The English Disease
Neither of them was officially sick—
There was no disease named responsible for there odd features;
Her white hair, their gaunt faces, the scarlet circles on his cheeks
But for some reason
Whenever the two wanted to go outside
Or do really anything
Their father—or worse, butler—would say
No matter what it was,
Neither of them was well enough
Both wondered what exactly it was that stopped you
She said, "I wonder if we've been diagnosed with a disease and they never told us."
He replied, "The only thing we're suffering from is being an English!"
So they called it the English Disease
Princess and Prince
When you were young you drew pictures of princes
And sometimes princesses (you weren't picky)
Carrying you away to some enchanted kingdom
And making you pretty
Your brother scoffed at you,
And said there was no cure for ugliness
But every once in a while your drawings would disappear
So you wondered if
He just wanted the same thing
When your father was home—
Which, granted, wasn't often
He'd pay you special attention
And act like your sister never existed
You didn't think she minded
She probably hated him too
But every once in a while you'd get sort of mad
That she didn't even try to distract his attention
And never said a word to him
So you were forced to do what he said
The butler's daughter
She was a few years older then you
And looked like she was waiting to die
Mr. Scratch, your butler adopted her
(To this day, you're not sure where she came from.
China, maybe? Or perhaps Japan?)
And she never spoke, so when you first met
You didn't think she knew English—or at least,
Not well enough to speak it
Your brother didn't like her
(You had a feeling it was because she beat him at chess)
But you two hung out whenever she visited
Even though she never said a word
She drew with you
And was pretty morbid, truthfully
But she had her moments
Where she was almost just a quiet girl
Who didn't like her father
And wanted a prince of her own.
After a while, she stopped coming over
Although neither your brother or you mentioned it
You both thought she was dead
And though you hoped she ran away,
You couldn't forget
That Hannah never seemed very enthusiastic about life
You considered yourself some sort of game master
And hated it whenever someone bested you at anything—
So you had a certain silent loathing of the Butler's girl
You didn't really hate her though
You thought she might be secretly very clever
You just wanted to beat her at chess
And maybe convince her to play monopoly with you
And your sister, because two players is no fun
That girl was gone
Your sister asked if she was sick
Your father said that both of you should forget about her
So you assumed she died
Which was a pity
Because people who played chess
As well as her were few
And now they were even fewer
Whenever you were done with whatever schoolwork you had
You and your brother
Were allowed to go on the internet
And do whatever you wanted
You both were homeschooled so
You spent pretty much your whole day—
Aside from the required hour of fitness—
On the computer, trying to find something interesting
You met friends
And found out about fandoms
You were a big fan of tales that ended in death
Or, really, had anything to do with people dying
Specifically, in times long ago.
So you googled some stuff
And found the greatest website of them all
People gave themselves classes—
Princess, maids, lords, heirs, seers,
Even witches and sylphs!
You could be anything
So you called yourself Lord English
It was pretty fun
You could be rude and selfish and a bit narcissistic
(Basically, be you)
And people would just say you're acting like your title
You had never left your house in all thirteen years of your life
You lived in a mansion—
A manor, actually.
And there was nothing outside you couldn't have inside the house
Clothes were bought for you, food was provided
You knew no one but the people in your house
So you never could visit anyone else.
There was a fitness room, which had every exercise equipment available
And a greenhouse in case you wanted to see flowers
You wanted to go out
And needed an excuse
So you asked your father if you could go to a public school
After less argument then you would have thought, he agreed
You went to school two hours earlier then normal in a limo
Mainly because you didn't want anyone to form any ideas before you met
And because you wanted them to think that
You were just like them
No, that's stupid.
You didn't want to meet other people
You didn't want them to see how weird you were
You didn't want to see how 'normal' kids acted
You didn't want to know what they did after school
You didn't want to do something… perverted like hold hands
You didn't want to join some sport team
You didn't want to have a group of friends who were on that team
You didn't want to know what it was like to play chess on a team
You didn't want to know what it was like to be in a loud room with kids
You didn't want to be the new kid
You didn't want to be "her twin"
You didn't want to go to school
With your sister
uraniumUmbra opened the memo: awesuminternetbudss
UU: I'm going to school for the first time today
TG: oh yaaaah you were homestuck right?
TG: lol, homeschooled
TG: good luck UU!
UU: thank you TG! I sUppose yoU coUld say I was homestUck, though
UU: tomorrow will be my first time oUt of my hoUse
TG: hoooply shit
TG: for reals?
UU: I sUppose that's a bit odd….?
TG: omgh, no one stays in there house there hole life!
TG: I mean when ppl are little the go out all the time and
TG: shit idk I don't even no what I did
UU: well, coUld yoU give me some pointers?
TG: okay so
TG: what kinda clothes do you wear?
UU: green sUites
TG: do they show skin
UU: not at all!
TG: say it was ur dads idea
TG: and if u dont know nything about music say ur dad didnt allow it
UU: basically, blame all my lack of knowledge on my father….?
TG: sorry if your dads actually cool
UU: it's okay. he's pretty frightening, actually.
TG: good! Then u wont be lieing
UU: anything else?
TT: Oh, hey, mind if I pop in?
UU: I'm welcome to all sUggestions!
TT: Okay, well, if you haven't ever left your house, then you probably won't be used to natural lighting.
UU: I hadn't thoUght of that…
TT: It might be a bit painful. Maybe you should get some sunglasses on your way to school? You could take them off once you get in the building, but just as a precaution.
UU: that's a good idea! thank yoU! ^U^
TT: You can find sunglasses in pretty much all clothing stores and some general stores, like CVS
UU: thank yoU!
TG: cvs has sunglasses?
TT: Yes they do. They're a bit lame though.
TG: guess the cant match ur coolness
TG: goodluck again, UU
TG: U can do it
UU: thank yoU!
So she went to school
And made some friends
And she keeps babbling on about them
And won't shut up
And says you should come with her
So you lock yourself in your room
And complain about it to Meenah The Theif
Who hates the world as much as you do
She suggests hitting your sister on the head
You say that won't make her shut up
She says wow, what an annoying gill
And tells you that she doesn't care about your problems
And to turn on music or something
You wondered if you needed better friends
It didn't matter though
Because these were the only ones you were going to get
It was, really, how you expected it
You were tired from getting up at about five in the morning
And everyone wanted to know everything about you
You took TG's advice
And sighed about your clothing saying
Your father never lets you out of the house
And buys everything for you
Girls sigh sympathetically
And ask if you want to borrow clothes
At one point of the day
A blond girl comes up to you and a leans forward
And whispers your chumhandle in your ear
Which scared you more then words can say
She introduces herself as Roxy.
You knew her as TG.
A boy wearing sunglasses apologizes on her behalf
His name was Dirk.
And he was amazed that someone had a weirder name then him
You knew him as TT.
They asked what you thought of "The outside world"
You said it was big.
So impossibly gigantic
You couldn't believe it took you this long to see it.
After school, it started to rain
You didn't think you'd ever stop smiling
Rain is beautiful
The world is beautiful
When you got home, you were going to tell your brother
But he didn't listen
This didn't really surprise you
You think if he had listened
He might have wanted to go outside with you
Which might have made
A world of a difference
Now that she was going to school, your sister got a yearbook
And she'd force you to go through it with her
She was surprisingly insistent about it
"Just look at them," She urged, "You've never seen anyone our age before, right?"
Well, Meenah once sent you a picture of her sticking up her middle finger
But you guess that didn't count.
So, you tried to insult everyone you saw.
"What's up with her hair? Hasn't she heard of a hairbrush?"
"Who even wears stuff like that, is she blind?"
"Wow, does she think she's Ms. Special with those pink contacts?"
"That's natural," It was the only comment she made so far.
You were really annoyed she hadn't given up.
"Well, what about him? Who wears sunglasses to take a picture?"
"He wears them everywhere," She explained, "No one knows his eye color."
"Oh, Mr. Mysterious, huh?"
"His chumhandle is timaeusTestified."
She must have thought you got a crush.
She'd be half right.
You were sort of amazed by his hair.
Despite your better judgment, you invited Dirk and Roxy over
Your brother was, surprisingly, waiting for you at the door.
When he saw you brought friends, he almost squeaked.
"Who the hell are you two?" He demanded, regaining his composure.
"Well, I'm Dirk," A smirk appeared on his face, "And this lovely lady is Roxy."
"You never said anything about a brother," Roxy gasped, "Omg, you're a cootie! Cutie."
"I," your brother said, drawing himself up to his full 5'8 height, "Am anything but cute. I am taller then all of you, most likely stronger, and when I'm an adult, I'll have enough power to have you killed brutally and no one will question a thing."
"It's true," you said, because you had to say something.
"I could probably kick your ass at sword fighting," Dirk said.
"I dare you," your brother hissed.
So they went into the gym and fought with kendo swords
The cook made you and Roxy a snack while you watched
"What's wrong with your brother?"
"Nothing. He just doesn't like people."
"He seems to like Dirk."
"He likes challenges. And beating people."
"He doesn't have your accent."
"He used to, he just lost it.
Because father lost his and that's who brother talked to.
I spent too much time with family friend.
I called her Snowman, though I can't imagine why.
Sometimes, because there are no female in this house,
She'd come over and make sure I knew everything about a female's body,
Because she didn't think my father would know."
"That's kinda smart," Roxy nodded.
If she didn't, you might start getting boobs and freak out because
What are these lumps on my chest?
You almost had, actually.
That was the reason Snowman was so insistent in you knowing.
You looked at your brother. He was losing.
You sort of expected that.
Dirk is a good swordsman.
You really didn't like to lose.
Struggling to win was okay;
You could plot up amazing schemes to win,
Have a feeling of accomplishment
Losing was no fun
So when you lost a swordfight to Dirk
You tossed the kendo sword in his face and huffed up to your room
He followed you
"You're sort of a sore loser, aren't you?"
"I REFUSE TO SPEND ANYMORE TIME WITH YOU"
"Jesus, you don't need to scream. I can hear you fine."
You slammed the door shut.
"Are you hiding something? Do you have some horrendous materials you don't want me to tell your sister about?"
"Maybe I do! What about it?"
"Then you have to let me in. I must see the filthiness that a boy who's never left his house has found."
Dirk manages to force the door open because
Wow, you're actually kinda weak
And you spent all of your energy fighting with him earlier.
So it really wasn't a challenge
He was speechless now, with a look on his face that made you feel so
Well, of course you weren't normal!
You were Caliborn English!
Son of a man you met on your fifth birthday
"Like what you see?"
You sneered, but really
You just wanted him to leave.
No one went into your room but you.
No maids, no staff, not your butler, not your father, and not your sister.
No one but you
And now him.
"Is that your mom?"
He's pointing to a picture you stole from your father's room
A light haired woman with eye's like your sister
And a dress of rainbows
With two tiny bundles of a child in her arms
"She was. Now she's a decomposing corpse."
"That must suck."
This surprises you.
You thought that since you were such a brat,
No one would say a word of sympathy.
But he did
"I wasn't even a month old. I don't remember it."
"That's the worse part."
And then he leaves
And you crumple
Into a little ball
He was right
The pictures you put
On the wall
Made you seem
You really hated defeat
It was sort of
You rarely got upset anymore
Whenever you feel hopeless
Or like everything is going wrong
You just step outside
And everything seems brighter
It was such a horrible thing that your brother didn't have this
You're not sure he would appreciate it as much
It might make him feel better
But he seems bent on destroying himself
For some reason, this makes you think of Hannah,
The Butler's daughter
You wonder if
Hannah and your brother
Were a bit the same
In one sense or another
She was just sitting in her room
On the computer
Waiting for her life to end
What your brother was doing right now
Only with a bit more enthusiasm
You decide to talk to your brother,
Even if he's going to call you ugly
That's just what you were
You're sixteen now
And you're even uglier then your sister
You call her ugly to her face
All the time
But going outside must have brought some magic that she thought a prince would
God, it hurts you to say this,
She's gotten lovely
Not just pretty
The swirls of a birthmark that once shone brightly on her cheeks
Were now a faint memory hidden in green blush
And her hair
Now had four streaks
It might have made another look punk but on her
Just looked like adorable hairclips
That happened to be the colors of her friends eyes
And her eyes
Which once were dull and upset
Were bright and shone
And weren't 'weird,' just
And then there was you
Who never went outside so
Your skin was as pale as a vampire
Which made the scarlet circles on your cheeks
Look like there was something wrong with you
And your eyes were red so
You wouldn't be surprised if someone mistook you for a spawn of Satan
Your eyes were sunken in their sockets
And your hair a dull black that you either just shaved off
Or hung limply in your face when you were too lazy to
And yet your sister never said
When you called her names and
All the time
That you were the ugly one
And she looked so much better
But she would never say that
She was so much better then you
In so many ways
Kids talked about their plans for college
Didn't know what to say
You didn't know if your father would let you go
The place you had your eye on was far away
So far in fact
You probably wouldn't be able to see him in years
Which would probably not be okay
For him, at least
So you just listen
As your classmates talk on and on
Roxy is planning on going somewhere close to where you want to go
If you're lucky
Wow, what a lucky guy
Is going to the same college as Jake
Who you all met online
Along with Jane who
Doesn't really need to go to college
But will end up at some sort of culinary school
And then rule a baking empire
You tell them that your father might refuse to pay
Dirk says not even your father would leave his daughter alone
With no way of knowing what happens to her
You ask him what he means.
He asks you what would happen if you just left.
You think for a moment.
Your mind wanders to how your father would always play chess
With your brother
Who could never win
And think about how you might be able to
You grew up thinking you were better then your sister
Because your father
Always treated you like you were
But you guess
He just had different things in store
When you were younger,
So young you didn't hate your sister,
You met your father for the first time and
He said you would be the one
To inherit the house
If you thought about it
Could just mean
That your sister already found one of her own
But of course you
You thought he would give you everything
Which he might, but
Only because your sister didn't need it
So you tried to be perfect and
What it meant to be the perfect son
And what was normal
So when your sister drew pictures of her with princesses
You took some of the princes
And colored in her hair black
Then hid it in your room because
A perfect son
Doesn't think about princes
Especially not like that
In the end
She was stronger then you ever could be
If for no other reason then
She never stopped being her
The two had never expected to leave
Not the house
Not each other
Certainly not the state
Her going to a college so far away
Left both unsure how to say goodbye
They were twins
No matter how much they fought
No matter how much he had yelled
He was still going to miss her
And she was going to miss him
"I'll write," she began
"No you won't," He replied, "You're going to go away
And you won't come back because
You'll catch it again"
"Catch what?" She had to ask
"The English Disease."
A noise comes out of her throat. He doesn't know if it's a laugh
Or, more likely, a sob.
"I'll still write," She sniffed, "But
I won't come back.
You can have whatever you want from my room."
She is thinking of a gift she left him—a special chess set of certain colors
And a map to nothing
"I don't want anything," he mumbled, but he will raid her room later.
"I still can't believe this is happening."
"I can. When you told father that you were going to college
When you said he couldn't stop you because eighteen is an adult
And if he didn't pay, you'd just leave—
How Roxy and Dirk agreed to house you
So if he refused
He'd just be getting in the way of your education,"
He grinned at her, "You were always better at chess then me. And now you're better then father."
"It's not too late," She whimpered, "You can still leave."
"No I can't," He sighed, "I'm sorry I was such a bad brother, Calliope."
She opened her mouth, slightly, about to say something, but thought
How it had seemed that
No one had said her name in such a long time and
Realized, it was sort of true because
Caliborn called her Sister, Roxy called her Callie, Dirk called her English
And father called her child.
But no one said Calliope.
"You weren't always a bad brother," She bit her lip, overcome with an old memory. When everyone thought they had twin telepathy and
All they had to say
Was the other's name
And they'd be their
"What happened?" She asked.
"Father came home," He reminds her and
It was true, really
Being young and not knowing what a haircut was
Or that certain clothes were for certain genders
And no one knew which of them was the male
They both just wore suits
And both of them had hair longer then a child,
Male or female,
Never gotten in the way
Even though they explored the house,
Inch by inch
Searching for something
And nothing at the same time
Then he came
And asked which one of you was his son
And she remembers looking at him, not understanding
There hadn't been
Anyone to try and separate you before
And you didn't think it was going to turn out well
She was right
She didn't know how to go back
Before any of this happened
When all they needed to say was a name
And the other would be there
And she doesn't think that
Goodbye is the proper word
Because it just means you were leaving
Which wasn't what you wanted to tell him
And he responded
And she walks out the door
Not a loud, slamming noise
Like he would have done
But simply a sharp
Something had just ended
It was beginning.