Mr. and Mrs. Drice went out to a friend's house for an dinner, a rare and much needed occurrence. It was a nice night, May 15, 1955. They left their twins, Erik and Lysander alone at the house with Nancy, their babysitter. Nancy was also their niece, so she was well aware how dangerous her job was. The Drices left her with specific instructions:
Keep Lysander in eyesight at ALL times
Lock up purse, valuables, and kitchen knives.
Don't have Lysander in the same room as Erik
Erik is not permitted to play music or sing as long as Lysander is awake.
Strap down Lysander at eight o' clock in his room as you were instructed.
Inspect Lysander's room.
Never turn your back to Lysander
Make sure Erik's room is safely bolted.
Stay by Lysander's door all night, to make sure he doesn't come out, and keep the gun by you at all times. You are permitted to shoot.
DO NOT SLEEP
Have a nice night, call if you have problems.
Nancy sighed. She hated babysitting Lysander, he was a nightmare. Erik, though, was a delight, so it was unfortunate that he had such a monster of a brother. But the job paid very well- One hundred for one night! Her friends were often lucky to get twenty bucks. She would get two hundred if Lysander acted up, but frankly the stress resulting wasn't worth it.
She pulled her blonde hair back into a pony-tail, it was going to be a long night. Nancy was the only one who knew of the true situation of the Drice house-hold, and it wasn't her fault. Lysander had tried to smother her while she was sleeping- she had been eleven, he was four. That was five years ago. Mr. Drice had asked her to never speak to the rest of the family about Lysander, she was old enough to understand why. Everyone would blame him for his son's behavior, saying he couldn't control him, that he was a bad father, that he wasn't fulfilling his duties as a man. That's how people thought these days. Man's responsibility, man's fault. It's why even though her own Mother had boyfriends, her Father didn't dare divorce her, fearing what everyone would say: "What sorta man are ya, cant even control yer own wife!" She really hated people sometimes.
Since then her involvement had regrettably grown. When she turned sixteen a few months ago, she now took Erik to his concerts and competitions. At least the Drices had one son to be proud of, even though he didn't play football or baseball like the other boys. After anyone heard Erik play or sing, they never knocked him for not being "like other boys" again. She pitied Erik, who had to share the same face with that horrid monster. Because of Lysander, the Drices never got to watch Erik perform on stage. Even though they were almost identical (they were very similar in looks in spite of only being fraternal twins), she thought Erik was the better looking twin, though undoubtedly it was his goodness that made him so. He was clever, always making little gadgets to show off to her. He made her a ring for her sixteenth birthday, and she would tell him how all of her friends at school would squeal in jealously and ask who her secret boyfriend was. They would roll on the floor, laughing. Oh yes, Erik was her favorite cousin.
Lysander, however, had grown worse. Outside of the house he was charming and polite, but over the years he had drowned the puppy Mr. Drice had bought for the boys, and would steal jewelry and money during the night, and eventually the kitchen knives. Whipping him with a belt until he bled did nothing. Shouting did nothing. Smacking, shaking, kind words, and compassion did nothing. So when Mrs. Drice couldn't even sleep during the night out of fear, Mr. Drice decided that was enough, and turned Lysander's room into a containment cell. He removed the window by removing the frame and turning it into more wall; he replaced Lysander's bed with one from a mental hospital, courtesy of a friend (until Lysander was old enough to be excepted by the hospital), with chains and inch-thick leather straps; and placed a dead bolt on the door, and removed the knob from the inside, then put further locks on the door, and kept the keys on his person at all times. For a long time Mrs. Drice sobbed every night as her husband had to strap Lysander down for the night, who kept screaming at her to help him- Nancy was there too, to tell her that he was just trying to use her guilt.
"Like Satan." Mrs. Drice would whisper, and turn away.
Lysander was also strapped to a large baby's chair during meals, and Mrs. Drice would feed him, he would spit the food, and thrash in the chair each night till the straps cut into his wrists. The sight was so terrible that he was moved to his room for eating. Eventually when he chose to be civilized enough to eat at the table normally on a daily basis, he ate there with the rest of the family, and they could see the large, almost cuff-like scars around his wrists. By that time though, Nancy noted with a chill, Mr. and Mrs. Drice had buried him as their son in their hearts, and now in their eyes only had one- Erik.
The reason Erik couldn't sing or play music around Lysander, or even be in the same room (except for dinner), was Lysander's almost insane jealousy. Erik showed talent from birth, but Lysander, no matter how long he sat at the piano, he couldn't produce the same sounds as Erik, no matter how long he tried to sing, he couldn't dominate Erik's enchanting voice. He couldn't stand that Erik was more loved, more charming. He tried sports, but he was too violent towards the other boys, stealing and breaking one's nose- from beating the boy's face against a wall. He bit the coach when he tried pulled him away. Erik was better than him in just about everything.
But Erik didn't have too many friends- yes, people flooded to him, but most were not actually close enough to be friends- partly because of Lysander, but also because he was quiet. Erik had his own oddities, but rather than frightening, they were intriguing and wondrous. He was good at ventriloquism, and for his eighth birthday, Mr. Drice bought him tools to make puppets. Erik also helped his father with projects around the house, being good with tools. Erik built a tree house almost unassisted. But Lysander burned it, and the tree, down.
Erik ran to Nancy when he saw she was there, and hugged her tightly.
"Are you babysitting us?" he said quietly, looking up at her with his yellow eyes, another one of his peculiarities. Lysander's were brown. Nancy nodded. "I'll stay up with you all night." She nodded again. "I don't sleep anyways."
"Where is he?" They were both talking low.
"In his room, Dad strapped and locked him up before they left."
So much for that instruction. Nancy sighed in relief.
"Thank goodness, I was afraid of having to do it myself."
She felt she could relax now, and sat down in the tidy little living room and Erik sat next to her. They watched the television. She didn't baby-sit often, but she came over after school every other day, and she and Erik would spend the nights like this, curled up on the couch watching the little box. Sometimes he would help her study if there was a test the next day, or they would play games, or talk, sometimes he would put on puppet shows. These amazed her, as the puppets would move in the show box and talk while Erik sat across the room from it, next to her. He would never laugh, only stare at the box, mouth set in a grim line. Once he said something to her during the show, and she noticed the puppets go limp and silent when he did so. So talented.
She idly pet his head, running her fingers through the ink-black hair. She didn't know anyone else except Mrs. Drice with hair so dark.
"You're going to grow up to be a good man, Erik."
Erik looked at her.
"What about Lysander?"
Evidently there was still someone who believed a human being existed in that body. Erik hadn't buried Lysander, but still thought he had a brother. Nancy bit her lip.
"With God's grace, maybe him too."
He smiled. Such a good, sweet boy.
They watched in silence through two westerns.
"I'll be back, I'm going to get some water."
"Okay, uh, could you get me a glass?"
She turned back to the television, a late night dance show. The boy in the front was pretty cute, he looked a little like the quarter-back at her school. She grinned. Thomas Sanders. Tommy. He'd been giving her the eye lately. Those deep blue eyes…what a hunk! She giggled to herself,how typical- thinking of boys while babysitting!
She heard footsteps, Erik with the water.
"Jeez, what took you so long-"
She had looked back, and it was not Erik.
Lysander Drice loomed over her, with a cold stare. He raised his right hand, and as it came down she saw the light shine off the blade.
Nancy rolled off the couch and onto the floor with a thud. Lysander circled around and retrieved his knife from her chest, then walked away quickly. The kindest thing he had ever done in his short life was not checking to see if she was dead. She wanted to scream, until her voice gave out. She trembled. She heard nothing. She scarcely dared to blink for a time of seemingly immortal dread. She planned to stay there, forever, if fate decided to let her live tonight. Then there was a sound, it was quiet at first, but grew in volume. At first it sounded like someone loudly singing one long note. Nancy thought vaguely about this mystery…she stiffened and let out a strangled gasp when it dawned on her. It was a scream. Erik!
Nancy got up as quickly as her injured and protesting body would allow, longing to just leap up and run to Erik's rescue. All of her senses were on overdrive, from fear or because she could feel the life draining from her, she didn't care. She crawled along the floor, her chest feeling as if sawed through then sprinkled with salt. She tried not to think about the possible blood trial she was leaving, or the disgusting wetness of her fingers against each other, clutching at her chest. Where was the goddamn phone? Kitchen.
The floor was covered in glass and spilt water. Her stomach lurched. Erik, Erik, Erik. Lysander had Erik, she knew it, and she was powerless. She could still hear that horrifying roar, it was maddening. Where was the phone? She reached up to the counter, and slowly pulled her self up, though her muscles were aching to contract into a ball. She avoided the glass on the floor as best as she could, in her socks. Her hand grasped the phone. But at the same time she stepped on a shard, and she fell, pulling the phone down with her. She held in a yelp, but she still sat paralyzed from fear that he may have heard her. After a minute she picked up the phone and dug through her skirt pocket for the number of the house the Drices were at. She dialed in what must be record time. The phone rang, no one answered. She dialed again.
"Hello, McKenzie residence."
Her hands were shaking now from loss of blood, she gasped into the phone.
"Help- Mr. Drice, Drice, Drice-"
There was shouting on the other end, then Mr. Drice's voice came through.
"Nancy! What's happened?"
"Lysander…out. Help me. Erik-" She croaked.
"Oh, god- Mary, we need to go- NOW. We'll be there, call the police, hang in there sweetheart."
Dead tone. She dialed the police, but she needed to find Erik. Her heartbeat increased at the thought. 9-1-1. A man answered. She croaked to him that an attacker had come into the house (she didn't want to risk not getting help if the operator didn't believe a child had stabbed her), speech becoming more difficult, he said to calm down. Paramedics and officers on the way. He wanted to stay on the phone with her, but she explained she had to find Erik.
"Who is Erik?"
"Attacker has him. I was babysitting. Must save Erik." She was already crawling out of the kitchen.
"Nancy, you cant be moving around, you may bleed to death. Wait, the police will be there soon. All we can do is pray."
She was leaning against the wall, barely standing. The phone cord couldn't go any further. She stared ahead, at the hallway that led towards Lysander's room. It was quiet now.
"God isn't here."
She hung up, and dropped the phone. Nancy stumbled towards the living room, and grabbed one of the table lamps, with the urn-like base, and slammed it against the floor. It shattered, and lying among the porcelain was a pistol. She grabbed it and began to limp towards the hall. Mr. Drice had taught her and Erik how to shoot several types of guns, and basic fighting maneuvers. She'd only held a gun to someone once, and it was to a group of guys who had cornered her outside of the bathroom when she was a freshman. She shot one in the foot and had nightmares for a week. One of them had oddly been like this…except it being real, of course. The pain is so much more painful in reality.
She was sliding along the wall to stay upright. She was outside of Lysander's door. She paused. Then reached a trembling hand across the wall, the door, and clutched the handle. She took a slow, rattling breath. She threw the door open, but stayed against the wall to see if Lysander would run out- and she would shoot. Nothing. She didn't dare peek. She tried shouting, but her voice was shaky and feeble.
"Lysander!" she called "Come out here!"
"Come on- coward!" she said as loudly as possible.
She waved a hand quickly in front of the door. Nothing. She decided to risk it. Trusting her weight forward, she landed to lean against the doorframe, gun cocked and aimed. The room was dark, and she wished she had had the foresight to turn the hall light on. She reached in to turn on the light.
Erik was strapped to the bed. But something was on his face, some brown-red grease- she turned away, and slid down to the floor. She couldn't look. But she still saw it in her mind's eye. Erik didn't have a face. She stared at the wall. Erik. She remembered his gentle smile, his handsome, young face- Erik! She raised her hands and pulled at her face, letting out a wail. She heard a car screech outside, the front door flung open and hitting the wall, frantic steps and hollers. Mr. and Mrs. Drice entered the hall, they saw her, then looked at the open door. She wanted to say "don't go in there" or "stop" but she barely had the strength to sit there and listen to Joseph roar, and storm back out. Nancy's heart froze over when she heard Mary's long scream, and the thud as she dropped to her knees. The sobbing. Things in the house being flung to the floor and breaking. Then she heard Lysander, he ran into the house, yelping for help, looking around. Joseph burst into the house, face red with rage. There was something on Lysander's face. Nancy felt her body spasm, she whimpered and gagged, unable to vomit but wanting to; because Lysander was wearing Erik's skinned face.
Lysander made a run towards the hall, but Joseph tackled him. She heard sirens, more shouts, footsteps, people were lifting her. She heard the gasps of those who entered the room behind her. She fell asleep some point on the way to the ambulance.
There was nothing they could do for Erik. The plastic surgeon took one look and said, rather cruelly:
"I reshape things to make them normal again. There is nothing here for me to shape."
Of course, the damage was extensive. Erik was sitting in the hospital for a month before he was well enough to leave his room at the hospital. The doctors commented it as the worst case of domestic violence they had in record. His face was skinned from just below the hair line to his chin. His nose was gone. Oddly enough his lips had been left behind. He had ears and everything else, but he had two stab wounds in the abdomen, one in the chest. His hands had been broken. Then there were the bruises, the scratches.
Luckily, his hands were the first to heal, but gained an odd, lengthened appearance. Then everything else followed. Except the obvious.
Erik stared at the people around them with wide eyes. He hadn't spoken since waking up. He didn't need to see his face, he didn't want to see. The first nurse that had entered and fainted was enough to tell him how bad it must be. He saw it in everyone's eyes. His mother's. His father's.Everyone. They looked at him like the teenagers did at the monsters in the movies they played at the drive-ins. He wanted to know if Nancy was okay, that way he could hide if she tried to come and see him. He asked his father for paper, and he wrote: Where is Nancy?
Mr. Drice looked at his wife, who stepped forward, and held Erik's hands. Erik trembled. She looked back, then back at him.
"Sweetheart…" Erik pulled his hands away from his mother's and put them over his ears, shaking his head. "It was her heart, Erik. It pumped all of the blood out of her body…I'm so sorry!" She tried to hug him, put he snarled and pushed her away.
They sat in silence after that.
The Drices were referred to a professional disguise maker who used to work for the C.I.A. They told them he once made prosthetic eyes and a nose for a woman whose husband had gouged her eyes out and cut off her nose in a fit of rage. They had with and with-out photos, Mr. Drice looked at them. The doctors told him that he couldn't expect such fortunate results however. They apologized and exited the room.
They called the man, who went by Mr. Fuller. And explained their case. Mrs. Drice took Erik, and they flew to New York, to where Mr. Fuller ran shop. Erik more a hat and a surgeons mask for the trip. Mr. Fuller was by no means young, but it was difficult to say just how old he was. He wore a t-shirt, and jeans. He kissed Mrs. Drice's hand, with great poise. He didn't so much as bat an eye when he saw Erik.
"I seen worse, Lady."
Then held out his hand to Erik, who did nothing.
"You know it's rude to leave a guy hangin'." He kneeled to look Erik right in the eye. "Some asshole cutting yer face off isn't an excuse to go around actin' stiff to people." He stood up, "Or maybe I was mistaken for thinkin' yer a gentle-man."
He started to turn, when Erik grasped his hand with enough force to turn him back around. He gave two good shakes. Mr. Fuller grinned.
"That's it. This young man's got a good, strong shake." he looked at Mrs. Drice. "I like to work with my clients alone, so if you'll excuse us Ma'am…" She nodded "Oh, and how much are you lookin' to pay?"
"Whatever it takes." She handed a photo of Erik, before that night.
Mr. Fuller and Erik walked to the back of the shop, and once there, Mr. Fuller's speech and demeanor changed. He offered Erik a stool, and leaned against the table, holding up the photo to compare.
"What's your name, son?"
"You probably haven't said a word since this happened, am I right?" Erik nodded. Mr. Fuller put the photo on the table beside him. "The real reason I told your mother to stay out front is because I've known a few kids who've come in with similar problems. And I don't like seeing the cruelty of some idiot ruin another, especially when it's someone as young as yourself. I wanted to offer you the chance to get this out of your system, because I have something special for you, that can make it look like this never happened. But it doesn't matter if your soul remains mutilated." He went towards a door, and opened it, and drug out a dummy. Tossing it on the floor. "You can tell me what happened, or you can show me."
A week later Erik and his Mother returned. Erik hid behind his mother, when they walked up to his father, who was waiting for them at the airport. Mary was grinning broadly.
"Oh Joseph, wait till you see!" She looked behind her, "Go on Erik."
Erik stepped from out behind his mother. His face was perfect, just like the one he was born with. Joseph dropped to one knee and held out his arms.
"Oh, son…" Erik went to him and Joseph held him tightly, he held him back so he could look at Erik's face. "It's better than I could have imagined. It's like nothing ever happened!" he looked at Mary, chuckling "What's the damage?"
"He gave it to us for free, and he said that as long as Erik comes to pick up the next shipment in person, it's free, forever."
Joseph look up at the sky.
"Oh, there is a god. Did he say why?"
"No, in fact, he refused to say anything about it at all."
"Was it something you said?" He asked Erik, who shrugged. "It doesn't matter, let's go home and have some of that good cooking."
...And Lysander? No one mentioned him. No body. But just because he was ignored and mostly forgotten didn't mean he stopped existing.
Mr. Drice had caught him out in the backyard, dancing on flowers, and singing, wearing his "mask". He was singing a repetitive little phrase:
"I am Erik, I am Erik, and mommy loves me, because I sing, and daddy loves me, I am Erik, I am Erik, and I sing like angels sing, and everyone loves me."
Mr. Drice ran after him all through the yard, and then inside, where he was finally tackled. He tried to take the face away from Lysander, but the child thrashed and screamed, holding it in place on his face. He got away, but Mr. Drice caught his leg, and pulled him to the floor. Lysander was swallowing, and almost choking. The police and ambulance assistants rushed in with guns and stretchers. He pointed to Lysander's room. When they passed, he dragged Lysander to the back of the kitchen, where the cellar door was. He opened the door and threw Lysander down the stairs into darkness. Then he slammed the door and locked it.
When the police came to ask for descriptions of the intruder, Mr. and Mrs. Drice said he was gone when they arrived. Nancy had passed out, and Erik was in critical condition. So they had to wait two weeks to talk to Erik who wrote, as instructed by his parents, that he was tall, wore all black, and had a mask.
Most of the family didn't know about Lysander, and they were told he was murdered along with Nancy. They just said that the intruder took Lysander's body with him. They had a double funeral. Erik refused to go. Everyone knew something was done to his face, but no one asked about it. It was just the way of things.
And the family went on as if it had always only been them three. Erik eventually spoke, but it was very little, and measured, like an adult. But there was always that secret down in the cellar…Lysander was only let out to be sent to a hospital at the age of ten. The age of admittance.