The dreams are always the same.
A howling rush of wind. Broken wings, black feathers swirling up past me, their razor edges making shallow cuts on my skin. My outstretched hands, my lips open in a silent scream.
And the sensation of falling, always falling.
Good thing my twin brother always wakes me up. He smooths back the damp hair from my forehead and hums me back to sleep while holding my hand.
Without him, I would have gone insane.
He always gives me a cup of tea to help me go back to sleep. It tastes terrible, but it does make me sleepy. And like an obedient twin sister, I drink the tea and drift back to sleep afterwards.
Today was a good day. My brother had to work, so I stayed up late and played some of the video games he left for me. I read some books. Most of the time, I stared at the wall.
I hope he’s in a good mood when he comes back home.
I wake up some time later to the sound of yelling. It sounds like my parents are having a fight with my brother…
I feel a sudden surge of excitement. I haven’t seen them in months!
I want to stand up and run to them, but I’m rooted to my spot. I can’t go down the stairs and hug them like I want to do. So I lie in bed and sob wordlessly until, at last, I fall back into an uneasy slumber.
He’s back now, and he’s stroking my hair with his fingers. It feels soothing, and I lean into him for warmth.
“You miss them,” he says softly.
I feel his gut tighten in suppressed rage. “We don’t need them,” he whispers. “Trust me, Julianna. We’ve made it this far, just the two of us, right? Just stay here and let me take care of you.”
The next day, my brother is gone once again. I can hear someone shouting from the door, asking for him, and I wish I can go down and answer.
The shouting stops, and for a minute I thought that the person has left. But I hear footsteps going around to the back of the house. I hear a window creaking, and someone nimbly landing on the floor in the hallway outside my bedroom.
“Hello?” A strange voice calls out. “Julian?”
He rattles the first door in the hallway, which is locked. “Hey man, your dad wanted me to check in on you, and—”
The door opens.
A boy’s silhouette looms over me. His eyes open wide in shock, his mouth dropping in surprise. He runs to me and embraces me, and it feels so odd to feel another human being’s touch after all these months. “Are you okay? Oh my God.”
He gently eases off the masking tape that covers my mouth and tries to undo the ropes on my hands as fast as he could. But they are knotted firmly, and he looks around for something to cut them with. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”
A shadow slants across the doorway, and the temperature drops a few degrees.
The boy stands up slowly.
“What have you done?” screams my twin. “Now you’ve ruined everything!”
I close my eyes.
Something warm is splattering across my face and dress, and the drops bloom on the thin cotton like scarlet flowers on the snow. Then everything is silent, and my twin is calming down.
He puts down the knife.
“Sorry about that,” he says, smiling gently at me. “Oh, look at you, you poor thing. Let’s get you back in bed.”
He scoops me up and deposits me back on my bed. He secures the cords that bind my wrists to the bedposts, and he cleans me up and makes me a cup of tea. He even sits beside me while I drift off.
I want him to hum to me, but his face is still dark with rage. His hands are trembling, and he’s muttering to himself.
I nudge him.
He turns to me, and I’m struck with fear at the sheer malevolence on his face. He picks up the knife on the nightstsand and traces my jaw with its tip.
“You are never, ever going leave me, do you hear that?” he asks softly, his voice lilting, dancing between rage and insanity.
Tears pool in my eyes. I shake my head violently.
“You’re lying,” he screams. “You’re lying!”
I have that dream again.
Except this time, I struggle to open my eyes and the bright light burns my retinas. A knife arcs through the air and impales itself on my abdomen, and I scream with pain and terror.
I can see my pursuer this time, the person who has broken my wings.
He is as beautiful as an angel, his ebony wings unfurled and his eyes burning with righteous fury.
He looks exactly like me.