The first time I met Shanna and Sharisse they were just 12. We had moved into the house next door and the two girls in their red and white dresses sat on the front porch of their own house. They didn’t smile or laugh or say hello. They only waved for a moment and then kept staring.
I thought that it would be nice to live next to neighbors’ with daughters the same age as Becky. When the agent told me about the twins next door I imagined that they would become friends with my own daughter. Already in that short moment of seeing them for the first time I realized that I was wrong.
Becky tried to be friends with them. She went over every day to talk to them or invite them for play or meals.
Their parents told us that Shanna and Sharisse were unusually bright but very antisocial. A doctor had suggested that the twins were autistic, but their parents didn’t seem to believe that.
“They are just a bit more mature,” said their father.
“They really like to read, but they still do kid stuff,” said the mother. “They have their own language and everything.”
I found it strange that both twins could have autism.They were clearly sisters but they weren’t identical twins – Shanna was taller than Sharisse and they had different facial features.
Of course I didn’t spent much time worrying about the twins, but Becky was disheartened that the two girls refused to interact with her. I explained that they might have a disease and might just be nervous. I told Becky that it would just take a while and then they would be nice to her.
After her first day in the new school Becky was even more upset. She shared two classes with the twins and in both the twins had refused to even acknowledge that they knew her.
Becky said the other kids all preferred to ignore the twins. The other kids had convinced Becky that Shanna and Sharisse were witches and that they cursed people that were nasty to them.
Occasionally Becky or Patricia, my wife, talked about the twins, but for the first two years they were never more than some strange kids next door. The job was stressful and I tried hard to meet new people after work.
I frequently saw the twins after my morning run. They usually sat or stood outside the house. Usually they were speaking to each other. Sometimes I felt their stares in my back when I ran past their house.
It all changed a few days after Becky turned fourteen. I think they must have been the same age. That is maybe nothing that I should say in public – but from one day to the next it was hard to ignore the twins. They suddenly seemed to have become stunningly beautiful.
I was not the only one that noticed it. Even Patricia remarked that they had “become women,” and Becky said that in school a lot of guys had a crush on the twins. Some even tried to ask them out but were blown off harshly.
Around that time my restlessness began. During the days I felt nervous and unfocused. In the nights I had surreal dreams and woke up three or four times a night.
I had always enjoyed the night scenery. Of course it had been a lot more pleasant and soothing when we still lived in a rather rural area, but even in the suburbs the night seemed to have something magical.
Still I couldn’t focus on the night scenery anymore. When I woke up at night I still went to the window, but rather than stare at the bluish gray of the clouds I ended up staring at the dimly lit window across the fence.
Occasionally I saw people moving within the twins’ room, but never the twins themselves. The figures I saw were larger and distinctly adult. Usually they were women but twice I saw men too.
When I told the twins’ father about the nightly visitors he was outraged. He told me that I should never make such accusations anymore and that his daughters were doing nothing strange and certainly not receiving visitors in their rooms.
There was no arguing with him, but I know what I saw. I wouldn’t have sworn my life that I saw actual adults in their room, but there was certainly light every night and there were certainly figures walking around in the room.
Patricia suggested that they might be role playing or practicing for a theater piece. We had seen the twins a few times dressed in strange robes in their garden. Usually they just sat or stood next to the grill, sometimes they danced around it.
With every passing day the twins seemed to become prettier. Becky was intimidated and jealous. She said that they were bewitching people and that they were not really that pretty.
Sometimes, when the twins were sitting outside, cars stopped for a short time outside their house. The drivers were usually men. They just stopped, stared and then drove on.
I heard them counting. It was in the morning when I ran past the house. They sat silently on the front porch when I ran past. I threw them a short glance and waved.
“Mine,” Shanna said. “That’s fifteen.”
“No,” Sharisse said. “He looked at me. I have eighteen.”
By the time I stepped through my front door they were screaming at each other in their secret language.
Patricia was the one that saw the twins in the library. We had never seen the twins much in the afternoons – but when Patricia rediscovered her passion for books she began to run into the twins nearly every day. They were always reading thick old books. Patricia didn’t manage to see any titles, but she noticed that the scripts were elaborate and that there were drawings of animals and plants on most pages. She suggested that the books were the reason why the twins used a lot of old fashioned words.
By the time Becky turned sixteen the twins’ fights had become loud and frequent. They seemed to compete about everything, from the number of books they read to the number of men that looked at them in the street to who was stronger or faster or who managed to skip more classes in school.
Becky said that the twins kept misbehaving but that the teachers never dared to throw them out of class. She also said that after a fight with Sharisse one of the teachers supposedly got very sick.
Not just the students were scared of Shanna and Sharisse, the teachers were too. Patricia heard several parents complain about the twins at the parent-teacher conference, but the school never took action.
One night I woke up from a scream in the garden. I saw a small figure running away.
About a week later I heard that one of the neighborhood boys had gone blind. His parents had found him with bleeding eyes in his bed.
Additionally to my own sleep problems the noise from the other side of the fence kept waking me up. The twins screamed at each other in the middle of the night. Their fights were so bad that every night their voices seemed to sound more hoarse.
And then there was the night that Sharisse died.
I didn’t hear the beginning of the fight, but their screams woke me up.
“You lost!” screamed Shanna.
“I can’t!” screamed Sharisse.
“Oh, you have!” screamed Shanna. “I waited so many years for this. So many!”
There were a scream and a bright flash.
I saw the shapes of two women. One sank to the ground. The other stepped out of view.
They never found the weapon. I heard that it must have been some sort of fire, maybe a petrol bomb.
They only recognized Sharisse from her clothes and jewellery. Her face had been burned beyond recognition and her fingers had cramped and the skin sunk into the body. Their parents said that she hadn’t been that frail. They also said that Sharisse hadn’t looked that old.
That night my neighbors lost both their daughters.
Sharisse was buried a few days later.
Shanna is still on the run.