Dark needs, p.1

Dark Needs, page 1

 part  #1 of  Dark Duet Series


Dark Needs
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Dark Needs
























  To be continued





  This will never end cause I want more.

  More, give me more, give me more.

  — Fever Ray


  AFTER MILES of nothing but trees and asphalt, the campus of Otranto Film School came into view around a bend in the road. I lifted my butt off the seat and raised my arms, as if I was in a roller coaster car rather than a 64 Malibu convertible. The air was suddenly warmer without the shade of a million rows of pines, and rays of afternoon sun reflected off of the gleaming red paint on the Malibu’s hood, sending blinding shards of light into my eyes. I groped around on the dashboard for my beloved Costas and slid them over my eyes, hoping the forty-mile-an-hour rush of wind wouldn’t blow them off my face.

  Gavin slowed the car and turned into the front entrance, following the curved drive through an expanse of meticulously striped lawn and coasting to a stop in front of a sprawling gothic castle. The stone structure loomed over us, its thick wood beams exposed and blackened like the charred remains of some burnt behemoth. Aging copper spires dotted the uneven roofline, their once-gleaming surfaces now water stained with rivulets of green and black. If not for the black iron sign pegged into the grass and engraved with Otranto Film School, I would have thought we’d slipped through a portal and ended up in some ancient corner of Europe rather than a private art college tucked away in the Tennessee hills.

  On the front porch, spindly wrought iron chairs lined up like crouching spiders beneath a leaded picture window of wavy antique glass. It was a porch straight out of a Tim Burton movie, and I could easily imagine a gaggle of undead Southern belles sipping mint juleps, flesh and bone glistening through the tatters of their rotting debutante gowns.

  Gavin had told me that most Otranto graduates went on to work on the dark side of the silver screen. Horror, thrillers, psychological mind-fuck films. Now I could see why. The mood was already rubbing off on me, taking my morbid imagination off to even darker places. Artistically speaking, that was a really good thing.

  “What do you think?” Gavin asked with a side glance in my direction. His full lips stretched tight, holding back the gloating smile that threatened to break.

  “You know very well what I think. It’s amazing. It’s everything.”

  Gavin couldn’t contain his smile any longer. “I told you so.”

  “Yeah, you did,” I conceded. “Don’t rub it in my face, but I’m glad you vetoed me when I wanted Cal Arts. This place is so much more us.”

  “But you didn’t trust me.”

  I shot him a nasty look. “You wouldn’t let me see the place. And Google didn’t help, either. I looked it up every which way and got nothing. It’s like Otranto has ghosted the internet.”

  “They’re very serious about their privacy. The first rule of film school is…”

  I rolled my eyes. “You don’t talk about film school.”

  Apparently, the most overused movie quote in modern cinema was fitting in the case of Otranto. The place was shrouded in secrecy, which was really odd for a college. You’d think their number one goal would be enrolling students, but apparently that took a backseat to perpetuating a freaky urban-legend image.

  Gavin had introduced me to the idea of attending the-school-no-one-ever-heard-of over a series of emails. He’d spent our senior year of high school studying abroad in England (another idea he’d sprung on me at the last minute), and we hadn’t had much contact while he was away. It had devastated me to be apart from my twin for that long, but I’d done my best not to let on. He wanted to desert me? Fuck him. But over the last couple of months, his correspondence had become increasingly frequent, mostly pertaining to college choices. We both knew we wanted to go to film school, but we had very different ideas about which school that might be.

  I don’t know how or where Gavin heard about the elusive Otranto Film School, but once he got hold of it, he was like a pitbull on a squirming pig.

  “This is the place, Bain. Trust me. No other school will do.”

  Before I’d even agreed to apply, an acceptance letter arrived: a matte black envelope with no return address. I’d known what it was instantly, though thinking back, I’m not sure why.

  Feeling the need to use an old-fashioned letter opener for the first time in my life, I’d gone on the hunt, creeping into Dad’s tomb-silent office and rummaging through the center drawer of his walnut desk. Why I crept, I have no idea, because no one was home. No one was ever home. But creep I did, wincing when the drawer squeaked on its track.

  The metal of the letter opener scraped the bottom of the drawer as I pulled it free. It felt good in my hand, the weight surprising, the metal cold. And when I sliced through the top of the envelope, the paper gave like softened butter. Inside was a single white card with an address printed in typewriter font:

  666 Devil’s Hollow Road

  Calamity, Tennessee

  “Cheesy as hell,” I’d whispered aloud. But a chill ran up my spine like the wick on a stick of dynamite and burst into a million tingles on my scalp. From that moment on, I could think of nothing but Gavin’s impending return and going to Otranto. Now after months of obsessing, it was surreal to finally be sitting in front of the school.

  Gavin squeezed the steering wheel, twisting it within his tight fists until his knuckles turned white. “The secret was worth keeping just to see that look on your face.” He raised his gaze to meet mine, looking earnest and uncertain for the first time since he’d come back from England.

  I rolled my eyes. “What look is that?”

  “The kid-on-Christmas-morning look.” Gavin reached over and pinched my cheek hard, the gloating smile returning and making me wonder if the earnest look had been nothing but a tease after all. Probably so, because Gavin didn’t care. If he cared, he would never have left me behind.

  “Ow! Dammit, that hurt.” I rubbed my cheek and scowled, less from physical pain and more from the memory of Gavin leaving. “What did you do that for?

  “I don’t know, I guess I missed picking on you. There was really no one in the U.K. for me to bully.”

  “Why didn’t you just look in the mirror and bully yourself? It’s practically the same thing.”

  “Oh, speaking of mirrors…” Gavin trained the rearview mirror on himself and ran a hand through his dark hair, trying to minimize the damage that hours of road wind had done. I didn’t bother to tell him that his ever-unkempt hair looked pretty much the same as always.

  We both kept our hair religiously trimmed and shaved in an undercut style that paid homage to 90’s skater boys, but mine was always smoothed and styled with wax— my one concession to vanity. Gavin was different. He rocked the bed-head look like no one I’d ever seen, and those unruly dark locks in combination with his bad-boy vibe and impeccable fashion sense drew girls like flies to honey. I, on the other hand, had no interest in drawing girls.

  “How do I look?” Gavin asked, mugging for me and waiting for my assessment.

  “Gorgeous. But you know that, you egotistical fuck.”

  He grinned. “Thanks. So do yo

  “Do I?” I reached a tentative hand up to feel my own mess of windblown locks, most of them crunchy with dried-out wax.

  “Yeah. Well…” He reached over and started fussing with my hair, smoothing it this way and that, tucking it behind my ear and pulling it out again. “You’ll do.”

  I smirked. “I look like shit. And don’t try to deny it, because I can see it on your face.”

  “Never, Bain. You couldn’t look like shit if you took a melted chocolate bath and rolled in peanuts.”

  “That’s disgusting.” A wave of nausea rippled through my belly, and I struggled to unsee the mental image that Gavin’s colorful description had conjured. “Thanks, Gav. I think that’s the first compliment that ever made me want to throw up.”

  He laughed. “You’re welcome, brother. Now let’s go get checked in. I’m starving, and supper is served from five to seven. We’ve got an hour and a half to get settled in and get to the cafeteria before everything has been picked over.”

  My stomach rolled again. “It pisses me off that you still have an appetite after ruining mine. If they’re serving peanuts or chocolate, I’m going to kill you.” I got out of the car and slammed the door, looking up to study the fascinating architecture before entering the building.

  In one of the leaded windows on the third floor, I caught sight of two young men staring down at us. They didn’t react or move away when I caught them looking, but the wavy green glass distorted enough that their expressions remained a mystery.

  Directly above them was another window, this one tucked right up into the center point of the multi-level roof line. It appeared to be one of those oddly shaped attic rooms whose proximity to the roof necessitated it having short knee walls on the sides, and those deceptive slanted ceilings that I always found a way to hit my head on. We had one such attic room in our family home, a five-thousand-square-foot Tudor situated on four acres in an exclusive Nashville community.

  I had not set foot inside our own attic room in many years, since back when it had been filled with the belongings of our male nanny. Victor was his name, though the kids at our elementary school liked to call him Manny just to get under his skin. They had taunted him with the word sometimes as he sat waiting for us in his car after school, adjusting his bow tie with long, exacting fingers and staring straight ahead as if he couldn’t hear them.

  To be honest, I didn’t remember all that much about Victor. He’d seemed old at the time, though in actuality he was probably only about thirty. He’d kept board games stacked in every corner of his attic room, and Gavin and I had spent countless hours up there playing games and listening to the old 45 record collection he had inherited from his father. His record player had looked like a small suitcase with a colorful jungle print, and it had never occurred to my nine-year-old brain to wonder why a grown man would use a child’s record player.

  She’s a Rainbow by the Rolling Stones was Victor’s favorite song, and the only one he ever played on repeat. He would subject us to hours of torture with it, tap dancing around like some old-timey band leader and shaking his finger in time with the music. I can remember feeling relief when the needle would finally reach the end of the song, and then annoyance when the record would start all over again. It was a cruel tease I did not appreciate in the least, and if I never heard that damn song again, it would be too soon.

  “That’s like Victor’s old room,” I said to Gavin as he came to stand beside me.

  Gavin used his hand as a shield from the sun, squinted up at the window, and asked in a flat tone, “Victor who?”

  “You know. Manny the male nanny. You couldn’t have forgotten him. We were like nine years old when he left.”

  “Eight,” Gavin corrected absently.

  “So you do remember him. I hated that guy. He was the only one of our caretakers who ever spanked us. I think Serena would die before she’d lay a hand on us. She’s rarely even raised her voice at us. Come to think of it, Victor never raised his voice, either, but he sure as hell didn’t mind wearing our asses out.”

  Gavin looked at me and frowned. “Could we please talk about something else? Why are you even thinking about him after all these years? He was nobody. Just some guy who made sure we were fed and watered while Mom and Dad trotted the globe doing book signings and TV appearances and partying with their coke-snorting friends.”

  “Okay, chill out. That room just reminded me of his, and it brought back memories.”

  “Well, I don’t want to hear about him.” Gavin said irritably. “The memory of him spanking us is one I’d just as soon never have again.” When I nodded, he slipped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me with him up the front steps of the school. “We’re in college now, so let’s just forget about the past and focus on the future from now on.”

  That sounded good to me. I was down with saying goodbye to the past, and especially the past year of being without Gavin. And of feeling like half of a person.



  “BRING MY last suitcase in, will you.” Gavin made it a statement rather than a question, as if there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d refuse.

  “Get your own damn suitcase,” I told him, acting on a sudden surge of confidence. “I’m not your servant. I don’t know if you’re used to having your ass kissed in England, but you can get un-used to it here, because I’m not going to be your errand boy.”

  “Says the guy who can’t wipe his own ass without his maid there to hand him the toilet paper.” He sighed and stomped back out to the car to get the last of the luggage out of the trunk.

  I figured some physical labor was what he deserved anyway for being such a narcissist. The guy couldn’t live with just two suitcases of clothes like me. No way, not my brother. He had to have an entire set of Globe-Trotter luggage, three weekend bags from three different designers, and enough backpacks for every day of the week. He literally had bags for his bags.

  Gavin was the type of person who could have been a celebrity fashion guru on YouTube. He had great taste in clothing, the money to buy whatever he wanted, and the uncanny ability to look flawless no matter how little effort he put in. He would have looked perfect unshowered, unshaven, hung over, and wearing a ratty bathrobe. He was simply gorgeous, and I’m not saying that because he’s my identical twin. Far from it, in fact, because even when I looked in the mirror and saw a carbon copy of him staring back at me, I still didn’t feel gorgeous.

  Gavin had a certain quality that defied accurate description. It was as if his carefully reserved demeanor was fraying around the edges, revealing glimpses of something wild and brilliant and absolutely breathtaking.

  I was the plain one. The cute one. The approachable one.

  While Gavin was gone to the car, I explored our new digs. Each side of the main room was a mirror of the other, both containing a full-size bed and bedside table, and at the foot of the bed, a desk and chair. I had expected utilitarian dorm furniture, but these pieces looked like something you’d find in an old home.

  The door to the large walk-in closet was situated in the center of the wall between the bedside tables, and on the opposite wall was the door to the en suite bathroom we shared with the next room. At check-in, we had been informed that the other room was unoccupied and was expected to remain so for the entire school year. Gavin was over the moon that we wouldn’t have to share a bathroom with strangers.

  After I was done exploring, I unzipped the first of my two suitcases, wishing I had someone to come and do the unpacking for me. Gavin was right about one thing. I was still frighteningly dependent on Serena, our maid. I needed my lunch on the counter at twelve sharp, and a microwave-ready plate of dinner sitting on the middle shelf of the fridge. I needed my clothes washed and magically hung up in my closet like they had always been. I was pretty sure laundry didn’t do itself, and I was also pretty sure unwashed clothes would start to smell after a few days.

  Just as I was working my peach Polo shirt onto a h
anger without any finesse at all, some guy poked his head in through the doorway.

  “Damn, you got up here fast,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “You must have super powers or something.”

  I stared at him for a second, taking in his slender build and floppy blond hair. He was dressed like one of those white guys who thought a graphic t-shirt and a pair of expensive acid-wash jeans would help him get in touch with his ghetto side. This one got extra points because of his thick gold chain, and because I could see the elastic band of his Calvin Klein boxers where his pants hung too low.

  “Hi,” I said. “What’s your name?”

  “I just told you, it’s Drake.” He crossed his tattooed arms over his chest and gave me the look I had seen a thousand times before on unsuspecting people who met my brother and me separately.

  “Ahhh. So you and I have already met, huh?”

  “Yeah, just a few minutes ago at the front door. You said you were going out to get the rest of your luggage. Have you forgotten already? Dawg, either you’ve got old timer’s disease, or you’re smoking some really good shit.”

  “Are you sure it was me?” I asked innocently. “Absolutely certain? Because I swear I don’t remember it. In fact, I’ve just been unpacking and haven’t even left the room. Maybe you’re the one who’s got Alzheimer’s.” I suspected my correction would be lost on him, but it was worth a shot.

  Drake looked flustered, and I could see in his eyes that he was questioning his sanity just a little bit. He scrutinized me again, narrowing his eyes. “I swear to God it was you. You’re fucking with me, right?”

  Gavin, breathless from his hike through the huge house and up the stairs, chose that moment to show back up and ruin my game. “Hi, Drake,” he said, rolling his ivory Globe-Trotter suitcase through the door and hefting it onto his bed with a grunt. “I see you’ve met my handsome brother, Bain.”

  Drake looked from Gavin to me and blinked once. Twice. “Wait, you guys are twins?”

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