[Tyr Zalo Hawk]: 712.Stories.Twinsouls: Origins

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2010-12-07 23:13:35
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Chapter 1: Twinsouls, An Introduction
What is a twinsoul? They are beings without a purpose beyond killing each other in an eternal battle for some unholy purpose or another. This is what I was taught, boiled down and simplified as it may be, and this is what I sincerely believed for most of my young life. Who couldn’t believe such a thing? Twinsouls were constantly fighting each other, often in secret, but when they came into the streets or into the city with their violent bursts it frightened everyone, myself included.
I was only four when I saw my first twinsoul fight. Two people, people I’d thought were kind, decent human beings, suddenly split into two entities each, and began whipping the world violently around them. One pair had the ability to manipulate the very wind, and used it to blast at the other twinsoul, who, because he was running so much, managed to help destroy several buildings in his attempts to evade the blasts. It was incredible to see, but also so overwhelmingly horrifying that beings of such power flung it around so carelessly. Many people in my village died that day, and so did one twinsoul. I thought then that it deserved it, but have since learned that not all my prejudices about twinsouls are correct.
The events that changed my life are ones that I now know many have experienced before me. Hundreds of people have been introduced to twinsouls that aren’t simply destruc-tive beings whose only purpose is to fight an endless battle for supremacy, no. Some twinsouls are dedicated to changing this endless cycle, to making the world a better place where twinsouls and regular humans can live together in harmony. In fact, it’s really just an issue of getting twinsouls to live in harmony with one another. Tyr told me that.
Tyr’s the reason my mind changed. I didn’t know he was a twinsoul until, one day, his twin suddenly appeared and began attacking a complete stranger. This dark-haired counterpart of the gentle man I’d known for nearly two years leapt from out of Tyr’s body and summoned a warrior’s scythe from thin air. That’s Tyr’s twinsoul power, weapon fabrication. The stranger, whoever he may have been, reacted in a blur, splitting into two just as Zao, Tyr’s twin, came crashing down with his scythe into the sidewalk. He left the blade there and immediately summoned two short swords, and began fighting in a rage with the man and his twin.
I watched, feeling utterly betrayed, just as I had before and accused Tyr of being a heartless wretch that I knew he wasn’t. “So, you’re just another bloodthirsty twinsoul, huh?” I spat at his face and he winced when it hit him. “Go on then, go and kill for your pleasure just like the rest of your bastardly kind!”
Tyr smiled, sadly if I’ve ever seen someone smile in that way, and shook his head. “I don’t want to. And I wish Zao would stop but,” he paused for a long, long time while we watched the fight. Zao was incredibly powerful, able to match the movement and attack speed of two other fighters with apparent ease. From what little I knew of twinsouls, I knew that meant that Tyr could do it all too. “He’s more of a slave to his passions than I am.”
I couldn’t think of anything smart to say, and all of my biting anger choked back in my throat. I’d never seen a twinsoul not fight when another one was around. His twin was a raging demon, calling weapons out of thin air as he twisted, turned, slashed, and roared his way through the battle. They seemed to take no notice of Tyr or me, and I could only assume it was because they figured that two-to-one odds were much better than splitting their forces. It didn’t matter though, because Zao cut them both down with daggers that he summoned at the last moment, just before the strange twinsoul was about to kill him with one of Zao’s previously summoned blades.
Tyr sighed as the battle ended and looked at Zao harshly. “You’re going to be killed one day doing things like that. What ever happened to our agreement?”
Zao looked ashamed, although the blood covering his body made it seem less valid as an emotion for him. “I’m sorry. You know how it is for us.” I didn’t know, but then again I wasn’t a twinsoul. Heavy silence hung in the air as the two stared at each other. I didn’t know, just as I still don’t know, if twinsouls could communicate between themselves without speaking. I imagined they could, since they shared a body half the time, but who can say for sure besides them?
After a while, Tyr sighed and beckoned to Zao. “Al-right, alright. But don’t think you’re getting off just because you can’t control our baser instincts. We’re going to have two extra hours of meditation because of this little incident.” Even though Zao might have wanted to protest, he didn’t. Instead, he walked right up and into Tyr. It’s a fascinating little sight, watching twinsouls merge back into one body. It’s not awkward, like many have imagined it, it’s a simple process where one body simply fades, casually, into the other one. Like a ghost possessing its old body, or something like that.
Later that same day, Tyr explained to me that twinsouls have a gnawing urge to fight and kill other twinsouls. Why this urge is implicitly bound to their instincts he didn’t know, and still doesn’t. It’s the great mystery of their race. Okay, I shouldn’t say race, because they’re just humans that were randomly chosen for this life. Tyr told me that his parents were completely normal human beings, that for the first 6 years of his life, no one even knew that he was a twinsoul. His parents just thought he had an imaginary friend, until he killed someone.
Their neighbor had a child, born on a week after Tyr’s 6th birthday. When Tyr was brought to see it, to witness ‘the miracle of life’ and ‘see how cute he looked when he was younger,’ Zao, just as he had in the streets on the day I found out he existed, leapt of out his host body and plunged a knife into the baby’s skull. Everyone was terrified, horrified, and shocked. I know I would’ve been. They screamed and shouted and Zao disappeared just as quickly as he’d come back into Tyr.
Tyr tried to explain that the baby was a twinsoul too. He tried to tell them that there was this redness that took hold of his head that said ‘Kill! Kill the child!’ but no one was listening. The parents of the murdered baby found the weapons they’d stashed and came after him. Tyr had no choice but to run as far and as fast as he could in the opposite direction. He hasn’t gone home since that day, and still wishes, however foolishly, that he could change the past, that he could’ve controlled himself as a child against murderous rage. No child has that strength though, and no child ever will.
Since that day, he and Zao have been training as hard and as long as they can spare, each and every day, to fight the urge that tempts them, that drives them towards death and chaos. In the evenings, I would watch as Tyr sat in deep concentration, his twin occasionally emerging and reentering his body as seamlessly as I’d seen it the first time. I learned that the separation of the two souls from one body can be dangerous because of a process known as ‘stirring.’
Stirring is what the twinsouls call the merging of two souls. Well, not the full merging, that’s called ‘Full Mixing’ and it’s much more dangerous, but still stirring isn’t something that they take lightly. Stirring is the breaking off and recombining of certain traits, characteristics, and other such soul bits from the two souls that twinsouls have. When one soul is brought back too suddenly, or when their shared body suffers a large impact or serious damage, the souls get jostled and, because of this, will occasionally splinter, or chip, and some piece will fall off. Of course, with nowhere to go the soul piece must meld itself back into one of the souls, but it’s not quite as picky as it should be. Because of all this, occasionally one of the twins will lost bits of their personalities and the other one will gain it. Sort of like a star orbiting a black hole, but more like a star orbiting a star. It can lead to dementia, paranoia, and split personalities. Not that twinsouls don’t already have ‘split personalities,’ that’s the joke, but I mean the serious kind when one twin has two personalities and the other twin only has a fragmented one.
Of course, not all stirring is necessarily bad, it happened to Tyr and Zao once when they were 14. Zao got out of the acceptable range during a fight and his soul was slammed back into Tyr’s body. The impact broke off a portion of Tyr’s kindness and gave it to Zao, who was apparently everything a cynical bastard should be before that moment. Tyr, in turn, became a bit more cruel, but not that much, not that I know of anyways. Maybe he was a saint before. Maybe… but usually no one is, so how could he have been one? That’s the world though, people are very different, and Tyr’s no different. Well, no, that’s confusing, but I digress.
Anyways, Tyr and Zao meditate every evening in order to keep the rage away, and to keep Zao under control so he doesn’t wander off too far. You see, twinsouls all have certain limits on how far they can be from their twin. The distance is random, but basically if Zao ever tries to get more than half a mile from Tyr’s side then he vanishes and reappears inside Tyr once again. Anyways, too much stirring causes Full Mixing, and that’s never good. I don’t know exactly what that is. Tyr won’t tell me because he’s afraid of what I’ll think and what I’ll do. Not only that, but he’d rather ‘spare me the experience, if at all possible.’
“Charlie, what are you doing?”
“I’m trying to explain to them what you do, and why they shouldn’t be afraid.”
“Thanks, I’m sorry to interrupt.”
Tyr sits down a few feet away and crosses his legs, looking at me expectantly. “Oh, well, I just finished with all I know, really.”
“In only ten minutes? I can’t believe you told them all our history in that short span of time. You’re an impressive orator.”
“Well, I summarized it, really.”
“Did you tell them about last week?”
“Well, no. I was giving them all of the background stuff first.”
“I suppose it wouldn’t be a story without all that. Still, may I tell the story? I’m sure you’ve got yourself dozens of them, and I’d appreciate being able to tell them this one.”
If there’s another option, I don’t know it. Tyr is not someone I fear, so denying his request would do little besides damage our relationship, but I never know how Zao will react to things like that. Zao’s got a way about him. “Yeah, sure. Go ahead.”

Chapter 2: The Week Before
It was dark in the shadowy depths of the cave. Not a soul moved besides the three of us, and little else was present besides giant stalagmites which served as invisible columns, reaching for the ceiling so that they could keep the empty sky from falling. Charlie was terrified of the immense darkness. He claimed that it would swallow him up in an instant, that we’d all be trapped inside the pit of despair for eons and eons, with no way out, and no light to distinguish anything from anyone. I told him his fears, however real and tangible they might seem, were unfounded, and that no darkness could ever truly swallow a person without that person allowing it.
Darkness is a queer thing like that. It snakes and slith-ers, waiting its turn to coil around any light that foolishly wanders to close, but that’s the nature of it, so how can it be blamed? If darkness knew how to control itself, it would be an entirely different entity than the one we know now.
In this unimaginably dark place there was a man whom we were searching for. Legend and hearsay told us that he was one of the very first twinsouls, and that he’d survived for so long because he’d learned something that no one else had ever figured out. It was for this knowledge, this treasure beyond measure, that we ventured inside, unafraid of darkness, save one. I thought, as I still do, that the knowledge would be something about how to control our baser instincts, and how to conquer the desire all twinsouls carry deep within that make us hunger for battle with our own kind.
So deeper and deeper we traveled, despite any and all objections from Charlie, and relying only on sense of touch to feel our way deeper. I had thought of calling illuminating weaponry, but wouldn’t allow myself in the off chance that it would seem hostile. Besides that, I wanted to keep Zao as blind as I was to the man’s location, therefore limiting his chances of losing himself to the rage. I wondered if we would ever find anything down there, if there even was another twinsoul, since our twinsoul senses hadn’t kicked in.
“Have you explained to them what that is, Charlie?”
My companion shakes his head, and I can see the notion pass across his eyes that he would have had he been given more time. I can’t blame him.
Twinsoul senses are the ones which every twinsoul possesses. They allow us to detect any other living twinsoul within a set radius of our current location. For us, this is an acute ear for the sound that another twinsoul makes at about 30 meters. We can hear their hearts beating in their chest, pumping blood, oxygen, and adrenaline. We can hear it, and locate it, anywhere within that radius, and yet we still hadn’t heard a sound beyond the noises of our group. It meant that even after two hours in the darkness, there was still much more to look for and through.
The blackness continued downwards, upwards, side-ways, roughly, sharply, and without warning. Charlie grew tired, and feared that we’d already gotten too lost, that we would never get out. I assured him that nothing was further than the truth, but I am never sure if he listens to reason when I can’t see his eyes. We stopped to rest and eat in the silence of the cave, careful of everywhere we sat ourselves or placed our things, lest we lose either one.
“This is far too creepy,” Charlie said in a whisper. “How do we know that he’s not watching us right now? Planning to kill us when we get too tired and have to go to sleep?”
“That would be all too impossible,” I told him, smiling even though he couldn’t see. “If he were to come too close then Zao and I would hear him, even in our sleep, and instantly awaken. It’s quite a healthy self-defense mechanism.”
“Yeah, right.” Charlie did not sound convinced of anything.
I wondered as to the workings of his mind, how para-noia worked in action instead of just the theories that I’d heard. I thought to ask, but could find no reasonable way to go about it without seeming either too personal, or inciting an even more powerful reaction out of him. I settled for a change in conversation, hoping to set his mind at ease. “How is your opinion of twinsouls now, Charlie? Knowing that there is one located deep inside a cavern such as this, hidden away from the fighting of the outside world by choice, must make you think better of our kind.”
“I dunno. It seems a bit crazy to me, like he’s done a bit too much drinking or heard about one too many conspiracy theories so he cracked and locked himself somewhere the government can’t find him. My uncle did that.” He spoke as he often did, with a melancholy, matter-of-fact tone that I could not pinpoint the reason for. It was true that he’d had a difficult enough life since he’d joined us half a year prior, but was that the only reason for his mood? I could not say for sure.
“I’m sure it’s not quite as crazy as you’d think.” My plan, however well-intentioned, was turning out to be quite ill-conceived, I searched my thoughts for something else to say, when Zao spoke up, interrupting my thought process.
“Charlie, what’s so wrong with the dark?” I knew in-stinctively what Zao was trying to do, even without the malicious edge of his voice.
“You don’t need to answer that, Charlie. Your personal life is your-“
“Bullshit. If he’s going to travel with us, then he’s going to tell us about himself. It’s been six months now and I still don’t think I can trust him.” Zao’s tone was colder than the cave air, and just as hard as the walls we leaned against for support. I wished to contradict him once again, but resolved to leave the matter in Charlie’s hands.
There was a long moment of silence more absolute than we’d previously experienced inside the cave. The darkness crept around us, more thick without a sonar barrier to keep it at bay. Our words had been our defensive shield, our escape, and so without anything to protect us now, there was little to do besides wait for Charlie’s reply, or come up with something new, once again. I was just about to say something new, to, if nothing else, make sure Charlie was still with us, when his voice came again.
“It’s from my childhood, I guess. My house was de-stroyed on a dark night, dark as this. No clouds or stars or whatever. There was just darkness and the cold. It was a lot for me to handle, I guess, so that’s why I’d rather not be here.” Perhaps it was the darkness that hid his face from scrutiny, or perhaps it was the simplicity with which he spoke, but I felt a deep emotion to his voice that I imagined wouldn’t be there in the daylight. Within the sunlight his fears couldn’t be as illuminated as they were within the very thing he feared. I was left temporarily speechless.
Zao was far from sharing my sentiments. “So, that’s all? So you had a bad experience, you should get over it instead of worrying everyone.” I knew this was Zao’s way of saying he cared, but I didn’t know if Charlie would understand. I wished to see his face, to gauge his reactions on more than a verbal level so I could choose the most appropriate reaction. Since such a comfort was not available to me, I ventured with the safest route I could think of.
“I’m sure you meant nothing in it, but worrying so much about something like this is a bit unnecessary. You have our protection, even from such intangible things as the darkness.” I used my most reassuring tone, and did my best also to sound confident, which was no stretch from how I actually felt, despite the conundrum I faced.
“Yeah…” His voice trailed off slowly, indistinctively, and I felt that either Zao or I had stepped out of line. I could not be sure which, and I could only hope it wasn’t myself. “Well, let’s just find this guy so we can get out of here. I’m tired of this cave.” There was something left for Charlie to say, something on the edge of his voice that I wasn’t trained enough to interpret without more clues.
“Sounds good to me. The sooner I get back to fresh air, the better” Zao said as he rose to his feet. I didn’t see him, of course, but I did feel it. Just like I feel everything he does when we’re separate. I stood as well, gripped Charlie’s shoulder in a supportive manner, and then led him on through the darkness.
Hours more passed in the black of the cave; hours that seemed like minutes, and hours that seemed like months, but eventually it came to us as a faint whisper. The sound of a beating heart drummed inside our skulls to a soft and timid beat. We stopped to listen intently, and Charlie collided with me due to my lack of warning. I thought not to apologize, only to control Zao. The beating of hearts drove him wild. He danced to those heartbeats; a deadly dance that only he knew the steps to, but that the world understood in their own way.
I reached for Zao, and he was there, right where I’d left him. His body tensed and untensed with each deep breath he took. I could feel the boiling of his blood and the clenching of his fists. “Control it,” I told him in barely a whisper, “You’re better than that.”
Charlie was standing just behind me, and I could hear each breath almost as acutely at I could hear the beating of that distant heart. “What is it?” he whispered to me, more than a bit nervously.
“We’ve found him,” I whispered back as gently as I could manage. The prospect of a chance to converse with a man of legend was very nearly overwhelming. I had to contain my urge to rush forward almost as much as I know Zao did, although it was for entirely different reasons. I made my way cautiously forward, keeping Zao behind me, even though I knew it would do little to stop him if he made up his mind. I didn’t want to have to stop him again as forcefully as I had to the last time.
We approached the noise slowly, carefully, with both eyes trained forward. It didn’t matter how we looked though, none of us could see a thing. It didn’t matter to Zao or I, we could slowly hear the beating getting louder; never stronger, but louder as went forward, feeling along the walls for every turn. Eventually, I could nothing but the beating in my ears, and feel nothing but Zao’s muscles tensed so tightly that I wasn’t quite sure how he kept himself from lashing out. I was intensely proud of him, even through my own struggles. The beating of the heart wore on me too, but I fought it back. I tried to masque my own tenseness with deeper breathing. It was impossible to overcome the urge entirely, but it was controllable. It is controllable.
“Hello,” I said to the beating heart, knowing that whoever it was must’ve known about us for just as long, that they must be close enough to almost touch. Zao’s fists tightened around a blade I knew he was ready to form. A Katana by the weight, but Zao had a way of reweighting his blades.
There was nothing to respond to me, not a voice or a movement in the darkness, just the continued beating of the heart, somewhere out there. I couldn’t imagine, at the time, what Charlie was thinking of or how he must have felt. He couldn’t hear the beating, couldn’t imagine the burning that coursed through our veins at that very moment, threatening to overtake Zao at any moment, and even me if I left myself slip enough, or if I tried to keep myself steady for too long.
“Hello?” I tried again. I’m not quite certain as to why, but I had the notion that perhaps the other twinsoul hadn’t heard me. Still there was silence, silence interrupted by thuds in our heads.
“Maybe no one’s here?” Charlie ventured, and I couldn’t explain to him why I knew he was wrong. Hearing heartbeats, it was the sort of thing which imagining would have driven him mad at the time in that endless darkness.
I couldn’t form a light-shedding weapon now, Zao would sense the summoning and would create weapons of his own, and arming him would be completely self-defeating. “Whoever you are, please answer. We know you’re there. We can hear you so please, if you can hear us then-“
“Why are you here?” The voice was crisply ancient, cracked at the edges. It was almost unnatural, except that it had a certain tonal quality that I recognized as purely organic. It’s the sort of thing that can’t be imitated or described, but it was certainly there.
“We’re here to ask you a few things, that’s all.” I had to act as quickly as possible, or Zao would surely lose himself. I grabbed his wrist in the darkness and felt my own grip on my wrist. “We were told you know something about twinsouls that no one else does. We were told you were one of the first, that you-“
“Ha,” he said, “They still say that about me, eh? No… I don’t know anything you don’t already know.”
This information came as a shock to me, and it angered Zao. He was never a fan of being lied to or manipulated, or of being led on chases with no profitable ending. Charlie called them ‘goose-chases’ but I’ve never been quite sure as to what that means.
“But, you must know something. You haven’t attacked us and you live down here in this cave, by yourself. There must be some-“
“Boy, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Look at me and see for yourself before you make such judgments.” Although I knew that it would mean I’d have a much harder time controlling Zao, I did my best to silently call forth an arrow, the tip enflamed. It was a small fire, but in darkness like that of the cave, it may as well have been a floodlight. It was quite the sight to behold.
Below us, very slightly, jutting out of the wall was the head of an ancient man, one whose face was oddly serene. As I looked onwards, temporarily astounded, I noticed also that other bits of his flesh, a finger here and a knee below it, also protruded from the harsh rock wall of the cave. Everything else was covered by an oddly shaped rock formation that seemed to have grown over him. Zao’s muscles relaxed a bit, I imagined it was because of the same awe which I was feeling.
“Wow…” Charlie said aloud, giving a voice to the firelight.
“Wow, indeed,” the stone-encased man spat at us. His face didn’t seem to change emotions, even though his voice did. It was as though he forgot how to emote. And perhaps he had, for as he continued his face stayed more stoic than his voice. “So, now that you know you still think I have some sort of wisdom?” His voice was sad, a deep and consuming sadness, just as the darkness had been.
“I’m, afraid that I’m unsure what it is I’m supposed to know. What happened?” I asked, but didn’t expect any answer at all. What reason would this man have for answering me besides my presence? Surely he could sense my brother’s rage, the intense thirst for battle that couldn’t be quelled by even the sight of a defenseless man, trapped inside the wall of a cave. I wondered, as I often do, what I’ll do if I cannot make him conquer that thirst.
“My twin happened. Grew a damned conscience after we killed another of us down here. He turned himself into stone and trapped me against the wall. You know how it is, he can come and go from my body as he pleases, but I can’t do a damn thing to get him back inside of me.” He stopped for a moment and looked up at us. His eyes were the pale blue of the blind, and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of emotion for his situation. I wondered if I would have stopped Zao in the same way. “So, I’ve been here for who knows how long. He and I absorb nutrients from the rocks, but I can’t get myself out without killing him, and you know what that would do to me.”
“Yes,” I said quietly. “I know exactly what you mean.” Charlie, I quickly remembered, did not. “Oh, and I’ll explain it to you later, Charlie. It’s too complex to be brief about, and we must be brief.”
“Your brother’s the same as me, huh? Well, good. I’m glad someone’s still got the fighting spirit.”
“Wait, what do you mean by that? Was the fighting spirit not quite as prevalent as in your days?”
“Ha! Have I really been in here so long that everyone’s turned to fighting? You hear that Johnathan? We’re all fighters now. You keeping me here didn’t change a thing.” He seemed both happy and angry, but there was nothing he could do. I wondered what Johnathan knew that his brother did not. Perhaps he was the one I should be talking to.
“Can I speak with your brother?” I asked, hoping to appeal to some kinder nature within him. I had no idea if it was present at all, but I had to try and quickly, Zao wouldn’t hold himself back forever. I could feel the countdown; each heartbeat brought him closer from some arbitrary number down to zero, where he would snap and kill any chance I had.
“Tch, he won’t answer me. I’m not even sure he can hear anymore, or would want to. He’s too dedicated to his stupid cause.” The man sounded wrathful, embittered, but I knew he was right. Had his twin wanted to talk, surely he would have spoken to us before, when he learned that I was friendly. I was losing hope, but I could not lost my focus, lest Zao lose his.
“How much longer do you think you’ll be alive down here?” I asked, quickly. I had to know what sort of time frame I had to learn more, and perhaps to come back when I had my answer.
“You think I keep track of time?” he laughed. “I’ll live however long I live, trapped down here by my own twin. You can kill me if you want, it doesn’t matter to me.”
That was all that Zao needed to hear, and he leapt forward, directly through me. He was too consumed to worry about stirring when he’d been given permission to kill. I moved as fast as I could, diving forward and beneath him to stop his broadsword with a swordbreaker of my own. “Damnit Zao! Don’t you lose it just because he’s too naïve to know better!” My twin pushed down against me, and the stone man laughed.
“Oh brilliant! Brilliant!” He laughed again. “That’s it, fight and kill your own twin! Do it in front of me!” I’d dropped the arrow, but it still burned on the floor. “Oh, I wish I could see this. I wish you could see it Johnathan!”
Zao hammered down onto me, apparently unaware that my weapon was meant to overpower his. “Fight it,” I told him “Fight it.” But still he kept swinging, trying to break past me to get the other twinsoul. The adrenaline pumping through fueled my own thirst for blood, and part of me wanted desperately to turn around and help him kill, but I had to fight that part of me, for both of us. He switched weapons, a spear and I barely had the time to lift myself and catch his swing. “Fight it!”
I finally reached him, the part deep down inside which I had helped him train. He dove back inside our body and I took a breath deep enough to calm the both of us. “Sorry to disturb you.” I stood up, fists clenched to keep Zao inside. “We’ll go.”
The stone man’s laugh followed us for two of the five hours it took us to reach the surface again. His haunting, conquering laugh. I vowed I’d make him regret that laugh, and for making Zao lose himself. It would just be a matter of time, not a matter of blood.
I smile, and my audience seems both nervous and content. They enjoyed the story, that much is obvious, but their reaction to my presence, or possibly just the presence of Zao within me. It’s impossible to gauge certain inner workings, like whether it’s you or the other person inside of you which incites fear in people you’ve just met. Either way, it makes me uncomfortable. “I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?”
“No. Not at all,” one of them responded, faking a smile for me. I wish honesty was more prevalent in society. Still, I can’t blame her. I think I’d be afraid of me too if I knew the things Charlie had told her. If I believed the things they still probably believe, then I’d know the fear they feel now, the one I have to conquer. In order to do that though, I’ll have to conquer Zao first, and the intensity that fuels us both. How to do that, though, is for another day.
I’m as polite as I can be in excusing myself, and head out to the rest of the camp. Charlie, to my surprise, follows. “Why didn’t you tell them the whole of what you said at the end? What you said to Zao, I mean. You said something about… I don’t even remember the exact words, but something about forcing him down, or breaking him, or something. But you didn’t say that to them. What gives?”
“It’s not something they need to know,” I explain. “It’s something no one needs to know, not even you, not unless I really need you to.” I walk away to our tent and sit down. Zao comes out and looks at me sternly.
“He’s too curious, and frankly I don’t like curious peo-ple.”
“I’m a curious person.”
“Yeah, yeah, but there’s nothing I can do about you.”
“You don’t really mean that. Do you?”
“Nah, you’re my twin. Even if I could do something about you, you’re too good a guy, really. I don’t kill good guys.”
“Unless they’re other twinsouls.”
“Yeah…” I can feel his shame. I know his shame. It’s the burden that only we can bear because we’re the only ones who really know anything about it. No one else knows what it’s like to have to control the desire to kill. No sane person has to do that, but all of us do.
“If he was telling the truth though, then we weren’t always like this. Something changed, and we’re going to figure out what.”
“I hope it’s soon, Tyr. As much as I like fighting, training, and honing my skills, it’s all… it’s hard to handle. It’s crazy when you… have to kill.”
“I know Zao. You know I know, you don’t need to tell me all this again.”
“I do, Tyr. It helps me meditate. But more than that,” our eyes lock, and his voice quiets to only a whisper in my skull, If I don’t remind myself, I almost enjoy it.

Chapter 3: Another and Another, Again
The morning brings with it a sense of overwhelming normality. Normality for a twinsoul, anyways, which is a lot different than normality for most humans. I wake inside of Tyr, in our bed, in his body. I wish I could sleep in my own form, but unconsciousness always pulls a soul back in. I roll myself out of him and onto the floor, catching myself with practiced ease on both hands and my toes. It keep me sharp, alert, and ready for anything. If I can catch myself a few seconds after waking, then nothing can defeat me.
Two-hundred push-ups and sit-ups, then 1,000 repetitions of everything I know how to do. Punches, kicks, using blades, bludgeons, blocks, and, my personal favorite, reweighting each weapon to make sure I’m truly competent. It’s a rush. It’s something that I wish Tyr enjoyed nearly half as much, but he only spars with me because he needs to stay alive. I need to just to feel alive.
There is a calming aspect to fighting, both when the rage kicks in and when it doesn’t. It feeds the rage, slowly satiating it, as Tyr would say, and it keeps it from giving me too much pleasure. The more common the experience of fighting, the less of a thrill it gives. The less thrill, the less adrenaline. The less adrenaline, the less the desire. I still can’t stop it from coming like he can. Tyr can control himself in a way I can only ever hope to reach. All of my training is physical, because I don’t know how to train my mind or my spirit without his help. It sickens me that I have to be so dependent on him for every single thing in my life. I can’t live apart from him, because my soul is just a part of his body.
Tyr emerges from the tent and narrows his eyes at the sight of my scythe half a blade deep in the ground. He’s displeased, but not for the same reasons he normally is. There’s something different about this disapproval, something in the way he says “What are you doing?” that makes me tighten my grip on the handle as I yank the scythe back out cleanly.
“I’m practicing. What’s it look like?”
“In the middle of a camp full of people who were dis-placed by twinsouls? This is a refugee camp, Zao, and you’re spinning your scythe around like that doesn’t matter. How can we convince them we’re a peaceful people if you’re summoning weapons in the middle of their encampment?” I hate it when he’s right all the time. I’ve seldom known him not to be.
“Well, I can’t just get rid of it.” Excuses are better than nothing. Better than silence.
“Then at least put it away in the tent. Gods above, I hope no one saw you.” That’s the part of me he absorbed peaking through. He’s darker because of my rage, and I’m lighter, so I let him have his way. When I’m done, I meet him outside. “We’ll do more meditation instead. It’ll help Zao, I promise.”
I can doubt it all I want, but I secretly know he’s right, again and again. “Yeah, sure.” We sit, close our eyes and clear our minds. Two minds, and two bodies with two souls, but we have to be one to live through it. If I can pull strength from Tyr, if I can use his inner strength as my own, then it’ll finally match our outer strength. The problem isn’t him, it’s me. Two strengths, the physical and the mental, one shared and one separate. Why it has to be that physical must be shared is obvious, even if it’s stupid.
I remove all of this from my head, and feed my avatar into my brother’s head, and he feeds his into mine. We meet halfway, in the mental space, and only nod as we swap places. I go to fight his demons, and he goes to fight mine. His are weaker, smaller than mine, but they don’t have the power to bind me like they do with him. My demons are the same, which is why I can’t fight them. It’s why no one can destroy their own demons, they can only conquer them. Bind them and keep them at bay. Here, in Tyr’s mind, I can destroy any demon I want, and then it’s gone. Well, the ones I can beat, at least.
Tyr’s doubt it intensely strong. He doubts himself and others secretly, suspecting that they suspect him, and even me. There’s another demon here too, one which I can’t find but which has found and thrown me out so quickly at times I’m shocked back into reality while Tyr’s still in my head. Each time I go in, I vow I won’t let it happen again, because it’s jarring to both of us, but I’m never sure if I can. That’s one of my demons, one which Tyr has yet to conquer. Maybe it hides from him too.
The smaller demons come for me, a dozen temporary worries that I cut down with my scythe. It really is my favored weapon. A symbol of the fearlessness of death. A weapon of pure power and an unashamed style. There are few weapons that compare to its power, and none that compare to its infamy. I’m searching for the big ones, but they know why I’m here and they’d rather not die today. Do fears have fears? I should wonder, but I find such questions as those to be annoyingly complex. What’s the point in thinking about things which have no answer?
It comes, Tyr’s largest worry. It’s a behemoth, towering above me at hundreds of times my height. I’ve never been able to do much more than pierce its hide once, so I let it pass on. It doesn’t notice me anymore, and I have much more profitable things to do with my time. I search for the more powerful fears, the ones which offer me a challenge, and which hold Tyr back.
More, tiny demons, and a faint sound in the distance. The sound is new. It’s a steady, rhythmic bass beat, but I can’t hear anything else to go with it. If this is a new demon to confront, I don’t like it. The sound reminds me of something, makes me feel something, but not actually. Here, my emotions are threads hanging off of my back which lead back to the real me. This avatar doesn’t understand emotions any more than it knows what Tyr’s doing back in my own mind. I don’t feel, but I do get tugged.
The bass beat grows louder. The closer I get to the source, the more it seems the source is also charging at me. It wants to meet me as much as I need to fight it. This demon must be powerful, to be able to affect even my own mind from deep within Tyr’s. It’s not music. It’s too steady, and no matter how close I get there’s no higher notes, no melody, just the steady rhythmic beats. It’s the sound of a single war drum. It’s huge and intense, and it calls me to my death. I run towards it.
The tugging of my emotional strings is now in step with the thudding of my feet and the pounding of the beat. It grows louder, but I don’t see a demon anywhere. Where is it? What is it? A sharp tug, like the demon throwing me back into my body, brings me there. I’m back in my own head, in the street, in myself, across from Tyr, but the beating is there in my own head now, and it’s suddenly all too familiar.
I close my eyes and breathe deeply. If I can’t see the twinsoul, I don’t feel the need quite as strongly to fight it, or to kill it. I wonder if Tyr’s back in his own mind yet, if he can hear it and is repressing it too. I hear his voice, but I’m still not sure if it’s only in my head or coming from his. “It’s alright, Zao. Hold it in, and perhaps they’ll pass us by. If we can just talk to them then we can solve these things.” I know he’s right. I think he’s right. I want to believe that he’s right, as he always is, but reason doesn’t work as well. Logic is a silly and stupid thing right now. It’s too distant to matter.
I have to keep it in mind that there’s nothing better in this world than knowing I don’t have to fight. But I was denied it earlier. Tyr kept me from releasing this and he’s wrong about this too. If he knew what was best for me, if he knows, he does. The beating continues, loud and clear. Tyr stands. I stand. I won’t let him have all the fun. I won’t let him have the satisfaction. “Hello there.” It’s his voice, and it grounds me again. There’s not supposed to be any satisfaction. It’s a lie the heartbeat tells me to get me to kill it. It wants to die. It wants me to sink a blade into it. “No, we don’t want to fight. Please, listen to me. You don’t have to fight us.”
That’s right, I don’t have to. I don’t have to but I do. I need to, to get rid of the heartbeat, to satisfy its wish and my calling. If Tyr won’t, then I have to, because it’s the right, wrong, thing to do. I open my eyes and see the other twins, the source of the beating heart. The source of my pain and my anger, the ones I should kill, stand with flaming armor, back to back, facing off with Tyr. Their armor is the fire that drives me. Their fire is the one burning inside me, telling me to attack. So I should listen. I should the fire what it wants or it will consume me. Surely the fire will destroy me for my disobedience.
Zao, calm down! Put your weapon away. It’s Tyr’s voice again, but it doesn’t come from his body. It’s a shouting in my mind. Don’t be a slave to it, Zao! You’re better than that! I am no slave. I have no master. I throw my broadsword to the ground at my feet. The fire can’t conquer me because it is powerless. Because I have the power, I will conquer it. I must repeat this. I must convince myself of this truth, or be devoured. No, nothing can devour me. I am stronger than anything that might try.
“See? We just want to be left alone. So, please, don’t do this.” Reason is more powerful than anger. Anger is the demon I must suppress so that Tyr can conquer it, so that I can be rid of it. I must bind it. Thud. I must seal it away. Thud. If I can seal it away. Thud. Can I? Am I powerful enough to seal it away? Thud. Or am I too weak after all my training? Will it conquer me no matter what I do? Will I succumb thud no matter what?
These questions pound at me, overshadowing whatever it is those disgusting twins in front of my brother are saying to him. They’re spinning their lies so they can stab us when our backs are turned. They want me to believe them, for Tyr to believe them, so they can get away with killing us. I won’t let them. I’ll have their heads before they can “Zao, no!” Tyr’s Katana pushes down my own, knocking it onto the ground. “Don’t you dare. They’re not going to hurt us.” He’s in front of me, blocking my view, consuming my view, rooting me. I know that he would never lie to me, even if they would. “I’m sorry to ask this, but could you both leave us? Just get yourselves to the other side of camp, please. We’ve only got a range of about 100 meters, so that’ll give you a good portion to explore. We’ll be out of here by the evening if you’ll give us the chance.”
His eyes are locked on mine, and won’t let go. The beating grows more faint as I fight to control it, and to let Tyr take hold. He can’t hold it back, but he can hold me still while it tries to take me away. I’m ashamed, but glad that I was able to hold on as much as I did. Tyr’s meditation sessions, his fights inside my brain, must be working. I’m hopeful, even if I wish I didn’t need him so much to keep me from chasing after the ever fainter heartbeats that soon disappear. I’m weaker than I look, than I pretend to be, and somehow I think Tyr knows that I know this. Is it really a fear if you accept it inside? I don’t know. “Thanks,” I tell him.
“Of course. You are my twin, after all. I’d do anything for you. Now, let’s get ourselves ready for the road. We need to leave by sundown.”
“Charlie won’t be too happy about it.”
“He doesn’t need to be,” Tyr says. “He always has the option of staying if he doesn’t wish to travel onwards with us. This isn’t his fight, or his journey. It’s ours.”

Chapter 4: Not All Roads
The winding path of the interstate through the mountains is certainly something to experience. If you haven’t, I recommend you do it at some point. The road is shaped around the mountains, not through them. The peaks jump up out of the ground, forming valleys. Do they take away from the land around them, or cause lows simply by being highs? I wonder what it’s like to be a poet, to be able to describe things like Tyr does. It’s wonderful to hear him speak, but not when I think of him upstaging me like yesterday. I’m not a poet. I have a gift for not being the best, but that doesn’t always make me the worst. Of course, in a two person competition, not being the best is equivalent to being the worst.
The mountains though, they don’t care. They’re towers of apathy who don’t lose or win, and maybe that’s how I should be. If I can just master the art of not caring, then maybe I don’t need to be a poet. If I can be a mountain, Tyr can be the wind, or the flowers, or whatever poets are. Whatever twinsoul poets are anyways. Is there a difference between twinsoul poets and regular ones? I wonder this as the roads winds and the mountains tower above me.
“Is it a smart idea to let Zao drive?” I ask, the thought coming at the exact time as the words.
“Zao’s perfectly capable of driving. Besides, in the passenger seat he has the ability to jump out of the seat, I’ll get out of range and he’ll just come slamming back. If he’s driving then he knows that any sudden changes could endanger me, therefore himself, and so he has no choice but to keep driving. Even if he tries to chase another twinsoul in this car, it won’t be that hard to stop him.” This explanation is acceptable, but I wonder how much he’s hiding. It seems like he’s always hiding something from me. No, it doesn’t just seem that way. He is.
“Okay. I guess that makes sense.” I wonder how much he’s hiding from me, and also how much he’ll keep hiding from me. Everyone’s got their secrets, and I’ve got plenty of my own, but still I wonder when it comes to Tyr. He’s so honest that when he’s hiding something it makes me suspect everything about him. Is his honesty hiding something else? How can I know? “Where’re we going again?”
“We’re heading North to Canada. I’ve heard stories that there’s another of the first twinsouls living up there, hidden from the rest of the world.” I wonder why he keeps chasing these older twinsouls, and what exactly this knowledge is he’s looking for. I know his goal is to make it so twinsouls and humans can coexist, and he’s trying to do it by calming twinsouls down so that they don’t fight anymore, but what could these older twinsouls know that we don’t already? Obviously, some twinsouls aren’t quite as bad as others, Tyr’s enough proof of that, but that doesn’t really change the group dynamic.
“Alright. But where exactly is he?”
“This twinsoul is actually supposed to be a she. I’m not entirely sure on where she’ll be.” Of course he’s not. “After all, if everyone knew her exact location then I doubt she’d still be alive.”
“So, we’re just gonna search all of Canada ‘til we find her?” It was Zao this time, not me. “Sounds like a great plan.”
“No, Zao. I know you were asleep when I learned all this, but she’s reputed to be in specific areas during each part of the year. So, it’s all about knowing what our timeline is and searching the area then.” It sounds like a decent enough plan to me. It also sounded completely insane, but what choice do I have in the matter? If I want to know more about twinsouls, and if I want any part in history, then this is my best bet. After all, who else is going to take me around the world, searching for some lost truth that’ll change the course of history? Maybe that’s an exaggeration on my part, but maybe, if Tyr’s right, it’s not.
The car ride lasts for nearly three days. Tyr and Zao take turns driving and sleeping, and I take my turns sleeping and trying to start conversations with one of them. Tyr’s much easier to talk with, since Zao thinks I talk too much. When we do talk, it’s mostly about Tyr and his dreams, his ideals, and his plans for the two of them. Zao seems like he respects Tyr, which is something I never thought I could say for Zao about anyone. I always figured that he was just too hard-headed and cold to actually feel any real emotions. Still, maybe that’s just because of the stirring that happened when they were younger. Maybe the real Zao was too cold and heartless, maybe that’s the real reason he killed that little baby. Or maybe I’m looking too much into things. When we’re not talking about Tyr, we’re usually talking about fighting and weaponry, the only other subjects Zao deems worthy of his time.
He knows an insane amount of facts and data concerning different fighting styles and techniques – from the most intense martial arts to the most pathetic child’s fighting style, assuming you can even call it that. Still, he knows why kids fight the way they do, and what the advantages and disadvantages of fighting like a child are. Admittedly, there’s basically nothing to the plus side, but it’s amazing to me that he can find a single redeeming quality in it, and even more so that he cares at all how kids fight. All of this is combined with the knowledge of nearly 1,000 different weapons, including the different ways to wield each, and how redistributing weight completely changes how effective a weapon is, and what way you can use it.
While we talk, I wish that I could train with him. A teacher like Zao could instruct me in ways of killing a man with no more than my bare hands, and would make certain that I had no flaws at all in my style. Of course, were he my teacher, then he’d probably also kill me in a practice fight. Whether this would be purposeful or accidental I can’t say for sure, but that’s why I’ve never asked him about lessons.
On the other side of things, Tyr and I talk about the scenery, my life, his life with Zao, and anything else that comes to mind. I don’t discuss lessons with Zao, because I’m never sure if Zao’s actually asleep, since he’s just inside Tyr. If he’s listening to everything I say, then he could easily just appear and reject me at once. I also don’t ask Tyr about lessons, because I know how much of a pacifist he is. In fact, besides the one scene in the cave, I’m not sure I’ve even seen him fight at all. In a whole month the only times he ever drawn a weapon is when it’s absolutely necessary for our survival, but he’s never actually fought anyone or anything. I wonder if he really can fight, or if he just leaves it to Zao when there’s no other option. Still, he’s got the build to be a fighter.
“Do you ever actually fight, Tyr?” The question is, once again, as sudden to me as it must be to him. Even so, he smiles at me before he answers.
“I try my best not to… but yeah, I do sometimes.” He sounds sad to me. It’s understandable for a pacifist to sound that way about any sort of battle, or so I assume. I’ve never really met a pacifist before Tyr, and it’s especially odd because he comes from a race that’s known for fighting. Maybe he’s only sad because he’s a twinsoul that’s a pacifist. But how can I know for sure? Even if I ask, won’t he just have the same questions for me? I decide not to ask about the sadness, but I’m not done with the overall topic just yet.
“Are you any good?”
He laughs. I’m sure it’s not directed at me, but I’m still not sure what’s so funny about the question. “I’m nearly as good as Zao is. I don’t practice as much, so I’m not quite as capable, but we share physical strength and muscle memory. So, anything he can do, I should technically be able to do too. I just don’t always know that I can do it, which makes Zao a bit more useful in a fight than I am.” He smiles at me, taking his eyes off of the road just long enough to communicate something that I don’t pick up on. “So, yeah. I guess I’m pretty good.”
“What’s fighting like? I’ve heard Zao’s version of it, but I want to know what you think.” It seems like an innocent enough question, but I can never be too sure.
“It’s…” he exhales deeply and focuses on the road, “It’s the sort of thing you never quite forget. Fighting is as intense as it gets. There’s nothing like knowing that you’ll die in the next instant if you slip up, or that your whole world depends on factors you’ve practiced and practiced, but are never sure if they’re good enough. Overconfidence will kill you, underconfidence will kill you. A lack of preparation is harder to recover from in a fight than in nearly anything else. The odds aren’t calculable. It’s never as simple as a red wire or a blue wire, instead it’s the combination of hundreds of dozens of things, and each one is vitally important. You can practice for a fight, but no two fights are ever the same.” He pauses and closes his eyes. The only reason I don’t panic is that it’s a straightaway.
“It’s terrifying. It’s worse than falling off a cliff because then you know you can’t do anything. It’s horrifying because you know that if you ever can’t do anything to win a fight, it’s usually your own fault. You didn’t practice enough, or try hard enough to tilt the odds in your favor. Your opponent has, and oftentimes it’s because he wants the fight, craves it like it’s food, or water. Zao, I imagine, already told you that he enjoys the thrill of knowing all this, of knowing that the odds are incalculable until the very last moment, but for me it’s never something to celebrate. It’s a rush, but that’s just the adrenaline speaking. Combat is the only evil that will always be necessary so long as there are people who enjoy the rush of fear; people who want to die, or to kill; people who are too stupid to fight with words, or know that they’d lose in such a fight and so never even try.” He opens his eyes again, just before a curve. Does he know when it’s coming? Can he somehow feel it?
“Battle, fighting, combat, war. Whatever you wish to call it, it’s all the same in the end. It’s men against other men, proving that we’re all beasts at some level.” As another silence hovers in the air, I wonder if he’s going to continue, or if he’s actually done this time. I wait for half a minute before even thinking of replying.
During this time, I ponder on all he’s said, and on the things he might not have said to ‘save me’ from whatever burdens he’s carrying. Zao had loved fighting, saw it as a release. Tyr hated it, he thought that it made men beasts. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Or is it even as simple as all that? I don’t know, and I can’t say for sure since I’ve only ever seen fights, not been in them. There must be something about being in a fight that makes it different than just watching it, something that solidifies your beliefs about what one means. “I see…” It seems like a pathetic excuse for something to say, but I’m not competent enough to have a better response. We spend the next hour in complete silence, as we wind ourselves through the mountains and over them. I feel alone, even with two other souls in the car with me, because in the direction I’m looking, there’s not a single soul in sight.

Chapter 5: Not One, But Two
This search is a long and treacherous one. We’ve been in this forest for the better part of four days already, searching for any sign that someone might be living out here besides us, and haven’t even begun to find clues. We’re far enough away from even the nearest remote village that I wonder at the safety of our companion should we encounter something truly dangerous. As of yet, it’s only the cold that seeps deep into our flesh and bones, trying to rid us of our will to live. The feeling reminds me of darkness, except that in this scenario my enemy isn’t the only thing I see, it’s hiding inside of everything. I imagine that this twinsoul we’re searching for, whomever she may be, perhaps has the same power, so that we could look straight into her eyes from only a few feet away and never know because of her perfect deception. It would certainly explain the lack of clues as to her whereabouts now, but not the supposed sightings of a woman. If someone has seen her without intent to, then surely our purpose will reveal her whereabouts in due time. I can only pray that this time comes swiftly, because while weapons are easy enough to call, food here must be hunted, and therefore a time-consuming process should we run out of what we’ve packed in.
Zao I spend most of our time at half the distance we’re allowed from each other now, sweeping a larger area in order to best improve our odds. I considered, when we arrived, splitting the party into two to allow night shifts, but the darkness in the north, along with the nocturnal animals causing a flurry of strange shadows, would only lead to a restless night for all. Perhaps she knows this, this other twinsoul, and she uses it to her advantage. If so, I fear we may never find her, and, if so, then I wonder how those men who told me the stories ever spotted her as another shadow in the night. I briefly consider the possibility that this is all just another goose chase which Zao will resent, but I cannot give in simply because he is unhappy. He was unhappy, and even unwilling, to start the meditation exercises, but they’ve proven more valuable than either of us can calculate.
Charlie too, is unhappy about having to spend so much time out in the cold. He’s from the middle of Texas, an arid, intense region by any standards, and so the frozen winds and chilling air bite into him the hardest. More often than not, he is the reason we must slow our search, or even put it on hold for a short while to allow him to recover and resume. We build him fire after fire, but there is no way to keep him completely warm other than to acclimate him, and to do so would take years which we don’t have. I think of asking him to go back to the last village, of leaving him there so that Zao and I can more effectively search, but when I first suggested it he had no intention of being left behind. He insists that we need his help, and that he wants to stay with us for the full experience, not only a half of it. I admire his bravery and determination, but if the worst should happen I’m unsure if we could get him to help in time.
For Zao and I, the worst would more than likely be the end. It’s not often a surgeon will offer help to a twinsoul, even when they’re obviously dying and there’s something to be done about it. Medical ethics would disagree with these doctors who refuse us, but many are too afraid to follow what they know is right, or they consider not helping us to be of a greater service to mankind, since restoring us would mean more death and destruction. I haven’t studied the full code of ethics that the medicinal wing practices, but even if I had then I could not blame these men and women for their actions. So long as they are doing what they feel is right, who am I to judge them? Let them judge me, because no one can stop that, but I will not bow my head so low as to become them.
The hours pass and there is still no sign. There are trees, fresh and sparkling with midday frost; there are stirring clouds in the sky, only ever disturbed by the air currents that speed them along; there are some deer, some moose, and even a single fox, but there is no sign of a woman with two souls. There is no heartbeat, no footprints, and not even a rustling beyond the animals that I’ve already described. This is the game that hunters play with their quarry. They wait for their moment, following trails so faint that many would label them as insane for their actions. It’s at a time like now that I wish Zao or I had learned these ways. It’s at a time like this which even my spirits start to fall. I can’t let Charlie know this, or his morale and body temperature are sure to fall in unison, but I’m aware that Zao can sense it, and quietly beg him not to let the information loose.
Should Charlie know, we’ll surely have to go back. We can’t give up on this search now, not at least for another day.,/i> I explain this the same way that I’ve explained it to Zao before. Each time before we spoke mentally while we were out searching. Charlie would be with Zao, so the silence, however sudden it may have been, was never as disturbing as mine surely would have seemed.
<i>And if we still don’t find anything, then what? Should we keep going out here until we die or can’t find our way back to the car? I’m not gonna die out here just because of some rumors that, for all we know, are just lies to get us to do just that.
He sounds angry, but no more than yesterday. It means that I can still make him hold out for a while longer.
<i.We still have enough food to make it through tomorrow and then back to the village. Let’s keep going for now, Zao, and I swear that if we don’t find anything then we’ll let this be for a while. You can even choose our next destination.</i> Although resorting to bribery isn’t my favorite way to coerce someone, it’s certainly better than trying to force Zao to do anything while he’s in his right mind. I’ve fought battles I knew I’d lose before, and now isn’t the time for one of them.
There’s a noticeable pause, the same one as the day before when I pleaded for another two days. So long as my arguments have been consistent, I know that there’s less reason for dissent. Eventually, he tells me I don’t like all this, but you’re my brother. I’ll give you one more day, and then we’re heading to California. I need a vacation.
I can’t help but smile, and he knows, even at half-a-football field’s length away, that this is all too true. As you wish. Zao’s insistence on referring to me as his brother is something I consider often. Although I know it’s as true in more ways than just the obvious, I can’t help but feel that it’s a bit unnerving to other people. We’re brothers in arms, fighting for the same cause, brothers in spirit and blood (as literally as that phrase can be interpreted), and we’re, of course, technically identical twins. Still, I find that when we called each such more openly, many gave us disturbed looks. How could it be true that two people who shared a body could be two separate people? To many we’re not even human, and so the term is supposed to be foreign to us, alien and strange. I’m never quite certain as to why this is, but for now I keep my usage in-check whenever I’m not speaking directly to Zao. Tender sensibilities are the last thing we need to be offending in a situation as delicate as ours.
The search continues through the rest of the day and stops two hours after nightfall. The previous days we let things end when the sun set, for all of my previous reasons, but I felt that tonight, as potentially our last night, was the most important, and therefore required just a bit of extra effort. It hasn’t turned out as profitable as I’d originally hoped, however, and these last two hours have been spent with many a shadowy spook, but no actual sightings. I’ve resolved to stay awake tonight, and to keep a watch despite the futility of it. Zao has no troubles with this since he knows the plan to leave tomorrow, and after I explained it to Charlie, his fears and hesitations have been more than quelled as well. He’s looking forward to California.
I’m alone now, in the respect that I’m the only one awake around a fire made of a flaming arrow and bo-staffs that can be eternally summoned and added. The firelight is gentle, but strong and healthy. Charlie sleeps, bundled up in all of his gear still, even inside his sleeping bag. Zao is locked safely inside of my body, and therefore has no real need for all of that added protection against the cold. So long as I’m bundled up and near the fire, nothing can chill him except for himself. The Northern Lights aren’t out tonight, and part of me wishes that I had such ethereal colors to keep me company. Instead, I have the distant stars and the light of the gibbous moon to keep me company.
“What is it about the night?” I ask myself quietly, not believing that anyone can hear me. The question is a compilation of a million other questions, but it’s a nice summary. The questions range from the most simple, which include why the night is so dark if sunlight is reflected off of the moon, to the most prevailing questions, which include the deeper, darker questions that I feel I must ask in order to stay sane. What is it about the night, I ask again in my head, which brings men the fear of death and the hollowness that being along in the daylight never seems to cause? What is it about the night, I wonder, that inspires nothing of faith, and yet something of love in romantic poets? What is it about the night that would make her so prone to traveling now? Some of these I’ve answered a dozen times before in my own head, or in conversation with others, but never is there an answer satisfactory enough to satiate my hunger for knowledge. Perhaps, in that sense, I am a philosopher, never content with any given answer, not even if it’s the last one I need.
I don’t expect the heartbeat as a reply to anything, but it comes in the midst of my questions and alerts me to the presence of a dangerous being. I’m not certain that this danger is immediate except in that it will wake Zao, but a heartbeat is never a sign of anything about to go well. I force these thoughts away and console myself. A heartbeat is never a signal of evil, it’s a signal for life. If there’s a heartbeat this far into the woods, pumping necessary blood and warmth through someone’s veins, then it must be the woman I’ve been searching for. She’s close enough now for me to follow her should I need to, and I can sense the direction the thuds are coming from, so I know which way to look should I choose not to now.
She must also know of my presence, since I’ve never known a twinsoul with a shorter range of detection than Zao and I. We’ve only got 30 meters of range, and most twinsouls know when you’re within half a mile of their location. It’s an insanity to think that I’d have to control Zao for such a large range, and perhaps that’s why no one else has done what we’re doing right now. Why no one else is searching for these answers that plague me nearly as much as the desire that tries to take over when those heartbeats do reach my ears and slip into my very mind, demanding that I listen and obey. I choose not to, and so their power over me wanes. Zao tries to choose not to, but his inner demons are much stronger than my own. His wild nature gives them strength, gives them courage; it gives them power immeasurable and expansive. Zao’s demons are fed and bred with each other to form more perfect fears and inhibitions, whereas mine are, for the most part, kept separate to avoid just such a fate.
The heartbeat grows louder, and inside of the depths of my being, Zao slowly stirs himself awake. He can hear the heartbeat growing louder at a rapid rate. The twinsoul must be running towards us. Is it for companionship? Or a darker, more sinister intent? Whatever the cause, I can’t let myself be caught off guard. I stand up and turn towards the sound of the heart, ready to make the blade that my words normally possess into a living weapon, forged from my ambition. Zao, too, is ready. He’s more prepared than I am, or ever will be. He keeps himself from charging, but I can tell that the part of him which drives him to kill has the upper hand, having woken him from sleep. Please, fight it until we know. I know he will, but I must reassure him of this. I can feel the relief, the relaxation of his muscles when he receives my words. It’s not much, but it’s something. Hold on.
The darkness around us thickens, ever so slightly, and with the thudding heartbeats come the crunching footsteps, signaling the compaction of snow. They’re not slowing down, but I still can’t see whoever it is. Perhaps she is invisible, and can avoid detection by diverting all light away. Even then, I should be able to see footprints, should be able to discern, if even just for a moment, the touch of the sole of snow. Yet, there is nothing wherever I look, and the sounds grow louder.
The knife comes against my neck as a swift shock, colder than the ice or the air. She is behind me, wrapped around me so that Zao cannot emerge and knock her away. I realize, quickly, that there’s another knifepoint pressed just above my heart, ready to plunge at any sudden movements. She doesn’t have to say a thing. All of her words, explicit or implicit, are succinctly tied up in her blades. Still, I wish she would begin the conversation so that I needn’t do it myself. How should I know if talking will even get us anywhere, if she won’t kill us at the first syllable? I can’t risk it.
“So, why not just kill us?” It’s Zao’s voice, but it comes out of my mouth. I wonder how long he’s known he can do this, or if he knew before now. It’s a stranger feeling than refusing, or separating. You’re able to control my body? I wonder how far this power extends. It makes sense, such should be the logic behind two souls sharing a single body, and yet he’s always had his own ‘body’ whenever he wanted to speak or move about. This is a first in many ways, I imagine, for all of us.
“Now why would we do that?” The voice is certainly female, but it sounds far younger than the man we found in the cave. Perhaps she’s not the woman we thought she’d be. Maybe though, she can take us to her.
“Well, I figure you don’t ambush somebody if you’re not going to kill them.” Zao is surprisingly calm right now. Is it because he knows there are no other options? Or does he enjoy conversations at knifepoint? I remind myself to ask him later, because now’s not the time to voice such things.
“Then you’re quite naïve, we’re afraid. Half of the fun of luring people out here with the story of the old lady is the ambush, the other half is killing them slowly. After all, so few of us come out here in the first place, so we have to enjoy what we can, while we can.” So, the story was a lie after all. It’s a shame to think it, but it was a risk we had to take. I wonder if Zao sees it that way, or if he resents me for the fate it seems we’re now destined for. Charlie is still asleep, to my knowledge, and I don’t wish to think any worse. It’s best that way, for if he were awake then things would surely turn from bad to worse.
“Well, not like you’re a psycho bitch or anything.” I try to keep myself from stiffening, but the suddenness of Zao’s comment makes me tense. Fortunately, the strange, sadistic woman doesn’t seem to mind. She makes a sound like the start of a laugh, but nothing more. “So, you really think you can keep us both under lockdown?” Zao’s arm muscles are tightening, but not mine. He’s using his own form discreetly, and it makes me wonder how much control he actually has over his rage. Obviously, this woman is so psychotic that her own rage, her anger, has taken her mind to level of its own. I wonder if Zao has succumbed as well, but he feels no different to me, so I excuse it.
“Oh, of course we can. We’ve done it before many times, with much stronger ones than you.” She licks the back of my neck, and the shock of it nearly sends my head reeling forwards. Zao resists me though, and holds me still. It feels like my muscles have two minds, like there are muscles made of vapor which are somehow stronger than my own, keeping them still. If Zao knew he could do this, he made no mention of it. It frightens me in a way that death no longer does, in a way that these knives wish they could. If only this woman knew how to scare me like Zao did with this simple act. He curls my hands slowly in, pointing unformed hilts towards each of the woman’s hands, and I realize what he’s about to do.
There’s no other way, he tells me softly in my mind, as though the twinsoul behind us can hear even our thoughts.
I know. There is no more to say, and no more for me to do than to accept my brother’s will, and put my faith in him.
“Now, if you don’t want us to kill you too soon, then be good little boys and-“ the shrieks that interrupt her pierce the night and scatter sleeping birds. Charlie, behind us, jumps up with his own yell of terror. Before I can turn, Zao pulls out of me, weapons forming in his hands. By the time I turn around, he’s already pinned the woman to the ground, a heavy blade embedded through each limb. Fire-lit blood stains the snow, my brother, and the woman. She’s in too much shock from the initial pain to realize what must be overwhelming agony that will soon course through her. Zao holds his scythe above his head, ready for the final blow, but he doesn’t take it.
The pounding in my head, stuttered now, calls out to me to end its life before the blood from its limbs reaches its core and infects it with pain. I ignore it. Even if I were to give in, I couldn’t get there before Zao’s scythe. He’d sense my movement and stop me, one way or another. I watch, silently. Charlie, across from us, gapes in horror, and then turns to vomit into the snow, unable to watch. It’s Zao who finally speaks; his voice is louder than any pain.
“You dared to lie. You dared to trick Tyr into bringing me up here just so you could kill us. You dared to fantasize and to revel in a pleasure that only the damned should enjoy. You dared to think, for even an instant, that I was weak.” The blades Zao has stuck into her hands to make her release us bleed heavily, but nowhere near as much as the larger weapons jutting out of her arms. She looks scared, maddeningly scared, but I’m unable to tell if this is a new feature, because I’ve never seen her before this moment. “And worst of all,” Zao continues, the finality in his voice silencing even the heartbeat, for just a moment, “You dared to touch my brother.” His grip tightens tremendously, and I can both see and feel his arms muscles moving in for the kill. “So, for that…” He tosses the scythe and kicks her firmly between her legs. I’m not sure if it causes her any more pain, because I ‘m not sure anyone can feel more pain than she must be experiencing right now. “For that I’m going to let you bleed to death here, in the cold, with no one to save you.”
I’m not sure whether or not I should feel pride in Zao’s sudden strength, or disgust at his lack of pity, or any emotion. He walks over to me, and disappears inside, blocking himself from my mind. It’s something he’s only done once before, and I can feel his shame leaking beyond the barrier of his mind. I have to get him away from the heartbeat, and bring Charlie too.
“Come, Charlie. We must go…” As Charlie struggles to get around the fire without looking or listening to the woman, I take just a moment longer to study her blood-soaked face. She’s paler than the snow, or the moon. A white beyond white, which matches her bleached hair. I imagine it’s a mix of too much sunlight, as well as too little. The red flicks and splotches of crimson that cover her are fitting for what little I know of her personality, but also sickening, because I’ve only seen blood so red once before. Charlie reaches me, and I rush off into the night and the trees with him until we’re beyond the sound of the heartbeat; then further, beyond the sound of even the screams; and further, beyond exhaustion, before finally settling in to a sleepless night.
We leave for California in the morning, and try to forget the whole way there.

Chapter 6: Vacation
The beaches of California are something worth living for. The sand, the surf, the scantily clad women. It’s such a large jump from the harsh winter of the north that it’s hard to imagine we’re even on the same planet. I mean, honestly, who wouldn’t love a place like this? Well, besides Tyr. Tyr’s never been much of one for all of this, but that’s just another difference between us, I suppose. I’m trying to have a good time, and he’s trying to hone his mind.
I don’t see why I can’t have a bit of fun. That Canada thing was a huge success for me. I didn’t kill her, I just left her to die. That’s not nearly as bad. It’s not. So, I’m giving myself a vacation. That’s what this is supposed to be, after all.
Tyr’s been different too, these past couple of days. Ever since the incident he’s been distant to me, not that much, but I can tell he’s not content when we speak. I wonder if it’s how I let her die, with those flamberges in her arms and legs, gushing fresh blood into the snow. I wonder if it’s why I let her die, so that she could feel the emotion she loved to watch. I wonder if he’s just unhappy I didn’t talk the issue out. I can never know with Tyr, so I’m focusing my attention of the beach and the beach babes. There aren’t quite as many out as there would be in the summer, but there’s still enough skin here for any young man for to be satisfied. I even think Charlie’s gotten over it, because he sure seems to be loving the sun.
That’s the kind of attitude Tyr should have, but instead he sits on the beach in his long shorts, and reads. He’s even wearing a shirt, for crying out loud. I don’t know what to do with him. The lovely ladies on the beach and in the water, however, well, there’s always plenty of things to do with them. Not that I can do anything, not with this connection between Tyr and I. He’d feel every single thing I did, even if it was dumbed down a bit by distance. I couldn’t do that to him, not even for something as simple as a little bit of intimacy. He’s still my brother, after all. I can always do kissing, of course, so right now I’m out prowling for a girl with just the right kind of lips. Just thinner than my finger, and just thick enough to hold between my teeth and nibble on. The color doesn’t really matter, just so long as she tastes sweet.
There’s a specific art to hunting for women, just like there’s an art to wielding a specific weapon. You have to know what the weapon is made for like you have to know what a woman wants. You have to hold and dance with each unique woman the same way you practice a different style for each weapon. Most importantly though, you have to know that if you mess up, death and dismemberment are the usual side-effects. Still, nothing beats the rush of a kiss, at least, nothing I can have. I’ve been wishing I wasn’t a virgin for nearly ten years now, and yet my brother keeps me celibate. I know how nuns feel better than they do. It’s crazy.
There’s a girl here on the beach I’ve had my eye on for nearly a half hour now. She’s here with two friends, and they’re all just old enough to know how to really kiss. But her, well, she’s got just the right lips. They’re a soft pink, littered with glittery lip balm. They literally sparkle in the sunlight. She’s not a model, but that’s what makes her so good. Models don’t come to the beach for guys who just want to kiss, so there’s no point in even looking at them. No, the best girls are the ones with just bit less hourglass, but still with kickin’ curves. That’s this girl. I’ve been waiting to kiss a girl like this for months now.
I’m up at the edge of the surf, making sure to stay within my range of Tyr, but far enough away not to be associated with him. Of course, I’m only really fooling myself. Anyone with an IQ high enough to not be broccoli would notice Tyr and I were twins. I just need to make sure she doesn’t see before we kiss. People are fine with twins if they know they’re ‘actually’ twins, but when you first meet someone there’s really no telling. I’ve heard that regular people have developed methods of detecting twinsouls, and the usual method is to check for twins like Tyr and I. We look so much alike, the colors are just different. It’s not intensely obvious. It’s not like I’m black and he’s white or anything, but that’s how it is for our hair, our eyes, and even our birthmarks. So, just as long as I can keep her from studying either of us too closely, or get her alone before she can recognize his features and link them with mine, I’ll be fine. Easier said than done.
I approach her slowly in the waves, watching them crest up and down instead of directly looking at her. I send her glances carefully, tactfully, making she that either she, or one of her two friends catches each look. It’s not hard to do, girls time their glances in these sorts of situations. So long as I know the timing, I don’t stare, or miss the important looks. I’m not creepy, but nor am I aloof. I’m simply a flirt.
It takes nearly half an hour before one of the girls wades to me. It’s usually the most confident of the two friends that they send, if they’re only going to send one. Of course, sending one means that she’s not a total gossip. Gossip girls send gaggles to figure things out, since one girl can’t be trusted to tell the whole story. It’s good that she’s not one of them, I’d rather not have it get around who I am. I can see the headlines now: Twinsoul Pervert on the Beach. Yeah, that’d be great. I smile at her as she approaches. I’m the epitome of charm.
“Hi,” she says, on behalf of my future kiss, “Were you looking our way earlier, by any chance?”
It’s cute that she’s direct, but only just. I smile again. “Yeah, I was looking at your friend there. She’s gorgeous.” She giggles delightedly, swishing the water around with one hand as she listens. Beyond her, my kiss is whispering to her second friend, the less confident one, and stealing glances my way every few seconds.
“Oh, you think so?” The girl smiles. “Let me introduce you then. I’m sure she’d love to hear that such a handsome guy thinks things like that about her.” She’s being evasive trying not to steal her best friend’s guy, even when I’m unclaimed. Again, it’s cute. Useless and certainly kind, but mostly just cute. She leads me to her, mouthing signals to her friends, which are now watching us closely. They take it in giggles, and forget I’m watching. It’s nice to be the center of attention, and yet have no one paying attention to you.
The two friends sidle around behind my objective, and she smiles at me. “Hi there.” I’m not sure why women in particular always start with ‘hi’, instead of any other greetings. It’s almost too formal. “So…”
“I saw you looking at me,” I say. It’s easier to tease than to start actual conversations. Flirting has time limits, and the sooner you start, the sooner you get to the point.
She gasps playfully and then laughs. “You were the one staring at me!” Her accusation isn’t nearly as bad as it probably should be. Tyr would say that that’s the problem with people today: they open themselves up so easily, but the moment they figure out they’re wrong, or think they’re wrong, then suddenly it’s your fault. I don’t mind if people end up hating me. If girls like this leave me in such deep scorn that they slander me in diaries and blogs the world over, then that’s fine so long as I can get a kiss or two. People hate me for no reason other than my birth, so I may as well enjoy what I can.
“Okay, you got me. But I couldn’t help it.” She doesn’t need to ask the question to this aloud, it’s implied in the way these conversations always go. “You’re gorgeous, and I’ve al-ways found trouble not staring at gorgeous things.” Her friends are in the ‘aww’ mode now, officially. It’s not a question of whether or not I’m just good-looking anymore. I’m a good guy too, and that’s far more kissable than just rugged good looks. I feel I owe all this to Tyr, because without our stirring I don’t think I could’ve ever been this suave. Not only that, but he’s the one who taught me how to talk to girls. He never flirts himself, and yet he taught me so much. I don’t know how or where he learned it all, but it sure has earned me more kisses than just looking good. Maybe he never intended it this way. “I hope I’m not being too forward.”
“No, no. Of course not.” There’s urgency in her voice, but it’s almost brutally fake. “I think you look really good too.” Her friends giggle behind her back, traces of the conversation they had before I was called over.
“Thanks.” There’s no way to ask a girl to splash around in the water with you. I’ve tried a dozen different ways, using verbs and eloquence that only Tyr could’ve taught me, and yet nothing works better than just starting it. So, I splash her. She mocks fury, and I lead her away from her friends with large and small splashes as she fights back. She’s got good aim, and strong arms. It’s refreshing when a girl’s not too ‘dainty’ to really splash back. After all, bigger waves are bigger desires. They’re desires that can be fulfilled though, as opposed to hidden ones that never make a splash. Urges below the waves that I just can’t enjoy. Her lips shine with saltwater and glitter now, making them all the more tempting.
We splash around for a few minutes, and I dance with her in the water, ever so slightly. She doesn’t know we’re dancing, but I do. It’s a clever little maneuver I picked up from years of flirting. Every woman secretly likes to dance, or at least every girl I’d ever kiss, and so I use that to my advantage. I swish around her, stepping through the water, and bringing my body heavily through it to compensate for the resistance. She follows me instinctively, closer and closer. We circle, we stare, and I graciously allow her the honor of coming in the last few inches before our bodies touch. I wonder if Tyr’s watching.
Her breath is warm and soft against my lips, and I can look into her eyes and see her one and only soul. I can’t imagine how it feels for her to see my eyes, because I see them so often that I’ve forgotten any beauty they might hold. No, all of my beauty is in her lips. We kiss, and the taste of salt water mixes with her unique taste, one I’ll have to forget. She’s sweet, and even soft, but there’s no point in trying to think this’ll be more than a dozen kisses in the sea. Once she knows, then my vacation’s over. We kiss, and kiss again. Her tongue meets mine, and the salty taste fades into only her. She’s as sweet as she looked when I watched her, and I hope Tyr doesn’t mind too much. This is my vacation, after all.
I enjoy her while I can. I hold her and kiss her, and never let her hands explore too far. Or mine. I can’t indulge, not even a little more, or I know how it’ll end. I must appear noble to her, because she tells me I’m sweet. She tells me so many things that don’t matter, because I won’t see her tomorrow. And even if I do see her tomorrow, she’ll know by then. They always figure it out so quickly. I’m never sure who tells them, or how exactly they figure it out, maybe Tyr goes and talks to them in the middle of the night. Whatever it is, it’s fine by me. Who wants a girl that judges based on the number of souls you have, right? Of course, I know Tyr feels the sting a bit more than I do.
“What’s the matter?” the question seems to come from left field. One moment we’re kissing, and the next she’s asking questions.
“What do you mean?”
“You stopped kissing me, and you were staring off at the beach.” She sounds concerned, and I’d be touched if I thought she’d still mean it in a few seconds. I don’t see the point in lying.
“I was just thinking about my brother. He’s right over there on the beach, and I know it’s hard for him to see me like this.”
“Why? Is he jealous?” There it is. She’s sickening now.
“No. He doesn’t need trivial things like a make-out session with some random chick on the beach.” Her look is the same, even though it’s for a different reason. That mix of shock and terror, of shame for ever kissing a guy like me. “We’re twinsouls, you know. Born and raised.” The deeper shock, the more base terror. They settle in now, chilling her very blood despite the evening heat. I’ll miss her lips, but I don’t know why I ever found her attractive. “You can run away screaming if you want. You can slap me and storm off to find the police. It doesn’t matter. We’ll be gone by the time anyone gets here. But thanks for the ki-“ The slap is always necessary, but the unhealthy rage is new.
“Well you don’t have to be a jerk about it!” I’m more than a little taken aback, as Tyr would say. Did she just not hear me? Or did I really just ruin my chances with someone that’s that good of a person? “God, just get away from me. I can’t believe you’d use me like that.” She wades off in the most angry way I find possible, and I watch. What else can I do, after all? By the time she’s back on the beach with her friends, I’m just getting out of the water, dumbfounded. Charlie’s nearby, and he laughs.
“Struck out on that one, eh? She figured out you kill for a living?” His frustrating voice is almost too much, but I’m also too apathetic now. He might be joking, but it’s certainly not the time for me. I walk back to Tyr, sit down, and wait. I know, just like Charlie, that he’ll have something to say. He has something to say about all of them, each and every girl. It’s the same speech, given a different way. Points for ingenuity, I guess.
“You feel more tense than usual. Something different about this one?”
“Look, I don’t have to def-“ I pause. I mostly pause because he’s not giving me a speech; he’s asking real questions. Ain’t that a bitch. Tyr really is a better guy than I give him credit for, and I here I am thinking I’ve already given him enough. “Yeah, there was. She didn’t really care that I was a twinsoul. Or, at least she didn’t really say anything about it. She’s the first one to ever only be mad that I called her easy. A cheap thrill.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have told her that first.” Why he’s always right is beyond me, but it doesn’t change it. He might not know all the facts, but he’s rarely been truly wrong in the end. That’s assuming there’s a different between being wrong and truly wrong. There is, I assume, but the world is almost never black and white, to be cliché, again.
“Yeah. But how was I supposed to know she wouldn’t hate me anyways?”
“You never do. That’s usually why I try being nice to people regardless of how they treat me.” There’s the speech, but at least I asked for it this time. He’s always been just one step ahead of where I should be thinking. It’s probably because he’s the original and I’m just the extra soul in the neighborhood. Probably, but I’ve never been sure of it. No one’s ever done real research on twinsouls, to our knowledge, and so I guess there’s nothing to know. Or, at least nothing anyone’s cared enough to explain.
“Well, whatever. I’m usually a jerk anyways, so I guess if she can’t accept that then that’s that.” Problem solved.
“You don’t really think you can lie to me about stuff like that, do you Zao?” I guess it’s not solved after all. He’s right, but he’s also wrong. He knows that I’m a jerk deep down, but he also knows it’s not the whole truth. We’ve had this conversation before, at least a hundred times, but it never seems to stick with either of us.
“Look, just drop it this time, okay? I thought she was nice and she’s gone now. I messed it up and I’d just rather relax than worry about it, okay?”
“Okay.” He really is some sort of saint. Too bad he never bought into any religion we ever looked into, he’d make pope in no time.
I spend the rest of the day, and most of the morning, thinking about what to do with my second day of vacation. I only have a week, so I need to spend every moment in some way I normally can’t. I end up hitting the mall, looking around with Tyr and Charlie at new clothes and new music. Tyr manages to find and read an entire book where the only twinsoul present is the big bad guy. They do it in videogames a lot too, and if we’re good guys it’s only because we’ve somehow lost the other soul. They have no idea what that really does to us.
If Tyr ever dies, I die with him. His body isn’t mine, and my body’s only based on his. It’s a fake, a replica, and unless his moves, mine won’t, so I’ll die one way or another. If I die, well then Tyr’d be only half himself. We saw a guy like that a while back. He’d lost his twin in a fight, and he then let go. He barely slept, barely ate. He didn’t enjoy anything anymore. He’d told me he was so completely empty that he wanted to kill himself, but he couldn’t even muster up the strength. I didn’t sleep for two days after meeting him, and neither did Tyr.
It’s not until the fifth day of vacation that I run into Jenna again, in a different part of town. Tyr notices her first, and when she makes a beeline for us I can feel the slap coming. When it doesn’t, it’s sort of nice.
“So, you weren’t lying.” She sounds pleased at this, but doesn’t look it. Her arms are folded across her breasts, rather than under them. She’s being stand-offish, not flirty. “I thought you said you’d be long gone by now.”
“I thought I said you’d go get the police too, but you didn’t.” Tyr’s staying out of it, standing off to the side, examining something I can’t see. “So, what’s up?” I could just let her lead the conversation, but in my experience that’s never the best way of dealing with women. Either you lead, or they destroy what little pride you might have.
“I’m just here to ask you why you’re such a jerk. I guess what they say about twinsouls is true, huh?” This is really Tyr’s area of expertise. I’m far too much a ‘typical’ twinsoul to be answering questions. Plus, Jenna and I have a history which would make all of her questions a lot less threatening.
“Not entirely. My brother’s basically a saint, but I’m a bit closer to the rumors. I didn’t exactly kill my last opponent though, if it makes you feel any better.” If she believes me, I can’t know it and don’t care. She’s a good kisser, not a gossip, and playful. That’s all I knew about her then, and I don’t know much more now. Her opinion isn’t all that important to me. Still, I can act like it is while she’s being civil.
“Well, then maybe I should’ve been making out with him.” She looks at Tyr, and her expression eases from anger to confusion. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t know expressions quite so well, but they come in handy at times like this. “What’d he do to his last opponent?” she asks, still looking at him. I bet she’s wondering how someone with such a casual demeanor could ever kill, but I’ve fooled her once, so maybe she’s not even thinking that deep.
“He hasn’t actually fought anyone in nearly 6 years. And I can’t even remember the last time he killed someone. Nah, like I said, Tyr’s a saint. So go kiss him if you want, but don’t expect a kiss in return or anything.”
“So, you really don’t care if I do?”
“Do you really care if I’m a twinsoul? That I’ve killed people? Do you really care that I was on that beach just looking for a girl to kiss? You tell me.”
“I guess I was looking too much into all this. Gina told me, but I didn’t want to hear it. I mean, you’re a really good kisser and you started off nice enough, but I guess that doesn’t matter if you don’t care about me.”
“I don’t even know you. Why should I care?”
“So get to know me. You got a problem with me being a human?” This has got to be the first time in history this question has been asked by one sane person to another, in all seriousness. I wonder if Tyr’s listening to the conversation, in his own polite way which doesn’t actually constitute as eavesdropping ‘because he’s not trying to hear it, he just does.’ I’m caught off guard, but I won’t let her know it. No warrior will admit to that.
“I’m only gonna to be here another two days.”
“That’s not what I asked you.”
“Then no. I don’t.”
“So, let’s go get something to eat. You can even bring your twin along.”
“I’m really a jerk, you know. It’s not just an act.”
“Probably not, but I’m willing to take that risk.”

Chapter 7: Theoretically Speaking
It’s frustrating having to share the car with a girl, especially one that belongs to Zao. Well, I shouldn’t say belongs, because she’d slap me harder than she ever slapped him if she heard me even pretending to think of girls as objects. Still, it’s more frustrating having to share my journey with someone who’s just here for Zao’s pleasure. She doesn’t know or care about this trip. Sure, she pretends to, but she already likes twinsouls, so there’s no reason for her to need to go along with us. Tyr says it’s good, and that the larger the group the better it is for morale. It’s certainly not helping my morale, but few things really seem to these days.
So, I stare outside at the redwoods as they pass by the car, dozens at a time. We’re heading to a casino in Oregon whose name I’ve forgotten already. It’s one of those very large casinos they gave the Native Americans in the region, and has since expanded and flourished so that it now includes fun for the whole family. I wonder why they accept such things in the first, knowing that it’s just a way to keep them complacent while the rest of America wastes away their ancient, sacred lands. I wonder how important places like Mount Rushmore were before we took dynamite and chisels to them, making them monuments to ourselves. I wonder if they even were important, but can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be. I’ve never heard of a towering monolith in the middle of an otherwise flat land that wasn’t seen as a sign or a blessing from the gods. If there are gods who gave the natives Mount Rushmore, I wonder what they think of George Washington’s face jutting out of their blessing? I wonder what they think of women in cars.
Tyr and Zao are still taking turns driving, and Jenna talks with both of them eagerly, but not me. She’s ‘fascinated’ by their lives and their goals and favorites colors, but I’m just another human so I’m not quite up to par on the fascination scale as guys that share the same body. She’s fair-looking, but not a model, and she talks for hours without any sign of stop-ping for a break sometimes, which gets more annoying the more often it happens. I’m not a fan of their conversations, so I try my best to ignore them. Since they’re the only sound in the car, however, I’ve little choice. Tyr sometimes invites me to talk with them, but I usually don’t have anything important to add, so it only makes the entire situation more frustrating.
This cycle of restless sleep and waking in the middle of conversations to the sound of Jenna’s laugh wears me down over the next day and a half of driving, and I’ve never been more grateful for a gambling house than I am today. We’re here to overhear, to eavesdrop, and to occasionally outright ask people what they know about twinsouls, especially the older legends. It’s not something I’m particularly good at, but I do my share anyways. This time, I’ll probably be too glad to be out of the car and away from Jenna that I won’t listen as well as I should. Or, maybe I’ll listen even more intently, since it won’t be her voice I’m listening to. Maybe I’ll even start a few conversations this time, if the time and person seems right.
We separate into three groups; me, Tyr, and then Zao and Jenna. I head for the restaurant to sit and enjoy the conversations of people nearby while Tyr goes off to get all of us rooms. We have to get two rooms now so that everyone can have a bed, and because Tyr insists on being polite to Jenna. She didn’t ask for her own room when I was listening, but I don’t doubt that she did. I sit down at the restaurant while Zao and his ‘girlfriend’ head towards the casino. They’ll gamble, and talk, and do whatever it is they do, and I’ll actually enjoy myself.
Today ends fruitlessly. I hear plenty, but nothing useful. I don’t know how Tyr ever gets his information, because not only does no one talk about ancient twinsoul legends, but they avoid twinsouls as a subject in general. Maybe it’s just the people in restaurants. I head to the hotel room and report all of this to Tyr, who in turn informs me that no one else found anything useful either. Zao and Jenna are in the next room, he tells me, and that’s fine with me. The less I have to interact with them, the better I’ll feel over the next few days.
“I’ve noticed you and Jenna aren’t getting along,” Tyr says as I flip on the television. “Is there a specific reason for that?”
I cross my arms and don’t look at him. If I look at him then he’ll convince me to feel something else through sheer force of guilt. “Yeah, I just don’t see why she’s got to come along with us.”
“She makes Zao happy, and I’m hoping that’ll keep him calm when the time comes.” Of course, his logic seems to work too. I sigh in defeat.
“I suppose that’s reason enough. But does she have to come with us? Don’t we barely make by as it is?” It’s a battle of wits now, and although I’ve already lost, I’ve never quite been a quitter.
“Perhaps, but another person to take care of is also another person to help us acquire money. I’m not sure if you heard our conversation yesterday, but she’s got a few useful skills that we can use. She can cook, repair clothing, and bowhunt. She’s not the most experienced, and she’ll require a bow and arrow in order to make use of that particular skill, but it won’t hurt to have her around.” Well, it was worth the fight, I suppose. If nothing else, at least I’ve got some answers. I head to sleep early, and wake up early as well.
The next two days aren’t any different, and I’m starting to get fed up with all of these people. The staff recognizes me now, so I have to spend more time outside, or actually doing something. I haven’t seen Tyr at all though except in the evenings when I head back to the room. I consider the reason is that he stays in the room all day long, but I see Zao and Jenna all the time, and I know our room is a bit too far from where I’ve seen them for Tyr to just be lazy. Where he actually is I can’t discern during the day, and so I ask him. He tells me that he’s been working here to help pay for our rooms. He does odd jobs that they’d rather not pay anyone to do, and in return he gets discounted rooms for all of us. When he has to move to another place, he signals Zao and they go together. It’s a wonderful plan, but I wish someone would’ve told me sooner.
“I’d thought Zao already had,” Tyr explains to me, smiling so I know he’s not lying. “I told him if you guys met during the day to let you know what I was doing.”
“Why not just tell me yourself?” I’m a little bit angry, but not much just yet. My anger is still simmering, biding its time to rage up when I need it most. It’s waiting, just like I’m waiting.
“I agreed to it in the middle of the first day, and Zao said he’d tell you. So, I suppose I never thought you didn’t know.” I’m not sure if all twinsouls are just better at everything than regular humans, or if it’s just Tyr and Zao, but it seems I can’t win. Tyr’s got the brains and the vocabulary to make me feel like I’m in fifth grade, and Zao’s got the physical strength and charm to make me the size of a fifth grader if her wanted to. Whoever decided that this is fair is beyond me. Of course, I suppose that imbalance isn’t just between us, and that I’m exaggerating a bit, but I don’t know what else to do. How else am I supposed to cope with being in second place to the only others I’m to be compared to?
“Next time, just tell me yourself, alright?” I hope that he can’t hear the defeat in my voice. I hope that he can’t hear that secret hope, and that he’ll just let me be. He leaves me alone, but more alone than I wanted. His sleep is my insomnia, but that’s the way it has to be.
The next day is when we finally make a breakthrough. Tyr, as it’s always been before, happens to be a part of the conversation that determines our next destination. I wonder if people with these stories are naturally attracted to him, or if he’s just more clever than I am, but we’re off to the England on the next flight we can afford. I’ve never been outside the continent, and I remember thinking that this trip wouldn’t take me too far. Originally, I’d planned to go from coast to coast with them, seeing the country, not the world. The world is a much bigger place than the country, or even the continent. At least I don’t have anything here I haven’t already left behind.

Chapter 8: A New Land, An Old Story
To fly on borrowed wings is more than just a simple experience, it’s a miracle of the modern world. I can’t imagine how people, less than 2 centuries ago, would feel at just the sight of an airliner like the one we’re relaxed inside of. Those people, who couldn’t understand that anything more than horse-drawn carriages were possible, would probably gape and speak of witchcraft and demons. Da Vinci would be overjoyed, but his mind was far more advanced than the norm. I wish that I could meet him and explain to him the wonders of the new world; not a newly discovered land, but the old one born again.
Charlie’s to my right, in the aisle seat, and he refuses to look outside for anything more than a passing glance. Jenna, on my left, is just as excitable as ever, and keeps my spirits up in doing so. Zao’s temper has improved significantly, but he’s also been missing our mediation meetings more and more frequently. He and Jenna spend time kissing and talking, but I’m never quite sure about what, exactly. His thoughts are as much of a mystery to me as Charlie’s. Neither of them speak to me much anymore, and so conversations with Jenna are a pleasant aside from the workings of what has become the everyday.
She’s fascinated by twinsoul culture and mythology, and it’s only too bad I can’t tell her most of it, because there are some things that no one outside can be trusted with. I make sure Zao doesn’t tell her nearly every day now, because I simply be too cautious. Any relationship with normal humankind is dangerous when it comes to twinsouls. It’s not just for the obvious reasons, but because there are a few things which, if ever revealed, could easily lead to our extinction. I want to trust Jenna, in the same way I want to trust Charlie with these morsels of information, but I simply can’t, and I can’t allow Zao to just because she gives him pleasure.
I’m unsure of how I’m supposed to understand their relationship. They’re close, and she’s done wonders for him in such a short time, but that sort of thing that could get us killed when the time comes. I hope it won’t, but I know Zao’ll protect her over himself. As much as I hate to sound impersonal, because I truly am a romantic, there’s nothing worse than knowing I’ll be putting us all in danger by allowing her to come along. Still, Zao wouldn’t be content without her, Charlie can’t seem to be content with her, and it makes me realize how lonely I am occasionally. Such things shouldn’t really be of concern for one such as myself, on a journey to discover the grand and secret truths of the world, and yet there’s no stopping my heart from yearning for a companion.
Some would assume that because Zao’s soul shares my body, that my ‘overly romantic’ sentiments would be quenched; they believe that simply the essence of another so entwined with mine is enough to set my desires at ease. Those that think so are wrong, but not without good reason. Many twinsouls find it easier to simply love their twin instead of searching futilely for a partner for each. Zao and I were never content with the idea, and he was obliquely disgusted by the idea, enough to make him avoid staying locked inside me as much as possible for an entire week. I still remember his exact wording when he explained the situation to me.
“It’s not that I have a problem with you, and, hell, if I was gay then there’s no one I’d like better than you. But, I’m really not a narcissist, bro.” I was surprised at his command of the irony of the situation, and we both laughed for a good while afterwards, and since the subject hadn’t ever been brought up. Being as close as Zao and I are, it would be impossible for either of us to hide an attraction to the other, and I’m glad it’s that way. The last thing I’d wish for would be to find my brother harboring secret desires for me, and then knowing he could control my body as well.
I shiver and I’m glad that everyone else is sleeping and unaware. I haven’t been able to sleep, because I’m too obsessed with all of these thoughts. I’m wondering whether or not there’s a woman out there who can do the same, or more, for me as Jenna does for Zao - a woman who accepts and understands my situation, and can still make it work. I know a certain level of what being kissed feels like because of Zao. I can feel the physical stimulation, however slight, and I’ve caught myself wishing he was the type to give longer, slower kisses, but I know that I can wait for my own turn. If I could just find her, I know I’d never worry about anything else. That’s not true, but it’s a nice thought.
Even with a girl who could take all of my other worries and wants away, I’d still worry about Zao, about twinsouls in general and how we’re treated. I’ll always contemplate things until I’ve no room left in my head for any more thoughts, and then, with a bit of management and mental alchemy, I’ll still find something new to expand upon. It’s impossible for my mind to be completely calm, to my knowledge. Of course, I suppose in a world where someone can be born with two souls in the same body, granting that someone extraordinary powers, anything must be possible.
The flight attendants walk through the cabin and greet us as we awaken, and they finally allow us the comfort of reopening our windows. The façade of night fades as sunlight pours in past Jenna and floods our seats. It’s a calming, gentle warmth that slowly fills the body, but even so I would prefer the moonlight. I’ve never been quite certain as to why the Moon has always had a more prominent impact on my life than the life-giving Sun, but it’s been that way for as long as I’ve had memories. Zao doesn’t understand it, and neither do I, but some things are simply the way they are and nothing can change them; things like being a twinsoul, or how someone makes you feel. You don’t get to choose these things, because it’s built into your specific soul.
“Another wonderful day, wouldn’t you say?” Jenna asks me cheerfully as she stretches, taking a deep yawn as she does. “How did you sleep?” I’m surprised that she’s so good at masking her questions so that she doesn’t reveal our identity. She speaks as though it’s perfectly normal for her, and it makes me wary, but for Zao’s sake I ignore such suspicions. After all, there’s no real proof that she’s anything more than what she says she is.
“I slept fine, babe.” I’m communicating for Zao, so I must use his exact wording in order for her to be sure it’s not me. The word ‘babe’ feels odd on my tongue, and I was tempted to change it, but know Zao wouldn’t be entirely happy with me for it. She smiles at the word as I try to rid it from my usable vocabulary.
“That’s good.” She looks at me specifically, directing her gaze straight at my mine. “Any dreams?”
“I don’t dream, actually. It’s not something people like me are prone to doing.” Although it always feels odd to talk about Zao and I as the same person, I know in public situation like this it’s impossible to do otherwise without seeming overtly pretentious, and therefore suspicious. “I’ll explain it to you later, but suffice it to say that my subconscious doesn’t feel it necessary to work overtime.” She giggles and it makes Zao smile from inside my chest.
“I didn’t know it ever stopped working in anyone else. I hope it’s well compensated for all of the extra time I put it to work.” She really is quite smart, which is arguably surprising considering the situational factors involved in our meeting her. Of course, that’s probably just popular media talking through my subconscious. There’s no reason intelligent girls can’t go to a beach and kiss a complete stranger amidst the sparkling waves in a southern-California December. No real reasons, at least. Just like there’s no reason my own kind of girl can’t be found while I’m on a completely different journey. Fate is such a fickle fellow, after all.
“It is the governing force behind nearly every thought, action, and reaction, if you believe certain branches of psychoanalysis.” I watch her closely for reactions, but I’m never quite sure which ones I’m looking for. Somewhere in my subconscious is that lingering shade of doubt which makes me as cautious around her as she is curious around me. I wonder if she suspects me as well, suspects Zao and me of something more sinister than our actual intent. If there is something of this in her, I can’t see it.
“Well, those old guys always say whatever they want. Where exactly are we going again?” I feel as though I’ve ex-plained our destination too many times already, even though I know it’s only been a handful of times between the three of them.
“We’re going to Dover Castle. It’s located in southeastern England, in Kent, I believe. It’s quite the magnificent place according to the pictures I found.” I recall the images of stony spiral staircases, of gigantic crests and sigils emblazoned on the walls and tapestries, and of the breathtaking aerial views of the castle. Due to the large tourism aspect of the castle, I wouldn’t expect a twinsoul to be living anywhere near it, but when I saw the grandness of the castle many of my initial doubts vanished. It wouldn’t take the largest amount of cunning in the world to stay hidden in such a wide estate, especially not with the right powers.
“Oooh, a castle!” Each time I’ve told her, this has been Jenna’s exact reaction. I wonder, however temporarily, if she really is as smart as she appears to be to me. “Can we buy something nice to wear? I’d hate to show up to a castle in the drab things I wear every day.”
“I’m afraid we don’t have the money for anything ex-pensive. If we’re all willing to spend a few more weeks in the area while we save up, then that’d be acceptable to me, but otherwise I don’t suggest it.” I don’t need to ask Jenna’s opinion on the matter, so I look to Charlie for his opinion. He shrugs at me, either unwilling to decide or simply too airsick to form words. Zao, on the other hand, agrees to the plan almost immediately.
This’ll give me a chance to see her in something more low-cut. Besides, I haven’t done anything really nice for her yet. I’m sure the rest of us can get away with dressing semi-formal, but she should have something nice, ya know? I know that arguing with someone in the throes of infatuation is nigh impossible, and so I casually agree with him. I’d rather have the business done with sooner, but I also need to be certain that Zao is as content as possible in order to keep from repeating what happened in Canada. Her face still flashes into my head at night, and I can’t help but feel responsible for her death, whoever she was.
“It’s settled then. We’ll all get temporary jobs and save up for a bit of refinement.” Jenna practically squeals with delight, but controls herself into only a tight embrace with me. I’ve felt this before, through Zao, but the actual touch of her body against mine is a bit shocking at first. I cautiously wrap my arms around her and give her a gentle squeeze in return before she pulls away. Zao doesn’t seem angered by this gesture, and I’m glad that I didn’t overstep my boundaries with either of them.
The plane touches down, and we emerge into a world not-so-vastly different than the one we left. People still walk here, talk here, crowd, surge, and crowd again here, it’s just on the opposite side of the street, usually. The cars are certainly different, but mostly only in the sense of license plates, and not particularly style. Of course, there are far less Fords and a few more Volkswagons, but these differences are nominal at best. I wonder if it’s because it’s only England that I don’t feel the culture shock or the ‘jet lag’ which others so warned me about when I spoke of going. The shops are named differently, and so are many everyday goods, but this seems to be too typical to be noteworthy. Even in America there are places where the native slang and culture replaces that of the standard.
I waste no time acclimating myself to the rain and the snow, but the job market is a bit of a problem. Zao, Charlie and I all acquired the right to work abroad, knowing that we might someday need it. I insisted upon for Zao and I, since we never know when or where we’ll need to stop and find work. Charlie joined with us in this, since he planned to come with us no matter where we may have needed to travel. In Jenna’s case, however, there wasn’t time enough to apply for and receive such materials, nor did the consideration come up until we were here and I recalled the regulations in place. So, instead, she’s forced to stay at the apartment we’re renting all day and take care of things. She doesn’t seem to mind, but it does mean that we’ve one less hand in the workforce, and therefore must stay longer than planned.
The weeks pass by more slowly than I’d like them to, and each day I can see Dover castle from our two room apartment, waiting for us. I’ve not yet dared to venture near it, or even to stare at it for any length of time in the off chance that I should forsake our current plan. Jenna seems content as a caretaker, and her meals are always excellent, but each week which we have to purchase food and each month of rent is one step backwards in our short-term goal.
It’s during this time that Zao and Jenna are becoming more physical. The atmosphere of a foreign land, coupled with the full workday and the presence of a woman whose duties, if interpreted in just such a way, can be construed as those of a housewife are making for a more romantic setting than I’d anticipated. Late at night I can feel Zao’s hands moving to massage her, and I do my best to fall asleep before they do anything too physical. It’s nearly impossible to give them the privacy they need, especially when there are no physical secrets between Zao and I. Emotional and mental secrets are the ones that he can keep from me, and I’m uncertain if being forced to share either of those would help the situation either. After all, any shared experience will have its downfall in situations like this one.
I’ve forced Zao to sit down for evening meditations, which Jenna helped me to do. She’s supportive of defeating his demons, even if it means more time away from her. Zao’s demons, meanwhile, have changed in shape and size to fit his new lifestyle. Some are smaller and weaker, others larger and more brooding, while even others have completely metamorphosed into fears that I no longer recognize. He’s less angry, but more frustrated by the bonds between us that keep him from her at night. He’s less prone to violence, but more prone to lust. I’m not quite sure if there’s really an improvement that hasn’t been counterbalanced in his mind by something else. Of course, this is probably just as true for me.
Charlie has slowly warmed up to Jenna during this period, taking our meditation times as a chance to have real conversation with her. He no longer casts sideways glances at her when we’re eating dinner, and seems more relaxed and more talkative to me than he had during our stay at the casino. I’m glad that he’s more relaxed now, but I do hope that it’s not because of some infatuation with Jenna. I know that Zao would hurt him if he tried anything, but I trust all of them enough not to do anything that would rip us apart.
As for myself, I’m enjoying the factory work. I’m not entirely comfortable handling gigantic slabs of unidentified meat, meant for packaging and shipping, but I do appreciate having something to do and contributing to society. The people there are kind, and generally amiable once they overcame my American accent and Zao’s striking resemblance to me. I explained we were identical twins, and that he dyed his hair in order to help people tell us apart. I’ve also convinced them that he wears colored contacts, which is only believable since they can’t ask him to take them out in our line of work. Perhaps I should get us both colored contacts in order to avoid this issue in the future, but that’s a matter for after this dress issue.
Jenna’s gone out looking for the perfect dress several times, insisting that housework can only occupy so much of her time. She seems to have found several which she likes, but insists too that Zao be there to offer his opinion of each before actually picking one which she’ll want. I could just as easily tell her his preferences, but I let her play her couple games with him, so long as it makes them both content.
Other than these miniscule changes in our lives, living in England has had little effect on us. We’re still ‘yanks’ in a foreign land, making a living with what we can do. It’s certainly not the stereotypical European experience portrayed by movies and television, but nor is it quite as bad as people in the real world explained to me either. It’s an indiscriminate mix of the two perspectives, and that’s acceptable to me. I often wonder if the others feel the same, or if this is an intense cultural shock that’s redefining their lives. If it is, no one’s given the slightest notion of it, not even Charlie, who used to be such easy practice for emotional reading.
Regardless of whether it’s all new or not, the story of the twinsoul hidden somewhere within Dover Castle is one I’m impatient to investigate. Somewhere, somewhere hidden within the confines of that breathtaking castle is, supposedly, a twinsoul with a secret to hide. Not the standard secrets of people, or even governments, but a secret that could lead to our salvation. If he or she has such a secret, then I must find them, or be found by them. I don’t care if they come at me to kill me, or if I have to give in to my rage to find and pin them down… I will know the truth. I have to.

Chapter 9: Unholy
Fuck, that guy’s good. He’s about 60 feet behind me, and yet I can only hear his heartbeat. He knows this place too well, I have to get back to Tyr and regroup. That bastard! He ambushed us in the halls, he and that fucking twin of his. I can’t believe I let them catch us like that. If it weren’t for Jenna’s breasts, so available in that dress then I wouldn’t’ve. Damnit, no point thinking about it now. I just need to get back to them. Tyr’s not the fighter I am, he can’t hold off twins like that by himself.
I run as fast and as hard as I can back towards the main halls, where I last saw them. I’m just barely outrunning the heartbeat, barely controlling the rage that’s welling up inside of me. Thud. Thud. THUD. I turn and summon a broadaxe just in time to catch his blade. It’s sharp though, and cuts deep into my own blade, heavy as I made it. How in the hell he gets his swords that sharp, I’ll never know.
Tyr! Where are you?! That’s the third time I’ve called him with no response. Is he unconscious? Or too focused to reply? I know he wouldn’t give me an answer that wouldn’t make sense or might mislead me, maybe he’s just hoping we’ll get too far apart. I’d risk a bit of stirring at a time like this if I thought it would help, but if I got disoriented it could really kill us. I toss away the axe and summon a six-shooter. They’re not advanced guns, but that’s because I can’t get my hands on anything good to study. I fire away magnum rounds into the air at him, but he’s a slippery little bastard. I shoot as I run, hoping I’ll get closer to them, close enough to hear something that’ll give their location away. Tyr! Just fucking answer me!
We’re okay for now, but I’m unsure how much longer I can hold out against his assault. He’s fast, Zao.
No shit. Just hold out until I can get there. I’m coming back through the main halls, do you have any idea-
My chat gets cut short by the sting of steel across my arm and I wheel around, heaving a lighter scythe through the very spot he was just a moment before. “Damn you! You want some of me?” The smell and the warm trickle of blood intensifies the beating in my head. It beats harder, faster, and my vision blurs as the rage takes hold.
Any idea of Thud what Zao? Thud. We’re someThud one of the Thud Thud. Thud! I give in, because there’s no other option. The release of my inhibitions is exhilarating. I feel the weapons form and fulfill their purpose, and when they’re done I just make more. I can’t see him, but I can hear his delicious heart beating in his unworthy chest. I’ll rip it out with my scythe and shred it to pieces.
His heartbeat slowly increases as I pound away at him. Whatever I was running towards has become him. I laugh as I hack away at his blade with swords, daggers, axes, spears, glaives, and even claws. The blades are my arms. They are me. I’m not so easy to kill now, am I? No. I’m invincible. His cuts are nothing, and his stabs are only opportunities to stab him back. I laugh off his foolish blows and drive a just summoned metal stake through his juicy neck. He falls and I pull his sword out of other arm. The beating is still there, which means I got the fake.
I must kill the real one. I must have my heart.
I sprint towards it, growing ever closer until I find the source. I cut it with its own sword. I slash and slice and dice it as it struggles to keep on beating. It knows it’s lost, that’s why it’s already on its knees. It’s kneeling before me, waiting for my kiss. It wants my steel inside of it, it lusts for my anger and-
STOP! “Zao! Stop it!” The voices, there are two now. Thud. Thud. But I can’t listen to them, I have to obey, I have to put the heart where it belongs. “Please Zao! Please don’t do this!” Zao, you have to stop. Listen to us! He’s already dead! I can’t hear the heartbeat well anymore, their voices are shading it, pushing it away where it can’t call to me. My vision returns, and the man that ambushed us is lying on the floor in a pool of deepening blood. His body is covered in deep gashes, but he’s still alive. I’m not sure how, or why he’s still alive but I know I did all this to him.
I step back and collapse, someone catches me from behind so I don’t hit the ground too hard, but I can’t believe what I’m seeing. His eyes, the eyes of the twinsoul are wholly lifeless. I killed his twin, but not him. He’s empty now, and there’s nothing in the world that could even fill him back up to being a shell of himself. Tyr’s leaning over him now, shouting something at him, but I can’t tell what anymore. His voice was one of the ones that saved me, but the other one. Who was that?
The blood on the floor isn’t just the other man’s, it’s mine too. It’s pouring out of cuts just like his, some on my arm, some on my legs, and one across my chest. I can’t die now. I can’t let Tyr become the man on the floor, lifeless except for the useless functioning of his internal organs. I crawl to him on the slick floor despite the objections of the arms that caught me. I reach him and pull myself into the warmth of his blood and his body, and give myself up. I’ll heal in here, that’s how it’s always worked before and so that’s how it has to be now. When I wake up, everything will be okay, and all of the shouting will be gone.

Chapter 10: Nowhere To Go
I… I can’t even describe what I just saw in words. One moment Tyr and that other twinsoul are battling it out, and the next the guy just stops and falls to his knees. I remember it all as a distant memory, something that happened eons ago, and yet I know that it happened only a few moments before now. Jenna clutched onto me, her dress torn in a few choice locations which, had it been any other situation, probably would have turned my thoughts to places I shouldn’t let them wander to. As it was, the state of her dress was just all the more terrifying to me. After he fell, Tyr tried to ask the man questions, something about the things he knew and why he attacked us… and then Zao came.
He was blood and fury incarnate. I’d seen him kill the woman in Canada, watched him thrust giant blades through each limb until I had to vomit, but he was different this time. There was no control, no sympathy, and he was even more wild than any other time I’d seen him fight. The man was defenseless, kneeling on the ground, and Zao just started cutting him. The man didn’t even resist, didn’t even try to stop him. Jenna gripped me tighter, cutting off any circulation I had, but I was too spellbound by the other blood to notice.
Then they shouted, and he stopped. He stopped cutting that man, and they both bled so much. Tyr demanded more answers, and Zao climbed back inside of Tyr, trailing blood the whole way. It wasn’t a magical, misty sort of fusion this time, the blood left visible stains on Tyr’s torn clothes, and Jenna, only a few feet away, knelt in her once beautiful dress in all the blood, as if sitting there she could soak it all up and things would be okay again. I’m surprised the guards and policemen aren’t here yet. There’s no way they weren’t called for something like this. We’ll all go to jail, or be executed, and there’s nothing any of us can do now.
“Come. We have to go.” Tyr walks over to Jenna, still bleeding from several wounds, and a few new ones I never saw him receive. “Can you run? We need to run. Zao will be okay.” He offers his hand to her, and she just stares at him, unable to comprehend a thing. I feel the same way, but I stand anyways and stumble forward a bit, finding my limbs again. “Jenna, I know it’s a lot to handle but you have to come. I can carry you if you need me to but please hurry and decide.”
I wish there was someone to carry me as well, someone to take away the sickening images of smeared blood by picking me up and running me somewhere else. I have to be that person for myself and it isn’t fair, but nothing I just witnessed could be called fair. She takes his hand, and with surprising strength for someone in his condition, he lifts her and we run.
We run as far and as fast as we can. We run until our limbs are sore, our bodies ache, our minds and souls want nothing more than to give up and die, right there, and then we continue running until we’re away from anyone who can recognize us, and any trace of us is left behind. It occurs to me that DNA evidence should’ve stopped twinsouls years ago, but for some reason it hasn’t, and I can’t imagine why. We collapse outside a hospice, and Jenna goes in to find a room and some clothes. We’re carried inside, and I feel just a little bit safer than I think I should.
Tyr rests for two days while Jenna and the hospice staff help to take care of him. He insists on not being taken to a hospital, and he heals amazingly quickly according to every ounce of medical knowledge these people possess. I’m still numb, even after two days, and no one treats my wounds, because none of them are external. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The words are foreign, but they must be true for me. I can’t function as well as I used to, and my mind won’t stop replaying those horrific moments and images, again and again, time after time. Some are from Dover, some from Northern Alberta, and some are from a lonely night in Arizona, where the darkness swept me from my life.
Jenna’s not quite so broken as I am, and she spends all of her time by their side, stroking Tyr’s hair and hoping that Zao can feel it. She spends every waking moment near them, and every night as close as she dares.
On the third day, the police come for us. News got out, pictures too, and someone from the staff eventually called for the reward money. It’s not surprising to me; I’d probably do the same thing if I didn’t know all that I know. We’re taken to the precinct, locked up in separate cells, and left to rot. Jenna and I have it lightly. We’re in for aiding criminals, aiding twinsouls, evading arrest and for obtaining visas on false pretenses. Tyr and Zao? They’re as good as dead.
A man comes in the morning and talks to Tyr about what happened. They’ve got him in cuffs and behind bullet-proof glass at all times. I can’t hear what they’re talking about, but I know that it doesn’t matter. Tyr and Zao could be innocent, and they’d still kill him because they don’t know any better. Jenna has the cell right across from them, and I’m in the cell next to hers. I can’t imagine what, if anything, they try to talk about through hand signals and mouthed words. Occasionally, Tyr looks my way and does his best to communicate with me, but I haven’t understood a word.
I just hope that when they kill us off it’ll be quick. I’d rather not suffer any more than I already am, isolated in this prison cell; the basest of human decencies only given to me because I’m human, and not because they’d rather take them away from me. I can see the way that the officers look at me, like I’m a traitor of the species just because I’m not as ignorant as they are. They think I’m brainwashed, they think I’m pathetic; they think that I’m just as dangerous and unnecessary as any twinsoul. I’m less than human.
So, I sit and I wait, and eventually they pull me out to question me too. As I pass by Jenna’s cell, I look inside and see her asleep. Typical. Tyr gives me a brief smile that’s supposed to reassure me, but it doesn’t. If they don’t kill me by the end of the questioning, then there’s only a long wait for me before they do.
They sit me down in a blank room, much like my prison cell, and shine lights in my eyes so I can’t tell which one is holding the gun. Too bad there’s only one other person in the room besides me. “So, you’re chums with twinsouls, eh?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“And you helped one escape from the scene of a crime, yeah?”
“No, he ran on his own. I just followed.”
“Ahh,” why he doesn’t just get it over with and shoot me, I don’t imagine I’ll ever know. “And the girl. Who’s the girl?”
“She’s someone we picked up in California. She’s dating Zao.”
“And who’s Zao, exactly?”
“Tyr’s twin. The other soul inside of him. I thought you’d have figured that out by now.” At least it’s true that police officers aren’t all that intelligent no matter where you go. Still, all of this useless questioning is getting to me. "Are you gonna kill me?”
“That’ll depend on your level of cooperation.” At least he’s being honest with me. I’d hate to hear a ‘No’, it’d be too obviously fake. I’d also hate it if he told me ‘yes, but not now’, because that would’ve just opened a can of worms I don’t even want to think about. “So, have you participated in any of the murderings that the twinsouls are guilty of?” Not even the decency to say accused, but at least he’s honest.
“No. I just watched, really.”
“You only watched? Didn’t try to stop ‘em?”
“What was I supposed to do, get myself killed trying to stop two guys with physical and mental capabilities far beyond my own? I preferred living at the time, thanks.”
“Right, and is it true that you told immigration you were here for,” he checks his forms to make sure he’s getting the wording right, wouldn’t walk a legal issue because of im-proper wording “Temporarily working while on holiday in the area with friends?”
“Yeah, that’s true.” I could care less if those were the words I used, they could say I told them I was here to help kill a guy in Dover Castle and I probably would’ve admitted to it.
“And wasn’t that a lie?”
“Not entirely.”
“Yes or no, please.”
“Fine. It was a lie. I’m not here on vacation, or holiday, or whatever.” Technicalities. They always kill you with them, and this is my death.
“And what exactly are, or were you here to do?”
“I’m here with Tyr and Zao. We were looking for the twinsoul in the castle, and got hung up because Jenna wanted a dress.” If it weren’t for that, we might already be a long way from here. I don’t say this aloud, even though I think I am when the thought comes. It’s odd how easy hiding the truth has become with Tyr and Zao as examples.
“And when you say you were lookin’ for ‘im, you mean…” he gestures to me, wanting me to finish his sentence. I hate this game.
“We wanted to ask him some questions.”
“What kind of questions were you plannin’ on asking him? What he wanted it to say on his grave?”
“I’m not sure. Tyr’s the one who was going to ask. I’m just here for the experience.”
“And what sort of experience would that be, eh? Watching him kill for fun?”
“No. He’s trying to fix things. He’s trying to change things so that twinsouls aren’t-“
“Trying to change things?” he says incredulously, mocking me. “Oh, I’m certain he is. A twinsoul on a noble quest to ‘fix the world’, huh? What’s he trying to do, get rid of all the other ones so he can be the only one? That’d sure make our job easier.” His stupidity is grating on my nerves, so, if I’m gonna get killed it may as well be now.
“He’s trying to find a way to calm twinsouls down so they’re not so violent, you idiot! I don’t know how he’s gonna do it, or why it’s so important to him, he’s some kind of pacifist, but at least he’s not an idiot. It’s not his fault that guy attacked us, it’s just their nature and he’s trying to fix that. And all I wanted to do was go along for the ride and the fame if he succeeds, so stop asking me these stupid questions and either shoot me or let me go so you can shoot me later.” I wish I could say I made an impression on him with my ravings, but I can’t see his face to check if he’s grinning or gaping. He just gets up, leaves, and I’m returned to my cell.
I lay down and pray for death, but I don’t have a god to direct it to so the words just hang there in the air, slowly crowding me as I fall asleep.

Chapter Eleven: The Secrets of Twins
Zao’s still not awake, and it worries me. He’s been out cold for nearly a week now, his body slowly recovering from the battle. I remember each wound as though it happened to me, and several of them were deep enough to become reality once he came back to me. Our bodies work in overtime when we’re together; and I’m never quite sure why. As far as I’ve been able to tell, the presence of Zao’s soul forces my body to work twice as hard to heal and nearly everything else, and I can only guess it’s the physical body compensating.
Jenna’s been in tears most of this week. She’s been mouthing words to me, asking slowly to see Zao, to make sure he’s alright. I assure her that he is, even trying to use his wording when I speak to her, but I’m not quite sure that I’m right. He’s never been hurt this badly before, not even when we were inexperienced fighters and got into trouble with older, more powerful twinsouls. She cries less now, but both of us are far from reassured.
Charlie, meanwhile, has been avoidant ever since they took him away for questioning. I’ve tried to speak to him all this time, but I can’t seem to reach him through all of this glass and concrete; and now he’s avoiding my looks and gestures entirely. Is he ashamed, or just too despondent because of our situation? I can’t tell when he won’t look at me, and won’t respond to a thing.
The soldiers come for me again; I assume they’re here to interrogate me through the glass as they did before. They stand on either side of the intercom, allowing a larger and more prominent man to step up to speak to me instead. He’s broad, tall, well-groomed, and as serious as our situation demands. Firmly, he pushes the button and speaks to me in a solemn, professional manner. “Are you the twinsoul known as Tyr?” There are certain formalities in the military which I can’t understand. They insist on introductions, but not actual greetings, for one.
“I am. May I inquire as to who you are?” Politeness is a key aspect of my personality, even in unfavorable situations; it’s taken me through.
“I’m Brigadier General Korstaad. I hear you’re on a very important mission, is this true?” I’m curious as to how he knows about my mission, or if he knows what my mission actually is.
“It is. I’m unsure of what you’ve heard of it, but I am traveling for an important reason.” Honesty too, is something I value in myself, and if I don’t remind myself I’m prone to lying, especially to people who cage me.
Even before he responds to my implied question, I realize the motivation behind Charlie’s recent behavior. “Your friend explained your mission to us. He said you’re trying to figure out how to make twinsouls a more amiable species, is this correct?” I tense at the word species, but let his ignorance slide this time. Why I’m more prone to violent thoughts isn’t a concern to me, but I make note of it nonetheless.
“To an extent,” I say, and continue before he can press the button again, “I’m trying to find out what makes twinsouls want to kill each other. What drives us to murder others of our kind whenever they get too close, as if we’re violently territorial beasts with no consciences to speak of, or to. I wish for nothing more than to figure this mystery out so I can learn how to suppress our alienating desires.” I can register the shock value on his face, however slight. He’s surprised at something in my speech, but it’s certainly not and entirely new concept to him. “In short, yes; I’m trying to ‘fix’ us.”
“I see. We’re willing to make a deal with you, Tyr.” I’m surprised that he’s actually using my name, and consider that my impression of him is wrong despite the other evidence presented. “You’re to inform us of every detail and fact you know of your species. You’ll work for us, doing whatever it is you do, and reporting back to us as we deem necessary. Should you succeed, we’ll make sure that we make your discoveries public. In exchange for all this, we’ll let you live, and let you go. Do you accept?”
It’s an enticing offer, but I wonder at his presentation. Presenting his demands first means that they’re the most important goals for him, and therefore he assumes the same of me. His terms aren’t negotiable, otherwise he’d have let me ask questions about them before demanding my understanding. He thinks he’s holding all of the cards, but he doesn’t know what advantages my knowledge gives me. “You have to let my friends go as well, and they’re coming with me.” My offer is just as final as his, and he knows it.
“Very well. I assume you speak for your ‘other’ as well, and will hold you both to your word.” I nod, but give no verbal recognition. Zao won’t be happy with the deal I’ve just made, but it’s the only way he’ll ever have the chance to be happy or unhappy again. The guards open my prison cell and come in to escort me out. I haven’t been given the luxury of bathing, so I’m unclear as to whether their scowls are from my body’s odor or their intense dislike of who and what I am.
I’m led to a cleaning room when I’m allowed to shower, change, and get something warm to eat. I can only hope that Jenna and Charlie are being allowed the same luxuries now, or at least will be soon. They sit me down, still handcuffed, across from a team of equally important men, the Brigadier General among them. “Tyr,” Korstaad begins, “Please tell us everything you know about your kind. We want everything, even if it seems like knowledge so common that not even a child couldn’t say the same thing.” Without the intercom between us, his German accent seems much heavier, but his pronunciation is still exact.
“As you wish.” I proceed to tell them what I know for certain: the urges and the bloodlust, stirring and the physical connection between each soul. I tell them of mentally extin-guishing demons within another’s mind through a special meditation, of how losing the second soul leaves the original empty, instead of simply half-full; I watch smugly as the shock and consideration registers on their otherwise expressionless faces. While I speak, the men record details, each focused on something unique about what I say, and probably how I say it as well. They are, as a team, doing what I try to do as an individual. I’m being deciphered. Once the certainties are out of the way, I move on to subjects a bit more hazy.
“Full Mixes are a specific type of people that are no longer twinsouls. Because of a particularly straining bout of stirring, or simply too much of it, the two souls become one soul, and everything goes wrong. Many are simply driven to intense madness, they begin tearing themselves apart, limb from limb until they manage to rid themselves of their physical body. Some, or so I’ve heard, literally explode when their souls combine. I’m not certain as to why any of this would be, but I hazard to guess that although a body can hold two souls at the same time with slight modifications, the presence of a soul made from two is too much. This could be because the soul is now too large, or that it becomes a different type of soul, or the soul could cancel itself out, leaving nothing but a shred of either which drives them to madness. Whatever the reason, it’s never pleasant.
“Beyond this there’s the issue of sharing a body, but being able to separate into two entities, each with its own working systems. As far as I can tell, my body is able to give up the essence of itself, or the idea of being a body, and thus create a second one. It’s the process as cloning, but on a magically organic level which I can’t explain. We share, as I explained, physical sensations, but nothing more than that when separated, and nothing more when joined. Also, I’m able to communicate with my twin at any moment through a psychic link. Whether or not all twinsouls have this ability is up to speculation, but I’ve never met a twinsoul that didn’t exhibit the outward characteristics of having a purely internal conversation, when I could get them to speak.
“Additionally, when our bodies are rejoined it seems that the natural capabilities of my internal systems, including my senses, digestive, and even immune system, are all signifi-cantly increased. In the same way that the body gives the idea of body shape and form, it seems to think that in having two minds it needs to work twice as hard, using the same amount of effort. As a result, my wounds from just a week ago are already nearly fully healed, and I can deal with only half the amount of sleep that I would normally need to function for an entire day. Again, I’m not certain as to whether or not this trait applies to every twinsoul, but I have good reason to believe that it does.”
I pause to take a breath and a sip from the glass of water they’ve left in front of me. While I do, I examine the faces of the men, noting the traces of eagerness in their body posture and faces. Normally, men of such high-ranking importance wouldn’t let such things slip, but I’m not the enemy here and now. I am, instead, the all-too-willing pool of information, both useful and significant, which they cannot ignore. I set the glass back down on the table and lean back slightly before resuming.
“What drives us to our rage is a topic hotly debated amongst scholars of even the highest and most prestigious of universities. Some have claimed that we’re simply baser crea-tures, giving into our Id’s desires to hunt and to kill because, and here I’ll quote, ‘a twinsoul’s mind is so divided that it cannot process human constraint; thus the Id reigns supreme.’ I’m sure you’re all aware of which esteemed psychologist said that, but just in case you’re unaware it was Sigmund Freud. Twinsouls are a relatively new development, considering human history, and so not many have been studied, especially when viewed as highly dangerous and intelligent creatures. The fact that I’m more than likely the first twinsoul to ever to be captured and reveal all of this to you gentlemen is proof enough of that.” They don’t react to my taunt, but they do try to keep their emotions more thoroughly in check. I’m glad to see I can manipulate them so easily.
“Of course, not everyone agrees with Freud. Some theorize that our rage is a doubling of the normal drives, or that we’re simply highly territorial by nature. Others still would believe that all of our fighting and killing is actually some bizarre mating ritual, and that only through dominance can we prove ourselves worthy of some nobler creature that no one has ever seen. What truth there is in any of these many theories, Freud’s included, is slight, if present at all. Of course, there’s no proof that my claim to their validity is any more right or wrong than the claims themselves, except in that I’m a twinsoul and think I know bit more about my own mind than the theorists who fear me. I’m afraid I’m talking too much on this though. You’ll have to forgive me, it’s the subject of my journey.” I nod to Korsaad, who has apparently informed the others.
“The unique powers that a twinsoul possesses seem to be a similar phenomenon to the healing and the rage. They’re inherent in the twinsoul, are the use comes as naturally as learning how to breathe or walk. You typically do it before you realize that you are or you even can. It was a fascinating experience when I learned of mine. Do you gentlemen know what my special ability is?” I pause and take a look around, the room. It seems that no one quite knows, because no one’s speaking up. “Any guesses at least?” Their continued silence is supposed to be a signal to continue, but I’m willing to wait for them to respond.
Finally, one of the smaller, more nervous men speaks up. “Based on the scene at Dover Castle, I’d assume that your ability has something to do with concealing a large number of weapons on your person.” I smile.
“That’s quite close, actually, but it’s not quite the truth.” I hold up my hands, calmly showing how empty they are. It’s inconsequential that I do, because they know that I have nothing. “Now, don’t be too alarmed.” I close my hands around the hilts of two blades, still unformed, and decide that sacrificial daggers should do nicely. In a moment, they appear in my hands and my audience feels panic. As a show of good will, I toss them to my left, away from everyone. “I can call weapons to me, creating them by solidifying my own will. I can make any weapon I wish so long as I know its structure and its weight. I can even reweight any weapon I create to fit any purpose I deem necessary. It’s quite useful for defending myself, and, unfortunately, also for fighting when necessary.” As casual as I am, I can tell my audience is no longer quite as confident. My handcuffs are no longer an effective tool for keeping me subdued; not that they ever were, but now it’s all the more evident.
“As for other twinsouls, to my knowledge, no two have the same powers. Each is as unique as our fingerprints or identity, and one can never be sure what powers a twinsoul has until they exhibit them. Zao and I didn’t know of our power until we were nearly 6 years old, at which point an accident cost us the lives we once knew. You gentlemen came here to hear about twinsouls though, so I’ll spare you any other details on my personal life.”
“If I may interrupt,” one of the largest men says to me, “how can you be certain that no two twinsouls have the same unique abilities? If their numbers are even a fraction of those of human beings, then there must be thousands, and I doubt you’ve met each and every one of them. Surely there must be some who share your gift, for example.”
This is the information that no human is supposed to know, but it can’t be helped in this situation. I quietly sit up and lean forward. “Gentlemen, what I’m about to tell you must never be used against my people. I’m giving you this final bit of information on good faith, and should that confidence ever be betrayed I guarantee you I will stop at nothing to make sure each and every one of you is held accountable for your crimes. Do you understand?” I look around the room at the group of men who are trained to never give in to threats. Their faces are stone, but I know they feel fear, because I’ve seen it. “If we can’t come to an agreement, then I’m afraid that’s all you’ll ever get from me.”
Korsaad stands up and places his hands on the table. He’s meant to be intimidating, but he was one of the most surprised when I created the daggers. “Tyr, either you will inform us of this information, or you will be hung from your crimes. Your friends will be too.” I glare back at him and cross my arms as best as possible in the cuffs. Neither of us are willing to fold, but I won’t let him win. I won’t. Even if it’s mean my death I won’t betray my people, because someone is bound to continue my work… someday. They won’t actually kill Charlie or Jenna, because there’s no reason for them to. Neither of them know anything, so they won’t dirty their hands. They wouldn’t care to explain such things to the news, should it ever be leaked. It takes two minutes of silence, but they eventually give in. “Very well, we’ll only use this information in a non-aggressive manner. Now, may we please continue?”
I take a deep breath, and then speak very slowly. “The most important thing to know about twinsouls is that there are exactly 31 in the world. There’s 31 days in the year which twinsouls can be born, from June 16 to July 16, and there’s only one born for each of those days.” The shock is more audible than my previous revelations, and more awe-inspiring as well. They stay quiet, eyes wide now. No one’s even writing. “These days coincide with Gemini in the sidereal calendar, as opposed to the typical calendar which places Gemini nearly a full month earlier in the year. Gemini, in case any of you are unaware, is the star formation of the twins, and therefore, as far as astrology and astronomy are concerned, we even make more sense than typical human births. I’m unsure of how and why the universe works in such a way, but for each death in a year, the numbers replenish on the birthdates of the twinsoul which died.
“Zao and I were born on June 30th, so we’re almost the ‘middle children’ of our kind, but, as I said, this isn’t about us. I can tell you that there are exactly 23 twinsouls alive at this moment, and in 5 months, if we don’t somehow manage to kill each other off, 7 more children will be born with two souls. There is no way to tell who these children will be, or where they’ll be born. It’s possible one of your wives may be pregnant with a twinsoul right now.” The small man, the one who hazarded a guess at my powers stiffens. I can’t help but smile, however slightly. “I know this must come as a surprise, but every twinsoul has an internal counter that keeps track of the number of twinsouls left, just as we have our heightened ‘sixth’ sense that allows us to track them when they’re nearby. Is it a side-effect of our rage? I’m not sure. Is it the cause, of our rage? I couldn’t say for sure, but it’s as real as the ten of us sitting here.”
The silence is just like the silence of the cave, except all of it is visible. The noise is held back, held inside, and given up in sacrifice to silence. It’s incredible just how quiet it is, so I take a sip of water again and wait for a different reaction. I can’t say that I’d expected any different, but I’m unsure of what to expect next. Will they be angry, panicked, or just contemplatively evil? I don’t know, and I can’t know until someone speaks. It takes a long time, an extremely long time before the whispering begins.
These men in their important suits, decorated with stars, bars, and ribbons are whispering to each other. They’re wondering what to do, whether to keep the oath that one of them has made, or to abuse this privileged information in order to further their careers. They’re talking about political implications, social standards that must be upheld, and military strategy. It’s these whispers that will determine my fate, as well as the fate of my people and my brother. I wonder if I made the right decision, but there’s no reversing the events that have transpired, and I’ll simply have to live with the consequences, whatever they might be.
A few minutes later, they stop whispering, and the center man, the most decorated of the group, stands up and addresses me in a cold, heavy voice. “Mr. Hawk, thank you for your time. You’ve been most helpful. If you’ll step outside, two men will escort you to your companions and your continued mission. Good luck, and we’ll be in contact.” He leaves, and the others follow, including Korsaad. Many look back at me as they go, all of them putting on the façade of unbreakable intensity.
I get up, head out the specified door, and I’m led away to another room. Inside, Jenna and Charlie are indeed in much better shape, although both are obviously confused. She rushes to me, hugging me tightly about the waist in fresh clothes. “What happened? Why did they let us go?” she asks in earnest, almost crying. I’m unsure if it’s the relief or the confusion that causes the tears, but I’m glad to see that she’s not out of tears yet; being able to cry is something to be admired.
“I told them what they wanted to hear, and they’re letting us go on with our mission.” It’s the simplest explanation I can offer, and the most honest. I’m sure they’ve been informed that we’re part of the military now, and that we’ll be giving reports, but if not then all of that can explained to them later. Right now, I think it’s important that we get out of this prison and back to the light of the sun and the moon. “Come now, I’ll answer any other questions later.” I gently lead her out, and Charlie follows, back into the streets of England.
Jenna turns to me when we’re outside and looks straight into my eyes. “Tell me, is Zao okay?” I wonder what I should tell her. Do I inform her that Zao hasn’t actually awoken yet? Or do I tell her that he’s asleep, which isn’t entirely a lie? My answer comes to me without another moment’s thought as Zao, somewhere inside, finally wakes up. Relief passes over me in an intense rush, much the same as I imagine Jenna and Charlie felt when they realized they were to be released.
“He’s doing well, give him a moment and he’ll be with you.” My smile, as genuine as it is, is small. Hers is larger, broader, and she hugs me again before we take off for the hospice once more. I look back to Charlie as we walk along, and he doesn’t seem to care that we’re free. He’s just as despondent as he was in the cell, and I resolve to talk to him tonight, while Zao and Jenna reconnect. Things on the surface are fine now, but I know that I’ve a new demon inside my mind, and I can only hope that it won’t take over.

Chapter Twelve: The Dawn
It’s taken me three weeks to recover, but it hasn’t been all that bad. Well, at least it could be worse. Tyr’s signed us up for the military, but Jenna’s even more attached to me because of our temporary separation. Apparently, I missed a whole week of my life and brutally murdered two men. Tyr said it was alright, but I can still remember tiny flashes of those fights, and if I’d done anything more I might have died. That should scare me, but it hasn’t yet. Jenna is oddly calming, more so than Tyr ever was for me.
We get money from the government now, every time we need it they just hand it over, or call it in. I told Tyr we should just get a credit card, something that can work pretty much anywhere, and they sent us four, loaded with as much money as they could spare. Apparently, they’re talking to other world leaders about us, getting us passage and such to anywhere we might need, falsifying our identities and pasts for us. It’s nice having someone else doing all the work, but I hate that it’s the government. I mean, seriously. The military has been out to get us since day one, and now we’re part of them. I won’t be a dog, even if I have to report to them. I won’t just obey orders.
Other than all that, it’s just been getting myself back into fighting condition. My body was weak after two full weeks of resting, and so over the past week I’ve been sparring with Tyr at every available opportunity. It’s hard to beat an opponent who can feel your every movement, and whose every movement you can feel as well. It’s as though you’re fighting yourself, so you need to surprise yourself and not jerk back when you feel that surprise blow. It’s even harder with a recovering body, but I’ve been doing what I can. I spend the days relaxing with Jenna, sparring with Tyr, and eating. Charlie avoids me entirely, and I don’t blame him. He must think I’m a monster, but that’s his own problem. He and Tyr can talk about whatever it is they talk about, so long as I’ve got the strength to enjoy myself, I will. Tomorrow we’re leaving for Spain to check for more in-formation. Tyr’s taught himself a decent level of Spanish in the past few weeks, and oftentimes forgets that the rest of us don’t understand a word.
I’m surprised to learn that Jenna already knows German and Finnish, but not in a bad way. It’s good that we’ve got someone whose mental ability matches Tyr’s, or at least someone who tries. I’m the physical, he and Jenna are the mental, and Charlie’s the… the fourth wheel, I suppose. He keeps the car rolling along, if nothing else.
As we leave, a large military man named Korsaad shows us off. He seems to know Tyr from the period we apparently spent in prison, and I don’t trust him. If his name and rank weren’t enough, then his suit would do just fine for a reason not to like him. I’m glad he’s not coming along, because even if we’re military now, I’d seriously injure any personnel they tried to send along. They’d probably make up some bullshit excuse too, something about “keeping an eye on us.” I don’t need to hear that now, and they’re luckily not pushing me by saying it either. Good for them.
The flight is short, and it’s one of the first where I’ve been allowed my own seat. We’re flying first class, courtesy of the military, and I can really appreciate that. The seats are nicer, less crowded, and I’m finally actually sitting in one. It’s good to look out a window and not worry whether a flight attendant is watching. It really is nice to have the freedom that governments can supply you with, but I’m not so sure about the cost of that freedom. If Tyr makes me do anything for them, even if it’s just sending the report back, then I swear I’ll give him a black eye that he can pass on to them. I really will.
Spain is nice, and warm. It’s like California in a way, but with much nicer beaches and a friendlier atmosphere. I pick up words here and there, because my mind works just as fast as Tyr’s at obtaining information, even if I don’t always use it. I get something like a second vacation, and having Jenna here makes it all the better. Now I’m not looking for a girl to kiss, I just have one.
Jenna and I buy new clothes while we’re here, really treating her to something nice, so long as it’s out of the mili-tary’s pockets. New shorts, new shirts, a new dress and bikini for her, and just some random, expensive sunglasses because I felt like it at the time. Money is definitely freedom.
While we shop and enjoy ourselves, Tyr mingles with the crowds, and Charlie does gods know what. It’s a shame Tyr doesn’t have a desire for anything like a fling, because I see the way the girls around here look at him, as he speaks to them in near-perfect Spanish, and I wish them good luck. I’d tell them they were wasting their time, but I don’t know that much Spanish yet. Besides, maybe one of them is the one for him, so I let it be and just enjoy the sun, and the sand. And Jenna.
She’s getting more beautiful every day. Her skin is slowly bronzing, and her hair is slowly lightening to a much nicer shade. I don’t know if it’s just me, but she also seems to be thinner, and curvier, and her lips are much softer. It’s probably the sea water and the sun, but who can say for sure? All I know is, she’s good-looking, young, and I like how she thinks. The only problem is that we can’t do anything.
“Come on, Zao, just a little bit?” She tempts me like this, as though there’s such a thing as ‘just a little bit’ of sex. I smile at her every time, but I know I have to say no.
“I can’t do that to Tyr, I can’t just have him randomly get an orgasm in the middle of the night or whatever. Do you know how terrible that’d be for him?”
“I don’t think it’d be all that bad. He’d at least have a bit of pleasure.” If only if were as simple as she makes it out to be, but nothing ever is when you’re a twinsoul. Especially not when you actually care about your brother like I do. Tyr’s been with me, defended me, and protected me from myself. He’s the reason I’m here with Jenna, and not wasting my life killing and dying from who knows what diseases some of the girls I’ve kissed have. I can’t do anything that would hurt him, emotionally, physically, or in whatever other ways there are.
“I’m sorry. I really can’t. If you want anything out of me, we’re gonna have to find Tyr’s perfect girl first.” I didn’t mean it at the time, but ever since I’ve said it, Jenna’s made it her mission to do just that. Apparently I’m more irresistible than I thought.
So, we spend our time talking to girls, trying to learn Spanish, and sending them Tyr’s way. He doesn’t much attention to any of them, and even those he does go out on a date with end up being dead-ends. It really is just too bad that Tyr refuses to have a fling, or even anything like a fling. It really is, but I can’t blame him for being himself, even if it gets in the way of me being myself sometimes. In the end, our month in Spain ends fruitlessly, and we head to Germany. Tyr and I learn German with Jenna, and she gives me special lessons separate from him, but he still manages to pick it up more quickly. I’m not sure why he dedicates himself so much to languages, because a passing knowledge is good enough for me, but maybe that’s why he learns faster too. Who knows? Who cares?
Germany’s not quite as nice as Spain, but I expected no less from the place that started so many world wars. They started both, actually, but they don’t like it when you say things like that. Here too there are plenty of girls, young and attractive, but none that Tyr likes enough to stick with. Jenna can more easily talk to girls about Tyr, since she speaks German, and this helps weed out a lot of the lesser candidates. It’s almost funny watching her dismiss them once she’s figured out some character flaw she knows Tyr won’t like, and I wonder if she’s learning too much about him.
A few days into our German experience, Tyr pulls us aside into his hotel room and sits us down for a talk. I figure this has been coming ever since we stuck our noses in his da-ting, but that’s life. “While I must admit that I appreciate your efforts to introduce me to someone, it’s obstructing our mission.”
Jenna isn’t content with this. “We’re just trying to help make you happier, Tyr. I don’t think it’s fair that Zao has someone and you don’t, and it’s not fair to us either.”
“I can understand and appreciate that, but this isn’t the kind of thing you can force to happen. Just like you and Zao meeting was by happenstance, so too will be my experience with love.” I pull Jenna closer to me instinctively. Is this really supposed to be love? I’m not sure I’m willing to put that sort of word to it, even if she is nice to have around. “So, please, if you’re going to try to find anyone for anyone, then do your best to give that experience to Charlie, and not myself. I’m sure he’d appreciate your efforts far more than I currently can.”
I shrug and nod. I know what he’s talking about because I’ve been with him so long that I can’t not know. Jenna, however, isn’t willing to accept what he’s telling us. “But maybe we’re supposed to be introducing you to girls like this. Maybe that’s how you’re meant to meet that one special girl. You can’t just write it off because it cuts into your military duties.” I try to stop her once I realize what she’s saying, but I can really only move so fast.
“You dare to consider my mission has an ulterior motive just because it’s freed us? You think that my goal has become militant because it now holds military and governmental approval?” I pull Jenna back from him.
“Tyr, we’re not saying that. She knows how important this is to us.”
He calms, but he’s still frustrated and tense. When did he become so prone to violent outbursts? “Just leave me alone. Thank you for trying, but please leave me alone.” I can feel Jenna about to speak again, so I squeeze the breath out of her and take her to our room.
“Jen, don’t talk to my brother that way again. This isn’t for or about the military and you know it.”
“But he’s being selfish, and he’s gotten so much more serious ever since this military thing came up.”
“He saved all of our lives after I put us in that prison!” I don’t mean to shout, I just do. “He’s the reason any of us met or have the freedom to do what we’re doing now. So don’t you dare put down our goal just because you’re sexually frustrated!” I’ve probably hurt her feelings, but if she’s going to be so critical of Tyr then it’s better she get hurt now than later. I won’t let her hurt him.
She’s quiet for a few moments and then she sits down. “I’m sorry, Zao. I just lost myself for a minute. It’s just that you’d think he’d show some interest in a girl by now. You ever think he’s gay?” She’s teasing now, and I can tell, which is the only reason I don’t get angry.
“Once, but I know better. He’s always liked girls, at one point nearly as much as I do, but he’s just more reserved. Let’s just let him do what he does. I’m sure he’ll find someone soon.” I don’t know how true it is, but it sounds nice, at least.
“Yeah. Did he mean what he said earlier?” I love it when girls ask questions with no meaning, expecting you to have an answer. This one, in particular, makes no sense to me.
“Say what?”
“When he said we were in love. Was that some subtle clue? Did you tell him that?” Here it is. This’ll probably break our relationship, but I’ve been surprised before.
“I didn’t. I’m not really sure how I feel. But you’re really nice to have around, and you calm me down, so that’s good enough for me.” Tyr’s honesty is rubbing off on me, I guess.
“And… is that always going to be enough?” Her voice is changing, growing softer. She’s more whispering now, than talking.
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll see.” She nods and kisses me, slowly at first. Her soft lips press against mine, slip and encircle, and I give in to them. I hope we find our answers soon, and that Tyr finds someone soon too. It’s all becoming too much for everyone. Too much, and yet never quite enough for anyone either.

Chapter Thirteen: My Story
We’re making it an evening, apparently, and this really only means that Zao and Jenna are trying too hard. They’ve been on a campaign on sorts ever since we left the prison to find Tyr a woman that will ease their consciences away. Tonight, they’ve even managed to find a girl for me as well, and I can only assume that it’s Tyr’s fault; the reason being that the other two never had any concern for me, or my personal life, until yesterday. I’m not sure what happened, and I’m not certain that I like it either, but I’ll go along with it so long as it’s not too uncomfortable.
I’ve been more alone recently, with Tyr constantly searching for clues, the love birds chirping to each other all day and night, and with my lacking anything more than a pocket guide of useful phrases. I don’t quite know where Tyr obtained these pocketbooks, but I’ve been glad for them. In the past two months, one spent in Spain and the last in Germany, I’ve taken to telling anyone with even the basest grasp of English the entire story of my life. Some people listen and others, not surprisingly, couldn’t care less and change the subject, but there are many who are content, or so I’m led to believe, to let me blather on for an hour or more. It helps; it’s therapeutic.
I tell them all about my childhood and my parents, my younger sister whom I adored, and the older sister which I never could get along with. I tell them about watching my house get swallowed up in the middle of the night by the fault line which luckily ran right beneath it. I was at a neighbor’s house at the time, and when I ran outside to see what the noise and shaking was about I saw my home falling into the Earth, swallowed up by blackness. I even tell them about growing up as an orphan and can usually get all the way to the point where I meet Tyr before I’m too drunk to continue, or my audience finds something better to do. It’s a fascinating practice, and it’s given me absolutely no insight into myself because I’m usually too hung over to recall any profound thoughts from the previous evenings.
Tonight will be different, because tonight I’m going on a triple date with all the people in the world I know, and two women who will hopefully want to know Tyr and I better by evening’s end. I highly doubt it’ll happen for me, and even if it does for Tyr I’m sure he won’t care enough to want the same. That’s how he seems to be, and if I could read people as well as he does then I might even know why, but I can’t, so I don’t.
We arrive at the restaurant in style: a rented limo, tuxedoes, and another low neckline for Jenna. I wish she wouldn’t wear such revealing clothing, but I can hope that my date does. It’s these contradictions in life which make it interesting. I don’t think I’m attracted to Jenna, so there’s something about her which has to be triggering these thoughts, and I’m not sure what it is. I’m not repulsed by her, so it can’t be that either, but these thoughts are interrupted by introductions, mostly conducted in German, even though I was told there would be English at the table. “Hi,” I say, trying my best to seem as attractive as Tyr and Zao, “How are you?”
“I’m doing well,” my date says, smiling at me. She’s charming and beautiful, so I’m surprised. Her English isn’t nearly as broken or as forced as I was expecting, which also throws me off. The most disturbing notion, if that word would be appropriate, that I reach is that she’s not quite as well-endowed as I might have liked. I can’t say that this is a bad thing, but when I look across the table at the busty beauty Zao and Jenna have acquired for Tyr, I can’t help but feel that I’m just the 6th wheel here.
We start with drinks, some fine wines and German ales for everyone but Tyr and his date, who apparently don’t drink. I wasn’t aware of this little factoid about Tyr until just now, and I suppose I can only blame myself for not having noticed it before. He’d always had a ready excuse before, like being a designated driver, but tonight, free from responsibilities, his true colors are shining and I can’t believe I didn’t recognize them prior to this moment. Now, if only my date would be as open about her own wishes.
“So, Tyr,” Jenna starts the mandatory conversation, because a silent table during drinks would be wholly unacceptable apparently, “It’s so nice of you to treat us all to such a nice meal. When I asked if we could all go out, I had no idea we’d be really going out.” She giggles and I wish she were at least wearing some sort of shawl, but alas she isn’t.
“It’s my pleasure. I know we’ve all been through so much recently, so I thought it’d be pleasant to sample some of the finer nuances of German culture. I do hope that not everything’s cooked in alcohol though, or I’m afraid I’ll starve.”
We all laugh, and it feels nice to laugh. I’m not sure if the feeling is the alcohol rushing through my blood more quickly, or if it’s actually nice, but I enjoy it nonetheless. A second waiter arrives with our menus, and I wonder if it’s standard practice to serve people their menus only after they’ve finished their first drink. I can’t imagine how such a policy could possibly help business, but I’m sure it does somehow. We all look over the menu, and although it seems everything is baked, broiled, or served in a sauce made from some sort of German beverage or another, Tyr manages to find and order the only item that can be served without it. I wonder if the taste is hurt from the lack of alcohol’s sting during the creation process, but our second round begins before I can give it too much thought.
I realize about now that I haven’t even been introduce to my date, and although I’m sure someone mentioned it before, I find it necessary to correct this injustice. “Oh, Tyr, we’re so rude. No one did introductions, did they?” It sounds better coming out of my mouth than it did in my head, but I’m not sure everyone agrees. Tyr seems to though, and he smiles sheepishly as he motions around the table, introducing first me, then Zao and Jenna “Whom you already know,” he says to our dates, “and I’m Tyr, Zao’s brother. And you two lovely ladies do have names, I hope.”
They both smile, and I can tell that the two of them are close friends. There’d be no other reason for them to smile at the exact same moment, in the exact same way, if they weren’t. Tyr’s date introduces herself as Elsa, and my own date is Katherine. They’re nice names, to be sure, and the way they speak makes me wonder if they’re actually German at all. Maybe they’re naturalized citizens; that could make sense. Our food comes slowly, which only makes sense, and there’s some meaningless banter about how we came to be in Germany and why we’re here. They leave out nearly every shred of truth on these matters, but I can’t expect any different. After all, I’d hate to have a date end so quickly because I’m here with a twinsoul.
Soon enough, our food does arrive, and we’re each left to chat with our specific date at Jenna’s request, so, two-and-a-half fine beers in, I’m getting my chance to actually talk with Katherine. “So…”
“So…?” she replies, smiling. I hope that’s a good sign.
“You speak English very well. Are you sure you’re German?” It seems silly to ask someone, but I’ve got nothing else.
“Actually, I was born in America.” I knew it. “But I moved here when I was twelve, so, if anything, my German has that funny accent. Not to say that American’s have a funny accent, it’s just that, well, you know.” I don’t think I do, but I nod anyways.
“Yeah. I don’t really know German, but that’s because we’re not staying long. Otherwise, I probably would some more. What do you do for a living?” The full effects of the alcohol haven’t hit me yet, and I’m still thinking pretty clearly. Maybe I shouldn’t have any more, then I can keep my wits about me. Well, mostly.
“I’m a seamstress at a bridal shop. I make dresses for all those lucky girls that get married seemingly every other day.” She smiles, and I that’s when I figure out why she’s here. She’s desperate for a date, for someone to make her a dress. Oh well, it’s better than nothing, so I down the rest of my drink. “What do you do?”
“I travel with the gang, really. I do odd jobs wherever we’re at and just enjoy them.” The thought seems incomplete, so I continue. “But I want to be a writer, or a poet. I think I could really do something in that field if I could just get my hands on some paper and such.”
She smiles in that way that women smile when they’re generally unexcited about things that they’d like to be more exciting. I do wish it wasn’t so common and silly, but I’m being honest. “That’s nice. Do you have a story or some poems in mind to publish?”
“I’ve got plenty of stories,” I tell her. “I’ve experienced so much in my life that I could write a dozen novels if I wanted to. I just can’t yet, not until we’re done doing our World Tour thing.”
“Can you tell me more about that? Jenna said you were doing research, but you don’t seem like any scientists I’ve ever met.” She laughs a little. “I mean, you’re not wearing white coats or anything, so what sort of research is it?” I try to think of the many fields which I’m not an expert in, but could pretend to be, and one eventually comes to mind through the hazy alcohol fog in my mind.
“We’re doing research on genetics. DNA and microtides and ribonucleoids.” Made up words are always a favorite, especially when they’re big. “We left our white coats back in Spain.” She laughs again and I think I’m making progress, so I hold off on drinking my latest refill, which I don’t remember getting here. “I’m really just an assistant to Zao and Tyr, but I do plenty of stuff that they don’t have time to do. I mix chemicals and help set up everything, so I know all about it.” Lies, all of it. It doesn’t matter since she’s not that interested in the real me, so lies it is.
She smiles at me, slightly more interested. A research assistant can at least become a real researcher one day. A poet can only become a deadbeat or famous, and the second usually only happens when you’re dead. No one wants to date a dead guy, or a deadbeat, so research assistant it is… for her sake. “Why would you ever want to leave that to be a writer? It sounds like it’s so much more interesting to travel the world and do all of those things.”
“Well, to publish the story of my journeys and whatnot. There’d be a lot of people who’ll want to read about what we’re doing here and who won’t understand all the technical jargon, you know? So it’ll be my job to translate all of it.” It’s hard not to just prove her wrong, to shock and awe her into being more interested, even if it just means she’s slap me and walk away. It worked for Zao, didn’t it? But no, I keep it to myself. I can’t ruin everyone’s evening just because mine isn’t working the way I want it to.
Tyr seems to be enjoying himself though, laughing and smiling with his date about who-knows-what. I wonder what makes him so charming, besides his good looks, assuming it’s anything but those. I missed the good-looks gene somewhere along the way, so I’ve got to rely only on what else I have, which apparently isn’t enough for Katherine.
The rest of the dinner passes in much the same way. I make up things to impress Katherine, and she believes me because no one objects. I just hope she doesn’t bring it up to everyone else, or else it’ll ruin everything. Just everything. I care less and less about what they think of me the more I drink. I even tell Katherine my stories, because she has to listen to me right now. As soon as dinner’s over, Katherine wants to leave, but Elsa’s enjoying herself too much. In short, it seems that even though I have a date, my date is over.
We go to a movie. Some foreign film in German that I can’t understand, and which no one else really needs to because they’re all having a great time. Zao and Jenna aren’t even watching, they’re just making out. Katherine is sitting on the other side of Tyr and Elsa, because she doesn’t really want to be next to me and hear my stories. I don’t care, it’s her loss. She’s the one I’ll leave out of the book when I publish it. She won’t even get two words.
It’s while I’m watching this movie, as drunk as they’ll allow me to be without kicking me out, apparently, that I realize just why Jenna needs to cover her breasts. She’s my older sister. Well, not literally, she’s dead and all that, but Jenna reminds me of her. She’s got the same attitude and the flair that my older sister always had, the same kind that annoyed me so much. I’m sorry that Jenna doesn’t know she’s inherited my sister’s spirit, but that’s her own problem. She doesn’t wear enough, and so if dad doesn’t beat her then Zao’s bound to at some point. What am I thinking?
It’s disturbing, because she’s not my sister. She’s not and my family is dead. I cry for a moment, angry and sad and disappointed all at once. Oh, and drunk too. I’m drunk, and bitter, and remorseful, and in Germany. I don’t recall the rest of the night, just Tyr taking hold of me at some point - after the movie or after midnight, I’m not quite sure - and taking me back to our hotel.
In the morning, I’m alone and hungover, and I decide that I need to turn things around. I pick up a sheet of random paper, and start writing something, anything, just to get it down.

Chapter Fourteen: Certainly or Darkly
We’ve left Germany behind for Ireland, our party none the larger for all of Jenna and Zao’s efforts. It’s never that I don’t enjoy the company of the women they choose to accompany me, but none of them are quite what they should be, and none of them can connect with me in the same way that I need to be connected with. It’s a lonely existence, one which I know Charlie knows all too well. He’s begun writing, and having conversations more and more frequently with more creative energy behind each word. I’m glad he’s opened himself up since that evening in Germany, and I wonder often which event of that particular night changed him so much.
What changes any of us is a question which I’ve been pondering more frequently. Since Dover castle I’ve noticed that my own personality has shifted slightly towards the more bitter end of the spectrum, the more biting and harsh world where, before, I seldom traveled. I wonder if, somehow, Zao and I stirred again, and a piece of him broke off to attach to me. It would certainly explain the dichotomy between myself before and after, and yet there’s been so many events since that time that I can’t be sure I’m not solely more jaded. One way or another I have changed, and it feels as though there’s no path back to where I previously was, that I am sliding down a hill too slick and steep to warrant ascension again. Perhaps I’m absorbing the gap of negativity left behind by Zao’s happiness, and maybe that’s a new aspect of my kind which I have to discover. Maybe that’s all the world is for us: balance.
I shouldn’t worry so much about things such as this, for I’ve more pressing matters to attend to. The first is, as always, searching for more clues, and more answers. Surely all of the remaining twinsouls in the world can’t only be in America. There’ve been reports of them in Europe and Asia, even Africa and Australia have claimed more than a few twinsoul ‘attacks’ in the past few years. Maybe they were only visiting, but the odds of two twinsouls visiting a specific country at the same time, and in the same area, seems so impossibly coincidental. Still, the odds of being born with two souls has a lot to do with the date, which seems to be determined by star signs randomly chosen by history. It’s incredible the coincidences just in my life and my coming into being, and yet still I doubt such things as interlacing vacations. Regardless of my beliefs, we’re in Ireland, searching.
It’s a perfectly beautiful country with wonderfully kind people, but I’m not quite sure of the reliability of their stories. Some of the things they say are so outlandish that it’s impossible to take them seriously, but perhaps that’s my own fault. I don’t imbibe alcohol, so they’re often more suspicious of me than I am of their stories, and maybe that’s why they fabricate such tall tales. No, I shouldn’t blame such things on assumptions such as that, for such is the way of the ignorant and the cowards. I need to gather facts, not opinions, and especially not negative opinions.
Zao and Jenna, despite my pleas, have continued to search out suitable companions for me everywhere we travel. Charlie has actually joined them in their quest, asserting that he might find his own true love, or at least a girlfriend for the time, while helping them search for mine. Although it pleases me that he’s interacting more with people and the group in general, it pains me to see him dedicating himself to such pursuits as the cure for my being single. Still, even after an entire week of women, none of them have been anything close. I wonder how hard it is to find a woman like the one I described to them, knowing I had no other options if I wanted even a moment’s reprieve from their questions.
“I want a woman who isn’t afraid of being honest about her femininity. A girl who, not unlike yourself Jenna, wishes to wear skirts and dresses as often as possible, and who delights in the simpler things in life. She’ll be a romantic with a compassionate and caring heart that knows the values of silence, respect, and instantaneous, unwavering affection. Most importantly though, she’ll have to be intelligent and good-humored, otherwise I won’t be able to enjoy all of the wonders of her gorgeous personality.” I explained all this back in Barcelona, when they first started their ‘quest.’ I’d thought that was enough explanation, but Jenna an I didn’t agree, apparently.
“What about her looks?” she queried with one of those looks she only seems to have when she’s talking about this subject.
“I could care less for her looks. Beauty isn’t any more external than intelligence is a measure of the size of one’s head.” Again, I assumed this was enough. I should have learned then the folly of assumptions, but they had seldom steered me so wrongly before.
“I’m sure you wouldn’t want anyone who was too fat, and if you’re anything like Zao you’ll appreciate a girl with a decent bust.” She exchanged a look with Zao which I under-stood all too well, despite the exclusion it was supposed to contain. “And I’d hate for you to end up with someone you weren’t sexually attracted to becau-“
“Jenna, please stop there.” I seldom interrupted people before I met Jenna, and I wish I could refrain from it, but she warrants it so often that I doubt such will be possible. “As I already informed you, her physical beauty is a measure of nothing that inner beauty does not overcome in every conceivable notion. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have things to attend to.” I left them there that day, feeling satisfied that I’d reached some notion of logical agreement with them, but I have since been disappointed. Zao and Jenna have brought me nothing but women whose physical beauty is, admittedly, undeniable, but whose mental and emotional capabilities are never near what I asked for.
I know that she’s the one who decides upon each girl in the end, for Zao would never approve of a woman for my consideration unless he actually thought she met the criteria which I explicitly announced, and yet it seems Jenna feels she knows me better than I know myself. How she came to this notion, I can’t fathom, but so it is and so it is that I have to endure her waves of flirtatious female friends. I’m not quite certain that friends is the appropriate category for all of the women whom she’s introduced me to, but I’m much too tired to give them a different one.
I feel as though I’m the only one dedicated to our goal anymore, and that my own brother has been swept up in the tendencies of humanity to waste their lives on goals which, regardless of your personal pursuits, will work themselves out before the end of things. That’s my strongest belief: that love will find me even if I don’t search for it. This answer, however, won’t find me by itself. I must search for it to the ends of the Earth, and beyond, if necessary. I’ll learn the truth and save my people from themselves. I have to be their savior, because no one else knows how to be, not even Zao.
I sleep a far longer nowadays, getting nearly 6 hours of rest very night, as opposed to 4. It’s strange waking up at the break of dawn, as opposed to well before it. I wonder how much of this extra sleep is a result of my frustration, and how much is simply exhaustion from the stress of each passing day. My reports seem less and less important with each passing week, and I’ve considered simply not writing until something important should pass. To do so, however, would deprive us all of our freedom, and deprive Zao and I of our lives. I can’t let such a thing happen while it’s my duty to protect them. I simply can’t.
I wake up, oftentimes before I know I’m asleep, in a kind of daze where everything around me seems so dark and so uncertain. It quickly clears, but I wonder if I shouldn’t talk to the others about it, to obtain their thoughts about it. I doubt they’d concern themselves with it, but not asking is a more foolish notion than hoping it will simply go away.
I bring up the subject at dinner, as casually as I possibly can. “I’ve been waking up with an odd feeling lately, and sleeping for longer than usual. Have you had the same troubles, Zao?”
Zao looks at me curiously and shakes his head, suddenly concerned. I can feel him grip his utensils more firmly, and I smile internally with relief at his continued concern for me. “No,” he says “What sort of feelings, and how much longer?”
Jenna and Charlie focus their attention on me as well, although it’s obvious that they don’t grasp the severity of what Zao and I are talking about. “Dark feelings, as though the world is a becoming a blacker place.” I watch Zao for his reactions more intently than I do the others, his are the emotions I need to record. “And I sleep for nearly 6 hours every day now.” My voice is as grave as the situation, but Jenna almost laughs at my comment.
“I wish I could sleep for only 6 hours,” she says with a smile. I wish I’d remembered to explain to her such things in our earlier conversations. Zao quickly shoots her a look of which I’m unsure what it means.
“Jen, we normally only sleep for 4 hours. Remember? Twinsouls don’t need as much rest because our bodies are connected.” I’m glad to hear Zao taking the responsibility of explanation upon himself, it saves me from so much. “It’s the same reason I can heal so quickly.”
“Oh, right.” She seems to finally feel the sting of guilt, and I can’t help but take some measure of pleasure in it. This horrifies me, so I push any joy away and refocus on Zao. He’s looking back at me now.
“Tyr, how long has this been going on?” I feel as though our roles are reversed, and suddenly I’m the undisciplined twin in need of help. I know it’s not true, my self-will is still stronger than Zao’s, but I can’t help but feel it.
“Ever since we arrived in Ireland. Do you think it could be something about this place that affects me?” It’s the most reasonable explanation I’ve been able to formulate on my own, so presenting it seems only logical.
“I doubt it, if it affected you why wouldn’t it affect me?” He makes an interesting point, and I’m forced to concede. It has to be something other than just the environment targeting me. “Perhaps you’re just too stressed. Maybe you need a real vacation, and not just what I consider one, eh?” Although this possibility is one I considered, I’m not sure how our military benefactors would consider a sudden vacation from duties. They’re the strictest kind of men there are, and putting ourselves in their bad graces could only lead to worse situations than dark feelings in the morning.
I decide I’d best explain all this to Zao, and wonder why I didn’t think to have this entire conversation internally, that way there wouldn’t have been any interruptions, and no stares from the other two. “I doubt that the military would support my taking a vacation. They tend to regulate these sorts of things, even for their highest ranking officials.”
“Well, then we’ll pick up the slack for you. Come on. You need to get some air and it’s about time we did something more useful.” I can see the flicker of impatience cross Jenna’s lips, and I suppress another sickening sense of glee at her disappointment. “We’ll ask around for information, Tyr, you just relax for a week or so and we’ll see how things go from there, alright?” Perhaps I was wrong about Zao, and he is ready to be a savior, if necessary. Still, it’s not just the necessity that should drive a man, or a woman, to save his/her people… it’s a real desire to do something. Zao’s being my personal savior now, but how will he feel about taking the reins when I’m better? I don’t want to think about it, so I repress these thoughts as well, hiding them with the joy I’ve been receiving at the expense of oth-ers. I can’t believe myself anymore, and I hope that this temporary relief in my duties will help as much as Zao thinks it will.
I pass off my burden to the others temporarily, and find myself with the freedom granted by a release from duty and from the absence of forced encounters. I wander around as Zao, Charlie, and Jenna work to find clues. They can cover three times the conversations I can in the same amount of time, even if they don’t quite have the tact which I use. I consider helping them, but every time I get close Zao mentally dismisses me, and quite firmly too. I’m allowed to mingle for other reasons, and I can laugh and enjoy the stories of the men at the taverns without worrying about their validity. I feel freer than I have in quite some time. In the mornings, however, there is no difference.
Still I sleep in and still I wake with the uncertain darkness looming about. It’s never stronger, never longer, just a steady darkness during my waking time. Zao doesn’t feel it, doesn’t notice it when he wakes, and unless he’s grown much better at deceit, I believe him. He’s sat in the room, waiting and watching me for this presence, and still there’s nothing observable to him. There’s no chill, no absence of light, and not even a difference in my muscles; it seems that it’s all just in my mind, but I’m unsure as to what could be affecting me that leaves Zao so wholly alone. It couldn’t be another twinsoul, they would know that Zao was one too and would undoubtedly try to affect him as well. So the mystery eludes me.
I ask about the darkness as easily as I can slip it into conversations, just as with the subject of twinsouls. No one seems to understand what it could be from, and I can’t blame them for not knowing either. I’m given odd looks, nearly as strange as the ones I’m given when I say that I don’t drink. I wonder if they have a point when they tell me that a tavern isn’t the place for people who drink, but I can’t think of a more reliable source for information without coherent suspicion.
What is this though? What is the morning bleak that descends upon me? How can it be stopped if there’s no source and no cure? I look online for information, checking my symptoms on lists, and then cross-referencing lists with diseases, just in case. Nothing fits, and so I hope that more relaxation will rid me of it.
We go to a spa, hiking, biking, and I even spend an entire day inside the hotel room, meditating with myself, and still there’s no change. Nothing to differentiate my symptoms from my activities, only my environment. We try two different hotels in two different cities within the same week, and still the darkness persists. Soon enough, I sit down with everyone again to discuss things.
“I’m not getting any better, so I’m afraid it might be this entire country getting to me.” I can’t explain to them any better than I already have, and Zao is forced to admit defeat in the face of the evidence.
“I guess you’re right. Well, where are we gonna go that’s less evil than Ireland?” He’s making jokes now, trying to lighten the mood, and I can appreciate his efforts. Jenna seems content, and I can imagine that’s only because she’ll be able to resume her search for a companion for me now that this situation is coming quickly to a close.
“I’ve thought it out, and I’ve bought us tickets so that we can head back to the United States.” Everyone looks at me warily, and I can read the disappointment on their faces. A return to America means that we’re officially ending any sort of fantasy life in Europe for the real world.
“What about Australia?” Zao asks, and I’m surprised that it’s him asking, and not Jenna or Charlie. Then again, I suppose that neither of them would feel they’d have the sway to change something as permanent as previously purchased plane tickets.
“No, it wouldn’t be a good move at this time. I’ve looked over the reports of twinsouls in the area and nothing suggests that there would be anything of use in that region of the world. Before you ask, I’ve also considered the majority of Asia, and the only other viable options would be China or Japan.” I realize that in giving them more options they’ll want to explore them. I can’t blame them, but I feel as though we had more luck in general in America. Our only clue to come to Europe came from there, after all.
“Then why not go to them? Or even Africa?” I can tell he’s disappointed, but I know that he knows I’ve given it all the thought I need to. I wonder if he’s only doing this for Jenna’s sake, or if he’s really trying to convince me for his own.
“No. I’ve looked and it seems that the most reports come from America, and so that’s where I assume we’ll find the most information.” I make sure I’m telling all of them, and not just Zao. Even if I am the one who makes decisions, if they all try to rebel there’s nothing I can do to force all of them. Zao doesn’t really have a choice, but he knows as well as I do that I’m not the sort of person to force him to do anything that he adamantly refuses to do either. I wonder why I’m so polite sometimes, and remind myself that it’s for the best. These doubts are becoming more frequent, as though the darkness were causing them; perhaps it is.
“Alright…” he says quietly and nods to the other two. “Come on guys, let’s go out and have one more night on the town. No worries, no mission, just an evening to ourselves. Just cause we’re going home doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.” So, we do. We enjoy ourselves for our final night in Ireland, and the next day we leave for home, towards what will hopefully be the last of the creeping darkness within me, and a return not only to our homeland, but to the peace that used to rule my personality.

Chapter Fifteen: Closing In
We’re getting close to June, and Tyr’s worried. I know we left Ireland to get away from the darkness, and I wish I could’ve helped more with that, but it’s not that that’s getting to him now. It’s the damned military. There’s no way of telling if they’ll honor their agreement, or suddenly abuse us for information about the births of new twinsouls so they can… who knows what with them. If they do try anything, I won’t hesitate to kill them. I’m not about to let them hurt us just because Tyr made a deal with the devil.
Still, we’ve been back in the states for a few weeks now and there’s nothing. We’ve been going from place to place, stopping for a day at a time in whatever city one of us happens to like the name of, or something like that. All I know is it’s random and I’m not sure why Tyr lets us do it. Maybe he’s getting too tired after all of our years searching. We’ve perfected skills that won’t help us in anything but searching for information, and I really don’t want to be doing that for the rest of our lives. We’re steadily heading southwest though, towards Nevada.
I don’t know why Tyr’s going there, but I’ve been looking at our route whenever he drives, and it’s almost a direct line towards it. I ask him about him the day after I figure it out, and he sighs as he explains. “I don’t know why, exactly. I think that something’s there, Zao. It’s something that’s been calling me ever since we got back to the states. I didn’t tell you, but the darkness has been getting longer and worse every time we move closer. It has to be the source.” I can’t believe he’s been keeping this from me.
“You mean it hasn’t gotten better and now we’re going towards it?! What the fuck? What if it’s some sort of… some… some trap or whatever! The government could’ve put a chip in us or something and now you’re just gonna follow it?” I’m angry with him, not just for lying to me but for putting us all in danger with all of this. Especially Jenna. She doesn’t need to be dragged into this ‘calling darkness’ thing. None of us do, especially without knowing. “I’m letting the others know.”
“Zao.” He sounds desperate, and that’s the only reason I turn back around to look at him. “Look, I know this isn’t a problem for you, and I’m sorry for keeping it a secret. Everyone deserved the truth, and so I’ll inform them in the morning of what’s happening. Should they not wish to continue on with us, then they’ll be free to leave and we’ll come back for them as soon as we can.”
“What about me, Tyr? What if I don’t want to go, or let you go? Huh? What then?”
“Zao, you know as well as I do that I’d never want to go without you supporting me, but this is something which I have to do, no matter who objects. I hope you can understand that, and you’ll remember that we’ll always be together so we need to be there for each other.” I hate that he’s right even more than I hate what he’s telling me. Still, I can’t just say no because I don’t like it. He’s worse than I’ve ever seen him, and this is the first time I’ve heard him so determined about anything besides keeping me safe.
“Okay… I won’t fight you. But the moment things get bad I’m pulling us out, because I’m not gonna die just because of some feeling.” I smile, just a bit. “I’ll just lock you in a cell until the darkness goes away, alright?”
He nods to me and I step back out of his room and sigh heavily. I wish there was something I could do to get rid of it, or I wish it would happen to me so I could understand it too. I don’t get why Tyr has to be the one who always has to clean up, and why he’s always the one compelled to do everything while all I’m compelled to do is fight. I head back to Jenna and sit down on the bed next to her. She’s asleep, so I wake her up. “Jen… can I talk to you?”
She rolls over and curls her body around mine before she replies. “Sure baby. What is it?”
“Why don’t you care that I’m a twinsoul? It’s been bugging me ever since the day I met you, but I never asked because I never really wanted to make a big deal out of it, but why?”
She sits up and slides next to me so she can look into my eyes as she talks. Even though she’s nude, I find I can’t look away from her eyes. “You want a real answer, or what I told Tyr when he asked me?”
“That’s a stupid question,” I joke “I want the real an-swer, of course.”
“Well then, it’s because I love twinsouls. I think they’re incredible, and that they should be the ones who’re in charge of the world.” I wish I could laugh, but she doesn’t sound like she’s joking. “I mean, who cares what people with one soul think? They don’t have any inkling as to what it’s like to be like you, and you know better than anyone what it’s like to have your own soul and your own body, but still know that we’re connected by invisible strings to everyone else. It’s that power, that knowledge, that makes me unafraid of twinsouls.”
I stop and watch her, quietly, trying to tell when she’ll say she’s kidding, but she doesn’t. I consider what to say for one of the first times I can remember with her, and then, slowly, I say “So… you’re just… power hungry?”
“No. But I do love that you are, and I think it’s wonderful that twinsouls do have powers and whatever else it is that you have.” She leans in and kisses me. “If I’m hungry for anything, it’s you.” She smiles against my lips and I wish I could smile back for her, but something’s not right about all of this.
I stand up as she goes in for another kiss, and she jerks back. “Did you know when we met that I was a twinsoul? Like, before I told you. Did you know?” I have to know now, I have to know if I was really the target that day on the beach or I feel like I’ll never be able to believe a word she says anymore. I don’t know what I’ll do if she says yes, but I don’t know what I’ll do if she says no either. Why relationships have to be so complicated is beyond me.
“I guessed you were, but only because my friends had walked by Tyr earlier and they said he looked a lot like you. I didn’t know it for certain, I mean it.” She sounds sincere, but how can I know she really is? I wish I had Tyr’s level of skill for reading people, it’d make it all so much easier, but maybe that’s why he’s always so worried, because it’s not.
“Alright… but I’m going to go to sleep. Tyr wants to talk to everyone in the morning, so don’t go anywhere.” I walk out the door before she can say anything that’ll keep me longer. I go for a walk around the hotel instead of heading back to Tyr so I can sleep.
It’s a nice hotel, because even back in the states we all insist that the military has enough to pay for anything that we might want or need. I walk quietly past rooms where, when I listen close enough, I can hear their TVs, and one where some lucky guy and a hooker, by the sound of her voice, as having sex. No guy takes his wife to a motel in the middle of Illinois, for a honeymoon or otherwise. No one.
I wonder how I ever got into all this, and why Tyr insisted that we go out on this crazy adventure. I remember, after we killed that child, that Tyr said I couldn’t kill again, because we lost everything. I remember blaming him for not stopping me, and him telling me that he couldn’t because he had almost done the same thing. We started meditation shortly after that, as soon as we figured out what the hell it was and Tyr found a method of doing it that actually worked for me. I never quite knew where he got the idea to go into each other’s heads with the avatars, because I certainly never thought we could do it, but it worked.
It was all hazy the first time, and I had no real concept of what I was supposed to do. Neither of us did. We kept at it though, and eventually we got quite good at it, even if it only helped so much. I can’t imagine how normal humans deal with their problems, and how they worry about so many little things in a day instead of just getting rid of them. I wonder what life would be like without all of the little things already taken care of. It was shortly after figuring it all out that Tyr decided we needed to go and fix things.
He knew, even back then, that I wasn’t fully controllable, no matter how much we meditated. He needed a way to keep us both in line that wouldn’t compromise our relationship, and I guess I agreed to it. We were 8 years old, alone with no real source of income, and we were going to travel and find the secrets of our origins. At first I thought it was just a crazy thing that my brother wanted to do and I had to go along with, but I thought it was fun so I didn’t mind. Two years later though, when he was still going on about it I wanted to quit.
“Tyr, I’m tired of all this searching! Let’s just go to school or something, you can learn all day and I’ll just sit and wait until we can play later, okay?”
“We don’t have parents. They’d never accept us at any sort of school without the consent of legal guardians.” Even back then he was just too smart for me to argue with. I always made fun of him for stealing library books and spending hours online browsing for ‘useless facts’, as I called them, but he taught me everything I know how to do because of them, including how to read and write at something more than a 1st grade level. Tyr’s always been the adult between the two of us, and I guess with it being his body originally that makes sense. I wish I hadn’t been such a pain back then, because I complained for the whole year about our trip and I know Tyr took it pretty hard. We never fought, just argued. Even when I really wanted to fight him he wouldn’t ever give into my taunts, and so I just went along, knowing I couldn’t escape.
We kept wandering for years, half-starved and living on the kindness of strangers and old ladies who thought Tyr looked like their long-lost grandson, or something of the sort. We had a beggar’s life until we were 16, and by then we would’ve been dead if we weren’t twinsouls. But our bodies healed faster, and needed less sleep, so we kept going.
In all those years, we barely learned anything about twinsouls besides how much we were hated. People warned us about that twinsouls were murderous, conniving bastards bent on the destruction of all that humans had managed to create. We were told we were dirt, less than dirt, and even less than that at times. If I didn’t have Tyr there to hold me back, I’d have only proved them right on more than one occasion. I was always glad for Tyr, even when I hated what he was putting us through, because without him I could never have survived on my own. Then again, without him I would never have existed, or might even have existed in my own body and wouldn’t have needed to know how to survive, but I don’t think I would’ve liked growing up that way, if for no other reason than because I can’t even imagine a life without him.
At 16, we started staying in places longer, getting odd jobs wherever we could and we left the begging life behind. We were never rich, and never really had anywhere to stay, but we moved with the seasons and always had food. Tyr and I grew more and more intelligent, and learned how to ask people things without actually asking them, with Tyr, of course, always being better at it than I was. And that’s what we did for the past 4 years. We met Charlie a little over a year ago, then Jen, and now here we are, in a hotel in the middle of Illinois, traveling towards some darkness that only Tyr can feel. I wonder what’s at the end of the darkness, and I hope it’s not nearly as bad as I imagine.
I step outside and draw out a small knife from the air. I swish it around a bit, remembering my previous fights and how much I hated being the killer that my brother disapproves of me being. I never asked to be the one who gave into the rage more easily and picked up fighting without much trouble, but I’ve always asked for Tyr’s forgiveness for being that person, because I know that it’s wrong, but I couldn’t ever stop myself until just recently. I wish I were more like Tyr, if only in that way, so that I could be just a bit better, and more helpful. Still, I guess being the one who can fight isn’t always the worst thing ever.
There were more than a few people who, when they figured out what we were, wanted us dead. Tyr never wanted to fight, and he doesn’t whenever he doesn’t have to, but I was always more than willing to be the one who summoned a knife, or a club or something and beat back the crowd. I wasn’t always the strongest, or the fastest, but it’s amazing what surprise and never being disarmed can do for you. I still remember the only time Tyr ever fought by choice was when that gang in L.A. thought they were going to rob us of our hard-earned money. He wasn’t all that good at the time, but when punk teenagers see you pull an executioner’s axe out of thin air they tend to rethink their situation just long enough to make it worth it. Yeah, that was some fight.
I’ve been through so much with Tyr, and learned so much from him that I can’t even begin to describe it all, even though I already have. I’d be lost without him, more so than Jenna, I think. Yet, that’s all it is. He’s my brother, my only family, and he’s always going to be there, yet I’m his disap-pointment in every fight. I’ve kept him alive, kept us both alive, and yet I can’t escape the feeling that, compared to him, I’m always secondary. I wonder if all second souls feel this way, or if it’s just because I’m the twin of my brother. I wonder if this is how the stone twin, the one who trapped his brother in the cave, felt. I wonder if that’s why he trapped him down there. Maybe, but I couldn’t.
One way or the other, in the morning we’re heading to Nevada, and that’s that. I walk back inside and finally head to sleep, leaving the knife in the desk drawer for now, since there’ll be plenty of time to get it in the morning.
When I wake up, Tyr is already explaining the situation to Charlie and Jenna. I wonder how I could’ve slept so long, and realize that I haven’t, Tyr just woke up early. Does that mean he’s better?
“So, if you don’t want to come along then you needn’t, but Zao and I are heading to Nevada to find out what’s been causing the darkness that I’m experiencing.” I guess it hasn’t ended, and so I step out of Tyr with a yawn and a long stretch. Jenna’s eyeing me, and I wonder if she’s angry with me, or just disappointed that I didn’t tell her all of this last night. Maybe I should’ve, but I had a lot on my mind. “It’ll be dangerous,” Tyr continues, “Or, at the very least there’s no guarantee it won’t be. Something with the power to affect me from nearly halfway across the world isn’t a force that we should take lightly.”
Charlie and Jenna nod in unison, and I wonder if it’s purely coincidence, or if they’ve just been traveling together too long. They both have to think about it for a long time, several minutes, at least, and I wonder what we really mean to them in this time. Is it that we’ve been great but they can’t risk their lives for ours? Do they think that they need to stay behind in order to keep us from worrying? Have we ever meant anything to them besides a free ride around the globe? I don’t know, and I can’t read minds, so I talk to Tyr about it.
What do you think they’ll say?
He casts a glance at me, as if by looking at me he can make sure I’m the voice in his head. I hope that they’ll stay. I wouldn’t want to put them in unnecessary danger just for my sake.
Hasn’t this whole trip mostly just been for our sake?
I’m asking him to reassure him, but it feels more like I’m doing it to reassure myself. Why would they leave now just when things are getting good?
They have their own lives to think about, Zao. They’re not bound together like you and I, bound to a fate which we were born into, and a destiny we choose to pursue, no matter how far it takes us. They can go back to the ‘real’ world and their normal lives at any point, but this is our lives. This, and nothing else. We’re twinsouls; they’re humans. That’s the only reason that they’ll need to leave us.

Just as I’m considering this, Charlie stands up. “Well, I can’t finish my story if I leave out the juicy bits, so let’s get going.”
Jenna, not to be outdone, stands up and follows suit. “I can’t just leave my boyfriend because he’s risking his neck for his brother’s well-being. I’d be pretty terrible if that was true.” She smiles at me, and I wonder how much is hidden behind that smile. I wonder how much she’s not saying, just like all of the things she never says in front of Tyr. I watch all three of them, my brother, my girl, and my random companion, and I can’t think of how our group could be any different than it is.
Nevada it is, for better or worse.

Chapter Sixteen: Revelations
Nevada is a desert beyond the normal scope of what I’ve experienced. It’s hot, hotter than any hell even in the new breath of June, and I sorely miss the chilled embrace of the North and more temperate climates. Here is where we’re to find the secret behind the darkness that plagues Tyr, and possibly find an answer to the problem of the darkness that I fear as well. I roll the phrasing around in my head and decide that it’s all just poetic enough to keep in my book. I write it down, making sure not to lose a moment or a word of it as we travel along, searching for the source of darkness. It’s ironic that the source of such a black feeling should be in a state known for its hot weather and cloudless days. Ironic, and therefore fitting in some cosmic fashion.
I’ve run out of ink three times in the past two weeks, and I’m starting to wonder if the government is getting suspi-cious of my $2 ink pen purchases. I suppose it would better to purchase bulk pens, that way I can simply use them all up and toss them away for only $5, but I insist on having something nice for writing of this magnitude. This is my life’s epic, and what will, once this is all over, become my enduring legacy for generations to come. The actual events would only become myth without me and my $2 pens.
I wonder what part I would actually play in the myth, should this story become one. Would I be told as courageous and brave, or would I just be the secondary character that I already am in the actual story? Would I even exist? These questions, although entertaining, only serve as distractions from the reality of the enveloping plotline all around me. In my novel, I am not secondary or forgotten, but nor am I courageous and brave. I am me, and I’m the only one with the forethought to write the story down. The others are all part of it, characters and players, but they aren’t authors. I am, and my name will live on.
They, of course, will be famous for their deeds and their place in history, but some day they will be referred to as ‘Charlie’s Tyr’ and ‘Charlie’s Zao’, and not just by their names. I will be as intricate a part of their characters as their real selves, and that is why I write.
I don’t edit as much as I should, or as much as others might like, but that’s because there’s too much going on for me to stop and rethink key phrases or word choices. I’m recording history as it happens, and history isn’t always well-worded, but it must be well-recorded.
Since we’ve come to Nevada, only two things have happened differently than they have anywhere else we’ve been to. The first is that, although we’re still asking questions about twinsouls, we’re now basing our searches and our questions on the area, the state, and very specific incidents we’ve already researched. The second is that the people all seem to recognize Jenna, although they’re not quite certain from where they know her. Jenna, when questioned, told us that she had ‘No clue what these people are saying,’ as she has ‘never been here in my [Hermelin] life.’ I’m more suspicious than I’ve ever been of her, and I can’t quite figure out why this should be.
People are recognized all of the time, even I’ve been mistaken for someone’s cousin or someone’s brother, but with Jenna it seems that everyone knows her, even small children. It’s as though she was some Arizona celebrity that, despite her apparent popularity, never made it past state lines. It’s as though traces of her infamy vanish outside of the state, and then magically reappear once she reenters. Still, one would think that Jenna would know that she looks just like this woman that everyone knows, and yet she doesn’t. That is, she doesn’t so long as we take her word for it.
Zao and Tyr seem to have accepted this abnormal coincidence as merely that, and have dropped the subject. They casually reject people’s exclamations and curious looks, and Jenna herself just tries her best to politely tell them no. It’s quite an experience, but I’m not quite so convinced, so I’m doing an internet search as I write.
There’s nothing on her, and there’s no way to search for pictures of ‘a girl that looks like a girl I know’ without turning up a million useless photos of the most random things and people known to mankind. Honestly, internet search engines need to learn what relevance actually means. I’m tired of searching endlessly for an exact match just because some webpages contain most of the same words, or just so happen to use the phrase I’m looking for in their keywords. It’s not as amusing as they must think it is.
I check magazines and newspapers locally and statewide, but there’s not a picture or a mention of anyone matching Jen’s description, at least nothing worth mentioning. I wonder at this for hours, just trying to find her and find out why she’s so famous if there’s nothing on her anywhere. How can so many recognize her, and yet not even an in-depth scouring of the internet can bring about any resemblance to her? There’s something else at work here; there are forces great and cosmic which are currently disturbing two members of our party, and now I have to wonder if it’s me or Zao that they’ll get next.
I have succinctly driven myself into paranoia in the course of an evening. It’s an interesting feeling, and a truly unique disease. People with paranoia are some of the few in the world who know, instinctively, that they have a mental disorder and that it’s not something else. People with dementia, for example, think that their lives are perfectly ordinary. Schitzos too. But paranoia is one of those diseases that, when you have it, you have it and there’re no other questions. I’m afraid something’s going to happen to me, and that makes me paranoid.
I get up early in the morning and bring it all up with Tyr. “Tyr, I’m paranoid and Jenna’s look-a-like can’t be found.” I believe that, despite being more open and talkative, I should keep my commentary to a minimum. People are more apt to listen to you when you speak seldomly. It makes them feel that your words are vastly more important than they are when you talk in excess. Thinking in excess is nothing to be ashamed of, but only giving voice to those few things which I feel it necessary people know has vastly improved my outlook on life. I’m not certain that it’s worked yet, but it has made me feel better, if nothing else.
“Why are you paranoid? I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with me; I assure you that this darkness isn’t contagious in any fashion, even Zao hasn’t experienced it.” He smiles at me, but I know he means well. He’s got a lot more on his plate than just pure paranoia, so I can’t blame him for trying to make light of a situation, even if it’s as serious as the one we’re in.
“Your darkness, Jen’s uncanny popularity. Both are unexplained events that are leading us to somewhere we can’t identify here in Nevada. It worries me, because that’s two of us out of the four.” I hope that he understands, because otherwise I’ll have to speak even more, and I’m bordering on my conversational limit already. Luckily, he does.
“I think I can understand, but I’m not sure what I can tell you. If something happens like this to you or to Zao, then maybe it’ll lead us to our destination more quickly. I’m sorry to say such things, but unless you’re willing to leave the group and travel in another direction entirely, then I don’t believe that there’s anything which we can do about it.” He sighs and puts a hand to his forehead. I wonder if I’ve bothered him with my questions, but I suspect that it’s not me this time. It’s the situation which I’m amplifying with my paranoia, and I wish there were someone else I could speak to who would listen, but I know better than to approach Zao or Jenna with something so trivial.
I keep silent for the next few days, and then Jenna approaches the group with interesting news. “Are you aware that they tested the first nuclear device in this state?”
Tyr and Zao obviously did long ago, but it’s news to me. I nod anyways, trying to seem more competent. Maybe the overwhelming heat is the result of the nuclear fallout lingering in the air, waiting and amplifying the temperature around us. I jot the note down to remind myself later, despite how obviously wrong the theory has to be. Still, I wonder where Jenna’s going with all of this.
“Well, I thought that it would be interesting to check it out, and maybe see if it has anything to do with this feeling you have.” She’s obviously let infamy go to her head. Wanting to see a hole in the ground made nearly 100 years ago is one thing, but wanting to see a hole in the ground made by a nuke 100 years ago is quite another. I wait to see if Tyr or Zao will respond first before voicing my opinion on the matter. After all, there’s no point in making a fool of myself by giving dissenting opinions, or by speaking out of turn, and therefore more than necessary.
Tyr starts. “Well, we’ve not been to the site yet, and I suppose it’s as good a place as any to check for information. The tourists that gather around the area are certain to know at least something which we haven’t gathered. However, a nuclear testing site closed down nearly 100 years ago isn’t likely to hold the key to our problem.”
“Why not?” she asks, sounding disappointed. I wonder why she hasn’t grown accustomed to Tyr’s rejections of her ideas yet. Perhaps Zao is just too acquiescent and, therefore, she forgets what it’s like to be told no by someone who looks so similar.
“For one, the nuclear test was performed nearly 10 full years before twinsouls were ever reported to be in existence. What’s more, the military keeps precise records of the area, and have ever since the test in 1940. They would know and would inform us of anything unusual in the area, especially since I told them we’d be coming here nearly half a month before today.” He speaks so calmly and confidently, and even though he speaks much I can’t help but want to listen. I wonder if it’s not the amount of speech, but the quality and the tone which make people pay attention. Subject matter too would have to play a significant role, and yet I can’t tell whether what he’s saying is actually interesting, or if I’m only interested in Tyr shooting down another of Jenna’s schemes. “While I know none of you have any confidence in our military contributors, I at least have a measure of faith in their ability to keep us informed. Despite everything they’ve done to limit our personal freedoms, which, I’ll remind you hasn’t been quite as much as our situation would normally warrant, they’ve still obtained and reported useful information to me as it becomes available to them. So, we’ll go, but I’m not certain just how much the military could miss in an area they’ve controlled for so long.”
I look to Jenna for her reaction, and it seems to be minimal. It seems that she’s convinced of something which Tyr has just proven to be false, and I can’t help but wonder if she knows something. Is she somehow behind all of this? The darkness, the fame, the heat of Nevada? No, she joined our party well before the darkness began, and why would she seem so innocent when she told people she wasn’t famous if, indeed, she was? The pieces are all in play, but I’m not entirely sure if they’re even for the same puzzle. I spend the rest of the day writing what history I know of nuclear weaponry, including its discovery, its first test at the Trinity site just north of us, and even the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There isn’t much history, as I discover halfway to the site, or at least not much that I’ve been allowed access to. Perhaps Tyr’s right and nukes simply aren’t as high of a priority as they, perhaps, should be for anyone.
The desert road is long, endlessly black, and fades into the June sands, hot and wavy. Beyond the horizon there lies a field with a crater the size of a dozen football fields which was created by a simple bomb no bigger than myself. The wondrous and powerful miracles of human ingenuity are the things of nightmares. Just like this hot and endless road leads to nothing more than more hot and endless nothingness, so too does the destruction mankind wreaks upon the world in order to further his own destructive capabilities. The hope, then, is that something lies beyond the nothingness and the destruction, that beyond and behind these empty, evil words is something worth the heat and the disappointment. That something must be worth destroying the world for, because that’s where we’re headed, and that’s where we’ll be. All too soon.

Chapter Seventeen: Revelations II
The test site is empty today, and this worries me greatly. There was no mention of it being closed on any of the signs which we passed or even from the guard at the front gate. She hasn’t mentioned this to us, that it was abnormally empty or that we shouldn’t expect to see other people for one reason or another. Yet there’s not a soul here besides the four of us, and the unease in the pit of my stomach is slowly deepening to encompass my entire body. The others, happy as they are to not have to wait in lines to get an appreciative look, share in my uneasiness.
Charlie seems the least concerned about this develop-ment, and is casually walking about with his journal, jotting down notes from the informational panels and, occasionally, simply jotting down long passages from what he sees during his gazings. I wonder what it is about this place that sets him more at ease than the rest of us, and consider, briefly, that the paranoia which he mentioned to me the day before has simply overcome his better reasoning. Surely though, were this the case, then something as incredible as a tourist attraction being entirely empty in one of the first months of summer should be enough to trigger more of a reaction out of him, and yet it doesn’t do so. Charlie’s casual demeanor, therefore, troubles me as well.
I didn’t always worry so constantly over things which I couldn’t control, and I can’t help but feel this reaction that I’m having is the combination of more intense searching, more infrequent meditational sessions, and the expanding darkness of my waking hour. I force myself to sleep at times, just to get a feeling of whether or not a particular area is closer or farther away from the point which I need to locate, and consider doing so here, just so test Jenna’s theories about this place. Whatever mistakes she may have made about the connection this place would have with twinsouls, there’s no denying that there’s something unique about this area, and it’s certainly not only the nuclear explosion over nine decades before.
Zao, I’m going to sit down and sleep for a moment. Wake me in five minutes so I can get a reading on the area. I tell him this as I sit down on the burning pavement, making myself as comfortable as I can while I prepare myself for a meditational sleep.
You sure that’s a good idea? I mean, this place is al-ready as creepy as it gets. His concern is, as always, touching, but I won’t be dissuaded from doing as I know I must. A moment’s sleep is never more than just that, and so there’s little to worry about. At least, that’s what I have to believe in order to keep myself from giving into whatever darkness is out there.
I’m certain, Zao. Just wake me when it’s time and I’ll tell you how this area feels. I end the conversation on that note, and immediately force myself into deep meditation. My mind slips away from the moment and into a vaster, broader experience.
As I slip away from reality towards sleep, the lines of my body fade and blend with the thick air and the hot cement. The heat slowly dissipates and the firmness of the world is erased and replaced by casual, calming darkness and static energy. Out of the energy come shapes and silences that mean words, there are colors and bodies which belong to no one but themselves, and unfamiliar faces which belong to my closest and dearest companions. The dream world envelopes me more entirely than the real world, engaging my every sensual and mental capability until, suddenly, it takes shape and Jenna is there. She isn’t Jenna though, she is darker and has wild, uncontrollable hair. She speaks to me with Jenna’s voice, but it’s not the same. Her words are more soft and subtle, laced with ideas and inner beauties which the real Jenna’s voice has no place for. “Hello there, my dear. You came to my call. I’m so proud of you.” Her pride in my ability isn’t misplaced, and I assure her that I would’ve come from even further ends of the world for her. The voice that says my words is stronger and more confident than my own has sounded in months. It’s brilliant with the energy of passion and makes her smile her gentle, dreamy smile. “There you are, now come closer.” I hear her and, before I know it, I’m in front of her. I’m unsure of how I came to be where I am, or why it seems natural that I should move so quickly as to be unable to notice it myself, but it is so. “Do you know why you’re here?” She asks the question to me as one would ask a dearest child, and yet also a lover, and an object that is so precious it has been given its own life. I hear only her voice, and not the sounds around or outside of it, not even my own reply, which grants another smile to her lips. She takes my hand in hers and leads me backwards into an expanding cavern, lit with candles that fill the world with such soft and sweet illumination that they aren’t there at all, only their glow. She shows me her bed, a glorious and voluptuous oval, red and purple and gold like royalty released from captivity. It’s a fabulous bed, and I look from her to it without hesitation in my understanding of concepts beyond thought. She, the woman of the world, slides out of her nondescript clothes and offers me her smooth skin and eager limbs, ready for wherever my desires lead.
Zao tears me away from her.
He is not a voice or a firm hand, he is both, and all, and he is more real than the cavern and the woman whom he holds at swordpoint. She glares at him and I feel the warmth of eternity fading from my graces and into my despair. The cold of the cave amplifies the insanity of her hair and the dim light of the candles, so far away now. She laughs and taunts as her dark beauty loses whatever appeal it had to become pure and simple darkness. Zao listens not to her snaking seductions, and his voice echoes sharply. “Let us go, you wretch. I should’ve known you were up to something the moment you forgave me. How dare you even touch my brother!” The echoing words bounce off of myself and back into me, deeper and harsher and more sonorous. He holds onto my arm and she holds onto the smirk of her lips. “Why don’t you make me, Zao? And I can touch whoever I please, whenever I please.” She runs her hand along the edge of the blade and draws forth her own black and purple blood, letting it drip down. Zao shoves the blade into her throat and the rush back into reality throws me so far off balance that I barely manage to catch myself before hitting the ground.
Zao is across from me and breaks out of meditation a moment later. He looks at me with a relieved grin, then turns sharply around with an enraged snarl as Charlie steps up behind us. He calms when he recognizes his face and barks to him sharply. “Where’d the bitch go?!”
Charlie, stunned, backs up a step or two and closes his eyes as he drops his head. “I’m not sure,” he responds quietly, “She just sort of vanished in the confusion and I’m not sure how. What’s going on, exactly?”
Before Zao can overreact to the situation, I stand up and catch his attention. “I’m with Charlie on this. Before we do anything, tell me what just happened. Don’t leave anything out, Zao, because I’m not sure what happened, but I will be finding out one way or another.”
He gets up and nods. “Okay. But I’m driving and you’ll listen in the car, got it?”
“Didn’t I just say be-“ I start, but never get my thought out completely.
“In the car, now!” he shouts at us both. “We don’t have time to explain and then drive so just come on!” As much as I want to disagree, he’s already started running for the car, and if I don’t want to risk our stirring, or even mixing, then I need to catch up with him. So, I start running too, and Charlie pulls up the rear.

Chapter Eighteen: Heading Out
“So, we were just doing whatever at the site, looking around when Tyr told me he was going to sleep and so I was like: alright, that’s fine. I kept walking around with her and just looking when I noticed that she was looking at Tyr a lot. I couldn’t figure out why so I asked her and she told me something about wondering what you were doing, but I knew she knew what was happening so, that’s when I got suspicious.
“I tried to wake you, Tyr, but you wouldn’t wake up from my mental calls so I told her and she pretended to be concerned, but I could tell she didn’t mean it. I could just tell. She couldn’t hold up her lies anymore and whatnot so I held her at knifepoint and she just let it all go. I don’t know why bad guys break down the moment you figure them out, but she did. I didn’t have the time to kill her, but she’s a twinsoul. I had to get you out there before she got you or whatever. So I rushed and got into meditation mode and jumped into your head.
“Basically there was this other Jenna, her twin, trying to seduce you and I got there just in time to prevent it. I don’t know why or how she did all this, or how she fooled us but she did. Damn it all! How did we miss it? We were so close but she never even had a heartbeat. What’s up with that?” I don’t care if it sounds half crazed or half whatever, Tyr asked for the story and so he got it. I can’t believe she fooled us all and it doesn’t make sense. Does she even have a heart?
Tyr frowns at himself, and I can only imagine how this is all coming to him. I can, but I’m not going to. “I’m not sure. Where are we going?”
“Right. She told me that they’re going to Japan. Or that she’s already there, or something like that.” I sigh and try to remember, but the past few minutes have all been a blur, including ramming past the gate and onto the freeway. “Before you ask, there’s a plane leaving for Japan in about two hours from that town we were just in.” Tyr seems concerned, and I know what he’s going to say. “No, we don’t have tickets. We just have to get on and go.”
“But how?” Charlie asks stupidly. Like I know how, I just know we have to get there as soon as possible. I don’t know what she’s planning, but it’s never a good thing when your girlfriend turns out to be a two-timing whore.
“I don’t know. But we’re getting on and we’re going. Tyr, call your military friends or whatever you have to do but get us on that plane.” Tyr reaches into the glove compartment and grabs a cell phone, military issued, but what’s the difference now? He dials a quick number as I speed down the freeway. There are speed limits which I ignore, signs and other cars which I speed past. They can call whoever they want, but I won’t slow down. I won’t stop until I kill that bitch.
In the background I can hear Tyr arguing with some-one, anyone. He tells them he exists, that he’ll be talking to their superiors, and he eventually hangs up with a disgusted sigh as I pull into the airport, still going 70. “Got us a guaran-tee?”
“No. they won’t authorize a whim like this on a booked plane. It seems even the military has its limits.”
“Well then I guess we can always hijack it.”
“Or take someone else’s tickets.” Charlie says and I slam on the breaks just outside the terminal. Did he just say something smart for once?
“That’s brilliant!” I shout as we jump out. I head to-wards the gate with Tyr and Charlie, who’s quickly becoming my best friend, We head inside, get to the gate, and we’ve got twenty minutes. They’re already boarding people, so we do what anyone who wants tickets does, we grab someone at the back of the line at knifepoint and escort them away. I’m surprised Tyr hasn’t said a word in opposition. More importantly though, I’m surprised that he’s the one with the knife.
“We’ll be taking your tickets now, thank you.” He isn’t asking questions, and I can’t help but feel both proud, and responsible for this. Whatever happened in that dream must’ve been enough to push him just enough over the edge to see things my way. I’m almost ashamed, but I haven’t got the time for useless emotions like that.
It’s amazing how easily they give in and we get on the plane. Amazing that no one stops us or the plane when we let them go, but enough has happened recently for the amazing to become all too ordinary. Yet, I should know it’s all been too easy.
At L.A. there are police officers waiting for us. I don’t know what to do. A gang of punks are one thing, but a team of trained officers looking for armed lunatics? That’s something else entirely. I stand and I watch, and Tyr sighs. I can feel him forming something, but I can’t tell what it is. There’s no weight, and no texture. Something’s just… coming.
“Alright boys. You want us? Then let’s see which one of us has the bigger weapon…” Lightning cracks down, and one of the officers crumples in a twitching heap. My eyes widen, and I think I can hear Charlie’s heart stop, but it’s probably my own. Without warning, seven other bolts drop from the clear sky and completely rid us of our only obstacle. Tyr heads forwards and I follow. If there’s one thing HBO has taught me, it’s to never argue with a thunder god, even if he is your brother. I drag Charlie along, and I think he wet himself, but I can’t blame him this time.
Tyr gets onto the plane, sits down, and I sit next to him and wait until we take off before freaking out as quietly as I can. “How the hell did you that? Since when can you do that? What the… that was just so… What did you do?” I must sound even crazier than I did in the car, but I could, once again, care less. This time it’s for much different reasons, but that’s how things go when your world gets turned upside-down.
Tyr closes his eyes and leans back in his chair, as if he were just explaining anything else to me. Something which he knows I’ll understand, but doesn’t want to see my astonishment for. I don’t understand why he does this, I suppose he just likes to feel the shock instead. “You know as well as I do that we can effectively form any sort of weapon that we understand the composition and style of. You know that so long as we believe that the weapon will come, we can make it longer, shorter, lighter, heavier, and in whatever style we want.” He pauses and I know that he’s enjoying this, because I can see and feel him smile. “Well, I used one of Nature’s weapons.”
I keep my jaw shut tightly to keep it from dropping and then I hit him in the arm. “And when were you planning on telling me, huh? That we can control the weather and all that?” I’m incredulous, and I might be shouting, but they’ll just have to give me a warning, or whatever.
His smile vanishes, and he opens his eyes to look at me. “I needed to have the ace up my sleeve, Zao. If worse came to worse, I had to know I could stop you when I really needed to. I meant to tell you as soon as I knew you could handle the power, and the responsibility. I’m sorry you had to find out this way.” I could be angry with him, but I know it wouldn’t do me any good, especially not now. What would I do, try to strike the plane down? No, he knows that I don’t have the knowledge about storms and natural disasters to actually replicate one, but he does. Just when I thought I really had him beat at something too. Well, at least I still beat him at human weapons.
“You’re a real bastard, you know that?” I relax into the seat. “A real bastard. But I love you, bro. And I really hope that comes in handy against Jenna and her twin. I really do.” I do my best to relax, because it’s going to be a long flight.

Chapter Nineteen: The Nuclear Option
We’ve landed in the foreign. No, that’s not right. We’ve landed in a new and foreign world, full of strangers beyond strangers, and faces so similar, if only in their separation from our own. This is Japan, a teeming and fully automated city now. After the United States fell out of the technological race in the early 20’s, Japan and China took all of the production of goods, nearly worldwide. Sure, there are still business elsewhere, but nearly every single one picks up their goods from a Japanese supplier.
The city runs on nonstop electrical and steam power. The streets are conveyor belts which run endlessly to every point in the country. People share these gigantic paths with loads of cargo boxes, with piles of toys, and even cars, empty but still moving onwards towards their destination. The crime rate is, surprisingly, so close to zero here that people are willing to put up with the constant thrum of energy and construction jobs just to get away from the threat of violence elsewhere. Japan has reported only one twinsoul’s presence since they appeared, and even then the twinsoul left before it caused any real damage. That was over 80 years ago, and the customs agent who reported it is still considered somewhat of a national legend. I’m not sure why, but it must be because there are few heroes in a fully industrialized world like this.
This means, of course, that I’m traveling with the only twinsoul to ever be let into the country in over 80 years, and we’re spending our time searching for a heartbeat that can only be heard at short range. There’s a whole country to look through, and yet they still want to do it. At least Tyr has a plan, and that weather thing up his sleeve. I’m glad that he’s the calmer, more easygoing brother, because that sort of raw power shouldn’t be controlled by anyone. I’m not going to tell them that, of course, because I’d hate to push my luck with him now.
Tyr’s plan involves us traveling to the former cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to search those areas where they dropped the previous bombs. “All we know for certain,” he explained to us as we got off the plane, “Is that Jen led us to a nuclear site back in the United States, and so if she’s here, as Zao claims, then it makes sense that she’ll be near one of them.” It made enough sense to me, and Zao didn’t seem to be in a disagreeing mood for once in his life. Whether this change was because of Jenna’s betrayal, or because of Tyr’s awesome display of power is still up for debate, but I’ll figure it all out later when I have the time to recap.
For now, we’re racing towards Nagasaki on the bullet train, heading to the true ground zero. The Trinity site was one thing, but Nagasaki was never a barren land, and it certainly isn’t now. It’s intriguing that they chose to produce nuclear energy here, but I suppose it makes sense as well. More radiation can’t hurt an area that’s already full of it, and so long as they contain the new energy the old energy can dissipate on its own. Plus, if there’s an accident it’s not like they’re ruining a once pristine area. We take a tour of the whole site, but there’s not a single sign of Jenna or her twin.
It’s still hard to believe that Jenna’s a twinsoul, but I suppose it does make a sense of a few things. For example: her ease at the discovery of Zao being a twinsoul, her eagerness to go along with us, and it’s probably got something to do with why people recognized her in Nevada, but I can’t figure out that last one for the life of me. How would being a twinsoul make one instantly recognizable to an entire state? Tyr and Zao were certainly never mass recognized in any state to my knowledge, and had they been it would’ve made sense for them to suspect Jenna of being a twinsoul earlier. Yet they seemed just as surprised as I was, although, admittedly, neither of them had quite the bladder problems. I’m leaving that bit out of my book, even if it’s true there are things which people don’t need to know.
We break from the group, and alarms go off but we don’t have the time to care. Tyr and Zao summon Tasers and stun guns to incapacitate any guard foolish enough to get in our way. These men aren’t trained to put down skilled combatants, and I wonder how peaceful Japan would be if the world’s crime lords knew things like that. We search the whole building, the whole complex, and the surrounding area without Tyr and Zao so much as breaking a sweat. I’m panting and struggling to keep up by the time we board the next bullet train for Hiroshima, and I’m glad for the comfort that air-conditioning and comfortable seating can give, however temporary it’ll be. I know that I’ve gotten more in shape with all of the running and working that I’ve been forced through during my time with these two, but I’m still unable to keep up with them for any extended period of time, and by extended I typically mean anything more than 5 minutes, if that.
At Hiroshima the guards are apparently watching for us, but Tyr, convinced that Jenna must be here, calls forth a massive blizzard which, due to its severity, closes the entire site. A blizzard in the beginning of June might be something that the world hasn’t experienced in decades, but Tyr isn’t concerned with global climates right now. A shut down normally would never happen with the climate control field in place, but accidents have been known to happen every now and then, and so it would seem that that’s all anyone thinks it is: just another accident that gets them out of their jobs for the day. They seem happy, cheerful even, to be returning home because of a freak storm. It works well for us too, because even with the guards still on duty, they’ll be only half as vigilant in weather like this. I can’t imagine how Tyr thinks so quickly, but by the time I have the time to consider the possibilities, we’re already inside and searching. The area we need to sweep is the size of my hometown, and so it takes us a long time to clear even half of it, but at the exact spot the bomb hit, Tyr and Zao stop cold and turn to face each other. I know they’ve found it without them saying a thing.
“Where is she?” I ask, feeling like it’s the smartest thing I can say at the time, but they answer without words, summoning blades which they use to hack into the floor and pry loose the metal sheets. I wonder why we didn’t bring industrial strength drills for this sort of work, but then I remember that drills aren’t normally weaponry, and that kind of technology isn’t the sort of thing that they give common folk access to. I do my best to help with the lifting, and to watch out for guardsmen who aren’t huddled up in the monitoring decks because, not surprisingly, one of the monitors ended up having a few intruders on it. Somehow we get through, and when the metal sheet is finally thrown away there are stairs leading down into the same darkness that swallowed my home. I wonder if Jenna had something to do with that too, if she was the reason that I lost everything I ever owned or loved in this world. I don’t doubt it, because she’s been nothing but trouble.
We head downward, Zao and his scythe first, and be-fore we realize what’s happening the stairs turn into slick mud, and we all slide down in the darkness. Down, down, and down. Somewhere above my single scream and the sloshing of mud, the unmistakable resealing of our only escape route reaches my ears. We’re in it til the end now and, surprisingly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chapter Twenty: Day Zero
The darkness dispels as I draw out a sword drenched in gasoline and lit with the spark of creation. Zao stands behind me with his own blade doused in fire, and the mud clinging to our skin and clothes is of little consequence. This isn’t the cave where we discovered that ancient twinsoul and his brother, this is the cave of truth at the opposite end of the world, buried beneath the deceit of months, and maybe even decades. Here, I can’t be afraid to strike, even if my main goal must be truth. We lost the heartbeat on the slide down, but there’s only one path that remains to us now: forwards.
We don’t walk or creep slowly; we don’t march or run; we simply walk with our swords at the ready, and, despite myself, I’ve given Charlie a gun. It’s a simple gun, no more than a loaded revolver, but it should help so long as he can aim it properly. Our walk doesn’t take us far before the darkness gives way to the faint glow of a sickeningly familiar scene.
The walls of the caves glow faintly in the light of dozens of candles, spaced out evenly to give the area an ominous glow. At the far end lies the bed, large and colorful, just as I dreamt it. No, I can’t simply excuse it as a dream anymore, because dreams are a product of the subconscious, and this is surely the work of the devilish woman standing before us now, her hair wind-whipped and wild. She is bare of clothing, but I refuse to let my eyes meet anywhere but her cool green gaze. I don’t jump back or gasp, I don’t even tense when Jenna steps out from behind her twin, just as nude and twice as infuriating. Zao, beside me, clenches his fist around the hilt of his sword and we both let the sound of the heartbeat fill our heads, although we force it into submission.
“Welcome to my humble abode, gentlemen.” They speak in unison, with voices that are somewhere between the soft and seductive tones of my dream and the reality which we’re all more than used to by now. There’s nothing right with this situation, but I refuse to let what’s wrong conquer us. I refuse to fall any further here, because of this slippery stepping stone on my path for truth.
“Who are you truly? You’re not who you told us you were, so give us the truth for once.” As I speak, I realize that my idyllic notions of the world have no real merit, but I won’t give into that doubt or truth now. I can change the world when and if I should need to, because no one is bound to destiny. “There’s no point in lying to us now.”
“You’re right,” they say again, and I force the shiver that leaps to my spine to stay at its base. To show fear is to lose, and I can’t afford to lose even a single exchange. I must treat this as a war, or even just a battle, because it’s already been made into one by them. I would normally never jump to conclusions like this, but Zao’s firm grip on his sword’s hilt informs me that he and I share these feelings. “I won’t lie, you’re just as impressive as I’d hoped you’d be when I gave birth to you.” This shock is harder to control, but Zao manages, and so too do I.
“What exactly do you mean? We know our mother, and saw the pictures and records to prove that you’re not her.” The thought that anything constitutes as infallible proof anymore seems to have already been negated by the events of the past two days, but I must hold that some things are real and true. No matter what she says, I don’t have to believe her. She’s lied to me before, and even with no reason to now that doesn’t mean that she won’t.
“No no, I mean that I’m the one who gave you your two souls.” They speak so quietly that, without the echoes in the otherwise silent cave, it would impossible to hear them without being in such close proximity to them as to be intimate. I wait for her to continue, since I gather that she knows we’d ask about her claims, one way or another. “You see, I’m the one who bequeaths an extra soul to newborn children. I find it so delightful to do, but I’m afraid that my powers are severely limited, which is why I needed you here, my pet. I need you to create more of us.”
I lower my sword slowly. Zao, stay ready, but don’t do anything rash. “I’m not going to do anything for you unless you explain yourself further.” I musn’t appear threatening while she’s being civil, even if this is war.
“I can’t simply put another soul into a body without having an extra one around. Therefore, I need a strong twinsoul which I can bed to create more souls, and then send them out into the world.” The two Jennas smile at us and hold out a hand each. “You, my pet, are my choice this year. So come, I’m afraid we only have the one month to replenish ourselves, as you already know.”
I stand reticent for a whole minute, watching their eyes and their proffered hands for the slightest hint of deceit. I can’t find any, but the questions I can locate with certainty. There are at least a dozen questions, all equally important, which I need answered. This twinsoul, she knows the secrets which I seek; she has my answers, and so I have to ask. “Before anything, I have more questions which I need to ask you, and I’ll accept nothing but the complete, unabridged truth. Is that understood?”
“As long as you do not take too long, my pet, then you may ask me whatever you wish.” I’ve grown more accustomed to their unified speech, but something about it still disturbs me, so I resolve to start with the closest questions.
“Why do you only refer to the both of you as a single person? Twinsouls are two souls, and each soul should be treated as unique, no?”
“This is no twin of mine,” the wild-haired Jenna mo-tions backwards towards herself as the Jenna we knew points to herself, “She is merely a puppet which I control to bring my partners to me when the time comes.”
“So then, she was the source of the darkness?” My ‘mother’ nods. “And she isn’t your twin, which is why we couldn’t hear her heartbeat, yes?” I consider her second nod for a moment before continuing with the questions. Zao is surprisingly collected, and so I know I can trust him to stay that way.
“What of my experience at the test site? Was that merely a vision to tempt me here? Or, had it continued, would it have made a difference?” I must know if there was something more to it than just what it seemed to be. If Zao hadn’t been there, I have to know what would’ve happened.
“Had things been allowed to progress further than they had, then there would have been no need for you to come all the way to Japan in order to do this. My powers allow me to have complete physical access to your body without physical contact, so long as the illusion is held and you believe that you’re here.” She motions to the cave around us, and specifically back towards her bed. “Is there anything else?”
“I’m afraid there’s quite a bit of it, actually. Why Zao and I? What purpose could you have in selecting us for this as opposed to other twinsouls?” I believe I know the answer before she says it, but confirmation of suspicions are always better than the suspicions themselves.
“You are the most controlled of all of the twinsouls in the world at the moment that is male. You have the ability to keep yourself from attacking and, although it is possible to force my way to my goal, I would much prefer that you came willingly to my bed, as it makes the process much easier.”
“What do you mean you can force your way? I’ve been trying to figure out what sort of power you possess, but it seems that no one ability can compensate or allow such a wide range as you have. You can transfer souls, or so you claim, control otherwise lifeless dolls that look like they could be your twin, cause darkness in other people, invade their dreams and, presumably, control others despite their will. What one power would explain all of that?” I’ve been pondering over the question ever since we found out that she was a twinsoul. Psychic abilities wouldn’t explain every single power, although I suppose there are abilities beyond those of the normal definition. After all, I can summon storms to my will, surely there’s a bending of the term psychic which could result in such a plethora of skills.
“I mean that I have the ability to control the subcon-scious, and therefore the will of any object. Owing to that, I can change the direction of and decisions of anything with willpower up to a certain point. While I’ve had decades to perfect my art, I’ve not yet developed the entire spectrum of my powers. My doll isn’t quite as lifeless as you believe.” She waves her hand and Jenna starts to blink as she looks around. The moment she spots the flaming swords, and then notices her own nakedness she shrieks and turns to run. My eyes must widen, because the woman smiles as she waves her hand again and the girl slows to a stop. “I’ve suggested to her mind that she is merely an extension of myself. I had her get plastic surgery in order to appear as my twin, and have extensively worked her subconscious so that I can switch her on and off at will.
“Your mind, on the other hand, isn’t quite so malleable. You’ve strengthened it to the point that even your twin has the ability to control himself completely in my presence with much of my help.” I look to Zao to check on him. He feels slightly more agitated than he had moments ago, but he still seems to be in control, as this woman says. “I’m sure that you too know that our powers are far greater than what they appear to be at the base level.”
“Yes. I do.” I reaffix my gaze on hers and prepare my-self. “So, I’m afraid that I’ve been quite rude.” Now it’s her turn to be on the defensive. “I’m Tyr.” She relaxes. “This is my twin, Zao, as you know, and this is Charlie, our companion. What’s your name?”
Despite the simplicity of the question, she waits for a long while before replying. The expression on her face betrays nothing of the confusion and desperation in her eyes. Does she not have a name? “My name is Elonna, I believe. I haven’t been asked that question in a very long time.” She smiles again, but this smile isn’t one quite so charged. This is a normal smile, a thankful smile for retrieving something which she thought she’d lost.
“Elonna, where is your twin?” Her smile vanishes, and for the first time she flares with hostility. “My twin is none of your concern. Move on from the subject.” Her words echo on several levels of my mind, and I fight the urge to simply give into them, consciously choosing to make the decision instead. I’m surprised that when I open my eyes that I relax as well, as though I’d just been struggling fiercely. Elonna is most certainly powerful.
“I assume that you were one of the first twinsouls, at the very least, yes?” She nods to me once again, and I’m glad not to hear her voice this time. “Tell me, how long ago were you born and what was it like back then?”
“I was born 130 years ago, in the year 1904.” I widen my eyes again, because even the roughest estimates of twinsoul creation don’t allow for that sort of gap between their first appearance and the birth of the first.
“How is that even possible? Surely you must be-“
“I was born as a twinsoul, originally. I was the first, and I became a twinsoul during an accident.” I quickly calculate all of this and come to a conclusion faster than I’d like to.
“You… you were reborn the day of the Trinity site testing. That explains the dates of our birth, from June 16th, the day of the test, to a month later. It’s closer to a lunar cycle than any star signs, isn’t it? But, how would that explosion have affected you?” I know the answer to this question as well, before I even began speaking I knew I would ask, and I knew her answer. She was an unrecorded casualty.
“There are always accidents, especially when it comes to certain things like this. A week before my small plane crashed about 30 miles from the site. I wandered the desert looking for civilization in the closest direction I knew it to be, and fell asleep, buried in the sands to keep myself warm at night. When I woke in the morning, I had just enough time to pop out my head to see the fiery explosion that enveloped me.”
“And so you live beneath Hiroshima in order to stay close to nuclear incidents, yes? I imagine the effects amplify your powers in some way, or at least aid in the acquisition of souls.” Now that I’m finishing her thoughts I know there are only two options. The first is that I’m catching on quickly and that I’m more intelligent than I occasionally will allow myself credit for. The second, and more likely solution, is that she’s working her powers on my subconscious to feed me the information in order to speed up the questioning process. How can I know which it is? “But, how did the explosion cause your rebirth? Hundreds of thousands died here and in Nagasaki and yet none of them, to my knowledge, were reborn like you were. Unless I’m mistaken?”
“No, my pet, you aren’t mistaken at all. I’m unsure of how the explosion morphed my body or my soul and why I came into being with two souls when I awoke, and yet here I am. It took me ten years to find that my abilities extended to the point where I could create more of us, and even then it was impossible to do so without a viable partner. So, I ripped a man apart and took the soul from his body before placing it into the body of my former lover. From our union came the first twinsouls, and from the explosive and violent natures of our births came the unique powers of our children, as well as your dangerous natures.” It all makes sense, but I’m unsure if it all makes sense due to her tricks, or real logic. I force myself to consider the information and reconsider it, and, even after a minute of silent debate with Zao and myself, it seems to fit more perfectly than I could’ve imagined or dreamed.
“So then, why do newer generations still have that innate violence so engrained into us?” I ask with growing skepticism. Something in the air is growing, coming closer to swallow all of us in the cave, and yet neither Zao nor Charlie has said a word.
“Because I am your mother.” The explanation is simple, but incomplete.
“And yet the father changes, as you’ve said.” Her ex-pression flickers to something unknowable, and then back again. “So why would we still be violent if the original was the reason for our rage? You’re only our explosive impulses, not the actual violence.”
For a long moment, I wonder if her entire story has been a fabrication, intricately woven to trick us all here to have us killed. She is a twinsoul, after all, and as ancient and powerful as she might be, the only thing I’ve ever known for certain about our people is that we seem to enjoy murder more than we enjoy anything else. At least it’s true when we’re close enough to each other.
She calmly replies: “Your original father isn’t gone, he has been absorbed.” I can’t imagine what she means, but the something in the air of the room grows more ominous. “After we are done creating new twinsouls, your body will be entirely spent of its energy. I must move your souls into my body, in order to keep you alive.” Zao is finally tensing again. Death was not part of the original agreement, and I can’t help but feel she was withholding this last bit intentionally. Perhaps though, it was the order in which I asked the questions. Perhaps this revelation has come last because of my own actions, and not hers. Yet, how could it have occurred to me to ask anything in a different order? “Your body must die,” she says again, burning the words into my mind, “So that our race may continue living.”
It seems inevitable. My people are tied inextricably to death. We were created from the death of one, and each year one of us is sacrificed so that we may continue living and killing each other. If I don’t go along with this plan and let my body die, the very people I’ve been trying to save will lose their only means for continued survival. I wonder which fate is worse for the world, and worse for them. Elonna stares at me and waits for my answer. She knows me well enough to realize that I won’t want our kind to die out do to my lack of action. She knows me well enough to think that even by revealing the nature of the act she can still convince me to go through with it. She knows me all too well.
I have no choice. “Very well. I have one last question, if you’d be so kind as to answer it then I’ll do it.”
What the hell are you saying? Zao demands. You can’t just kill us because she said something’s going to happen. She’s lied to us before!
She has no reason to now.
“Is there a way out of here for Charlie and Jenna to escape through? I want to make sure that they can be safe.”
What the hell do you mean she has no reason? She probably just wants to kill us, level the playing field a bit. Zao’s arguments, while forceful, are all but null. The situation can’t really be that simple, not with the way things have progressed.
Zao, just think about it. “Yes, there is. I shall send them there with their memories of this event erased from their minds. They shall have no memory of this, and will find themselves wholly happy in the outside world.” You know there’s no other way. Elonna’s voice has regained its naturally seductive nature, and she holds out an arm for me. “Now come, my pet, we must bed. The first day of Gemini is nearly upon us.”
“Don’t do it, Tyr.” It’s Charlie, and I can’t be anything but surprised at his reaction. “There’s got to be another way, right? We can keep searching and things’ll be okay if we just keep looking for answers somewhere else.” I smile at his des-peration, and turn my head back towards him to flash him this last smile.
“Hey, don’t fool yourself. I think any author knows when a story comes to an end.” I wink at him, and then say in a louder voice. “Elonna, get them out of here.” As I watch, Charlie loses all elements of himself and turns, heading back the way we came. I wonder where the exit is that we missed along the way, but stop imagining it when Jenna passes by me as well, lost in some deep, engrossing stupor.
I return my gaze to Elonna’s outstretched hand, the curves of her body, and then to her face, set in an expression meant to ease the burden of what our future holds. There are many who have done exactly this, and many who have given themselves to her in order to preserve us. This, however, is my experience, and Zao’s. We will make this our own, even if it’s our final act here.
This is the end.

Chapter Twenty-One: Unexpected Ending
You son-of-a-bitch. I dig a blade deeper into the Earth and pull us. I can’t believe you did something that stupid. He’s sleeping, and it makes every move ten times as difficult as it already is. There’s no way he can hear me, but damn I wish he could. Blade over blade, foot after foot, I use Tyr’s weakened body to lift us up towards the inevitable steel wall ahead.
It takes me three hours of tirelessly exhausting effort, but I finally escape to the lowest stair, and I allow us time to rest. I cannot sleep, cannot let the darkness lull me away, or we’ll roll back down into the burning abyss below. I can still feel the heat, even so far from it now I can feel it. God, and I’m even starting to speak like you now. You really are just plain stupid.
I recollect on the past, just before my hours of climbing in the heat of the world made real. I should have known he was planning something bigger than just following along when he dropped that sword. I should felt the subtle way his hands were forming something bigger than even lightning, but he’s only ever done it once before, and I was just so angry with him. I can’t help but think he knew I’d disagree so much, that I wouldn’t notice. But I guess I owe him everything too.
He took her to bed, and left me just to feel. I hated every moment. It wasn’t just that he was having sex before me, because that childish thought was only a small thing, but it was that he was sacrificing everything just for a bunch of people we’ve never met. But it was there, his hands were working the entire time to make a weapon, even as he caressed and held her body. I think he did the majority of the weapon creation during that time so that I wouldn’t recognize it too. It’s hard to think of the creation of natural disasters while your mind is focused on physical exhaustion and pleasure, even if it really was only physical.
It all came together at the final moment. Just as they reached some sick climax and a new twinsoul was born into the world, the floor cracked open and red hot lava poured onto the floor. I had no reaction, but Tyr’s voice, weak as it was, shot into my head to give me one. Come on… I need your help to get us out.
I didn’t just run, or sprint, but I flew to him, grabbed our body, and pulled him from the flaming bed. Elonna was furious, but she was just too exhausted to move. I don’t know why her twin wasn’t doing the same as I was, but I got inside of Tyr and pushed our body onwards. Naked, and tired, we reached the back of the cave and I searched as well as I could for an exit, but there was none. I couldn’t see a single thing, so I did the next best thing. I climbed.
Lava was, and as far as I know still is slowly filling the cave below, and I can still remember the screams that Elonna made. Louder, and somehow more pleasing than the ones she made during the sex. I have to get moving though, too much rest and I won’t be able to force Tyr’s body to do anything else. It’s hard enough when he’s awake, but this is gonna be something.
I stand, walk up a few steps, and create the only thing I know I can use right now that won’t drain me before I’m done. I always knew, somehow, that I’d need to know how to make a spiked maul, and now seems the best place for it. Slam after slam, I pound on the heavy metal ceiling above me to loosen it from its bolts, or to just tear a hole through it. My arms are horribly sore, and I wonder if I’ll even be able to pull us out when I break through.
I can, and do, but only barely, and lay myself on the cool floor of the nuclear base to await guards, or someone to find us. There’s a hole in ground with lava at the bottom, next to a naked guy and a medieval weapon. Someone’s gonna have a party with this one.

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