Short Story

Double Trouble

Double Trouble (By Cat Matchuk)

cemetery countryside cross garden
Photo by Mike Bird

 It was a tragic incident. Losing a loved one always is. But this tragedy struck the small town of Twin Peak Valley like a lightning bolt, and disappeared just the same. Even the parents of the missing girl passed by her empty coffin, without so much as a glance. It was as if the whole thing never happened.

            The town with essentially divided into two parts, separated by a forest and graveyard. One side was where most of the citizens lived, while the other was the downtown area, including the school that the missing girl used to attend.

            The missing girl was Grace Singer. Grace was a hard-working and curious teenager. She loved singing while she was alone and pouring over old history textbooks, mesmerized by the knowledge she received. Just like her parents, she kept herself busy and always had something to do.  However, something changed drastically, she changed. And just before her disappearance, residents of Twin Peak Valley could have sworn she was a different person all together. Her story, what really happened, is a mystery about to be uncovered.

* * *

            I wake up to a numbing silence and a dark room. The sunlight peeks through the blinds, crawling towards me in long beams of white light. Reluctantly, I slide out of my warm bed, hitting the alarm clock before it even goes off. In a blank daze I stumble through my daily routine, occasionally singing quietly to myself.

            I stop briefly a couple times to glance up at the large oak doors of my father’s study. Over the past two years he has frequently locked himself in his study. Rarely speaking to my mother or myself. It’s a mystery I hope one day to solve. Sadly, I’m late for school and it will have to wait. I swing my backpack over my shoulder, almost throwing myself off balance, and rush out the front door.

* * *

            The annoyingly long bell drones on just as I sit down at my desk. Almost immediately, the teacher begins to talk in a low monotone voice. As he speaks I can feel my eyelids start closing, and my mind beginning to drift. Urgent whispered voices behind me snap me back to reality.

            “Did you hear back from John?”

            “No. And I doubt I will! Ever since that party the other night, he’s just not the same person.”

            “Not the same person? People can’t change that quickly! Give him a call back.” I can only pretend not to listen for so long, before I put myself in someone else’s business.

            “Don’t call him back,” I say, “You don’t want to give him the upper hand.” They stare back at me blankly.

            “Grace!” The teacher shouts at me. Quickly I turn around and catch the eyes of my disgruntled teacher. “Detention after school.” I slouch in my chair. Great, now I’ll be late for my mom’s business party.

* * *

            I push my way through the crowd of strangers, grasping my camera tighter to my chest. Just a few minutes ago this used to be my house. I can’t even recognize it anymore. Still I wander aimlessly through the crowd, snapping random pictures of guests. My mother’s voice rises over the noise.

            “Grace!” Turning in the direction of her voice, I spot her waving me over. She’s standing in a circle with, who I assume to be, her business colleagues. “Taking enough pictures, sweetie?”

            “Yeah, sure mom.” I tell her. Swinging the camera from around my neck and into my hands, I get ready to take the picture. “Ready?” I question the group. They smile and nod. A few clicks of the button and flashes of light later, my camera starts to whine. The batteries are dead. “Hey, mom, do you know where I can find some extra batteries?” Her friends begin their own conversation, as she looks down at me like I’ve ruined something special.

            “Try your father’s office.”

            “But it’s probably locked.” Heaving a sigh my mother disappears and reappears with a small silver key.

            “Just try to be quick.” She says, instantly turning her back on me. I walk through the halls to the doors of my father’s study. Gently inserting the key, it unlocks with a loud click. I let out a large breath of air. Finally I can know what’s in here. The creaky wood door groans as I slowly swing it open.

            The walls of the office are hidden by bookshelves, overflowing with an excessive amount of books. Every piece of dark brown furniture shines under the glow of the yellow lights. I walk around the room in utter amazement. Why has my father been locking himself in his study over the past two years? What could have preoccupied him so much? As I circle around the desk, painted with scattered papers, my eyes rest on an open book. Throwing a quick glance at the open door, I grab the book and examine it closely.

            My eyes widen in wonder, it’s a book on mythology. The title bolded at the top left corner of the page reads, ‘Doppelgangers.’ Below the title is a brief definition: ‘a ghostly body double who, if seen by their parallel self, will bring death to that individual.’ Weird. I think to myself. Why would my father need to hide this? It’s not like it’s real. It’s a myth, a story. Something to scare children with, something to read on a dark Halloween night. Yet I can’t shake this feeling that something is not quite right about all of this.

            Feeding my curiosity I pull the office chair forward, sit down and scan the piles of my father’s hand written notes. Black ink is splattered across the pages in a chaotic jumble. I can barely make out the words, but I’m sure I see, ‘evil twins,’ ‘death is near’ and ‘trust no one.’ I trace over his words with my fingers and feel something odd under the papers. Lifting them up, I study the surface of the desk carefully and stand up from the chair shocked. Carved into the centre of the desk are the words, ‘help! they are here.’

            I lean closer to the scratched wood. Speckles of blood are visible within each letter, as if someone used their own fingernails. As I straighten myself up, spotting my father at the door. His dark eyes seem to bore into mine.

            “I was just looking for batteries.” He silently crosses over to the other side of the room, reaches into a drawer and pulls out four triple-A batteries. “Thanks.” I mumble as he hands them to me. As quickly as I can, I take large strides to the door.

            “The key.” He says. I place the key in the palm of his hand and turn to leave the room. I feel his eyes still staring at me as I walk away.

* * *

            When the guests finally leave for the night, the house has suddenly become cold and empty. Suddenly, a bone-chilling scream fills the silence, it sounds like my mother. I rush to the basement stairs, reaching out for the handle of the door. Just as my hand wraps around the doorknob, I feel a shocking blow to the back of my head. My brain throbs, the room spins and finally my knees buckle underneath me.

* * *

            I wake up on an icy, concrete floor. I slowly open my eyes to darkness, barely able to make out the shadowy objects around me. As I fumble blindly my hands land in something cold and sticky. Quickly struggling to get to my feet, I back away from the hunched figure on the ground. My eyes begin to adjust to the dark and the features of the object come into view. No, not an object, a human body. Its pale skin seems to glow a brilliant white against the dark crimson blood. That’s when I notice the blood beginning to fill the cracks of the floor.

            I start to back away, ready to make a run for the stairs, but the body seems to draw me in. I urgently wipe my hands on my pants and reach out to the body. Gently grabbing their stiff shoulder I flip them over. My stomach suddenly twists as my mom’s eyes stare blankly into mine. I drop to my knees, desperately feeling around for a pulse. Nothing.

            I scan the room through blurry eyes, looking for something. Anything. As the sound of faint footsteps grows louder, I grab a long metal pipe off the ground. I never take my eyes off the movement of shadows under the door. I let out a couple choked sobs. The door opens and in walks my mother.

            I look back and forth between her standing on the stairs and her lifeless body on the ground. Thinking back to my father’s books, I clenched the pipe even tighter. It slips a little in my hands as blood mixes with sweat.

            “You wouldn’t hurt your dear old mommy, would you?” She says with a sly smile. I gnaw on my lip uneasily. She’s right. She may not be her, but she still has her face. The same face I grew up to love. As she strides down the stairs towards me I carefully inch closer to the stairs. To my surprise she walks past me and hovers over my mother’s dead body. “We’ll have to do something with this body.” She tells me as if I’m her partner in crime. Without another moments hesitation I turn and sprint up the stairs, pipe still in hand. In an instant I’m out the door and running along the sidewalk.

            I run through the forest, ignoring the branches as they desperately claw at my face and body.  As I glance behind myself I see no one following me, but still I don’t slow down. I reach out to the gates of the graveyard and support my weight on the iron fence. I double over, gasping, panting, and trying to control myself. At the worst moment possible, I realize I’m not in good shape.

            I turn around to double check my surroundings and before I can catch my breath a knife drags brutally across my stomach. A stinging sensation as I fall to the ground. I look down at my stomach and watch in amazement as the white turns to red. My hand runs over the gash, and I flinch, taken off guard by the cold liquid. Slowly, I look up at my attacker, and I feel my jaw drop. Staring back at me, is myself.

            As if by some unseen strength, she grabs my shoulders and drags my body deeper into the graveyard. My arms and legs go numb, as if I’m paralyzed. I try to scream out, but all I hear are quiet whimpers. Suddenly, the tension disappears and I fall on a hard wooden surface.

            “Unlike the other two, I’m not going to stick around and live your life.” The dark blue sky is pushed out of the way by a wooden lid. Suddenly, everything goes black as the lid covers the entire coffin.  I start sobbing uncontrollable, unable to move until the last shovel of dirt covers the lid. My arms begin to flail frantically against the lid. Over and over again my fist makes contact with wood and still it doesn’t move.

            As my voices strains and my fists grow raw, I let my arms drop to my sides and stare up at the cracked wood and smears of blood. My eyelids begin to droop, and as I feel myself slipping away, I begin to sing.

* * *

            Grace Singer’s dead body lies in an unmarked grave. The empty coffin, used to help her parents achieve closure, is located the next grave over. At night, people claim to hear soft singing in the distance, but no one dares to investigate. The parents of Grace don’t talk about their missing daughter, some people believe it’s because they are uncomfortable.

            But really, it’s because they know exactly what happened.