A memoir by S. Villar, as presented by Xariffa Suarez
Art by A. Jones
A great tragedy has occurred. Poor Solara Villar, media darling and pianist extraordinaire, lost her parents, her twin sister, and her home in a massive fire. In an interview recorded several days earlier, Solara, as beautiful as ever, clutching her famous gloved left hand on her lap, tearfully announces her retirement from the concert circuit and from all public life.
Possibly for the hundredth time, I watch this on the newsfeed in my hotel suite at the top of The Ritz Towers, mouthing every word. I proudly note the interview, a world-class performance.
Pictures of Solara at different ages stream across the screen, evoking memories I don’t welcome. Extremely wealthy in her own right, the announcer says, Ms. Villar inherited a massive fortune. Of course, I know all of this, but I can’t stop watching.
The screen flashes scenes from the funeral. The eccentric girl had, the man says, erected a great monument at the family gravesite and, curiously, had it inscribed “Slain by the Jealous Moon.” He reports that speculation as to the source–Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, or the twentieth-century song “Jealous Moon,” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band–has flooded all social media.
Though free, rid of them all, my pitiless heart softens and, against my will, my thoughts return to the past.
Solara and I lived at a secluded estate in upstate New York with our parents Joseph and Marie Villar, in a twenty-room chalet made of great northern white cedar logs culled from the property. Mother ran the house and minded us, along with Nanny Alice, and despite invitations from local socialites, Mother had no interest in bridge clubs and charitable functions. When not traveling to conferences and such, Father spent his time in the laboratory on the top floor, forbidden to us.
We spent our early years romping around the estate with our four dogs, or pestering the gardeners and the housemaids. My sister enrolled at a private day school at age five and Mother dismissed Nanny Alice.
“Am I going to school, too?” I asked.
“No, dear one. I would be all alone,” Mother said. “I couldn’t bear parting with you.”
This satisfied me for a time as I, like all children, thoroughly believed in my personal divinity.
Solara occasionally invited friends from school to the house. Shy and introverted, and unused to the company of outsiders, I retreated to the library, where I spent most of my days, deep into whatever book had last caught my fancy.
Standing in the hall behind the open front door, while they waited on the front steps for parents or chauffeurs, I spied on my sister and her friends who wore their hair in long curls and had little bracelets that jingled on their wrists. Their conversations, gossip about a teacher or some girl not invited, seemed silly. I thought them quite cruel.
One of the girls, a snotty thing, always asked nosy questions.
“Why doesn’t your sister come to school, Solara?”
“She’s home-schooled. That’s the way Mother wants it, but I don’t know why.”
“What’s her name? You never talk about her.”
“We call her Two.”
“We’re twins. I was born first by twenty minutes, Mother said, so I’m One and she’s Two. It’s a silly joke.”
“She doesn’t look like you. Twins look exactly alike,” Miss Snotty challenged.
“We do so. Mother cut Two’s hair, and she got a little fat from reading all the time. Before, Mother and Father couldn’t tell us apart, so Mother dressed us in different colors.”
I’d always been called Two, and thought nothing of it. Mother came and led me away.
“Come to the kitchen, dear one, and you can have some cookies and milk.”
I gorged myself while Cook washed vegetables for dinner and Mother discussed next day’s lunch. Cook had white hair and moved about the kitchen with a slight limp. She said I ate too much. Mother put her hands on my shoulders and squeezed them gently.
“Time enough for her to diet when she’s older. She’s the picture of health. Look at those adorable cheeks.”
“Not for me to say, Mam, but she needs to go outside more. She’s pale,” Cook said, smiling at me.
“Dr. Villar and I agree the sun is bad for the skin,” Mother said. In our house, Father ruled, especially as regarded our health.
In deep snow, our eighth winter, Solara and I went sledding down the hill at the side of the house despite Mother’s concerns about injuries. I watched Solara and copied her, because she possessed a natural, instinctual grace that I lacked. She guided me in this world, and I sought to emulate her, the perfect girl.
In the afternoon, we played a board game on the rug by the fireplace in the game room, where Father’s billiards table took up most of the space. It grew dark outside, and the fire comforted us. I threw the dice.
“You got doubles, again! That’s not fair.”
“I can’t help it.”
Solara jumped up and kicked the board. She had a bad temper and sometimes snapped at me, but I always forgave her. The board skidded across the rug onto the deep stone hearth and right into the fire. We watched, fascinated as a corner of the board blackened, our excitement enhanced by the forbidden nature of fire. Solara nudged the board forward with the toe of her shoe and, not satisfied, she shoved it with her hand. A small flame appeared on her sweater sleeve. She didn’t notice.
“Look! Look!” I said, pointing.
Solara screamed as the flame grew and went around her arm. The smell of burning wool filled the room.
Never far away, Mother rushed into the room and pulled a throw from a chair, wrapping it around my sister’s arm, while she cried hysterically. I stood frozen in shock.
“Two, go and get your father.”
I ran as fast as I could through the main hall where the large fir glittered with Christmas lights, and I burst into the library, startling Father.
He took control. “Marie, put Two to bed. I’ll attend the burn.”
Assuring me my sister had only a slight injury, Mother held me as I cried, and then helped me with my nightgown and tucked me into bed. She brought me a steaming mug of hot chocolate and blew on it for me. As I sipped, warmth filling me, I became drowsy.
When next I woke, late afternoon shadows painted my bedroom walls. My head ached, and I felt somewhat queasy. From my bed, I saw through the Jack and Jill bathroom into my sister’s room, basically identical to mine. Mother and Father hovered over the bed. Solara looked very pale.
I thought I would go to her, and I rose from the bed. A burning pain seared my right leg. I raised my nightgown, revealing a large bandage wrapped around my thigh. I poked at it. It hurt. I tried to remember if I had also been burned. I cried for my mother, and she came to me.
“Dear one, you must stay in bed for the rest of today. Father will give you something to make you sleep. See, your sister is sleeping.”
Father came into the room carrying a hypodermic needle. I cringed against my mother.
“Please, Joseph. You know needles frighten her. Hide it away.”
Mother took my face in her hands. I felt a small prick. Then I felt nothing.
Next day, Solara and I woke at the same time, about eight in the morning according to the cat-faced clock on my wall. We ate breakfast in our playroom, and dressed in identical outfits, mine a size larger. We compared bandages. I won, but the particulars of the accident evaded me. When Mother put me to bed that night, I questioned her.
“Listen carefully, dear one. Your sister needed new skin because hers was burned. Aren’t you happy you gave her a small piece of your skin so that she will recover quickly?”
I didn’t think the entire front of my thigh a small amount, but knowing I had helped my sister made me proud.
“But what will happen to me?”
“You’re healing. Now, go to sleep.”
At the end of one year, very little evidence of a burn remained on Solara’s arm. I, on the other hand, retain, to this day, a wide, flat, dull area of skin on my thigh.
If our mutual confinement revived the closeness Solara and I shared as very young children, that changed when she returned to school. Shortly thereafter, Mother dismissed the house staff, and only part-time help came to clean. She replaced Cook with a young woman, Elise, who came at ten and left at six. Cook had always been kind to me and I missed her. Elise kept her distance.
We began piano lessons at age six and, by age eleven, our teacher Professor Grumb had declared Solara a prodigy. Sitting at our twin baby grands, I tried to keep up, but her fingers rippled over the keys like light on water. We often played our favorite piece, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 10, for two pianos, which Mozart had played with his sister.
Never happier than those times we played, the pianos speaking to each other in the language of Mozart, I felt Solara and I truly connected by the music. Sadly though, as Solara’s talent increased, mine found its limit, and I eventually ceased playing at all.
Passing by Father’s study, I overheard my parents speaking of an important recital in which Solara would participate. I hadn’t left the estate in years and, for some reason, the thought of venturing out gave me a scary feeling in my tummy. Mother often referred to us as “homebodies.”
I really wanted to see Solara perform, and so I dashed in interrupting their conversation. “I want to go. Please let me go!” I said, hopping up and down.
“Dear one, you nearly startled me out of my chair. Sit down and we’ll discuss it,” Mother said.
Father glanced at me and turned to some papers on his desk.
Mother felt my forehead with her hand. “You look very flushed, Two. I think you’re coming down with something. We’ll see how you feel tomorrow.”
The next day, right after lunch, I became dizzy and disoriented, and Mother put me to bed.
Father diagnosed the flu. Funny, though, it lasted only long enough to keep me from attending the recital.
For our twelfth birthday, we received i-Tabs, and I began to educate myself. Social media didn’t suit me. I had no friends and no opinions to share. Some years passed before I discovered the parental controls on my tablet.
On the Internet, I discovered many things, and the oddness of our family life became apparent. I asked Mother about this.
“Why doesn’t Father go to a job somewhere?”
“Your father is a famous scientist. He works upstairs in his laboratory. And we are very rich.”
“I saw a rich family on the Internet. They had a big boat and went to the Caribbean Islands,” I said.
“Your father doesn’t like boats or crowded tourist areas. We choose to live here because we enjoy nature. You love the forest, the birds, and feeding the deer that come up to the lawn, don’t you?”
“Yes, Mother, but–”
“Everyone is not the same. You wouldn’t like going to school. You like staying home and playing with the dogs and reading. You aren’t unhappy, are you?”
“No, Mother. I like being with you every day.”
“Well then, let’s just leave well enough alone.”
I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but very soon, “well enough” changed.
One fine spring day, Father thrilled me by inviting me to walk around the grounds with him. One of our dogs, Old Bucky, had died during the night and we watched the gardener preparing a grave out near the forest at the back of the house. When I requested a headstone, Father had him haul a large stone from a nearby pile.
“Why do things die, Father?”
“All things get old. They wear out. Flowers, trees, animals and humans.”
“Will you and Mother get old and die?”
“Yes, but not for many years. Science is continually finding new ways to extend our lifetimes.”
“Is that what you do, Father?”
“Yes, something like that.”
The next weekend, I showed Solara the grave and the headstone, where I had used my marker pen to inscribe “R.I.P. OLD BUCKY.”
We decided to erect a stone border around the grave. I carried stones from the pile and Solara arranged them. I found quite a heavy stone and barely made it to Solara before dropping it.
“Take it off! Take it off!”
I stooped and lifted the rock, revealing her bloody hand. I nearly dropped it again.
Solara went screeching up the lawn to the house. Mother ran toward her.
I sat on a stone by the grave until it got dark, shivering with cold and shock. I hadn’t a coherent thought in my head.
Finally, Mother came and fetched me. She didn’t comfort me, or tell me everything would be all right. She merely took me by the hand and led me to the house.
As I dressed for bed, Mother said nothing, and I feared asking about Solara, or for my supper. However, Mother brought me some hot chocolate. She didn’t blow on it this time. As drowsiness overcame me, I felt her touch on my hand.
At some point, I opened one eye and saw a darkened room, so I slept. Someone gave me a drink from a straw. I woke in a strange room with very high ceilings sectioned off with white sheets on rolling stands, like a hospital. I panicked. A thick bandage covered my left arm from elbow to fingertips. I had no memory of an accident and wondered how I’d been injured.
When next I woke, Mother sat beside the bed. I tried to sit up and she pushed a button and raised the top of the bed.
“Can I have some juice?”
“Yes, dear one,” Mother said and watched as I emptied the glass.
Mother pulled aside a heavy drape revealing our land, the view from father’s laboratory. For some reason, this didn’t comfort me. I had a creeping sensation up my neck.
“Mother, what happened? Did I have an accident? What’s wrong with my arm? My hand hurts.”
“You don’t remember? The stones? Solara’s hand?”
In a flash, my memory established itself. I saw the big rock smash my sister’s hand. I saw the blood, and I heard her scream. I threw up and fell exhausted on the pillows. Mother cleaned me.
“Is she all right? Is her hand–?”
“Solara was not greatly injured, except for the pinkie finger on her left hand. She’s recovering very well. Now you must go to sleep. We’ll talk later.”
Father came toward the bed with one hand behind his back. I knew he held a syringe but, this time, I welcomed it.
When next I woke, I noticed that the bandage on my arm now covered only my wrist and hand. The creeping feeling I’d had before morphed into a screaming maniac who ran up and down my spine. I tore at the bandage. The adhesive tape stretched somewhat and I saw the base of my thumb. Biting and chewing at the tape, I removed the remainder of the bandage. I had no pinky finger.
I swooned onto the bed, thoughts running through my head like rabid dogs. I tried to remember the day I dropped the rock on Solara’s hand. Mother said that Solara had injured her left pinkie. Perhaps I’d misunderstood, and my finger had been crushed. No, I’d seen what the rock had done to her hand–what I’d done to it in my clumsiness. Had my own father taken a part of me and given it to my sister? Nothing else made sense. Listless and unseeing, I lay inert until Mother entered with a dinner tray.
“Are you feeling all right, dear one?”
Mother put the tray on the bedside table and left. She hadn’t looked at my hand or commented on my having removed the bandage. Incapable of rational thought, my mind refused to accept the obvious. I turned on my tablet.
A-M-P-U-T-A-T-I-O-N. When I searched for it, gruesome photographs glared at me. According to the site, loss of the pinky finger ranked second only to loss of the thumb in disabling a person. Father had taken my left pinky for Solara, but I would never recover.
My anger flared, but my head felt foggy and, after all, I’d crushed Solara’s hand with the rock. Just a fat, twelve-year-old girl with no special talents, I had injured my beautiful talented sister. Still, I wondered how Mother had let Father take my finger. I sank into the pillow, wanting only to sleep, to retreat behind the black curtain of Father’s needle. I wondered if Solara liked her new pinkie.
“Mother, my finger hurts,” I said. “The one that’s not there.”
“That means you’re healing, dear one.”
“Where’s Solara? Is she okay?”
“Your sister is doing well and will be at boarding school. She’ll be with us on holidays and for summer vacation.”
Solara hadn’t visited me once during our recovery. I knew they wanted to remove her as far as possible from me, after what I’d done.
My first day downstairs, Mother led me to the kitchen, where a hearty breakfast awaited me. A large girl named Agnes worked at the stove. Cook would have “tutted” at me for eating so much, but the new girl ignored me. I didn’t blame her; who cared about a fat, nine-fingered freak?
It took a year for Solara to recover her former prowess on the piano. Although she retained only a small scar that went around her finger like a ring, she began wearing a glove on her left hand at all times when not playing. A silly affectation, I thought.
I rejoiced at her recovery, because I loved her, and because I felt guilty. In loving her, I loved myself. However, we tended, from that time on, to avoid each other’s company. My hand remained a horror to me. A scar ran up the side of my palm to the place where my knuckle and finger should’ve been. Now content to remain on the estate, I hid from the world.
For our fourteenth birthday, we each received a gold bracelet with one teardrop diamond hanging from it, for Solara a pure white, and for me a yellow. I preferred the warmth of the yellow stone. I wondered why my parents bothered with the difference–we no longer looked alike.
I secretly watched Solara when she returned from school, afraid of what injury she might incur. For years, nightmares of Solara falling off a cliff or being in a car crash haunted my nights.
“Dear one, I’m worried about your health. You must lose weight. It’s not good to be so plump. We’re having a gym installed. You will use it every day, as will I,” Mother insisted.
Truthfully, I enjoyed it. Being fit made me look better and feel better. I lost thirty pounds and became quite strong.
Accompanied by our dog Wolfie, I roamed the estate in good weather and discovered, at the end of our mile-long drive, a guardhouse by the gate, complete with an armed watchman. When I asked, Mother said that Father had to protect his scientific discoveries from competitors.
“There are dangerous people out in the world, dear one. That’s why we stay here.”
“Solara goes all over,” I said.
“She is escorted by bodyguards wherever she goes.”
Now a critically acclaimed, world-class pianist, Solara often appeared on the newsfeeds with handsome escorts at red carpet events, or at fashionable ski resorts.
I sprained my ankle climbing a ten-foot cliff on our property, and received such solicitous attention during my recovery, unshared by my sister, that I almost enjoyed it.
Full of angst and anger, my teenaged years proved unexceptional, except in degree. I questioned everything, and I used my tablet to explore. Having removed the parental controls, I researched my parents. A news article from some twenty years earlier revealed the ultimate truth.
SCIENTIST BARRED FOR INHUMANE EXPERIMENTS
NEW YORK CITY — Disregarding strict ethical guidelines set by the American Medical Association, The Eugenics Society, and the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Joseph P. Villar performed human cloning experiments in secret. The doctor used donations to his facility here in the city and government funds not allocated for these procedures. A civil suit, filed by one Delmar Huffman, claimed he’d believed his dead son could be cloned through stem cells collected from the placenta preserved at his birth. Though Dr. Villar had made great strides in conquering problems involving methylation of DNA, the cloning had not produced the desired result.
The screen blurred through my tears, but I read on. Barred and heavily fined, the article stated, Dr. Villar retired, and soon married fellow surgeon and microbiologist Dr. Marie Trescott, his former assistant. Mother had helped him.
I found it hard to reconcile the evidence with my emotions, but I could no longer ignore the obvious. My sister had no twin, at least not in the normal way, merely something made to order like any object–a Frankenstein monster created by monsters–a parts department for a spoiled wealthy girl who had everything–smooth skin and ten digits–thanks to me.
Rushing from that house of monsters, I ran deep into the forest to a favorite spot by a little brook. I stomped the ground and threw rocks at trees and birds. I cursed all natural life, as I had no part in it. Damn them. Damn them all to Hell.
Without money or friends on whom I could rely, I saw no immediate way of escaping my cruel destiny, but I vowed to change it somehow. Just then our new puppy, Ranger, came through the trees wagging and smiling at me. I hugged him and he licked my face.
“Hi there, boy. You love me, don’t you?”
It occurred to me that perhaps he did love me, but only in a trained dog way. Perhaps he’d been sent to find me. I hugged him tighter and tighter until he yelped. I let him go. I couldn’t kill an innocent being. It didn’t matter that he loved me, only that I loved him.
I walked back to the house, thinking that despite the circumstances of my creation, I did exist. I had my own thoughts and desires–my own soul, if you like. “I am! I am! I am!” I shouted to the sky.
From that time on, I thought of nothing but escape. I found that I could ask for and receive almost anything from the Villars. I call them so, because, in my mind, sharing genetic markers didn’t make them parents and, obviously, in their minds, didn’t make me human.
I asked for a real name, and for my birth certificate, just to see their reaction. To my surprise, Mrs. Villar produced one.
“Here you are, dear one,” she said. “Choose any name you wish.” I detected a note of sarcasm in her tone, all pretense of giving a damn about me over.
She handed me an official looking document. The form mentioned “home birth” and “Female Villar.” I found I had a social security number in the name of “F. Villar.” The truth regarding my creation remained unspoken and undocumented.
I wondered how they had chosen Solara’s name. I looked on the web and found that Solara meant “Sunlight.”
Next, I searched “famous twins,” and found “Selene,” the daughter of Antony and Cleopatra and fraternal twin to Alexander Helios. I took the name Selene, for “moon” or “daughter of the moon.” I certainly had no other mother.
Refusing my request for driving lessons outright, the Villars otherwise ignored my activities. Enabled with the retinal identification encrypted on my tablet, and a generous allowance from the monsters, by age eighteen, I had acquired online credit and a bank account. I purchased high quality diamonds with good resale value, bonds and gold, and I had them stored in a New York City bank.
Now in their fifties, the Villars’ faces seemed stiff and unnatural. I often compared them to the silver-framed wedding picture on the mantel, and I wondered what evil things bubbled up in the laboratory to procure the line-free appearance?
Feeling strong and confident, I studied maps of the area on the GPS app and, professing an interest in camping, I bought outdoor clothing, camping equipment, and food supplies that I planned to stash in the woods periodically. In a very few weeks, when the last snow melted, I’d disappear through the forest and make my way to New York.
One afternoon, while watching a newsfeed with Mrs. Villar, we saw Solara’s face. A video of a stretcher being put into an ambulance in New York streamed, and my heart flipped. The reporter gave no information as to her condition. I wished her dead. I heard a commotion outside. A helicopter landed on the lawn, and Dr. Villar boarded it. I knew he’d return with Solara in a few hours at most.
Mrs. Villar watched me. Sitting perfectly still, I asked if she wanted something from the kitchen, then rose and casually left the room. I felt nauseous as I grabbed some energy bars and bottled water. In the mudroom, I found a coat, hat, boots, and flashlight. In panic mode, I left the house and ran behind the service sheds, which blocked the view from the windows. I passed the little cemetery where our beloved dogs rested in eternal peace.
Without my carefully acquired survival gear, I headed toward the interstate, using a nearby ranger tower as true north. In the cover of the forest, I ran for hours, but shortly after the sun set, the flashlight battery died. With ragged breath, I stumbled onto a bed of pine needles half buried in snow and began to cry. I had failed. I knew the monsters would find me and take whatever they wanted. What would it be this time? My leg? My lungs? A kidney?
Though I vowed to stay awake that night and continue the next day, I fell asleep. I woke disoriented with lights glaring in my eyes, dogs barking, and men shouting. I felt the prick of a needle and knew no more.
As before, I woke behind the screens in the laboratory. Still heavily sedated, I ran my hands over my body and up to my head. I clawed at the bandage on the right side of my head. My eye! My eye!
Someone grabbed my hand. She sat beside the bed.
“Dear one, what were you thinking? There are bears and wolves out there. Here, I made your favorite.” She offered a cup of hot chocolate. I knocked it from her hand.
I remained in the laboratory for some weeks, my rage only somewhat tempered by the painkiller given me twice daily, later switched for a strong sedative. When left alone, I staggered and groped around the lab among the tubes, bubbling beakers, and beeping machines used for I knew not what, searching the shelves for the drug. I found quite a supply of Soporzephine, took a few dozen packs, and hid them under the mattress.
Though outwardly I presented a meek countenance, I imagined daily torturing and slaughtering the three of them. I thought them inhumanly cold.
The day the bandages came off, Dr. Villar seemed quite pleased with himself.
“Turning your head just a little more to the right will help with your balance and depth perception. People even drive with one eye and are not considered legally blind,” he declared.
As if they’d let me drive. He handed me a black eye patch like pirates wore. Every time I looked into a mirror, my anger flared.
I threw it away and insisted on a glass eye. Had I needed an ear or a nose, the doctor could have grown one for me, but medical science had not progressed to growing delicate optical nerve tissue. It took several months to become comfortable, to adjust to the lack of peripheral vision and depth perception, and during that time I plotted.
A trapped animal must use whatever means available to escape. If that meant murder, I no longer cared. A plan gradually formed.
I read every article about Solara, studied every photo, blog, tweet and vid. I purchased an identical wardrobe to hers, and I used the same cosmetic techniques, lotions, and nail polish. My black hair grew long and luxurious and I styled it shaggy, like hers.
The Villars seemed pleased with the cosmetic copy of their daughter, though lacking one real eye and a pinkie finger.
During one of her rare visits home, I studied Solara through the Jack and Jill bathroom as she dressed. Her room remained a little girl’s bedroom, as she hadn’t bothered to have it redecorated. My room had undergone many changes as I’d aged, and now reflected, with glossy posters, my previous “interest” in rock climbing and camping.
“Solara. How are you? I saw you on the vid in Paris,” I called to her.
“Did you enjoy the concert, Two?”
How I hated that stupid name. She tentatively approached my bed, perching at the foot. Still in my pajamas, with no makeup, and a towel wrapped around my head, I looked like my old unattractive self. I smiled at her sweetly.
“You were brilliant, Solara. You always are,” I said.
“I’m so tired. It’s good to come home. It’s so peaceful.” A tiny frown formed between her arched brows. She absently picked at the bedspread.
“Are you okay? Can you get around?”
“I’m doing better.”
“I don’t know what to say. I feel awful for you. I really do,” she said and reached for my hand. I withdrew it and she left.
I sometimes grudgingly felt something for Solara. She had once loved me, perhaps she did still, but I felt her incapable of true feelings. In Solara, the Villars had produced a vain, selfish person with no thought for others, and a public figure burdened by celebrity.
When I expressed an interest in the culinary arts, the Villars seemed pleased. As they kept no permanent staff, our dining habits had deteriorated. I soon received compliments on my offerings at mealtimes.
Solara returned for our 20th birthday and I prepared a grand feast and served it in the dining room where the large windows looked full west. I prepared the roast lamb rare and laced the rosemary gravy with Soporzephine.
“Our Two has become a culinary genius!” Mrs. Villar said, and Solara smiled, as I presented the desert.
“Thank you. If you’ll excuse me for a moment–I have a little surprise for everyone.”
Moving quickly, and so calmly, I surprised myself, I went to my room and retrieved a fake pinkie finger I’d made on the CAD printer, and slipped it into my pocket.
I went to the laboratory. Taking a broom, I smashed all the bottles, beakers, tubes, aspirators, evaporators and microscopes. I poured liquid chemicals and powders all over and lit the Bunsen burners. An acrid smoke rose from the ruble and soon flames shot to the ceiling where the open skylight created a great draft. I took the backstairs down to the kitchen where I selected a meat cleaver.
I found Dr. Villar lying halfway up the hall, but I’d given him a large dose of the sedative, so he’d not made it far. I dragged him back to the dining room and placed him in his chair at the head of the table. I felt strangely peaceful as I worked.
Mrs. Villar slumped sideways in her chair, and I found dear, dear Solara face down in the chocolate mousse. I removed the glove from her nearly flawless left hand and placed it in my pocket. I switched bracelets with her–my yellow diamond for her white. With the cleaver, I chopped off the pinkie, my pinkie, and stuffed it into her mouth.
The blood-red sun slid behind the trees. Returning the cleaver to the kitchen, I turned on all six gas burners on the stove and all three ovens, and exited the back door.
Ranger and the other dogs barked from the kennel a safe distance from the house. By that time, the great logs from which the house had been built burned quite satisfactorily. The heat rose in great waves.
I positioned myself just outside the dining room window. I stuffed the fake pinkie finger into Solara’s glove and put it on my left hand. Removing my tights, mini-skirt and sweater I rubbed them with a burning stick, scorching them on one side, then stomped on them. I rubbed soot all over myself and tossed one of my shoes into the edge of the fire. I heard sirens in the distance.
Through the window, I watched as all their toes, hands, feet, arms, legs and heads–all their parts–burned.
An explosion knocked me to the ground. Black smoke filled my lungs and I choked and nearly passed out. Mother moon rose victorious and smiled at me.
I’ve had my revenge, but in spite of everything, and always late at night, there comes a phantom ache, like that of my lost pinkie, for my beautiful Solara. Surely, I have eclipsed myself; for what will the moon do without the sun to play with her?
Ms. Villar, after a quiet few months grieving, set up a foundation for victims of disreputable scientists. It is not known how many clones of persons, to be politically correct, exist. They are found by word of mouth, and by special disguised ads in newspapers and on websites. The foundation maintains safe houses in every state, and future plans include worldwide expansion.
Xariffa Suarez lives in Dallas, Texas, of all places, but thinks she would be a better fit for New York, New Orleans, or OZ (the land of, not the prison). An avid reader straight out of the womb, the fantastical settled into her psyche. Old black and white sci-fi movies with pitiful special effects made her appreciate style. One story she wrote, “Farewell Fidel,” was published in an anthology by Southern Methodist University, where she took writing classes. This is her first story sale.
AJ is an illustrator and comic artist with a passion for neon colors and queer culture. Catch them being antisocial on social media @thehauntedboy.
“Eclipsed” is © 2018 Xariffa Suarez
Art accompanying story is © 2018 A. Jones