Omens 3 – The Curse of the Doppleganger

 

I stare back at me

An eerie mist surrounds us

Our hands never meet

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen


Omens is my Halloween Haikus Series – check back soon for more!

Omens 2 – What the Owl Knows

Stalwart as it hoots

Tidings of death it does bring

Impenitent glare

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen


Omens is my Halloween Haikus Series – check back soon for more!

The Un-End

It started out like any other day – a lot of stories do. I was walking my dog, Patsy, at the usual time in the usual place. But there was something distinctly unusual about the air. It was cooler than the average autumn morning (if you can really call it morning when the sun has barely yet committed to rising). More to the point though, the air was heavy, as if it should have been thick with fog or humidity. Instead, it just seemed to weigh on Patsy and me.

After urinating on her favourite tree, Patsy bellowed a deep gurgled cry and began digging. Any other day I’d have left her to it, anxious to see what all the fuss was about. But not that day. On that particular morning, the cumbrous chill was burying itself in my pores and nesting an uneasiness all through me. I felt uncomfortable; irritated. I tugged on her fraying leash to hurry her along and had half a mind to bark back when she vocally resisted. I crouched down and plucked her off the soft grass, wetted by the fresh morning dew. She struggled to free herself from my grip – and that’s when I saw it. Her paws were caked with blood. I know you see that sort of thing in the movies all the time, but somehow I hadn’t been prepared for the absoluteness of having a stranger’s viscous, rancid, heart-juice pawed onto my chest.

So that’s the story of how Patsy found poor Bailey Marcus; a plain-jane, straight B student majoring in nothing, holding no special achievements with which to mark her gravestone. I know that sounds pretty harsh, but it’s true, and I’m sure she knew it. What the unremarkable Bailey could not have known on the night that she got done in, though, was that she was finally about to have a profound effect on someone’s life – mine.

See, it was right about then (the moment with the viscera and the barking) that I started obsessing about Bailey. Her blood was on me, and it doesn’t get much more weirdly intimate than that. I felt like I owed it to both of us to seal that bond. The problem, of course, is figuring out how one goes about sealing a bond with a dead girl. Thinking about it made my head blur and swirl, the way cream does when it hits the dark abyss of coffee in a black mug. Spinning in circles seemed appropriate, though, since I had no starting point and no idea what the end point would be.

After the police questioning, the bagging and tagging, and the four hour diner shift that managed to feel like 16 rather than the typical 8, I headed home intending to crash land on my bed. During the walk I let my head blur and swirl as it pleased until I looked up and realized I was no where near my bed. I’d wound up at the university. It was as if I had been drawn to it by a magnetic force. At the scene of the crime, I had overheard the detectives going through Bailey’s wallet. It’s how I had learned her name, and that she was a student. I guess I was curious. I never applied to university; never stepped foot on a campus until then, which seemed as good a time as ever. As did the next day, and the day after that. I had no idea what I was looking for, or what I was getting out of the experience; but somehow walking those same grounds that Bailey had walked brought me peace of mind. It felt natural; right, even. I hadn’t considered how strange it might be until a detective questioning some of her classmates noticed me.

October was just closing in and the air was dry and rough against the skin. I was sitting on a rock in front of the entrance to the Film Studies department. I suppose it looked as though I was people-watching, but really I was just in my own head. I had recently taken to making up stories about Bailey that would take place wherever I happened to be on campus. On this particular occasion, I was imagining she had sat on this very rock skipping class, reading The Bell Jar, when a fire alarm hurried everyone outside. She would have dropped her book in the crowd and had to crawl over people’s feet to find it. I’m not sure where that story was going, because it was abruptly interrupted by a stern man looming over me, his badge catching the only bit of sunlight peeking through the dense mid-morning clouds.

He obviously had no leads on Bailey’s murder yet, and asked me why I was sitting outside of her World Cinema class, and whom I was waiting for. I explained that I had no idea that it would have been one of Bailey’s classes, and that I just liked the scenery there. His inquisitive nature led to a few more questions, to which I gave snarky remarks. But when he left, my heart began to pound. I had managed to find Bailey, a real piece of her. World Cinema.

That day, I sat in on a lecture about the ephemeral nature of Italian Neorealism; how it has no beginning, and no end. How it is independent of rules, of law, and of death. The room was surprisingly warm for its size. With an amphitheatre structure, it was easy to just become another face in the crowd – Bailey’s, even. So as the days grew colder, and shorter, I was comforted by following the day-to-day of Bailey (or what I had created of her, anyways). And then it happened. It always happens when you least expect it, I guess. Death.

I was walking home from an evening lecture on Gothic Architecture (I had branched out my stolen studies), when I caught a glimpse of a shadow behind me. You always like to think that when it happens, you’ll do all the right things, and put shame to those scream queens on the silver screen. But you don’t. He came upon me with such force, such intent, I almost admired his gumption. I fought back of course, but it didn’t matter. Seeing his face became immeasurably important. I snatched off his hood, and pulled down the scarf. Lyle Jones. An obnoxiously well-spoken front-row student in Bailey’s World Cinema class. He’d been eyeing me, but not in a way that put me on edge. Actually, it was flattering. When he looked at me, it was as if a familiarity shot between us. But now, there was nothing between us except blood.

And that’s when I realized it. The story was never about Patsy finding Bailey, or my obsession with Bailey – hell, it wasn’t even about me. All along it’s been about this guy; Bailey’s killer. And now, I won’t get to see how it ends.

 © Shyla Fairfax-Owen

The Morning After

The sound of his heaving envelops you; your heart rate syncs itself to the chase. At some point you start to pant and realize your sweating – slippery, sticky, terrified. Your legs go numb. Your thoughts start to jumble. You try to plan your next move and the one after that. The only signal your brain seems to compute anymore is GO.

So you go. It’s all instinct, now. You go, go, go. You know you can’t keep going, and yet – you do. There’s a desire you never knew you had; a desire so strong it fuels you when you have nothing left to give. It’s the desire to live.

He catches your arm and in an instant it might be all over. Might be – but it’s not. Because you drive the knife right through him. And the skin is tougher than you imagined; everything under it, softer. Physically, it’s a difficult thing to do, but you do it. He drops. The blood seeps out of him and crawls towards you; disappears under your feet and surrounds you.

You did it. You survived. Now what?

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Walter practiced smiling sheepishly in the mirror, but it was useless. When he bared those sharp, inhuman, canines, his smile became a snarl; he became a threat. Everything about him from his piercing yellow eyes to his thick, tool-like, toenails screamed villain. There was no house of straw, or stick, or even brick that he couldn’t be accused of blowing down. No three innocents they wouldn’t have him hanged for killing. No creature in all the lands that wouldn’t hear his tale and cringe. Except, of course, Gale. He had to get to Gale. A man of his size, temper, and smarts would not turn Walter away – he hoped.

In Gale’s dimly lit office, crowded with antiques from far and wide, Walter sat as still as any of the statues that lined the walls. He could feel his chest anxiously heaving. Gale stood against his own desk, looking down on Walter – analyzing every last bit of him. His eyes narrowed, head slightly tilted; the intensity thickened the air.

“You’re a monster, Walter. Why should I take your case?”

Walter felt his left eye twitch at the insult.

“They made me a monster, sir.”

“And the three dead cops? Who do you suppose took them out, if not you?” Gale was lighting a cigarette now, the glowing ember directed right at Walter – a target.

Feeling a rage building in his tightening chest, Walter’s low voice slowly turned to a growl. “They came at me. I – Self-defence. We still allow that in this tyranny. Don’t we?”

Gale and Walter’s eyes met and locked into a hardened standoff.

“And the girl? Val,” Gale finally asked, not breaking his stare – not even for a blink.

Walter leapt to his feet and in one quick stride was overtop of Gale, breathing so wildly the ember began to flicker. The edge of the desk was digging into the small of Gale’s back now, but still, he didn’t blink. Slowly, he brought the cigarette back to his lips and sucked hard, reigniting its power.

Walter shook his head violently, as if to release his anger. He moved an inch or two back, and huffed.

“I loved her,” he finally said. “And she me.”

With the silence hanging heavy over them, Walter collapsed back into his chair, eyes torn away from Gale’s. He finished, “But – yes. I killed her.”

Tears pushed forcefully out of his eyelids, but he made no sound other than the heaving huffs of a madman. Gale watched patiently.

“She – She said she’d defend me. She said – she said she’d make them see what she saw.” After a long pause, Walter grunted. “I suppose that’s exactly what she did; let them see me as she saw me. Wild, dangerous, exotic. A monster. A monster she could call her own.”

Walter looked up after what seemed an eternity. The ember had gone out, and on the edge of the desk Gale now sat behind was a contract. Stunned, Walter looked up at Gale.

“I ask nothing of my clients but the truth. The truth can always be defended.”

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

 

 

 

Reflections

“Show me how to fight.”

Reese looked at Daria. There was a fire in her eyes that was beginning to match his own. In the short time that he had known this mysterious woman, he had seen her dark skin grow thicker and her demeanour grow rougher. He wouldn’t have described her as naive when they met, but he wouldn’t have imagined seeing her become this.

“You think you’re ready for that?”

“I don’t have a choice, Reese. Do I?”

After a long, dramatic pause, Reese clenched his jaw and gritted his teeth. “No. No you don’t.” He had seen what happened to people who didn’t learn how to fight; to people he let not learn how to fight.

She had been travelling for weeks. She was tired, worn down, skinny. It was painful to watch her try to muster the energy for a proper fight. If she was attacked alone, she was a goner. Reese tried not to let his fear for her show, but after the eighth time she hit the hard ground, he insisted they move on to target practice.

“Where’d you come from?” he asked as they loaded their guns. He had meant to ask a long time ago, but couldn’t.

Daria shrugged, avoiding eye contact. “A bit of everywhere, I guess.”

“And the sickness?” That’s what Reese really wanted to ask. He didn’t care where she grew up, where she came from, or where she was going. He just wanted to know if the sickness had spread; if it really was taking over the world.

“What about it?” she asked coldly as she raised her gun and aimed at her target: a dirty, broken bottle.

Reese shook his head. He could feel an angry heat rising in him. Why did she have to make everything so fucking difficult?

Daria shot. The bullet knocked over the bottle, shattering it from its centre.

“It’s everywhere,” she whispered, eyeing her handy work.

Reese wiped the sweat from his forehead. He used to burn in the sun, but after months of living nowhere, scrounging for food, killing to not be killed – he had adapted. When he caught his reflection now and again, it made his heart skip a little. It was unfamiliar, his tanned skin and hardened eyes. It was all so unfamiliar. He looked at Daria; her lips pursed as she re-loaded. He barely knew her, and yet he pitied her, knowing she too would soon enough jump at her own reflection.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen