The flu that struck the world in 1918 was quiet and kind. I remember there was no wailing or panic the streets that had accompanied the plagues of the past. Cholera is often silent in the same way, as officials try to avoid panic as much as possible.
In the summer of 1912, I wrote to Adam, who customarily threw my letter in the bin of his London flat that he shared with Evelyn. I couldn’t recall what that letter said now. Most likely a variation of the same letters I’d sent them since last we’d spoken in that life:
Be steady, older brother. Know her heart as you know yours. Find the channels within them for our own forgiveness. Know our deaths are all inevitable. Know my heart wants us together.
Adam was a jealous lover in that life; we so often are to do with our sister. She is the single thing on which we both can agree: Evelyn is life. All the rest of the world is only meaninglessness and death. But there is only one Evelyn, and we have trouble finding it within ourselves to share.
I have harmed him; and him, me; more than once, pet. Over that blood flower called Eve.
Evelyn, as was custom, unearthed my letter, from under coffee grounds and eggshells, I’d wager, and read it herself. Without his permission, she took a train to Dresden to see me when the autumn came. She spent 3 delirious weeks in my arms. She returned back to London to find Adam had fallen ill with the cholera.
I traveled after her when she sent word. He was not expected to live, but I knew he would. There is a library of things he can keep from my Ev, but there are very few things Adam can keep from me. It’s being inside him that does it, see? We share a space inside, as twins. Blood is blood, as Joely says, until it ain’t blood no more.
For reasons I’ll let him or Ev explain, it is part of his nature to keep her safe from the world and her wolves. This part is quite ugly to most, pet. A part called William incapable of anything but the obsession of protecting his Eve. An unloving part; an uncompromising part. This was the part that fought in him to live, and he did, that. But he was left blind, and this part William determined he was incapable of doing his job. Saving his girl and being the white night and that. He was bitter, Nicole, very bitter then. Likely just waiting to die.
Ev was a lovely nurse to him. She did everything for him for years and withstood a great deal that time has, mercifully, allowed her to forget. Including one night he begged her to kill him so he might start over a whole man and be worthy of her again.
When he was well enough again, I left them to live to themselves in London. Adam had asked me to let them alone, and of course I did. While blind, he couldn’t watch me with his Evelyn, now could he? I moved back to Prague. We’d had a lovely time, so many lives before, in Prague. Ev and I were nearly married there last year, but wanted somewhere new instead of old.
There are new things for me, pet. Not just old. That’s the finest part of this miserable world.
In 1918, I had a telegram from Adam saying that Ev had taken sick with the flu. The quiet flu, that killed a great deal of the world. He had no one to care for her, or himself. I came at once, despite our years of bitterness. She died a short time after, holding our hands and murmuring apologies, God help me. She was so terribly sorry for being such a bother.
Adam and I lived alone together for the remainder of his life, which ended in 1925 or so. I’ve forgotten the year, but it was some time before the second war. He was listless as was I, waiting again for the cycle of us to restart. Joely was in America, then, with his people. Joely has hardly ever deigned to set foot outside his lovely America. He had his own life, and was unaware of his connection to us. Your letter reminds me of that time, a bit. How it was to live with my brother then, I think he was much like you. Uncertain of his purpose and betrayed by his own body.
I look forward to the day when your own dreams and memories begin to call to you. I think this will be helpful for you to recollect your purpose. My favorite color is rose, my favorite food is lager, my favorite animal is very lately dragon. Since we were all of us Janes married, we are closer inside as twins, the four of us. If not for sitting near inside Evelyn tonight, I would not have written this letter at all. She leaves softer edges, see, down in the hollow darkness where I am made of bone and shattered glass.
Inside Jane, as we speak, Adam is offering up his reason, and Joely is shooting it all down from the storm-colored sky, saying doesn’t matter Adam. Doesn’t matter Adam, doesn’t matter, and seeking to find a lean necessity to all things. Evelyn feathers out, blooming soulful hope and weakness until their gunfire stops. And I am a madman some days, pet, and can bring them nothing but death.