Chicago sat up in bed, watching Erik pace.
“This is too unsettling,” Erik complained. “I don’t want to believe you, but I can’t trust the doctor either!” He shuddered. “I’m running thin on people I can trust… how can I trust someone without getting hurt at the same time?”
“Hey, Erik, stop that running around!” Chicago complained. “You’re making me dizzy with you wearing out the floor like that!”
“Sorry, Chico, but this is really bothering me,” Erik answered. “I don’t mind tests, but I don’t like it when I’m forced to do them and they’re lying to me about what they are.”
“Do you ever get angry often?” Chicago suddenly asked.
“No, why?” Erik stopped his pacing. “I’m as mild-mannered as they get. I’m no dangerous guy.”
“I don’t mean angry, I mean really, really angry.”
“I might get upset sometimes, but I’m no raging maniac.”
Chicago scoffed. “Raging maniac, huh?”
“So, what about it?”
Chicago crossed his arms. “Does the name Giuseppe Petra mean anything to you?”
Erik shook his head. “Sorry, no clue.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I never heard of him.”
Chicago blew an exasperated sigh. “Don’t you understand?”
“What are you saying?”
“You have to be him, I mean; you look like this guy… He wasn’t in testing for long cos they found him crazier than I was and I thought that I had some issues.” Chicago grunted. “But damn… that guy was a sensitive one, I’ll tell you.”
“What does this mean for me?” Erik pressed. “Where are you going with this?”
“How long were you bounced in and out?” Chicago asked in response.
“Okay, what?” Erik asked, bewildered. “What kind of conversation is this?”
“The kind where you answer questions!”
Erik shook his head, utterly confused. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about!” he protested.
“Were you moved from place to place like the others?” Chicago demanded.
“I can’t answer that…”
“At least try!”
“Well, Sterne said I was at Keystone, whatever that place is…”
“Well, he’s a liar,” Chicago spat, “because there was no way that you were there!”
“Sterne’s no liar!” Erik shouted.
“You have to be him, because he was always at The Center with me and you look just like him!”
“I don’t know you!”
“Well, I remember you and you were at The Center with me and Sterne!”
“Now you’re making stuff up!” Erik shouted. “I don’t recall anything about this Center place and I’m not sick in the head!”
Chicago scoffed. “Oh yeah, you are,” he snapped. “You’re more fucked up than me!”
“That’s enough.” Erik clenched his hands and the burning sensation returned, traveling up his arms.
“After the stint at Keystone,” Chicago went on, “they bounced Sterne back with us and then you were taken away with Doctor Schumacher and I never heard from you again.”
Erik gave him a lost expression. “I’m sorry,” he said flatly. “I honestly don’t remember anything.” The pain increased in his hands and he looked down at it, realizing that his hands shook. Releasing his grip, Erik slowly opened the fingers and sucked in a shallow breath at once noticing how deep his fingernails dug into his palm, drawing small lines of blood. “Why am I having this kind of reaction?” he wondered.
You do remember, deep down in your soul…
“How can you not remember?” Chicago yelled, drawing his hands into fists. “You promised me!”
“What did I promise you?” Erik cried. “I don’t remember!”
You don’t want to remember…
Erik gripped his hair, blowing a hard sigh. “My head is killing me!” he moaned. “Stop talking about this!”
It’s too deep, too painful to face, now is it?
Erik whirled around, facing the large pane window, half expecting his counterpart to be standing there. “Somehow it’s deep enough that my body remembers,” he mused, glancing at his hand that continued to have the burning sensation coursing through it.
Release it! Become one with it!
“If he said I was that mad to begin with…”
Only because they made you that way!
Chicago wheezed and Erik turned to face him, watching his light brown eyes glaze over as he struggled for breath. Erik tensed and stepped out of bed, stomping toward the windows. His reflection appeared, standing on the defensive.
I dare you. Erik’s counterpart beckoned to Chicago. Come on! Erik cringed, fearing what Chicago planned to pull as he stood at the glass with heaving shoulders, seething and the temperature in the room quickly began to warm. You don’t have the guts!
Chicago let out a scream and Erik shrank back, watching him in sheer terror when he threw a punch at the tempered glass. The glass cracked, forcing Erik’s counterpart to vanish and Chicago flexed his hand that did not appear injured.
“Can you do that?” he asked, immediately calming .and Erik shook his head in response, terrified. “Try it. If you hurt yourself, I won’t talk to you ever. I’ll make it up if you do.”
Erik sighed, mulling it over. “He seems sincere,” he considered, pushing up his sleeves as he turned to the window. “Here goes nothing…” Erik drew back, the burning in his hands and arms increasing. Throwing the hardest punch he could muster, his breath caught in his throat when the whole pane shattered, raining rose-colored glass onto the miniature people in the courtyard below. “There’s no way!” Erik cried as lukewarm winds blew at him and the pain in his fist released.
“Heh,” Chicago muttered. “That’s what I thought…”
“Safety glass can’t break that easily…” Erik looked down at his uninjured hand, flexing it in awe. “The pain I felt… is it tied to that?”
“What are you talking about?”
Erik wavered, feeling faint. “This can’t be real,” he moaned. “I’m not that strong!”
Two nurses came running into the room moments later and Erik turned around, stunned as the pain in his hands returned and the air around him cooled rapidly.
“What was that noise?” one of the nurses yelled. “What’s broken?”
“The glass,” Chicago answered.
“What the hell?” the other nurse cried. “Carlsbad, get in here!”
“What happened?” Carlsbad asked as he entered.
Chicago stepped back as Carlsbad approached Erik. Erik let out a yelp when Carlsbad grabbed for him and twisted his arms behind his back then wrestled him to the floor. Making made no attempt to struggle as Carlsbad pulled him back from the edge, Carlsbad dragged him away. The doctor who made Erik uncomfortable returned, pausing at the sight of them both as he stood at the door.
“What’s going on here?” he demanded.
“Doctor Blazejewelski,” Carlsbad said simply, “he tried to jump.”
Blazejewelski stormed in and grabbed Erik by the hair. He yanked back Erik’s head, forcing him to face directly up. “Trying to fly, eh?” he sneered.
“I’ll try that later,” Erik replied weakly.
Blazejewelski gave a hard backhanded slap, whipping back Erik’s head. “Say that again,” he snarled, taking Erik’s hair in hand once more. Erik did not answer and Blazejewelski let him go. “Get him out of here!”
Erik fell slack once Carlsbad gained more muscle and dragged him away. Erik looked to Chicago and Chicago turned away, acting as if they never knew each other.
Don’t worry; I won’t let them hurt you like they did to me… I’ll never allow it to happen!
Erik groaned in pain when violently thrown into a small room, tumbling head over heels. Once he struck the wall, the door slammed shut behind him and the locks turned on the outside. Erik quickly stood to his feet and rushed the door, banging on it with hard strikes that put in dents.
“What are you doing to me?” he screamed. “Let me out!”
“We can’t do that,” a hollow voice called.
Erik looked around for the source of the sound, only finding that the small room containing him had three cameras fixed on the ceiling that made a sweep every few moments in different directions.
“This isn’t a real hospital!” Erik shouted and kicked at the door, giving it another deep depression. “Let me out!”
“You must stay calm,” the hollow voice continued. “The tests will be over soon.”
The pain flared in his hands much stronger than before, forcing his shoulder that ached to throb in response. “I don’t want to take any tests,” Erik screeched, “I want to go home!” He banged on the door until he became exhausted, falling to his knees. “Why would the doctors do this to me?” he thought in despair, crawling into a corner. “Where are the Greenfields; why can’t they rescue me?” Unable to keep his emotions in check any longer, Erik broke down in tears.
After some time, the door opened, revealing the doctor that made him ill at the mere sight. Doctor Blazejewelski grinned at Erik as he entered, holding a syringe with a clear serum in his hands. His outfit, formerly a white dress shirt, dark brown tie, dark brown slacks, black oxfords and white consulting jacket now consisted of a dark navy turtleneck, black jeans, and black leather boots.
“This will hurt just a tiny bit,” Blazejewelski said with fake gentleness. “This is just a serum to calm you down.”
“Go away!” Erik yelled once Blazejewelski approached. He violently pushed the doctor back before he could grab his arm and a strong charge sent Blazejewelski reeling back, crashing to the floor.
A strong force suddenly twisted the cameras out of their bolts and the doctor paled, scrambling to his feet. Dropping the syringe, Blazejewelski took off running out into the hall.
Erik cried out and gripped his head as immediate pain saturated his mind, forcing him to his knees. “I want to get out of here,” he moaned, hunching forward on the floor. “I want to go home!”
Blazejewelski returned with two heavily armed men in low caps and navy uniforms with silver buttons. He kicked at Erik, forcing him to look up and Erik stiffened, taken aback by the show of force. Blazejewelski grinned darkly as he withdrew a new syringe.
“Don’t like my friends pointing guns at you, hm?” the doctor said and chortled as he popped off the safety cap. “If you’re smart, you’ll do what I say!” Blazejewelski roughly grabbed Erik by the arm and jabbed him, injecting him with the contents of the mysterious serum. “Now, that’s a good boy.”
Releasing his hold, Blazejewelski picked up the dropped syringe and backed out of the room slowly, followed by the armed guards. The door slammed shut after them with a bang.
The wooziness came on strongly and Erik leaned against the wall, looking up at one of the cameras still intact. It continued to train its electric eye on him, its head moving in a horizontal sweep every other few seconds.
“I hope Sterne will find me,” Erik thought, sighing heavily. Moments later, the room began swinging violently and he shut his eyes to keep from becoming sick. “Please get me out of here!” Erik prayed. “Somebody get me out of here soon!” The dizziness that plagued him led to overall heaviness of his body, which later completely shut down.
Erik woke up with a start, gasping for breath. He fought with the sheets that were tangled around him and finally sat up, trying to recall where he was. Erik sighed in relief when he found that he was in his bedroom back in the Greenfield residence. Pulling up his nightshirt, he found a faint scar on his right side.
“Please let it be all a dream,” he prayed and padded out of bed. Facing the broken mirror that hung over his door, Erik paused at once he saw his altered counterpart instead of his usual reflection. “Hey!” he yelped.
The young man in the mirror folded his arms across his chest. I’m telling you, you’re becoming too dangerous to keep alive!
“What are you going on about?” Erik grumbled.
You’re nothing more than a copy of the boy you replaced.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Erik yelled.
You’re starting to remember, aren’t you? His reflection leaned forward, sneering. There are things you’ve done in there that you’d rather forget, right? The things you know you’ve done and the things you think you remember are clashing, causing you to go mad. I’m merely here to sort it out for you.
“Don’t tell me that you’re here to kill me!” Erik scoffed. “You’re not real!”
His counterpart clenched his hands at his sides. If it means salvaging you, then I just might! Erik took a step away as his reflection stepped through the mirror, gaining form. Burn out and die… before you destroy everything you’re trying to save!
“Now hold on--!”
Your original assignment was to destroy everything that belonged to them, but some kind of disturbance took place within you and new directives were assigned instead. Erik’s double grinned darkly. I temporarily maintained a connection with you to fix that disturbance, but any memories you had - anything you had touched or were involved in - they were already gone, forgotten because you technically exist no longer.
“So what you’re saying is… that I’m long dead?”
Erik’s reflection nodded. That’s right; you’re no longer Erik Hart. He does not exist.
“But of Ferdian… you kept calling me that too.”
He’s dead as well.
“So you want me to just ‘burn out’ as you say… just up and disappear?”
If I can find the code that activates the self-destruct sequence, then I may be able to do it remotely. Until then, I’m hoping to wear you out so you can start the sequence yourself.
“You’re kidding!” Erik yelled.
Just telling the truth.
Erik turned away, gripping his hair. “This has to be some kind of horrible dream…” he cried. “You’re making no sense!”
It’s only reality. You became too self-aware, now you have to die.
“That can’t be-- that’s just too awful!”
“Erik!” John Greenfield’s voice called from down the hall. “It’s time to wake up!” Erik pushed past his counterpart, only to get his arm grabbed.
He can’t save you… You were originally to replace something that he lost.
“But if I were to cease to exist now, what would Mother and Father Greenfield do?” Erik asked. “Suddenly becoming childless would mean they’ve wasted years raising me…”
Oh, come on! His counterpart shook his head and waved a dismissive hand. You know and I know they’re used to it by now. Besides, just disappearing is better than outright dying. Death would mean grieving, you see.
“You’re a sick bastard!” Erik pulled away as his copy gave a tight sardonic grin. “Just leave me alone!” He stomped across the hall for the bathroom.
After showering and changing clothes, Erik exited downstairs and approached the table where the Greenfields were having breakfast.
“Good morning, Erik,” Jane Greenfield greeted and left her place at the table, withdrawing his plate from the oven to set before him.
“Is something the matter, Son?” John Greenfield asked as he picked up his mug of coffee. “It’s unusual for you to oversleep like this.”
“Everything’s fine,” Erik replied nervously.
John Greenfield nodded and sipped his coffee and Erik picked up his fork, only to pause when he spotted his alternate passing the kitchen doorway. He quickly stood to his feet, dropping what he held.
“Erik!” Jane Greenfield cried, startled.
“Son…” John Greenfield started.
“I just realized the time,” Erik said quickly. “I’ve got to get going!”
“Take care then…” Jane Greenfield murmured as John Greenfield rose from the table.
“You’re right,” he said, taking up his briefcase that rest near the leg of the table. “Get your things, Son.”
Erik left for the parlor and discovered his counterpart gone, leaving the front door open. He hurried outdoors, finding no one there and was later joined by John Greenfield.