When the Northmen first arrived in Iceland, they didn’t believe they were the first ones there. They believed there was a secret race of men, a hidden people: The Huldufólk. They knew this was their home, and this hidden people lived among the trees and boulders, watching them, influencing their lives, and punishing those that harmed their sacred places.
They Were Right.
The Huldufólk are invisible to us, walking among us, influencing our world. Yet they’re more like us than we might expect, and much like us, they fall in love, whether they want to or not. When a Huldufólk falls in love with a human and has children with them, the pairing always results in twins: one human, and one Huldufólk – The Lost Twin. This is one of their stories.
The Psych Eval
“So, how far back do you remember having these delusions?”
Dr. Calvert was just beginning jotting observations on his new patient, but the final determination was fairly certain. The police didn’t point suicide attempts his direction just expecting them to be sent home with some aspirin.
“Delusions?” Amy gave a chuckle. “Frankly Doc, sometimes I wish they were just that. In some ways my life would make a lot more sense.” She took a drag of her cigarette and considered where to begin. The hospital was a strict non-smoking area — it had been for the entire time Dr Calvert had been there. How the girl managed to get through intake with a pack and a lighter was beyond him. If the Doctor stopped to ponder it, he’d have been even more confused why he’d let her light one up.
“It started when I was just a girl. Our mom never had — how would I put it — an overabundance of caution around the house. All those TV ads about keeping your cleaning products out of reach? Let’s say our mom didn’t watch a lot of TV. The story goes that one day, I was around 5 at the time, I must’ve watched a cartoon where a witch or something made a potion in their cauldron. Eye of newt, skin of a drowned rat, that sort of stuff. So when mom wasn’t looking, I went searching through the kitchen for my ‘ingredients’. Apparently my components of choice that day were marshmallows, goldfish, bleach, and drain cleaner.”
The image was enough to get Dr Calvert to pay a bit of undivided attention to his patient, at least for a moment. “So what were you trying to conjure up?”
“Who knows? Maybe a dad who did more than send Christmas and Birthday cards. Maybe I was trying to smite some mean kid at the park. All I know is that I mixed my potion and was getting ready to give it a taste, when there was a crash. Apparently all the pots and pans our mom had precariously stacked in the drying rack picked that moment to have an avalanche, and the clang was enough to draw mother from her book in the other room.”
“Sounds like your mother was bad at stacking pots.”
“Maybe.” Amy took another drag. “And then there was our uncle’s house. He’d watched a few episodes of This Old House, and decided he’d spend a month building his own backyard patio. He was excited enough over it to invite us for a barbeque. Overall he did a decent job, but he hadn’t put a railing in yet, which is the sort of thing you should think about before a toddler goes barreling over the side of the thing.”
“How far was the fall?,” Dr Calvert asked.
“Farther down than I was tall, and straight on to concrete. I distinctly remember falling face first, and then everything going black. According to Uncle Pete, he’d never seen mom so scared. He thought he’d just gotten his niece killed, or very least her skull cracked wide open. But when our mom grabbed me and took me to the hospital, I just had this big gash, in the middle of my forehead. Blood everywhere, but no worse for wear. Our Uncle was the one that first said I had to have someone up there watching out for me.”
Roswen stood behind Amy, her hand on the back of her sister’s chair. While Amy usually favored light, colorful clothes you’d get off a rack at Forever 21 (though she was currently relegated to a threadbare hospital gown), Ros’s getup of choice generally involved yoga pants, a dark tank top, and a leather jacket (Ros had learned early on that thick leather was the best way to protect from the swing of a knife). Ros lacked her sister’s signature scar — a hairline white mark down the center of her forehead. Instead she carried a long scar down the side of her neck, a reminder that leather only protects you from a knife’s arc if you get your arm up fast enough. The doctor, of course, didn’t notice Roswen. No one ever did.
Their mother had only known their father for a week or so. They stayed together night and day, and after a week of calling out sick with worsening excuses, she went in for work. When she returned, he was gone, and nine months later, she had Amy.
Leading up to the birth, her doctors had sworn she was having twins. Two baby girls were born, and she’d held both of them. But shortly afterwards, one of those twins was forgotten. Lost. According to the hospital she’d only had one child, and she certainly didn’t remember any differently. She had already set up the nursery for twins, of course, but never really questioned why she’d bought her daughter bunk beds when Amy was old enough. Then again, Amy never questioned why she referred to her mother in the plural, despite being an only child. It was always our mother. Our grandpa. Our uncle.
Ros wandered over to the Doctor and looked over his notes. Outlook: not so good. “Hallucinations” had been jotted down a few times, along with the something called “pronoia” (which a quick google search explained was the belief the world was secretly conspiring for your success), and the word she’d been fearing, with a question mark: schizophrenia?
“And then there was the mugging. I’d gone downtown to see a show, and after I was good and liquored up, … among some other things …, I made my way back to the subway. I wandered down a dark alley — wandering down a dark alley by myself, I know, how cliché, right — and that’s when he popped out. I gave him my money without a fight, but then he decided he wanted my necklace too. Our grandmother’s necklace. I argued with him over it, and I was amped up enough to swing my purse at him. That’s when he took a stab at me. And tripped.”
“Sounds very lucky, if you ask me.” Dr Calvert was already about done believing this ‘string of good luck’.
“Very lucky, sure,” Amy said, “except he didn’t so much as trip, as … fling himself straight past me. Head first into a dumpster. And then down onto the pavement, hard. Harder than he should’ve, if you ask me. He didn’t move after that, and I didn’t stick around to see if he was going to. I ran to the subway and tried not to think about it. Clearly that didn’t work out.”
“So how does this all lead to you throwing yourself in front of a bus?”
Amy put out her cigarette butt on the side of the chair, and lit another. “Well those were just the big points. There’s lots more. One time I found myself getting evicted from my apartment for no clear reason, and two days later it was just ‘fixed’. I got fired from the bookstore because the manager thought I was stealing — I wasn’t, by the way — and then I get hired on the spot at the very first place I apply. On my way to our mother’s funeral, I was running late, like always, and my car breaks down. I’m freaking out, no idea how to get home, when a car pulls over, asks if I need a lift, and it turns out they’re heading down the street from where I need to be. My whole fucking life, doc, I’ve been the rope in a tug of war, and they’re, like, really obvious about it.
“I’ve always known, somewhere, there was someone watching out for me, but the mugging ‘accident’ was too much. I needed to prove it to myself. So the next day, I jumped out in front of that bus, and I knew I was right.”
“Well the report says someone must’ve yanked you backwards in the nick of time, sure,” Dr Calvert chimed in. “But any number of passers-by could have been the one who pulled you to safety. In the police report, I see you came to the conclusion that it must have been your guardian angel. Or at least that’s what you ranted about until they picked you up.
“Is there any history of mental illness in your family, Amy?” Ros knew Amy had been right about someone looking out for her, of course. Not quite a guardian angel, but Amy wasn’t far off from the truth. Their father had warned Ros time and time again: she intervened for Amy too often. Now here were the consequences. Maybe some time in here would be safer for her, Ros thought. Maybe the notion will pass if her idiot guardian angel doesn’t come riding to the rescue this time.
“History of mental illness? Not unless you count our mom believing that dad would just drop in one day,” Amy quipped. “So, what’s the verdict, Doc?”
“Well, Miss Jones, I’m afraid these delusions are deeply ingrained in your psyche. I have a number of psychotropic options which may help, but these are slow acting, uncertain options. A case as advanced as yours — where you’ve already begun placing yourself in dangerous situations — may require some unorthodox approaches, if we want to have a chance of reversing the damage these delusions have caused. I’m going to recommend you to a promising study with one of my colleagues.”
Roswen looked over the abstract Dr Calvert was perusing. “Electroshock Therapy, Reborn — Revisiting the Efficacy of Electrical Impulses in Treating Destructive Delusional Behavior”. Electroshock therapy? Roswen was pretty sure the science had been debunked decades ago, though she’d fallen asleep in most of Amy’s Intro to Psych classes. The memo was dated for just this morning, after Amy’s check-in to the hospital last night. Someone was fucking with them again.
It had to be someone in The Banished. Sometimes other factions in The Blessed would mess with Roswen’s sister in minor ways — just to distract Ros for a while while they pulled a fast one. None of them would be amoral enough to sign up her sister for electrocution. She hoped. Either way, someone was going to get their fucking house set on fire.
Ros sighed. She’d hate intervening one more time, just feeding into Amy’s ‘delusion’, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and she had to get her sister out of this place, pronto. As Doctor Calvert picked up the evaluation form, Ros leaned over behind him, placing her hand around his.
“I’m considering this a severe case, with extreme probability for harm to yourself or others.” Doctor Calvert wrote down his evaluation: anxiety, with minimal chance of danger. “I’m going to need to have you committed here temporarily, for further evaluation, until Dr Engman is ready to begin his study.” Doctor Calvert didn’t notice himself skipping the “involuntary commit” option, instead checking the box on the form indicating Amy could be released on her own recognizance. Roswen let the Doctor write out his prescription for Thorazine, an antipsychotic, and then quickly scratched it out. When he wrote a script for Valium, however, Ros left it alone.
Doctor Calvert opened the door, handing the form to a nurse aid waiting outside. She looked over the form, a bit surprised. She turned to question the Doctor, but he’d already taken off, down the hall and to another floor.
“Well Miss,” the nurse said, “it seems you’re free to go. I’ll direct you to the pharmacy window on your way out.” She sniffed the air. “Was someone smoking in here?”
Amy snuffed her cigarette out under her chair. “I wouldn’t worry about it,” she said, and walked out of the room.
Ros followed Amy home, making sure she got into her apartment, and there was no one waiting for her.
Alright, it’s business time, Ros thought. Time to make some calls and pick up some gasoline.
“Into the Forest” Illustration by Fabio Spagnoli.
“Psych Eval” Illustration by Jonathan Schneck.