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Twins…

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There were two of them. Both young and pale. Their skin pallid, their eyes wide and blank. Their light white-blond hair lank and raggedly cut. The girl's thin hair was barely shoulder length. She was slightly older. Orphans. No one would take them in. It was something about their eyes. Their haunting, accusing eyes.

~*~*~*~*~*~

When a wife and her husband were considering adopting a child, the wife was delighted when the agency had two twins for them. For some reason, no one wanted them. Their mother had died, and their father abandoned them. Apparently they'd been orphans since age six. The wife figured, why not twins? The more, the merrier.

The husband worked every day, the entire day, and came home dog-tired. He didn't really mind the idea of a child, but twins, he thought, might be a little much. His wife pleaded with him, promising that she'd take excellent care of them. Finally, he agreed, and the two ten-year old twins were put under their care.

The couple lived in the suburbs, a quiet little town where everyone minded their own business. Every day, at four, the husband would get up and take a train to the city. He wouldn't come home until ten.

The two children were skinny, a boy and a girl. They both had limp, dirty blonde hair and large, pale gray eyes. Their faces were gaunt, their skin ghostly. The twins were extremely quiet.

The wife spent the whole first day trying to get them to talk. The agency, curiously enough, hadn't told her their names. Finally, just as she was about to give up and make dinner, the girl spoke.

"My name is Mare." Her voice was high and thin, and sounded like it could snap in half at any moment.

The wife was delighted. She tried to coax the boy into saying his name, and finally, he spoke up.

"You can call me Night." His voice was as thin as his sister's; his nearly colorless eyes piercing. The wife clapped her hands in delight, and told them not to worry: dinner would be ready soon. They could go out to play if they wanted.

As she cooked dinner, the wife hummed a melody. Her children might be a little shy (her children…! she could hardly contain her delight) but they were bound to warm up to her soon. Dinner passed in silence.

The wife introduced the new room she'd personally decorated for the twins. There were two slender beds, one pink and one blue, and the room seemed to be neatly split in half. A girly dresser stood next to Mare's bed and a boyish one near Night's. The wallpaper smoothly transitioned from hot pink to electric blue. The wife looked at the children for any sign of approval, her face hopeful.

There was a moment of silence. The wife's face fell, and she struggled to keep on her smile.

Finally, Mare spoke up. "It's alright, I guess."

And that was that. The wife tucked them into bed, trying to fight off the feeling of dread building in her stomach.

They were just children, she told herself. They've lost their parents, and it's my duty to bring up their spirits again.

She went to bed that night, coaxing the small flame of hope before she fell asleep. She faintly remembered waking up around twelve to find her husband sleeping next to her, and when she woke at seven, he was already gone. She yawned, got dressed, and walked into the twins' bedroom to wake them up.

When she walked in and flicked on the lights, she nearly had a heart attack. Sitting in bed, staring at her, were Mare and Night. Their gaze was unsettling; their pale eyes glazed. Suddenly Night's eyes sharpened.

"Awake already?" The wife asked, struggling to settle her emotions. Anxiety, worry, fear.

"We don't sleep." Night's voice was faraway and high-pitched. His face was blank, dark circles lining his eyes.

"Yeah, don't sleep..." Mare echoed, her tone an almost singsong lilt.

The wife blinked. She firmly told herself that she'd deal with this problem later, and plastered a cheerful smile on her face. She'd told her husband she'd be responsible for these two, and she was determined to keep that promise.

"Well... Mare, Night," she said brightly, "today we'll go shopping for clothing, alright?"

Silence. The children stared at her, unblinking. The wife sighed. It was going to be a long day...

~*~*~*~*~*~

It had been two months, and try as she might, the children wouldn't respond to her. They continued to stare at her coldly, emotionlessly, blankly. Occasionally Mare would speak, and Night would echo her, or vice versa. The wife tried to stay optimistic, but her hopes were sinking lower and lower by the day.

Also, since they'd come to her home, they never seemed to have slept. Whenever she walked in, they were sitting there, burning their pale gaze into the doorway. It was almost like they were waiting for her to walk in.

Finally, she decided that they needed some proper bonding. And what better bonding to do, she thought, than to go camping?

It was settled. She and the twins would drive to the woods a few hundred miles away, and camp out for two nights. The husband would stay home.

After a thickly silent car ride, the wife unloaded the car while Night stood statue-still, his sister sitting on the ground, her knees drawn to her chest.

Suddenly, a tall man with a strong structure burst from the leafy scenery. He had a sturdy hiking stick which clearly used a lot- it’s once glossy surface was worn and he held it almost lovingly. Carved patterns swirled artistically around the stick; the grooves deep and graceful. He was clad in army green camouflage and thick hiking boots. He had dark brown hair cropped right above his eyes. They were celery-green, widening in warm surprise.

"Why, hello," he greeted pleasantly. "Camping, I see."

"Yes," the wife replied distractedly, sending the twins strange looks. They were shying away from the newcomer, their eyes penetrating and cold.

"Cute kids," the stranger smiled warmly, extending a hand to the boy and girl. They stayed still, glaring at him suspiciously. His warmth faltered slightly.

"Mare, Night," the wife scolded, "say hello."

"Hello." When Night spoke the word, it seemed more like an offending gesture than a greeting.

The man raised an eyebrow, and then shrugged. As he turned to leave, he said, "Anyways, I'll be hanging around the place. I'm hiking and camping tonight, so if you need any help I'll be around nearby." He winked at the wife. With that, he disappeared once again into the leaves, whistling a cheerful tune.

The children sent dark looks after his receding figure. They sat, refusing to help the wife as she resumed unloading.

As the wife struggled to single-handedly put up the tent, the twins decided to explore some. After a grueling hour and a half, the tent stood erect albeit slightly lopsided. Half an hour later, everything, including their sleeping bags and the cooler, was set up.

"Mare!" she called. The girl was the one most likely to answer. "Night!" she called, just in case.

With the faintest rustles possible, the children emerged from a leafy cluster of bushes. Their eyes glimmered strangely, as if they held a secret or discovered something fascinating. In the setting light they looked faint and ghostly, as if they were about to fade away.

The wife shook away these thoughts. It wasn't fair to judge such small children, she scolded herself. Nonetheless, the familiar dread swirled with fear closed around her heart like a fist.

"We're going to barbecue today," she told them, forcing her voice to be cheerful. She showed them how to build and light a fire. "See, you stack up the wood like a building, and strike this flint together so that it sparks," she explained. Returning the flint to a pouch hanging from her belt, she blew carefully on the flames so that they flared up, crackling. Night's pale eyes seemed to glow pearly with creepy interest, then they dulled again.

She showed them how to carefully roast the meat and lightly toast the bread afterwards. They stared at her listlessly, their light eyes as piercing as ever.

The firelight threw charcoal shadows on the children's faces as the scarlets and ambers and honey-golds reflected off their colorless pale eyes. They ate little, and most of the food the wife brought was left untouched.

She sighed, packed the leftovers away neatly, and turned to the children. They sat there, eyes unfocused, a strange expression on their faces.

She cleared her throat. "Now would be about time to tell campfire stories..." she glanced at the children (she'd given up trying to call them her children... it just didn't sound right) and saw them just as unresponsive as ever.

She heaved another sigh. "But let's call it a night."

The wife put out the fire, gently led the children into the tent, and tucked them in. Stepping back outside, she let the cool air brush her face slightly. It was a crisp, clear night. She stole a look at the blue-black night sprinkled with sharp pinpricks of light, and her gaze lingered on the waning moon.

Sighing once more, quietly, she stepped back in the tent, zippered it, crawled into her sleeping bag, and fell asleep.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Something felt off in the air around the wife. She woke with a start, and realized it was morning. She could see from the sunlight streaming through the open tent.

"Open tent?" She yawned sleepily. A bolt of horrifying realization struck her.

The wife's face took on a stricken expression. She'd zippered the tent before she'd gone to sleep. She was sure of it. A wild glance around the tent confirmed her worst fear: the twins were gone.

We don't sleep... Night's voice echoed in the wife's ears.

She was panicking. Why hadn't she realized that the children were delicate creatures? The poor things were probably internally cold with terrible grief and shock. Orphaned so young, it must've become a terrible habit: not sleeping, staring forlornly at others. The wife hurriedly changed, leaving everything in a disarray as she raced off into the woods. She had to find them! Who knew what kind of dangers lurked in the woods?

Her mind whirled furiously as she dashed around, crunching sticks and crunching leaves. The forest was huge; teeming with dangerous wildlife. How would she ever find them? She raced on, pushing that thought away. She must find them!

The wife stopped for breath, panting. She looked around wildly. Trees and leaves surrounded her. Everything looked the same to her, and as she circled, she knew she was hopelessly lost. She had run blindly, and gotten lost. How could she be so stupid?

She slumped against a tree trunk in despair. Not only could she not find and save the children, she'd gone and gotten herself lost as well.

Briefly, the wife remembered the friendly man who'd stopped by before. He'd said he might be able to help… the wife frantically looked around. Maybe if she found him, he'd be able to help find them.

He said he'd be camping… the wife checked her wrist, where (thankfully) her watch was still strapped. It was around breakfast time. Perhaps he'd be roasting food… she scanned the treetops for an ashy tail of smoke.

Turning around in a full 360, she finally spotted a corner of gray. As time went by, it grew larger and more distinct. The wisps of charcoal smoke were clear against the crystal blue morning sky, and with new determination she set off in that direction.

As the few minutes went on, she found the smoke becoming thicker and heavier. The acridness stung the wife's eyes as she pressed on. Finally, ten minutes in her trek, the smoke swirled so thickly it seemed solid, and she was hacking. It was uncomfortably hot, and she crumpled as the ash burned in her lungs. She couldn't breathe and her vision was a haze of blood red. The last thought she remembered having before blacking out was wondering if she'd die in this blaze that was clearly no friendly campfire…

~*~*~*~*~*~

The wife hacked violently, raggedly torn back into reality. She rubbed her stinging eyes, and gulped in fairly clear air as her vision cleared. Trees around her were blackened, spindly stumps. The ground around her was barren and charcoaled. The fire must have not as been as large as she imagined; she clearly saw that a couple meters back from where she was kneeling that the grass seemed to tentatively become green again and that trees seemed more complete. Her mind was hazy, incoherent, but a sudden thought struck her.

"The twins!" She gasped; the words ripped painfully through her body. She hacked again. Haphazardly, the wife struggled to her feet. "Mare!" She screamed, her voice giving out as searing pain brought her to her knees. "Night…" she croaked, coughing.

After a moment or two of rest, the wife unsteadily got to her feet. As she struggled onward, the grass became prickle-black spikes and then there was no grass at all; the trees were wizened black shapes barely reaching up to her chest, then her lower waist. Finally, she reached what she knew was the center of the fire. Completely burned wood collapsed in what resembled the skeletons of a huge bonfire. It was easy to see how the fire leapt into the trees and beyond. The scene before her was blacks, grays, whites; darkened large stones, blackened ground, white ash. With her unclear vision and the dull colors, it took a few moments to sweep her vision around and register her full surroundings.

Yes, there were burned trees, yes, the ground was blackened and sparsely decorated by large gray-black stones, and yes, white ash sugared the ground like poisoned sweetness. But on two large, dusky-black stones perched two young children, their translucent pale skin sharply offsetting and blending in with the now white-gray gloomy sky. Their face familiarly gaunt to the wife, their pale gray-white eyes boring holes into her soul.

"Night!" The wife rushed to the duo, embracing them. The sat stiffly, coldly as she hugged them. "Mare!"

She stepped back. The children were dressed in the same pair of clothing they were in last night. The gaudy colors she'd chosen for them when she'd first bought the clothing seemed cheaply bright on them; now the cloth was covered in pale gray and white ash… the clothing was faded and clearly better suited for the twins. The wife's worry was overridden by anger.

"Where were you two?" She scolded them. "I was worried! You can't just run off into the big woods by yourselves!" At her snapping words, the twins' eyes seemed to light with a cold fire. Night stood up, the emotion in his large, pale eyes biting cold.

"We can take care of ourselves."

"Ourselves…" Mare echoed, her eyes alight with hazy darkness. The wife had never understood how their eyes could be so pale yet so dark at the same time.

"Don't be silly; you could get lost, or hurt!" The wife's rebuke was only half-hearted now, as a different worry had dawned on her. "Why are you two in the midst of this ruin?"

A faint something (could it be considered… a smile?) flickered across Mare's face. Her features looked sharp and uncharacteristically cruel for someone her age. The crisp morning light did nothing to soften her features. Night looked as if he might be snickering.

It was Mare who answered. "What do you mean, why are we in the middle?"

"In the middle," Night agreed, half-smirking. The wife subconsciously took a step back.

"I mean, why are you at the center of where this colossal fire was lit? It's dangerous!"

Night let out a cold laugh. The first laugh the wife had ever heard him utter. "Dangerous? We lit it."

"Lit it." Mare's face was ghostly as she stood up, coming to her brother's side.

"Wha- how… you built it alone?" Even as she said the words, the wife felt a bitter taste in her mouth. She clearly remembered teaching them the careful process of fire-stacking, of coaxing baby sparks into a blazing flames. They must've stolen a match from her. She backed up another step. The twins, in turn, stepped closer.

"Why did you-" the wife swallowed hard.

"Light the fire?" Mare finished for her. "We wanted to see if we could remember what you taught us." The words would've been sweet coming from any other child's mouth. Instead, it seemed like a taunting reminder. What the wife had taught them… she recalled the way Night’s eyes had glowed last evening, a shiver tingling down her spine.

But still, they must've had a reason. They wouldn't light a bonfire in the middle of the woods for nothing, right? She inspected the area, or rather, what was left of it. A honey-amber glint caught her eye.

Walking slowly towards it, she kept a tentative eye on the children. She knelt carefully, her fingers brushing the object. The wife picked it up and looked at. She inspected the roughly three-inch long stick. It seemed worn, the edges raggedly burned and wispy ash dusting the entire length. She wiped the ash away, the edges crumbling, then falling, a feeling of dread closing over her heart like a fist. Her fingers ran along the faded brown-gold surface, curving swirls intricately lining what she could see of the stick.

She dropped it in horror, stumbling back. The hiker's stick. The man with the jewel-green eyes and cheerful personality. She raised her gaze slowly to the twins. An unreadable expression had crossed their features. A wintry, deathlike gaze. Their small fists were clenched by their sides.

"Y-you…" her throat was unimaginably dry. She crept back, trembling in horror. "You set fire to that hiker…?"

Night stepped closer to the frightened wife, his twin sister following. Their steps were soft, cat-like, not at all disturbing the crackled remains of life broken on the ground. Whimpering, the wife scooted back. Each shaky sweep of vision beheld new terrors for her. Those mangled, torn scraps ever so faintly held a camouflage green color… the color the hiker was wearing. Meaning that pile of black ashes… a strangled sound came from her throat. She stumbled backwards, dismayed to find her back pressed against a sturdy, cracked rock.

"Why?" Her voice was faint, her eyes round with terror. Glassy, unfocused. The wife hadn't known the friendly hiker that long, but his luminous green eyes burned into her memory. They would haunt her for the rest of her life.

"Why?" Night repeated, as if the wife was absurd for not knowing. His voice was as whispery and chilly as a winter night. His eyes were pale and opalescent; emotionless. "We didn't like him." His explanation was so simple, so ludicrous that the wife was speechless.

"Didn't like him…" Mare stepped closer to the shuddering wife. Her eyes glowed strangely; a small, cold smile resting on her thin lips. Her voice was high and faraway. "Not at all."

Another wave of horror swept over the wife as she scrambled toward her feet. She'd never been more afraid in her life. Her voice low was low, shaking like a leaf in the wind. "Mare… Night… how did your mother die?"

The twins stepped closer, a strange glint in their eyes. They didn't answer.

The wife gulped, stepping back and around the rock. "What about your foster families?" A terrible fear was seizing her. They had been abandoned at age six. That was four years of foster families. They couldn't have simply… disappeared. Which meant…

The strange light in the twins' eyes intensified. "They were mean," Night whispered, an almost maniacal expression on his face.

"Mean…" Mare echoed. "Didn't like them." She stepped closer.

A shudder ran down the wife's spine. The way the children were looking at her… how could such young children induce so much fear?

Suddenly, his voice quiet, Night decisively said, "We don’t like you either." He stepped closer, the light in his eyes burning feverishly bright.

"No, don't like you…" Mare repeated, coming beside her brother.

"Night," the wife warned, backing away, her voice trembling. "Mare…" They merely came closer; slowly, terrifyingly closer. "Mare!" She stepped back as the twins continually closed the gap between them. "Mare, Night, stop it. Stop it!" Suddenly, a thought struck her; shatteringly electric blue lightning. Night. Mare. Night- and Mare.

NIGHTMARE.

The wife let out a piercing scream, turning around and fleeing. Crashing through the crumbling black surroundings, a white-hot fear seared through her. The children were right behind her, she could feel it. The wife could tell by the terrible shivers scraping down her back. With a gasping half sob, she swiped away the tears gathering in her eyes. The wife was panicking, and she kenw it. She wasn't ready to die. She didn't want to die yet! She raced onward, pushing down the panic bubbling inside of her.

She risked a glance backwards. Her fatal mistake. Mare was right behind her, the girl's terrible, empty eyes trained horrifyingly onto her. Her foot caught a root and the wife screamed again as she went down, clutching her ankle. She whimpered as they loomed over her; boy and girl. Their eyes were empty now, cold and dark and terribly empty, like pits of eternal darkness. She stared up at them, her eyes stretched in fear.

"I'm sure Mama will say hi to you when you get there," Mare smiled a twisted smile. "You two were alike. We didn't like either of you."

Those large, glazed pale eyes were the last thing the wife would ever see; pearly, searing in her horror. As they blazed into her vision, she let out a final scream.

The forest was silent after the wife's shattering scream. It would stay that way, deathly silent, until two days later. The husband sent out a search party, but not a trace of either twin or his wife were found. They searched high and low, but eerily, the only things they would ever find were the abandoned tent and car, along with the other supplies. It didn't help that the husband had little to no solid description of the twins. Although the disappearances stirred up some media attention, it died out soon enough. After all, there was no evidence to fuel the search with.

Eventually, someone will come to the same forest. They'll wander through the woods, and maybe stumble upon two pale twins, young and silent. He or she will bring them to an adoptive agency, and their slate would be wiped clean. No one would have a single inkling about the two ghostly twins. And of course, nothing of their dark, blood soaked past.

Certainly, no one would have a clue that these young children were a pair of deadly nightmares… Not a single soul will ever know their real names. And no one would figure the meaning behind the deceptively simple names they'd given themselves.

After all, they'd been haunting for centuries. Yes, they were abandoned at age six. And they are currently ten. Or at least, they look ten. Can age be slowed…? Because Father Time has yet to catch these ageless terrors; their pale hands stained with blood, their light, ice cold eyes…

No one will realize, however. At least, not until it's too late.

Far, far too late…



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