Time trickles slowly in the belly of the earth. Up above, night must have descended on the fields because Bibi can see stars twinkle shy through the well’s mouth—diamond dust scattered across a circle of darkening sky. Bibi remembers someone on TV saying that a person could see stars from the bottom of a well even on the brightest summer day. Perhaps it isn’t night after all… But so much time has passed since they fell. How could it be day up there, when down here, it is so dark?
It is also cool, and damp, and full of elemental smells: earth and water, and the tangible darkness of air that enters your body as you breathe and spreads with the flow of blood, night taking you over. Bibi cannot see their body but she imagines beautiful black streaks branching out just underneath the skin, as if someone filled their veins with ink. Muira would not like this. She is squeamish; everything’s got to be just so with her. If only she could care less about such things, maybe the fresh breeze that flows over fields, not this stale inky night, would be filling their lungs right now.
Reach out and touch the wall: roots, moist earth, wooden planks. It’s all too slippery, Muira, and I’m too weak. I’m only nine. You know that. You’ve got to help me. Muira? Do you understand? Do you hear?
Muira’s muffled words and groans pervade the dark, somehow making it seem even thicker. Sounds drip out of Muira’s mouth like drivel; the same sounds Bibi has heard for years, now. Bibi is mumbling, too, but Muira’s drivel does not cease for a minute, so Bibi is sure she isn’t listening. Tears are streaming down Bibi’s face.
I remember it even now, that stupid day, although it was so long ago. I remember exactly where we were, and where the sun rectangles lay on the floor, and which direction I was facing. I remember the piece of candy on the table. I’m sorry, Muira.
The right side of their body, where the half that is her merges with the half that is Muira, feels strangely numb. Occasionally, spasms radiate from there—not pain, but pain’s accompanying twitches, its negative space. Muira’s not well. When they fell, she met the bottom first and Bibi felt the crunch, before the world winked out of existence for a while.
The candy was yours, and I knew it, but I wanted it. We were little and wanted things, and daddy kept saying we’re retarded, and no one is to talk to us, and so we sit in a room—the small, locked room—and talk to each other, only each other, all the time. And we figure out how to say things like “I want this candy, this candy is mine,” even though daddy says we just talk nonsense, words that we made up ourselves. So what if we did? They still mean things, even if neither daddy not anyone else but us can understand them; they mean “I want this candy,” and they mean “No, you can’t have it,” and they mean “If I can’t have it, you won’t, either.”
"A poto mummy foe," Muira is saying; at least that’s what it sounds like. "Yai millie goe, yai fai neennany."
"Muira!" Bibi screams and suddenly, her twin screams back, the same terror and confusion driving her voice as well, instantly recognizable:
Bibi feels sticky fear expand in her stomach.
You’re hurt, I know, but I think we’re in big trouble; I never imagined trouble really could be this big, despite all mommy and daddy told us over the years.
Left hand lifted up, fingers grasping the slimy boards of the well’s wooden lining. A shudder of disgust goes through Bibi: something live tickles her hand with probing insect legs and is then gone. She strains and huffs, and pulls them closer to the wall. Muira lets out a sharp shriek—a wordless “stop”—but Bibi is already exhausted from the effort and her plan to hoist them up seems merely a mockery of imagination, cruel because it is unattainable.
Muira’s sobbing in the dark, and pleading. Bibi recognizes her name but the rest of the words are shamefully alien.
I started it, I’ll admit. I threw the candy on the floor, under the couch, where there were dust bunnies and cockroaches. I knew you would hate the thought of what’s under the couch. I knew you would never touch that candy again. I knew you would be mad. But did you have to be this mad?
Did you have to start with the silence? Even after I admitted I was wrong and apologized—silence and averted eyes. And then, did you have to surround me, on purpose, with words I could not understand. This game used to be ours, the silly words that only we shared. Now it became yours, and yours alone. You left me out, Muira. What was I supposed to do?
It wasn’t my fault after all! I had to do it right back to you, because you weren’t playing fair!
No, wait. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I don’t want to upset you. I need you. I need you just as much as you need me. We’re forever joined, even daddy said so, although it makes him mad. I only have one hand, Muira; you have the other. You have to help me. We must get out of here.
Time trickles slowly in the belly of the earth.
You don’t know what I’m saying, do you? All because of a stupid piece of candy. I would give it to you now, if I could. I would learn your words and not hurt you back by inventing mine, shutting you out for shutting me out, making you shut me out even more. We wanted to get back at each other, Muira. Look how we’ve succeeded!
I’m sorry. I’ll say this again and again, even though I know you won’t understand me. Maybe you’re saying the same thing to me, too?
Please, don’t cry. I’ll have to cry with you, and I don’t want to. Listen, here’s a song I just made up, where all the words are true:
Two little girls playing out by the well
One of them stumbled,
Both of them fell.