A friend and I were on vacation, traveling through some vaguely Northern European place. We go down to a subway station in a small town where the buildings are all close together and the streets narrow, roofs crowding together and blocking out the sky. We walk down the stairs to the train platform to start the next part of our trip. I’m carrying all the bags, so I’m walking slower. My friends but has the map and itinerary, and knows what stops we’re getting off at, and what town we’re even going to. A crowd starts forming as more people show up for the incoming train. The bags are so heavy and bulky, and I keep losing my friend in the crowd, jostled out of my spot directly behind her.
The train whistles into the station, huge and metal, creaking as it settles to a stop. I catch sight of my friend again as she climbs into the train, seemingly unaware that I am not with her anymore. There is only the briefest of moments for boarding, a few seconds at most, and weighed down as I am, I don’t even manage to make it near the doors in time. As the train roars back to movement, the doors slam shut, and I can just see my friend in the window before the protective metal sheeting shutters itself over the train entire. It has to be protected for the journey through the countryside.
I am so furious that we decided on this system, where I have all the junk and my friend knows all the trip details. Now I don’t even know were to go to meet her, and her phone is in one of the bags I’m carrying, so she can’t call me. I could get on later train, but I wouldn’t know where to get off, and I don’t want to risk the armored journey if I don’t know for sure it will work.
I walk back up the stairs to the sunlight straining to get between the cramped buildings. I’ll have to find somewhere to sleep for the night. We had only stopped in this town for the day, so I don’t even have a hotel to track back to. Instead I pick a direction and walk, carrying my multiple bags, looking for a place to stop.
After only a short amount of walking, relieved, I find a three story rickety wood house wedged between two taller stone buildings that is marked “hotel” above the doorframe. I enter and the two proprietresses descend the stairs to greet me. They are older women who look exactly the same, hair graying and wild, thought they have both tried to sweep it back into buns. They are rickety and tall as their house; their limbs are so long that their fingers brush against the floor as they stand. Twins, I think to myself. Their few synched movements, folding of the hands at the same time, simultaneous quirks of the left eyebrow, confirm this.
When they speak, their teeth are blunt, so I am not scared of them. They invite me to stay; the one guestroom on the third floor is free. Their last guest left a few days ago.
I thank them, and explain the situation. Thankfully, our foolish planning, me with the bags and my friend with the directions, is not commented upon. My bags disappear, they lock the front door, and we head into the kitchen, where breakfast has been set out. All three of us sit at the table, and I work my way through a mountain of toast. The sisters seem a little offended that I’m not eating any of the eggs they’ve prepared. I feel sick anytime I eat them, but I spoon some scrambled eggs onto my plate anyways, to make the twins happy.
When we’ve finished eating, one of the sisters gets up and clears the dishes. She puts a kettle on and comes back to sit down. The kettle starts to whistle, but none of us stand up to get it. We talk over the shrieking.
“Our mother used to live with us, you know.” The sisters tell me this in tandem.
“What happened to her?” I ask.
“She doesn’t live here anymore.” The other sister gets up and pours me a cup of tea, but puts the kettle back on the stove without turning it off. It continues to scream.
“We killed her. We put her body in the bath tub and watched her blood drain away.”
I’ve stopped hearing the sound of the kettle, but I can tell from the steam rising from it that it is still whistling.
“Our mother’s blood staining the white porcelain of the tub.” I have a piece of toast still in my mouth as they tell me this. My tongue is too dry to let me swallow it.
The twin sisters stand up. Their knees knock against the table as they do, and my cup spills hot tea all over my legs.
“WE’LL show you to your room now.” They forget to control their voices at first, but catch themselves after the first word. Their arms are so long, and their fingernails carve grooves into the wood floor.
They locked the front door, so I can only nod and run upstairs to the third floor, where my room supposedly is. I hear the stairs shuddering as they chase up after me. I lock the door behind me, trapping myself in the small room. There is a bed I could shove up against the door, but I don’t think I have the time. I can hear their nails skittering across the door already.
Instead, I run into the small bathroom, and lock that door to. When I turn around, I see it: a ghostly hand extending from over the rim of the tub. It is pale and devoid of blood, and waving me over to get in the tub as well. It wants me to not put up a fight.
I suddenly realize that there are a million sets of too-tall sisters in a million rickety three story houses across the country, all a short walk from the armored train stations. As I hear the sisters break into the bedroom and come towards the bathroom door, I wish more than ever that my friend had taken her cell phone. I wish I could warn her. The twins have surely found her too, in whatever city she wound up at.