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I Am Charles

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Charles was always the good one. People said to him, "Oh, what a fine boy you are, Charles! So hard working and charming."

When he walked down the street without Charles by his side, people said, "Good day, Charles! Fancy a treat?" They always insisted he was his brother. They wanted to believe there was only one of them, and only the good one.

He knew Charles was better. Charles was content with learning a trade, with living a normal life, carefree and respectable.

He wasn't the good boy. He wasn't the nice lad. He wasn't Charles.

Charles listened to him when no one else would. And Charles, being the good boy, didn't say anything as he confessed to his black desires while they held each other for warmth and protection in the night.

"I want to be you, Charles," he said. "You're the good one. You aren't like me. Please, Charles."

And Charles had held his weeping face to his chest, kissed his head, and murmured, "We'll both be Charles, then."

And so they were. They moved to where no one knew of him, but only Charles. And it was this double Charles who started his new life, tending dutifully to the needs of the wealthy.

But the desires didn't leave him. People respected him, thought him diligent and upstanding. "Very good, Charles," they said. And he, as Charles, as they had practiced, politely smiled.

The first girl, the very first, was an accident. On his way to see Charles, he ran into her. She asked him how much. When he saw her, he was overcome. He brought her home. He tied her up. And then she died.

Charles found him sobbing on the floor next to the body. Charles picked him up, brushed him off, and said, "I‘m here now. It will be alright." Then Charles helped him fix it. The body was dumped, and they moved again.

He didn't know who started it, but the duchess always whispered Charles in his ear as he thrust into her.

Charles. Charles. Charles.

He loved the sound. When he came, he joined in with her chant.

But is wasn't enough. The desires came back. He told Charles as they clung to each other in their shared bed. Charles coaxed out every sordid detail. He felt he would die with the overwhelming want.

"Please, Charles, please." He begged for release.

This time, they did it right. The whore was near perfect. No one could trace them to her. And it felt so good.

When he was done, when the body was dumped, Charles opened up his arms and said, "You did it, Charles."

He embraced Charles, and he swelled at the praise and love his brother gave him.

"Charles. Charles, Charles, Charles," he whispered into Charles's cheek.

"Sh," his brother murmured back.

After that, they planned each one.

The next two girls were exquisite. And after each, he returned to Charles, who embraced him, praised him, kissed him, loved him, and neither let go for a long time.

The young one had been an impulsive mistake, and he was disgusted by it. He fell into Charles's arms sobbing. "She was all wrong, all wrong." And Charles cried, too. "Where were you? I looked for you. Where were you?"

"I'm here now," Charles said. He rocked him back and forth in his arms. "I'm here."

Charles promised he'd find the perfect one, and he did. Charles never let him down. Charles was smart and clever.

But Charles was caught by the police, and he couldn't save him. There was only one Charles, after all. And the girl, she was perfect, unsuspecting, and so easy to reach. Charles would say he needed to take this chance.

Then his world exploded.

The shot rang out, and he saw Charles stumble back, a bullet in his leg. He felt the pain shoot through him.

He tried to reach Charles, but the pain was unbearable. Everything hurt, his body, his heart, his mind. He wanted to touch his brother, let Charles heal him as he always did, but Charles was a good boy, and nobody like him was allowed to be with good boys. Charles did not reach for him. Charles did not look at him.

They dragged him after Charles. Charles was shoved in one carriage and he in another.

The last time he saw Charles's face, he knew it was over. They, Charles, would die, and the world would forget them.

He saw it in the eyes of the men who pressed in around him. The good boy and his dark shadow would hang, separate and alone.

He reached out, but Charles was not there.

"Charles... Charles... Charles..."