Today we have a horror story for Kingston University MFA student Sophia Yamamoto. It features twin sisters who must become become one via a very twisted family tradition. There is not much more that can be said about this story without giving too much aways, so we will leave you with the story.
I watch as the rest of my family eats tonight: pork medallions in a light wine sauce, broccoli crowns steamed perfectly to tenderness on one side of them and some saffron rice on the other. My mother and father laugh as if Lucy and I weren’t here. They ask Lucy to clean up the dishes, and then leave the table. Both kiss my cheek and tell me that I’ll be fine before going up to their room and shutting the door tightly. Lucy clears the table and starts to load the dishwasher. She picks off the spare bits of fat and stray bits of rice that had become dry and hard. When she’s done, Lucy comes back over to me with a smile on her face.
“Don’t worry, Sarah,” she says, taking my hands in her grip. “We’re going to do this.”
“I don’t like that we’re doing this,” I say. “It’s. . . inhuman. I can’t just–” I feel myself want to cry, and I fight against it.
Lucy smiles at me. “It’s okay,” she says, wrapping her little six-year-old arms around me. “I understand. We’re the same person, remember? Just in two different bodies.”
“You’ll get through it all, right?”‘
“I will,” I promise her. “Can I have some water, please?”
“Sure. I’ll get it,” Lucy says, then gets up to pour me a glass of water. It’s flavored with some fizzy vitamin supplements. Lucy gives it to me. I drink the chalky water eagerly. I don’t bother trying to get used to the taste. It is the most flavor I am going to get for the next week. “Let’s go to bed,” Lucy says, taking my hand that looks exactly like her own. “It’s for the best.”
I’m taken out of school for the next two weeks with “scarlet fever,” and so is Lucy. The twins are sick, Mother says over the phone. They won’t be coming in for school. I’m so terribly sorry. While my parents are out at their jobs, Lucy’s job is to make sure that I have nothing in my mouth other than water and vitamin supplements. I’m already longing for the taste of something else: peas, sweet cakes, lemon juice, hot peppers. Anything. Lucy keeps careful watch over me, though, and she distracts me with a game, then a TV show. She brings me water whenever I wish, and she keeps me busy until our parents come home.
Dinner has been bought tonight. Mother hands Lucy a take-out container of grilled chicken, fresh flour tortillas, boxed mashed potatoes with gravy, and creamed corn. Mother dismisses me from the table and the empty kitchen, and I go up to the room I share with Lucy. She’s made sure all the hiding places for food were empty before I shut myself in. I want to be angry at her, but I can’t. There’s no room for anger in my sadness or my hunger. Both keep me company as I hear the clanking of dishes and smell the rich aroma of meat and rosemary rise into the room.
Lucy has been good at distracting me from the severe lack of food. Her games are fun, and they are so imaginative. She always plays the good guy when we try to be TV characters, and I’m always her sidekick. Pooki is the bad guy, but because he’s a dog he can’t really speak. So, Lucy voices the bad guy and has conversations with herself for a while until the storyline has moved on. I pretend that my vitamin supplements are actually what give me the power to save lives of the good citizens of Our City.
Then our parents come home with dinner pre-packaged. It’s meat lasagna with extra ricotta cheese, two stalks of blanched asparagus topping each of the three pieces, and thick slices of garlic-butter bread tucked in a separate bag. Tonight, it includes dessert: chocolate-chip cannolies with sweet, hand-whipped cream and a cherry on top.
Lucy whispers to me, “Don’t let them fool you! They work for Dr. Vile! That might look like lasagna and cannoli, but it’s really a poison that will instantly start to melt your brain!” Believing her, I gasp and run upstairs to hide so that they can’t force me to eat poison.
I’m crying big crocodile tears as I get my open hands slapped with a small, thin cane. Lucy caught me trying to eat some crumbs off the counter. Father says that’s what bad girls get, and that I’ll never try that again. Lucy puts ice in my sore palms and curls my fingers around the cubes. I’m still crying. I’m crying so much that I can’t stop crying. It hurts so much.
Lucy wraps her arms around me, cradling my head and kissing me through her panic.
“I’m sorry, Sarah. Really sorry!” she says, crying too. I can barely understand her. “I didn’t think he’d do so much. I thought you’d get scolded.”
“I don’t hate you,” I say. “It just hurts.” I sob again.
“Lucy,” Mother says as she leans in the doorway from the kitchen, wooden spoon in hand. “Get her a bucket of ice water and get her upstairs. Then come to dinner.” Lucy nods and helps me up to our room. I glance back longingly into the kitchen where Mother is still cooking.
Dinner is Indian curry on a bed of rice, a side dish of a red lentil and saffron potatoes, yogurt, and chopped steamed vegetables for dipping.
Lucy’s upstairs with me for dinner tonight. She’s not supposed to eat for the next two days. Mother is going to stay home tomorrow, making sure that neither of us eats. I’m to the point of not caring whether or not I eat. I just hope that I die before the week us up. Of starvation.
“Don’t worry,” Lucy says, smiling brightly as we are lying on the empty floor together. “We’re doing this. It’s okay.”
“I just don’t want to anymore,” I say, hugging her closely. “I don’t understand why we have to do it. I don’t want to.”
“Because it’ll make us whole,” she says, stroking my hair. “So, what do you think that they’re eating down there? I think I saw Chinese on the bag.”
“Well, Mom likes the low-salt teriyaki, so probably that.”
“Do you think she got rice or noodles?”
“Half and half!” I said.
“Yeah, bet dad went with that awful brown rice thing, too.”
And this is how we pass the evening.
We don’t come downstairs all day. We keep the lights off in our room and play with flashlights and blankets. We make the biggest blanket-fort we’ve ever made and pretend to be queens and duchesses, princesses and matriarchs. We reconfigure the blanket-fort to be a tipi and tell each other ghost stories. They are the same ones that we’ve told to the other school kids a million times before, but they still manage to scare us into turning on all the lights and making sure that we take sleep in shifts.
But those thoughts are interrupted when the splendid waft of heated cooking oil fills the room. We open the door to get a better smell of what Mother is cooking. She’s getting ready for dinner tonight, and it seems that she intends to make it special, since it’s only her and Father tonight. We debate on what exactly she is cooking, but we agree that it’s definitely steak, there are definitely baked beans, and there is definitely something sweet in the oven. We think it’s cookies.
I’m crying again, but it’s not because I tried to eat. It’s because now I have to eat. Lucy hugs me and rocks me back and forth on the couch.
“You’ll be fine,” she coos. “It’ll be painless. I promise.”
“You don’t want your hands caned again, right? Just go through with it. You can’t eat breakfast or lunch, but they’ll let you eat at dinner.” She smiles at me. I know she’s not okay with this, I can feel it in my soul, but she smiles anyway. “You just have to be good until then. I’m not going to be here to keep you busy, so you have to do it yourself, okay?”
Mother walks into the room and says that it’s time to go. Lucy kisses me and hugs me one last time before taking our mother’s hand.
Father is just getting off work when Mother finally comes back up from the basement, bloody and in need of a shower.
Mother and Father eat their dinner, leftover Salisbury steak, baked beans, mashed potatoes, and honey-oatmeal cookies. I can’t eat the leftovers, even though there is plenty to go around. I probably won’t get any tomorrow either.
When they are done, Father asks Mother to do the dishes, and then for me to come with him. We go down to the basement while my mother clears the table. It’s not the bloody mess I expected it to be. In fact, it’s as neat and tidy. It looks more like your friendly neighborhood butcher’s storefront than a basement. Sure, there was a little red here and there, but the store isn’t covered in it.
“Your mother cut it up for you. You should be able to chew it easier that way.” He smiles at me and brings me to a chair. There is a small table with a purple and pink pastel, round table mat on it, and Father makes me sit. He finds a plate in a cupboard and a Tupperware container filled with red, bloody meat. “Take your time. Eat until you’re full.”
He leaves the plate and Tupperware, and once he leaves I can hear the sound of a lock being thrown shut. I stare at the Tupperware for a long, long time. I don’t know what to feel, how to feel. It’s not that I feel nothing; it’s just not what I thought it would be. I’ve imagined what this was going to be like, but it’s not like that. All I feel now is the hunger and the emptiness. This will fill me, I think. This will complete me. I’m stuck here until I eat.
So I do. I pop open the Tupperware, and scoop up a cube of meat in my fingers. It feels kind of like that time I tried to eat that awful sashimi and dipped the raw fish in soy sauce: my fingers slimy and the meat slippery. It’s not soy sauce running down my hand, though, and this meat doesn’t fall apart when I squish it like fish does. This is awful.
My mouth waters at the sight of food, and my stomach begs me to shove the meat down my throat as fast as I can. I don’t know how the meat tastes. I just keep putting cubes in my mouth, chew through the soft flesh, and swallow without choking: one bite in front of the other. It’s like walking. It’s so simple. Just eat it.
I manage to eat the entire container before my stomach feels bloated. Curious, I look through the cupboards and the big refrigerator to see how many more containers I have left.
I shut the refrigerator and do some math on my fingers. Sixteen meals means five days of full meals and an extra breakfast.
I crouch on the ground, hugging my knees tightly. I rock back and forth. There is no way to describe my hate and guilt for being Sarah, the correct side. I have all the right imperfects: ones that can be corrected by assimilating with Lucy’s perfect ones. I know we can be whole again if I just finish my meals and eat like a good girl, but I don’t want to. There is only one of us, but I feel as if we were supposed to be split in two. I don’t feel complete without my super hero, without my duchess. She was already inside of me, why do I need to put her there?
“Ready?” Mother asks. She’s standing in the doorway, Father not too far behind her.
“Can I stay down here?” I ask.
Mother and Father look at each other, curious and confused.
“That’s fine,” Father says. “Don’t over eat and make yourself sick.”
“I’ll get your blanket and pillow,” Mother says, shutting the door. I can hear them walking away.
That night, I take the empty container and hug it like a teddy bear as I sleep.
The reality of what’s happening in the story sneaks up on the reader slowly, until at the end they can barely believe what is happening. The descriptions of the family’s meals throughout the story compliment the horror of what’s going on and give the atmosphere almost an innocent and mundane feel despite the sickening twist.
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