Parasitic Twin. Fetus in fetu. Vanishing twin syndrome.
According to experts, some pregnancies start out with multiple foetuses. For some yet to be verified reason, during the first trimester, one of them may be absorbed by another twin, multiple or placenta. This foetal resorption is either partial or complete. The partial type leads to the discovery of extra limbs and body parts on or in the surviving twin, but when complete absorption occurs,
there is no trace of the foetus that began life with another twin in its mother’s womb.
That’s what science thinks anyway.
Chisom resumes her hunched up position in the back of the taxi which brought her to the hospital, and shakily gives the driver her address. Her ears are still ringing with the voice of her twin and Doctor Banji, whose questions she had ignored as she fled from the hospital.
He tried to stop her as she left Amauche’s room, and she had recoiled from the look in his eyes. It almost looked like jealousy.
“She talked to you, right? I heard her voice. Tell me what she said. I need to know what’s going on in her head.” His clutched her arms tighter. “What did she say? Did she tell you how she stalked and killed them? Did she tell you if they suffered…”
With a mute shake of the head, she broke his grip and ran out of the hospital as fast as she could, shoes tap-tapping on the cement floors.
Safe in the taxi, she remembers the eager, frustrated look in the doctor’s eyes. He looked insane.
You’re right, you know. That man isn’t quite right. Tsk tsktsk. The jailer is also a prisoner.
She shudders as she hears the voice in her head again. For the first time in years, she chooses not to ignore it.
“Who are you?” she whispers.
There is a small pause, then…
Oh hello there, roommate!
Despite a rough welcome to the world, fate sent a mother to the twins after their father abandoned them. They were passed around by their maternal aunts for a short period in their adolescence before a friend of their late mother had taken them in and raised them as her own. The childless Eucharia Benson had eagerly given them a home and her husband’s name.
The only downside was her fervent religion.
She had been an avid church-goer, moving from one prayer house to another. Chisom and Amauche grew up used to early morning invocations, tearful prayers in the middle of the night and sometimes no sleep at all as they nodded through countless vigils.
So, naturally, when Chisom’s strange behavior was finally noticed at the age of fifteen, it was put down to spiritual influences. She needs to be delivered, Aunty Eucharia informed them.
Amauche disagreed. She had always been the curious, open-minded one, weary of the incessant prayers and willing to open a book. Early on in life, she had decided her twin sister was bipolar.
To her, it was the only rational explanation for her twin’s mood swings. Chisom was almost always on two extreme ends of different emotion- she was annoyingly optimistic and cheerful or she was depressed and disenchanted with everything, surly and antagonistic. Amauche covered up for her as best as she could, but their Aunt Eucharia eventually noticed the sour moods in the teenager who was usually sweet-natured.
“Marine spirit.” She declared, after running a trained spiritual eye over her adopted daughter. “The pastor has always said there was an unclean spirit interested in you girls. We’re going to see him tomorrow.”
And Amauche had watched, helpless as her sister was further damaged by the antics of Aunty Eucharia and her beloved pastor. The teenager was starved, confined for weeks, deprived of rest and even ‘flogged’. Amauche stayed by her sister’s side, trying to cushion the effects of the emotional stress by sharing the trauma as much as she could.
When the pastor declared Chisom healed, the only person who didn’t celebrate was Amauche. Chisom seemed calm and happy, and other than a new fondness for chewing her fingernails down to the quick, perfectly adjusted even, but in months to come Amauche had reason to suspect the deliverance episode was the reason for her sister’s final psychotic break.
It started with a fascination for tragedy and human suffering.
Chisom pored over news and stories that involved casualties, eyes wide as she regaled her sister with stories of bodies burnt in petrol tanker accidents, people mangled along the notorious Lagos-Ibadan express road. Her attention to detail was chilling and Amauche noticed a total personality change when she whispered of the pain the dead people must have suffered. Her voice was pitched higher and her eyes were furtive.
It was almost like the Chisom she knew shifted aside and made room for someone else.
When the bodies of tortured and burnt animals began to show up around their home, she never told anyone she suspected Chisom of being responsible. But she certainly thought it.
Years passed, and both girls obtained admission into university, graduated and became gainfully employed. Amauche made sure she stayed near her sister, secretly dosing her with illegally obtained antipsychotic medication. She also kept reading up on her sister’s condition.
And among those pages, she stumbled on a new theory. She had often felt her sister’s extra personality seemed familiar. As time passed, she realized why- she knew the voice because it had once lived in her own head. When she came across the concept of a parasitic twin, she was electrified. She was convinced that her mother had originally carried triplets and the personality that had bounced from inside her head to Chisom’s was actually a third sibling, physically non-existent, but a mental parasite, pulling Chisom’s strings.
Aunty Eucharia would have just called it an evil spirit. But Aunty Eucharia was dead, taken by a breast cancer her pastor had advised her to pray away.
Of course given the twins’ mother’s own decidedly psychotic behavior, there was a possibility the trait for insanity had simply been passed on. Amauche’s behaviour was questionable as well. She had spent years enabling her sibling and feeding her a medical cocktail of mind-altering drugs just on a whim, not considering what their effect was or how her sister would cope when life eventually separated them. She was certainly brilliant, but there was a thin line between genius and insanity.
And maybe that was what pushed her to tell Chisom about her new theory. Her sister listened, wide-eyed and incredulous, taking the idea of a mental parasitic sibling with a pinch of salt. She was a practicing lawyer and fully functioning adult, unaware of her mental history, convinced the voice she sometimes heard was nothing weird. Amauche’s theory sounded like rubbish; she decided to ignore it.
The thing in her head did not.
A month later, Amauche’s fiancé
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Akpan-Nya, Alexandra Emem is a Nigerian writer and poet. Educated in the sciences, she has short stories and poems published in various blogs. She loves to scribble and play with original ideas and has a fascination for speculative fiction and children literature. Her interests include dabbling in flash fiction, travelling and sneakers. She dreams of writing norm-breaking bestsellers that will inspire deep thought and the occasional chuckle. You can see more of her work on her blog.