Watching TV has always been one of our favorite things to do. In the early years, this proved difficult. Remus, being the stronger of our halves, would pull me until the remote was always within reach of his arm and out of that of mine. I didn’t usually mind, though, and eventually, Mum saved up enough from her job waitressing at the local American-style diner called Frank’s to buy a second TV. From then on it didn’t matter who sat closest to the remote.
Remus liked to watch those old slapstick movies, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, and all that falling-over stuff. His favorite was a 1930s film called Block-Heads, about Stan learning the conveniences of the modern world. He’d laugh maniacally again and again as he hit rewind on the remote to watch the whole thing over. I can’t stand that movie, but hearing Remus laugh was nice. When your brother can’t speak, it’s sometimes hard to know how he’s feeling, but when he’s laughing I know he’s happy.
We were born on the 7th of July, 1994, by emergency C-section. It hadn’t been a surprise when we came out. The doctors had already informed my mother of our condition, which they had picked up – to the delight of the medical world – via ultrasound. Woman Gives Birth to Two-Headed Boy, the headline in the local newspaper, the Colchester Gazette, had read. We spent the first two years of our life in hospital before we were allowed to move into a council-owned flat near my mother’s parents. I have no real memory of any of this, but Mum would tell us how people from all over the world would come to the hospital and even knock on the flat door to get a look at us.
My earliest memory is of going to school for the first time. Mum helped us into the classroom and sat us both down on a seat near the front of the class before placing a kiss on each of our heads and leaving. Mrs. Neer, the reception class teacher, then made each of the children stand up and say their name. When it was our turn Remus hadn’t wanted to stand. I can only guess this is because he knew he wouldn’t be able to say his own name. With my right arm pushing on the table I tried to get us to stand up, but Remus wasn’t moving and he pinched my thigh from out of sight.
“It’s okay, dear,” Mrs. Neer had said softly from where she sat behind her desk. “What are your names?”
“Hello, I’m Romulus, and this is my brother Remus.”
With an almighty thump, Remus smashed his hand into the table and the rest of the class erupted into giggles. Remus looked side to side, glaring at the room, and before I had a chance to tell him it was going to be okay, he had taken our body from where we sat and was dragging my half of ourselves across the classroom to the door.
Things calmed down after that incident. The other children weren’t kind, and never would they wish to play with us, but that didn’t bother Remus and me. We had each other and that was enough.
Another memory I have is when Mum would take us swimming at the outdoor swimming pool in Brightlingsea. Looking back on it now, I’m sure there were those who were skeptical about our ability to swim, but as it turned out, we loved it. And when my brother and I want the same thing, we were almost able to read what the other was thinking, and to the astonishment of the swimmers, we would race up and down the pool, doing lap after lap. However, the memory which stands out most from those swimming trips was a game of Life Saver. This was a game where we would sink to the bottom of the pool and then, taking turns, one of us would swim the other to the surface.
I wasn’t strong enough to get myself and Remus to the surface, so when it was my turn Remus would kick with his leg to help. One day we were playing the game, and it was my turn to swim us to the surface. Down we sank, our arms by our sides as we submerged into the deep end. I could feel the pressure in my ears as we hit the bottom of the pool. We sat there for a moment, looking up at the strange twinkling the sun makes upon the water. When my breath was close to running out I raised my arm and made a stroke towards the surface. We bobbed a foot or so off the bottom, and with my left leg I kicked out, pushing ourselves off the tiled pool bed, but we didn’t move. My lungs were starting to hurt now and I knew we needed to get out from under the water.
I looked to Remus, and he stared back with a huge grin upon his face. I glared at him and frantically kicked out and swept my arm through the water to try and get to the surface. Remus didn’t move. He just smiled at me. The next thing I remember is waking up as a lifeguard breathed into my mouth, the taste of chlorine was strong and it gargled in the back of my throat before I vomited. The lifeguard, a young man in his late teens, looked at us in disgust and rushed away into the bathroom. I have never forgotten that moment.
It wasn’t long after this moment that we discovered masturbation. We knew about sex – who didn’t in this day and age? – but masturbation was something completely foreign to us. I mean, sure, we had woken up with a stiff dick for months now, but none of us had mentioned it in any sort of way. We had overheard Sean Hart, a boy in our ninth-grade class, whispering about it to some other boys at the back of our science class. ‘Give it a good tug!’ were his words, and a few nights later, we did.
Mum was working the late shift at Frank’s where she was now a supervisor. Remus and I were watching a film called The Girl Next Door, the one with that hot blonde, Elisha Cuthbert. Well, it had just got to the scene when Elisha is taking her top off and is about to jump into a swimming pool, when I felt Remus’s hand slip into our jeans. The next five minutes were strange. It was an odd sensation and one which seemed to almost never get started, but once it did it was all over far too soon. This started a spell of steady morning masturbation. I never started it, but Remus would reach down and do the deed just after we woke up every day. I never spoke about it and sometimes I’d pretend to still be asleep as he did it, but I never complained. It remained entirely consensual.
When we were 17 we made our first friend, Christopher Hughes, whose family moved in next door in the winter of 2011. Chris was unlike the other teenagers we had met. He never looked at us with pity, nor did he seem afraid of or put off by our appearance. He’d often come round and watch TV with both of us. Remus liked him, too, and would hold his hand, and they would both cheer as they watched that scene where Chaplin is rollerskating. I liked Chris, too. We would talk about the Ainsworth girls who lived around the corner from us, and how we’d both like to know how they looked under the matching blouses they’d often wear. Remus didn’t like this, however. He’d pinch me whenever the subject came up and would grab Chris’s hand.
The masturbation continued, where Remus was pumping up to four or five times a day, whenever he could get a free moment away from Mum. He had become addicted to it and even when our dick hurt he couldn’t help himself. I liked it too.
In 2012, we turned 18 and Mum held a party. Even one of the doctors who had been at our birth came and congratulated us. A few of the older ladies who worked at Frank’s came and brought presents, mostly DVDs of old movies, probably based on Mum’s suggestions. The only real friend of ours who turned up was Chris. As soon as the door opened, Remus dragged me over to him and embraced him in the hallway. Eventually, we sat down, blew out the candles on the cake (which is much easier with two heads), and said goodbye to our guests. I watched as Chris spoke to my mother in the kitchen about something. She nodded, and he ran over to where we were sitting.
“Boys…” he began, and cleared his throat. “Men, I have something to show you.”
We followed Chris outside and on his driveway next to ours was a car! It wasn’t anything fancy, a bright red Fiesta with a dent in the driver’s side door.
“My new ride!” He held open his arms as we took in the spectacle.
Remus grunted in excitement.
“How about we take her for a spin?”
Remus looked at me, and I looked at Mum, who was watching from the front door. She nodded, and before I had time to turn my head back Remus was climbing into the passenger-side front seat.
We cruised along the mostly empty streets, out of the town, and to a local reservoir where we finally got out and sat on the hood of the car talking about the night.
“Here,” Chris said. “I have something to show you.”
He jumped off the hood of the car and fuddled about for something in the backseat, and then pulled it out: a bra!
I laughed. “Where did you get that from?” I demanded to know.
“Amy Ainsworth!” Chris stated proudly.
“Did you…?” I asked, desperate to know.
“Twice!” he said, and threw the bra at us as he jumped back onto the hood of the car.
What happened next changed my life forever.
Remus lifted his hand and grabbed onto the back of Chris’s head, clumps of hair sticking out between his strong fingers. We stood up, and in one violent motion, he slammed Chris’s head into the hood of the car. I didn’t say anything, I was completely stunned. Again Remus lifted Chris’s head and smashed it into the red metal. Thump!
Over and over he did this until Chris’s head was nothing more than a mashed, bloody mess. Eventually, Remus let go. Chris was laying bent over the car’s front, not moving, not making any sound at all.
“What the fuck have you done…?” I muttered, and then screamed, “NO, REMUS!”
A fist came flying from the side of me and smashed into my face, dazing me. My eyes watered so I couldn’t see what was happening, I don’t remember walking back to town, or climbing into bed, but that’s where I woke. Immediately I could tell something was different. I looked over to Remus, but I didn’t see his scruff of black, curly hair. I saw plastic, white and glossy.
There was no reply.
I moved my hand to where he should be and felt it, the plastic of the bag which was tied around his head. With one hand I tore at the bag, ripping it apart and unveiling the stiff, pale face of my brother, his mouth still gaping from his final gasp for life.
Three weeks later and I’m still being held by the Essex County Police, but it’s unlikely I will go to prison. It’s similarly unlikely I will survive much longer. The doctors say it’s a miracle I have so far. I tried to tell them it wasn’t me, that it was Remus, but nobody listened, not even Mum, who has apparently left Colchester to live with her sister up north. For the first time since I was born, I am alone, and in an odd way, I’m at peace.
The nurse turns the TV on and it’s playing Block-Heads. I watch it for a minute, and in the back of my mind I remember how Remus would laugh and I smile. I lay there, handcuffed to the bed, and watch for a few moments longer. Then I rest my head upon Remus and close my eyes.
Credit: Matt Deeping
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