Author: Mattia Ravasi
They came out of mirrors. Out of shop windows. Out of lakes and ponds, if the water was clear and still enough.
Our doubles. Identical, but opposite. Indistinguishable from us except for that look in their eyes, the look that people like my mom (mired in horrid prejudice) still believe to be proof that they are not the same as us, not truly human.
A defiant look. Unapologetic.
There were accidents at first, bursts of spontaneous or organized violence, but it is hard to harm yourself – and almost as hard to harm your anti-self. It feels wrong at a deep, primeval level.
Looking back at the panic of those early days, it is astonishing to realize how smoothly the world adapted when the Earth’s population doubled in a single day.
It turned out that overpopulation was a lie. There is enough Earth for everybody, as long as people stop eating for ten, and taking up land for a hundred. It wasn’t difficult, after that point, to shrug off Power’s other lies. If we don’t build these weapons, our enemies will kill us in our sleep. If you don’t work hard, our competitors will put us out of business, and you’ll go hungry.
(I lie. It was difficult. It took blood, sweat, and years, both ours and theirs, our doubles’.)
I live in the same city as mine. Apparently this is very common: people residing quite close to their double. It might be that we don’t trust them, and prefer to keep an eye on them. It might be that it’s as hard to give them up as it is to avoid looking at yourself when you pass your reflection in a car window.
The idea that they might harbor the same feeling, an unquestionable urge to check on us from time to time, never crossed my mind until now – perhaps because I am not as different from my mom as I like to think.
I have never spoken to him. He ran out of my house the second he emerged from my bathroom mirror, not without first giving me that look. We don’t say hi, or even nod, when we meet around town. And yet I somehow know quite a lot about him.
He does not feel the cold. Even in Winter, he rides his bike in short sleeves.
He never smiles at passersby, never moves out of the way to let pensioners or couples or groups of teenagers walk past him, but I’ve seen him run to the rescue of an old man who’d slipped on ice, and try to talk down a homeless man who was having a fit.
He eats with great gusto. He belches openly, unthinkingly.
He married a woman with black hair and a penchant for flowery dresses. I have seen them walk hand in hand, and I have seen them having loud arguments at café tables. I get the sense that he would rather call her out on the things he disagrees with, rather than stifle his opinion for the sake of a peaceful afternoon.
I doubt he ever read a single book, but he discusses the local soccer team loudly and jovially with strangers on the bus.
He is too distracted to send token texts to his aging parents – how are you today, I had pizza for lunch. He does make a point to travel to see them as often as he can.
The reason why I hate him so much is that I cannot shake the feeling that he is a better person than I am.