A Case of Mistaken Identity: An Update

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted the last installment. I’d like to explain why. As I was going through previous posts and sharing them with others, I was discovering that a lot of what I’d written was inconsistent and needed substantial revision. I’ve taken the time to do so, and have finished editing parts 1-5.

I’m going to revise part 6 next week, and then I’ll continue on with part 7 the following week. Thank you so much for your patience, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the story.

Here are links to the revised chapters:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 6

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You can read part 5 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

Needless to say, my experience in that house was wretched.

My true mother never did come to rescue me. Neither did mirror-Eugene return to tell me it had all been a cruel joke. I held onto this foolish hope for three or four days, staying up late into the night, staring at the inside of my new closet with the door wide open, waiting for the door on the other side to reappear.

A week later, I’d resigned myself to my fate, realizing that I would never see my home again.

I wondered what my double was up to. Was he happy with his new mom? Mom. My mom. I missed her so much my chest ached. I can’t begin to describe the despair and the torment I experienced when I realized she was lost to me forever.

My new mom was just as bad as mirror-Eugene had described and worse. Every morning, I donned torn and weathered hand-me-down clothes; whiled away the hours in my room alone, laying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling; ate a bare-bones breakfast and didn’t dine again until dinner. My two meals per day consisted of meager helpings of burnt toast or leftover stew that did little to nourish my listless body, and each day I would feel the painful teeth of hunger chomp down inside my stomach.

I wasn’t allowed to see other parts of the house, and only ever caught glimpses when someone came by to feed me or when my new brother came to see me. Each time, I regretted it. It was just enough like my own house that I ended up homesick, and just different enough that I would be left feeling dizzy and disoriented.

My new brother was a demon loosed from Hell. He would find me in my room each night before I went to bed, the corners of his wicked grin catching broken shards of moonlight from the window in the dark. He would squeeze my neck in his arms like a vice until I became light headed, or hit various parts of my body until I bruised like an overripe banana.

I would cry out to my new mom in desperation, and each time, she would come to my room in a huff. She would behold her eldest, who beamed up at her, face adorned in an immaculate smile, then turn to me, dripping venom, demand that I keep my goddamn mouth shut and slam the door. I don’t know if she knew what my brother was up to. I didn’t think she would care if she did.

My true older brother and I had always gotten along fairly well. There’d always been the occasional fight, but there’d never been any true malice, not like that between my new older brother and I. The first few nights I protested and demanded to know what I’d ever done to him. For all I knew, mirror-Eugene had brought it on himself. But Tom would only stare at me in silence, a knowing twinkle in his eye, then continue with his gruesome work.

The weight on my soul’s shoulders was too much for me to bear. It crushed me on the inside, so that I could hardly speak, eat, or sleep. My new mother never asked if I was all right. If anything, she seemed relieved when I’d at last discovered the virtue of silence.

I put up with this for three weeks.

It wasn’t until a particularly brutal fraternal beating that left blood spurting from my nose and my right eye swollen shut that my will to survive at last overtook the shock that had come over me since crossing over into mirror-Eugene’s world. I lay on my back that night and made my decision.

I was going to escape.

Read part 7 here.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 5

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You can read part 4 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

Panic seized my chest, and I grew short of breath. I clawed and scratched and pounded at the wall that had only recently been a door, begging mirror-Eugene to let me back through to the other side.

I don’t know how long I’d been banging and shouting, but at some point I heard the door to the room burst open. I turned just in time to watch the knob smash into the wall.

“Eugene! What’s gotten into you? Stop that banging now.”

Mom!

Mom had come to rescue me. Somehow, she’d learned about my twin (or perhaps she’d known all along, a superpower that all mothers seem to have in common.)

“Mom!” I cried, basking in the familiar shape of her face. I ran to her, ready to grab hold of her and to never let go again.

“Eugene,” she snapped. She stared down at me as I attached myself to her leg. “Get off. Eugene, what kind of game are you playing? This isn’t funny.”

The frosty contemptuous tone in her voice stopped me short. I pulled away and examined her face more closely. Suddenly, I felt hopelessly and desperately disoriented. It was like gazing at my mom through a fun house mirror. Some of the features were the same, but there were extreme differences. Whereas the mom I remembered had long brown hair that ran down the sides of her face in curls, this one had short bright red hair that stuck up in uneven bunches. Whereas the mom I remembered possessed flawless alabaster skin, this one had skin that reminded me of the surface of the moon, full of pocks, divots and craters.

She was an aberration, a twisted half-truth that wrenched my stomach and made me feel like throwing up.

“Mom?” Once again, my chest tightened and it was difficult to breathe. “Take me home. Please.”

She glared at me, drilled into my skull with her eyes. I beheld nothing but malice in her features, and something inside me withered, a part of my soul that’s remained lifeless ever since.

Her face flushed, and before I knew what was happening, her right hand flashed before me and I was knocked backward through the air. I peeled myself off the floor a moment later, head swimming, and looked up dazedly to find her standing before me.

Horrified, I reached up to feel the cheek she’d struck. It burned.

I remembered what mirror-Eugene had told me about his own mom, how she locked him in his room every day and wouldn’t let him out except to eat. But I couldn’t believe this was that woman. Despite the differences, she still looked so much like my own mom that I refused to believe she could be anyone else.

God, I want to go home.

Would I ever find my way back home again? With a ferocity I couldn’t possibly articulate, I wanted my mom to reach out to me, to tell me that she loved me, that she would rescue me from this terrible place and take me home. I wanted her to tell me that everything would be okay. More than anything, I just wanted her to tell me everything would be okay.

I cried.

“Oh, stop it with the waterworks, Eugene. It won’t work. Not any more.”

“Mom?” called a sleepy voice from the doorway. It seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. “What’s going on?”

I watched through blurred vision as a shape emerged behind her.

“It’s your brother,” she spat. “He’s acting up again.”

The shape behind her moved closer, and as it came into focus my breath caught inside my throat. He looked older, and his voice was deeper, but I recognized my deceased brother despite the difference in years.

“Tom,” I whispered, half in awe, half in disbelief. “But, you’re dead. How did you –” I stopped. Vertigo engulfed me, and it was all I could do just to stand.

He looked down at me, seemingly impassive, but there was a sparkle in his eyes that sent a chill down my spine. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s another one of his games,” she said, pointing to me as if I were a venomous snake.

“Are you playing games?” asked my brother, stepping up to my hands, which were spread out on the floor. He pressed down on them with his left shoe until I cried out in surprise.

“Careful,” he warned, smiling. “Play too many games and someone might get hurt.”

He gazed down at me a moment longer, as if he might have more to say, then suddenly wheeled around and headed back the way he’d come.

“Goodnight, Tom,” said the woman before me, looking back at him beatifically, as if he were the only thing right in her whole world. Then she turned back to me and her smile vanished. “As for you,” she said, following in her older son’s footsteps, “I don’t want to hear another peep. You hear me? Go to sleep. Now. Don’t make me come back here.” Then she too left the room, slamming the door behind her.

But I didn’t go to sleep, and I didn’t sleep again for a long time.

Read Part 6 here.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.