Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Mar 25, 2009.
  1. becca - Who? WHAT? WHERE?

    3 vote(s)
  2. ThadOcho - Reflected

    0 vote(s)
  3. LordKyleOfEarth - Twelve stories to heaven

    2 vote(s)
  4. Mcarpenter - To Love and Be Loved

    2 vote(s)
  5. Ohmytheoctopus - The Guardian

    2 vote(s)
  6. themightyduck - True Justice

    2 vote(s)
  7. BabelFish42 - Behind the Glass

    1 vote(s)
  8. Vacant - Worth a Thousand Words

    4 vote(s)
  9. inkslinger - The Bare Pit of Existence

    1 vote(s)
  10. HKB - Vara

    1 vote(s)
  11. Phantasmal Reality - Shadow Sister

    0 vote(s)
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest (40) Doppelgänger

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Mar 13, 2009.

    Voting Short Story Contest (40) Theme: Doppelgänger

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned.

    Voting will end 25th March 2009 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not strictly in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    becca - Who? WHAT? WHERE?

    removed at request
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    ThadOcho - Reflected

    Officer Jericho Hall walked with Officer Fisher up the stairs in a rush, getting briefed about what happened in this house, the Howell House, just four hours ago.

    “…wait, wait, wait,” Hall interrupted when Fisher began to babbled on unceasingly. “Say that again, slowly and clearly.”

    Fisher took a deep breath from his nose, exhaled, and began again more calmly, “Jerry, about three and a half hours ago, three gunshots were heard; it woke the neighbors up.”


    “The victim of the gunshots had supposedly been Mr. James Howell, according to the call we got an hour ago from his wife.”

    “Right,” said Hall. They got to the top of the spiral staircase and walked down the second floor hall. They passed a door with a large white sheet of paper on it that had colored pictures of animals.

    “So we got over right away, and we got the shooter. We’ve chained him up and have been interrogating him up until now, and nothing he’s said is making any damn sense to any of us.”

    “The shooter?”

    “James Howell,” said Fisher grimly. “Jr.”

    “Oh, ****,” said Hall. “His son?!” When Fisher nodded sadly, Hall asked, “How old?”


    “Nine?” repeated Hall, stricken. He said it again, as if repeating it could somehow make it a bit more believable that he was walking to a son-killed-father case. “Nine.”

    “I know.”

    They stopped outside another room, this door closed as well. Inside were loud voices, some sobbing, and banging.

    “Shockley,” Fisher explained apologetically to Hall’s questioningly look. “We called him in a half hour ago to interrogate, and when we saw that he was about to resort to violence to get answers, we called you.”

    Officer Roy Shockley was a large, brutal, bald man with a helluva scar down his right eye, courtesy of an illegal immigrant who sliced him when arrested. Shockley’s idea of interrogation was…scream and yell at the person until he confesses, a tactic that rarely worked, but may work on a nine-year-old-boy like this. Shockley was also reported multiple times for watching prison rape, making videos of it, and selling it over the internet. How a scumbag like him got into the force was beyond the mind.

    Fisher turned the knob and went it, Hall following close behind him. The room was dark, the window blinds down. The only source of light was an extremely bright table lamp, it’s beating ray hitting the small face of a pale nine-year-old boy with flaming red hair and who’s nose was overpopulated with freckles. Behind him was a young woman with equally red hair but flawless skin, crying into a napkin. Standing to the right side of him was Shockley, bending over to be face-to-face with the boy. Shockley looked rather haughty and displeased at the sight of Hall.

    Looking at Fisher, Shockley said angrily, “’Thought you said you’s was bringin’ some backbone.”

    “That suggesting something, Roy?” said Fisher.

    “If you want it to.”

    “Oh, don’t worry, Fisher,” Hall said, raising a hand slowly and smiling sweetly. “I’m sure Shockley’s tactics work far better than my own…on Halloween.”

    “What was that, scum bucket?” Shockley stood up straight. “What am I to take that as?”

    “Oh,” said Hall happily. “An insult, of course. Now, if you could please remove yourself from the presence of the child, I can get on with finding out what’s happening.”

    Shockley scowled and stalked out of the room and slammed the door, not before ferociously bumping shoulders with Hall. Hall’s shoulder screamed in blinding agony, but he stood still and stony. No way in hell would he let Shockley best him.

    Hall went to the boy, and asked kindly, “How are ya, Sonny Jim?”

    The boy sniffed, “That guy was scary.”

    Hall smiled with ease. “Yeah, like Frankenstein right?”

    The boy’s mouth twitched into a smile for less than a second.

    “Okay, so what’s your name, buddy?”


    “Like your dad?”

    The boy’s face darkened. His eyes seemed to glow with red frustration and rage as he said, “I never killed my Daddy. I dunno where my Daddy is.”

    “Now, now!” Hall exclaimed in false surprise. “Who accused you of such?!”

    “The scary guy,” said Jimmy Howell.

    “Well, why would he do that?” asked Hall. He turned around to see
    Fisher giving him the thumbs-up and leaving the room.

    “Because of the gunshots.”


    “I shot the gun in my mom’s room.”

    “Who sleeps in your mom’s room?”

    “My mommy. My daddy.”

    “Who did you shoot?”

    “I dunno,” said Jimmy, looking somewhat dazed and confused.

    “Well, who’s not here now?”

    “My Daddy, but he’s been gone for a long time.”

    Hall raised his eyebrows. “How long?”

    “Months and months.”

    Smart kid. He didn’t babble on. He got right to the point.

    “Your mommy,” Hall pointed to the crying woman behind him, half-swallowed in the darkness. “Says that she saw you shoot your daddy.”

    “I shot the person next to her in bed,” Jimmy said. He yawned, obviously exhausted from the late night and bemused by Shockley’s continuous screaming.

    “Which was your dad,” said Hall.




    “Then,” Hall said. “Who was in bed next to your mother?”

    “The guy who took my daddy.”

    “And who, Jimmy, was that?”

    The boy looked troubled, “I think everyone calls him different things. But on the phone…the other guy called him ‘Nemo’.”

    “Phone? Other guy?” Hall asked as he took out his small notepad and wrote in capital letters: NEMO.

    “Daddy has an office way downstairs,” explained Jimmy. “In the basement. So there’s a phone down there and a phone downstairs, above the basement.”


    The boy looked at Hall suspiciously, “Do you promise not to yell like that other guy when I tell you this next part?”

    “You don’t need to worry, honey,” sniffed Jimmy’s mother. Hall looked at her, but she kept staring at Jimmy. “This is a good guy, not a bad guy. You can tell him the story ag-again.” She looked at Hall worriedly, and Hall was afraid about what this kid had to tell.

    Jimmy nodded and continued, “A couple months ago, my daddy went into his office for a very long time. A very, very long time. My mommy was at Aunt Stella’s house to see Grammy.”

    “Right,” Hall said and wrote this down as well.

    “When he came up, he was…different,” the boy said the last word with some effort, as if it would do him harm.


    “He always talked on the phone,” said Jimmy. “Cell phone, the office phone…and he always did it alone.

    “I thought he was just busy. I thought we was my daddy for the rest of the time. But two weeks ago, he ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. He asked me if I wanted to bite it. I said no, and then hid in my room and cried.”

    “Why?” Hall leaned in closer.

    “Daddy’s allergic to peanut butter,” the boy said simply. He went on, “Then, I watched him, like a spy-guy.”


    “Yeah,” Jimmy nodded. “I put my camera in the office and let it record before he came down. I put it on the desk next to his computer, and covered it with a bunch of junk. It pointed at his face. Later, I watched the tape. And, and…” The boy burst into tears. Hall put a comforting hand on his shoulder, and reached into his breast pocket. He pulled out a pack of LifeSaver Gummies.

    “These are my favorites,” said Hall putting it into the boy’s vision. “They make me feel better when I’m upset. Would you like one, buddy?”

    Jimmy sniffed, wiped his hand across his nose slowly, and nodded.

    “What flavor, my man?”

    “P-purple,” stammered Jimmy. Hall gave him all his grape-flavored gummies. Jimmy munched on them, and surprisingly the tears stopped.

    When he was fit to continue, the boy said, “Okay. When I watched the tape, I saw my daddy looking at his computer. He was just staring at it. And then he began to drool. First spit, then blood.” Jimmy hesitated and looked at Officer Hall for some sort of reaction.

    However, Hall looked at the boy, eyebrows raised. “Continue.”

    Jimmy sniffed again and resumed, “He was catching all the blood in a little cup. When it was full, he stopped the drooling, and went upstairs with the cup.

    “I saw him up there,” said the boy darkly. “I saw him a lot, drinking in that little cup. Always mixing it with something. I thought he was taking medicine, but now I know what it is. It’s blood.

    “I thought of listening to one of his calls that he always took, and I did. And that was the worst part. My daddy answered the phone, but on the phone he wasn’t my daddy. He had a different voice. And he was talking to someone he called Pure.”

    “What did they talk about, Jimmy?” asked Hall after writing this piece down.

    “My real daddy,” said Jimmy, and his mother sobbed. He looked back at her then back at Hall. “Pure had him, they said. And Pure kept calling fake-daddy ‘Nemo’. Then they talked about something called ‘The Beyond’, and putting my daddy there to die. Pure said that, brought it up, and Nemo thought it was a good idea. Then they hung up.”

    “So,” said Hall. “Tonight you shot -- uh -- ‘Nemo’ while he was sleeping in order to get revenge for your ‘real’ daddy?”

    “Yeah,” said Jimmy. “But I didn’t kill him. He ran away. He knew I found out. I think he was a-scared.”

    “Why do you think he was scared?”

    Jimmy took a deep, shuddering breath and said, “Because I said something to him before I shot him. I didn’t mean to say it, but I did. It was like my mouth said it for me.”

    “What did you say?” asked Hall.

    The boy was silent for a long time, and then said, “I think I said, ‘Leave, Omen, leave.’.”

    When Hall came out into the dark hall, Fisher looked at him worriedly.

    “Can you believe it?” Fisher asked in a harsh whisper.

    “Yes, I can, because he showed me the tape,” said Hall in a dull voice. “And the guy was bleeding out his mouth, just like the kid said.”

    “You can’t believe that,” said Fisher. “You just can’t, Jerry. It’s impossible.”

    “Where’s Shockley?”

    “Went home,” sighed Fisher. “He’s abandoning the case.”

    “Coward,” spat Hall.

    “No, I don’t think so. I think he’s just pissed at you, honestly.”

    “We’re the last cops here, right?” asked Hall, changing the subject a second time.


    “Call in a squad of guys to go into the guy’s office and get some recent fingerprints,” commanded Hall sourly. “See if they match the father.”

    “You’re insane,” marveled Fisher. “You cannot believe this kid’s bull****.”

    They began to walk slowly down the hall towards the stairs. They passed Jimmy’s room once again, and stopped to look at his coloring nailed to the door.

    “It’s the only story I have so far. I’ll interrogate the mother tomorr--”

    Fisher gave him a wide-eyed look, and put his hand over Hall’s mouth. Hall looked at him questioningly, and then heard it: someone was downstairs.

    “Who’s there?” Fisher asked loudly.

    The heard a faint click, and then a song played. Hall, who was a fan of all unique bands out there, recognized it as the chorus of “I-E-A-I-A-O” by System of a Down.

    “Gentlemen, do you know who this is?” a casual, familiar voice echoed up onto the second floor. “It’s System of a Down, a very…different band. I particularly like this song of theirs due to the chanting chorus. Do you find it favorable?”

    Fisher looked at Hall and then ran downstairs quickly. Hall heard his loud footsteps all the way down. The person downstairs obviously startled the officer, who screamed, “Holy GOD!”. Then a gunshot banged and made Hall’s eardrum pound. He fumbled his gun out. Mrs. Howell and her son poked their heads out, and he motioned them to go back, and they obeyed.

    “You are under arrest!” Hall called. “Drop the weapon or I will be forced to use my own!”

    The casual voice laughed merrily. The music turned off. Then, the voice said, “Officer, I’m sorry I killed your friend. But I wanted to see YOU, not him. I am dropping my weapon.”

    Officer Hall, gun still drawn, hurried downstairs. Stepping over the body of Officer Fisher, he went into the kitchen. Hall saw a man staring at the opposite wall with his hands behind him back. He was in a police officer uniform, the same kind that Hall was wearing, and the radio that had played “I-E-A-I-A-O” was resting on the coffee table beside him. Hall pressed the muzzle of the gun against the nape of the stranger’s neck.

    “Do you know what you’ve just done?” cried Hall into the man’s ear.

    “I’ve just killed Stefan Avery Fisher, a very good friend of yours,” the man said calmly.

    “You’re under arrest,” Hall said through grit teeth. “Turn around, scum bucket.” In his mind flashed a mocking message that told him not to steal Shockley’s names.

    The man turned around, and Hall dropped his weapon with a cry of shock. He took three large steps back. Looking at the man standing in front of him was like looking into a mirror. The man WAS Officer Hall, or a copy of the original. The same tan skin, the same clean-shaven chin, the same hazel eyes, the same guy.

    The copy laughed maliciously, “Now, now. Aren’t we surprised? Do you believe the little brat’s fairy tale now, Mr. Hall? Oh wait, I remember. You believed the entire thing. Too bad the boys at HQ’ll throw you in the rubber room before you can say the word ‘reflected’.”

    Hall was lost for words. He kept studying the copy’s face. It was almost flawlessly compared to his. He managed to say shakily, “Y-You’re under arrest for manslaughter. G-G-Get your hands on the wall and…”

    The copy pulled out his own revolver and aimed it at the real Hall’s head. “No offense intended, but I’m not going anywhere. In fact, when another squad of cops get here, I might just give them your body and say YOU’RE the fake one.” The Fake-Hall smiled and his face began to change. Then, the real Hall was staring at an alive fake-version of Officer Fisher, who was grinning broadly. “Or maybe I just might be this guy and say you popped yaself.”

    “What are you?!” cried Hall.

    “What am I? What am I?” the copier walked a bit closer. “I am beyond your small comprehension and your meager understanding, Hall. I am obviously not from here, and I have no intension of staying here, either. However, I was hired by an old friend to come and get rid of good ol’ James Howell Sr.. Do not ask me why; my friend says all he wanted was the boy…”

    “You’ll have to get through me before you lay a finger on him,” said Hall through gritted teeth. “Back to Hell with you.”

    The copy, the doppelganger, smiled easily, “If you wish to get in my way, I can arrange a death much more unpleasant for y--”

    Something bright and silver flung across the room and hit the copy square in the chest, then clanged to the floor. The copy screamed in agony and pawed at his chest, which was cut open and bleeding. Hall looked down to see the item thrown was a crucifix. He looked at the stairs to see Jimmy Howell, pale and frightened.

    “Get out of here, Omen,” he whispered.

    The copy, Nemo, Omen, wasn’t Fisher anymore. Now it was something monstrous, black and furless. It screamed out a name, as if it was forced to. Then a deafening BANG rang throughout the house, and with a burst of jet black smoke, the Omen was gone.

    The man and the boy were quiet for some time.

    Then, the boy said, “We got rid of him.”

    “Yes. How‘d you know to do that?” Hall indicated the crucifix.

    “It was my daddy’s. I thought that, if Nemo was made of dark magic, maybe my daddy’s good magic would work on it. But something’s bugging me. Nemo said something before he…exploded.”


    “What’d he say?”

    Hall picked up his gun, checked its rounds, and said grimly, “The name of who hired him.”

    “Hired? Who?!” the boy was frantic for answers (a born-cop, thought Hall.), and his mother came downstairs quickly and hugged him. He hugged her back. They both began to cry, glad that the demon was finally gone but hysterical over where their husband and father was. Hall left the house, leaving the two to embrace each other with this new piece of information in his heart. The information given by the copy. He knew the madman behind all this now, and he was going to hunt him down.

    The word. The one word the doppelganger said before he had returned from whatever hellish place it once came from. That one word, that name, was “Shockley”.
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    LordKyloOfEarth - Twelve stories to heaven

    Scott sat silently on the ledge. A pair of hands delicately held onto a nearby television antenna. A pair of hands which were all that stood between himself and the street, twelve stories below. A gentle night breeze blew cold through the city. Scott knew this rooftop well; he had come here every night since the death of his best friend, Andy. Two years of sleepless contemplation spent alone. He knew that, with the weight of his sins, this roof was as close to heaven as he would ever come. One hand released it grip on the antenna and reached for the bottle of vodka in his jacket pocket.

    Scott Parmer was in his mid-twenties and seemed normal to everyone who knew him. Outwardly he was well liked and happy. He was of average build and height, with a sort of rugged charm to him; everyone in his office thought he was great. He would go to parties and tell tales of his many exploits and adventures.

    Inwardly however, he had become a different man. Depression plagued his life, a disorder which he skillfully concealed from almost everyone. He drank night but was careful to, usually, drink alone out of the sight of anyone who may become concerned. He had only ever included a delicate few in this part of his world. Carol, the love of his life, was one.

    Two months ago, Carol had left him. “This is just too much” she had told him, “You are not the same person I met those years ago.” Scott knew she was right. He had tried, half-heartedly, to convince her to change her mind, but she still left. On some level, Scott wished he could do the same; walk away from himself and start over.

    His watch began to beep. One in the morning already, and he had work at eight. With a well practiced motion, Scott flicked the bottle to his mouth and drained the last of its contents. “Tomorrow's gunna be rough.” he told himself, then dropped the bottle over the side of the building.

    “It's a **** job anyhow.”

    It shattered somewhere below, out of sight. The bottle reminded Scott of life. We start out life full of potential, are spent over a course of time, then end up disintegrated and out of sight, somewhere below the world.

    Andy was there, below the world, in a state of unbeing which Scott was responsible for. Everyone had told him it wasn't his fault. Andy was the one who had driven too fast. Andy was the one who had drank too much. But it was Scott who had slept with Andy's girlfriend. Scott who had given Andy the reason to drink. It was Scott, and his actions, which Andy was fleeing from that night.

    That is not the sort of thing which you can ever walk away from. It eats at you, the guilt. It climbs up from deep below and commandeers your life piece by stinking piece. One day you wake up and realize you're no longer yourself, but it's happened so slowly you cannot really recall who you were. Just not that guy in the mirror.

    Scott would look at his reflection each morning and wonder who was staring back. What had happened to the guy everyone had know and loved?

    In the distance an ambulance's siren cut through the night. A life being saved. People at work, just guys doing a job, Scott thought. “A job like the one I have to be at in seven hours.”

    He stood up wearily onto the ledge, bracing himself on the antenna. He stood there for a moment on legs made of putty. Scott could recall a time when he never drank; at any hour he was ready for the world. Tired, it had seemed, was not in his vocabulary. Now he stood on a ledge, barely able to hold himself upright, and exhausted.

    “How the mighty have fallen” he laughed. He reached for his jacket pocket, which was now empty, and a wave of disappointment passed through his head. “Why do I come here every night?” He asked himself, as he began to step down onto the roof top. Suddenly he remembered something and stood back up. Scott looked out to the Eastern city sky, turned around, and in one swift motion, jumped.


    The next morning Carol was awakened by a phone call. Her world shattered; she had caused this. If only she had stayed with him. “If only I would have been more patient, more understanding, more...” her thoughts trailed off.

    Her stomach began to turn and she feared she would become sick. Carol rose from the bed and walked across the hardwood floor to her bathroom. She paused for a moment and looked into the mirror. Something was different now. It was small, and she couldn't put her finger on it, but she didn't quite recognize the person looking back at her.
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Mcarpenter - To Love and Be Loved

    Can’t you remember anything?”

    ”I…no. I can’t. It’s all blank.”

    ”This is so bizarre, honey. I know it must be weird for you too, but…wow. You’re just so different. I brewed you some coffee. Sit down--I’ll get you a cup.”

    ”Thank you.” I wish he wouldn’t insist on calling me ‘honey’.

    I sat on the couch and he covered me with a warm blanket. With detachment, I surveyed the room. I didn’t know this place. Nothing was familiar. The couch was comfortable and the blanket soft. I felt relieved and grateful--but so out of place.

    Handing me a cup of hot, brown liquid, he sat beside me and started to put his arm around me. I jumped slightly and pulled away from him with such a startled expression that he stopped and just sat by me quietly.

    “I’m sorry. You’re very kind. It’s just…I don’t know you.”

    He mumbled under his breath, something that sounded like “you’re my wife.” But I ignored that. I had to.

    The beverage smelled bitter, but pleasant enough. I choked down a few swallows and sat the cup down.

    ”Oh, here’s the cream and sugar. I brewed your favorite.”

    ”Thanks.” I looked at the ‘cream’ and ‘sugar’ but wasn’t sure what to do with either of them.

    “What’s wrong, is it too weak?”

    ”Weak? I…don’t know. I just don’t really care for it. But thank you.”

    “Wait a minute. You don’t care for it?” He sounded intense.

    ”Not…really.” This was too uncomfortable, so I pulled a picture frame closer and studied it—hoping he would catch the hint. “So, you said these are my kids?”

    ”Yes. You don’t remember them at all?”

    ”No.” Why can’t I remember? “Look, I’m really tired. Is there some place I could just go to sleep for a little while, maybe?”

    He looked quite shaken, for some reason at this request. I hated to make him feel that way, but it was all just too much. I needed to get away and sort things out.

    “Sure. Back here. I scheduled a doctors appointment for your amnesia. It’s tomorrow morning.”

    He showed me to a bedroom and paused at the door. I could tell he had more to say, so I tried to be patient, but I was really starting to dislike this man. Just let me go!

    “Amanda, where were you all that time? You just disappeared from the lab. I know it's all top secret, but you don’t have to hide your research from me.”

    Amanda. That’s my name. I keep forgetting.

    “I really don’t know. Maybe it will come back to me after I get some sleep,” I tried. Doubtful. I don’t have even the slightest bit of a memory to build off of.

    “You were gone for so long... Someone just pulled you out of the river? That’s it?”

    I shrugged. “Apparently.” I brushed past him and took the door knob in my hand. My eyes met his uncomfortably and I gave him a half smile as I shut the door in his face.

    ”Ah.” I laid back on the bed and breathed my relief. Curling up under the covers was all it took. I was out.

    The next morning was even odder than the night before. I awoke and trudged down the hallway, found a bathroom and sat quietly on the couch again. The blanket was still there, so I tucked it around me and tried to make sense of things. Everyone was still sleeping, so observing my surroundings no longer felt quite as intrusive. Toys were strewn everywhere and tucked into every nook. Small circular ‘O’s were scattered generously about. They appeared to be food of some sort. The children in the photos were cute, but they scared me. I felt such a fear inside. Why? What was it about? They didn’t look dangerous, really. But then I knew. Oh, no. What if they really are mine?

    Just then, there was a cry from down the hall. I jumped a mile, then relaxed as I recognized the cry to be that of a child. A second later, there was a thud and quick footsteps ran down the hallway, followed almost immediately by another set. A whirl of activity began. Somewhere, a baby was crying and asking for “momma” and there were two small boys crawling onto my lap, trying to hug me.

    ”I missed you momma!”

    ”Did you miss us, momma? Did you miss us?”

    Oh, please don’t let them start crying...

    My gut was sinking…a pit of despair was whirling around and into my head. What do I say to them? They’re so tiny. I don’t want to hurt them with the news that I didn’t miss them because I have no clue who they are.

    ”Yeah…I missed you.” I patted them on the back and tried to smile without looking completely shell shocked. Where is your father? Apparently no where to be seen. What do I do with these…children?

    “Can you get me some milk?”

    ”I want Cheerios!”

    The older one left and re-emerged with a baby in tow, much to my chagrin.

    ”Oh…did you have to do that?” I snapped.

    “What momma?” The small boy asked.

    ”Bring the baby out here?” I was freaking out. I needed to calm down. “Never mind. Where do I find cheery ohs?”

    The blank stares I got were even more disturbing. I don’t need brats and babies looking at me like I’ve lost my mind, right now.


    ”In the kitchen… In the cabinet, momma.”

    Where is that man?

    Just when I was about to collapse from a nervous breakdown, there was insistent knocking at the front door. Promptly followed by three impatient rings from the door bell.

    What do I do now? I froze and looked at the kids. They just looked back at me expectantly. Then the older one ran to the door, obviously about to throw it wide open.

    ”NO! Stop.” I had no clue how to be a mom, but I was pretty certain that this was a bad idea. Thankfully, their dad entered then. He was shrugging into a house coat. I got an unwanted glimpse of his underwear before quickly looking away. Not quick enough to avoid the confused look in his eyes. Apparently he wondered why I hadn’t bothered to answer the door. I don’t feel like this is my house yet. Arg! Isn’t making cheery ohs for his children enough?

    A very sopping wet and dirty looking woman walked through the door. She looked relieved and happy and right at home. I also noted with blossoming enlightenment that she looked exactly like me…or at least how I imagine I would’ve looked when the men first pulled me from the river a week ago. Dripping wet and dazed.

    The room was completely silent. No one said a word. They just all took in her appearance: dirty, wet, disheveled. Then they looked back at me: clean, dry and neat. None of that could fool them however. They saw in an instant what she had that I didn’t. She was at peace. She was relieved and obviously back home again. She had longing in her eyes for all of them. Her smile was so contagiously bright and encompassing. Her eyes streamed tears of joy.

    The whole family was clearly confused, but they seemed to realize she was their real Amanda.
    Relief was flooding me too, but with it came more doubts and concerns.

    ”Who am I?”

    The husband was wrapping Amanda in a blanket and hugging her, but they all stopped to look at me now. I didn’t mean to ask out loud. Self consciously, I studied the floor. I didn’t want this life. I knew I didn’t belong here, but suddenly all I wanted was to snuggle up on that couch again, with that blanket.

    “You’re a doppleganger. A clone.” Amanda didn’t sound angry, just very accepting. “Zeta-Core made you to replace me, in an attempt to deter a search party. They needed to buy time in order to...question me. You weren’t supposed to have survived the river. But I’m glad you did. Even if you are wearing my body. I’m also glad I managed to escape.” As she turned to Jonah, I caught a glimpse of something morose on her face. Fear and pain. She spoke in a hushed tone.

    “If I hadn't escaped when I did, they would have managed to press the biological-warfare information they wanted out of me.” Absentmindedly, it seemed, her hand reached down to rub her arm where a hideous collection of cuts were beginning to heal. Shock registered on Jonah's face as he placed his hand protectively on her shoulder. I wasn't sure what all this meant, but it seemed they were both caught in a nightmare for a moment.

    Her demeanor changed and brightened as she bent and embraced all three of her children. She sobbed a bit, but it quickly turned into laughter as one of the children innocently informed her that she stunk.

    I sat on the couch and pulled my feet up. I held my knees and stared at the fireplace for a moment, thinking. Do I leave now? I don’t belong here. It’s clear they love her. Very much. It felt as if I had just lost something precious.

    ”I know this is strange for you... Stay with us and have breakfast. Jonah honey, can you get some breakfast for everyone? We need to talk, but first I have to make a few calls to the CIA--and get a shower!”

    He laughed with her; I could see the love pouring through those eyes of his. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all, but it didn’t matter now. He was no longer mine.

    I got to have a big bowl of the ‘cheery ohs’, and we had more of that strange bitter coffee, which they seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Amanda offered to help me settle in to a life of my own. Then men from the CIA arrived to take us for a debriefing.

    It’s strange living life as an accident, but I’m hopeful. And I know what I want to do with this life that I’ve been given. I want to love and be loved.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Ohmytheoctopus - The Guardian

    I died at 8:32 AM on a Thursday morning.

    It was such a simple thing, really. My dying, that is. One minute I was walking to class, in a hurry because there was an important exam. The next I was... where was I?

    I suppose it may have been heaven. I don’t know. My family was never religious, but it certainly looked like heaven might. I woke up lying on a bed of pale green grass, surrounded by white mist. I got up without a thought and started walking. I was barefoot; the grass was pricking the soles of my feet. Around me, invisible because of the mist, I heard the sounds of something huge moving close by. I should have been scared out of my wits, and confused, too, but none of those feelings came. I was...blank. Devoid of emotion. Soon the grass grew springier and I felt the ground getting wetter. And then I was standing ankle-deep in a pond.

    A girl of about eight sat at the edge of the pond, several feet from me, skipping smooth white stones across the water. She looked at me and patted the grass next to her. I took a seat.

    "You must be Kora," she said with a smile. I nodded.

    "Where am I?" I asked, watching vacantly as she tossed another stone. The child turned to me.

    "Don’t you know?" when I didn’t answer, she laughed. It was a jarring, cynical sound. I wondered how such an adult noise could come from this girl. "My name is Wander."

    We sat for a while, and Wander handed me a stone to skip. I tossed it with a practiced flick of the wrist and—


    "Ouch!" I yelled, clutching my chest. I looked frantically at Wander, who handed me another stone.

    "Quick, toss it!" she urged. I did. Again, the sudden, unbearable pain punched me in the chest. Wander laughed wickedly. "They're trying to bring you back. It won't work though. Do you want to try again?" she asked, holding another stone out to me.

    "No... It hurts too much." I whimpered. Grinning knowingly, she closed her tiny fingers around the rock and placed it on the grass.

    "His name is Palmer," she said. I opened my mouth to ask her who's name was Palmer. "Ah-ah... no questions. You'd better hurry; his mother won't let him watch any more." She suddenly reached out and pushed me... into the pond. I felt an awful shock of cold and then—

    --I was standing over my body. I lay in the street, bloody, broken. I wept a little, but then I saw him.

    A little boy, no older than eight, clutching his mother's hand. He was very pale and wore a Power Rangers shirt. His mother tugged his hand and the boy allowed himself to be led away.

    I followed.

    I walked closely behind the boy, staring at him hungrily. Sometimes he looked back with an almost adult look of worry and concern on his face. I felt sorry, for I knew that it was my death that caused his troubled thoughts.

    "Mommy?" he ventured. "Will the lady go to heaven?" we were crossing the street.

    "What lady, sweetheart?"

    "The dead lady, mommy. The one who got hit by the car." He insisted. His mother looked at him, momentarily concerned.

    "I'm sure she will, honey. Come on, we're going to be late."

    That night I watched as Palmer was tucked in by his parents. When they turned out the light, I knelt next to his bed and stroked his hair. He didn’t feel it.

    I watched over Palmer for many years. I saw him have his first kiss with the girl down the street. I watched him go to prom, watched him graduate from high school. He was healthy, he was smart. I loved him. He went to college and met his soul mate. I was there. She was beautiful. They had children: three little girls. I loved them too. He was very happy.

    Sometimes I helped him. It was hard and exhausted me, and so I could only do it rarely. Once he had dropped his cell phone while driving and was searching for it, not paying attention. I whispered into his ear: "Watch the road" just before the deer leaped onto the roadway. He easily avoided it and I smiled lovingly at him.

    I saved him from a fate all too similar to my own once. He was in a hurry; he was late for his youngest daughter's birthday party. My sweet Palmer wasn’t paying much attention when he dashed across the crosswalk. But I was. I saw the bus and pushed him with all my strength. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to propel him back to the curb, where he landed with a thump.

    "Whoa, are you okay? That bus almost turned you into road kill," wheezed an elderly man standing nearby. Palmer looked at him, dazed.

    "I—I must have tripped or something." He replied, shaken. He still clutched his daughter's birthday present, which was wrapped in pink wrapping paper. She was turning seven.

    "Or something," smiled the old man. "I'd say that something was a hell of a guardian angel."

    "Could be."
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    themightyduck - True Justice

    The newly steam-cleaned carpet almost shone with cleanliness as a pair of black business shoes paced impatiently up and down the length of the large room. The shoes matched perfectly with the expensive suit the tall man wore. His drawn face displayed an anxious expression and his usually cold eyes had a distant and thoughtful look. Finally, tired of his pacing, he retired to his leather high-back office chair behind a solid oak desk. He firmly tapped his fingers on the desk. His fingers were decorated with many golden rings that were dotted with sparkling diamonds.
    Gregorio Lachey, the boss mobster, was never disturbed like this. Usually, he was cool and calm as he collected the cash from the jobs his boys pulled off, the rent from his expensive real estate, and the blood money fom the dirty deeds his hitmen performed. But a recent event had upset Gregorio's perfect routine aned he didn't like it when his routine was upset.
    Lance Ramses, Gregorio's right-hand man, had defected. Lance, who had appeared to be the most loyal follower of Gregorio, had fled just three nights ago, but not before taking firm evidence against Gregorio about his terrible crimes and dispicable offences in the mob world. Gregorio cringed at this thought. Papers, letters, bills, so many things that would put him in the slammer for the rest of his days.
    As soon as he had learned Lance had defected, Gregorio instantly jumped into action. Knowing it could only have been several hours since Lance had gone and that he was on foot, Gregorio quickly pinpointed where the traitor would most likely be. Gregorio swiftly sent out his men to the warehouse district and Lance had been almost immediately sighted, but his boys hadn't been able to get close enough to him to be able to bump him off. Gregorio wanted it done as quietly and without arousing suspicion. The least thing he needed at the moment was the cops to get involved. Lance Ramses had now holed himself up somewhere in the district but Gregorio was determined to be patient. He had strategically placed his men at certain points in the district, making it impossible for Lance to escape. The only dangers now was if Lance chanced it to pass his information on to a stranger, which was extremely risky, or if he managed to access a phone to tell someone he knew that he had crucial evidence against Gregorio Lachey. Gregorio had recently been able to eliminate the second problem by tapping into the telephone wire to the warehouse district so now if Lance did get to a phone, Gregorio would know exactly what he was planning to do.
    Just a few hours ago, there had been a major breakthrough. One of the men who had been monitoring the telephone line had picked up on a call made by Lance, his location still unknown. The call was to Ray Ramses, Lance's only son, whome he had no contact with for fifteen years. Lance had tole Ray about his terrible predicament and that Ray had to help him. Ray had immediately said he would inform the police but Lance had strongly protested. Ray's exact words had been, "You have been a coward all your life. You abandoned your wife and could not face the responsibilities of being a father. You have preyed upon the poor and destroyed the weak. Your recent actions show you want to be more than what you have always been. Do not weaken now as you have before. You have committed many crimes and one day you must pay for them. I believe today is that day."
    After Ray's speech, Lance had agreed. Their plan was that Lance would make no more phone calls for it was too risky. Ray had insisted that he would go talk to the police face to face for he believed it would be better. Lance was to sit tight until the police arrived.
    Before the phone conversation had ended, Gregorio's men had alreadly tracked down where Ray lived and Gregorio had dispatched his top assasin, Leo Kras, to deal with Ray. If everything went according to plan, Ray would be dead before he had his coat on.
    Suddenly, there was a sharp knock at Gregorio's door. Gregorio's head jerked towards the closed door. His heartbeat quickened slightly. "Enter!" Gregorio snapped and the door swung silently open to reveal Leo Kras. Kras was an extremely tall man and of muscular build. A small goatie clung to his sharp chin and his short black hair was slicked back, not a single hair out of place. "Well?" Gregorio questioned, his cold eyes boring into Kras, trying to find his answer. "The deed is done, sir." Kras' face was like a stone, hard and emotionless. This was very different of Kras. Usually, after a successful hit, he was exceedingly smug and satisfied with himself. "Well done, Kras," Gregorio said, his icy eyes lighting up at the good news, "now, I have a new job for you. Listen to my carefully. While you were gone, Lance was sighted again. The traitor got cold feet and moved to another warehouse. Now is the perfet moment to hit. It is forty minutes to midnight so there will be nobody about. You and another man will go to the district and the order will be given for the rest of the men to leave. The less people there, the better. You must remember to be quick, because as soon as the gun is fired, you are in danger of the cops coming. Get Lance's body out of there and into the river as fast as possible."
    Kras was silent and expressionless all the way through Gregorio's detailed instructions. Now, he broke the silence. "Who will the other man be sir?" Gregorio moved forward to lean his arms on his desk, a cruel smirk firmly planted on his clean-shaven face. His hollow eyes were alight with the thirst for revenge. Kras's face broke into a sly smile. "Just you and me sir?" "Just you and me, Kras. I want to kill him personally. I want my justice." Kras' hand moved to rest on his shiny black revolver that was fitted into his belt. "I assure you, sir, you will get your justice."


    Gregorio looked like a tiny man walking up the warehouse stairs alongside the towering Kras. They both arrived at the top of the stairs at the same time. There was a dirty and fragile-looking door sitting right in front of them. Gregorio turned the doorknob and the door creaked noisily open. The full moon cast a spooky glow through the square window on the dusty boxes inside the room. The small room was cluttered with broken pieces of furniture and other odd bits and pieces. Sitting on one of the boxes was a short man that was largely overweight. He was nearly bald and only had some grey hair growing at the back of his head. When he spied Gregorio and Kras, his beady little eyes almost popped out of his head. Gregorio felt greatly empowered when he saw the fear on Lance's chubby face. "Hello, my loyal follower." Gregorio said, reaching for his pistol.
    Before he was able to grab his revolver, Gregorio felt a massive fist collide with the back of his head. Gregorio painfully fell on the filthy floor. He felt his revolver being removed from his belt but he was too disorientated to do anything about it. When Gregorio regained his senses, he saw Kras standing over him with two pistols at the ready and Lance frantically talking into a mobile in the background. "Kras, what the hell are you doing?! Lance is behind you, shoot him!" Gregorio yelled, anger and rage boiling up within him, like a hot volcano ready to explode. "A son cannot shoot his very own father." Kras replied evenly. Gregorio stared at him in bewildered confusion, not able to understand what he was saying. Kras grinned smugly at Gregorio's confusion. "I do not believe we have been properly acquainted. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Ray Ramses." Gregorio's mouth dropped open in disbelief. He slowly dragged himself up from the floor, both revolvers following his every move. He stared wide-eyed at Ray, whom he had been utterly convinced was Kras. "It can't be," Gregorio almost spat, "do you really expect me to believe that? What do you take me for, a fool?" "Actually, that is exactly what I took you for," Ray replied smoothly, "otherwise, I wouldn't have tried my little deception on you." Gregorio looked Ray up and down. He was precisely Kras! The monstrous height, his large build, the shiny black hair, even Kras' low, smooth voice. It was eerie and inparticularly ghostly. it was like deja vu. "But I sent Kras to kill you." Gregorio managed to sputter out. " Caught both of us by surprise there, Gregorio," Ray said dryly, "neither of us expected to come face to face with an exact replica of ourselves." "But how come you are standing here instead of Kras?" Gregorio demanded. "I suppose when you meet a man that could be your identical twin, you both lose your composure," Ray said musedly, "I was the first to regain mine. Once I extracted the information I wanted out of Kras, I decided to play his part and hope for the best. The police might have not taken my father's life into much consideration. But things worked out better than anything I could have ever hoped for." Gregorio was absolutely dumbfounded.
    Outside, sirens began to moan. Lance's shoulders slumped as he saw his freedom slipping away. "I guess this is it." Lance said chokingly. "You'll be okay," said Ray softly, "I know you will."
    Gregorio's head had snapped towards the sirens as soon as he had heard them, fear apparent on his face. He turned to glare poisonously at Ray. "You lying piece of filth!" He snarled viciously, feeling betrayed and deserted. "There is one thing I didn't lie to you about, Gregorio." Ray said. Gregorio looked at him through his cold eyes, not sure if he wanted to know the answer. Ray's warm eyes twinkled mischieviously. " I told you that you would get your justice!"
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    BabelFish42 - Behind the Glass

    “You’re going to do what?”

    “I’m getting plastic surgery,” Penny repeated herself, enunciating very slowly and carefully. “And I need you to give me a ride.” With that, she shrugged off her overstuffed backpack, letting it crash unceremoniously on the floor of her sister’s bedroom, and crossed her arms for added effect.

    Naomi set down the heart-shaped picture frame she’d been fiddling with and pressed both sets of fingers against her forehead, like she did whenever she felt a migraine coming on.

    “Penny, first of all, why? Secondly, do you have any idea how much that would cost?”

    Penny’s green eyes narrowed. “I have money saved up.”

    “I repeat, do you know how much it would cost?”

    “Not exactly. Do you?”

    “Well, no, actually,” Naomi admitted. “Not something I ever looked into. But that’s what the internet’s for. Here, let's find out just how stupid this idea is.”

    Pushing aside the heart-shaped picture frame, pencils, notebooks, gum wrappers and other assorted pieces of junk, Naomi pulled a keyboard and mouse to the front of her desk where she could easily reach them. Penny sat down on the unmade bed and watched. Strands of sweaty red hair were sticking to her nearly equally red face, as though she’d been in a hurry to get home from the bus stop as quickly as possible.

    “I’ll pay as much as necessary, okay? And if I don’t have the money, I’ll find a way to get it.”

    “And how will you get Dad’s permission? They don’t operate on fourteen-year-olds unless a parent or guardian says it’s okay.”

    Penelope’s face darkened into a frown, but only for a moment. “Hey Naomi, you’re over eighteen! So couldn’t you-”

    “Ooh no!”


    “Absolutely not. Besides, I’m your sister, not your guardian.” A new window popped up on her computer screen. “Aha, here we go. Average prices for basic procedures. I hope you have a lot of babysitting money saved up.” Naomi began quoting a list of prices.

    “Wait,” Penny interrupted. “Can you say those again? I think I heard you wrong.” Naomi repeated herself. Penny had heard correctly the first time. Her face fell.

    “There has to be another way,” Penny groaned.

    “Easy. Get a nose ring, dye your hair, buy colored contacts. The bigger question is, why are you so deadset on changing your appearance?”

    “Because I can’t stand another day of looking like… me.”

    “Like you? Or like Emily?”

    Penny snorted. “Like there’s a difference?”

    “There is,” Naomi smiled. “Identical twins aren’t so identical if you know them well enough. But you’re dodging my question again.”

    “Dick Scheyer called me Emily this morning,” Penny said, glaring fiercely at the piece of fiery red hair she was twirling around her index finger.

    Naomi frowned. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. The school secretary called this afternoon. She said you dropped an entire tray of cafeteria food on him during lunch.”


    Naomi’s eyebrow shot up. “You, the best gymnast in the school, accidentally tripped on a flat surface and just happened smear Dick with mashed potatoes and gravy on your way down?”

    “Sure,” Penny shrugged. “Just like he ‘accidentally’ forgot who I was and called me Emily, right after I got on his case for harassing J.T. again.”

    “Don’t you think that was a bit of an overreaction, though?”

    “Admit it, you’re impressed.”

    “Yeah, a little,” Naomi grinned. “But still, no matter how amusing it was, your behavior was immature and totally unacceptable.” Though really, she thought, it was mid-October. No way Dick had made an honest mistake. By now, the whole school knew what had happened over the summer.

    Naomi turned serious again. “Penny, changing the way you look isn’t going to stop him. He wants to say something nasty, he’ll find a way.”

    “It’s not just him,” Penny replied, shaking her head. She hesitated, as though uncertain of what to say, then the words gushed forth like fallen leaves in a gust of autumn wind. “Sometimes people I don’t know stop me on the street or in the mall, thinking I’m her. It never bothered me before, but now… Last Friday, I came home late and Dad was asleep on the couch. I think he was dreaming about her, because I woke him up and he thought… then he realized it was me. And he almost cried, because I wasn’t the one he wanted to see.” Penny’s voice cracked. “She’s everywhere I go! In store windows, in the review mirror, even the freakin’ puddles! I can’t stand it anymore. I’m sick of looking like… like me. Like her.”


    “I don’t- I can’t… I hate this, Naomi! I hate looking in the mirror and seeing her, every day, every single day!” Penny’s hands darted up to the corners of her eyes in an effort to wipe away the teardrops before they could tumble down her cheeks. There were some things even Naomi couldn’t be allowed see.

    Penny’s gaze drifted away from her sister, who was now searching for who-knew-what in her desk drawer, and caught instead on the mirror perched on top of Naomi’s dresser. The ghost behind the glass raised her green eyes to meet Penny’s. In appearance, the two of them were identical, but beneath the surface they were as different as they had always been. Penny was everything the ghost was not, had everything her double had lost forever, and they both knew it. The ghost was crying silently too. Of course, she was always silent. Always silent, always watching, always accusing. The ghost wanted to know why she, not her twin, was trapped on the silent side of the glass. Why, on that humid July night, Penny had called shotgun, leaving the ghost to take the backseat. Why Penny, not her, had been the one who emerged from the wreckage unscathed. And Penny had no answer for her.

    A hundred million streams of thoughts swirled through her head, a chaotic whirlpool of words and images and indecipherable emotions. Before it could drown her, Penny looked away from the mirror, turning her gaze on the much safer sight of Naomi’s unvacuumed floor. She took a deep breath, blinking away the remains of the teardrops.

    “I don’t want to remember her anymore. It just hurts too much.” Penny’s voice was steady and matter-of-fact, as emotionless as her averted eyes.

    Naomi, who had finally located a package of Kleenex in her top desk drawer, gently set it back down amid the clutter, staring tenderly at her sister. “You want to forget her instead?”

    “Yes. Maybe. I… I think I do.” She let out a laugh that sounded more like a dry sob. “I wish I could forget she existed at all. How horrible is that?”

    Naomi moved to the bed and wrapped an arm around Penny. “Hey, now. It's okay. You aren’t horrible. Just human. You do what you have to.”

    A long silence filled the room. Penny rested her head against Naomi’s shoulder and watched the sunlight creep across the floor and begin to climb up the mahogany dresser. Outside, a dog barked. Music boomed from a passing car. The sound of a school bus could be heard, followed by shouts and the shrill laughter of children. The world continued to spin while the two girls remained still and quiet.

    “So,” Naomi ended the silence, “would you rather be blonde, brunette, or black-haired like me?”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “If you really want to look different, I think a bottle of hair dye would be something more in our price range. How ‘bout it? I can cut it too if you want.”

    Penny’s face broke into a shaky smile. “That would be great. Um… not blonde. Maybe brunette… or black might look good…”

    “Sleep on it. We’ll go get the stuff tomorrow.”

    “Thanks Naomi.” Penny picked up her backpack and headed toward the door, then stopped. “Naomi… you don’t think she would mind, do you?”


    Penny’s voice was barely audible. “Emily.”

    “No. Of course not.”

    Penny nodded and disappeared through the doorway.

    Naomi picked up the heart-shaped picture frame she’d shoved to the edge of her cluttered desk. Suddenly, with Penelope out of the room, her peaceful expression became a grimace of pain. Still holding the picture frame, she reached down to open the lowest drawer of her desk, where all the dust-covered keepsakes of years past lay buried. Naomi stared to lower the picture frame, then paused, staring intently at the photograph behind the glass. A long moment later, she stood up and crossed the room. After clearing a spot on the dresser, she gently set the picture frame in front of the mirror, adjusting it so that the late afternoon sun softly illuminated the two little red-headed girls within.
  9. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Vacant - Worth a Thousand Words

    I remember being cold --in my dream, that is. Then it would change; one horror swirling to the next, frightening me back to consciousness. I’d find myself sitting upright in bed, gasping for breath, sticky with sweat. Hesitantly, I would fall back asleep, only for the dreams to come back again at the first sign of sleep.

    I saw every hour on my alarm clock throughout the night, and gave up trying to get some sleep at around six in the morning when I started to hear sounds of life from outside –a distant bird, a car; I could sense it was almost sunrise. So I crawled out of bed, feeling rather wide awake, and went downstairs.

    With Sarah gone to visit her sister for the weekend, I had the house to myself. Naturally, I had some friends over the night before; we had a few drinks, watched some television; they left early, around ten o’clock because of the snow. Feeling groggy from the beers, I went to bed as soon as they'd left. Perhaps the alcohol was to blame for my restless night or the sound of the wind howling outside my window; or, whether I liked to admit it or not, maybe it was because I was sleeping alone.

    Being up before the sun wasn’t something I was used to. It was still dark outside, but I could see the first signs of an orange and pink glow coming from behind the trees. It was beautiful –-certainly a welcoming sight after my fitful night. I brewed some coffee and stood in the kitchen, watching the sunrise. I wished Sarah was home.

    Only after I finished my coffee did I notice the power had gone out in the night. The clock on the stove blinked 12:00; the phone lines were down, too. I wasn’t surprised in the slightest. It was quite the storm. Everything was covered in snow; everything was white. I sighed, remembering how Sarah and I were so excited about spring coming. The weather had been so nice the previous week, with the sun shining and the snow almost melted; it was one of the reasons she thought to go visit her sister.

    Up so early, I seemed to have too much time and little to do with it. With the power down, the computer and television were out of the question. Although the weather seemed better, going out didn’t seem like a good idea either; the roads were blocked. So I decided to call Sarah, but she didn't answer. So, I left a voicemail:

    “Hey, I forgot you’d still be asleep… Call me when you wake up. It really snowed here last night; I doubt I can even pull my car out of the garage. Oh, and the guy called about your picture last night… it’s all framed and ready to go. I’ll pick it up today if I can get out of the house. Tell Grace and Keith I say hi. Love you, bye.”

    Fed up with my boredom, I made an attempt to get my car out of the garage -and was successful. Driving down the street, I barely had my foot on the gas, worried that I would spin out.

    I seemed to be the only one crazy enough to head out in this type of weather. At first, I didn’t even know where I was going, since most of the stores I drove by seemed closed. However, I found myself driving towards the mall by instinct, thinking that it would be a good idea to go pick up Sarah’s picture -if the mall was open, anyway. When I got there, there were two cars in the parking lot, near the doors. I pulled up next to a little red car, killed the engine and started to get out when I froze.

    The car beside mine wasn’t just any car, but Sarah’s.

    I got out of my car and closed the door. Confused, I stood by the passenger side of the little red car, looking inside and trying to make myself completely certain it was hers. It was --the little stuffed alligator hanging from the mirror; her college sweatshirt was laying in the backseat. There was an empty paper coffee cup on the floor. There was one of my CD’s laying in the dashboard. It was Sarah’s alright. What was she doing back?

    I was baffled by the appearance of her vehicle. I stood there for a minute trying to figure it out, but the as cold was starting to get to me, I zipped my jacket up tighter and stumbled inside. The doors parted automatically as I approached –it was open after all.

    Once warm inside, the first thing I did was pull my cell phone from my pocket, dialing Sarah’s number. It rang until her voicemail picked up… again.

    I started walking, reasoning with myself as I went. Maybe she left early but forgot her phone at her sisters… she would have wanted to stop and pick up her picture before coming home. It made sense. I knew how excited she was about it. The picture was one that she’d taken –her first “professional photograph” she said- blown up and framed. She wanted to put it in the dining room above the table. It was a wonderful shot; she’d taken it downtown in one of the little market places she loved so much. The question was, however, how did Sarah know her picture was ready to be picked up?

    Obviously, the first place I went to search was the framing store. She wasn’t there; the shop manager, however, recognized me and assumed I was there for the photo, which I technically was. He started up a conversation, jabbering away about how talented my wife was for a beginner photographer. I nodded but interrupted to ask if he had seen her stop by. He frowned a moment but then shook his head. Now my mind was racing, as was my heart. Unsure of why I felt so much anxiety, I paid for Sarah’s photo, but left it there, telling the man I would be back for it soon.

    With so little shoppers in the mall that morning, I figured it would be easy to find her, but it wasn’t. I looked everywhere, even the bathrooms, yet I didn’t get so much as a glimpse of Sarah; no long brown hair, no dark blue jacket, no big brown purse. I even called her phone again; there was no luck. Finally, I headed back to the framer, deciding to just go home and wait for her there. I called Sarah again as I walked into the store, listening to the endless ring from the other end.

    “You won’t have any luck with that,” the store manager chuckled. I knew he was right and snapped my phone shut in frustration. “Apparently the landlines should be back up and running soon, though.”

    I nodded, anxious to just get out and leave. I closed the gap between myself and the counter, but noticed a look of confusion touch the framers face. I frowned back at him, wondering why he was just standing there.

    “Your wife came by…” he said.

    I started. “What? I thought you said you hadn’t seen her…”

    “I hadn’t, Sir, but she came by not long after you had left.”

    My mouth must have hung open in shock, for the older man seemed embarrassed by my reaction. He attempted to consol me; “Beautiful woman,” he said smartly, his mouth smiling but his eyes looking hesitant. “Very beautiful… beautiful picture….”

    I didn’t even say goodbye, but turned and left without another word. I walked through the mall in quick strides, my eyes darting back and forth in hopes of seeing her. There were barely ten people in the whole mall; it felt eerie. The elevator music that played sounded too loud; I didn’t even know the malls had played music. I hoped on the nearest escalator to get downstairs. Maybe I could catch Sarah before she drove away. I was so frustrated, irritated and confused. I wanted to run, but there was a lady on the escalator a few steps down, so I waited.

    Then I saw her.

    Sarah. My wife. Her long brown hair, her dark blue jacket, and her big brown bag –and in her arms, the framed photo, almost too big for her to carry, wrapped in brown paper. She was walking toward the doors, her back to me; it was her though, without a doubt. I would know her anywhere.

    I hurried down the escalator, not caring about the woman in front of me as I knocked passed her. I tried to call her name, but my voice caught in my throat. She was almost at the doors now, so I tried again. “Sarah!” I yelled; the volume of my voice surprised me.

    Sarah had reached the doors when the she heard her name. She was leaning against the door to open it, since her hands weren’t free. She glanced over her shoulder at me, our eyes meeting for the quickest of moments before she continued on as though she hadn’t heard or seen me.

    I stopped, watching her go through the glass doors marked OUT. I felt something building in the pit of my stomach, something I hadn’t felt before. In my mind, the logical explanation was a misunderstanding. However, the feeling in my stomach told me otherwise.

    Suddenly, my phone started to vibrate. I jumped slightly, forgetting I had been holding it the whole time. I expected the little screen to read: ‘Sarah Calling’ but I was disappointed. Instead, it said ‘Thompson A Calling’. I opened my phone.

    “Sarah?” I asked anxiously.

    “Zachary, no, it’s me, Grace. I’ve—“

    “Grace, hey, sorry. Did Sarah leave?”

    “Zach, listen to me a minute. Where are you?”

    “The mall, I just saw—“

    “Zach! Please listen!”

    The force in her voice silenced me. Again, I couldn’t help but feel an unknown emotion building in the pit of my stomach. Now I understood what it meant, though: dread. Something was wrong. What could be wrong? I just saw Sarah -she was fine. Something happened to Grace, maybe… or her husband or daughter…?

    “What’s wrong Grace? Is Maddy alright?” I asked anxiously.

    “Maddy is just fine, Zach,” said Grace. She seemed to feel that I was about to interrupt again, because she hurried on. Now I heard the emotion in her voice. “It’s Sarah. It’s why I’m calling. She… the snowstorm… She was on her way here… it hit us before it hit you. She didn’t know. There was no where to stop.” She was crying now. I clutched the phone in my hand tightly, hearing her sobs and the static of the connection.

    “What happened?” I whispered, raising my eyes to the doors ahead of me, the ones that said OUT…

    “She couldn’t see the road and spun out… rolled her car. It was a whiteout. It happened last night, I tried to call you but the phones were down until now.”

    My mind flashed to the red car I saw outside, parked beside mine; the alligator hanging from the mirror; I remembered the nightmares. “And?”

    “The doctor said it’s only a matter of time.” She was sobbing again, harder this time. “Oh Zach, I wish there was a way you could see her, but the highway is shut down, there’s no way…”

    “Grace, are you sure you’re not—“

    “Not what, Zach? Do you know where I’m calling you from!? The hospital! No, I’m not mistaken, if that’s what you were going to ask!”

    I started to walk. “I have to go…”

    “Wait, I—“

    I didn’t wait. I hung up, broke into a run. I got to the exit doors and pushed, dashing out into the cold winter air, blinded by the intensity of white. A snow plow had come and cleared some of the parking lot, pushing all the snow up onto the side walks. I tripped as I ran through it, but kept going, squinting to try and find my car.

    I spotted it, next to two empty parking spots. I closed the gap, fumbling around in my pocket for my car keys. I found them, nearly dropped them, and then unlocked my car. Within a couple more minutes, I was speeding out of the parking lot, spinning and fishtailing as I went.

    There were still no cars on the roads, which was lucky considering the amount of red lights I sped through. To get home, it took me five minutes. I didn’t even bother to park in the garage, but stopped half way up the drive way and then ran to the front door, my keys ready to unlock it. It flew open and I stumbled in, finally coming to a stop. I tried to listen closely, but I was breathing so hard that it was all I could hear. I didn’t bother calling out her name again; that feeling in my stomach told me she wasn’t here. Instead, I began slowly walking through the house, looking for some sign of her being there.

    I went through the kitchen, seeing nothing but my morning’s coffee mug. I walked into the living room, seeing the beer cans still sitting there from the night before. I kept walking. Next, I turned into the dining room.

    When I saw it, I felt like I was punched in the gut. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t even stand. With a small yelp, I sank down to the floor, feeling something rising up in the back of my throat. I was going to be sick, cry or scream all at the same time; I did neither. I was dumbstruck. I was gasping; I clutched my throat. All the while, my eyes were fixed forward.

    Across from me, mounted on the wall, was the picture in its new frame.
  10. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    inkslinger - The Bare Pit of Existence

    You can only be on top for so long.

    Then you fall.

    It’s a long fall. Falling from the very top, the peak of everything in all its glory, all the way down to the bare pit of existence is the hardest thing. When you’re on top everyone looks at you in this special sort of light, as if you’re golden or some big legend they’ve heard their whole entire life. It’s in every little thing you do, every place you go, every reaction you get from someone. Spend one day, just one day on top, and then go back to being you and you’ll see. It’s different. It’s almost too good to be true.

    No one’s turn on top lasts forever. No one's born on top and dies on top. If you’re born rich and loved and respected, you’ll be dying as a withered, grumpy, senile shrub of your former self. Likewise, if you’re born poor and unfortunate you very well may be lucky enough to end your existence on top. You may have one but you can’t have both.

    Collin Ace Branham has his own theories. Collin Ace Branham is the richest man in his city. He’s infamous and respected and seen as a great powerhouse. He was born into the prominent Branham family and followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming even more of a successful business man than dad. Mr. Branham has everything. It’s easier to say what he doesn’t have than to list all of the luxuries of his life.

    Mr. Branham is of the firm belief that when he kicks the bucket, he will go out on top. There’s no way things can go wrong, he’s decided. With a fabulous family, a grand mansion, a booming business empire, and all of the admiration possible from the city’s citizens, how can anything go wrong? He makes it a point to be there at the family dinner table each night; he donates corpus amounts of dough to charity every few weeks; he has a sickeningly squeaky clean life history with no major evident flaws at all.

    One might go as far as to say Collin Ace Branham is pretty perfect; he’s a model guy. He has a few flaws, but what the public eye never sees, what never surfaces to the spotlight, what others don’t know… simply doesn’t matter.

    He loves to hear himself talk, Mr. Collin Branham. He hosts business gatherings and social get-togethers just to give toasts and make announcements and go on for periods on end in which he… enlightens everyone with his great words of wisdom. And he is wise. If anyone knows how to look good in the view of others, it’s Mr. Branham.

    “There are two faces to a person,” Mr. Branham says. He takes a swig of his drink and winks. He winks often, sometimes for no specific reason at all. It’s almost a glitch of his. He’s finished his drink and, in an instant, the help, Tressa, is beside him to replace the glass of champagne. Mr. Branham takes the drink from her with no acknowledgment, eyes focused instead on the large crowd crushed into a cube in order to fit into the formal dining room. “Gang, truth is, we like to pride ourselves in the fact that we’re good and true; we like to think we have everything all figured out. Fact of the matter is, we don’t! Sometimes we need to stop sweetening the sour patches. We can’t sweep things under the rug forever, now can we? There comes a time when we have to accept ourselves for who we are, as talk show host as that sounds! Hell, we can’t use the alcohol to help us forget forever, right, gang?”

    With chuckles his toast is over. Everyone falls into sidebar conversation and chatter, and Mr. Branham is pleased. Another successful dinner party is on its way; another successful toast just took off and landed. He’s already planning his next big event.

    “Sir, another drink?” Tressa asks quietly.

    “No, I’m done. I feel an urge to go golf. Trista, get rid of them,” he says nonchalantly, handing her his empty glass.

    He’s halfway toward the exit by the time she opens her mouth to ask, “With what excuse?”

    As soon as the spotlight is off, Collin Branham loses interest very quickly. He finds most people incredibly boring. No one ever has anything good to say. It’s why he doesn’t sit through anyone else’s speeches. People always go off in some trite attempt to inspire and he’s left yawning. Most of the time, their opinion is meaningless; how can one inspire if they’re specs in the vast ocean water?

    Dinner party after dinner party and business pow-wow after business pow-wow, Mr. Branham never tires of hearing himself talk. He usually has a drink in hand and a matching smirk, his left eyebrow quirked. He gets a funny lovely feeling in his stomach when he talks in front of people, when he gives out his good words.

    At business meetings, his associates watch him as if he’s some philosopher, a glow in their eyes, and he knows, he knows they’re hanging onto his every word. It amazes him. As if they’re going to run to the nearest computer and compile this collection of great quotes by Collin Ace Branham.

    Sometimes he speaks so much and at so many different places he loses track of them all. One moment it feels as if he’s in a big business room with windows overlooking the city’s tall landscape and the next the scenery, the onlookers and fans, fade to the parlor of his mansion, new faces and different words spilling out of his mouth.

    It’s hard to keep count of them all; he’s around so much trying to boast his success up.

    If so blinded by the words and the feel of them leaving your tongue, if distracted by chalking up your own greatness and advice, if caught up in all of the things you’ve done, is it possible to lose yourself? Possible to lose track of time and place and all things that go along with it?

    Eyes pop open, Mr. Branham is in bed. It’s a nice Monday morning, a typical one. Outside it’s chilly and sprightly, as most Mondays in October are. The city is already alive and moving; traffic providing a soundtrack.

    Mr. Branham looks to the left of his massive king size bed. His wife is gone. All that’s there is the groove of her body. He looks far across the room to the mantel where an aged but impressive wooden clock is displayed. It’s nine thirty.

    Why didn’t Catherine wake him?

    She must be out shopping, he decides with contempt.

    Still, it was no excuse for Trina to forget to wake him. She was the help after all!

    He begrudgingly makes it to the bathroom and begins the long process of his morning grooming. His long, steamy shower, a good, thorough shave, and then there’s wardrobe. Mr. Branham likes to think he’s better-looking than he is, if not because of his looks, because of his money.

    It’s past eleven in the morning by the time Mr. Branham emerges from the large master bedroom of the mansion, ready to begin his day.

    He walks down the spiraling staircase already sorting out his words, about to go give Trinity a piece of his mind. He’s thinking about firing her. The lousy good-for-nothing personal assistant never gets anything right, anyway! Besides, there’s a million other young, attractive, jobless women out there who would grovel on their knees just to work for him.

    He steps into the breakfast room ready to strike, but stops short at the sight.

    There she is all right, but she’s watching someone. She looks wistful and hopeless, a longing glint in her eyes, the one she uses for him during his speeches. There are others too, some acquaintances he’s invited over before.

    He can’t quite remember if he had planned to have anyone over for breakfast. He doesn’t remember much of what he had planned for the day. It’s so easy to lose track of his plans when there were so many events he hosted and places he’s supposed to be.

    Not that he realized it, but he’s hosted the same events over and over, with near identical speeches and words of wisdom over and over again. He’s lost track of what he’s done and hasn’t done. To be fair, it’s easy when your life has become one big speech about yourself.

    He’s standing in the back and the room is mostly quiet except for one person.

    Someone’s speaking; someone’s giving a speech. He doesn’t know who, the room is so crowded he can hardly see anything.

    Mr. Branham squeezes past a few people, bumping right into them, feeling he’s important enough to force his way through, and they don’t acknowledge him. He’s sure it’s because they know who he is, too. They can’t exactly mind. It’s not really a choice.

    He bullies his way to the front of the gathering of guests, about to end the speech with the announcement of his own arrival, but he can’t. He stops short.

    He does a double take when he sees who’s talking.

    He’s talking.

    A one Collin Ace Branham stands before him talking.

    A one imposter stands before him talking, his precious words, his, Mr. Collin Ace Branham’s words, spilling out of the fake’s mouth!

    He doesn’t understand. How can he be in two places at once?

    He’s talking.

    I’m talking.

    And just like that, it’s all gone for him. His empire has sailed away into the horizon, out of his grasp, no longer in his reach.

    I’m here. I’m him. I’m doing the talking.

    He doesn’t understand. He’s dumbfounded. He assumes he must be dreaming.

    “I’ve nothing else to say, gang, I don’t want our breakfast to get any colder,” I say brightly. “I’ll just leave you with, remember, there are two faces to every person. Make sure you tie yours up in the closet and everything will be perfectly fine.”

    He grabs the ends of his hair, clutching it in horror as I finish my announcement and the room cheers with approval and humor. I made them laugh, I charmed them.

    Mr. Branham begins to panic. The room begins to spin. Everyone is applauding.

    I hold up my glass of orange juice, smiling, winking. I look right at him and no one in the room knows the significance of my prolonged gaze in his, to them, nonexistent direction. I’m looking right at him with a wink and a smirk and a glass of fresh OJ, and I’m telling him, with just that look, “This one’s for you, Collin Ace Branham.”

    And he can’t take it.

    He’s going mad.

    He lets out a roar and a muffled sound of disgust as he moves, swiftly, to attack me.

    But he can’t. He’s not real anymore. With each passing second, I’m here and he’s fading.

    All that’s real, for him, now are the memories of his arrogant, wordy speeches and claims of greatness.

    There’s nothing he can do. He can’t even bring himself to move, he’s so petrified, and something within him, something all-knowing, tells him it’s over. It’s all over. The charmed life he’s led has left him behind and found a new and better him. He’s lost.

    He’s the very bare pit of existence. The kind you don’t want. The one where you don’t matter one single bit.

    He watches on sick and dizzy and insane with horror as the room embraces me… Collin Ace Branham.
  11. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    HKB - Vara

    "Maybe you should see a doctor, Veronica, you look sick all the time. You never eat, you're not yourself lately." My husband squints with scrupulous concern as I refuse breakfast again this morning. He doesn't know what's been going on.
    "I'm just tired, don't worry about it." I think it must be getting worse. I trudge into the bathroom to get ready for work and to confirm this. I do look sick. I'm thinner and more pale. There are dark circles around my eyes, my hair looks dull. I'm twenty-nine but I could pass for thirty-nine. I look how I feel all the time: tired, and like I'm dissolving.
    There is something wrong with me. It started a couple of months ago when I was standing in line to get a cup of coffee before work. I turned my head to look out the window and I saw her staring right at me from outside the glass. For a split second I thought there must be a mirror. But then I knew it was Vara, my identical twin. She was there for maybe five seconds staring icily into me with my eyes. I felt sick and weak all over and like I might black out. I blinked, and she was gone. I quickly went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet for a while until I could think straight and walk again. I decided it was a hallucination, pushed it out of my mind and went to work. I have known since I was twelve years old that my twin died a few hours after birth.
    The only other time before this I saw her was when I was about three. I remember playing with a little girl who looked exactly like me, and dressed the same, in a blue, strawberry-printed dress and short blond hair. I assumed this memory was fabricated, or an old remembered dream, as my mother was the only person to have ever taken me to the park and she would have noticed.
    Since then I've seen her in crowds, pushing a cart at the grocery store, on the elevator at work just before the doors shut. I see her glaring out through car windows. I saw her on television, once, a crowd scene, and another time, riding a bicycle in traffic. Every time she appears, always unexpectedly, she stares at me unflinchingly as if she has been waiting for me to turn my head and look. She always disappears within a few seconds. Until now all the the sightings have been in public.
    But just now I was awoken in the middle of the night. I saw her round face floating above me, serene and white as the moon in the dark. I froze completely and forgot to inhale, I was afraid to move and felt a like my very life was threatened. I clenched my eyes shut for a moment and prayed to god to help me. I opened them and she was gone.
    I get up to get a glass of water and it occurs to me that she will possess me. As a fetus I hogged the rich placenta and drained her of her life and now she wants it back. I am just waiting.
  12. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Phantasmal Reality - Shadow Sister


    The shrill cry of the bell signaling the end of fifth period wakes me from my slumber.

    Sitting in the back of the classroom, I slowly look up and brush my hair out of my face as an entire room’s worth of people stand up and quickly head for the door at the same time. The loud clamor of renewed conversations and stomping on linoleum makes my head hurt. Rubbing my eyes, I chastise myself for falling asleep in class again.

    Finally dragging myself out of my desk, I pick up my backpack and sling it over my shoulder. It feels so heavy today….

    “Have a nice nap?” a familiar friend asks as he approaches me with a smile.

    “…I think so.”

    He stops and gives me a concerned look. “Your insomnia again?”

    I nod and glace to the side.

    “…You shouldn’t be embarrassed about it,” he tells me.

    He’s probably right. I have suffered from these monthly bouts of insomnia long enough that I should be used to them. There’s no hiding it either. When a straight-A student moves from the front row to the back and starts dozing off in class, people notice. Most just assume it’s menstrual though….

    “I’m sorry,” he says. “I hope you feel better soon.”

    I force a smile and tell him not to worry about it. He of all people should know that it doesn’t last very long. A few days a month at most….

    As we make our way out of the classroom, he asks me if I want to go see the hot new movie that’s opening in theatres tonight.

    “Sarah and Michael are going too,” he quickly adds.

    I feel guilty when I hear the slight nervousness in his voice. He hasn’t been able to come out and tell me how he feels, but I’ve been able to tell for some time….

    “…I don’t feel up to it,” I say quietly as I reach my locker and go about entering the combination. Having something to focus my empty eyes on helps some.

    There are just too many reasons why we can only be friends.

    Reasons why I can’t let anyone get too close to me….

    …Especially tonight.

    “…Ah,” he says and scratches his head. His disappointment is poorly concealed. “…Well, I hope you at least feel better,” he manages to add with a weak but honest smile.

    I put my backpack away and close my locker. “I’ll be fine.”

    “I know… but take it easy, ok?” he softly beseeches me.

    Even after a year and a half of knowing me, he still gets like this every month. Sometimes I wish he’d just stop caring.

    That would make things easier….

    Forcing a smile, I tell him that I’m just going to rest tonight.

    He seems to relax after hearing that and asks me what my plans for lunch are.

    “I think I’m just going to rest.”

    I honestly don’t have an appetite today.

    He looks disappointed again, but covers it better this time. “All right…. We’re all eating in the cafeteria if you change your mind.”

    “Thanks. Maybe I’ll join you guys later,” I tell him out of guilt.

    The hopeful smile on his face only twists that guilt deeper into my heart. “Ok! I’ll see you later!”

    He adjusts his backpack and then walks through the noisy crowd of people towards his own locker.

    Sighing to myself, I feel alone even with all the activity around me. I am so hollow from fatigue that I almost think I can walk straight through the crowd like a ghost. Fortunately I’m awake enough not to try it.

    Making my way to the front of the school, I find a shady patch of grass beneath a tree and sit down. I am off by myself, but that’s what I prefer right now. I don’t really feel like being near anybody.

    I stifle a yawn and lean back against the tree. Looking up into its tangled meshwork of branches and leaves, I find myself regretting many things. Regretting the lies, regretting the aloofness, regretting my situation….

    Even against those regrets, fatigue triumphs for the moment. Closing my eyes, I doze off until the next bell rings.

    The rest of the day was typical for this time of the month. I slept on and off in my last three classes and missed most of what my teachers were saying. Thankfully they don’t mind. Most of them know me by name and have all received notes from my doctors before. Their sympathy helps, but I really don’t deserve it….

    Walking out of the school building with Jared at quarter after three, we run into Sarah and Michael standing together by the bottom of the steps. Holding hands and chatting pleasantly, they don’t notice us until we’re practically right next to them.

    “Hey you two,” Sarah says with a smile. “Ready to hit the movies tonight?”

    I glance at Jared as if saying, “You didn’t tell them, did you?”

    He scratches his head with a sheepish smile and avoids looking at me.

    “…I don’t think I’m going to go,” I tell them.

    Their discouraged expressions make it hard.

    “Why not?” Michael asks.

    “I’m really tired today….”

    Sarah gives me a pitying look. “Too tired to even sit through a movie?”

    I sigh and nod. I hate bailing out on things like this….

    “…What if you sleep through some of it?” Michael asks.

    Sarah hits him on the chest with the back of her hand and gives him a look.

    “What!?” he says. “She could do that….”

    I am forced to smile a little. His intentions are in the right place, but his execution is always off.

    “I’m sorry,” I tell them. “I’m just going to rest at home tonight.”

    Michael rubs his chest like he feels he has been dealt an unjust blow while Sarah tells me not to worry about it.

    “We’ll just have to go see another movie when you’re feeling better,” she adds with a smile.

    I tell her that sounds good.

    “So we’ll meet you there at 9:30?” she asks Jared.

    He nods.

    “All right! ~See you then,” she says cheerfully.

    Turning to me, she says, “I hope you feel better, Lydia.”

    “…Thank you.”

    Michael gives me an apologetic half-smile and a little wave and then the two of them make their way to the parking lot.

    “…Are you sure you don’t want to come?” Jared asks me. “I could take you back early if it ends up being too much.”

    He really is sweet….

    “…Thank you, but not tonight,” I tell him as gently as I can.

    He frowns like he knew that was coming and then cautiously asks me if I want a ride home. He knows that I usually don’t drive when I get these fits of insomnia. My mind is so cloudy that it would be bad if I drove a car like this….

    “It’s ok. I’m just going to walk home.”

    I don’t live too far from school. It doesn’t take me too long to walk it, like I did this morning.

    “Are you sure? It’s really not a problem for me to drop you off.”

    He won’t admit it, but I can tell he’s worried about me walking home by myself in this condition. I admit I have my doubts about being able to make it without stopping along the way. It’s pathetic, but I just feel so drained....

    After a moment of thinking it over, I decide to let him give me a ride home. If it will get him to stop looking at me like that, I’ll oblige.

    He smiles brightly. “Ok! You ready to go?”

    I simply nod and then follow him to his car.

    The short ride back to my house took less than ten minutes. Jared did most of the talking. He is a shy person at heart, but he tries to make conversation when he knows I’m not feeling well. It’s cute in the same way baby animals trying to walk is cute. After a monologue on the difficulty of our most recent math test and a story about his grandmother’s bingo nights, we finally pull up in front of my house.

    “She’s been playing for like ten years and hadn’t won until last week,” he says and finishes his pointless story with a laugh. “We’ll probably never hear the end of it!”

    Facing him from looking out the window, I feel a deep sinking feeling settle into my heart. Even so, I manage to give him a weak smile and thank him for driving me home.

    With an awkward smile he says, “N–No problem. I hope you feel better.”

    “I will,” I tell him as I get out. “Have fun at the movie tonight.”

    His smile fades and I get the feeling that he isn’t looking forward to it.

    “What’s wrong?” I ask him after I shut the door.

    “N–Nothing,” he stammers like I caught him dozing off. His face starts turning red as he shifts back into first gear.

    He is too honest; all you have to do is read his face to figure out what he’s thinking. I like that quality though….

    He doesn’t have another side to him.

    “See you later,” I tell him after I get my backpack from his backseat.

    “Yeah…. I hope you feel better,” he says yet again.

    “I will.”

    …After tonight.

    Entering my kitchen, I find a note from my mother saying that there is leftover casserole in the refrigerator for dinner. She had to leave this morning for a big work conference she has to attend over the weekend. I am normally quite capable of handling myself in the kitchen, but during my insomnia episodes I can’t concentrate enough to prepare anything that isn’t microwaveable.

    I won’t want dinner tonight though.

    Walking into my bathroom upstairs, I stand in front of the mirror with my hands on the sink counter. Staring back at me is a seventeen year old girl. Neither tall nor short, fat nor skinny, gorgeous nor ugly – I would consider her the epitome of normalcy.

    …But the girl standing behind her in the doorway is different.

    With flowing blonde hair down to her ankles, she smiles at me affectionately. Her mesmerizing light blue eyes with the halos of white around their pupils shine with a dagger-like sharpness. Just seeing them again sends tremors up and down my spine. They are extremely beautiful, but….

    Quickly turning the sink on, I splash cold water on my face and try to calm my pounding heart. When I look up again, the girl behind me is gone.

    She’ll be back though.

    She’s the reason I can’t sleep at night.

    She’s the one who shows up at this time of month and–––

    Even though it’s nothing new, I vomit into the sink. Brownish liquid swirls around in the bowl until it is washed away, leaving only the foul smelling solid parts behind.

    Having done this so many times before, I go about cleaning it up without even thinking. It’s actually a welcome distraction. Anything to keep my mind off of her….

    She’s always there.
    Always lurking just behind me.
    My shadow that normally stays politely out of sight….

    After cleaning up my mess, I leave the bathroom and go back downstairs. I’m glad my mom is out of town this weekend. It’s nice to just be alone….

    It’s almost 4 o’ clock, and I need to be somewhere by 7:08. I’ve tried places with no people, but that has never worked out well. Tonight I think I’ll try the opposite. I should be panicking, but I am so tired that everything just feels like a worn out film being played in slow motion. I’ve been through this surreal experience enough times that I really think it may all be just a dream. Maybe I got into a car accident one day and am lying in a coma somewhere and dreaming all of this. I have no reason to believe that, but I accept it for now to keep me from going crazy.

    If this is real, then I am much worse than just crazy.

    Checking the clock, I see it is 5:27. Where did the time go? Maybe it’s only me that’s moving in slow motion while the rest of the world passes me by….

    … … …

    I’m driving somewhere. The clock on the dashboard says it is 6:43. Where is the time going? I shouldn’t be driving, but where I want to go isn’t too far.

    … … …

    I am standing on the rooftop of a tall building in the downtown section of the city while throngs of people walk by on the sidewalk far below.

    A man in a business suit heading home from work, maybe looking forward to seeing his kids for the first time this week.
    A couple my age walking arm in arm and smiling like they are enjoying their date.
    An elderly woman turning to watch them as she passes by, perhaps recalling memories of a spouse long departed.
    A man and a woman bumping into each other and stopping to talk, perhaps the first contact between a future Mister and Misses.

    All people with lives, dreams, pasts, futures….


    My heart starts pounding in my chest.


    Seeing the full moon rising above the horizon in the distance, I check my watch.


    7:08 PM


    “I’ve missed you….”


    My blood curdles in my veins.
    My spine crawls with thousands of tiny insects.
    My mind is pierced through by hundreds of needles.


    It’s her.

    I could never mistake her voice for anyone else’s.

    Turning around, I find her standing just a few yards behind me. Her long hair blowing in the wind, she smiles at me with her deadly eyes.

    No, she’s not looking at me….

    Staring at the white sphere rising into the night sky behind me, my shadow asks me why I don’t look forward to seeing her.

    I don’t answer her.

    Finally looking at me like she just noticed me, she grins and says, “…I always look forward to seeing you, Sister.”

    Taking a step towards me, she adds, “Being someone’s shadow is awfully lonely….”

    I step back to maintain our distance.

    “What’s the matter? You know I would never hurt you,” she says fawningly.

    “We’re not sisters,” I growl at her.

    She giggles as she takes another step towards me. Neither a pure giggle nor the twisted kind, it is something disturbingly in-between.

    “It’s ok, Sister; I love you even if you don’t love me back.”

    “No one could love you.”

    Ignoring what I just said, she bashfully asks, “…Do you think Jared could?”

    I look at her in shock and disgust. This is the first time I’ve heard her mention him.

    “…I like him too,” she says dreamily. She giggles and adds, “Couldn’t we share him?”

    I make my hands into fists and glare at her.

    She smiles in the face of my enmity. “As long as he understood how things work, I’m sure I wouldn’t hurt him.”

    How things work….

    “You twisted bitch,” I spit at her.

    She looks sad. “Sister, don’t swear,” she reproves me.

    Her smile returns with another giggle as she closes the gap between us. I am cornered against the ledge of the roof, so there is no more room for me to retreat….

    …Not that I can escape my shadow.

    Stopping next to me, she peers up at the full moon with a pleased smile.

    “Isn’t it beautiful, Sister?”

    I don’t answer her.

    Looking over the ledge at the pedestrians below, she says, “The view is great, but you chose a troublesome spot this time.”

    That was on purpose. With this many people around, maybe even you will––

    “Oh well, I’ll just have to be extra careful.”

    She chuckles softly like she thinks my plan is cute.

    Then, smiling fondly at me, she tilts her head and says, “It’s time.”

    The knife in my right hand disappears and shows up in hers.

    Turning it over in her hands, her lips twist into a chilling smile of taboo desire as she admires the way the blade shines in the moonlight.

    I grind my teeth and curse my inability to interfere with what she has planned.

    ‘People are honest in the end, Sister. …I just like seeing the faces behind the masks.’

    An evil that doesn’t even know she’s evil….

    …Leaving the blood on my hands.

    With eyes closed lightly above a slight smile, she gracefully prances and twirls about with the kwaiken held to her bosom as if death were her lover. Her eloquent flaxen strands spread out and swirl around her in the breeze….

    …But to the rest of the world, a girl with brown hair spins around on an empty rooftop with the rising moon as her only witness.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page