Short Stories

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 9

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You can read part 8 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

I stepped out into the hallway, quivering with adrenaline in the aftermath of revenge. Each of my senses had stretched as far as they would go, so that I was no longer certain if the creaks and thumps I heard were real or if they were a product of my frenzied imagination. I stopped, paused to make certain the footsteps I heard were my own, then crept along the hallway like a spider, keeping as much to the feeble shadows as possible.

Soiled ivory-colored objects lined the walls at intervals, strung together so they resembled primitive necklaces. Some were long, others were short. Some were connected by balls and joints, others hung by only the string that bound them. I peered more closely, and almost gave myself away with a cry when I realized they were bones.

I moved faster.

I was halfway to the stairs when I heard a sound, a faint clicking noise, followed by what I was sure were feet padding across the carpet. It came from the open doorway of a room very close to where I stood. My head swiveled first to the room to see if I’d been spotted, then around again in search of cover.

I spied a bookcase filled with dusty weathered volumes beside me. It wasn’t much, but it was all I could find, and I dove for the shadow it provided.

I froze. Waited. Listened. When I was certain it was safe, I crept closer to survey the threat and to figure out when it would be best to continue my trek down the stairs.

The light inside was dim, and I had to strain my eyes to see. When I caught sight of my double’s mom, I nearly recoiled again. But her eyes were closed, and she was sitting Indian-style on the floor in front of her closet. She obviously hadn’t seen me. Around her neck hung a necklace like the ones I’d seen on the hallway walls. I stared at her, trying to discern what she was doing.

Suddenly her eyes popped open. I ducked behind the door frame, and I waited for ages before I dared peek again. When I did, I found her staring ahead at her closet. I relaxed.

She got up, and as if in a trance, she began to move toward the door. She reached for the knob and opened it. I gasped.

I’d seen this once before, when my double had opened my closet door and shown me another world. I was certain I’d discovered a passage home. I would follow her through the door, and then I would find mirror-Eugene and make him pay for what he’d done.

I rushed into the room. Fear evaporated, reduced only to raw instinct and determination. The door closed behind my double’s mom just as I reached the knob. I grasped it. Twisted. Pulled.

The door opened.

Read part 10 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 8

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You can read part 7 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

I hid behind the door, wearing the darkness of the night like a cloak. I waited, eager for freedom, eager for revenge. I would no longer be my new big brother’s punching bag. The prey had become the predator.

I chose the night, not only because the dark gave me an advantage, but because that was when my brother usually came to see me. He liked to torture me before bed. Today, the tables would be turned.

I crouched, face hidden in shadow, and I brooded. How could my double have done this to me? He’d pretended to be my friend. We’d told each other stories. We’d shared in each other’s secrets. And then he’d betrayed me. I’d been so naive, so quick to trust. I would never make that mistake again.

I heard footsteps, muffled at first, like the sound of a distant drum. Soon the sound grew louder, until it had approached the other side of the door.

“Hey, dumbshit. I’m coming in to say goodnight.”

Tom. He laughed, a malevolent chuckle that caused the surface of my body to break out in goosebumps.

I stood there, silent, taut and alert.

A set of keys rattled. There was a clunk, a sound like a zipper as the key fed into the lock, then a click. A pinprick of time stretched, pregnant with possibilities. Then the door creaked slowly open. Light poured into the room.

“Hey Dumbshit, where are you?” Tom looked around, unable to see me from the doorway.

I’d performed a dozen thought-experiments, had trained myself with countless mental simulations. But this was not a thought experiment. This was real life, and real life was good at throwing wrenches in even the most well laid of plans. I had to tread carefully.

“Lost your voice, Dumbshit?” My new brother crept forward, eyes focused ahead as he scanned first the bed, then the space by the closet. “Get out here. Now.”

I grabbed the edge of the door to steady myself, sweat popping out of my forehead. I inched closer, one tiny step after another. I had to be careful, had to time this just right. If Tom moved at the wrong moment, if he turned his head before I was ready

Tom’s eyes flicked in my direction. I rushed him.

“Eug

That was all he managed to say before my foot thrust upward, making contact with the tender spot between his legs. Tom grabbed himself, eyes bulging with pain and surprise. He sucked in a lungful of air, hoarded it like a spoiled child before letting it out in a long and shuddering gasp. He sank to his knees, looked up and opened his mouth again.

“Mom!” he rasped. “Euge

I kicked him again. Again. And again.

Each blow produced a soft thud, a sound entirely at odds with the force of my blows. I delighted in his suffering, reveled in it. Where was that evil grin now?

“How does it feel?” I asked, planting another one squarely in the groin. “Does it feel good?” Thud. “Tell me, Tom.” Thud. “Does it feel good?”

He writhed on the floor like an injured snake, clutching at his man parts. I could hear him trying to speak, and I kicked him again.

I didn’t want to pull away. I wanted to hurt him some more, wanted to pay him back for all he’d done with interest. But I had to get out of there before my new mom wandered by and discovered what I’d done to the light of her life.

Tom curled into a ball like a rolley-polley. I left him there, confident that he wouldn’t be a problem for a while. I headed for the door.

I squinted up at the flood of light from outside my room, momentarily disoriented. I clutched the threshold with trepidation, not quite believing that I could walk away so easily. I couldn’t screw this up now, not when I was so close. I hesitated, glanced over my shoulder at the closet where my double had imprisoned me only three weeks ago. Once I left this room, that door was lost to me forever.

Actually, it was already lost the moment I’d attacked mirror-Tom. But once I left that place, I would have to admit to myself that there would be no rescue, that nobody would come bursting through the door in the nick of time as had happened so often on TV. I would have to wander through the desert of a foreign world in search of a way back home, understanding that I may never get there, that mirror-Eugene might forever enjoy what he had so callously stolen from me. The thought filled my gut with bile, but there was nothing to be done about it now.

When my eyes adjusted to the light, I spared a final look at Tom. He was no longer moving. Had he lost consciousness? I looked out the window, glimpsed the stars, spattering the sky like glitter, and thought of my double, a nine-year-old Judas Iscariot. I promised that I would come for him, that I wouldn’t let him get away with what he’d done.

Then I stepped across the threshold and said a silent prayer for deliverance. I still had to make it downstairs and out the front door.

Read part 9 here.

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A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 7

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

You can read part 6 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

For three days, I thought about how I would get away. My double had used magic to pass from his world into mine. Unfortunately, I would have to find another way.

The window would have been a fantastic choice, had it not been for the fact that it was on the second floor and that there was nothing for me to grab a hold of on the way down. Once, in a mad desire for instant freedom, I considered jumping. But after a careful survey of the ground below, the need for self-preservation overcame the impulse. Survival was paramount. In such a world as this, I would have to look out for myself.

Querying years of accumulated knowledge from TV, I thought in a fit of desperation that perhaps I could tie mirror-Eugene’s clothes and bed sheets together, forming a makeshift rope that I could climb down to freedom. But an hour spent trying to create secure knots in thick swaths of fabric proved futile, and I learned that perhaps TV didn’t possess all the answers after all.

The only way out, I concluded, was through the door. I would have snuck out a long time ago had it not been for the fact that my new mom always kept it locked, and that she only ever opened it to give me food or to let my brother in when he wanted to see me.

For three days, I wracked my brain, and for three days, I came up short. Despair was slowly turning sour, like milk left out in the sun. I began to brood. Hatred toward my double for trapping me in this God-forsaken place transformed into hatred toward new mom and brother, not just for what they had done to me, but for the fact that they looked so much like the ones I had left behind. Their very existence was a mockery, a cruel sadistic torture.

I began to entertain dark thoughts, much like those mirror-Eugene had told me about in the few weeks he’d visited me in my own room. I wanted to hurt them, to make them pay for how they’d treated me.

It was on the third day, during one of my many fantasies, that an idea struck like a bolt of lightening. My lips curled into a slow creeping smile as I lay there in the dark. I could kill two birds with one stone, I realized. I could hurt my new brother, and I could use his pain as an opportunity to escape.

I spent the rest of the night planning, resolved that this would be the last night I’d ever spend in that house.

Read part 8 here.

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