didn’t hurt me. She would never hurt me.” He looked on the verge of crying. 

A sudden noise came from the foyer. We turned around to face Jean. She looked more animal than human now. Was her face changing? 

“You have to leave here right now,” Jack said.

“Not before killing her,” Mia had her knife in her hand. 

“No please. She won’t hurt you, not if I told her not to,” Jack pleaded.

“You’re wrong, brother. I am killing these two nosy bitches once and for all,” she said and attacked. Jack jumped in front of us but she threw him aside like a rag doll. He hit the wall and fell on the floor with a groan. Mia took the chance to run forward and plunge the knife into her stomach but Jean just looked mildly annoyed. She pulled it out with one hand, there was no blood, and grabbed Mia by the other. 

“Let me go you bitch,” she said flailing her arms around, trying to grab Jean but in vain. She slammed Mia on the floor and lowered her face to take a bite out of her but out of nowhere Greg appeared behind her and hit her on the head with a shovel. What was he doing with a shovel?

For a moment it looked like Jean would faint but she didn’t. She jumped on Greg with her claws out. He instinctively put his hands out but they weren’t much of a shield against Jean’s sharp claws. They slashed his hands to bloody ribbons.

I had to attack now, I told myself and scared though I was, the adrenaline kept me steady while I made my way to Jean who was still clawing Greg into bloody pieces while he screamed in pain. I was an inch away from her when she turned around. I faltered on seeing her face which didn’t resemble the girl, Jean at all. She looked like an animal. That was all she needed, the moment that I had lost. She took hold of my right hand, the hand which held the knife and twisted it. The knife fell on the floor with a clatter as I yelled in pain.

“I have had enough of you. You’re the reason Greg and Jack turned against me so you’ll be the first one to die but I like playing with my food before eating it.” She let go of my hand.

“Run.” She said, her face stretched into a grotesque smile.

I ran but I’d barely crossed the threshold of the sitting room when she was upon me. She caught me by my hair and pulled me back. I fell on the floor, hitting my elbow hard on the floorboard. She knelt in front of me.

“Looks like I caught you. Now which part to eat first?” She asked.

I closed my eyes knowing that no amount of pleading or begging would save me anymore. I would at least die dignified, I thought, but I was wrong.

I didn’t die with dignity. When she clamped her teeth on my shoulder it felt like a hundred thousand needles were piercing my body at the same time and when she pulled, tore out a chunk of my shoulder the pain became so overwhelming that I almost passed out. I became blind and deaf to everything but the blood pouring out of my missing right shoulder and the pain, the mortal agony that accompanied it. I begged and begged her to stop but she didn’t.

It is said that when you die your whole life flashes before your eyes but I only felt the pain she had caused, the pain that was to be my death. I only saw her eyes; cold, cruel and hungry.

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