We Could Have Made Music

We Could Have Made Music (background)

They are fifteen years old, hale and hearty and healthy, tall and pale and quiet as churchmice. They have grown up to the music of Six’s madness, her sobs and sniffles and laughter, the scrape of teeth against metal, the rasp of teeth against skin, the sick sweet wet sounds of tearing flesh.

*

They have taken away her name, replaced it with a number, left it slapped haphazard on the door to her cell. As if anyone coming down to her dark depths could forget who she was.

As if it mattered if they did.

Their minds are entangled, synapses intertwined. I am her and she is me and we are all together and it doesn’t matter if you call me Nine or Ten or Six or Fourteen, if you call me Teena or Cindy or Sally.

Six’s mind has rotted right out of her skull. She jabbers and hisses in her cell. At night they can hear the scrape of her teeth on the bars. They do not need to see her to know she has filed her yellowed canines and incisors into needle points. She licks her lips and slavers, and in their heads they can see straight into her fantasies, feel the thick juice of a punctured eye run hot down their own throats as it once did hers.

The girl once called Teena and now known as Ten had a nice home in Connecticut, a big rambling house and rich parents who loved her. She can not pretend that the capering, drooling, mad thing in the other cell does not disgust her. She knows that it (she) knows her thoughts, knows that it (she) doesn’t care, knows that it (she she she) regards her own reserved detachment with a special form of contempt.

They have seen each other’s minds and have each found the other wanting. They are not offended by this knowledge.

Eight has come religiously, once a week, under the auspices of The Program. She speaks of rehabilitation and does not allow them to call her Eight, goes by June. They are in her mind and she in theirs but she has walled off portions of herself; thoughts drift through heavy fog.

Once a week they are marched to a white room, prodded and poked, asked to talk about their feelings. Mostly they just smile. They do not seem a danger to anyone but are kept chained, locked away in the dark.

They do not think of Eight as June, although they acquiesce to call her by her chosen name when out of their cells and blinking under bright lights. She worries for them, wonders how they can keep their sanity in all of that darkness.

She is them and they are she but they are not all together; she can see through their eyes but does not really know their minds, their wonderful improved perfect minds. She is an earlier model, flawed, lacking. She takes pills to boost her moods and trembles and shakes and thinks too often of razor blades and warm baths.

They are twelve years old when someone brings a squalling baby down into the dungeons, slams a door, leaves it crying in the cold. The thoughts coming off of it (she) are incomplete, staccato, boiling red with rage and unfulfilled need.

The tag over the door says Eleven.

The baby does not howl for long. The door is thrown open again, new faces take it, bundle it, swaddle it, speak words of comfort. It bites their fingers with harmless gums, eyes wide and unfocused, pure anger condensed to the smallest possible form.

She does not need to see her sister, her other, herself, to know what she is thinking.

They do not see the baby again, but feel its (her) brain, always, beating like a malevolent heart. She will be younger than they were when it kills for the first time.

The idea that The Project has moved on, kept trying, means that they are considered nothing more than mistakes nine and ten in a long line of them.

She is not a mistake. She is her Other, and they are together. Two minds, one mind. They see through each other’s eyes. Their hands do not tremble. They have no desire to injure themselves, or each other (maybe each other maybe sometimes but only a little bit only to see the blood not to kill never to kill she is me she is me she is me.)

They spend years in their heads. She that was Cindy takes the once and former Teena to the beach, shows her the warm blue Pacific. There are dolphins in the surf. A child in diapers steps on a seashell, shrieks as blood stains the sand. They smile.

Teena shows Cindy the mansions of Greenwich, business men in suits, jogging housewives in matching sweatsuits. Foxglove growing in the gardens, creeping, unnoticed amongst orchids.

It is hard to untangle their memories, to remember who was who, which one was Teena and which one was Cindy, which one lied about red lightning because she thought the look on the FBI man’s face was funny. Dead fathers, stiff and blue and bloodless. Life dripping into soda bottles, buried in the ground, never found. That first spark and flare of consciousness, acknowledgement of the Other, they who are always alone and never alone.

They are fifteen years old, hale and hearty and healthy, tall and pale and quiet as churchmice. They have grown up to the music of Six’s madness, her sobs and sniffles and laughter, the scrape of teeth against metal, the rasp of teeth against skin, the sick sweet wet sounds of tearing flesh.

No one looks in at Six, not even Eight when she comes to collect them. She is repulsed by her own insane, jagged reflection. Maybe she even fears that there will not be much left of Six after all this time, that the sounds they hear are her gnawing little bits of herself away until nothing remains. These thoughts are ephemeral, tucked in a gray foggy place that is hard to access without feeling sick and woozy and sleepy.

They do not like secrets, keep none from each other. Eight, always Eight and never June, fights her own nature and the wrongness of it scrapes through their brains like nails on a chalkboard.

She takes them up from their dark prison, to the white room. There are computers and electrodes and stethoscopes. She tells them that puberty is tumultuous for normal girls, but of course they are not normal girls.

They call her Eight, and she freezes, her eyes going wide with slow dawning realization, unable to believe she did not see it coming. So focused is she on hiding her own thoughts that she does not realize that they do not need to plan, they are capable of crafting and moving and acting on short notice, on no notice, it only need occur to one of them to make it so.

There are so many small ways the human body can become a weapon. Six has turned her weapons against herself in slow sick decay, gnawing off her fingers one by one. They have accepted her bones, passed slick and slippery through bars, rasped them sharp against the stone walls, thanked her, loved her even as they detested her. She bids them farewell in her mind.

No one is watching when they take Eight’s life with pieces of her own self, her sister, her Other, leave her sitting in a metal chair, blood seeping into her white lab coat from the jagged smile in her neck.

They taste sunlight, fresh air, for the first time in seven years. They look at each other and know.

*

They feel slow, sluggish, stupid as they struggle to find their way in a world apart from their insular cells.

They miss Six’s grunts and snuffles, although neither will say it. They just do.

They do not inspire charity, as they might have in their youth. They are teenagers, suspicious by nature, and their drawn pale faces and unblinking stares frighten people away. They find a band of runaways living under the freeway, spend an evening while they play guitar and pass joints, and leave their corpses for the crows in the morning.

Teena remembers that the man she once called father had a guitar, a walnut colored rich thing that gleamed and made beautiful sounds. She takes the cheap acoustic guitar from the dead teen, straps it across her back, dares Cindy to say something.

Cindy listens to the music in her head, says nothing. When they stop to rest she takes the guitar from Teena, dashes it to pieces on the ground and uses the wood shards to kill the first truck driver who pulls over to offer them a ride.

Teena drives, gears grinding as she manipulates the pedals. They do not need books to learn, do not need teachers. She sees and knows all the way that things are.

They hold hands. Sometimes the nails dig in, and little rivulets of blood run down their palms.

*

They find a motel, lay in wait until suitable prey appears, a paunchy man with a drooping mustache. They smile at him, tall leggy twins, not legal but who will care all the way out here in the middle of nowhere? Small sins happen on the road all the time.

He leads them into his room and they strangle him with his own belt.

It is the first soft bed they have slept in since childhood. Teena awakens in the night, pads past the stiffening corpse on the floor, slips out the window, slides beneath the glassy surface of the swimming pool.

She sees herself through the blue, looking down.

When she bursts up for air, Cindy is standing on the concrete, looking down, her feet bare. She is frowning.
Cindy has always been paranoid about microbes.

She breathes in the thick, heavy chlorine air, splashes water at her sister, her Other. Cindy turns away, disappears back into the night.

*

They do not speak, do not discuss a destination. They take their would-be paramour’s car and continue east. They just know.

*

It is not hard to find his address. His name is etched on their brains, a legend seven years in the making. The One Who Saw Through Them. They do not forget his voice, his offhand dismissal of their pleas for mercy. He was the only person not to let the fact that they were children color his reaction to their crimes.

They are not strictly motivated by revenge. There is an intellectual curiosity, the desire to best one who has bested them in the past.

Cindy imagines bleeding him the way they bled their fathers all those years ago. She wants him to be conscious as he drips away, wants to see the light slowly leave his eyes.

Teena watches this through Cindy’s eyes, finds it pleasing, smiles. Her father had sat very still on the swing, digitalis coursing through his veins. His eyes had rolled towards her, and it was not fear she’d seen but sadness. She’d been very careful not to drip blood on her stuffed bunny.

They climb the fire escape, sit holding hands outside a dirty glass window.

When they are done here, Cindy will want to go for her birth mother, the woman who knew she remained alive and left her to rot underground with Six. Teena cannot blame her. Her own birth mother died years before they knew of each other, when she was just a girl and not someone’s Other, when she was just one and not everyone.

Inside, past the burbling blue fish tank, a television flickers. A lone figure on the couch, staring at the television.

On the screen, twins in pigtails and blue dresses. Come play with us come play with us come play with us. Blood. Scattered limbs. Long endless hallways with closed doors.

They exchange looks, a little germ of worry taking root in their brilliant churning brains.

It is not him on the couch. A woman.

It takes them both a second to recognize her. She is not the same. Cindy sees herself wrapped in Sally Kendrick’s (oh dear departed Seven, you were such a fool, thinking we needed fixing, how we laughed when you died) tight grasp, being hustled and hastened down the stairs. Sees this other woman coming up towards them, soft, disbelieving, too easily put down by a well placed blow to the head.

Teena sees how easy it was to slip past her in the rest stop bathroom, to creep unnoticed out the door even as Cindy whined and wheedled and lied about her door being stuck.
They had dismissed her, wanting only to find Him, The One Who Saw Through Them.

The woman stands up as though she can feel their thoughts, but does not look towards the window. Instead she hesitates, still staring down at the television. She wipes at her eyes.

She has been crying.

The woman standing in front of the television is older, leaner, harder somehow. There are edges and ridges and spines to her that were not there seven years ago. Teena looks at Cindy and Cindy looks at Teena and they know.

He is dead. The realization blooms in Teena’s mind but it is Cindy who smiles.

Teena looks at the woman, standing there all alone, watching horror movies in a dead man’s apartment. She is reminded suddenly of her father (Joel, his name was Joel, how could I have forgotten) and how he’d sat numb and glass-eyed in the living room, holding his guitar but not making any sounds after her birth mother died.

She’d watched him then, small and mute and horror struck. She’d had no one to turn to, no Other yet, no warm place in her brain that hummed with companionable communion. How frightening it had been to be alone, to be just one. He’d stopped making music and she was alone and afraid in the heavy silence.

The woman leaves the room, television still flickering its nightmare imagery. Cindy gently pries the window open. They are halfway in, feet kicking at papers and bumbling into the computer when the woman comes around the corner again. Her shirt is untucked, she looks rumpled, sleepy, sad, but her eyes widen and she reaches for the gun at her hip without hesitation.

“Who are you?” she asks, but they can see her dawning realization even as she says the words. They can see her doing the math, adding it all up, reaching the sum of the two faces before her.

In spite of the years and this woman’s obvious preoccupation, they have clearly left a big enough impression on her to be remembered. Teena looks at Cindy and they both smile, take hold of each other’s hand.

“Stop right where you are,” Agent Scully commands, keeping her gun trained on them.

“I’m sorry he’s dead,” Teena says.

She freezes, tilts her head, looks a little stunned and more than a little dangerous. “How–”

“We just know,” Cindy said, taking a step forward. Her hand tugs free of Teena’s, falls to her side. There is a knife hidden up her sleeve, her heart is already speeding up a little bit at the prospect of blood.

Sometimes Teena catches little flashes of eyeballs, soft bursts, wet popping sounds, and does not know if they are Cindy’s desires or her own. She sees the pulse throbbing in the FBI agent’s throat; thinks about how many times she’s seen that pulse flicker and fade.

Cindy strikes like a rattlesnake, slashing at the FBI agent. She is not quick enough– the other woman has reflexes like a cat. She jerks to the side in a spray of red hair, rights herself, is ready as Cindy whirls to deliver a second blow.

Teena sees it happen twice, through Cindy’s eyes looking down the barrel of a handgun and through her own eyes as she watches her Other drop to the floor.

Their minds tear apart, the loss a sudden, gaping wound. Teena crashes to her knees, certain she is dying. She sees her sister, her blood, her own self twitching on the floor, drawing one last rattling breath. She sees the ceiling, blurring into black. Her mind traces the path of the bullet, races through the scorched air, touches the woman still standing stunned and fierce. Not dead not dead he’s not dead don’t let him be dead.

She jerks to her feet, bile threatening, knowing she has to get away now, while her sister is still warm on the ground. If she waits she will be back in the dark and this time she will be alone.

Alone.

The one called Scully is crouched on the floor, holding a finger to Cindy’s neck, feeling for a nonexistent pulse. Through the contact Teena can feel the other woman’s thoughts, pulsing, confused, desperate. I’ll find you Mulder we haven’t stopped looking don’t give up and under all of that the fast constant desperate refrain not dead not dead not dead not dead.

She turns, sprints for the window. The gunshot is expected and splinters the wood next to her head but she does not hesitate, shuts her eyes and leaps alone into the blackness.

*

There is a pulse in the darkness. An angry, directionless throb. The thoughts are not fully formed, not quite coherent, but she knows what it means.

She is not alone.

She will not go back for the FBI agent, will not go back and look upon her own dead face.

For the first time since killing him, she misses her father. Misses his music. Misses the ways he found to remind her she wasn’t alone in the world.

She is brilliant. She knows all the way things are. She and Cindy could have done anything, could have touched their minds together and moved mountains, could have made music.

But blood is such a pretty color.

She thinks of the baby, the squalling red ball of rage. She’d be almost three now. Walking and talking. Planning. She wonders who has had the misfortune of taking her home.

She reaches out, touches that anger, lets it flow through her, feels it quell at her presence.

Hello, she thinks. I am you and you are me.

Soon we’ll be together.

 

End

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Categories: Casefile, Small Horrors | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “We Could Have Made Music

  1. Hi! I absolutely loved this! I have a special attachment to Eve – it was the first X-files episode that made me really pay attention to the show. Your writing and cahracterisation are excellent and the imagery you use is very vivid and creepy. I also like that you do not spell everything out for the reader. It took me a little while to realise Scully was watching The Shining (the evil twins link was brilliant).

    Reading this makes me want to read what else you’ve written. Also this website is gorgeous. I might ask you for some pointers one day.

    Thank you for the great read!

    Scarlet.

    • Hi! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’ve always had a special affinity for Eve as well, particularly its open-ended conclusion. It always seemed like those two girls just might pop up again.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this little story– it’s quite possibly my favorite one out of everything I’ve posted here (at least, it’s the only one I don’t look back at and want to change a million things about), but I was almost certain it wouldn’t find any kind of audience because of the subject matter. Thanks for proving me wrong. 🙂

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