The time was already half past eight. It was dark outside and no one was left in the lab except her. She had to finish the report her boss asked for before the weekend. She really loved her job but she was tired of and sometimes even stressed over these formal meetings when they had to go through every little detail her boss would think of at that very moment. The girl would finish the analysis of the last data and go home soon. There was no reason to continue, her performance had dropped and she needed rest. Her eyes were aching, her head was buzzing and her back was hurting. I am exhausted … again! she thought and stretched her body. She got up and started walking a bit around the tiny room in order to feel better. Her eye was caught by the photo that was on the wall right above the PC screen. It was her grandmother smiling, in the backyard of her house, with her black head kerchief covering her white hair as always. She passed away last year at the age of 97 years old. She was so old that the girl had started to believe that it would be a long time before her last day. Yet that day eventually came. And the girl was not there. She couldn’t be because she lived and worked in another country than the one she grew up. She never saw her grandma confined to bed, not being able to get up and complaining that her whole body was aching. Maybe it was better that way. She wouldn’t want this to be the last thing to remember from her grandmother. Her grandmother was always complaining but she was also very active … and stubborn! Just like her. Often she was considering how similar they were and she was afraid of ending up like her, complaining all the time that she was alone when in fact there was always someone who would try to be there with her. Yet the end found her like that, alone. There was no one next to her at that single moment when she closed her eyes forever, when her chest stopped moving up and down following the slow rhythm of her breathing. When her son, the girl’s father, got there, it was already too late. That made the girl sad most of anything else. It was not the fact that she could not remember the last time she saw her grandmother or the last words she said to her. Just that she was alone when her time had come. And that was what the girl was mostly afraid of happening to herself as well. She feared dying alone. The girl drank some of her tea that was now cold and after she put out those thoughts of her mind she sat down and continued her work. Suddenly she heard a rhythmic knock on the door. Who could it be, she wondered, everyone had gone home by now. Maybe it’s the guard.
– Come in, she said.
The door opened slowly and a girl entered the room. She stood right in front of her and looked at her with a creepy smile on her face. The girl froze at her place. She was looking at the girl that just entered her office and could not believe what she was seeing. She looked exactly like her. Identical. Even the clothes she was wearing were the same as hers. She had the same hair, the same face, even the beauty spot on her right cheek, identical to the very last detail. It was as if she was looking herself at the mirror. Yet her eyes were black, not brown. That was their only difference.
–I cannot believe that you are still here, said the doppelgänger and the girl realized that even her voice was exactly like hers. Aren’t you fed up of working like a slave all this time? I really don’t get it. You are wasting your time on this job.
While she was speaking she moved comfortably in the room and reached for a chair, placed it next to the girl and took a sheet.
– Ok, I can see you like a lot what you are doing but lord have mercy! Maybe you also should start living a little? You know… personal life? she mocked her.
– I am sorry, mumbled the girl, do we know each other?
– Pfff, you are beginning to tire me. Every time it’s the same. The same questions, the same panic. Yes, obviously we know each other you fool. But I don’t want to get into details this time, I don’t have much time left. You are already worn out.
– I don’t understand, said the girl.
– I didn’t really expect that you would, she made of fun of her.
– You look a lot like me, said the girl again disorientated.
– I am not at all like you, she said unexpectedly. I am everything you are not. That’s why I am here. Oh, please, let’s not lose any more time, just give me your hand and let’s go.
The doppelgänger gave her hand to the girl but she instinctively got up and stepped away.
– I cannot believe we have to do this again, mumbled the girl with the black eyes. Come on, don’t be a chicken. Take my hand. It won’t be the first time you’ll join me. Come on, she said again and got up too, always keeping her hand stretched towards the girl.
The girl was staring at the hand but for some reason she was hesitating to touch it.
– Come on! said again impatiently. Do you want to get out of this place and go chill at home or not? Take my hand.
The girl did not move.
– Get done with it! she shouted in anger, scaring the girl. Give me your hand! said and with a swift move she grabbed the girl violently by the wrist.
The girl felt a sharp pain and then a numbness. She looked horrified where her doppelgänger was holding her. A black mass with thousands of crawling tentacles was coming right out of the doppelganger’s palm and spreading on the girl’s hand. In few seconds her whole arm was covered by the black mass up to her shoulder. Now it was burning her. The tentacles had reached her neck and they were now stretching for her face. At that moment she looked at the doppelgänger. Her face was distorted by a horrible expression of pleasure and pure evil while her eyes were now totally black, with no sign of white, watching greedily the desperate girl. The girl tried to release herself from her doppelgänger’s grip but she was too strong.
– Stop fighting, just let it take you, said the doppelgänger with a whistling voice like a snake.
The black tentacles had now covered half of the girl’s face. She started screaming and asking for help. At that moment of agony she saw again instantly the picture of her grandmother. The girl suddenly grabbed the cup with the tea from her desk and threw it at her doppelgänger’s face. She was caught by surprise and relaxed her grip. The girl gathered all the strength she had and for the last time she tried to get away. She did it and run to the door.
– Aaaargh! the doppelgänger screamed. Come back, come back! she yelled and started running after her.
The girl was moving as fast as she could. She went through the corridor and down the long stair. The black mass had now dried off and she shook it off while she was still running. She looked back instantly and saw her doppelganger on the top of the stairs. She was following her, getting closer and closer. She reached at the last corridor before the exit. She was short of breath but kept going, didn’t want to look back again. She was scared that she would face the doppelgänger right behind her, about to snatch her. She reached the door of the exit and fell on it with great force. It was locked.
– Nooo, screamed the girl.
She looked back. Her doppelganger was just a few meters away from her. She started banging and shaking the door.
– Hey, hey! a male voice said. What are you doing there?
The girl turned around and saw the guard.
– Open the door please, open it fast.
– Relax, I’ll open it. What happened to you? Are you alright? asked the guard.
– She, she is chasing me, said the girl terrified pointing back, towards the long corridor.
The guard turned around and looked at the empty corridor. There was no one.
– Who? he asked.
– She, said the girl confused. A girl that looks just like me. She was right behind me.
The guard looked at her with disbelief.
– Well, I see no one now. Maybe all you need is some rest, you’ve been working till late, he said as he opened the door. Here you go. Go home and I would recommend you not to come back before you get enough rest.
– Yes, mumbled the girl while she was still staring at the empty corridor, waiting for her doppelgänger to show up any minute and start chasing her again.
– Well, go, go home, said the guard and snapped her back to reality.
– Yes, I am sorry, goodnight, she said and got out.
The girl stayed and watched the guard locking the door behind her. After a while she went on her way home. She would often turn back to check if anyone was following her in the dark but she never saw anyone. It was Friday night and there were plenty of people in the narrow streets of the city. Could I have imagined it all? she begun wondering. It was insane! Maybe the guard was right and all I need is some rest. With these settling thoughts she reached her little apartment. Her two elder neighbors were sitting in the yard staring at the sea and the lights of the little boats in the harbor. She greeted and wished them goodnight while she was looking for her keys inside her bag. When she finally found them, she unlocked, got inside, threw her bag on the floor and closed the door behind her. She went straight to the bathroom to wash herself. That would help her recover from this adventure. After she washed her face with plenty of water, she looked at the mirror. It felt so funny now.
– Well, what’s it gonna be? asked her reflection. Are we going to fight again? said and laughed.
She came out of the bathroom and headed for her bedroom. She was so tired that she didn’t even consider of eating anything, even though her stomach was growling like crazy. She just wanted to lie on her bed and fall asleep. However, that would be probably impossible with all this tense, plus the stress of the report. She turned on the light of the room. On the bed was she. She was now wearing her pijamas. She leaned her head slowly on the side while her eyes were again totally black.
– Come on, she said and made room next to her for the girl to sit. I was waiting for you.