I Am Not Your Doppelganger
I top up my wine glass. My date leaves his untouched. I wasn’t paying attention when we were introduced, and now I can’t remember his name — Gary? Graham? Not that it matters. It probably wasn’t his real name anyway. That’s how it works in places like these: no names, no pack drill. And I can’t remember what name I gave him, either. Although again, it doesn’t matter. However this ends, it’s not as if we’ll be exchanging phone numbers.
He gives me a distracted smile while his eyes scan the room over my shoulder; looking for a better prospect, probably. I wonder what name he’ll give then, if he finds one? What story, what fantasy version of himself, will he offer?
We’re not that different, really, he and I; it’s all shapeshifting of a sort.
People usually assume it must be painful to transform — it tends to be werewolves that they think of first, and that always looks bad on TV; skin stretching, muscles tearing, claws pushing through tender fingertips. It’s the influence of popular culture, I suppose; an attraction to violence that goes all the way back to Jekyll and Hyde. Hell, further than that: Cain and Abel.
Personally, it’s never appealed. Sure, yes, wolves are beautiful creatures. Noble, strong, all that stuff. But what are you going to do, really, as a noble wolf in the back streets of Romford? Chase cats and SUVs? Run drunks to ground in pub doorways? Forage in bin bags like urban foxes? Not my idea of a fun Friday night, thank you very much.
Birds are more fun. Crows and magpies and pigeons, sitting on lampposts and aiming at passersby. Definitely not noble, but I don’t think I have a lot of nobility in my soul. And you’ve got to work with what you have, right?
Gary-Graham shifts uncomfortably on his stool. Maybe he’s been doused from a lamppost or two in his time.
Or maybe he’s getting nervous. Maybe he doesn’t believe me about the wolf thing.
Perhaps I should tell him that I prefer rats. (It’s surprising, how quickly an enterprising rat can strip meat from bone.) Maybe that would set his mind at ease.
Or is he worried that it’s his existence I want, rather than his flesh? Does he think I’m going to transform myself into his double and take his place?
I could reassure him about that, too — he’s a boring little fucker, quite honestly, and I don’t fancy his life any more than his body — but I’m not sure it would help. The human ego is a delicate and fragile thing. Like skin, it’s easily torn.
I slip a few notes, my share of the drinks tab, under my glass and stand up. The smile Gary-Graham gives me this time looks relieved.
I collect my coat and tell him goodbye. I tell him to take care. Maybe I’ll see him around some time.
Maybe, if he’s wary, he’ll even see me.
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Michelle Ann King
Michelle Ann King writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror from her kitchen table in Essex, England. She loves zombies, Las Vegas, and good Scotch whisky — not necessarily in that order — and her favourite author is Stephen King (sadly, no relation). She’s sold stories to a variety of anthologies and magazines, including Strange Horizons, Interzone, and Black Static, and her first collection Transient Tales is available in ebook and paperback now. See www.transientcactus.co.uk for links to her published books and stories.