By Anonymous, Melrose, MN
Author's note: It was an assignment for our English class
Double LifeBrian Planter was very much like any other 45-year-old man, an indiscernible stranger that no one ever seemed to recognize. He was a tall skinny man with dark eyes that seemed to sink into his scull unnaturally deep. Dark bags hung like weights below them, earned from his deprivation of sleep as he worked the grave yard shift at a boat yard five nights a week since he was twenty-two. He had not been blessed with the gift of his parents support unlike his twin brother, Bill, who seemed to do everything right. Bill was successful in school and went off to college with a 4.0 and Valedictorian of their class. Brian received his diploma by the skin of his teeth, but upon seeing his transcript and lack of extra-curricular activities, he did not make it into a collage. Bill was now a big business owner living in various penthouses in New York City, while Brian lived in a small apartment building that smelled of fish and random failed attempts at home cooking in a small suburb of the city. Brian did his very best to make an honest living but as much as he tried he could hardly scrape enough money together to cover his rent and pay for two frozen boxed dinners a day. He slept during the day only to wake up a few hours later to the screaming of a failing married couple that lived in the apartment next door.
Brian had scorned his family from an early age for always favoring his brother. He thought back to one Christmas day when he was about seven. He was so excited to open the gifts that placed under the tree for the two boys. When he arrived at the he saw presents that more than expanded past the circumference of the tree, he had a tough time finding his gifts. Perhaps it was the large one wrapped in shiny red wrapping paper with a green ribbon tied to a bow on top.
Disappointed, but not discouraged he continued to search for the package with his name on it. Maybe it was the slightly smaller, but still decently sized box wrapped in paper that represented yellow sequence.
Now almost in tears Brian became somewhat frantic, searching for his own Christmas present, the one thing that showed him that his parents truly cared about him! Brian wasn’t upset on Thanksgiving when his relatives avoided him, or when on their birthdays when everyone would flock to Bill to see how his sports were going. All that mattered was this one gift a year that showed that someone still loved him. Then he found it. A small shoebox crudely wrapped in newspapers that had been read through and discarded at one point. Brian did not care though. He was ecstatic! His parents still cared about him! He tore open the box with incredible speed. But once he opened it his wide smile disappeared. He stared down upon a box of hand-me-down tee shirts from his older cousin.
* * *
Brian shook the memory from his head with tears welling in his eyes. He didn’t care that he wasn’t spoiled like his brother was! “If anything it made you tougher,” Brian told himself. “One of us had to grow up and it wasn’t going to be Bill! I don’t care at all!” he was almost yelling at himself. He jumped when he realized that he had been talking to himself. Brian looked at the clock and saw the time, 2:00 pm. “Better get to sleep, I need to get up for work tomorrow” he said as he lay down into his dirty cot-like bed with a thick itchy wool blanket that hardly covered his toes as he slept.
His alarm went off at 10:30 waking him up to get ready for work. He got dressed, showered in his spider infested shower, ate a piece of toast and headed out the door. He was glad to leave his apartment and felt much better. He had a purpose again. Work. As he was walking down the street in the frigid night air, he heard an unfamiliar voice.
“Hey, aren’t you that Bill Planter guy? Owns the Technology company? What is it...Techno Hut?”
The words seemed to strike Brian right in the heart.
“No.” Brian said coldly in return
“Well you look just like him!” the stranger replied with an energy that Brian hated.
“That’s because he’s my twin brother.” Brian told him trying to kill the conversation. The stranger let out an obnoxious snort that lead to a loud laugh.
“You, his brother? No! In your dreams maybe you bum! If you were his borhter you wouldn’t be working at a stinking boatyard!”
Brian’s fists clenched tightly. He was considering the consequences of breaking this strangers jaw.
“We don’t really get along well” Brian said in sarcastic hiss.
“Right” the stranger replied even more sarcastically.
Brian walked away disgusted. He was sick of living in his brothers’ shadow.
“That’s it!” Brian thought aloud. Evil thoughts began to lurk and swirl through Brian’s mind. A light smirk spread across Brian’s face. It was the first genuine smile he had in a number of years. But there was work to be done and Brian went about doing it just as he had done for the last twenty plus years.
Brian returned to his apartment that night still haunted by the thoughts in his mind. He couldn’t, even if he hated his brother with a deep burning passion. Brian walked to the bathroom down the hall feeling disturbed. He began washing his face with cold water from one of the three sinks in an attempt to snap himself out of his thoughts. He glanced up and saw not his reflection but instead his brother Bill in the mirror. He jumped. Bill looked down at him just as he had every day of his life growing up. A smile spread across his face.
“You’re nothing Brian. You never were anything in the first place. They wanted another me. How disappointing that they only got you...”
“It’s not true! I was born to be my own person!” Brian screamed into the mirror. The figure cackled in delight.
“You’ve already tried that brother and look where that got you! You’re living alone in a run down apartment with a worthless job that gives pathetic pay living off frozen dinners. Is this how you want to live your life? You are lower than dirt, I suppose some things never change”
“Shut up” Brian whispered, his voice shaking with rage.
“Oh have I upset you?” Bills image mocked.
“Shut your mouth” Brain screamed into the mirror. The image began to grow taller, wider, and darker until it was only one large sheet of complete blackness, which then crested like a tidal wave and crashed down upon Brian spinning and turning in the shadow of his brother hearing only the echoing laughter of his brother. Brian lashed out swinging his fist with all of the pent fury that had been building up over the last forty years.
Smash The sound of shattering glass filled the bathroom. He felt a searing pain in his right hand. He looked down to see broken glass forced under his skin causing the scarlet red blood to ooze from his knuckles. He looked around the bathroom from his knees where he had ended up after the experience. A large black woman was staring at him with a cocked eyebrow from the other side of the room with her back pressed to the wall.
“Are you trippin’? Y’all just ‘bout gave me a heart attack dude…shoot…Done be yellin’ at the mirrors n’ such, then you done gone and smashed it all up in here!”
“It’s nothing just some kind of bad dream or something” Brain replied weakly.
“Ain’t no dream I’ve ever seen done gone and make a man smash a mirror!” she said still looking at him as if he was some kind of ghost.
“Me neither…” he replied awkwardly and left the bathroom in a hurry. Brian was enraged. He went back to his room and put on his coat. He looked over at the sink and the pile of dirty dishes he saw it. A stainless steel knife he used to cut onions to put into his bland frozen dinners. He stared at the knife for a long while. It glistened in the dim light of the apartment as if winking at him. Brian walked over to the sink to pick up the kitchen utensil. When he did grab it after staring at it for a considerable amount of time he brought it up to his face. He saw his reflection staring back at him. But it was his reflection, not Bills! No, he was his own person, he had his own goals, his own dreams, and his own reflection. He watched a tear roll down his cheek over the bag hanging beneath his eye. “This is what they did to you…” he whispered to himself. He then slid the knife up his sleeve went down to the street and hailed a taxi to pick him up.
When he entered the shiny yellow cab he saw the driver, he was a stout man with curly greasy hair hidden only by a bowling hat. He was smoking an oversized cigar which was very unappealing to Brian as he never had the interest of smoking, nor the money to uphold the habit.
“Where can I take ya’ today sir?” said the driver in a heavy Brooklyn accent.
“Take me to the Techno Hut building please.” He told the cab driver.
“You got family there?” the driver asked in his gruff voice.
“I did” replied Brian.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” Said the driver losing interest “When’s the funeral?”
“No funeral yet…It’s more of a visitation if you will.” Said Brian smirking at his own wittiness.
“All right then I’ll have you there in no time at all.” said the driver.
“Thank you” Brian said ending the conversation politely. The rest of the trip was spent in silence.
Sometime between getting in the cab and arriving at the Techno Hut building the weather took a drastic change. It began to rain and the wind picked up blowing old newspapers and used plastic bags across the road in random directions. Brian could hear the wind blowing on the outside of the car as they traveled nearer to his ultimate redemption. If no one would let him have his own identity, he would carve it into the earth for all to see.
When they arrived at the building, he paid the driver all of the money he had left in his wallet. He would not need it anymore. He stared up at the skyscraper looming before him. It was at least eighty stories high with immense glass windows making it seem as if it would crumble with the first rock thrown. Brian played with the idea in his mind for a while standing in the rain. He bent over and picked up a rock about the size of a walnut, tossed it up and down in his hand to feel the weight. He then threw the rock at the building as if expecting to see it crumble. However, it did not, the rock deflected harmlessly off of the glass. Brian hoped that he was not about to become the rock in this situation he was about to enter. He then walked up to the high marble archway, climbed the stairs and opened the doors.
He walked up to the front desk and looked at the woman there. She was skinny, not just light, but dangerously thin. At least Brain thought so. She had long fingernails painted red to mach the dress that she was wearing. Her long black hair was tied tightly back into a bun. She pretended not to notice him.
“Where can I find Bill Planter?” Brian said leaning over and putting his hands on the desk. She turned, looked him up and down, and then turned back with a disgusted look on her face as if she could not believe he was actually touching her desk.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Well no, tell him his brother is here.”
“I didn’t know Mr. Planter had a brother, but you look the part…the dirty, filthy part.” She said as she picked up the phone and slowly taped the numbers on her phone as her long acrylic fingernails were getting in the way. Brian tried not to get offended by here rude behavior, he would be out of here soon enough.
“Hello Mr. Planter your brother is here to see you” Pause.
“What did you say your name was again?” she asked as she put her hand over the microphone part of the phone.
“Brian” he replied.
“He says his name is Brian, looks just like you…accept dirtier,” she said. There was a long pause.
“So should I send him up or not?” Pause. Brian balled his fists at the thought of his brother not letting him up as if it was some sort of tree house he was commandeering.
“Okay I will. Thank you.” She said before she hung up her phone. “74th floor, go down the hallway, take the second left and its room number 7456, His name should be on the door. Have a nice visit.” Said the woman rolling her eyes as he walked away.
Brian got in the elevator and hit the number 74, which was in fact the top floor of the building. The light lit up and the elevator started moving. The ride went on for what seemed like hours. Brian’s heart was racing, was he going to follow through with this. He had not seen his brother in years. Ding The doors slid open revealing a cramped office space with seemingly infinite cubicles, offices, and hallways. He followed the woman’s instructions and made it to his brothers’ office in no time. The door read BILL PLANTER C.E.O. Brian shook his head and chuckled a little bit.
“Of course he’s the C.E.O”
He knocked on the door then opened it.
“Oh hello Brian what brings you here?” is what Bill wanted to say but what came out was,
“Brian…You look like hell”
“Oh thank you brother” Brian replied as his eye twitched a little bit.
“Why are you here, you need a job or something? You look homeless.” He said. Brian winced, his grip on the knife in his sleeve tightened.
“No. I do not need a job.”
“Then what do you want from me?” Bill said with a little chuckle.
“I want a life Bill, you took that from me as a child, and now I want my own life.”
“What do you mean you came all this way just to cry about how Mommy and Daddy loved me more? You’re more pathetic than you look.” Brian took a step closer.
“You know it’s true, I’ve been living in your shadow for too damn long Bill. I want someone to see me for once!”
“There’s nothing to see Brian, don’t you get it? You’re a failure. You are lower than dirt” with the last sentence, Brian remembered the bathroom incident. He lowered his head and shook it slowly as he walked closer yet. He wished he had not said that.
“What are you really doing here Brian?” Bill asked with just a shake of fear in his voice.
“I told you Bill, I’m here to create my own identity. I want to be someone. I came here to kill you Bill.” Without the slightest hesitation, Brian pulled the knife from his sleeve and swiftly stabbed Bill in the left portion of his chest. He felt Bills heart struggle against the cold steel of the knife.
“Hurts don’t it? Having your heart broken. I suppose you’ve never known until now Bill.” There was only a panicked gurgling noise in return. Blood spurted from Bills chest cavity staining his expensive looking work shirt. Brian looked into his brothers’ eyes one last time as they faded into a glaze. The last thing Bill saw was the corners of Brian’s mouth twitch up into a twisted smile. He had done it. Brian closed his brothers’ eyes, wiped the blood soaked knife on his brothers’ shirt to clean it off, and walked out of the room taking only a few dollars from Bills wallet for the taxi ride home.
“Thank you” he whispered menacingly to the woman in the front as he walked out of the building.
He got a cab to bring him back home where he plopped down in his chair and stayed there. His smile had not left since he watched his brother die. He heard the wall clock ticking in the next room over. Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick He tuned into the metronome of the clock as if meditating on it until the ticking turned into the sound produced when he stabbed his brother. Sink Sink Sink His smile broadened. He called into work to tell them he was quitting his job for personal reasons. And within two hours he heard sirens outside of his apartment. Yet he was at peace. It took only a few minutes for the officers to storm into Brian’s room and grab a hold of him.
Brian was arrested and booked that night. Officers questioned him intently.
“Why would you kill your own brother, your flesh and blood, your kin for Gods sake, you sick, twisted man?”
“What is my name?” Brian replied.
“Your name is Brian Planter.”
“Do you know who I am?” Brian asked as if he was a young child curiously asking his parents.
“Yes you’re a murderer who killed his brother just for recognition.”
“Ah but you recognize me?” he replied then started laughing hysterically. He laughed increasingly harder and harder until he could barely breathe, screaming, “They know me! They know me! I have a name! I have an identity!” His insane laugher filled the room chilling everyone to the bone.
“Do you regret what you’ve done?” one of the officers asked foolishly. Laughing too hard to reply coherently, he shook his head to say no.
“Psychopath, at least you’re going out laughing.” said another officer handing in the report.