Author: Thomas Tilton

Hard, mean knocks at the door. That would be Mr. Farcus, the landlord. Chuck was already two months behind on rent, and today was the fifth day of month three. Mr. Farcus was coming to collect.

“Just a minute!” Chuck said, opening his closet and digging through the pile of clothes.

Where the hell was it? The thing was insentient and as big as he was — it couldn’t have just wandered off or gotten misplaced.

He kept digging.

At last, he found it. He did a quick check of the face, made sure there weren’t any giveaway blemishes on the synthetic skin. Satisfied, Chuck switched the thing on by poking it sharply in the left eye.

Slightly weirded out to be talking to a replicant of himself, Chuck instructed the avatar. “Landlord, Mr. Farcus, here to collect. Do not have money. Deal with.”

The avatar stood, walked mechanically to the front door of the apartment, and opened it.

For the next fifteen minutes, Chuck listened to himself get berated by Mr. Farcus, told that he was “an irresponsible fool,” “no good,” a “freeloader,” and a “layabout.” As Chuck listened, he imagined those insults had quotation marks around them, which helped to make them sound untrue.

While Mr. Farcus was laying into him, Chuck’s avatar remained silent except for a few minimal encouragers such as “Uh-huh” and “Yes, you’re right, Mr. Farcus.” His expression was one of contrite weariness calculated to appeal to the landlord’s sympathies. Only his hand, gripping the doorknob so tightly the knob was changing shape, gave any indication that Chuck’s avatar was having any kind of unscripted emotional response. And Chuck couldn’t see that, hidden as he was behind the door.

Finally, Mr. Farcus had enough and headed back to his apartment, all the while assuring Chuck’s avatar that his days were numbered, Farcus was no bleeding-heart, and if Chuck couldn’t make rent by this Friday he had better find somewhere else to squat on Saturday.

Chuck’s avatar looked none the worse for wear.

What did Mr. Farcus know anyway? He was more than likely bluffing about the eviction. The crazy old man lived off his army pension and probably didn’t spend his days any more productively than Chuck spent his. At least Chuck had the avatar around to deal with the landlord when Farcus decided to show up in person.

He tussled the avatar’s hair affectionately. For a peculiar moment, Chuck thought he saw the thing wince.

No, couldn’t have been.

Chuck poked the thing in the eye again and watched himself collapse haphazardly to the floor. If that were real flesh and bone, Chuck’s double would have broken his ankle in the fall.

He kicked some throw pillows onto the thing — he didn’t like looking at his own face when he was just hanging out at home, it was too uncanny.