This story is by laura and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
I fed the monster when I should’ve starved it. In my defense, I hadn’t been entirely sure she existed. After all, when you can’t see, hear, or touch it then it’s not supposed to exist, right?
When Melinda Harris told me to kill myself in the tenth grade neither she nor I expected that I would take the advice to heart. Now that we were both working the same stupid summer job to save up for college, I began to ponder that option. Truth was she had changed a lot during our last year. Maybe the drama queen realized she wouldn’t get to keep her throne after graduation? Whatever the reason, I didn’t care. My hair still hadn’t reached its normal length since the bubblegum ‘accident’ and, compared to the recurring nightmares, that was the least of the trauma.
The streets were busy that day. I had just enough time to make it to work five minutes earlier than Melinda, which would get me the less demeaning task of working behind the scenes with Mrs. Quinn instead of handing out flyers in the heat. While it didn’t particularly bother me, something about Melinda stomping to the clock-out station at the end of the day looking like a blotchy disaster gave me bitter-tasting pleasure.
For a moment I thought the plan would be a bust when a loud crackle of thunder echoed across the sky. I searched for clouds and found nothing, but I was the only one. Had no one else heard it?
Something slammed into me—hard—and I hit the pavement.
I grunted and looked up. “Watch where you’re—”
The scream was held back by my drying throat, replaced with a small choking sound. The thing in front of me smiled kindly, the stitches at the corner of its lips threatening to snap. Her glowing crimson eyes regarded me like an old friend as she held out a hand whiter than Melinda’s.
Perhaps it was the fact that both my heart and brain had left my body in those last three seconds, or that the reflection in the window of Danny’s Barber Shop told me my eyes were lying. Looking back on it now, the number one reason I grabbed the monster’s hand was because I did know her.
Like the reflection showed the startled bystanders, the girl that collapsed in the middle of the sidewalk was now being pulled up by an invisible force. An invisible me.
My doppelganger had been with me for a week. I learned that she didn’t have a name, and like the sane person I was, I decided to give her one: Nic. It was short for Nicole, but no one ever called me Nic or Nikky. They did call me lots of things in school, courtesy of Melinda, but now everyone just called me Nicole.
The second thing I learned is that she liked to cause trouble, thankfully not for me. If anything, she was the twenty-shades-whiter, Joker-faced, red-eyed, invisible twin I always wanted. Nic knew everything about me because she was me, including how to make my day better. Instead of using her invisibility to cause me trouble, she would prank Melinda, occasionally getting her in trouble with Mrs. Quinn, but mainly with customers.
“Mel, you were supposed to repaint the sign, not the poor man’s face…or your hair,” I said as she walked in to grab the spare paint can.
Once she was out of ear reach Nic and I burst out laughing, her laugh more of a chuckle as she strained to keep her stitches in place.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had fun. It wasn’t so much Melinda’s pain—as hard as it was to admit, I felt a twinge of guilt for acting so merciless—but having someone to laugh with. Nic and I rarely argued. The only thing we didn’t agree on was how hard to prank Melinda. Her ideas were a bit extreme, but I kept her in check. There were only a few times when she’d go off and do things on her own, but I could handle her.
Even with all her screw ups, Melinda still managed to win Mrs. Quinn’s favoritism at the end of the week. I saw Nic’s face change to match my racing pulse as she watched Melinda get the ridiculous gold star on the employee chart. If emotions had reflections, Nic had become my mirror.
It was a poor, hipster boutique. Mrs. Quinn made all the dresses herself with little help from us, but I did the most of that little. Today I’d skipped my break to finish cutting out the tags for the dresses, my fingers left throbbing and numb.
“I guess ass kissing works in the real world too.”
“That should be you,” Nic said, and wrapped her arm around my shoulder. Her hand patted my head and she whispered more things into my ear. “It’s just like in high school, and will always be like high school.”
I felt her grip on me tighten and myself weaken. Melinda walked towards us to bid me goodbye, smiling warmly.
Nic grabbed the scissors. “I can end it.”
I fed the monster when I should’ve starved it. In my defense, I hadn’t been entirely sure she existed. After all, when you can’t see, hear, or touch it then it’s not supposed to exist. But the monster was real. It was real because of me.
Her red eyes flashed and my doppelganger dove forward, teeth gleaming. There was low ripping sound as her stitches came loose.
“No!” I shouted as I stepped in front of Melinda.
Nic didn’t stop. Her smile widened, as if she’d been expecting this, and she disappeared.
There was a moment of silence where I tasted relief—the revenge-born monster had failed to achieve its purpose, or so I thought. Melinda screamed upon seeing the blood blossom on my white t-shirt, my hand still on the scissors.