series

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 10

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You can read part 9 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

I rushed headfirst into the closet. It wasn’t until I brushed past hanging coats and pants and nearly bumped my head against the wall that I realized the doorway to the other world had already closed.

I felt as if all the wind had been knocked out of me. I slumped against the wall, closed my eyes and covered my face with my hands.

I’d been so close.

Tears squeezed out of my eyes unbidden, and I was overcome with despair. I would never get home now, I thought. I was stuck in a hateful world with a hateful mom and a hateful brother. I would never see my real mom again, and my double would continue to enjoy the life he’d stolen from me justice-free.

“Mom.”

I stopped crying. I looked up and cocked my head so I could hear better.

“Mom.”

I heard it again. I knew that voice. It was quiet and filled with pain. Tom.

Despair vanished, replaced with the raw instinct to survive. I scrambled off the floor and ran from the closet. I paused in the doorway, looked for signs that Tom had seen me, then jogged silently toward the stairs.

I heard him call again for his mom. Each time his voice grew softer, farther. I moved down the steps as fast as I could manage without making sound.

I halted when I reached the bottom. Once again, like the first day I’d come to this place, vertigo and a sense of otherworldliness swept over me as I took in the living room before me, all at once familiar and strange.

Then Tom called again from upstairs, and the spell was broken. I dashed for the front door. I panicked when at first it didn’t open, and it took me a moment before I realized I had to undo the lock. I ran outside, sailed across the concrete path and darted off along the sidewalk, into the moonlit night.

I ran. I ran some more. I didn’t stop. I looked around at the houses in my neighborhood. Mirror-Eugene’s neighborhood. The houses were similar but different. The street was more rundown than my own, as if it had suffered years of neglect. It reminded me of some of the more destitute communities in my own world, which I sometimes saw pictures of on TV.

I ran until brief pinpricks in my right side blossomed into sharp stabbing pains. I slowed, and only when I stopped did I realize my breathing had grown ragged and that I could barely stand. Adrenaline had abandoned me, leaving me weak and disoriented.

I gazed about, lost. At some point I’d wandered away from the area I recognized, even more dilapidated than where I’d started. Large concrete structures loomed overhead, stained and chipped with age. Many were surrounded by chain link fences, some of which were topped with barbed wire. Plumes of smoke rose into the air, illuminated by the moon and artificial lighting so that they seemed like spirits rising into heaven.

I would have been scared had I not been so exhausted. I leaned against a decrepit wall and closed my eyes.

I thought I’d only take a minute to rest and catch my breath.  But when I opened my eyes again, the sun was up, I was on the ground and I wasn’t alone.

Continued next week…

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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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