A thousand nerve endings in my arm set on fire, as I felt the knife cut through flesh. I felt every inch of skin tear open, as blood seeped to the surface and emerged through the rapidly forming cracks.
I saw everything.
As I watched on in horror I saw blood pour to the floor. Drip by drip, life seemed to be seeping away, time seemed to be running out.
My heart rate paced faster and faster. It felt like a beating drum pounding away, harder and harder as I struggled to cope with the situation. It felt like my heart was trying to escape from my chest, to escape from the reality that was unfolding. Unable to control my breathing I felt a panic attack form, my lungs struggling to cope with the anxiety.
I heard everything.
Trying to hold my breathing steady I heard two figures talking. I had no idea what they were saying and yet their voices echoed with rage.
Almost as if their words were not their own.
As if they were muttering orders from a higher power.
And then they turned in my direction.
Twins. Their bodies had the same silhouette and facial structure, with them both sporting shaved heads. Yet there were subtle differences. One man had a scar down the right side of his face and his jaw was slightly offset, probably from years of violence. He had a belt of knives around his waist. The other man was slightly taller and he had no scars and no bruises and yet his face still had a warped, evil quality about it.
They were both heavily built and seemed unbeatable. The scarred man seemed to be twice my width. His shoulders were so broad and his muscles so big that fighting back seemed like suicide. He walked forward and those muscles of his began to tense, anticipating their next cruel action.
My head was forced backwards and the man stared directly into my eyes. I closed them, not wanting to look back at him, trying to hide from this nightmare but his face remained. I could feel his breath tickling my face. He wasn’t going to move.
Reluctantly I opened my eyes and was overwhelmed by the colour orange. Dark pools of an orange liquid were formed in his eyes, circling menacingly around his dark black pupils. The strands of orange twisted and danced like moths around a naked flame.
He whispered something which I did not understand, although every word seemed to drip with malice and rage. There was no reply and then his arm lunged forward grabbing my neck and squeezing the life from me. The ring on his index finger started to cut into my neck and I felt the metal dig and scratch away on my skin.
His fingers gripped tightly and my mouth opened trying desperately to gasp for air. As the pressure increased my eyes began to open wide, forcing me to stare at him. A smile was formed on his lips. Was he enjoying this? What man would enjoy this?
The other man, the one who had no scars, shouted a single word and his twin stopped. So this is how you remained scar free, I thought to myself. By getting your twin to do all your dirty work. As I looked at him I saw that his eyes were just as orange and distant as his twin.
Air began to fill my lungs again and I inhaled a giant breath. My lungs pumped quickly to gather as much air as they could, knowing that this wasn’t the end of the assault. My chest lifted up and down, contracting and retracting in a rapid pace.
For a brief moment I was thankful to the twin with perfect skin and then I saw the knife once again.
Please, not the knife.
The second time was even worse.
The fear of knowing what would happen, knowing the horrific pain and knowing I was completely powerless made every fresh cut feel so much deeper.
As I stared down I saw every cut. Ten cuts on each arm in a haphazard fashion. There was no style here; the purpose was simply to cause as much pain in a quick time.
Then I saw blood. So much blood. My lungs were in overdrive trying to capture the air that had been lost and this only served to pump blood around my body faster. It only increased the rate I was losing blood.
Pools of blood formed on the floor and drips continued to seep from each cut. A reminder of the pain that had been caused. The pain that was still coursing through each arm.
But these were not my arms.
This was not my blood.
And yet I felt everything.
From 150 miles away, in my apartment.
My name is Emmie Keyes and this was the day that everything changed.
Those arms belonged to my twin brother Will. He had endured every cut. He had been the one gasping for air. He was the one whose arms were tied to a chair. He had lost all that blood and I had been right there with him to endure every moment. As his sister I had felt every cut, every gasp for air and every pain filled moment.
Like everyone else on the planet we were Tethered. Everyone is born with a twin and every set of twins were forever connected via their senses, forever feeling every moment of high emotion felt by the other. This connection carried with each twin for their entire life and when one twin died, their brother or sister would die with them.
I’d shared with Will his best times and his worst times. When he got his dream job, I experienced his joy and through every heartbreak I had felt his sadness.
What he felt I felt and vice versa.
Every cut of his arm was a pain I felt. The feeling of dread was as real in Will’s heart as it was in mine.
Twins until the end.
But, was this the end?
Nothing had ever felt like this before. As the two men shouted at Will, I could feel the fear in his heart. He knew time was short and if he died I would die too. The curse of being Tethered.
I didn’t know if Will was strong enough to survive this. He’d never been strong, always preferring acquiring knowledge to physical skills, especially in choosing a career that helped him put his brilliant brain to use. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to hurt him.
In the corner of the room I saw his fiancée, Faye. I’d seen her with Will a hundred times and she always looked happy and full of life. She was one of the most beautiful people I had ever met and I had always envied her long flowing purple hair and perfect smile. Today was a different story.
Her smile had turned into a look of horror and her face no longer showed the happiness she usually projected effortlessly. Instead guilt, remorse and regret were etched upon her as she sat there trying to come to terms with what was happening. With what she had done.
She caused this.
She was the reason Will was going to die.
She was the reason I was going to die.
As it became increasingly clear Will was not going to co-operate the men walked in close to him. All I could see were the ruffles of their black leather jackets. They were covered in dirt and frayed in many places but I doubted fashion was at the top of their priority list.
One of the men removed a sleek black device from his pocket, no wider than a pen. It carried an orange mark on the side, although I couldn’t quite make it out. He held it up to Will’s ear and a soft whirring noise began.
As he moved in closer I could see past his jacket and watched as Faye began to lift her slender arms up from the floor. She turned around and saw that the men were distracted and positioned both arms in front of her. With whatever strength she had left, she crawled to the door and out into the hallway.
“FAYE!” I screamed, hoping the men would hear my cries and go after her. If this was the moment Will and I were to die I could not stand for her to escape after what she had done.
But I was just a passive observer. I had no control over Will and could only go along with the ride. My life was in the hands of my brother and only he could save me.
As if by pure thought or dumb luck, the man without scars surveyed the room and saw that Faye had gone. He shouted to his twin and dashed after her out of the room.
The whirring grew louder and Will struggled to release himself from the rope that held him and tried to raise his arms. They felt weak and heavy from the cuts he had endured but he didn’t want to die. He didn’t want me to die.
With all the force he could muster Will lifted his arm upwards breaking the rope. He formed a fist and swung his arm around which hit the remaining thug in the jaw. The device flew across the room and clattered onto the floor. Will slipped down from the chair and landed on his hands and knees. His arms instantly gave way, no longer able to support him. He felt the feeling in them rapidly fading away.
He propped himself up on his elbow and used it to crawl towards the door. The thug rose to his feet, walking towards his device, as the whirring continued to echo through the room. He picked it up and checked it wasn’t broken. Will was weak and the attacker clearly felt he could take his time.
He bent down to finish what he had started and went to grab Will. Thinking quickly Will rolled onto his back and kicked the man in the stomach.
This did nothing to stop him. On the next kick, the orange eyed man grabbed Will’s leg and twisted it, forcing Will to flip over onto his back. The man leant down and grabbed Will’s throat with one hand, whilst holding the device to his ear with the other. We both gasped for air and thrashed our arms and hands wildly unable to free ourselves from his grasp.
The whirring rose to a loud pitch and I could feel it now, echoing through my ears. As the thug held it to Will’s ear, the noise became deafening, rattling our ear drums and causing the world to appear as one big blur.
A sharp sensation tingled through my head and I felt the noise impact on my brain. My entire head felt like it was vibrating and blood began to drip from Will’s nose and mine.
Our bodies sank to the floor.
I felt a sense of pride that Will had tried to save us. That he had fought for our lives. Knowing I would die with a loving brother was some comfort.
Our breathing rose and then fell, as the last ounce of breath left our bodies.
A piercing screech erupted from the device and all sound vanished from my world.
A tear fell from Will’s eye as he said my name “Emmie,” followed by “I’m ... so...rry.”
I knew that he meant it.
As the world faded to black I saw two orange eyes staring at me from the corner of my room. Someone had been watching me the whole time, not that it mattered now.
I closed my eyes to be greeted by memories of my brother protecting me as a child.
“Will, thank ... you”..…