Short Stories, Tale Africa

Family is Family

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By Denise Kavuma, Uganda:

The room was pitch black and he waved his hand in front of his face, grinning weakly as all he could detect was the current of air the movement created but couldn’t see anything. It had become something of a fascination with him, his mind fixating on the action as some form of escape from the reality of his situation. He hadn’t fed in a long while and he could feel himself wasting away but much too slowly for his liking. It was difficult to determine exactly how much time had passed since his last meal considering that he had stopped counting when day 10 passed but he was still alive.

The plan had seemed simple enough but he was now realizing that his body would not die as easily as he’d originally thought. But it can die, he’d often told himself, and so with quick movements and a steady mind, he’d chained his limbs to the bed? with long chains of course, for while he wanted to die, he didn’t want it to happen through bed-sores and infections. He’d realized a little too late that in his rush to move quickly before he could change his mind, he’d failed to account for excretion, and so in the first week, he’d wet himself numerous times and had excreted fecal matter onto the bed. Of course he’d tried to stay as far away from the excrement as possible but that was difficult, for his sleep was fitful and as his body thrashed around in pain and hunger, he’d inevitably cover himself in feces. That was alright though, he’d gotten used to the smell after the third day and while he was fairly sure that the small movements he felt all over his body were maggots, they had yet to feed on him and he wasn’t certain whether that comforted him or led him further into despair.

No matter; the pitiful state he was in at that point in time didn’t even come close to the evil he’d been during his active life and he hoped to spare humanity his-

“Son of a bitch!”

The curse tore him from his inner musings and he barely had enough time to consider where the exclamation came from before he heard a crash coming from his right, exactly where his bedroom window was. The noise didn’t stop there however and there was cracking, crumbling, and the unmistakable sound of metal bending as more glass broke and a string of foul curses was flung into the night air. Only one person would be crazy enough to break through his window and rip the metal bars from the walls.

“No, no! Leave me alone!” he yelled, or at least tried to.

His voice was weak and his throat felt like sandpaper, making him cough after he’d tried to warn the intruder away. This didn’t help of course for with each coughing movement a couple of maggots would fall into his open mouth, making him cough even harder as he tried to expel them and breathe at the same time.

“Alba, you selfish imbecile!” came the voice again, the fury in it almost palpable.

His guess had been right. Only she could attempt something this stupid.

“Linda please,” he begged in response, his voice cracking.

She had no right to interrupt him, to try and stop his actions! This had been his choice and?and she had no right!

Clearly having decided that the damage she?d done to his window was enough for her to get through, he heard his curtains flutter before they were pulled aside to allow in a faint glow of light from the moon. The unmistakable silhouette of his sister stepped through the window.

“Linda-“

“Don’t you dare!” she spoke, her voice filled with authority and her volume just short of yelling. “Can you just for once think of someone other than yourself? Can you for once think of me as well?”

Her voice wavered with the last statement and he felt guilt engulf him with such a firm grip that he sat upright in shock, his arms extending backwards as the chains tethered them to the bed.

“I see they haven’t all gone. Good. You deserve that.”

He couldn’t see his sister’s face but he could hear the smirk and smugness in her tone.

“I’m an old man, Linda. Please? please just let me die,” he pleaded, hoping that she had some compassion still active.

“What you are, Alba, is my selfish twin brother and I’ll be damned if I let you abandon me completely.”

Of course, this was Linda and she never ingested compassion if she could help it. He watched her form closely as she strode to the opposite side of the room, her heels clicking on his linoleum floor, and tensed as she extended her hand to turn on the light.

The room was immediately flooded with yellow light that blinded him and he ducked his face as he closed his eyes with a hiss.

“Goddammit, Linda! You’re the one being selfish!” he snapped in irritation.

“Oh good lord! Look at you; you’re disgusting and are those??maggots? Sweet Jesus, Alba! What in hell is wrong with you?”

“I just want to be left alone,” he responded, blinking as his eyes got accustomed to the light.

Alba took a good look at his twin sister for the first time in 5 months and found he couldn’t help the bitter smile that tugged at his lips; she certainly wore youth very well. Linda was glaring at him, no mirth or softness visible in her face. Her hair was cropped short in yet another new style and her darkly lined eyes were fixed on him in anger even as her lips pursed together in displeasure. She was wearing a short dress with swirling royal blue and black patterns and although he couldn’t see her feet from where he was, he could only imagine that she was wearing the type of stilettos that could easily impale a man. She was stunning and he’d always imagined that their mother had carried the same beauty.

“I know you want to be left alone. You got an isolated house all the way out here in Busia without telling me. I can take a hint.”

“Clearly it didn’t sink in well,” he responded, fixing his own glare on her.

“You weren’t responding to any of my calls or messages. What did you expect me to think??

“That I had had enough of your interfering presence. I am not like you!” he bit back.

“Obviously not, old man. You think you’re above me but you’ve devastated more lives than I ever could, Alba. Listen to yourself, you?re angry; clearly this idiotic plan of yours isn’t going to work.”

They glared at each other in silence and he could feel her words cutting deep. She was right, he was a monster and even though he’d thought he’d waste away eventually, the emotions he was feeling were a clear indicator that that time was still far away.

“I thought that after 126 years, someone had finally caught onto us and that you’d been captured. I had to come looking for you. The bond we share is-“

Damn the bond and damn you, Linda! I don’t want to be a part of this anymore; can’t you understand that?”

“I understand it alright, but I don’t accept it.”

He stared at her in surprise as he took in the emotionless tone of voice she’d just spoken in. Well damn, after all these years she could still access that original part of herself without getting lost in the emotional backlash. It was impressive considering that he’d long since lost that part of him but he knew that if she was accessing it then, she was gearing up for something unpleasant.

Alba watched his sister open his bedroom door and walk out, her heels clicking as she walked down the corridor. There were some nonspecific sounds and then he heard the sound of water flowing into a basin.?A minute or so later, the water stopped and then those heels were clicking again as his sister walked back towards him. She entered his bedroom, carrying two buckets and before he could ask her what the hell she thought she was doing, she tilted one bucket and flung the icy water directly at him.

Motherf-“

Another splash of cold water engulfed him before he could finish whatever he was saying and he shook in rage, his chains clinking around him.

“Good, let them flow through you,” he heard his sister say in that emotionless tone she’d started using before a vice-like grip surrounded his throat.

Alba glared and tried to fight as Linda forced his head back onto the mattress but he was too frail to do anything against her strength. The chains clinked around him as his limbs flailed weakly and Linda got onto the bed, using her position to increase the strength of the grip around his neck. That she was strong enough to snap his neck in one move but wasn’t doing so in that moment, was a thought that passed briefly through his mind before the lack of oxygen started to cloud it.

“Don’t fight me Alba, this is what you need.”

He heard her voice as if it were muffled and just when he thought he was going to pass out, Linda loosened her grip and his body greedily sucked in gulps of air. He should have known what would happen next though; he should have guessed!

Linda placed both her hands on each side of his head, holding it still despite his shuddering gasps, before she placed her own lips against his and proceeded to regurgitate her last meal into his mouth. It was foul and disgusting; half-digested liquid emotions flowed into his mouth and his body, having been starved for too long, betrayed him as he gulped down everything she gave. Linda’s feeding him lasted only a few seconds and she leaped away from him, wiping the black excess from her lips.

“You’re not going to leave?”

Linda’s voice faded from his mind as it concentrated on the intoxicating power of the emotions she’d forced into his mouth and that his body had greedily accepted. It was exhilarating feeling the strength return to his body, his dying cells being renewed. This was an addictive feeling and he’d once loved the high it gave him as he’d starve himself for a few days and then feed just to feel the drunkenness of it all. What he was feeling in that moment was far more intense and enriching, suffusing through his body with a warmth he could barely tolerate without screaming out at the exquisiteness of it all.

A few sharp yanks were all it took for his chains to break and he felt a grin spreading across his face at the strength that his body suddenly held. He leaped from the bed and walked to the mirror; seeing his transformation had always been an obsession with him.

Alba watched the wrinkled skin on his face ripple and smooth over before it settled on him with a glow like fine silk. His hair thickened and the white turned to gleaming black even as his teeth whitened and the spots on his skin disappeared. He could feel his heart beating with a new rhythm, a younger rhythm, and a few moments later there he stood, as handsome and attractive as he’d looked the day he’d turned 25. The remnants of feces and urine staining his clothes were a sharp reminder to him of what his decision had been a few minutes back but he remembered it hazily, as if a curtain had been thrown over his memories.

Why on Earth would he want to leave behind such beauty? Such power!

“Felling like your old self again?”

The voice cut through his thoughts and he remembered that Linda was with him. Alba turned to look at her and smirked, realizing that finally the stage had been leveled and he didn’t look like her dying grandfather anymore.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Always so ungrateful, Alba. Don’t you feel the strength that my meal has given you, the power that flows through your body? You should be down on your knees, thanking me,” she retorted, turning away from him to walk out of the bedroom and into the rest of his house.

He followed her of course, he was always following her. She was younger and stronger, always harboring such impeccable control when it came to her victims. Alba turned on the lights as he walked along the hallway and found Linda in the Kitchen, rummaging through his cabinets before retrieving a bottle of whisky.

“You should go,” he said simply, watching her closely as she gulped from the bottle.

“I need to know why,” she said in between sips.

Alba sat down on the floor, not caring that it hadn’t been cleaned in weeks or that a cabinet door was digging into his back. The high from his transformation was wearing off quickly and he found himself having to deal with the repercussions of what his sister had just done.

“I was tired of it all. I wanted to die,” he responded.

Die? How do you know if we can even die?”

Alba felt anger rising up in him and he knew that any other emotion would have been more apt in that moment, but Linda had always kept herself from ingesting those with sadness, frustration, or despair. He, on the other hand, had never really cared either way and fed from anyone.

“Mother died? So? So somehow we must be able to-“

“She died as she gave birth to us!” Linda snapped in irritation, cutting him off. “The logical conclusion would be that we sucked her dry as we came out of her, Alba. We don’t even know if she was like us anyway.”

“She had to be, Linda. Where else would we come from?”

His voice was starting to increase in volume and the anger simmered steadily, waiting for some provocation before it erupted.

“Ugh, I should have sucked out the remnants of your tainted feedings before I shared mine with you. We could be evolution’s gift to mankind or God’s curse to them, take your pick Alba. It has been over a hundred years since this happened; get over it!”

“How do you expect me to get over it?” he retorted. “If dad hadn’t-“

“Dad was a fool and you’re following in his footsteps!”

“Stop interrupting me, Linda. Stop it!”

He was yelling now.

“I’ve heard you utter this nonsense over and over again, dear brother. I have a limit!” she yelled back at him. “So what, if dad committed suicide? That was his choice! You don’t have to emulate him.”

“Did it ever occur to you that he killed himself because he knew what we were? Because he couldn’t take the fact that his children drained him to the brink of death every night as he slept?”

“We were children, Alba. We didn’t know what we were doing and he never let us out of the house or let any visitors in. It wasn’t our fault. If only he’d let us out-“

“Let us out to do what, feed on the neighbors? children? You may be into that sort of thing but at least I have always drawn the line at children! So many kids dying in their beds without their mothers knowing that they befriended a monster,” Alba bit back, interrupting her and feeling some satisfaction at the irritated look that crossed her face.

“I only feed from children. That. Is. Control!” she snarled back, gesturing with the whisky bottle. “At least I give them a quick death in return for the meal they give me. You have beaten numerous girlfriends, wives, and fiancees into submission and then fed from their depression and fear, draining them completely and moving onto the next woman when you get bored. You’re the monster!”

There was silence as they both glared at each other and he felt the anger begin to fade.

“We’re both monsters,” he said softly.

“I know,” she responded before sighing and sliding down to join him on the floor as she took another swig of his whisky.

“Dad got me addicted,” he said, knowing that he was blaming his father because it was easier to.

“I know. He fed us depression and sorrow for so long. It?s hard to not want it constantly now. That’s why I go for children, Alba, their emotions are numerous and well balanced with just a hint of desolation. They keep me sane.”

Alba looked at his sister as she drank a little more from the bottle and felt something he hadn’t felt since he’d stopped feeding from children nearly 5 decades back: Wistfulness.

“I wish we could live off of love,” he said, giving Linda a small smile.

“Then we’d be humans, wouldn’t we? Plus I detest the taste. Too sweet and sickening,” she responded.

“Yes, but at least that we could get without killing, without the violence? You’re right though. I like my meals to just have a hint of love, blends the rest of the emotions together nicely.”

“I bet that’s most of what kept your women submissive,” Linda said with a dark chuckle and he laughed at that.

There was some more silence as his sister drunk more of the alcohol. It sometimes helped numb the hunger and he figured that she needed it then, considering how much of her own meals she’d fed him.

“You didn’t have to break my window, you know. You are quite dramatic.”

“Hey, doors give splinters and those aren’t that easy to heal. Plus I was pretty pissed off that I had to walk through a damn Matooke plantation because there was no road to drive up to this shack you call a house. I wanted to make a point.”

Alba laughed again and this time, Linda joined in.

“Also, Busia; Busia?! You couldn’t have picked an easier place to go to? Why not Jinja, or Mbale, heck even Masaka would have been better than Busia,” Linda quipped in between chuckles.

“Hey, it gave me 5 months of peace; I like it here,” he retorted as they finally stopped giggling like children.

“Promise me you won’t try this again. I need you.”

He looked at her and knew that all he had to do was keep feeding and that exhilarating high would help him forget what he was exactly. He could stay away from sadness and depression so that they didn’t eventually manifest in him and drag him down the path suicide. He could make a thousand promises but he knew that he would always go back to his old habits and he’d end up depressed again.

“I can’t promise you that, Linda.”

With a resigned sigh, his sister stood up and placed the half empty bottle of whisky on the kitchen counter.

“Fine, but I’ll kick your ass next time I find you like this,” she said simply before turning to face him. “I saw a hospital on the way over here, there must be quite a healthy amount of emotions there. Wanna go check it out?”

Alba stood up with a grin. He could do with another feeding; besides, who best to enjoy a meal with other than family?

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