I’m evil, they say. I’m pretty sure you heard it – from Mycroft, most likely. As if Mycroft were trustworthy. Do you believe everything he says? Because I have news for you. He might be powerful, and he might (might…like, I’m 90% sure) not be a serial killer, but it doesn’t mean that you should just believe anything he says.
You’re about to retort every villain believes himself – or herself, in my case – the hero of their own story, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But before passing judgment, consider this. Have you met my brothers?
Antarctica, the British government, hoarding power in secret like dragons hoard gold, aka Mr. Caring Is Not An Advantage. The Junkie, courting death and danger a little too close (yes, yes, I know… the world’s only consulting detective; seriously, my brother can be such a diva). The Consulting Criminal. Ooh – surprised to see Jim here? Well, no matter what some people think, I'm not going to disown him. You’ll see how he’s involved in our mess – rather more intimately than you’ve been led to believe, I bet.
No, I’m not saying they’re worse than I am. Truly, we all try to do our best. But there’s something you should know – something that happened earlier than Redbeard’s (Victor’s?) demise. Something that might help you figure out how we turned out like this. Because, you see, when all the siblings are more than a little damaged – when all the sheep are varying degrees of black – you might want to look deeper. Wonder why not one of us is even close to ‘normal’, or – who cares about normal, really – ‘happy’, no matter how well adjusted they claim to be. Wouldn’t that be nice? To just be happy? …So I’ve been told, at least.
But never mind that. Feelings are not my strong suit. Never have been. I wonder if I could have been better if things were different, but to be honest, probably not. After all, Mummy is smart. She handpicked us for a reason…and that reason was that we conformed to her intended pattern.
Oh come on, don’t tell me you’re surprised now! I know most people are idiots, but when all the kids are insane, even the most wilfully blind person should start to wonder if there’s something wrong with the parents.
First hypothesis would be a possible genetic defect, I suppose. But in the nature vs. nurture debate, we’re evidence for nurture being the one that really fucks you up. Because, you see, we call them Mummy and Daddy (and believe me, you don’t want to upset Mummy by messing that up), but we’re not actually related to them. Or each other, for that matter. Well, but for Sherlock – a bit. I suppose that’s why he’s always been their favourite. Otherwise he’d have been abandoned in a skip long ago – and unlike Jim, he wouldn’t have been able to get himself out of it and on to form an empire, I suspect. But I might be a bit bitter about it.
Now close that mouth, dearie, it’s unbecoming. I know perfectly how good they are at acting like they’re an ordinary couple, whose highest priority is finding the tickets for the latest musical, or baking sweets for Christmas dinner. Been there done that…and if all of us kids have Bafta-worthy acting talent it’s because we learned from the best. It’s not like you should be that shocked. Have you seen Ted Bundy? Sweetest, most helpful young man in town, volunteering for a suicide hotline. All of us survived, so I guess that I don’t have much room to complain, do I?
It was for our own good anyway, or so daddy said. I actually sat down at his feet, in that creamy jumper that’s the only thing I had from my previous life, and asked him. Oh, and about that old jumper…I get cold easily, so I’d been allowed to keep it. Most of us weren’t so lucky – nothing at all to remember our birth families by, but what they held in the respective mind palaces. I suppose it’s true what they say, that with time parents mellow out and learn to pick their battles, isn’t it? Or it’s just because it was such an ordinary garment that anyone might have picked it, not distinctive at all? Or both?
I was a little above six, and there was so much grumbling – it was obvious than one of us would be disowned (and none of us were entirely sure it wouldn’t mean murder, at the time). So, between lessons, I looked up to daddy (who was the most patient of the two) and just asked why they took us, if we were too much of a trouble. After all, it’s not like we’d asked to be kidnapped (but even at six, I was smart enough not to voice this last thought).
Your run-of-the-mill child kidnapper would probably have got angry, and possibly punished me. But mummy was teaching us to analyse people’s behaviour, after all, and I have always had a way with words – as if I was really concerned with how we inconvenienced them – so daddy answered. He even smiled at me.
“Don’t you worry, Eurus, you’re safe – we’re never ever going to let you go. You’re the most brilliant princess we’ve ever met,” he said.
Never mind that this wasn’t what I’d asked him – or how downright pissed I was at my new name. They’d changed it, of course. They changed everyone’s name. It was basic. And apparently, they did it with a mean streak as far as christenings went.
Mycroft? That’s not even a first name. That’s a last name (not his old one, they’re not idiots) which means “the land at the mouth of the stream” – and from what he confessed to me once (we were alone, of course) he’d been kidnapped at the beach. They didn’t want to let him forget, did they?
Jim? Supplanter. They didn’t even try. Of course all of us – especially Mycroft – would be terrified of him. Well, I wasn’t as much as the others. Perhaps because I’m a girl. Less easy to swap me for a boy. Maybe because Jim and I got along like a house on fire (pun intended), and the pranks we came up with were…well, not that harmless, but interesting. From an academic experimentation on human response to stimuli point of view. We were quick to learn – not just Mummy’s lesson, but her methods…and questionable work ethics, I suppose. Why shouldn’t we?
Sherlock? Blond. And he’s not. Heck, Mycroft was a ginger – he still dyes his hair religiously because, well, we had to, and when you are in his environment sudden change is about as bad as you can go. I’m blonde (stopped with the dye and resorted to wigs – much more easy to play around that way). Sherlock is a bonafide brunet, so I can only assume that the name is meant as an insult. You know what they say of blonds’ cleverness. For all that he'd been handpicked like all of us because he’s exceptionally talented, apparently Mummy felt like he needed the extra stimulus.
But my name? It’s a fucking male name. That’s why I get so angry. Do your research! Not that I’m very fond of my previous name – Hazel is, frankly, ghastly – but Eurus is purposefully misgendering and, even back then, one would think that the smartest damn people in England would be able to figure out that it was not good. It’s not like they tried to pass me for male otherwise, or as though they had no male heir to satisfy such an urge.
…Oh. I went on a side rant, didn’t I? Sorry. But if you’d been kidnapped in kindergarten, spent a few years as guinea pig to a weird experiment with a bunch of kids as lost as you are, and then spent the majority of your life in an institution for the criminally insane with minimal contact and stimulation, but for when someone wanted to use your talent, your not-manipulative people skills might rust a bit, too.
Anyway, back to the main subject. I can be as stubborn as the best of us (both my biological and adoptive siblings are terribly obstinate), so I insisted on asking why they’d taken us. Not criticising, you see. Not blaming. Just asking why like any kid.
“But for your own good, Eurus,” daddy replied with a brilliant grin. “That’s all your mummy has ever cared about. It started with Mycroft, you see. He was so obviously brilliant, but lacked stimulation. If only he could have a proper education, he could become anything…but his biological parents were bakers, and even on holiday he seemed much more interested in what pastry variations they could come up with than any serious research. So, it was for his own good – and England’s benefit – that we welcomed him. And then, of course, adding the three of you was natural. With Sherlock, since he’s actually my cousins’ son, things were a bit more rocky for a while…but your uncle Rudy smoothed things out, because he sees that we can offer him so much more than Lara – his mum – could dream of. It’s just that teaching the four of you is taking a toll on mummy – she sacrificed herself so much for your sake – so we might have to send someone away. Isn’t she the most talented, generous and selfless woman you could have ever met?”
I nodded, because what do you say to that? Daddy was entirely smitten with Mummy, and he would have done absolutely anything she asked of him, be it cook a meal for twelve people or murder someone…or murder someone and then serve him to twelve people. (Not that they actually ever did, I don’t think. Just because Mummy saw no reason to, though.)
So, after a few days of deliberation, exit Jim. He managed to do well for himself, so I guess that was for the best. But of course, everyone knew that it was a toss up between him and Sherlock (similar age, similar talents, etc…) and that Sherlock won that out of sheer nepotism. Which may be why Jim’s a bit obsessed with being people’s favourite now.
You wouldn’t believe it, but I wasn’t the only one missing my favourite partner in crime. Sherlock pouted too, for all that he should have been grateful – maybe? – and insisted that he was sooo bored anytime he was in anyone’s earshot.
Which is how he – being the bloody apple of their eyes – got Victor. Honestly, Sherlock had asked for a puppy. But Daddy’s allergic, so they got him a playmate. One that wasn’t clever, didn’t get to take part in any lesson, and played the role of dog anytime one of us was in the mood. I suppose we should have pitied him. But he’d gone through the exact same we did, only he was an idiot in comparison to us. Hard to sympathise.
It might have cheered us up…if Sherlock hadn’t decided to hog him. I’d lost Jim as a playmate too, you know. Mycroft was boring. So if I punished my ‘brother’ by ensuring he lost the pet he wouldn’t share, truly, I was teaching him a valuable lesson. And since I barely got a slap on the wrist, it appears that Mummy and Daddy agreed.
Of course, damage of property would not be tolerated. They had their priorities straight, hadn’t they? We were expendables, all of us. Their ancestral home? Decidedly not. They didn’t have me removed because I was a threat to Sherlock, or them, or anyone else, I am sure of it. They did because they couldn’t afford more renovations in case I lashed out again. For a moment, I was truly terrified – but then there was a quick call, and ‘uncle’ Rudy was there to take me away. From what the man said, mummy’s experiments on me had been successful enough that throwing me away would be a loss, of resources and investments, which just wasn’t sensible.
I should have known that old tricks wouldn’t work. I tried that, to get myself fully abandoned, with a vague idea of going to look for Jim, but no. Shipped off to bloody Alcatraz – well, Sherrinford, but it was equivalent – hoping they’d allow me anything to entertain myself instead of staring at white walls.
I’m terribly lucky that Rudy groomed Mycroft to take his place. How dressing up as a girl was a necessary step for that I’ve never inquired, but there are worse initiations out there. Mycroft clearly felt guilty – which is stupid, because he had never hurt him. He couldn’t protect me either, true, but it wasn’t like we had any bond – so why he would feel responsible I’ve never figured out. Too soft hearted, probably. He’s good at hiding it now, but he’s really a scoop of butter – hard, but get him to room temperature, and he melts.
I could talk him into giving me almost anything, including internet access for the sake of the little problems he asked me to solve. That way I could track down my other siblings…more of them than I thought.
Because when I found Sherlock again, I obviously found John. I barely remembered him – they did take me at four – but he was wearing a jumper identical to the one I’d stubbornly hung on to. A common one, yes, and a more common name. But I couldn’t help it – I looked into it. From John’s blog I found Harry’s Facebook. I honestly preferred Harriet…but it was curious that the both of us twins ended up using a male name. It was like looking into a mirror – a mirror of what I would be without wigs, make up and acting, that was.
You can imagine how angry I was. My brother got to play with Sherlock. Everyone fucking got to play with Sherlock (the tracks of Jim were rather obvious) but me. Why did I have to be the only one bored? It wasn’t fair.
Well, you know what happened. Jim wanted to burn Sherlock’s heart (and I’d say he succeeded), and later on I was finally bored and annoyed enough to organise a game myself. I could never figure out if I wanted to murder my blood sibling for usurping the place I wanted and deserved, or let him off scot free.
The results have been…unsatisfying, frankly. I want more than the odd duet. Part of it might be mummy’s and daddy’s beating hearts to be squished in my hands, but truth is we’re still scared – all of us.
So, are Jim and I evil without any more reason than our own insanity and – well, what did Mycroft sell to you? Original sin? Sexual orientation? He can be so cliché. Or are we acting like we were taught to?
Could I have been a good friend like John (I admit, his violent outburst might have been a result of our psychiatric sessions, and I don’t regret it) if I’d been left by Harriet’s side? Or would I have been manipulating people into murders all the same?
Would Jim still have become a monomaniac criminal kingpin? Or the most brilliant, sweetest actor of his generation?
We’ll never know, of course. But now you have more data to make the call.