The Twin Curse
I only ever cried once while at school. What’s worse, is that my sister never cried. Not even when Ben Ramos, the kid psycho, at our last elementary school dragged her body on the pavement after she tripped on her shoe laces while running in the courtyard. He must have seen her in the distance and immediately saw an opportunity. I’m still haunted by the memory of it because I shamefully did nothing to help her. When I heard about Sam being dragged from the other kids, the only thing I could think to do was count. After imploring her to get up, I just started shouting: “1, 2, 3…” out of fear. It was like the time when I was lying in bed awakened by the sound of mom begging Robert to stop. He was using her as his punching bag, and I froze. Some people might argue in my defense that I was young and inexperienced. Others would most likely rip me a new one. Sam and mom have both said it wasn’t my fault. I guess that means they forgave me, but I’m often reminded of what I should have done.
The time I cried happened when I was introduced to Ms. Dot’s second grade class. Forty eyes on you is not pleasant. I looked at Sam, and tears just started streaming. “I don’t want to be here.” I whined. What occurred after that is all a blur — although I’m sure Sam held my hand. It was one of the few niceties about having a sister in the same grade as you. She was there to comfort me. We weren’t allowed in the same classes, but that didn’t stop us from finding each other during breaks or whenever our classes joined forces. Of course, being my sister, she’d later tease me about the whole debacle behind closed doors. I’d deny everything.
It’s amazing how Sam, a few seconds younger than me, came to be so much more adept at playing the part of older sibling. Even Brittany and Nico were more inclined to take guidance and direction from Sam than they were from me. Mom would say it’s because I didn’t have a backbone. And, for a while, I believed her — at least until I realized she was speaking metaphorically. Or, was she? “The notion, John, simply means that you don’t have grit.” She finally told me one fine Saturday morning when I complained that Sam was pestering me, again. “Son, you must learn to stand up for yourself!” Mom scolded me in frustration. I didn’t quite understand how I was to do that when every time I tried I’d end up a fool and say something stupid. One can only imagine what that must be like. Still I had to try. I wanted to argue and tell mom how it didn’t seem she ever stood up to Robert’s bouts of aggression, but somehow I knew that wouldn’t be right. “You can’t remain shy and timid your whole life, son; the world will walk all over you.” She continued.
And, so, try I did. The next morning, after the incident with Ben Ramos and my sister, I called Ben out. He was a big guy for an eight-year-old. “Hey, Ben!” I shouted in the middle of the courtyard with a bat in my hand during morning recess. The image of Bamm-Bamm Rubble with his club came to mind. I wanted to say I was just kidding. But, the entire student body was now looking in my direction. Ben liked showing off his unusual strength and ability to lift other students over his shoulder and was placing Stevie down when he responded. “Yeah, who wants to know?” He asked, impersonating Al Capone and uncertain about whether I could possibly be the one trying to face-off with him. “You…you…” I began to stutter. Beads of sweat started to form on my forehead. “You think you can go around acting like some kind of tyrant?” I questioned, surprising myself at my choice of words. They seemingly came to me.
“What did you call me?” Ben asked.
“I said you’re a tyrant. And…and…it will no longer be tolerated.”
“That’s right.” I continued slightly more sure of what I wanted to say, pointing my bat at him for effect.
“Are you challenging me, John?” He looked to his left and right, signaling his boys to close-in on me. I nervously raised my bat even higher and noticed Stevie run to safety.
“Yes, Ben. We are!” The voice came from my left. It was Sam. “I hope you have a plan.” She whispered to me. At that, the bell rang, and the boys came rushing towards us. I grabbed Sam’s hand, and we were off like two bandits, and all of Woodrow Wilson followed. “Where are we going?” She shouted. “I don’t know, but we have to do something quick.” We zoomed through the halls, passing the library and heading to the cafeteria. Ms. Namakforoosh, the school principal we called Ms. N for short, was at the doorway with her arms folded. She stretched out her arm. “Stop!” She roared. “Where do you think you’re going?” I looked at Sam as if for reassurance. She nodded, and we sped past Ms. N like a car trying to maneuver its way around a slow-moving vehicle.
The majority of students at morning recess were still trailing behind us when we came to a dead end in the cafeteria. I decided to jump over the food counter and helped Sam along. “Sorry, ladies!” I shouted as we pushed our way through the maze of ovens, a large dishwasher, and human-size freezer. I saw an exit sign and raced towards it. Sam unlatched the door and swung it open. Before I could readjust my eyes to the autumn sunlight, a swoosh of force came from my right and knocked me down. Ben and his boys had been staged outside like a pack of wolves. I thought for sure I was going to be one with the pavement. “John!” Sam shrieked. I could see her in my periphery, running towards me as I tried to regain consciousness. The demons began to take hold, shaking my body uncontrollably. My eyes rolled back and spine shifted.
When I woke the next morning, mom was hovered over me. “My poor baby.” She wailed. The blow must have been pretty hard because I was in the same place where Sam and I were said to have been brought into the world. One after the other. A minute a part. We sometimes joked that she kicked me out. I looked for her, but my neck was too stiff to get a good view of the room. “Mom…” I tried. “Where’s… Sam?” I continued with long breaths between words. Most likely because her whole body was pressed against me.
“Oh, son! You’re alive!”
“Yes, yes…” Of course I’m alive; I thought.
“We weren’t sure if you were coming back.”
“I tried to stand up for myself, for Sam!”
“We know, and she couldn’t bear losing you. Something had to be done.”
“Where’s Sam?” I asked again.
“She’s in intensive care.”
“Please, go get her!” I interrupted not wanting to come to terms with what might have happened. There were stories of us being diagnosed with a certain behavioral disorder that caused us to blackout and do unspeakable things when provoked. They called it the “Twin Curse”. No one in our family ever talked about those stories, but somehow we knew they existed. They were memories we tried to suppress. We’d dismiss them as nightmares.
Truth is, Sam and I weren’t ordinary newborns. We were born two months too early. My backbone wasn’t fully developed, and Sam had fur on her skin. No one really knows how that was possible, but we discovered recently that we’re able to transfigure ourselves from humans to werewolves without there being a full moon. The doctors ultimately dismissed our births as unremarkable since the symptoms disappeared and there were no longer signs of malformation. We’re cunning like that.
The incident on the courtyard faded quickly into darkness. Sam and I were released in short time from the hospital, leaving the doctors as dumfounded as ever by our speedy recovery. Ben never bothered us again, but I couldn’t say for certain what happened that day.