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“Daddy?” The words rose sickeningly through the haze of bloody fog that smeared Nigel’s vision. He winced at the sound—it was bright. The sound was brighter than any star and it was swirling about him in circles and circles and…
“Daddy? Are you alright?” Phrases. Questions. Maybe? They didn’t make sense. They were so damn bright.
Slowly, the world turned from nothingness to numbness, and Nigel recognized his daughter’s voice.
His tongue lay hot and heavy in his mouth. He tried to make it move, but it lay flaccidly corpulent.
He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t see. Everything was heat and cold and red, red, red and he couldn’t breathe.
He didn’t want her to see him die. He wanted her to go away.
Go away. Go away, and oh it hurts to think.
But what was her name?
It teased him, dancing about the rims of his consciousness.
I’m going to die of it this time, and I wouldn’t even remember her name.
Sonya. Deep breath (it tasted like copper and blood and ash and Twist.)
Her name was Sonya.
That was the last coherent thought Nigel had before the Twist overcame him.
The two year old girl stooped over her father’s body.
“Daddy?” she asked tentatively.
There was no reply.
Sonya looked at her Daddy. He was emaciated to the point of almost nonexistence. Open wounds and welts ran up and down his arms. His face was very pale.
She was used to seeing him this way, but somehow something seemed wrong. Mommy had made her promise never to Twist, but her father had laughed at that and taught her little things when her mother was away.
She could make men she made out of Play-doh dance, and sometimes if she concentrated really hard, she could her stuffed bear, Alfie talk to her.
She wanted to be like her father. He could do amazing things. He could make fire when he clapped his hands and he could make the sun disappear.
Mommy wanted him to stop, but she didn’t know why he should.
Her father taught her little things, but someday she wanted to do everything he could.
But her father had never taught her how to make sick people well.
“Daddy?” she tried again, tentatively.
But there was no reply.
The doctor peered at Sonya with his greasy eyeballs.
“You have to start talking. It’s the only way we can help you.”
Sonya stared back, unblinkingly. She was in agony. Her body screamed for the Twist. Her stomach was a tight clenched muscle, her mind was soft putty with only one mission.
“Let me Twist and I’ll talk.” Her voice was a monotone.
The doctor laughed.
“Sonya. Your body is almost done detoxing. We’re not going to let you relapse.”
His voice was too loud. It tore through Sonya’s veins and down her ears.
“Your body is healing, but you have to talk, so we can understand you.”
Sonya ran her hand along one of the scars on her arm. The pain was invigorating. She could feel the potential in the pain. But the wards in the hospital kept her from using it.
“Tell me about the first time you Twisted.”
“Why should I?”
The doctor looked grim.
“Because, until in order for you to never Twist again, I need to know why you did it.”
“But I want to Twist again.”
The doctor sighed.
“That’s what’s got to change before you can go home.”
Fine, Sonya thought I’ll do whatever these fools want, and then I’ll go home and I’ll Twist like never before.
“The first time I really Twisted, I was around sixteen…”
That first time, Sonya’s mother was supposed to be asleep when she came home. Sonya stumbled in the door, dizzy and nauseous, yet at the same time feeling more incredible than she ever had in her life. The Twist lingered in her body, burning around the tattoos between her should blades that her friends had given her. They were tiny ink etchings—harmless ways to make a Twist for better grades or a more beautiful face. Sonya had learned simple Twists years ago, but until tonight she had never really known what it meant to Twist.
Tonight had been about more than good grades in school. The moon had been full, and the air had vibrated with potential.
Her friends had taught her a new way to Twist. It had been hard to grasp at first. You had mix blood and darkness together. But once she figured it out, it had been amazing. By the end of the night she was flying, soaring through the night, twisting like a falling leaf through the air.
But now, the Twist was wearing off, and Sonya was beginning to feel like death. Her arms were covered in her own blood, and her clothes were dirty. She just wanted to curl up in her bed and sleep until she felt less dizzy.
But Sonya’s mother was waiting for her, her face pulled tight.
“Where have you been?” Her mother’s voice was clipped and sharp and it made Sonya’s dizzy head spin.
Sonya tugged at her sleeves.
Her mother looked at her, and Sonya shrank guiltily away from her gaze.
She realized she was filthy. She reeked of blood and Twist. Her hair was plastered against her face, and she had a rune tattooed on her cheek.
“Why are you doing this? Do you want to end up like your father?”
Sonya rolled her eyes. She did not remember her father. It had been fourteen years since he died.
She ignored her mother and walked out of the room.
The next morning, she woke up feeling terrible. She knew what her body craved. She needed to Twist again.
The doctor smiled.
Sonya didn’t know his name or care to learn it.
“I’m glad you’ve decided to open up to me, Sonya.”
She scratched at her scars.
“Well. You can go for today. I think we’ve had a good session.”
The doctor called one of the nurses and she escorted Sonya back into the common room.
The room was filled with pale teenage girls, their face gaunt, many of them covered in defaced tattoos or runes. Upon arrival, it was policy for each tattoo to be altered so that it lost it’s potency.
Each person sat numbly, their body awash with craving for power. Cravings that no one would let them give in to.
No one spoke.
No one laughed.
No one Twisted.
They sat in a pool of their own mistakes, with a façade of imposed resoluteness.
Nurses tried to interest them in arts and crafts or meals, but most just sat, eyes glazed.
Life was nothing without the Twist.
The next day, the Doctor came to get Sonya again.
He led her into his office. It was sparse, with two leather chairs and a security camera.
She sat down in the chair closest to her. The leather felt strangely taut and slick.
The doctor wasted no time.
“So what happened after you started Twisting?”
This time she didn’t resist.
In the following months, Sonya learned several things about Twisting. First, if you wanted to be good at it, you had to do it a lot. However, this wasn’t really a problem, because the second thing she learned was that once she started Twisting seriously, she wanted to do it more and more. Never mind the nightmares, the scars, the pain. It was all worth it. If you Twisted right, you could do anything…be anything. Sonya had discovered a world where she was powerful and she liked it.
The only problem was her mother.
Sonya had taken to spending as little time at home as she could. Every moment at home was agony. Sonya’s mother would ask her questions about what she was doing. She would beg her to stop.
Sonya had placed a warding spell on her bedroom door, but her mother still got in once and took all her knives and potions.
Sonya began to hate her mother for trying to stop her. It seemed like she just wanted to ruin her life. And life was going so well.
Sonya was aceing all her classes, thanks to learning a Twist that helped her see into the minds of her teachers. There were supposed to be wards up in the school to stop things like that, but they were old and almost everybody who could Twist found a way to get around them.
Sonya’s social life was thriving too, at least in her eyes. She was one of the school’s Twisters now. The ones that came to school with dirty faces and clothes stained with blood. The ones the teachers were afraid of. The ones that were social outcasts, but didn’t care, because, after all when you have the Twist you have everything.
“I don’t want to talk anymore.”
Sonya tried to make it sound like she didn’t care.
“But we’re just getting to the important things now.”
The doctor squinted.
Finally, he tried, “Sonya, what do you want?”
I want to Twist. I want to Twist. I want to Twist. I want to go home and wear normal clothes and not have doctors noting my every thought in a chart.
I want to Twist.
She just raised her eyebrows.
“Please, Sonya. You’ve come so far.”
“If I tell you, I can go home?”
The doctor shook his head.
“It’s not that easy, but cooperating with getting healthy will help you leave here sooner.”
She shook her head stubbornly.
“I want to go home.”
“I know you do, but your mother doesn’t even want you home right now. Until you’re healthy, you’re a threat to everyone. Not just yourself.”
This took Sonya aback.
“I never hurt anyone.”
The doctor shrugged.
“You hurt yourself and that hurt your mother. You’ve been very selfish, Sonya. How do you think it feels for your mother to see you going the same way your father did.
“My father—“ the words caught in her throat.
“Your father left a deeper mark on you than you want to admit. We both know that.”
Of course he did.
But somehow, Sonya had hoped he wouldn’t. It was shameful what she had done to herself.
“Fine.” She said defeated.
“I made a mistake. I tried to take things too far.”
The doctor nodded “Go on.”
“You can do it.” Guy said. He was younger than Sonya, but a better Twister. Beneath his long, green hair, Guy’s skin was grey and saggy, only tightened by self-inflicted gashes. The more pain, the better the Twist. Tattoos covered his face. Sonya recognized a few of the runes, but not all of them.
They crouched in his room on the gritty floor. The windows were completely covered, rendering the room dark.
Guy had promised to teach her how to change her face if she would pay him $200 dollars.
Even to her, trading money for Twist seemed desperate, but it seemed like a good deal.
“It’s easy.” He had assured her, and her body longed for a stronger Twist. Also, curiosity pinched at her. She wanted to learn something new.
She handed over the money, and Guy grinned limply.
“Okay…” he went over to a drawer in his room and pulled out a knife. It was long and dully silver.
“Have you eaten recently? It’s best if you haven’t. “
She shook her head.
“Great.” His voice was hoarse.
He fished around in his pocket and brought out a clump of herbs.
They tasted like rot, but she swallowed them.
“Uh..okay. Now…he made a slit in her arm, and poured the blood onto the floor.
After a while, Sonya began to feel light headed.
She watched her blood dropping on the floor.
She could feel the Twist radiating from it.
The room began to warp and spin, and she felt vomit rising in her throat.
The Twist was strong in the room. It came suddenly, like a strong, airless wind.
She was choking…suffocating…and then the world turned black.
She woke up later in Guy’s room. The Twist had dissipated.
Sonya sat up groggily, feeling the grit on the floor bite into her hands as she pushed herself up.
But he was in a rapture of Twist, his arms soaked with blood and the tattoos on his face shining.
She got up and left quietly.
It wasn’t until she came home and that she looked in the mirror. And then she screamed because suddenly, she remembered that face.
It was the face of her dead father.
Sonya learned the hard way that to undo a Twist is harder than making a Twist. She tried blood Twisting, but before she could use enough, she lost so much blood she had to stop. After that, Sonya desperately tried everything she could think of, but her mind was not really working right.
She couldn’t even do the simplest Twist, towards the end.
By the end of two days, Sonya was exhausted and terrified. She went to bed hungry and terribly thirsty, her body aching from the exertion of Twisting.
As she slipped into unconsciousness, she heard her mother banging on the door, but she was too weak to open it, and anyway, her mother couldn’t see her the way she was. She felt sleep, or some dark, stuffy equivalent slipping its hand over her eyes, and then she was gone.
She woke up in a part of town she didn’t know. Sonya had no idea how she got there, and no will to get up.
She lay for a long time staring at the graffiti on the walls. She was very much in a Twist, and the creamy fat lines of color seemed to meld and swirl. Sometimes they were pretty, but then they would twist into unnatural angular shapes.
When at last she stood up, the world was spotty and her legs shook.
But she saw her face in a store mirror. Somehow, it was hers again.
“That’s the last thing I remember.” Sonya said. She pulled absently at a fingernail.
“You passed out again.” The doctor said. “Someone called the local authorities. You ended up in the hospital almost dead.”
“I thought as much.”
“That doesn’t bother you?” The doctor arched his eyebrows.
Sonya considered it.
“You can’t have something good if you don’t pay for it. That’s not how life works.”
“So Twist is good?”
“And you think you deserve to die for a few years of tampering with it?”
“Sonya, think about it. You have obvious talent. But this thing is not to be handled lightly. There are ways to learn conjury without it Twisting you.”
This was new to Sonya. She thought about it for a moment.
“But—my father would have known. He wouldn’t have died if there had been another way.”
The doctor smiled.
“Sonya, there is another way. There’s a reason the Twist is called the Twist. It twists you into things you don’t want to be. More importantly, it twists your ideas of right and wrong. The Twist is easier to attain—every child can do a bit of it. But the good magic—that’s harder. It takes time and dedication. “
The doctor shook his head “But Sonya, that’s all it takes from you. The Twist doesn’t just take your blood and your body. It takes your mind. It perverts you. The Twist is a selfish magic. It only benefits you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s simple, Sonya. Evil is easier than good, but it doesn’t pay off in the long run. I’d like to think your father died to give you a chance not to make the same mistake he did.”
The next day, Sonya’s body still ached for Twist, but her mind didn’t want it anymore.
“It’s too easy.” She told the doctor.
She wanted a challenge.