Author: Rollin T. Gentry

I’d heard stories about my doppelganger for over a month, but I’d never seen him.

My supervisor saw this guy singing in her church choir. The geek two cubicles over saw him in the coffee shop. The lady running the cash register in the cafeteria needed to see my badge now because the other me, a contractor, didn’t get the company discount.

It bugged me that I’d never crossed paths with this … imposter. Everyone said he even had glasses and a beard like mine. Some people even said he was friendlier than me. In over a month, you’d think I’d see myself strolling around the campus.

One afternoon I was delayed by a meeting and was an hour late getting to my car. Winding my way down the parking garage, I saw what could only be described as my double arguing with a third, clean-shaven me.

I slowed to a stop. Then suddenly the bearded version of me pointed a TV remote-control sized object at the third me. A blinding flash of light and he was gone. I punched the gas, squealing my tires. In the rearview mirror, I saw me staring back at me.

That night, I tossed and turned with wild theories cycling through my mind. Time travel? A parallel universe thing? Was I a clone or an android and didn’t know? I returned to my bottle of ZzzQuil three times before I finally nodded off.

I dragged myself into work the next day. That afternoon, I decided to stay late and see if I could find that sneaky bastard in the parking garage. The only problem was that I had no weapons and this guy had a freakin’ ray gun. Scissors felt too flimsy, but The Red Hat Linux Bible was perfect. It was hefty but snug in my hand.

At 5:55 PM, I headed out with my three-inch-thick volume in tow. I knelt behind a concrete column for what felt like an eternity.

I’d almost given up when I heard a voice behind me.

“Don’t turn around,” the voice said. I cringed. The sound of my own voice played back always made me feel icky. “Put down the book.”

I turned around. Besides thicker glasses, longer hair, and a scar on the left side of his face, he could have been my mirror image.

“I told you not to turn around,” he said.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“The same thing we all want,” he said. “To take over your perfect little life. The ‘you’ you saw yesterday managed to slip through my quantum lock, but I sent him back easily enough. Now it’s just us. Mano y mano.”

“I’d hardly call my life perfect,” I replied, laughing nervously.

“Oh, it’s pretty sweet, though — you’ve gotta admit — but you wouldn’t know it the way you complain all the time: ‘this chair hurts my back’, ‘they’re out of green tea in the break room’.”

“Well boyo, you don’t know the first thing about suffering.” He touched the scar on his face. “Shrapnel.” He pointed to his body, up and down, front and back. “Plasma rifle … electro-whip … rusty scalpel … red-hot poker.

“I could tell you a sad story for each one, but you wouldn’t care. Not really. That’s what happens to people living in paradise, isn’t it?” He sighed.

“Oh, well, no need to draw this out. You’ll find out for yourself soon enough.” He pointed the small, black stick in my direction. “Ready…Set…”

“Please, wait…”