Before he even poured his morning tea, John Drake (now known as Number Six) felt something different in the air. Perhaps it was an odd rustling outside. Maybe it was a certain electricity. Whatever it was, he felt a pinprick of unease. There must be a new Number 2 here to test him, to torment him in some unique way. That’s how it always was. He steeled himself for whatever may be ahead today.
But by the end of breakfast, there was nothing… no phone calls, no chipper announcements… wait… that was it… no chipper announcements. He stood up and went to the window. What was going on out there? He pushed the small curtains slightly to the side. What he saw gave him a start. Two identical elderly women, identically dressed in colorful village garb, were strolling down the street, arm and arm. One was berating the other and appeared quite angry. The calmer one was patting the angry one on the hand.
“Feeling more and more like I fell through the rabbit hole every day,” he mumbled.
“Good morning! Good morning!” The voice from the speakers echoed through the village. “Good morning! Good morning!” The chipper shrillness of her soprano grated on his nerves, and why twice today? “It will be fun… it will be fun… because the weather… the weather is great… it’s great… so great!”
Were there two of her today? Drake rolled his eyes and went back to the counter to rinse his breakfast dishes.
Once that little task was done, he moved to the coat rack, grabbed the detestable village jacket and headed out the door. Perhaps an espresso and a chess game would be in order this morning. He felt as if maybe he could be civil today. It was sunny and there were actually birds chirping in the few real trees scattered amongst the fake ones. He strolled up the street, hands clasped behind his back, and he drew in a breath of fresh air.
Glancing to the side, he realized that two identical men were grooming a lilac bush. One of them was tending to it properly, giving it a little water, pulling off the dead leaves. The other man was tugging at the blossoms, raking at the roots, tearing away at the branches and grimacing as he did so. The first man leaned over and tried to calm the hostile one, but he was pushed away. Number Six paused, raised his eyebrows and watched for a moment, then he swung himself back on his way.
At the cafe, twin waitresses came to take his order, both Numbers 84 and 84. “What’ll it be?” The first Number 84 chewed her gum and examined her nails. The second Number 84 smiled down at him encouragingly.
“Which one of you shall I tell?” Drake asked dryly and gave a half smile.
“Whichever one you want, Buddy,” answered one Number 84.
The other chided,“Number 84, you needn’t be so rude.”
“How about if I just speak it and the two of you can decide?” John’s smile was tight.
Number 84, the second, nodded enthusiastically. Number 84, the first, simply grunted.
Once it was finally served, John sat and sipped his espresso. He wasn’t going to bother wasting time wondering what this game was. Soon enough they’d make it clear. They always did.
As he gazed over the village, the same scenes were being played out everywhere. Everyone had an identical twin, and it was obvious that one of those twins was angry or negative, the other was calming and positive. “Silly,” he thought. But finally he got curious and figured it was time to make his way up to see Number 2 and find out what this was all about.
The door opened immediately as he approached the domed building. Number 2, of course, knew he was coming. He always did… or she… sometimes Number 2 was a she, he mustn’t forget that. Sometimes those “she’s” were the most merciless of all.
John walked through the entryway to what he supposed one could call Number 2’s “office,” a large circular control room. Again, the door slid open without fanfare. Much to his surprise, however, where there was ordinarily just one moon shaped chair, there now sat two moon shaped chairs. And in those chairs, sat two young (and very beautiful) blond women. And they were beautifully identical. They smiled up at him. “Why, Number 6,” they said simultaneously, “How wonderful to meet you.”
“Two… Number 2s,” he said. “Hmmmm… How… appropriate.” He stretched out the word, rolling his “r’s” as he tended to do when he was cautious or annoyed. In this case, he was more cautious than annoyed and he was almost pleased to note how nice they were to look at. If he had to deal with these monsters, at least they were attractive monsters. “What is this all about… all the twins, the doubles?”
“We all have twins, Number 6,” the Number 2 on the left spoke gently, “seen or unseen.”
“Even you,” added the Number 2 on the right. She narrowed her eyes and crossed her slim legs as she addressed him. “A good side…”
“That fights with the bad side,” the quieter Number 2 added with a coy smile. “May I offer you a cup of tea?”
The small butler rolled in a cart.
“I’ll pass on the tea, thank you.” John looked over at the butler. “Where’s his twin?”
“He has no side whatsoever.” The gentle Number 2’s smile faltered. “He is unique that way. The Village has several... unique... individuals like that. It is a procedure that’s done with them.”
The other Number 2 leaned toward John. “Yes, you could say that procedure unites the two sides… Or,” she leaned back again and continued with a husky voice, “You could say the procedure destroys the two sides and leaves a blank sheet of paper… on which nothing can be written.” She spun from left to right in her chair and smiled up at him.
“This procedure, of course, is available to any in the village who can’t… who can’t,” Number 2 (the gentle one) couldn’t seem to finish.
“What she’s trying to say is… it’s something that must be done to any in the village who can’t seem to get their twinship under control. Sometimes one has to split oneself in two in order to get oneself back together.” With this, Number 2 rose to her feet and walked toward John. Even though he towered over her, he could feel her power as a woman. She was not to be trifled with. As gentle as the other Number 2 may be, this one was like steel. She strolled behind John, dragging a fingernail around his collar and back to his front. “We are here to help you do that.”
“To split me,” he paused, “in two?”
“And put you back together,” the gentle Number2 reminded him.
“Yes,” the Number 2 next to his ear growled. “And put you back together.”