THE SINGLING • by R J Murray

When he first arrived to town, we took it as a sign, a bad omen sent to unravel us. We all knew about these oddities, distinguished by their missing half, grotesque and unnerving.

He was a monstrous sight alright, this single headed creature, and most could not bear to look at him. You see, it was widely believed that singlings were the devil’s children, come forth to deliver wrath to us innocents, us natural, perfect couplings. The good book had described it so, and we all knew that was never wrong. Two by Two, just like the beginning. Everything parallel, everything conjoined. Any deviation of this was unfathomable. Ungodlike.

We’d all read the scary stories about them, always malevolent, always evoking terror and unease. One without a twin cannot be trusted, was something that had always been drummed into us as children. In church, in the classroom, at home. But to us it seemed like a fable, something otherworldly and unreal. We had never before witnessed a singling in real life. That is, until he arrived.

Night and Day, his presence consumed us. We would have secret discussions after lights out, exploring the unsayable, taunting each other to imagine a life like it, a death like it — to be completely alone. How horrifying a fate to endure! We all knew about that film, banned from the town twenty years before. The savage tale of the singling who rose to power, who ordered each coupling to be separated, ending with the whole town being sliced in two, each and every twin transformed into singlings. Talk of the film was actively forbidden and those couplings found guilty of discussing it were sent to confinement for two days. We know this as we were one of such couplings and write this with fear, for if we are ever caught….

And so because of our fierce curiosity in the subject, we did not shun him, but rather we had courage to be almost near him, to follow, to observe. Yes, we were warned to stay away, that his mere breath contained malicious venom and would surely cast us down. Yet, the authorities did not detain him nor question his behaviour. You see, this creature kept to himself, was silent in his existence, law abiding and if you can possibly imagine it, perfectly pleasant in his manner. We wondered why he was not in constant turmoil and disgust for his singularity. Why he did not surrender himself to the gods to take him, to deliver in his place a correct body, a worthy existence.

But indeed, his actions proved quite the opposite. After a month in town, his presence became less and less feared and he began to prove himself as a scholar, a talented surgeon and advocator of advanced medicine. Shortly after, the government insisted he was placed at the hospital. Of course, the coupling doctors would not hear of it and demanded an appeal but as he persisted in his gentleness, his articulate tongue and alarming knowledge, he was reluctantly accepted by them. Although at first he was not permitted direct contact with patients, lest they die in fright from his grotesqueness.

But as you may tell, we were keener than most couplings to meet him, speak with him, and so when he wrote to us for assistance in his medical experiment, we gladly accepted. They say he’s a visionary, you know. A genius. It’s tomorrow we go to the hospital. Some of our friends have gone there already and although it’s been a week since we heard from them, we’re sure it’s been a huge success and we are honoured to be included.

Oh! We now hear footsteps approaching, or rather one of us does. Our left head is always more acute than our right. We’re used to listening, waiting, ever since the government ban. It’s for our own safety, you see — part of the experiment, they said.

We hear a voice from outside followed by more footsteps then muffled screams. We look outside the locked window and alas there stands a singling! But that is not the doctor. No, this one wears a long gown and has deep abrasions on her skin, a hollowness to her glare. Now the men restrain her, take her in the vehicle and then silence again.

We are wildly curious as to who this new singling is. But we won’t have to wait long. You see, they’re coming for us tomorrow and we will know then. We sure look forward to meeting the doctor, this mighty singling. And we will now close with the final passage of the good book to guide us into our slumber… “and the medicine man cometh and thou too shall be mended.” Amen.

R J Murray is a writer and musician from Scotland and has published work in Penny Zine, Helllo Horror, The Ink Stains anthology and others. She is inspired by all things haunted and strange and is currently writing her first novel.

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