This is episode 2 of the first season of Twinstinct.
Thank you for reading!
"Can magic be backed up?" Vanessa read as her brother typed into the search bar, "Van, I doubt the internet is going to have any answers for this." Vander shrugged his shoulders and hit the 'enter' button, the page loading their results. The first page was full of advertisements and websites about software companies. On the next page, though, was where they found a blog called City Witches. It was a guest post by a woman named Alexandra Kay.
"Magic is like a highway, it always flows." Vander read aloud, "On occasion, however, a single traffic incident can cause hours, or even days, of delays. Things like failed spells and illness can cause the clotting of a witch's magical powers for upwards of seven months."
"Seven months?!" Vanessa yelped, "I can't go without magic for seven months! There has to be something we can do. Let me see." Vanessa took the laptop from her brother and scrolled to the bottom of the page to the "About the Author" section. At the end of the bio was a link that read, "Click here for an instant response."
"Alexandra Kay at your service!" a woman announced as soon as Vanessa clicked the mouse pad, "How may I be of a-witch-tance?"
Vander and Vanessa whirled around, dropping the laptop, and looked up at the woman who had just appeared in their living room. She was about the height of their mom, her skin pulled tight over her face, and half of her head was shaved bald. A smile spread across her thick lips as she put her hands on her hips. "I don't have all day, chil'un. What do you want?"
"Our magic is acting up." Vanessa blurted, "How can we fix it?"
"I'm gonna need a lil' more info than that, sweetie." Alexandra huffed, "First tell me about your powers, then e-lab-orate on what you mean by 'acting up.' Magic ain't no animal, honey."
"We call it our Twinstinct." Vanessa explained, "We usually have complete control, but this time, our hands burned when we touched." The twins held up their hands as evidence, and Alexandra hummed.
"Interesting." she sighed, "So, you two share your powers?"
Vander nodded, "It only works when we are together."
"Well, it sure is a unique situation." Alexandra replied, thinking it over as she made her way to the window, "Tell me, how old are you?"
"Fifteen!" Vander chirped, "Vanessa's still fourteen though."
"Seems a little late for puberty to be the culprit." Alexandra thought aloud, "My advice is to avoid
touching for a week or two and go from there. I'd love to help, but I am leaving this Realm before things fall apart. Good luck, chil'un!" Saluting to the twins, the woman vanished in a flash of light, leaving Vander and Vanessa even more confused than they had been.
"I'm fifteen, V." Vander spoke up, "I am done with puberty."
Vanessa rolled her eyes. "TMI, Van." she groaned, "Just, focus on the issue at hand. We can't touch each other, otherwise who knows what may happen. Plus, if Mom finds out - we are both in for it."
"Don't touch, and don't tell Mom." Vander repeated, "Got it."
"Don't tell Mom what?" It was Susan, who just walked in the front door. She set down her bags on the table and crossed her arms, ready to deal out punishment.
Vanessa took the lead. "If we told you, it would ruin the surprise." she lied, "I know how much you love surprises." "I hate surprises." their mom fired back, "They are unplanned and unrequited and I can't deal with not knowing. Now spill it."
"We are working on your birthday present." Vander replied, "Can we leave it at that?" Susan squinted, as if reading their minds, and uncrossed her arms. "I don't know what you are trying to
keep a secret, but just know that all secrets are uncovered eventually." Susan warned, "Anyway, Vander. Did you decide where you want to go for your birthday dinner?"
"Yes!" Vander exclaimed, "I want to go to Hailey's Pitchy Place!"
"The place where the waitresses sing in your face?" Vanessa groaned, "Can't we just get fast food?"
"I want to try their Broadway Rice Pudding." Vander answered, "I hear it is the best thing ever! Plus, you know I absolutely love live music - especially show tunes!" Susan smiled. "Sounds wonderful, Vander." she assured, "There’s no shame in trying something new. Maybe Vanessa should think about a new birthday dinner location as well.”
“No way!” Vanessa shrieked, “If there is one thing that I love about my birthday, it is that you and Dad let me spend $56.99 on lobster at Chef Luke’s Seafood Lounge. That stuff is the paradigm of elegance and class!”
“Fine, sweetheart.” Susan huffed, “I guess I’ll fill up tonight so I don’t go broke tomorrow.”
Vanessa grinned and hurried up to her room. When their sister moved out, Vander and Vanessa flipped a coin for who got to move into her room. Vanessa won and has taken advantage of every part of her new space since. Against the far wall was her easel, and to the right was her bed. She also had a desk that was pushed in front of the window, which overlooked their small backyard. It was there she had sat when she talked to her sister on the phone. Before Cassie died, she had told Vanessa stories of her adventures as “the most powerful being in Reality.” Some of them Vanessa joined her on, but most of those memories have long faded away. What little she knew now was from conversations with her sister.
Every single night, without fail, Cassie would call. She’d talk to their Mom, talk to their Dad. She’d tease Vander, and then tell Vanessa a story. Cassie was Vanessa’s sole role model, but then she died.
A tear ran down Vanessa’s cheek as she thought of the day she heard the news. Of all the ways for a hero to die, it was a car crash that took Cassie’s life. She was driving back to campus with her boyfriend when another vehicle drove them off the road, down the side of a mountain, and into the Atlantic Ocean.
They were visited by the Maine State Police after the bodies were identified, and Vanessa refused to believe it was true. She had waited for Cassie to call and say everything was okay, but it never came. The twins were only eight years old. Cassie was 21.
Vanessa opened her sketchbook and looked at her drawing of her sister. It had been seven years but that didn’t erase the pain. No matter what people said, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Some wounds fester for months, years, until the day they finally take you down. Vanessa sighed. She loved Cassie so much - it was cruel how a bond like theirs could so easily be torn.
Sitting at her desk, Vanessa worked on her drawing some more. It would never be good enough for her, something would always be wrong and need to be fixed. She sketched a background in - she had no idea what the place was, simply drawing what found its way onto the paper. She continued working in complete silence until her mom’s voice called from downstairs, “Vanessa! Your dad’s here! Are you ready to head out?”
Susan waited for a reply, turning to Vander. “Coming!” Vanessa called, running downstairs, “Sorry, I was doodling.” “Okay, shall we head out then?” Susan smiled, Vander nodding excitedly, “Good! Let’s go!”
The Smiths got their coats and went outside. It was a brisk 28 degrees, and the wind made it feel even colder. They loaded into the car and James Smith started the ignition. “Where are we going, Vander?” he asked, “Happy birthday, by the way!”
“Thanks, Dad.” Vander replied, “And I wanna go to Hailey’s Pitchy Place.” James smiled at his son in the rear-view mirror and backed out onto the street. “Hailey’s here we come!” he announced, steering the car onto the main road to downtown NYC. Soon, the houses of their
neighborhood were replaced with the towering skyscrapers of lower Manhattan. It was about thirty minutes after rush hour, but the roads were still laced with vehicles.
Vander looked out his window at a boy walking down the street alone. He was wearing black sneakers, a t-shirt, and shorts. In the winter? Vander shook his head. There were some crazy people in New York.
James pulled into a parking garage and parked the car on the third floor. Hailey’s Pitchy Place was across the street, its exterior plastered with neon lights. Vander grinned, letting out a small giggle of excitement.
Vanessa sighed. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be as bad as she was expecting.
“This is awesome.” Vander smiled as he walked down the steps into the main dining area. As they got settled, a waiter was singing a rendition of “Popular” from Vander’s all-time favorite musical, Wicked. “Okay, could be worse.” Vanessa reasoned, sitting across from Vander.
“Oh, we’re switching things up tonight?” Susan observed, surprised that the twins weren’t sharing a booth as usual, “Variety is good.”
Vanessa let out a nervous laugh as her mom took the seat next to her. She would have sat next to her brother, but they needed to be absolutely sure that they did not accidentally bump into each other - especially in public.
“May I take your order?” a rather good-looking waiter asked Vanessa. “Oh,” she fumbled, “I’ll just take a salad. Uh, chicken caesar salad. Please.”
The waiter smiled and turned to Vander. “Broadway Rice Pudding, por favor!” he chirped, the waiter chuckling. “I’ll take a caesar chicken salad as well.” Susan ordered, “James, I think you should too. After your last doctor’s visit-”
“Can we not discuss my health in public?” James cut her off, “But yeah, I will also take a salad. Thank you.”
Once the waiter left, Vander smiled at Vanessa. “You totally like him.” he accused, making Susan glance at Vanessa. “He’s like 20, Vanessa!” she exclaimed, her daughter blushing. “I didn’t say anything.” Vanessa replied meekly, “I’m just sitting here. Waiting for my salad.”
“Mhmm.” Vander taunted, earning a kick under the table from his sister.
“Ow!” Vander yelped as Vanessa’s shoe hit his shin. Instantly, the lights above their booth exploded, shooting shards of glass in every direction. The blast traveled across the ceiling in all directions, glass and sparks raining down from the lights above to the diners below. Vander shot Vanessa a distressed look, while all around them customers scattered.
“Vander and Vanessa Smith.” Susan scowled, looking straight ahead at her husband, “We are going home. Now.”
The car ride was absolutely silent. Vander and Vanessa knew better than to explain themselves, they hadn’t seen their mom this angry in a very long time. James pulled into their driveway, and Susan broke the silence. “When we get inside, I want both of you to sit on the couch until I say otherwise. Understood?”
The twins nodded, and got out of the vehicle, following their parents to the front door. Inside, they did exactly as they were told and waited for instructions.
“I do not like to holler.” Susan said, walking into the living room and standing in front of them, James tagging along and standing next to her, “So, I am going to let you explain yourselves. One at a time. I want to know what happened, and why. Vanessa, you first.”
“It wasn’t our fault.” Vanessa started, “We found out our powers were acting up and decided to not touch each other until we knew what is going on. But, I got mad and kicked Vander, so our Twinstinct did a thing.”
“Is this true?” Susan turned to her son. “Yes.” Vander gulped.
Susan nodded. “ You know how I feel about secrets, especially when it comes to magic.” she chastised. “Yet you make us hide our magic.” Vanessa huffed, “Hypocrite.”
“Vanessa Smith!” James yelled, “You do not call your mother a hypocrite!”
“Everything I do, and all my rules, are to keep you two safe!” Susan asserted, “You two can’t rely on your magic to get you through life - you never know when it will be gone forever, and if that happens you need to be able to handle life or death situations properly! If you are used to snapping your fingers to save yourself, and you get ran off the road by an idiot, you will die just like your sister!”
“I hate you!” Vanessa shouted in tears, storming off to her room, “I wish you were the one who got in that accident!”
Susan looked at James, then at Vander. “I-” she stuttered, “I messed up.”