A desperate man is capable of anything, and we’re all desperate for something. Me, I just want my family back. Return my wife and daughter to me or put a bullet in my head. It almost came to that once; I was moments away from ending my misery. Then it happened. The event that changed it all, the event that changed the world.
This seems as good a place as any to start the story, sitting here against the rotting headrest of a dank bed. This damn bed… how many sick, repulsive vagrants had lay exactly here before me? And how often did the motel change the sheets? If ever. The woman ‘checking her make up’ in the bathroom is unfamiliar to me. Blonde or brunette, I honestly don’t remember, but she charges by the hour and when she opens her mouth it’s rarely to speak. It’s not often I indulge in such women, and when I do I’m usually thinking of her: Ellie, my wilted rose. A series of unfortunate events tipped with a bad decision took her from me, along with our little girl.
I’m not a religious man, far from it. I don’t believe they ended up in a heaven, hell or any other place a man can convince himself exists after life. My reality was harder; all I had left were bones. I tried to move on, but it was a vain attempt. I needed to be with them, even if that meant being reduced to bones myself.
I remember my last meal - roast lamb with all the trimmings -, my last cigarette, that final sunset. I remember thinking my last thought - a memory of Ellie and I snuggled on the couch listening to Lucy sing -, her voice was beautiful and haunting. I remember the taste of steel against the roof of my mouth, the chilling mechanical click as I pulled back the hammer. Then I remember thinking: ‘fuck this place, this dull miserable world they left me.’
That’s when it happened; the world began to shake. It felt as if everything was tearing apart, the Earth, the air, sound itself. Some people described it as lasting seconds, others said hours. The only thing we knew for sure was it affected every living thing on the planet. When the ruckus stopped I found myself laying face down on my living room floor. I got to my knees, never feeling more unsure. Had I done it? Is that what death was? It couldn’t be, I was still in my living room. And I wasn’t alone.
My train of thought was broken. The rent-a-lady finished powdering the inside of her nose and came back to bed. She had dirty blonde hair, thin soggy paper-like skin and teeth as filthy as toe nails. She wasn’t exactly the pick of the litter, but with what little choice there was on the outskirts of this colony, she certainly wasn’t the worst.
“You want to go again?” she asked.
I shook my head. The thought of entering her another time made me gag.
“What’s your name?”
“James,” I lied.
“Where are you heading that brings you through this middle of no where?”
“East, to the Atlantic Islands.” Another lie, I was heading west to the new land in the Pacific. Man made structures the size of small countries. It boggles the mind as to how we did it, but I definitely see the why. We ran out of space, over night we went from a population of nine billion to eighteen. No one knows for sure, it’s impossible to get an accurate count at this point.
“What’s waiting for you there?”
“Hoping to find yourself?”
“Among other things.” My eyes caught a glimpse of the alarm clock. Shit, I’ve risked enough time in this motel room. I told her I was stepping out for a cigarette, that we’d settle the tab when I came back. There was no reason for her not to believe me; there was a laptop, a suitcase and an assortment of clothes lying around the place. I, however, travel much lighter than that. I scooped up my satchel by the door and stepped out, leaving her, the woman whose name I will never know in a motel room that wasn’t mine to begin with.
I found my motorcycle and got comfortable in the worn seats. It was an old bike, older than me and then some, Vintage 2023. My father’s dedication and upkeep had kept it alive, this rare beast that still ran on diesel. However now I fear it was on its last legs. It took me a full minute to get it to started. Once it roared to life I shot down the road, the wind instantly kicked up my dark long hair and beard. Just as impressive as those man made islands, was what I was looking at now. The Mohave Desert, or what was left of it, is what stood between me and my goal. Around forty percent had been terraformed to support human life. Millions of tons of imported loose soil, combined with the deepest water wells, was the start of life among the sand. I drove past the outskirts of the colony and then further still, until the buildings were a speck in the cracked mirror.
Either side of me was a vast expanse of yellow sands. My dark goggles protected me against the sun and the wind as I pushed the bike to its limits towards the promising horizon. I rode until hunger and exhaustion wore me down. I saw a single dead tree that looked quite lonely and made camp beneath it. After starting a small fire with pieces broken from the dry tree, I ate what was left of the recycled energy bars and beans. I had three sips of water from the canteen and then cracked open my well-stocked supply of rum. Leaning against the dried out trunk with a cigarette hanging from my mouth, I marveled at the view. I had only seen so many stars twice before in my life. Those bright spots didn’t dwell in the cities anymore and you were lucky to spot a dozen in the suburbs.
As the fire crackled and my eyes had their fill of awe, my thoughts returned to the moment of the event. The moment I realized I may have another chance to be with my family, I awoke face down on my living room floor. Another man shared the room with me, a man I had never seen before. He was in his late thirties and dressed as if he were home. I raised my gun to him and started shouting. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was as confused as I. Luckily he had enough sense to get out before my itchy fingers put a bullet to him.
The streets were filled of people wandering aimlessly. A lot of people were scared and a lot of people got hurt. I walked out into the night. We could all feel that something had happened, something big. Bodies began falling from the sky, a few at first but then dozens. I’ll never forget the sound of bodies almost liquefying. They were passengers on a plane that got left behind.
It took me weeks to make sense of it all. Stories began floating around of people finding other versions of themselves. It was a hard thing to come to terms with and it wasn’t until the news channels started pumping out the information that we understood what exactly had happened. The theory of parallel universes had been around a long time and the story goes someone was aiming to prove it. A branch of scientific government was conducting an experiment to build a bridge from our universe to another. Not to travel, more of a looking glass situation. They knew they were playing with matches, they didn’t know they were playing over an ocean of gas. Whatever they did, it got out of hand. It took every living thing from another Earth and brought it to ours. There was another version of every living person, and in some cases people that should have been dead. There was another me. There was another you.
I awoke with the sun scorching its light into my eyes. Desert sand fell from my clothes as I sat up. It felt unusual to wake to such silence. I unzipped and gave the dead tree what little fluids escaped my body, then slung my pack over my shoulder.
‘Come on baby’ I whispered as my bike struggled against its own worn innards. Cancerous time had done its damage, this time it did not start. I looked around again; the view had taken a new ominous appeal, an endless prison. The horizon no longer looked like a symbol of the future and hope but a limit to which no human feet could reach. But fuck it, maybe I’ll pass a McDonalds on the way. I took another bottle of alcohol as I started down the long straight road. It was going to be a rum walk.
To describe every thought I had on that stroll would take longer than re-accomplishing the feat. So I’ll jump to when my feet began to tire, when my lips dried, that was when I heard that gentle hum. I turned to see a car making its way down the long road. I walked backwards as I watched it approach. I was saved. I finally allowed my legs to feel the pain I had been blocking, only because I knew I would rest them soon. I stuck my thumb out and waited. The driver didn’t slow down. In fact, he did me the courtesy of showing me his middle finger, in all its glory. Asshole.
I started my march again, watching hopelessly as the car, with all its speed, didn’t leave my field of vision for a full ten minutes. I held my eye on the speck until it disappeared completely. I knew I didn’t have any left, but I checked for a lost cigarette. No such luck. I tossed the empty pack to the ground and let the wind take it.
I counted step for step for as long as I could. I almost reached a thousand before a distant bang broke the silence. Was I not alone in the desert? Had someone just fired a shot? I scanned the area as best I could but saw nothing and no one. I continued my walk through the endless desert. My legs, exhausted beyond measure, were painfully struggling forward. The blistering sun didn’t let me forget where I was for a moment. It wasn’t until hours later that I deduced the origin the sound. The car that passed me sat idle on the road, subdued by a burst tire. It was still a tiresome walk to reach the vehicle and the closer I got, the clearer I saw. The man sat on the road leaning on his vehicle, tire wrench in one hand, empty bottle of water in the other.
He must have seen me too because when I was still beyond shouting distance he sprung to his feet and began attempting to replace the punctured wheel. I could only surmise he had failed to do so for the hours passed already. So I found no need to rush to show him the size of my middle finger. I continued my pace as he quickened his. I saw his head dart back and forth, from me to his wheel, then back to me. That made me grin.
When I was close enough to make out the fear in his face, and he, the glare in mine, he scrambled into the drivers seat and fired up the engine. The car rocked forward off the jack. The front left wheel dislodged instantly and rolled away from the vehicle as its nose dug into the dirt road. The tire turned half circle and made a beeline straight for me. I stopped it under my boot and toppled it flat. I continued forward towards the car with the stride and swagger of cowboys centuries passed. The driver stumbled out and produced a switchblade. Now he wasn’t fat, but he was thick. “Stay back,” he yelled.
I took a few more steps before I stopped. “Need a hand?”
“What? Stay back or I’ll stick you.”
“I understand why you didn’t pick me up back there, I had nothing to offer. Doesn’t make sense to do something for someone if they can’t do something back, right? But now I do have something to offer. Obviously you have about as much experience as an Eskimo when it comes to changing tires. I’ll do that for you, if you give me a ride.”
“How do I know you won’t kill me?”
“Why is it we can feel safe among a crowd, but put two strangers together and they will fear each other? You’re more danger to me thinking like that than I am to you. Besides, you’ve got the blade.”
“Alright. But don’t try anything funny.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not a funny guy. You can start by fetching that tire.”
“Alright,” he said as he pocketed the blade and avoided me by a short distance.
“Wait, you got a smoke?”
“Sorry,” he said as he waddled off.
I picked up the jack on my way to the car and tossed it next to the wreck. There was an assortment of tools and other objects in the large tray in the back. I hopped in the drivers seat and poked through his belongings. There was no water, and my mouth had never been so dry. I found nothing of interest until I open the glove compartment. Asshole.
He came back and found me sucking back a smooth cigarette. “Hey! Those were mine!”
“No, you didn’t have any. These are mine. Want one?”
“Yes,” he grumbled.
“Sorry, I don’t have any.”
We lifted the car onto the jack and I got to work. The guys name was Gareth, I insisted on calling him Asshole though. It didn’t take that long to fix it. When I was done I stood up and stretched my legs.
“It’s not going to fall off this time?”
“Nope. Might be a bit bumpy in the back though.”
“In the back?”
I hit him over the head with the wrench, making sure he saw it coming. I caught him before he fell but I underestimated his weight. We both ended up in the dirt. I changed my mind, he was fat. It took a bit of effort to get him in the tray, but then I grabbed his keys and got comfortable behind the wheel.
Traveling at 150km’s an hour certainly had its advantages but with this endless road there was still hours for my thoughts to trudge up the memories of my lost love and our little girl. It had been years since, but I still remember the day. We were driving home from a movie, the three of us. We stopped at a gas station for something. Milk I think, bread too. We could have got it the next day, but I insisted. Why did I insist? Lucy bought a mars bar, I got a snickers. I haven’t had one since that day. When we were pulling out onto the highway we got hit by a truck. Full speed. Full cargo. The passenger side of the car no longer existed. My wife was no longer breathing. I saw my daughter’s insides with no way of putting them back. They were gone and I was left alone.
With only fumes left in the tank I reached the harbor city. I stepped out of the car and tossed the keys in the tray with the driver. The first thing I did was buy a bottle of water. That brought my pockets down to a miserable .75cents. I found my way to an overlook near the base of the bridges and spied the huge strips of concrete and steal cables that would take me to where I need to be. Lanes clogged with traffic sat upon each of them, creeping slowly to the other side. There were two lines of digital advertising projected above the roads, to keep the drivers entertained on the journey. The bus lanes however were all but free; coaches zoomed past the traffic at break neck speeds. The highways stretched out into a barely visible man made land with nothing but air and water separating each highway.
The lady at the bus station told me the tickets were $83.25 plus tax. A minor set back. I bumped into a guy on the way out, earned myself $40. I dropped his wallet to the ground and bumped into another. That took me to $60, then $82. I asked around for the last bit of shrapnel. Would you believe I had to ask twelve strangers before one of them gave me a dollar, another seven before I got the .25cents. The bus was comfortable, more comfortable than I’d been in a while.
I’d been on this journey for two years now. I had searched multiple refugee camps, some housing millions of people. I chased the paper trail my double left behind, crossing continents and oceans looking for my family. My money was spent months ago, my belongings long gone. I stared out the window of the bus as it took me smoothly across the long bridge. The large man made land grew larger. The Atlantic Island were bigger than the Pacific. It floated atop the water, leaving canals underneath honeycombing the entire structure for boats to travel at ease beneath the city.
The first thing I did when I stepped off the bus was find some food. The fruit market was the easiest place to five-finger-feed myself, so that’s what I did. Once I had my fill of banangos and strawberry melons I got myself acquainted with New Atlantic City. The architecture was tight; barely a wall separated each house. It was certainly more European than in the Pacific or Indian oceans. I took out a piece of paper from my bag, the three names among dozens highlighted in yellow had an address next to them. I couldn’t tell you how many addresses I’d had before this, or if this one was even legitimate, but it’s all I had to go on. It didn’t take me long to find it. A single house sandwiched between two other equally awkward looking structures. It was then I had to do the hardest thing I could possibly do: I had to wait.
It wasn’t hard to find a homeless man nearby; it was even easier to convince him to switch clothes with me. The odor was horrible, but hopefully the look was enough that I wouldn’t recognize myself. So I sat and waited, watching from across the street. Hours passed. No doubt this colony had decently established schools by now and it was almost 4:00pm, which means Lucy should be due back at any moment.
It felt as if the butterflies in my stomach had taken cocaine. The anticipation of seeing my little girl again, I had felt it too many times already and every time my heart had been broken. Hope was the only thing I was running on, but at times like this I wish I had none. A bus made its way up the street towards me. It stopped a few hundred meters away and a handful of school children dispersed. My heartbeat accelerated. The bus continued in my direction. I sat up as it stopped directly in front of me. I heard the rush of little children’s feet as they scampered out on the other side. Move bus, get the hell out of the way. When it did roll on I saw half a dozen little heads, two with the same hair as my baby. Turn around, let me see your faces, please. The girls played and chatted as one by one they made their way home. One of the blondes was not her, the other I still couldn’t tell. With the back of her head still towards me she began up the steps to the address that had captivated my attention. Turn around! She opened the door and took a step inside. I panicked. I looked for something to break, some sound to make, so she would turn and face me. I found nothing. I watched, defeated, as the door was almost shut.
Before the wood met the frame though, a dog zipped out through the remaining gap and leapt down the steps onto the street. The little girl ran out after the cat sized canine. My heart stopped. It was her, my baby. She had aged a couple of years, but that had only made her more beautiful. The dark fire that had swallowed my heart was flooded and washed away; I was no longer alone. The dog ran across the street directly for me, and Lucy came chasing after. I prayed the large beard and the hair would stop her from recognizing me.
I didn’t know the dog, but he certainly knew me. He jumped on me and began licking my face.
“I’m sorry,” Lucy said as she tried to drag him away.
My eyes were fixed on her, her hair, her freckles. I was afraid to speak, terrified to communicate. I did what I could with a grunt as I shoved the dog into her hands. Her eyes lingered on me for a moment, as if she almost figured it out, but I saw her shake the thought. I couldn’t stop the tears that flooded out of my eyes as she walked away. I saw my wife come to the door as Lucy returned; she barely glanced my way. They were both here, these two people that were the world to me were finally in my life again. I hadn’t cried in an age, it felt good.
It took a while for my hands to stop shaking, but once they did I began reflecting on my plan. The plan that spawned in the weeks following the world-changing event. It was time to kill myself.
It was another couple of hours before my double arrived home. It had gotten a lot darker, but I recognized myself instantly. He looked how I would look had my life not gone to shit. But I knew with a haircut, a shave and a deep cleanse I could get back to that. I sat silently and watched from across the street. If I was going to do this, I had to do it right.
I followed him for a month: at work, at home, where he went in between. I studied him, this other version of myself. The longer I followed him, the more the question plagued my mind. The question that had been there since it happened. What was so different in our lives, what decisions did he make, or did he not make, that allowed his family to live and mine to perish. What choice was it that I did wrong?
During that month I lived wherever I could. There were some overpopulated homeless shelters, and I scrounged together food here and there, enough to stay healthy. The longer I followed him the closer I risked getting. I began exercising again, doing pushups and pull-ups daily. I needed to get my physique back, or at least get it started to keep up with my double. The beard and the hair I decided to keep until the last minute. Of course I took every opportunity I could to catch a glimpse of Lucy or Ellie. On days I was lucky enough they would go down to the park and we would spend the day together, a few hundred feet apart.
It was a strange thing to come to terms with, wanting to kill your double. Ending a version of your own life didn’t quite feel like suicide, but it was close. Years of pain and desperation I fear had turned me to stone. I hoped my family wouldn’t see it when it was time to go home.
After a month however, it was time. That was the night I was going to do it. I followed him from work; it was going to be a long walk through narrow streets. My beard was combed to perfection and my hair straightened and tied in a ponytail, my clothes were fresh and my shoes were new; compliments of many people’s lost wallets. There were only a few things in my satchel: a razor blade, a trimmer, a knife, a hammer and a cheese grater.
There were three people between me and him, but one by one they all made their turn offs until it was just us. He seemed to have a habit of looking over his shoulder, so I had to act fast. I picked up my pace, trying to get my footfalls to match his to disguise the sound. The adrenaline began pumping, I was only a few feet away. I flipped open the blade and gripped it tightly within my pocket.
With my other hand I reached forward. Before I touched him he turned to face me and we both stopped. Motionless. Awkwardly standing opposite each other. I could see him making sense of it behind his eyes.
I panicked. “You want to meet yourself?” my grip on the blade loosened.
“Holy shit,” was his response.
It took a minute for the gravity to set in, but once his brain fully comprehended the dimensions of the situation, he accepted the invitation.
“You hungry?” I asked.
“Sure, I know a place,” he said as I let him lead me away.
We arrived at a small Insect Diner and sat at a booth. We both hadn’t said a word on the way over, but now sitting opposite each other, the silence was potent.
“How do we do this?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, you found me. You must have had some plan, some script to follow.”
My plan ended with him dead, I had no plan B, not for this. No reason to let the opportunity go to waste though. “Hi, I’m Robert Quaid,” he said.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Robert Quaid too.”
“Interesting beard and hair combo you have there, I haven’t tried that yet.”
“Thanks. It gets itchy.”
“What path did you lead Robert?”
“Same as you I imagine. Ellie, Lucy, history teacher.”
“I teach English now actually.”
A waitress approached with a digital pen and pad. She was an older lady, one of the few fortunate enough to work. “What can I get for you guys?”
“Sautéed roaches and a bowl of pinky grubs,” I said.
“Crickets and fries please.”
“And to drink?”
The waitress left us to our catching up.
“Why are you teaching English? History was always our thing, or at least mine.”
“It was mine too, but things got pretty bad when we came here.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Well, we all woke up in the street, with more people than I could count. Took us a while to figure out what had happened, and even longer to believe it. By that stage the governments were already working on putting us all in camps, accounting for everyone. The camps grew and grew, endless fields full of people. Setting up make-shift tents and digging holes in the ground to shit.”
“The first problem was the food, we went hungry for a long time. Whatever food we got would only be enough to stop us from collapsing; the hunger was always there. For a year we lived like that while they were finishing the new lands.”
“Food wasn’t exactly easy to come by for us either, prices tripled overnight.”
“Must have been bad all over.”
“What happened then?”
“Once the new lands were finally ready, it was basically a lottery to see who would get there. We were one of the lucky ones, we got out early. We got to come live here, a lot of people are still stuck in those camps. It’s not on the news anymore but they’re there, starving every day. But when we came here, one of the conditions was to work without pay. We were assigned jobs and we did them. All we needed in return was a place to stay and food in our stomachs. That’s why I’m teaching English, not much call for History teachers right now, not while we’re living it.”
“You’re not getting paid to work?”
“What is getting paid? A means to survive, so technically we are getting paid. Just not with money.”
“Didn’t hear about that on the news.”
“Not something they want to broadcast. Your countries need the money too much.”
“What about Ellie? Lucy?”
“What about them?”
“Does Lucy still sing?”
“In the shower only. Not much time for singing lately. Ellie’s working with the organizational effort, helping relocate people. She’s taken it pretty hard, not having our home. I catch her crying sometimes, but of course she insists everything is okay. What about you? Your Ellie and Lucy? Do they still brighten your day? Do you still go down to the lake?”
I had to get a hold of my emotions, I had to control the situation. That didn’t stop my voice from cracking a little bit. “Yeah, they’re still the only things I think about. Just the other week actually Lucy fell into the water trying to catch a frog.” I couldn’t help but smile as the warm memories returned to me.
My double laughed too. “I remember that but… that was years ago.”
I shook it off. “Yeah, you’re right. That was.”
The food was placed on the table before us. Plates of insects and grubs, seasoned to a unique taste. The cows were running out, and this is what we resorted to. We both took a few mouthfuls before continuing the conversation. We continued to talk between bites until my hunger subsided and I could let the fork rest.
“I heard this story,” I said, “about this CEO of a multi-national. Every day he would go to work through the front doors of his huge building. His suit just a little more expensive than the hundreds who walked the lobby floors with him. Every day he’d pass the same homeless man and every day the homeless man would ask him for change. On days he was lucky enough not to get escorted off the property, he would just be ignored. Story goes, this went on for months. The CEO never even looked him in the eyes, because if he did he would have realized that that man he was neglecting, was himself. Looking mangly as hell, but him nonetheless. The homeless man killed him one night and took his place.”
“I’ve heard similar stories. Not sure how many are true.”
“I think it’s more a point of the dilemma.”
“Would you have done it?”
“I’d like to think no. But you never know what you’re capable of unless you’re put in that situation. I can understand why he would, but I guess it’s a question of living with it.”
His words were true. I constantly asked myself if I could live with it. I wasn’t sure. What I was sure of was that I couldn’t live any longer without my family. Either way, tonight one of us would die.
“Do you guys still do weekly movie night?” I asked. We never did movie nights ourselves, but I needed to figure out their routine behind closed doors.
“No, never did. We used to do dinner every Sunday. Now, we don’t make much effort to hold onto anything I guess. It’s been so hard since we got here.”
“At least you have each other.”
“Sometimes that’s not enough.”
All I’ve ever wanted since they left me, was to have my family again and here I am saying it isn’t enough. Give me your life and I’ll give you mine I wanted to say. You can then wonder the globe doing as you like, no more commitment to those holding you back. He didn’t appreciate what he had. He doesn’t deserve them. Who better to judge his fate than me? Who better to take his place than me? I could bring a new light into my wife and daughter’s lives. I would love them every day and I would show it.
My plate was empty, and so was his. He pulled out his wallet and handed the waitress enough for us both.
“I thought you didn’t get paid?”
“There’s always a way to make money, especially if the world’s falling apart. It helps get you these little extra things.
We stepped out into the night. I took a cigarette and put it in my mouth and offered him one. What I had failed to figure out up until this point, what miniscule or massive difference existed in our lives that caused my family to perish would come to light now. “I don’t smoke,” he told me. How had I not seen it? How had I not recalled that the reason I insisted on getting the groceries on the way home that night. I had run out of cigarettes.
“You don’t smoke? Since when?”
“Quit a couple of years back. Ellie kept asking.”
“Well one day I just said alright.”
“I never did.”
I lit up my cigarette regardless, if I had to quit, I would enjoy it one final time. I led the walk in the direction of a darker street. He continued to tell me about his troubles, the crisis in the new lands, the dull routine of their lives. We reached the shadows at the head of a narrow alley. My cigarette was half finished, burning slowly. A fuse, I decided, for things to escalate.
“I’m inclined to disagree with you. The only two things you need in this whole world is Ellie and Lucy.”
“I used to think that, but without everything we had… I don’t expect you to understand, you still live at home, your Lucy still gets to play at the lake. She still gets to have a childhood. But even then, she handles it better than Ellie, who wakes up more depressed than she went to bed. She has no light left in her.”
“So ignite that light.”
“Easier said than done when your life has been left behind.”
The ember in the cigarette was reaching the rim. I took another drag.
“So get out of here,” I said, “I’ll take care of them for you.”
“I will take care of them for you, you can leave and go do whatever you want.”
It took him a moment to comprehend what I was saying. “What about your Lucy and Ellie?”
“I’ll send you their way. Go back to the old life, go back to when it was convenient to love them.”
“Are you serious?”
“Never been more.” I took another drag. I sucked it all the way back, till the glowing ember burned the tip of the filter. I could buy him no more time.
I tossed it to the ground and extinguished it.
“The thought has occurred to me, I won’t lie. Tracking you down, trading places for a while,” he said. “You take my Ellie and Lucy, I go stay with yours.”
He thought about it for an extended moment. I watched him weighing the options in his head. The fact that he didn’t reject the idea instantly meant only one thing. When he said it, it confirmed my suspicions.
“Alright, let’s do it,” he finally said.
Pathetic. What had I become? I put my hand back in my pocket and gripped the knife. “Tell them I miss them.” I thrust it into his heart. Shocked, he struggled for the blade, but it was too late. I pushed him up against the wall and put my hand over his mouth. I let him slide to the ground as he twitched. His pained eyes screamed at me. Why? Why?
I didn’t have time to explain. “I’ll take care of them,” I said. His eyes fluttered and his breathing stopped. I pulled the knife out and wiped it on his shirt. I didn’t feel as bad as I thought I would. It was strange. What had time and circumstance done to me? I ripped open his shirt and checked for any additional scars I may need to undertake. I found none. But I had a scar I needed removed. A scar that reminded me of the accident that took my family to begin with. I kept a look out around me, the streets were empty and quiet. Not even animals lived here. I rolled up my left sleeve. The scar was big, too big to simply cut open again. I took the cheese grater from my pack and lay it across my arm. It hurt. Not as much as quitting smoking though.
The decisions I had made had taken my family, and due to my pursuits I have been privy to the darker side of human nature. It was through those experiences that I learned how to make my doubles corpse unrecognizable. For lack of wanting to go into the detail of only having the use of a cheese grater and a hammer, I will continue.
I left his body some place it wouldn’t be found for a few days and sought out an easy door to break. I worked my way through the back entrance of a restaurant. In that kitchen I shaved my beard and cut my hair. I stared at the man in the mirror and challenged him to be the man he knew he could be. He could love them like his own, he will rebuild their spirits. I changed into the clothes I took off his body, sans the bloody shirt. I took his wallet, it was mine now. I took his phone. It wasn’t hard to unlock it, knowing myself. In it I saw disturbing evidence. Naked women that weren’t my wife, not my Ellie. Text messages to these other ladies, messages no married men should be sending. You son of a bitch. What have I become? I deleted it all. I was a new man. A better man. I cleaned up after myself and walked back into the street. I hid all evidence of my former life as I resolved to act. How can I introduce myself to their lives, slip into his lifestyle without arousing suspicion.
I found a part of town with a bit more traffic and hid behind the back end of a truck. I waited and listened. As a car approached I stepped out into its blinding headlights and waited. I gave them enough time to slow down significantly, and hopefully enough, before I was run down. But it needed to look good.
I woke up in the hospital with my Ellie and my Lucy looking down on me. Angel faces, the both of them. Tears welled in my eyes as I tried to lift my arms to hold them. They leaned in, I felt my daughter again, I held my wife. My love, my heart was over flowing. Tears streamed down my cheeks.
Nothing was broken, two fractured ribs. Cuts and scrapes and bruises, all attended to and vouched for.
“I love you,” I said as I squeezed them as hard as I could, regardless of my pain. “I love you so much.”