The October Twin (a short story)
by Han M Greenbarg
By the time I had reached the cemetery, the sun had set every tree about me on fire. I snaked through the whispering forest, imagining what the tallest of pines were saying about me, and wondering if they enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed theirs. My mother had taught me that trees had voices and hearts deep inside them, and though she and my father had passed, I still believed it to be true.
As I circled the tombs of my parents, dead leaves winced beneath my feet. I knew I wasn’t alone in my grief, but I also knew that my twin brother wasn’t on my side when it came to the importance of family. It had been three months since the funeral, and Sweeny hadn’t even shown up to pay his respects. He was too busy making millions as a doctor or lawyer in some huge city, while I lived the pathetic life of an unemployed actor. I had promised my parents that I would keep an eye on my brother, but had lost track of him after high school and felt as if I had failed them. I missed my mother and father terribly, and without them it was difficult to keep living.
I knelt before my mother’s tombstone, placing crimson tulips on the anthill, when my cell phone began to vibrate. I opened it, but hesitated. I was unfamiliar with the number.
My heart nearly stopped. “Who is this?”
“Bro, it’s me! Remember your brother Sweeny? Of course you do.”
I sank against a tree. “How did you get my number?”
“Uncle gave it to me. I haven’t seen you in years, Marsh, and I want to talk.”
“About what?” I asked him.
“Meet me at the library this evening.”
“It closes at four thirty, Sweeny.”
My brother gave one of his sinister chuckles. “Don’t worry, bro. I’ll get us in to talk.”
I sighed. “Fine. See you later, Mr. Ingenious.”
“Marshall, you better show up.”
The phone clicked and I breathed deep, swooping leaves tickling my nose. I entered in a different number and smiled at the soothing voice on the other end.
“Hey, doc,” I said. “Yes, I need to come in.”
Soon I walked through the double doors and into the bright sanctuary. I settled back on the green sofa and began my weekly venting to Dr. Reynolds. Psychologist or not, he was a great listener and genuine friend.
“So, Sweeny called you today?”
“I was at the cemetery.”
“Visiting their graves?”
“Yes,” I answered. “I’ve been feeling down again.”
He lowered his glasses. “Why?”
“Because I let my mother down. I haven’t been watching Sweeny.”
“You need to let go, Marshall. When was the last time you two even seriously talked?”
I blew out a sigh. “Graduation.”
“You never got along with him, did you?”
I heard him sip his coffee and rolled to my side to face him. “We used to do everything together. We were identical in every sense. Then he changed overnight…and left me behind. He got all the attention and top grades while I barely passed. I thought twins were supposed to look the same on the outside and inside, but I realized that I was wrong. He’s perfect, and I’m a screw up.”
“Consider the future, Marshall. Your career may take off again soon.”
“And if it doesn’t, doc?”
“Your luck will change, Mr. Porter. I can imagine you becoming even more successful than your brother.”
I chuckled. “I don’t believe in such miracles. Especially in October, doc.”
“October is my bad luck month. Something always goes wrong every year around Halloween, and this year will be no exception.”
“There is always an exception, Marshall.”
I wanted to believe my friend, but I had my doubts, and that evening as I pulled up to the library, parking my silver convertible right in front, my hands shook uncontrollably. I walked up the steps, hesitating before the Victorian door. Then I turned the handle and stepped inside the dark space. I waited, pacing the aged floor and down the aisles of book. No other footsteps shadowed mine.
I turned. “How did you get in here, Sweeny?”
“I told you I’d find a way in.”
I stepped back, seeing my twin walk into the light, dressed in a black trench and shades. It was Halloween all over again.
“I see you still like black, bro.”
“Yeah.” Sweeny circled me, coat flowing at his ankles. “I always liked playing the villain. I hoped that you would learn to play along with me.”
“What did you want to talk about?” I asked. My skin was convulsing with anxiety.
“I want to settle an argument,” Sweeny told me.
“Who is going to inherit the house and Uncle’s property?”
I watched my twin pick up a book and flip through it, deciding to end the brawl before it began.
“I know he likes you better, Sweeny. And I don’t want to add to your troubles.”
I looked down. “Only you can tell me, brother.”
Sweeny reached into his pocket, and I took a sharp breath.
“You don’t trust me, Marshall?”
I stared into his eyes. “I never have.”
“Smart brother,” Sweeny muttered.
I watched him draw out a pistol, cocked and aimed at my chest.
I bowed my head. Yes, I was a screw up. But I was the better twin.
Does he live or does he die?