Madness or paranormal? A short story.
A book of sordid tales lies open at a photograph. The eyes stare from the page, holding my attention, groping my mind. He is familiar. I have seen this man before, and yet, I'm not so sure that I recognize him, only that the feeling of deja-vu will not go away. He has a hold on me. I am mesmerized by his stare, hypnotized by the thin smile, engrossed by his rugged features. He is wizened and aged, and I sense a deep evil in his eyes. I think this man has a blackened heart!

I walk away from the book, out through the door of the curiosity shop in which I'd been browsing, and across the few yards to where my car is parked. I get in the car and start her up and drive the couple of miles to my house. Pulling into the drive, I notice that my front door is ajar. Someone is in my house. I get out of the car with clenched fists and walk over to the door. I enter the hall and notice that my living room door is wide open. Someone is sitting in my favorite chair, I can see the back of his head. I am about to accost him when he stands up and turns around to face me. It is the man from the book!

"Who, who are you?" I manage to stammer.
He looks me in the eye with that same hypnotic stare and thin gash of a smile and says, "I am you!"

I then watch in amazement as he fades away to nothing and disappears before my very eyes. I rub my eyes in disbelief. Did this just happen? Was the man from the book in my house a moment ago? Did I just witness him evaporate into thin air?

These questions rolled around in my mind, searching for a logical explanation. Eventually, I told myself that this could only have been a daydream, an hallucination brought on by fatigue and stress due to my solitary lifestyle. I told myself that I should seek the company of others before my solitude should turn to madness and steal away my sanity forever.

That night, I had another of my strange dreams. This was the fifth such dream in as many months. In each dream I bore witness to a young girl being raped and murdered, mutilated by a fiend. I could see the horror on her face, hear her muffled attempts at a scream, feel the terror tremble through her body as she attempted to break free.

I could taste the warm, rancid breath of her assailant. I could sense his joy at his deed. I felt the knife rip and tear and stab at her torso again and again. I felt the blood spurt from her wounds. I could feel it saturate me. Each time I dreamed these dreams, I woke up saturated, not in blood, but in cold sweat.

Each morning after I had the dreams, I would hear about a murdered girl in the news. The killer made no attempt to hide his crime.

The next morning I walked to the local newsagents to pick up a newspaper and some milk. The few people I passed on my short journey looked at me through queer eyes, eyes that seemed to hate and abhor. It seemed that I disgusted them for some reason. I made my purchase and returned home for a coffee and a read of my paper. The front page of the newspaper held the headline 'RIPPER STRIKES AGAIN', beside which was a picture of the girl I had dreamed about the night before. I opened the paper to continue the story and there, before my eyes, was a photofit of a man the police were keen to interview. I felt shocked as I recognized this person. He looked like the man from the book, only much younger. But most frightening of all, he bore an uncanny resemblance to me.

I had barely finished reading the story when I heard the wail of sirens, the screech of breaks as several cars skidded to a halt, my door being kicked in and I found myself handcuffed and on the floor as my rights were being read to me. I was bundled into a police car and taken to the station, where I was thrown into a cell and locked up. Later I was taken to an interview room and questioned by two detectives in the presence of a lawyer.

I told them that on the nights of all the murders, I was at home asleep. Alas, due to my life of solitude, I could not verify my claims. And then, I don't know why, but I told them about my dreams. I told each one in as much detail as I could remember. I told them how I had woken up saturated in cold sweat. Then I told them about my visitor from the book and how he'd simply disappeared before my eyes.

In the meantime, forensics, who had went through my house with a fine tooth comb, were gathering evidence and building a case against me. They produced a blood stained knife that I had never seen before, but which nevertheless, bore my fingerprints. They said that it clearly matched the wounds on all five victims. I was tried and convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

40 years on and I look into the mirror. The man stands before me, the gashed smile and staring eyes hold me, perplexed by memory.

"I am you," he had said. And he is me. And yet, he is not me.

He is my doppelganger.

He is the man for whose crimes of 40 years ago, I have been incarcerated. The evidence against me was overwhelming. The fingerprints matched perfectly, the forensic scientists were in total agreement and eye-witness accounts were coherent. I shall never be released from this prison. And yet, still, even as he laughs his mockery of me, I swear my innocence!
Published: 3/26/2013
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