They say that hearing is that last sense to leave the body. That’s what the nurses tell us as we gather around my father’s deathbed. The dementia has slowly replaced the mind and body of the man lying in front of me. The finality grips my throat. Say something, I command myself. But an overwhelming paralysis washes over me, and he slips away in a malignant silence.
The next week, the night before the funeral, I stare in the mirror and ritualistically brush my teeth. I see him there, behind my eyes. Say something. I’ve lived alone all my adult life, but now that both my parents are gone, the fog of isolation curtains all my windows. I descend to bed, a lifeless automaton.
In my dreams, I find myself back in the bathroom. I stare at my hands. They feel foreign. I look up to the mirror. A spot appears on top of my head. Something is happening. As I lean in to examine it, it suddenly flowers open, my cortex bursting forth. I feel my tongue being wrenched upward from the inside, and the entire inside of my head prolapses through the top, turning inside out. I lurch forward and wake up in a cold sweat. My hands are numb.
I wander downstairs for a perfunctory breakfast. The morning sun pierces the east window, blinding me for a moment. My hands are still numb. I fumble the toast onto a plate. What the hell was that dream? I can’t shake it. I look down at the already buttered toast. Did I do that? I disregard it and make my way to the funeral.
It’s a decent funeral, plenty of people. I see our longtime family doctor who had been with us from the diagnosis through the end. After the ceremony, I gather my thoughts and approach him.
“Dr. Zweifach, thanks for coming.”
“He was one good man, your father.”
“Yes, he was.” The numbness has spread up to my forearms. “I’m sorry to ask now, but is it hereditary, doctor?”
“You are worried, of course. Why don’t you swing by my office tomorrow afternoon? We’ll run what tests we can.”
The next morning, the numbness has burrowed into my chest and my legs. I cannot wait. I speed to Dr. Zweifach’s office in a frantic stupor. I stumble in and see him in the hall. After a short reprimand for not going to the ER, he orders an urgent head CT scan. I spend an eternity in the cold, ominous chamber before speaking with the doctor.
“Weston, I’m afraid it’s not good.”
“I’ve inherited it, haven’t I?”
“No. How do I put this? Your parents never told you, did they?” He looks down at the chart. “You see, Weston, you had a twin while you were developing in utero. He obviously didn’t make it. What we can see now is that you absorbed him early in development. There is a distinct mass of tissue growing in your head, what some refer to as a ‘parasitic twin.’”
I try to speak, but I feel that overwhelming paralysis again. Say something. The numbness has spread to my face. I can’t move my mouth. Dr. Zweifach continues.
“I should let you know your parents gave him a name: Easton.”
I can barely hear the words coming from the mouth attached to my head, not knowing it would be the last thing I ever heard. “That’s funny, why would they have given us the same name?”