When I was younger I always wanted to share my room with my little brother, William. I figured what was the use of having a bunk bed if no one was going to sleep on the other bunk?
When William first moved into my room, the two of us acted like fools. We never fought over anything the room. We were more apt to erupt into spontaneous pillow fights or impromptu farting and belching contests.
I never once thought it was weird that my best friend was my little brother. That’s just how it was. I loved the little idiot. He was a cool kid and tons of fun to hang out with.
It was horrible when William died. Of course I blamed myself. It was my fault he had come with me to my mom’s. It was my fault we had to swim to shore when our boat stalled out. If neither of those things had happened, he wouldn’t have developed pneumonia and died.
It’s not an easy thing to do…getting over the death of a brother. I spent a lot of my time at the cemetery and brooding over how much I was to blame for all of it. Nothing my parents said made me feel differently. Even William, who haunted me day and night, made the guilt any less.
“It’s not your fault, you know,” William said to me the last day I visited the Isla Cemetery before the family moved to Twinbrook.
“What’s not my fault?”
“Me dying. I know that’s what you think.”
I looked away. It was what I thought, so I couldn’t deny it. “If I hadn’t insisted you come over to my mom’s house…”
“Nothing happened to me at your mom’s house. You were the one who got hurt there. You got me out safely.”
“But then the boat stalled and we had to swim.”
William floated over to me and grabbed my arm. It always shocked me when he did something like that. I could think of him as a manifest of my subconscious most of the time, but not when he touched me or did something to manipulate the physical world around us.
“Listen, Homer! None of that was your fault. I was still alive when you pulled me out of the water. You got me to shore! I didn’t drown and neither did you!”
“But…” I protested.
“But nothing. Stop being such a dramaqueenasshole and let this go!”
I always hated it when my brother cursed. He knew that and that’s why he always did it. “I’m not being a drama queen asshole.”
“Yes you are. You aren’t responsible for everything. Quit trying to make things all about you. It’s selfish.”
“Selfish! I feel guilty about you dying and you say I’m being selfish!?”
“You are. You’re making everyone miserable. Dad and Mom are trying to move away from all this pain and you just carry it around. It’s selfish.”
“What happens if you don’t come with us,” I said, expressing what was really bothering me. I had no idea what happened after death. It took me by surprise when my brother’s ghost appeared and he started following me around. Now, though, I was getting used to having him with me. If we moved and he was stuck here, I didn’t know what I would do.
Turns out the amount I didn’t know about death and ghosts was pretty immense. My brother not only came with us to Twinbrook, but he also seemed to still be growing up. We both spent quite some time talking about that phenomenon.
“Maybe I’m not really growing up,” he said. “Maybe it’s just you. Maybe you see Charlotte who just turned 13 and you decided that I must be 13 as well.”
“So you’re saying that I’m the one who made you look like this?”
William laughed. “Of course it’s not you! I’m totally hot, unlike you. All the ghost chicks think I’m the best!”
“Are there ghost chicks?”
“No. I’ve never seen any other ghosts.” William’s depressed look made me feel miserable. I was the only company the poor kid had. It had to suck being caught between life and the afterlife.
Despite the fact that I felt bad that my kid brother was floating around all alone with only me to interact with, I couldn’t spend every waking hour with him. I used the gym to escape. It was the one place I could go that William thought was boring.
“I don’t get why you want to go and lift weights or run like a hamster on a wheel,” he told me more than once. “What happened to running outside or doing jumping jacks or squats at home?”
“I like the gym,” I said, not elaborating on why. Truth was that I agreed with my brother about working out at home or outside. But, what the gym had that home and the great outdoors did not was girls. In particular, there was one Miss Penelope Coddle.
She wasn’t much of an athlete, but it was fun trying to coach her. I encouraged her to try running instead of walking on the treadmill. She was really hesitant at first, but then she started to relax and get into it.
Working out at the gym was thirsty work. Of course I used this as an excuse to ask Penelope to meet me at the Red Rooster Watering Hole. Outside of the gym, Penelope was even more fun to hang out with.
I couldn’t help myself. I really liked Penelope, but then I discovered that my brother had been following me all along, even when I didn’t think he was around!
Imagine my surprise when I was moving into a goodnight kiss with Penelope and I saw my brother just sitting on the couch watching us! I know that I’d been talking to her for a few minutes and he hadn’t been there. He just appeared and it threw me off my game. Instead of getting the kiss I wanted, I ended up in a sort of abortive hug-like embrace. I could tell that Penelope was confused. She had been sending ‘kiss me’ signals. As I was hugging her, I was trying to shoo William out of the room. Instead of doing something like smelling her hair or sniffing her neck or something equally suave and romantic, I was glaring at my brother and mouthing the words “get out!”
Needless to say the date didn’t end well. I walked Penelope to the door and told her I had had a wonderful time.
“I’ll call you,” I said to her. She just said, “Sure.”
I cornered William upstairs in the study.
“Look,” I said, “I know that you think this haunting things is great fun, but you can’t keep following me around!”
“I wasn’t following you!”
“Really? What the heck was that little stunt you pulled last night when I was with Penelope?”
“Oh,” William grinned. “Yeah, I was following you that time. I wanted to see what a date was like. It’s not like I am ever to go on one.”
That set me back a bit, but seeing the shit-eating grin on William’s face made me get mad all over again.
“You can’t just pop in on me like that! What if Penelope and I were making out or something? That’s just not right Will!”
“Ha!” my brother scoffed. “It’s not like you were getting any last night. She wasn’t giving off that kind of signal.”
“It doesn’t matter!” I said. “And what do you know? I was just about to kiss her. She might have changed her mind after that!”
“In your dreams. I watched you all night. She was just giving off the ‘friend’ vibe.”
“Just leave me alone, William. I have to be able to live my life without worrying about you just popping up out of the blue. Promise me you will stop following me.”
“What am I supposed to do then?”
“I don’t know. Figure something out. Just don’t follow me.”
“Fine,” William sulked. He floated out of the study through the door and then disappeared. I felt bad, but I knew I couldn’t spend my entire life with my kid brother breathing down my neck. It’s just not right!
I’m being haunted by the ghost of my twin brother. Yes, I know I just admitted to something that is impossible to explain. Isn’t that what the foundation of science is—the need to explain the unexplainable? Yes. It is. So, that’s why I’m determined to figure out exactly how this phenomenon works.
Hypothesis #1: I wanted to see my brother so badly that I used untapped powers of my brain to bring him into the physical world.
Ok, that’s a sort of crazy theory. I know that people believe we haven’t used even 1/3 of our brain’s capacity, but I don’t really ascribe to the theory that if we were to use more of our brains, we’d suddenly develop super mutant mind powers. That’s the stuff of comic books, not science.
But the truth is that I did want to see William. Can you imagine being a twin and then suddenly having your twin die? Twins have a unique connection. There have been numerous experiments that have demonstrated unique twin bonding.
While I might not completely believe that this crazy theory was possible, I couldn’t completely rule it out, either.
Hypothesis #2: Since William has aged like me, perhaps he is existing on another plane like a parallel universe.
“How can ghosts have birthdays?” I asked William when I realized that he hadn’t remained perpetually 11 years old.
“How would I know? Why wouldn’t ghosts have birthdays?” William asked, throwing my question back. God I hated it when he did that!
“Well, I would have expected you to stay the same age as when you died. Death,” I theorized, “is supposed to be final. You cease to age when you die.”
“Not true,” William pointed out. He quirked an eyebrow. “Look at me,” he said.
“Well, how do you know that what has happened to you is normal for ghosts?”
“I don’t,” William said. “I haven’t seen any other ghosts, but I do know that you can still age when you are dead. Think about the bodies we saw when we toured the mortuary. Also, think about what we read about cadavers. People’s hair and nails continue to grow after death. Also, while dead, skin and bone do age and decompose.”
“Stop being so scientific! You aren’t in a state of decomposition, so that doesn’t apply to you.”
“Don’t be so angry, sis. Just because I didn’t go to that fancy school like you, doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”
“I know. I’m sorry. You’ve never been stupid. You could have gone to my school if you’d wanted.”
“Right. I didn’t want to be a genius.”
I shrugged. “It’s over-rated. Clearly it doesn’t mean you know everything.”
Hypothesis #3: Ghosts are merely matter and energy transference.
I posed this theory to my brother and proposed several experiments to test it. Unfortunately, William had had enough of my theories and experiments.
“I’m tired of you thinking of me as a science project!” he said as we were playing chess. He was exasperated.
“Look, if you don’t want to try using the computer, just say so. I know that you said physical manifestation with electronics was more difficult than say pushing chess pieces around.”
“It’s not that!” William glared at me. I pushed forward a pawn without looking.
“Well then what is it? I thought you said you wanted to figure this all out.”
“I do. But I’m just so sick of all this!” William moved his knight. I could tell that he wasn’t paying attention. The move was a mistake. I’d have him in check mate in less than 5 moves.
“Are you sure you want to make that move?”
“Yes!” William looked at the board finally and then sighed. “Shit.”
“You’re the one who wasn’t paying attention.”
“I know. Look. Char, can we stop all this stuff? I’m tired of doing experiments. Can we just accept the fact that I’m here and just live with it? It really doesn’t matter if we can figure out why.”
“What?! Of course it matters!”
“Not to me it doesn’t! Just stop experimenting on me. Leave me alone!”
William swept a hand over the chess pieces sending them flying and then he stormed off…he floated over the balcony railing and then just disappeared.
I didn’t see William again for over a month. I realized that he was keeping away from me. It was the first time in my life that William had tried to stay out of my affairs. It wasn’t the first time we’d been separated, however. The first time was when I got my own room. The second was when I went away to Smugglesworth.
“Well, if that’s what he wants,” I muttered to myself one day when I spotted William outside on the balcony looking through the telescope. I started to go out after him, but he saw me or heard me so he just made himself disappear.
“Damn it William!” I whisper-shouted, coming out to stand where he had once been. “I didn’t even know you could do that!”
When no one answered, I knew that William meant what he had said. He really didn’t want to find out any more about his condition.
“Fine!” I stomped my foot. “If you don’t want to see me, then there is no reason for me to stay here!”
I went back inside and headed to my room. Seeing my parakeet and little turtle didn’t ease my mind like they usually do. I flopped down on my bed.
“Damn it! Goddamn it!” I kicked my foot against my bed.
The next day I told my parents that I was ready to go back to Smugglesworth. It wasn’t worth staying at the house in Twinbrook if my brother wasn’t going to speak to me. I hated the local high school with its oh-so-boring classes and ridiculously easy curriculum.
Maybe at Smugglesworth I could continue my research.