Three born as one, bound by more than blood
One hundred years, the total sum
Every breath taken, divided amongst them
Four hundred months, each boy shall breathe
The consequence of their father’s crime
“What… what is this?” I shuddered, turning towards my mother.
She looked down in sadness, as anyone would expect. My brothers and I glanced back and forth at each other, yet careful to never make eye contact. Having adjusted to my surroundings, the darkness of the attic was no longer a hindrance to my sight. Eventually, all three of us had our eyes fixed on the marble plaque mother held in her hands, while she only looked away. “When you boys were very small,” she began, a noticeable trembling in her voice, “Your father made a grave mistake. He was unfaithful to me, had an affair with a much younger woman. However, when she realized that he was married, she revealed herself as a powerful immortal witch. To punish your father for his unfaithfulness and lies, she cast a curse upon you three, the ones your father loved the most. Like this plaque suggests, you all share a lifespan of 100 years. Thus, each of you may only live for a maximum of 33 years and four months.”
At this point, she dropped the plaque to the side of her left thigh and began to weep. Her knees shook with anguish of their own. Ethan came to her side and placed his hand gently on her shoulder. “Don’t cry, mom,” he soothed, the way he usually did, “It’s not your fault. This is dad’s doing, a consequence of his poor decision. If our fates are sealed because of him, then so be it. I’ll gladly accept this curse, mom, if it means that you’ll smile, the way you used to whenever we played together.”
I stood beside my outstanding brother but said nothing, not even moving an inch. Comfort mom? How could I, when I couldn’t even comfort myself? I, Oliver Hartfield, the most arrogant and toughest of the Hartfield triplets, was scared. Not simply scared, but mortified. My death now had a time and a date. My death had suddenly become a very real thing in my mind. An expiry date had just been stamped onto my mortal flesh.
Ethan tended to mom for the rest of the night. Ryan, I had noticed, took this disastrous news rather emotionlessly. Shortly after the situation in the attic at 7:00 pm, he muttered something about heading to the local bar and sped off. That was the first night of my entire life where I felt lost, without hope. I sat alone in the living room, staring at the TV but not really watching it. My mind kept me busy, overloading me with uncontrollable fears and unanswerable questions. Around midnight, Ethan came downstairs. He gave the signal that mom was sound asleep. “Why’d she have to tell us now?” I asked as he walked down the steps, partially to him and partially to no one.
“No clue,” Ethan sighed, correcting his collar, “But better now than when we’re 30, I suppose.”
I stood up from the flowery couch and looked at him, surprised. “You don’t seem fazed by this at all”, I whispered, almost with admiration.
He snickered. Even the best of us had a dark side. “So, the toughest of the Hartfield triplets has death anxiety?”
I stomped my right foot. “How could I not?!” I snapped, “This is my life, Ethan; and it’s being cut short because my never-been-here-for-me father doesn’t understand the concept of a monogamous relationship!”
Ethan put his index finger to his mouth. “Don’t wake up mom, now.” He walked over to the front door and grabbed his leather jacket. “I’m going home, Oliver,” he said, “So do you think you could look after mom, just for tonight? She’s having a hard time keeping it together.”
I nodded, but gave him a cold look as I did it. How was Ethan not showing any fear? Was he doing this just to mock my own fear? Maybe he was secretly tormented inside, like I was. He just didn’t want to show it, because he wanted to look like the bravest brother. I didn’t really care about being the bravest anymore, seeing as how I was doomed to die in a dozen years. I realized that this news was the worst thing mom had ever done for our birthday, even worse than when we turned sixteen.
A little while after Ethan left, I decided that I had much better things to do than look after the doomsayer sleeping upstairs. But as I headed towards the door, she came downstairs. She looked much paler than earlier today, but at least she could speak now without bursting into tears. “Hold on, Ollie”, she called as I put on my jacket.
I turned around. In her nightgown, she looked even scrawnier than she already appeared. My mother was taking aging very badly, and we could all feel it. “Mom, what are you still doing up? It’s late, you should get some rest.”
That was the closest to Perfect Ethan as she was going to get from Oliver Hartfield tonight. “You’ve always been my favorite son, Ollie”, she randomly confessed.
I flinched. She had always favored Ethan, and now this? What sort of game was this old lady pulling? “I sense that you are the one who fears mortality the most,” she whispered, “Ethan has no fear of death; he is content with his life. Ryan on the other hand, has no concept of time and spends most of his time drinking life away, anyway. But you, you’re as scared as a pig in a butcher’s shop. You have so much potential, but you’re afraid that you won’t live long enough to take in the fruits of your labour.”
She hugged me, the way she did when I was twelve; which coincidentally was also the last time she hugged me before now. “If you kill your brothers, their remaining years will be passed onto you”, she whispered, she head against my chest.
I flinched. This was so incredibly unexpected. I didn’t want to die, but did I really have it in me? Would I really kill my brothers to extend my own life? No… (Yes)
I can’t! (I can)
I won’t! (I will)
Ethan’s house was in the next town over, about forty kilometers away. A revolver with a fully loaded barrel was tucked perfectly in my jacket pocket… it had been a gift from my father; the one responsible for this entire show.
My brother, hands down the most successful of the Hartfield triplets so far, lived with his girlfriend in a decent sized home with grey shingles. I inconspicuously walked up the steps and searched for the doorbell, only to quickly realize that he didn’t have one. Ethan was all about class; a brass lion door knocker replaced the modern doorbell. I knocked thrice and my potential victim came to greet me three seconds later. “Oliver?” he greeted with uncertainty, “What are you doing here this late at night?”
“It’s about mom,” I lied, “She wants you to watch her instead of me.”
“And you couldn’t have called me?” he sighed, “That would’ve been much better than driving out here and leaving mom alone for an hour.”
Was he onto me? No… not yet. As I led him out to the car, I subtly slipped the revolver from my coat pocket and into my sleeve. A courteous schemer, I opened the passenger door of my car for him. As he prepared to step in, I jammed the barrel into his stomach and pulled the trigger. A deafening sound echoed through the empty, dimly lit street. That must’ve woken at least a dozen people up. The only thing to do now was to slide Ethan’s body into the passenger seat, make it look like he got inside by himself. As I attempted to slide my brother’s corpse into the passenger seat, his gaze met mine.
I looked down at his stomach. A hole was apparent, but no blood. Looking up, his gaze met mine once again. A few unmeasured moments passed before I understood. With a dark grin on his face, he revealed the bulletproof vest underneath. Before I could fire again to finish him, the gun was wrested from my grasp and flung onto Ethan’s lawn. I stumbled over to grab it, but the feeling of cold steel against the back of my head stopped me in a heartbeat. “Oliver… you wanted to know the reason I wasn’t afraid of death the way you were? It’s quite simple, really. Mother and I were in on this together. I’m her favorite, Oliver. Wasn’t it obvious? I’m the perfect child, and you’re a wilted flower. Now – “
Ryan stood on the other side of my car, a smoking gun in his hand.