YOU WON'T LET GO, YOU WON'T GIVE IN TIL EVERY PART OF YOU IS SUFFERING.
It was once believed that humans were made from clay. Molded carefully by hand, each crease of their bent finger, each hair raised on the back of their neck was made with great care by some special being, some deity who cared only about them (if only for a second.) I wrote a paper about humanity's egotism, how we are born thinking we are special, born wanting what we might not ever have. Some want food, some want water or life or love. And even at age thirteen I could see that such things we assume necessity are little more than luxury. We are not born deserving life.
The primitive writings of ancient tribes I have managed to dig up tell me much about who we were. It tells me that we have not changed much in the many years and many revolutions that were started by petty squabbles and insignificant battles. Humanity, at it's core, is selfish and awful and ugly. I read the writings of a man named Hobbes once, who thought the same thing. Thought men deserved not a say because of their primitive, cruel nature. I read about a man, Locke, who thought just the opposite. Perhaps long ago I would agree with him, would agree that people are good and it is circumstance who turn them evil.
Not that what I think matters. Nothing we do these days matters. Soon we will be letters scrawled on molding parchment paper, all of our accomplishments crumbling into dust as life rises from the ashes and it tries again.
It's not so much a terrifying thought as it is humbling.
Perhaps life will do better next time. Will not create beings so disgusting and so repulsive and who are so evil.
My mother was a witch. She stuck strings to my wrists and to my feet and she pulled and pulled until I was but putty in her palms. We were special, my brother and I, our intelligence was unmatched by even the teachers who tried to challenge us. And mother saw that... and mother used that because more than anything, I wanted her approval. I wanted the smile she gave me, her fingertips running down my back and the way she pulled me into her chest, so tight that I was sure I was going to die. I wanted her to tell me how proud she was of my accomplishments. I wanted her to smile. Most of my life was spent trying to fill a black hole who wanted nothing more than my soul to keep.
She took me out of school two weeks after the first day, she cut me off from the friends I had made and she left me alone in a room with a book and she told me I had a day to finish it, cover to cover.
And when I got angry, when I yelled and threw a fit like the child I was she looked at me as though I had pulled my palm across her cheek. Her eyes filled with oceans and her heart threatened to break by just the simple crack of my voice, shrill with childhood. Mother was like glass and so I apologized and I read the book. I did what I was told because that is what she wanted, and when I did what she wanted she gave me the love I so craved. I was a creature under her palm, pressing myself desperately into her grasp and begging for touch and affection when there was barely any to give.
Mother said we looked just like Dad, Venus and I, and it hurt. By just existing, we were doing something wrong.
So I gave up my life to make her happy.
I didn't leave the house. Not very often, anyway. I was buried in books and papers, I was buried in pointless lessons that mother wanted just so she could tell her friends all about her boys who were so smart and so special.
"Oh my little Vepar, quite the protege, plays four instruments with ease! Never seen anyone as smart as him... except his brother of course. What can I say, Julie, I make the best."
The thought of her makes my stomach churn.
Sixteen years were spent trapped within four walls. And I read and I wrote. I was a good little pet for mother. Perhaps I would not be as smart as I am now without her... persistent ... guidance. But I wouldn't be so stupid either. Without mother I would not be who I am today. And that has never been a good thing. She wouldn't be dead if not for me.
It wasn't often that I was graced with daylight, with golden rays upon my skin that curled into my flesh and spread warmth to the tips of my toes. It wasn't often that I felt so alive, walking down bustling streets, listening to absent chatter that filled me with so much wonder I could barely breathe. The days mother took me with her, out of familiar walls and into the world, I basked in the glow. I stayed in the shops we visited for as long as possible, picking out the most delicate looking flowers and sticking them in my hair, tasting the sweetest of treats that I was never allowed.
One of those days I stayed in the shop too long, turning the pages of a magazine filled with beautiful people dressed in decadent clothes colored red and black and blue. With soft yellows and hot oranges, with deep greens that reminded me of the grass so cold beneath my toes. Even at sixteen, I knew that beauty was as much of a drug as the musty smoke I so often see expunged from men's lungs. I stayed there so long that I did not notice my mother's shrill call. "Vepar! Vepar it's time to go!" (Her voice was like knives stuck through my eyes, rattling my skull).
When I finally tore my eyes away from beauty, I was faced with truth, with life not painted by brushes and framed by lights. Two men held my mother at gunpoint, barrel pressed against her skull as she held her large, quilted purse to her chest. Her nose was wrinkled in the same way that it did when I disappointed her. I could almost feel her eyes upon my flesh, burning... burning although there was no flame to be seen. And for a split second I thought that just maybe she could control them with the tears in her eyes and the pout of her lip. Just as she did me.
But as they pressed the gun deeper into her skull, as I saw my mother's chest begin to rise and to fall as panic set in, I realized that the woman who had controlled me for sixteen long years was as mortal as I. And she was faced with this newfound mortality yet she was a bitter woman, stiff as a rod and set in her ways and drunk on her power.
There was a peacekeeper, I remember as much. Out of earshot, but close enough that if I screamed, begged for his attention, he could have stopped all of this. He could have saved my mother and me and we could go back to how things were. With her claws sunk in my back and her lips to my ear, telling me what I should do and what I should feel.
The first book my mother ever made me read was titled The Prince. A wonderful read by a man who was from a place called Italy. I've looked for more mentions of it in what must be millions and millions of pages but it has eluded me since. All I can gather is that it was primitive and cold, before the capitol and before the districts. The man, Machiavelli, was wise beyond his time, mapping out society's politics nearly word for word.
In that book he wrote "If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared." And perhaps that was my mother's greatest mistake. The pain she inflicted was never physical, the wounds she cut into my flesh could never be seen. And yet my vengeance was just the same. It was quiet. It was not noticeable. It was my lips shut tightly as she often told me to do.
Just as her eyes met with mine, wide with shock as they begged and they pleaded for a help that I would never provide, they splattered her brains upon the store window.
The peacekeeper turned, he pulled his gun on the men and he chased them down the street. He left my mother, leaking onto the concrete jaw hung wide and eyes stuck in that same, shocked state. Her blood stained my jeans as I knelt beside her, a kind of empty pain filling my eyes as I brought her head to my lap and brushed my fingers through her hair.
She was still my mother, after all. She was fragile, made of glass and so easy to hurt. We should have protected her. I should have protected her.
The peacekeeper brought me home to Venus, covered in our mother's blood and shaking. And he saved me, my brother did, he held me tight while I cried and he helped me wash the memories from my flesh, sending bits of brain and blood down the drain.
For the first time I was free. For the first time I could feel the sun upon my skin whenever I wanted and I could smile without mother's permission. I was so happy that I was buzzing, lightning coursing through my veins at every instant, keeping my eyes torn wide through nights spent at bars and clubs, dancing and kissing and feeling a happiness that I never knew. Living a life that I had wanted for so long.
Until they appeared.
At first they were lights, dancing upon the walls the longer I went without sleep. I need only blink them away, promise myself that I could put the buzzing in my veins aside long enough to catch a few hours rest. And then they were shadows, haunting the backs of my eyes, creeping behind Venus as we spoke and sending my heart into frantic thrums.
But I wanted to be strong. Venus and I were on our own, sixteen year olds living off mommy's money. I didn't want the burden to fall to Venus alone and so I did not tell him of the nightmares that lingered when my eyes were wide open.
And then mother appeared. She was rotting, ants crawling in and out of the hole in her head, chunks of flesh falling upon the floor as she shambled towards me. She screamed and she whined, bones creaking the closer she got.
I pointed my fingers at her forehead and bang I killed my mother again.
But I didn't tell Venus because I couldn't stand to disappoint him. To reveal to him just how unhinged I had become. He was always there for me, always keeping me safe. He was my guardian as much as he was my twin.
The only time he ever let me down was when the bugs came. They crawled beneath my skin, my veins bulged with maggots and worms, their slimy bodies filling my heart with every beat. I could see the ants bubbling just beneath the surface, their tiny legs pitter-pattering within my skull. And moths flew around my lungs, biting at the soft flesh and eating it away until I could no longer breathe. They were inside me. Taking over. They were killing me. Sinking their fangs into my bones and turning them to dust.
"Get them out!" my voice was shrill, bouncing off hollow walls as I ran to him. To Venus. My big brother by only mere minutes. But he could not see what was right in front of his face, could not see the flies digging into my palms, pushing my skin aside as though it were a mound of dirt. He would not help me. He would not help me and so I had to do it myself.
I sat in the bathroom and I drew a knife down my wrists. A long and a deep line that did not burn so much as it ached. I watched as the ants flooded out of my skin, piling upon my jeans as they sprinted down the drain, leaving an ugly, red color in their wake. And I smiled as I was purged of the ugliness that had so suddenly taken me.
The last thing I remember is Venus' arms under my knees and around my back before I awoke in a hospital bed with bloody bandages and orange pills.
I've never asked him how it feels to have a madman for a brother.
I have come to terms with the fact that I am a monster. A disgusting cruel creature willing to destroy innocents for my own self interest and the interest of those whose lives I have decided rest above my own. I've not a problem with this realization, with the claws tearing their way through my knuckles and leaving bloody trails down torn open wrists, tendons and veins splayed somewhere on the ground beneath me. Other's glances do not bother me, as I walk with hair slicked back and papers clutched to my chest, past my old office and into a door painted bright red. AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.
No, I simply wish to be his monster. And his to keep. For him to see past the mess that I have become, to stitch me back together because I doubt Venus will have the time to do it anymore. Not with recent developments, not with how quickly our future has caught up to us and all of a sudden the world has turned itself on its head and the glances I receive are not of annoyance and exasperation but that of some sweet mixture of fear and admiration.
It's foolish to fall in love with him, with an Avox. Someone seen to be less than the piece of gum I accidentally touched under a dirty bench this morning, less than the bum who put it there. Alas, I am a strong believer in the heart and I am a strong believer in what it wants. It's always been useless to fight my emotions anyhow, the last time I tried I ended up drowning in a pool of thick, congealed soul with two scars left to kiss each wrist.
And so I have accepted that I am in love with my Avox. I have accepted the fact that we are his monsters, my brother and I, two halves of a whole and yet somehow so complete on our own. So different and so good. We are a team, the best kind of team. Formed by friendship and bonded by blood.
Venus is the best friend I've ever had. He has kept me sane these long, grueling months spent working to impress some faceless figure. Spent slaving over meaningless code and organizing strands of DNA. He is a light in the darkness, a beacon for when I have lost my way.
My roots have grown out, brunette corrupting bleaches locks and tucked behind my ear to be held in place by the thin plastic of a pen. I've never been a man meant to lead, always rather soft spoken. To be the angel or devil upon a shoulder has been my only wish but it seems that ambitions grow the deeper my roots buried themselves in this soil. They push away blood and bone and flesh, razors drawn vertically down veins and I have swum in the wine of the gods. I have been blessed.
There is a new title printed upon my nametag, one hung carefully about my neck. One that swings from side to side as I walk much like an axe yearning to be buried in flesh. Gamemaker Azrael. The second one, that is. We were always meant to break the records, I suppose. My brother and I. We were one of a kind, a unit in of ourselves. The first twins to ever direct and plan a games? Why not?
I am still weak, in comparison to my brother. The cold statue of a man whose mere presence is said to make a room go still. It must be nice to see a smiling fool follow he who has blood caked within the creases of his palm. But I'm not as innocent as I once was, desperate to see the good in a mankind doomed to die. Venom spreads through their veins, corruption turning the whites of their eyes black and I think that I was the last to go. The last apple to fall and rot upon forgotten grass but it is liberating to let go of a good, pure humanity.
Sometimes there is cruelty for no other reason than to ruin the innocent. Nathaniel, was it? Who turned pure, white Sun into a sort of murky gray. Who subdued a light I had worked so hard to spark with kind smiles and nurturing touch. He is insignificant, rotting beneath the soil and I am not envious of the life he led. Where only thank gods and finallys will be whispered when the world realizes he no longer breathes.
And oh, I am a monster, but I like to think myself a good man. A man with morals. A good head on his shoulders. (One that I could never keep track of, had I not Sun and Venus to put my scattered brain back together.)
I like to think that.
But here I sit, planning the murders of twenty-three. Do I know what words will be whispered once we send them back? Will there be screams? Sobbing mothers? Heart broken lovers?
I don't. I don't know.
With every passing day I find I care less and less that I never will.