Family Ties

Family Ties

A Story by Anor

The tunnel was dark and sooty. Perfect, thought Madeline. There would almost definitely be some sort of fungus growing near the edges. She liked fungus; looking at it had become a sort of comfort thing with her. Other people would look at flowers when they were depressed; bright, beautiful, and fragrant flowers. Not her, though; for her nothing was half as soothing as looking at the deep green fungus that often adorned otherwise decrepit walls. It was a strange sight : A tall woman, perhaps in her early twenties, staring forlornly at a wall in a dark tunnel. Most people would not have noticed the slightly apprehensive hunching of her shoulders, but would have left her well enough alone anyways. 

"Madeline!" A voice echoed through the tunnel. Madeline looked up nervously, who was it that had called her name? She hadn't told anyone that she was going to be here. 

Oh well, she thought. Might as well find out.

"Who is it?" She called. There was no response for a moment but an excited hoot, and then a reply came.

"Maddy! Is that really you?" The voice was exuberant, full of success. Madeline's heart felt as though it had stopped. Only her brother called her Maddy. Her little brother, her only sibling, whom she hadn't seen for nearly a decade.

"Henry? Is that you?" She called out unsteadily. She wasn't quite sure about how she felt to see her brother again.

The noise of someone running echoed through the tunnel, and was suddenly replaced by the sound of someone tumbling and cursing as they got back up. A few seconds later, Henry came into sight, a few rays of light reflecting off of his sooty face. "I finally found you! I've been looking for hours and hours, I even went to your 
greenhouse!" He stopped for a second, and his mouth opened as if to giggle, but he resolutely clamped it shut. He looked around unsurely, "Why are you here in this dump anyways? It hasn't been used for quite a while."

Madeline didn't say anything. She just smiled, and hugged her brother. She was sure now, she was happy to see him. He seemed startled by the hug, and Madeline pulled away quickly. "Why are you in England, Henry?" She asked.

"I was looking for you", he said. Madeline saw something in his eyes then, a sort of vitality. She hadn't seem him look this energetic in a very long time. He continued speaking, "I- I've made an amazing discovery, Maddy. It's simply wonderful. Well, I suppose it's more of an experiment than a discovery, but technically speaking it would apply-"

Madeline cut off his excited gabbering with a wave of her hand, and spoke, "Never mind the technicality; what is it you've done?".

"It's much too long to just tell you here. I just need you to see it, Maddy." He said earnestly. "Listen, you're free this weekend, right?" He opened his mouth again, and just as firmly and resolutely shut it. "I need you to fly to South Africa." Madeline started to question him, but he cut her off mid-sentence. "Listen to me, just 
do it, okay? You have to. Please. For me. I'll get the ticket for you and everything." He spoke feverishly, desperately trying to communicate the importance of what he was saying. "I'll be at the airport. I've got a boat out at the southern coast. There's this island I need to take you to."

"But Henry, what is your experiment? And why is it so important that I come see it?" Madeline was determined to get an answer. She spoke with her 'stern' voice. Most of her greenhouse assistants would normally crumple upon hearing that voice. Not so Henry.

"Look, I'll tell you later, okay? Just do it, Saturday, 9 A.M. I'll tell you all about it when we get there. Please, Maddy. I need you to say yes." It was obvious that she wouldn't be able to get any more out of Henry. She sighed, and nodded. "Thank you so much! I appreciate it Maddy, I appreciate it. Now I have to go. See you there!" And just like that, Henry took off back into the tunnel, the sounds of him stumbling echoing all the way back to Madeline.

How bizarre. Well, she thought, at least she had something to look forward to on the weekend.


Madeline was sitting on a plane, flying through the air at over a thousand miles per hour. She clutched a file on her lap. There was a sudden tilt, and a man walking by bumped into her seat. He apologized, and walked on. Madeline hadn't even noticed. Her mind was occupied with memories of the past.

"Maddy, Maddy! Where are you going?" Madeline turned around to see her little brother, Henry, running towards her. He was a teenager, but he behaved exactly like a child. "Wait up, Maddy!" He giggled. A chill went down Madeline's spine. She hated the giggling. It reminded her of things that she would rather forget, and it showed her just how finished her family truly was.

Henry caught up with her and grabbed her arm. He panted, occassionally giggling, then said, "Where are you going, Maddy? Are you leaving us? Why are you doing that? Hehehe- Auntie will be sad, Maddy!"

"I have to leave, Henry. I have to go to a school somewhere else. It's in England. You remember England, right? It's where we lived before we lived with Auntie."

"England? Where Mum is? Hehe- Can I come too?" The boy's voice was full of jubilation. It was the opposite of what Madeline felt, a cold, crushing feeling in her heart.

 He still doesn't get it...

She smiled weakly and spoke again, "No Henry, you have to stay here and keep Auntie company in my place, okay? You can come when you're bigger, once you've finished school."

Henry looked indignant, and shouted, "I want to see Mum too! She's my mother as well, not just yours! I wanna see her!"

"Mother's dead, Henry! Accept it already!" Before the words even left her mouth, Madeline regretted saying them. Her brother was unstable, and she was supposed to keep from inciting him.

Henry seemed startlingly quiet. When he next spoke, it was practically a whisper which Madeline had to strain to hear. "She's not dead. She's not dead. She's not dead. She's just in the ground with a big lump of stone stuck on it. That doesn't make her dead. It doesn't it doesn't it doesn't it doesn't!" The words carried a quiet intensity.

Madeline left him standing there as she walked on, welcoming the chance at a new life, perhaps with a new family.

And here she was now...

So much had changed since then. She had become a successful herbologist and had a whole new life now. She had gotten over the passing of her mother. The first great surprise in her new life had been a few years after that incident, when she had seen Henry's face in a newspaper. He was older then, and had an undeterminable expression in his face. "BRILLIANT YOUNG SCIENTIST BRINGS BUTTERFLY BACK TO LIFE 40 HOURS AFTER DEATH".  For some weeks after that, the papers had been flooded with news of Henry's constant achievements. The media had even found out that Madeline was his sister, and she had been pestered for hours on end for information about him as a child.

What could she have told them, anyways? That the two of them had beeen practically completely dependent on their mother? That she was the focal point of their whole lives? That Henry had lost his mind after she died?

The media had also seemed interested in his strange giggle. They had asked her how long it hand been there for. Madeline had tensed for a moment before lying, "It's been there as long as I remember. It's some sort of disease, I guess." She hadn't wanted to spoil his life by telling them the truth.

She had only made contact with him once before their meeting at the tunnel. It had been a phone call, on her 22nd birthday. The landline had been ringing, and she had picked it up, to hear a voice quietly mutter "Happy Birthday, Maddy. Hope I can see you soon." Four weeks later, he had run into her at the tunnel. 

Madeline raised the file that she had on her lap. The air hostess had given it to her, saying, "Mr. Henry said to give this to you when you boarded." She had forgotten all about it, having been absorbed in her thoughts. Well, now was as good a time as any, she thought. She ripped it open, and a photograph fell onto her lap. It was her Mother's grave. Someone had put flowers on it, fresh at the time of the photo. Madeline had thought that she had managed to repress all the painful memories, but she was wrong. Fresh tears fell from her eyes on to the photo. Madeline heard a slight singing noise and looked down at the picture. Where the tears had landed, they had erased the top layer to expose another one below it. She used her finger to spread the tears all over the photo, until the top layer was completely gone.

Underneath was a white background with a sentence on it. "I knew you still cared - Henry". What did he mean by that? Why would he bring it up? She had thought that Henry was recovering, given that he had managed to surpress his unfortunate giggles back at the tunnel. Evidently, however, he wasn't. Still, there wasn't much that Madeline could do at the moment. Once she reached the airport, however, she intended to confront Henry about the picture, and ask him what she was playing at. Until then, her mind needed solace and refuge from all the dark memories attacking it. Madeline closed her eyes and rested her head on the chair. Within a minute, she dropped off into a troubled sleep.


Madeline looked at Henry, and then looked at where he was pointing. "This is your boat?" She asked. It was surprisingly old looking, wooden, curved at the edges, with long blade-like oars.

"Yes it is. I picked it up for a pretty penny from a museum and had it rebuilt. It's based on the old Viking longboat model. Now, shall we?" Henry's voice carried a sort of sophistication in it that Madeline couldn't recall having heard before. She had been puzzling about it the moment he had come to pick her up at the airport. When she had spoken to him about the picture, he had laughed it off, and said "You'll see, Maddy, you'll see." He had told her he'd tell her everything once they were on the boat. Well, it was time now.

The two of them got onto the boat, and Henry began rowing. "It's not too far from here. Barely a couple of miles. You can see it on the horizon if you look carefully."

Madeline looked, and she saw a small, floating piece of land in the distance. "Not a very big island." She commented dryly.

Henry laughed, and then said, "Now, I suppose you'll want to know just what's going on before we get there. Let me just warn you beforehand, its rather overwhelming."

"Overwhelming or not, I'm prepared. I did just fly all the way from England from this. It's time to spill your secrets, Henry."

"Well, then, I suppose I should start at the beginning. I'm sure you know when the beginning is, Maddy. The start of all these worries." He said. Madeline nodded, of course she knew. There had been only one pivotal moment in their lives up until then. Only one. "You may remember that I had great difficulty accepting Mother's death. I was delusional, I believed that she was still alive, that we could still live with her. I missed her terribly, Maddy. I missed her more than I'd ever missed anything before. In death she became more precious to me than life itself. Every day after you left, I cursed the stars for separating us, and I raged out wildly, a kindling flame against the Hand of God, determined to be reunited with my mother against all odds." Henry spoke blankly, as though making a statement. "You'll be pleased to know, Madeline, that not long after, I accepted finally that she was dead. I went to her grave and sobbed for hours, but I accepted it."

Madeline smiled. "That's good, isn't it, Henry? You know that saying, don't you? 'Acceptance is the first step towards recovery'?"

"Precisely, I accepted Mother's death, and I recovered from my foolish dilemmas. Once I had accepted it, I knew I had something to work towards, a goal to accomplish. It's that goal which I've brought you here to see now." The island seemed closer now, barely a few minutes away from them.

"Goal? What goal? Some sort of scientific breakthrough?"

"Not exactly. You see, upon realizing that Mother was dead, there was only one logical thing to do."

Madeline suddenly felt uneasy. What was going on? "And that is?"

"I had to bring her back."

Six words. Six simple words that suddenly shattered the facade of Henry's sanity. He hadn't recovered. He hadn't grown up. He was still a little boy hurting on the inside, the same one Madeline had left behind many years ago.

"Henry... when you say 'bring her back', do you mean-", Madeline began to spoke but she was stopped in her tracks as Henry interjected.

"-Reincarnate her. Bring her back to the realm of the living. And I've done it Maddy, in God's name, I've done it. Our mother is back on this earth once more."

It was all too much to take in. Back from the dead? Henry was obviously hallucinating. It was impossible to do something like that. Madeline couldn't help but feel sorry for her young brother, so she decided to humour him.

"And how did you manage to accomplish that?" She asked. Once he found that he had no reasonable answer, hopefully the whole charade would collapse in his mind. After that, she would need to take him to a therapist. She couldn't help but feel a twinge of guilt for remembering that if she hadn't abandoned him things might have turned out differently.

"Simple, really." He said. "The human body has a fairly simple composition of elements. All that really makes it human is the brain, and the personality the brain develops. I, of course, did not want to create something like a clone of mother, which outwardly looked like her but had none of her characteristics. I had to replicate her complete with her memory. Now, you see, Maddy, memory in a brain is similar to memory in a computer. It's compartmentalized into different areas. In the case of the brain, these are certain specific DNA strands. I went to Mother's grave and took some of these from her."

"You did what? Henry, do you realize what the hell you just said? You broke into Mother's grave and defiled her body!" Madeline couldn't control her rage. She had intended to humour her delusional brother, but it seemed that he was further gone than she could have possibly anticipated.

"The results make up for it Maddy! Mum's back! That's what counts, isn't it?" As Henry spoke, Madeline realized that she couldn't possibly remain angry at it. How could she, after all? He still thought that he was doing a good deed, that by some miracle he had accomplished the impossible.

Henry saw the doubt in her eyes. He saw it, and it burned him. "You don't believe me, do you?" His mouth opened, and a single "Heh" came out. The familiar chill ran down Madeline's spine, as she realized she was alone in a boat with her delusional brother, with nobody near her. "You don't believe me Maddy! Why don't you believe me!"

"Because it's impossible!" Madeline shouted against her own will. Henry drew back for a moment, and his eyes darted wildly in all directions like a cornered animal. He then reached his hand into his pocket, slowly. Madeline began to back away further down the boat. Henry drew his hand out, and Madeline jumped. 

"What?" He asked. In his hand was another photograph. He held it out to Madeline, and told her to look at it. Madeline took it and looked, keeping one eye on Henry the whole while. Then she gasped. She took her eye off Henry and looked at the photo with a deranged intensity. What she saw was impossible, it couldn't possible be real. The picture was of a woman with her back to the camera, perched like a monkey of the branch of a tree in a huge forest. Madeline knew that it was her mother. The long, braided hair, was unmistakeable. She tried to see more details, but the photo was blurry and not much could be gleaned from it.

"How...?" She practically breathed the question. All doubt was erased from her mind. The picture proved it beyond the shadow of a doubt.

"I already told you Maddy. I already told you." Henry's voice was suddenly understanding. After all, this was what he had felt when he had finally succeeded in doing what he had done.  

"Is she... is she like she was?" Madeline asked. Was it really possible that she could talk to her mother again?

"To be honest, she's not very talkative at the moment. She just sits and looks out into the world. I guess she's too full of joy at being alive again to bother with basic interactions. The sitting posture seems to be some sort of glitch in her memory, or her instinct. I'll try to fix it if I can."

"Glitch? She's a human being. They're souls, not machines."

"That's a very romanticized view to hold, Maddy. Humans are just like computers. Their body is hardware, their minds and souls are software. Any problems can be called glitches without reprieve. There's no real sacred value in a soul."

"That's not right. That's not right at all." Maddy didn't like being told that. Humans were worth something. All life was. They weren't simply machines.

"Your choice to believe what you like, Maddy. Anyways, we're here now. Grab my hand and let's get on to the island." Henry said.


Madeline stood in Henry's laboratory. It was an impressive place, but she didn't have any eyes for it at the moment. "Where is she?", she asked.

"In that room." Henry pointed at a door in the corner of the lab. Madeline started walking towards it but he stopped her. "Let me just tell you, Maddy. She doesn't look quite like she used to, but I swear to you. That is our mother. That is her as she was, and is." Madeline spared a moment to nod, and opened the door. She looked inside, moving her eyes along the length of the room, until they reached a chair on the far side-

Madeline screamed shrilly and banged the door shut. What she had seen hadn't been her mother. It hadn't even been human. The only point of resemblance had been the hair. A hideous, grotesque, blackened being with inverted joints had been laying on the chair. It had looked at her through feral yellow eyes. Madeline didn't want to open the door ever again. It wasn't her mother. It couldn't be.
"Maddy? Something wrong?" asked Henry. "You might have scared Mum. She's not used to this yet."

"Henry... that... thing is not our mother. It's a monster!" shouted Madeline.

"How could you say that, Maddy? He-he- That's Mum, Madeline, Mum! Dear old Mum who cared for us all that while until she died! She's back with us now, Maddy!" Henry's voice carried deep-seated conviction. How could Madeline possible summon the heart to tell him that he was wrong? Did she have the right to shatter her brother's dreams? Wouldn't it be better to just let him carry on believing, to let his make-believe world be reality for him? 


It had to stop. The kindest thing to do would be to kill the beast. Henry had to know. It only ends once, thought Madeline. Everything up until then is just progress. And this had progressed far enough.

"Henry... I'm sorry, but you're wrong. That's not Mum. You have to get rid of her-... it."

"I WON'T DO ANY SUCH THING, MADDY!" Henry roared at her. This was the angriest she'd seen him. She was about to reply in a similar suit when the door broke down. The being had charged it once, and the entire reinforced steel door had given way like paper. It looked at her, and lunged. 

Madeline dodged out of the way, and the beast charged straight into a pile of computers and was immediately entangled in a mess of wires. It started screaming, the voice like that of a demon from a world that should never have had the right to exist. Madeline grabbed Henry's hand and ran with him to the second floor of the lab. He didn't seem much interested in running. She practically had to drag him as he screamed, "Mum! Mum, come here! Maddy's hurting me!"

She pulled him into another room and locked it shut. "Why are you running from Mum, Maddy?" Henry's voice was cracking, almost sobbing.

Madeline answered. "Henry... I don't know whether or not that thing is Mother. But if it is... Then Mum's trying to kill us, Henry. Mum's trying to kill us."

Henry's reply was quiet, almost impossible to hear. "I'm sorry that you don't see this like I do."

"Listen to me. Whatever Mum was, she isn't now. Mum's dead. DEAD. Do you understand me, Henry? Dead."

"...Hehe- She's not dead. She's -Hehe- not dead. She's not dead. She's not dead." His muttering picked up volume, and it rose to high pitched screaming. "SHE'S NOT DEAD! SHE'S NOT DEAD! SHE'S NOT DEAD!"

Madeline ignored him, instead looking around the room for something which could be used as a weapon. It was inevitable that the monster downstairs would escape from the wires soon enough. She didn't want to be looking at its yellow eyes with nothing in her hands the next time. The room seemed like a surgery theatre. There was a gurney in the centre, and cabinets of tools on the opposite wall. Madeline opened one, the creak of the cupboard barely audible over the sound of Henry's frenzied screaming and giggling. She spied something catching the light. Perfect.

Madeline took the object and then stopped in her tracks. Even Henry quieted down for a moment. The monster was howling. It sounded like the most demented dog to have ever existed. Then there was a pattering. A pattering sound getting increasingly close. Madeline hugged the weapon close to her as the beast neared. The sound suddenly stopped.

It's outside...

The door broke down with a resounding crack, and it fell to the floor with a bang. Through a haze of dust, Madeline could see it. And it could see her. 

Madeline knew what had to be done. She held up the large scalpel she had found, and charged at the monster, hoping against hope that she could hit it. As she charged, though, Henry tackled her to the ground. "This is Mother, Madeline! What do you think you're DOING? HEHE- You can't hurt Mum! You can't kill her after all the effort it took to bring her back!"

Madeline tried to push Henry off, but he hung on to her like a bag of lead. She could hear the beast slowly crawling forward. The weight on her chest suddenly disappeared as the monster picked Henry up easily in one hand. He looked at her ecstatically, and tried to embrace her, but she threw him against the wall with great force. There was an audible crack as several of Henry' ribs broke. Madeline scrambled up quickly and ran at the beast again, all fear forgotten. She had to save Henry. She had to help her brother. It was her job, her responsibility. She had to. 

It rammed a hand at her, and she was thrown right back. It ran towards Henry, and hefted him up once again. Even as Madeline ran towards it, she knew she was too late. Henry's neck made a loud snapping sound as his 'Mother' savagely bit into it. Madeline watched as her only brother fell to the ground, blood trailing from his neck. She felt like a spectator in her own body. All of her actions seemed to be controlled by someone else, they seemed so far away. It wasn't her who ran up to the beast. It wasn't her whose hand stabbed it in the back with the scalpel. It wasn't her who heard it say something, something that sounded suspiciously like 'Madeline'. And it certainly wasn't her who uncaringly, unflinchingly silenced it with another slice to the neck.

"Mum?... Henry?" And all of a sudden, it was her again. She was back. She looked at the ruin of the monster at her feet. Not the slightest bit of pity rose in her. Madeline turned around, and saw him. Lying on the ground. She took a few trembling steps towards him, determined not to cry. She owed him that much, at least. She looked at his face. It was covered in blood. His eyes were shut, and his mouth was open as though in an exclamation. 

Madeline gasped. Henry coughed. He coughed again and again, and then opened his eyes. "Ma-ddy?..."

Madeline wasn't able to speak. She could only choke back tears. She had a second chance, Fate had given her a second chance!

Henry's breath petered away, and his body grew still. It was impossible to hold back any longer. Madeline broke down, and wept. Her chance was taken. Fate had decreed this punishment for her. She sobbed for ages, sitting by her family.

Eventually, she stood up. Maybe she did have a second chance. Maybe Henry wasn't gone just yet. He couldn't be dead. That just wasn't how it worked. She could save him. She could save him! She would bring her brother back! She knew what had gone wrong, she could do it! 

Giggling like a demon, Madeline turned the scalpel to her brother's head.

© 2013 Anor

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Added on May 15, 2013
Last Updated on May 15, 2013



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