Shadow of Myself

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Doppelganger rubbish.

Submitted: July 28, 2008

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Submitted: July 28, 2008

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I had kissed her off with a passing goodbye, on the lips, as usual. She often left before me, being the more conscientious member of our partnership. Always early, always working overtime, always thinking about work during our evenings together as we dined or as I lay asleep.

 

I’d gathered together my checklist of items – always a cloudy moment on a Monday morning, with all sense of the routine somehow washed away by the weekend. I had my mobile phone, my rail pass and finally my umbrella gathered as a sensible precaution against the slate-grey sky and the potential for rain. I checked the lights were all out. I ensured that all windows were closed and electrical items had been unplugged. Then I checked them again. The thought of a horrific accident happening in the empty house, some massive electrical explosion that was my fault, it always brought out an obsessive-compulsive element within me and made me endlessly discount even the most unlikely source of ruin.

 

When I was sure all was well, I left by the front door with the security lock clicking behind me. I fumbled in deep trouser pockets for the key so that I could double lock the door at the waist-level keyhole. Instantly, I realised I’d made an enormous error. I had left my keys inside and, with the security lock now clicked shut, I was unable to get back inside to retrieve them. I always arrived home before Maria and therefore I’d be locked out when I returned from work. And I needed to be home first, to tidy the flat as we had visitors arriving at half past eight.

 

I mentally scrolled through my options. I could try to break in, but all windows had been closed in the fastidious risk-assessment session I’d indulged in before leaving. I could go to work via Maria’s office or visit her at lunchtime, but she could be extremely precious when it came to my interrupting her time at work. She wouldn’t be happy. She’d curse the short-term memory loss she was convinced I’d brought upon myself through over-indulgence.

 

I remembered that we had a spare set of keys in a desk-drawer in the shared hallway. That would be my only chance of salvation. My only way of getting back into the day without screwing things up any further would be to get to the desk, somehow. In a frenzy, I pushed every doorbell on the panel, hoping to rouse one of the three sleeping neighbours. In the midst of this crazed button pushing, I’m sure I must have pressed my own doorbell, despite knowing that the flat would be empty.

 

There was no immediate response, so I stood with my back against the door, looking at the pavement, running my fingers over the facia of my phone and considering how Maria would react to my asking to borrow her keys. It would be an incendiary query, I guessed. But as I pondered it, I heard heavy feet on the stairs in the house and through the frosted glass I could make out a figure coming to the door. The light snapped on and soon they were turning the security lock as the door was edged ajar.

 

- Who’s there?

 

It was a familiar voice - but not that of any of my neighbours.

 

- Hey, I answered. Sorry – it’s Roger from the top floor. I’ve managed to lock myself out, somehow. I just need the keys from the desk in there. Just in the hallway.

 

The door opened and bewildered eyes looked back at me from a face that had been freshly beaten. A red scuffmark tainted the white of the left eye and bruises formed a shiner on the right.

It was my face. It was a beaten version of my own face. I had opened the door to myself and as the crack widened in the doorway I frowned with disbelief.

 

- You’re me, I said.

- Yes. Yes I am. And yes, you are.

 

I was looking directly at myself. A version of myself who was visibly down on his luck and was bearing the signs of having been on the wrong end of a fist.

 

- What happened to you? I asked.

- Just your usual Saturday beat-down, he replied, sighing and stinking of booze.

You should see the other guy. I broke a few of his teeth - check this out.

 

He showed me his knuckles and a split in the flesh there. The ripped trench was filled with a dark red scab where his balled hand had connected with a combatant’s mouth.

 

- Christ. It looks painful, I said, shrinking slightly.

- It’s nothing.

 

We stood in silence for an out-stretched moment, absorbing the fact that we were face to face with ourselves. Different versions of ourselves confronting one another like impossible twins.

 

- So are you telling me you live here? I asked my other half.

- I just opened the front door, didn’t I? he answered, raising a swollen eyebrow.

- You did, but only after I left here myself.

- What number are you in, then? he asked. I noticed his lower lip was split down the centre.

- Flat three, I replied.

He shook his head and began massaging his temples with filthy fingers,

 

- That’s my flat, he replied. Jesus... Am I hallucinating?

I shook my head.

- I was thinking the same way, I said. Is this a flashback or am I just losing it?

 

- Listen, my doppelganger implored, Will you just leave? I had a few hours in the bar after I finished up at the factory this morning. I’m hanging over, coming down and, as you can see, I’m looking like a punch bag. I have to be up at five again this afternoon to get back on the factory floor to work the night through. So just go back to whatever part of my brain you sprang from. I’m going back to bed.

 

Still lost in the midst of confusion, I considered that he would be going back to my bed. Rather than take issue with it, I thought about what he had said. He had a factory shift that evening?

 

- You work in a factory? But I work in an office. What’s going on?

He looked tired of my questions now and grimaced a little, looking back into the corridor.

 

- Won’t you clear off? he asked.

- I’ll leave you alone and put this down to some sort of weird, mental moment, but - please - do me a favour and pass me the keys to my house?

- And what? he answered with a bullish, aggressive edge. Put myself at risk? You want me to risk my security to make you happy? I don’t think so. You could sneak in when I’m out and steal my shit! Take my wife’s stuff too, probably.

- You’re married?

- What if I am? What if I was? What’s it to you? Why’re you so interested in the bitch that left me with a fraudulent mortgage to pay on my own, who fucked my best friend and who stole half my savings? What’s it to you that I hit the fucking bottle and hit it hard? What’s it to you that my life’s gone to shit?

 

He stopped himself as his expression changed to pensive contemplation.

- Just fuck off, man. Just leave me alone.

 

He slammed the door so hard I thought the glass would smash. The key he used to double-lock the door sounded as though it would shred the wooden panel it was encased within, he turned it so violently. I backed off down my own garden path, listening to him, to me cursing me under my breath as I stomped back up the stairs.

 

I looked down the street for hidden cameras or amused passers by but the morning was the same, cold dawn I’d walked out into. Pulling my phone from my pocket, I began punching Maria’s number on the speed dial.

 

But then I stopped myself. And then I decided to take a walk and think about the things I’d just told myself.


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