"What was your name was again?" the beefy security guard asked as he looked over my ID.
"Pacino. Max Pacino." I smiled. The ID was real but this man was looking at it like I was some pimply teenager trying to slip into a bar with some piece of plastic that I had printed in my garage.
"You're a journalist?" he handed me my ID and gave me a sneer.
"Yeah, I'm doing a piece on children in asylums" I tucked the ID in my wallet and slipped it into my jeans. The guard, Hansen was his name, waved for me to follow him.
We walked through the front gate of Wisteria Hill Asylum for Children. The old institution had stood proudly for almost eighty years taking in anyone under eighteen that was considered unwanted in society. I was here today to write an article about the life of a child in this asylum for a newspaper in New York. This was the biggest assignment I'd had in a long time and the money would come in handy.
"We've set you up with a girl named August Mancuso. Now, let me make myself clear, we have rules on talking to our patents. Rule number one: You will not ask them about any medication they take or their medical histories. Rule number two: you will not ask for details on why they are here unless they are willing to talk about it. Don't worry, most of them are. Rule number three..."
My mind wondered off as he continued to list off rules I wouldn't follow anyway. We had entered the main hall that was lined with pictures of smiling children. 'Success Cases' is what they called them but most of the smiled seemed forced and plastic. These were not success cases, just children that made it out. We approached a desk where a skinny, old woman with too much make-up sat filing her nails. She smiled a toothy grin and winked at me as we passed, I walked a little faster.
We approached a big, thick door that boasted a huge, industrial lock. Above it sat a dusty, copper plaque that said "It is easier to build a child, than repair an adult". I snapped a quick picture of it for the article. Hansen jammed his key in the lock and shoved open the door. Instantly the sterile stench of hospital and bleach hit my nose. Everything was white. White walls, white floors, and white ceiling with those bright florescent lights that bore down on everything that moved.
"Here we are" Hansen said stopping in front of a door "Oh, and one more thing. August doesn't take to pictures too well so, no photography of her. Are we clear?" he slipped a different key into the small lock on the door.
"Crystal" I replied before slipping into the room. The light in the room was painfully bright and came streaming in from a large window. The room was tiny and contained only a small dresser, a bed, and a desk with a miniature lamp. The only source of color in the whole room was the flaming red hair of a tall girl who stood before the window.
"Good Luck" Hansen hissed before closing the door tight behind me.
"So you want to know my story" her voice floated over from the window. I couldn't see her face and the general whiteness of the room gave me the chills.
"Yeah, I'm Max Pacino" I stepped forward; she was just a kid after all.
"I'm August. Please, have a seat" she gestured to the desk and I didn't hesitate to dump my stuff on it. Setting up my recording device, I sat down in a small wooden chair. Hansen had said no pictures but I left my camera out just in case.
"August? I'm recording this session so I can revisit the conversation later. Are you okay with that?" I didn't know why she was here and I didn't want to upset her. A friend of mine did a similar story at another asylum last year and one of the patients he was interviewing, a sweet old lady, suddenly went ballistic when he pulled out his recording device. He got a broken arm and shattered nose not to mention bruises and cuts all over him. That was some old lady with arthritis and old stiff joints; I couldn't imagine what an energized teen girl could do. Besides, the way Hansen had hissed had shaken me slightly.
"Sure, I don't care" her voice was soft yet firm and light as air. It almost had an unnerving quality to it.
"So to start, can you state your full name, birthday, and age" I clicked the recording device so that the little red light flipped on and waited patiently.
"My name is August Rain Mancuso. I was born November 11, 1995 and I am sixteen years old."
"Why are you in here?" then on an afterthought "if you feel comfortable enough to tell me?"
"Hansen scared you with his rules? I don't mind. I'm here because I have Schizophrenia but it's not really Schizophrenia. Do you know that I'm actually a twin but when we were in my mother's womb instead of the embryo splitting into two bodies, I was born with one body and two minds? It's fascinating really" I felt a small shudder go down my spine. I had heard patients describe their afflictions as aliens or curses but never so…scientific sounding. I was actually at the point where that made since and could actually happen but the feeling quickly passed.
"Yes, that is interesting. So tell me about yourself and your life here"
"Oh" she said "My whole life or just from the moment I ended up here"
"Whichever" I shrugged. The article was a couple of pages long and a backstory wouldn't hurt.
"I think I should tell you my whole story because it is imperative to understand why my life here is the way it is. Do you have enough recording space because my story is rather long?" her head turned slightly in my direction but not enough for me to see her face.
"Oh, yes I have plenty of tape" I sat back in the chair, preparing myself for a long and tedious story.
"I was born on the stormiest night of the year. My mother was a new ager and decided to have a home birth. This wasn't a very good idea on her part considering she died that night. Her meth head mid-wife didn't know how to stop the bleeding and my mother's life drained out on the mattress. My father was devastated. He actually really did love my mother. I guess he couldn't help but blame me for her death. He named me August Rain after the night the two of them met. He was actually a grave digger. It was pouring rain and he was out there digging some hole for an old hag that had bit the dust when suddenly he looked up and found a young women sobbing over a grave. It was her fathers who had recently died. Anyway, they went out for coffee and soon started a summer's romance that blossomed into love.
Well, after my mother's funeral. My father soon figured out that no matter how much he blamed me for her death, I still was the only thing that he had left of her and began the search for a new wife. He finally found Hilary. Hilary was a nagging, smoke smelling waitress at the dinner. We didn't like each other. You see, I was four at the time she was officially married to my father. He would leave me alone with her while he went off to work. She would smoke stinky cigarettes in the house and drink wine. She made me watch stupid soap operas with her and do her chores around the house. My hands began to hurt from all the dishes I was scrubbing. This was about the time I started hearing June."
"Who's June?" I broke in.
"June is my twin. You see since we couldn't talk face to face we began talking in my head. Kind of like having a conversation with your conscience. Anyway, she began making some good points. My dad was miserable; I could see it on his face. All she did was gab on about her stupid friends and her stupid drama. Plus she was a waste to this family. All she did was take dad's money to buy herself new things whenever she wanted to. Besides I was sick of her and since she can't even bring in money to the family, I thought it was time she left it.
'We'll give her a chance to leave. Then if she refuses, I'll take care of it, sis' June said one day as I was having a discussion with her in the bathroom mirror. I had found that I could talk to her in mirrors if I focused hard enough. Of course I agreed. So the next day I went to Hilary to give her a chance.
'Hilary, I've decided you aren't welcome in this family any more. You have a choice, you can leave now, right now or I can make you leave.' She just laughed at me. Told me I was nothing but a stupid little brat. Then she slapped me, hard. I went running, tears streaming down my face to the bathroom where I sobbed in the mirror until June poked her head up.
'Okay, August, we tried it your way. Now it's my turn'
'But how' I said 'you don't have a…a'
'A body? Your right, I don't have one…yet" I didn't understand what she meant that day. I also didn't understand her when she asked me to come back at midnight that night. I wouldn't have understood because at the time I had never heard of a Doppelganger."
"What's a doppelganger?" I asked. I admit I was suddenly intrigued, I had always had a taste for the supernatural and talking to your reflection was crazy but giving it a supernatural twist made for a good story.
"A Doppelganger is a spirit double. It's the shadow that follows you around where ever you walk. According to legend, when you see your Doppelganger, you're going to die soon. However there are also tells of evil Doppelganger's that you can project to cause trouble called wraiths. I think that's what June really was. She said she was my twin. Just a soul trapped in my body. It wasn't until later after some research that I would figure out what she really was. However I was still quite young at the time so I did what she asked and slipped out of bed that night to creep to the downstairs bathroom. June told me to light candles because we didn't want to draw my dad's attention.
'Now, August, I need you to do something for me so that I can come through. You need to sing to me exactly what I tell you to'
It was then she taught me the song used to summon your doppelganger back in the times of the Viking who were the first to report seeing Doppelganger's. She taught me this song
"Kom til meg, skygge, stå på to ben. hjelpe meg, skygge, med behovet for å beseire Jeg gir deg en kropp som du kan vandre rundt stå opp skygge og komme hjem til meg."
"What is that?" Shaken, I began to wonder if maybe she was talking about a satanic ritual she had been part of.
"It's Norwegian as I would come to find out. The translation is rough but it means something along the lines of 'Come to me, shadow, standing on two legs. Help me, shadow, with the need to defeat. I'll give you a body that you can wander around to. Get up shadow and come home to me.' It was probably more smoothly said when the Viking's chanted it. However, rough or soft, it worked."
"What happened?" I was like a little kid again, watching my first horror movie, sitting on the edge of my seat and waiting for the monster to come out and bite off the hero's head.
"You wouldn't believe it. At first this weird frost came over the mirror, so much that I couldn't even see June anymore. The mirror began to shimmer like silver or tin foil stretched tight across the glass. Then a hand gripped the edge of the frame. It was pale and nail less and followed by an arm of the same color. Out of my mirror crawled this sexless, featureless, alien like creature. Just white skin covering muscle. The sight struck a fear deep within me and swallowed the scream that wanted to fall out of my mouth. This thing stood before me, naked and cold until its skin began to move. The skin around its face ripped in the areas of the eyes, mouth, nose, and ears. Out of the rips popped the missing appendages and long strands of black hair sprouted from the scalp. Nails poked out of its soft fingers and toes, and tan skin and freckles colored its body. Before me stood the bare, carbon copy of me. Smiling at me with perfect little pearl teeth it spoke in the same high pitched voice I had.
'Hello, August. My name is June'
I snuck her to my room and gave her clothes. She spent the night telling me her plan. June made it clear that we were never to be seen at the same time. That would ruin everything. Yes, June was very adamant about what she was going to do.
'We gave her a chance to leave us. We gave her an option and what did she do? She struck you! How dare she! So I will take care of her, I'll make sure she leaves this family one way or another' I was at this time that I noticed a difference between me and June. While I had the steel grey eyes of my mother, June had straight black eyes. You wouldn't notice unless the light hit them just right. It startled me, her pupil's seemed dilated to an impossible size on her face. I tried to just avoid looking in her eyes."
August suddenly became quiet. She just stood at the window silent while I took everything in. What she was describing was straight out of a horror movie. Her story was something that had slithered out of a Stephen King or Edgar Allen Poe story. I was scared. I felt like a kid back in Blue Rock Camp for Kids when the camp counselor had told a story so terrifying I had pissed my pants.
"Are you okay?" August voice broke through my reverie and gave me a bright blush. Although I still could not see her face, I imagined she had a sarcastic smirk on her face.
"Fine, Fine but I do have one question" my voice had a slight stutter to it but I quickly swallowed it down.
"Can we skip ahead to answering my question? I mean, this is interesting but it's impossible. Maybe this is just a hallucination due to the medications they are pumping you full of. Doppelgangers? Norwegian Summoning Chant's? This is the stuff of fiction…"
"Fiction!" she interrupted "How dare you call my life fiction! I wasn't going to expose you to this but it seems the only way to get you to shut your big trap." Then she turned around. I jumped back and went tumbling over my chair. One side of her face was a scarred disaster. It was burned to the point where one side of her mouth was frozen in an unnatural smile and her eye was the same way with a cloudy film over it. The skin was blackened and wrinkled with stiff scars. She stared down at me with one good eye and I realized why Hansen had said no pictures.
"Is this fiction! Does this make you happy?" she screamed as I wiggled across the floor in fear. Reaching down she gripped my over turned chair and threw it against the wall. "This is what I have left of my sister. June was real and so were the things she did! You wanna know what she did? She killed Hilary. I watched. She caught her one night on her way out and trapped her at the top of the stairs. All it took was one push and down she went. She looked like a china doll rolling down the stairs. Until she hit the bottom, with her head facing the wrong way. June made it clear it was my job to dispose of the bodies. She couldn't leave the house due to the spell and the mirror binding her. June bound her up in black plastic bags and rope. I dragged her limp body down to the docks, tied the rope to a rock and threw it in the lake. That was the last we saw of Hilary. The police suspected she ran off, of course they couldn't find the car and her belongings were all gone. They didn't know that I had filled her car with her stuff and rolled it off a cliff into the deepest end of the lake. They never looked hard!"
My back hit a wall and I carefully stood up, trying not to move to fast however my ears were caught on her story.
"She was soon replaced by others, others who didn't belong either. Sara was a slut who was cheating on dad. June got her with one good whack on her cranium with her boyfriend's hockey stick. Anna Lee kept hitting me. June poured rat poison into her wine until she stopped breathing. Grace was an alcoholic. June held her under in the bath tub 'til she stopped kicking. Renee, Alison, Rhonda, Millicent; all of them June killed and I dumped in the lake. All of them we took care of together because that's what sisters do! Does that sound like fiction?" I was edging close to the bathroom door. I could feel my phone weighing in my pocket, if I could get to the bathroom and get inside. I could call Hansen for help. August had gone off and if what she was saying was true than I was about to have one pissed off serial killer going ape all over me.
"What happened to June?" I had to keep her distracted as I edged closer and closer to the door.
"June? That's where this story gets tricky. You see after we had been killing for a little while the police were beginning to look at dad for all the missing women. Dad was bringing the police closer. June didn't like that. She began poisoning him. Not like with Anna Lee where all it took was one big dose, she began poisoning dad little by little. She was trying to keep me from knowing. However, she was using the rat poison and I had gotten quite acquainted with the smell. When I took a whiff of dad's beer one night and recognized the aroma, I knew. I confronted her about it and she admitted to it. She said dad was weak and that he was holding us back. She knew I couldn't stop her. I only had one choice. I had to kill her. Damn hard thing to do. I soon realized that the only thing I could do was use her rule against her. She couldn't leave the house, so I was gonna burn the bitch to the ground. That night while she was getting ready to poison dad one last time. I soaked the outside in kerosene and lit a match. I set it a ways away so that I could run in to grab dad. However, it burned faster than I thought. I soon found myself dragging a corpse through a flaming house. Until June wanted to stop us. To make a long story short, we fought, I won but I got burned. In the end I was the only one to walk away. They pinned it all on me and put me here."
"So June is dead. That's how the story ended" I was right at the bathroom door and almost home free.
"Well, not exactly…" her eyes were looking past me now. All of the sudden this horrible burning sensation ripped through my middle. Looking down I saw a large shard of glass sticking out of my t-shirt. Blood began pouring out of the harsh wound and I collapsed onto my knees.
"August tried to kill me" an exact carbon copy of August walked out of the bathroom behind me. Unlike August, her face was unscarred and I tried to focus on her as my vision jumped in and out. "But it was in that burning fire that a large, flaming beam came down and bashed her pretty little face. Knocked her unconscious, it did. It was me who dragged her limp body out the door and into the air. I couldn't leave but I could shove August a foot away from the flames. You see I was just a shadow form so all I had to do to escape the flames was crawl back into the mirror and wait. I had to wait for a good couple of months before August could convince her Therapist to get the mirror in her room…"
"We talked" August interjected "and I realized that June was the only one who had ever been there for me. Even dad had left me alone for days with only his women. We began to murder again, we enjoyed it. First my therapist, than miscellaneous patents who made fun of my scar, even three guards who tried to over step their bounds. We were careful this time, made it look like an accident. Which is exactly what we are going to do with you. You freaked out after I told you I was a killer, ran into my bathroom, slipped and broke my mirror. I tried to help you up but as I began to pick up the pieces of glass, you flipped out, lunged at me, and ran into the shard of glass I was holding. The mess in my room will attest to it" she walked over to the table I had been sitting at and flipped it. The recorder landed near me and I realized it was the only evidence of what had happened. I tried to reach out for it but before I could get a hand on it, June's foot came down and crushed it.
"No need for that" she smiled as clouds swarm in my vision. I realized I was going to die. Collapsing forward, I landed in my puddle of blood. August's feet stepped into vision.
"Here's a title for your article, Mr. Pacino, Nothing is Thicker than Blood"
And the darkness took me.