Essays and discussions


It started about three months ago when a stranger who looked remarkably like himself, turned up on Zeppin's1 door claiming to be his long-lost twin brother, Max. Max turned up complete with birth certificate and winning smile, and since Zeppin's parents were dead and he was a trusting kind of guy, he took Max in. In the cold light of hindsight, he realised that he should have been more suspicious - his parents would never have named a child 'Max' - but Max's story of abandonment after birth and being brought up by singing nuns smote his heart.

It was about a month after that when Max was out that Zeppin saw a letter addressed to Max lying open on the table. Now, Zeppin knew all about what curiosity did to the cat, but was apparently unaware of the hundreds of thousands of documented cases of what it did to people. So he picked up the letter and read it.

Dear Max (it read), congratulations on your escape. To welcome you to the Fraternity of Evil Twindom you are hereby invited to ManiCon 2000, the seventy-third annual convention for evil twins, to be held on 17th September in the Capone Suite, Chicago Hotel, Middlesborough. We look forward to seeing you there, Max (honorary secretary).

Zeppin blinked and read it again. It was true. He didn't know how he knew, but it was true. He didn't try and analyse the feeling, but just sat down and waited for Max to come home.

"Had a good day?", he asked casually as Max walked in the door, a few hours later. Max stopped and stared at him.

"You know, don't you?" he asked.

"Know what?" Zeppin asked, his heart sinking.

"Don't try and play the innocent with me," Max snarled, "we aren't like normal twins, we have a link. You might suppress or ignore it, but I don't. I've known about you my whole life. Do you know how hard it is being locked in a nunnery full of singing nuns whilst being able to get an glance into the outside world. I won't let you take that away from me". He sighed as he pulled out a gun, complete with silencer. "I was hoping that I wouldn't have to do this", he said, raising the gun.

Telepathic link or not, he was still startled enough when Zeppin screamed and charged at him that the shot went wide and Zeppin was able to hit him hard enough to knock him out. He then tied him up and locked him in the attic. He didn't know why, it just seemed to be the right thing to do. Zeppin wasn't to know that during his time with the nuns, Max had been conditioned to prevent him attempting to escape from attics.

Zeppin spent the next month finding out all that he could about evil twins in general, and the Fraternity in particular. Max was happy to talk to him about the former, but would barely even admit the existence of the latter. The phenomenon of evil twins had apparently been known about for at least a hundred years. Nobody really knew how they had come about. It could have been some sort of natural mutation, but many were convinced that they were product of some sort of genetic or psychological experiment. Many names had been bandied around for these mysterious experimenters, from the CIA, through the New World Order to Cognito Capere. Another oddity was that the twins were all called Max. No matter what name they had been given at birth, as soon as their true nature began to assert itself, they invariably chose the name 'Max'.

All this, Max told readily and in great detail. He had always been talkative. That's what happens when you've got no-one to talk to for twenty five years except government agents. Oh, and tuneful religious nuts.

But when it came to anything deeper, like anything about the telepathic link, or what an evil twin wanted out of life, Max always changed the subject. To get at this sort of information, Zeppin had to look elsewhere.

He had no alternative - he had to infiltrate the Fraternity. Well, that's not entirely true, he had several alternatives, not least of which was to go to the authorities, but he had come down with a bad case of Hero Complex, so charging in alone without any backup against impossible odds seemed like a perfectly sensible thing to do.

As the date of the convention drew nearer, Zeppin became more nervous. He took Max's gun down from the airing cupboard where he had hidden it and looked at it. He had no idea how it worked, except that you pointed it and pulled the little bit where your finger fitted. Still, it might impress someone long enough for him to run away.

Finally, the day dawned. Zeppin went through his normal routine of checking on Max and bringing him breakfast before getting ready himself. On this occasion he was so nervous that he made one fatal mistake. He forgot to lock the door of Max's attic2. Zeppin always found driving relaxing, so the trip down to Middlesborough soothed his nerves and by the time that he reached the Chicago Hotel, he was almost cocky. Little did he realise that Max had got out of the house not half an hour after him and was hot on his trail.

"Max", cried a voice behind him as he was checking in. Zeppin turned around to see a jolly-looking, middle aged man striding towards him. "Nice to see you, glad you could make it." The man lowered his voice conspiratorially, "Can't have been easy, not in a nunnery."

Zeppin smiled broadly, "that's all in the past", he said, gently side-stepping the question, "Max?".

"Of course! Who else would I be?" replied the stranger jovially as they walked towards a large suite that was filling rapidly. "It will be some time yet before anything official happens so you might as well mingle and get to know people." As he was speaking, he directed Zeppin towards a group of people. Introductions weren't hard. That's one good thing about everybody being called Max - it was easy to remember people's names. Soon Zeppin was chatting merrily away whilst desperately hoping that his face didn't show any evidence that his stomach had been replaced by a swarm of butterflies3. But everything seemed to be going according to plan. The fact that he didn't actually have a plan was just a minor problem to be dealt with when it became a major problem. This happened in the middle of dinner, when the grand doors swung open and in best dramatic style, Max4 came striding in. The whole room went silent as Max strode to head table, turned, pointed at Zeppin and exclaimed loudly,

"That man's a fraud. He's not Max, he's my good twin brother Zeppin!". There were gasps around the table and Zeppin found people edging towards him. He whipped out the gun that he had conveniently stashed in his jacket pocket and waved it madly. Max laughed scornfully, "he'll never use it, he's got too much of a conscience", almost spitting the last word.

Zeppin grabbed the nearest person, a woman he vaguely remembered being introduced to earlier in the evening. Her name was Max5. He held the gun to her head and yelled "Stay back, or she gets it. I'm not kiddin'". Zeppin couldn't keep the tremble out of his voice. The others edged backwards leaving him some space as he dragged Max to the door. There was one obstacle. Max.

"Let her go, Zeppin", he called, blocking the doorway casually, arms folded across his chest. She's got nothing to do with this. This is between you and me. Nobody else." A haze was descending over Zeppin's vision, he couldn't see or think properly. That might be why he did what he did next. He shot Max in the leg. She screamed in agony.

"Out of the way, Max, or the next one goes through the brain" yelled Zeppin, all trembling gone and sincerity ringing in every syllable. Max shuddered as the next shot went through Max6 and he slumped to the floor. He stood up suddenly, took one terrified look around and ran out the door.

"Max!" came the voice from the other side of the room. It was a voice of authority. A voice used to be being obeyed.

Zeppin looked around uncertainly, the gun still held to Max's head. "Max just left", he said.

"No Max," said the voice, revealed to be Max, the president of the Fraternity, as he walked down the hall, "that was Aramethea7. You proved yourself to be Max when you shot Max in cold blood. Now let her go and come with me. We have a lot to discuss."

Max released the remains of the late Max into the hands that were waiting for her and followed Max towards the back of the room.

"This is a fascinating, and, indeed, unique phenomenon," Max said when they were out of hearing of the others, "it seems that the stress that you were under when you were trying to escape was enough to drive the submerged part of your personality to the fore. You did something that Zeppin would never have done. That makes you one of us now, Max." He beamed at the latter, who was still in a state of shock.

"But what about Max, I mean, Aramethea, what happened to him?", Max asked. "I felt something, as if something in him that had been buried had suddenly risen, like in me, but backwards."

Max nodded, "there has to be balance, Max. The same force that knocked the dark part of your personality to the fore, did the reverse to the old Max. It was enough to revive the Aramethea part of his personality. Anyway, don't worry about him. He shouldn't get far. Our agents will get him soon enough. We just have to hope that he doesn't manage to get to the Silent Cheese before we get to him." Max wanted to ask more, but the look on his superior's face was enough to dissuade him.

"Still, it will be interesting if we ever manage to get a complete set of twins together", Max went on, "Although such personality changes have been tentatively theorised about, you are the first pair that to have proved that it's possible - in quite a spectacular fashion, too. I think that a lot of our future research will involve trying to manipulate these personalities in both twins.

"Anyway, that should keep us busy for the next year or so. Given what's happened, I think that we should end this conference early. We don't want to attract undue attention to ourselves. Still, I'll expect to see you here bright and early next year, Max".

"Why, what are we going to do next year, Max?"

"The same thing we do every year, Max. Try to take over the world."

– December 2001

1 his parents were hippies, okay!
2 Yes, it's a cheap plot device. Get over it.
3 No, I don't know if butterflies can swarm, do you?
4 That's Zeppin's twin brother Max. Pay attention, it's not as if it's the Schitzoid Man or anything.
5 Short for Maxine.
6 Are you keeping up, here?
7 I told you, his parents were hippies.

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