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.

Author: Jeff Coleman

Jeff Coleman is a writer who finds himself drawn to the dark and the mysterious, and to all the extraordinary things that regularly hide in the shadow of ordinary life.

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