The Twins
Sumneet, Age 16, New Delhi

Death and life have permeable walls and he who enjoys living, never fears dying. I feel this is why they say that most of us just exist; there is rarely someone who actually lives...

Deep inside the valleys of north, where rustling leaves begin whispering your presence and cold winds eventually nestle, resides a beautiful land; a home to countless squirrels and to me. We proudly call it “The Squirrel Nest.” I have belonged to this kingdom as long as I have lived as a squirrel. I knew I was a squirrel when I woke up one morning, stupefied to discover that my legs and arms have been squeezed in an unwanted manner. And to my dismay, I had grown scattered hair all over my body. Somehow, I vaguely remembered that my previous life didn’t include such stuff. And it made me all the more angry when I was faced with the fact that I was not even unique in this appearance. There survived one more squirrel who had the same lovely eyes and the same shabby tail: my identical twin, Max. Perhaps I could be much happier without him. His presence makes me feel inferior. We have got the same looks but it is disgusting to know that while he is an all rounder, I am good for nothing. He is excellent in studies, has the most melodious voice, and once watched, one cannot forget his expertise in ice skating. When spotted from far, he appears to the viewers a heavenly figure propelling over the white crystals of frozen water. One can only stop and admire him doing it professionally. On the other hand, I cannot even dream of standing on ice. Wearing skates and dancing over it seems a nonsense talk. I actually wonder why I am not quick and bright like him; twins are meant to be alike, aren’t they?

Well, I know I can’t be him. And this is what concludes my useless routine thoughts. Sighing twice, I started towards my home, humming my favorite pieces of melody with joy. “Joe, Joe!!” I heard someone calling. “Joe. Move around, son.” I turned back to spot an old squirrel, wearing specs on his nose and holding telling beads of rosary in one hand. He was my grandpa, I recognized.

“Oh! Dear Joe. You took so long to return.” he began

“Is something wrong?” My eyes moved questioningly.

“Your brother has been taken to hospital, young squirrel. He fell from tree this morning and was badly injured.”

My jaw dropped. “Max fell? It can’t be!” I screamed.

Grandpa didn’t look up. His eyes were firmly focused on the grains of stones lying beside my feet. They won’t move.

“How long has it been? Is he any better?” I raised my voice further.

His eyes were still firm. I couldn’t believe my ears. Falling from trees was a big thing for us. It was fatal.

I didn’t wait any further for him to respond and hurriedly rushed towards the Health Hospital. “Max?” I was panting when I said those words at the reception.

“Room #19”, answered a gentle voice of a lady squirrel. Pushing away others and throwing things in my way, I stopped nineteen rooms away from the beginning point. He was there, my mother told me. I bent down and pressed my eyes against the narrow hole in the door. There were white sheets and white bandages all around. It took me minutes to realize that Max was wrapped inside. Tears ran down my cheeks. I didn't know I loved him so badly until I pitied his condition so much. I opened the door softly and moved inside. Watching him lying the bed was like dying myself. “Max...” I whispered. His hand moved and grasped mine. Tears rolled down my cheeks and rained over our hands. I sniffed, “Hey, coward. Were you afraid of today’s skating tournament? So, you chose to die instead, right?” My tears wouldn’t stop. I loosened my hands from his and covered my face. It is true I didn’t use to like him often. But he was my brother; how could I let him die. I sniffed again. “Didn’t you want to bag the title of the BEST SKATER? So why are you giving up, young champ. Hold your breath and get up.” I knew I was being senseless saying so, but what can one think of once he has encountered with his own death. Yes, Max’s death was the equivalent to Joe’s death. This wasn’t doubtful. Somewhere beneath the curvy layers of hatred and jealousy, I had an unconditional love for Max which I had discovered recently.

“I want that title, Joe,” Max spoke in a faint tone. “I have worked very hard my entire life to achieve this, but...” He paused.  “I don’t wish to die before seeing the trophy,” he finally said.

“There is no big deal in it, brother,” I busted out of emotions. “You and I look the same to the entire world. What if I go in your place and participate. At least I can try.” I couldn’t believe what I was saying. I knew I couldn’t stand more than a few seconds with those skates.

“Will you, little brother?” A smile entered his lips. “It’s not tough at all. Try to maintain balance by swinging your hands in air and push yourself forward. If you try, you can do this. I shall pray for your victory.”

“I will remember”, I told him and got out. I rushed to the place where the competition was to be held. It seemed tougher now. All participants were well prepared with years of practice, and all I had were the wishes of my dying brother. Very soon, the race began. I was trying my best to stabilize my body parts, when all of a sudden I realized that I had lost all control of my body. I was slipping on the smooth ice and didn’t get a chance to stop. Soon, I lost the track of my path and began proceeding in the wrong direction. I couldn’t do anything but wait. On my way, I fell in a small pit and my efforts to get out failed. I decided to leave my fate up to chance and continued to move into the darkness of the hole. There were rocks and rocks and nothing more. I spotted light somewhere and chose to trace that path. To my utter surprise, the opening of the burrow had taken me to the final line of the skating tournament race, and I was declared the winner as soon as I got out. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was awarded with the trophy and certificate of THE BEST SQUIRREL SKATER.

Without waiting anymore, I pulled off my skates and raced towards the hospital. Something unbelievable had happened and it seemed like magic. I hunted for Room #19.
“Max!” I yelled. He didn’t move. I placed the trophy beneath his hands. He felt it and a peaceful smile spread over his face. In no time, I knew he was dead.

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