The Way It Was, Pt. 2

That’s impossible. Well, not quite.

I mean, there are people who have a striking resemblance to each other in real life. Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel, for example. Or Robert Downey Jr. and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. But a man with the exact same face as mine, standing in the same bar that I’m in? That’s just way too big a coincidence.

I realize that I’m staring at the guy, so I try to look away but it’s too late. He sees me. He smiles and raises his glass in my direction. What the hell? He doesn’t seem the least bit surprised. To my growing discomfort, he excuses himself from his companions and heads over to my booth. This could get awkward.

“Well hello!”

The man looks like me and he sure sounds like me but he can’t be me because I’m me. Aren’t I?

“Umm, hi…”

My doppelgänger slides into the seat opposite mine, grinning like a maniac.

“I knew I’d find you here!”

He did?

“You did?”

The man takes a sip of his drink. Whisky on the rocks. One of the top shelf brands, no doubt.

“Course I did, bud. Haven’t you figured it out yet?”

I chug my beer until it’s almost gone. There was this crazy suspicion I had right after I noticed the resemblance between us. As I look closer, that suspicion starts to grow stronger. The man isn’t an exact duplicate. His face is a bit thinner, his hair has a lot more gray threading through it. I can hear now that his voice is a bit lower than mine, a bit rougher.

“You’re…from the future.”

He sits back with a satisfied smile.

“Yes. I mean, sort of.” He pauses, trying to find the right words. “Think of me as your unfulfilled potential. I’m the man you could be in ten years.”

“The man I could be.”

“That’s right. Look at your life right now. Really look at it. What are you doing? Where are you going? You’ve had a few setbacks. Lost your job. Had no luck in love. So now you’re stuck in the same routine, day in and day out. You’ve given up. Hell, your life has given up.”

“And if I try real hard, I can become a dick like you?”

He gives me a look, the kind of look you might give a small dog that’s trying to jump onto the couch but not quite getting there. I don’t like that look.

“Well hey, this dick’s got a pretty solid bank account and a living room the size of your apartment. So you tell me.”

He makes a good point. Not that it gives him any right to be a dick about it.

“And you’re here to get me to turn my life around, to become the man I was meant to be. To become you. That it?”

He smiles. It’s really beginning to annoy me, even though it’s the same smile I’ve seen in the mirror and in countless pictures of myself. I used to love that smile.

“No, that’s not why I’m here. I just came to look back at my life. To see the way it was before I changed. Before you changed, I should say. I lived such a sad, meaningless life back then, didn’t I? I’d forgotten just how much time I spent in this damn place, stinking of stale beer and piss. No goals in sight. No hope in mind. Just drinking the time away until a new day arrives.”

Unbelievable.

“So you came back to…mock me?”

He shrugs. “It’s good to look back on your past now and again. See the dead end paths you’ve walked to avoid walking them again.”

I’m tempted to smack him upside his pretentious head.

13 Tales of Terror: Plots For Sale

Marty wasn’t having a good day.

He had just found out his job was nearing its expiry date, and his love life had already crossed that threshold earlier that morning. Katie didn’t see their relationship going anywhere so she’d gone away instead.

After an excruciating few hours at his desk making small talk with people he’d rather not talk with at all, it was finally lunchtime and Marty could have a few moments to breathe. He didn’t really have much of an appetite that day, so he went for a long walk instead. He could still hear Katie’s voice echoing in his head, telling him that he really needed to buy himself a new life.

Marty kicked a can across the street in frustration, which was about the time he realized that he had no idea what street he was on. He stopped and looked around. None of the street signs were familiar. Neither were the buildings. His office was nowhere in sight, nor any of the office blocks that surrounded it. How far had he walked?

“Plots for sale! Plots for sale!”

There was a man standing on a street corner, perched on top of a small box. He was old, though Marty couldn’t guess at his age. His hair, or what little of it he had, was iron gray, as was the scraggly beard that covered his face. He was dressed in what seemed to be maroon wizard’s robes, tattered and possibly covered in dust. Marty tried not to pay too much attention to him.

“Plots for sale! Plots for sale! What would you like, sir? A thriller to set your heart racing? A little romance to make you dance? Ah, perhaps what you need is a good mystery to solve!”

Marty looked around, puzzled. It was clear the old man was talking to him. After all, he was the only one there. It didn’t make any sense. How did he end up on this strange street by himself? Where was everyone else?

“Come now, sir, don’t be shy! I have so many plots to sell! A new life awaits you with just the turn of a page!”

A new life?

“Right this way, friend!”

The old man waved a hand in the direction of a derelict bookshop. Before Marty could blink, the man was standing next to him and steering him toward the storefront. He wanted to protest. He had to get back to work. He had to find his office. He had to get back to his life. Or did he?

As Marty mulled over the direction his life had taken from the moment he woke up that day, he allowed himself to be led into the dingy bookshop that smelled like musty old paper. Maybe he could pick up some sort of self-help book.

“Well, sir? What will it be?”

The old man’s eyes shone as he displayed his wares, books spread out across rows and rows of dark wooden shelves. The shop was a lot larger than it looked from the outside.

“Perhaps you’d like to purchase a spy plot, full of suspense and intrigue?”

Marty opened the book that the man thrust into his hands. The pages were blank. Marty looked up to ask the shopkeeper about it but he wasn’t there. In fact, the shop wasn’t there. Marty was in an elegant casino, dressed in a sharp dark gray tuxedo. There was a high stakes poker game going on, and Marty was playing one of the most notorious arms smugglers in the world. The fate of several nations would depend on the outcome of the game. Keeping his cool but nervous on the inside, Marty turned over his cards…

“Well? What do you think?”

Marty was back in the bookshop and the old man was eyeing him hungrily. He looked down at the book; there were words in it now. It was describing the plot that Marty had just lived.

“I see spy stories aren’t quite your thing. Perhaps something more in the science fictional realm?”

Marty opened the next book he was given. He was in a satellite that was orbiting a dying world. As the leader of the last remnants of an alien race, Marty had some difficult decisions to make about where they would go next. They wouldn’t last off-world very long. He had to find them a new home. A new planet. He looked at his astronomical charts to determine their next course of action. And that’s when the missiles hit. They were under attack! Marty knew he had to do something, but another round of missiles knocked him off his feet…

“No? Is this not to your liking either, sir? My oh my…you are a tough customer.”

The old man stroked his chin, thinking for a moment. “Well, my friend, I think I have just the book for you.”

Marty’s head was still reeling from the last story, but he was curious about what else the old man had in store. Maybe the next plot would be the one for him.

“Ahh, here we go,” the man said, handing Marty a heavy leather-bound tome. It was devoid of any dust, and seemed almost out of place in the old shop. Marty ran a hand over the cover, relishing the feel of it. He opened it up, hearing a soft sigh escape from the book’s spine. Like the others, it was blank.

But this time, Marty wasn’t sucked into a spy story or a science fiction adventure. He wasn’t sucked into any kind of story at all. There was nothing around him except blank space. He heard a loud thump from somewhere in the distance.

“There, that’s better. Poor fool. You’ve wasted your life, wasted the potential story you could have told. But perhaps someone else will be able to use this plot, and to tell a better tale than you were capable of.”

Marty could do nothing but stay frozen in place as the old man placed the book back onto its shelf. He was nothing more than a blank page now, doomed to stay that way until someone wrote their story.

A to Z Challenge: Vortex

v

 

Violet stared into the vortex that had opened up rather unexpectedly in her bedroom wall. Colors of all tones and hues swirled around in it, including some that she couldn’t even identify.

Where the vortex came from, or where it led to, she didn’t know. She didn’t really want to know. But she couldn’t stop staring at it. It was mesmerizing.

What secrets lay hidden within? Was it a gateway to another dimension? Another universe? She had no way of knowing. Unless…no. Her fingers hovered inches away from the swirling vortex. Perhaps she could just take a peek at the other side.

The vortex brightened, its colors blending together to form a blinding white sphere. Someone, or something, was coming through.

One clawed foot, attached to a leg made of some dark metallic substance, clanked against the floor. It was followed shortly by five more, attached to a horselike body with a long snaking neck protruding from it, on which sat perched a single growing red eye.

Violet sighed sadly. Another dimension of evil robots.

She clenched her fists, charging up her Devastation Gauntlets, and waited for the thing to attack.

Case Closed

Not every mystery has a satisfying solution.

Sometimes the answer is stupidly simple, or so bizarre that even Sherlock Holmes would be thrown for a loop.

Detective Mason knew that quite well.

Still, getting ingested by a homicidal space butterfly didn’t seem like a particularly good ending to this case.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 17: Beyond The Veil


Dearest Candice,

I hope this letter finds you in good health.

It has been scarcely two days since my departure, and already I find myself missing you deeply.

This morning, I was formally introduced to Dr. Cavendish, who gave me a personal tour of the institute and explained my duties in greater detail. I cannot describe to you the thrill I felt on meeting such a great man, and knowing that I will be working alongside him to broaden the horizons of human understanding and knowledge.

Dr. Cavendish is a man of great vision. Through his work, we may definitively be able to prove the scientific roots of the supernatural. If we are successful, all those old myths and superstitions will take on a completely new light! I know how dangerous that must sound, but do not worry. Dr. Cavendish is very thorough in his methods.

His behavior can, at times, be quite unorthodox, but that is to be expected of any ingenious mind. They operate on a level of thought we cannot begin to comprehend. He is very fastidious about cleanliness. Why, he even wore gloves while shaking hands with me! During our tour, we came across a stain on the floor. At first, I thought it to be blood, but later reflected it must have been a chemical spill. Dr. Cavendish was absolutely livid, however. He stamped his feet and roared at the top of his voice at everyone in the laboratory, stressing the important of keeping every surface clean.

I must confess, in that moment I felt a pang of fear, and thought I detected madness dancing behind his eyes. Perhaps that is the price of being truly passionate about something. Only moments later, Dr. Cavendish was in a good humor again, and resumed our tour as if the interruption had never occurred.

It was a most uneventful day otherwise. We had many discussions on the afterlife and its scientific implications that were quite fascinating to me, but I shall spare you the details.

Tomorrow, my work begins in earnest, and I greatly look forward to it. The coming weeks will be demanding, but I shall write to you as often as I possibly can.

Do give my love to Annabelle, and let her know that the both of you will always be in my heart.

With love,

Nathan

20 Tales of Terror – Day 2: Emotional Breakdown

Emotion Chip

Anna was almost complete.

She was Dr. Thurber’s greatest achievement, a nearly lifelike android who would, with a few additional tweaks, be almost indistinguishable from a human being. Her head was suspended above his workstation; her body was being examined for any flaws or bugs in the movement controls and would be brought back to the lab in the morning. Dr. Thurber was working on Anna’s brain. He had designed a sophisticated emotional control chip that would replicate human emotion perfectly.

He had implanted the chip in the central control panel in her head and had placed a tracking device on her temple that would display the severity of her emotional response. Once the testing was complete, she would be ready to face the world. Dr. Thurber powered up her head and waited.

Anna’s eyes opened slowly, twin blank screens that were soon replaced by beautiful dark eyes. Her blonde hair cascaded about her face, which almost shone in the harsh light of the lab. Her synthetic skin was also in its final testing phases and would be outfitted the next day. Her eyes focused on the man in front of her. She recognized him as her creator. He was smiling. Anna’s lips, which had only been outfitted that morning, twitched. She could feel  pleasurable sensation radiating from deep inside her. Slowly, carefully, she returned his smile.

Dr. Thurber clapped his hands together. So far, so good! Anna seemed to understand the idea of contentment. But he would need to test the other extremes of her emotional range. He turned around to make some notes on his laptop.

Anna observed Dr. Thurber, the man who had created her. She liked looking at him. She wanted to say something, a small hello. But she couldn’t. Anna’s vocal controls hadn’t been installed. She looked down, realizing that she had no body. How could that be? How was she alive? What had Dr. Thurber done to her? Anna could feel the sensations in her head changing. Panic. She was panicking, but couldn’t do anything except move her eyes and her lips.

Out of the corner of one eye, she saw movement. It was a spider. Anna was transfixed, watching the creature slowly lower itself from the ceiling, hanging by a few silken strands. Other feelings were building up inside her. Revulsion. Anxiety. Fear. The spider inched closer to where she was. It couldn’t cause her any harm, but that didn’t matter at that moment. All she felt was dread as it drew ever nearer. Her eyes flicked towards Dr. Thurber, who was still typing on his laptop, oblivious to her peril.

The spider’s long, fuzzy legs brushed against her golden hair. Anna screamed silently as her emotion chip overloaded.