Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"The Devil In Disguse" by Randall Pretzer

I hadn't written a short story in a few days. It may have been a month or more. I couldn't remember. I didn't feel like checking the dates on the word processor to find out when I last wrote anything. It didn't seem to matter. The publishers would tell me the same thing. They enjoyed it but can't use it. It doesn't fit their current theme. They would wish me well and told me not to let their rejection discourage me. They never considered how many rejections I may have had before the one they just gave me. I didn't really have anything and if I did I wouldn't know where to start. I broke my rythmn. I had been writing a short story a day for a month or two almost but then gas prices went up. I found myself without much money and I had my computer at my parents house. I couldn't afford to go back and forth from my apartment to my parents and my cycles of writing was disrupted. I never really gained it back. I gave up. I got another rejection and thought what was the use? I went to sleep at my parents that time after I turned off the computer.

I woke up an hour before I had to go work. It wouldn't have been a problem except I forgot I had stayed at my parents. It meant I had a longer way to get to work then if I had been at the apartment. I had to skip a shower and only brush my teeth, shave and put on deodorant. It took me a few minutes. I liked getting to work at least 30 minutes before I had to go in to chill and listen to my music. It prepared me for the day. I loved working the nights but I hated just going straight into work right when I got there. It just felt as if something was missing. So I waited until about 10 minutes till or so and headed to the time clock. I had to be at work around 4 pm and I got there around 3 30 pm. It was perfect. I was excited for yesterday I had finished up a book called Man Of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov. It was written in 1840 and seemed to feature the first existentialist character. The more original aspect about the book was the attitude of the character. My brother said it sounded modern with such lines as "I was bored with her…..I sometimes despised myself….I had the misfortune of being born…" I would not qoute me on those lines for I don't know if they are exact but it is those kind of words that make it ahead of its time. It was sort of the Rebel Without A Cause of the early 1800s and I had finally finished it. I was able to start a new book at work called The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton. I couldn't wait. It was about the police attempting to inflitrate a local anarchist cell to break it up. It sounded really good and I would finally get to start it at work in about 20 minutes.

I got out of the car at 5 minutes till and checked my tires. They were okay. I checked to see if any of the lights were on in my car and they were not. I was good to go. I headed to work. I walked in and it felt as if I had not been there for years. I was not sure why. I was off only the day before but that was my only day off until Sunday. It was strange. There had not been much happening yesterday. I just went to the mall and bookstore as I always did on my days off. I didn't understand it but I didn't mind going into work. I loved working nights and was so glad I was finally made the night person. I just didn't understand this feeling of alienation I seemed to have from work. I am gone one day and it feels like an eternity since I had been here when I come back. It felt like an episode from the twilight zone and what a great tv show that was. They didn't make any like that anymore. I checked my watch as I headed to the time clock and all that thinking wasted 3 more minutes. I had 2 minutes before I was late. I was not too far away from the time clock but I would remember to clock in before I let my mind wonder.
I clocked in just in time. There was about twenty seconds before I had been late. I got on the freight elevator and headed to the dock. The two dock guys ready to relieve me were waiting. Our boss was not there today. She was never there on Thursdays. We never had any trailers on that day. It use to be only on weekends we didn't have any trailers but they changed that. The docks guys greeted me.

"What is up, Gilbert?" Roland said.

"Not much….happy to be working nights." I said.

"Yeah….makes it easier on us….we hate nights." Robert said.

"So what is going on for tonight?" I asked.

"There is nothing. No truck so no boxes and we have not had any pick ups…..no furniture pick ups should be an easy night." Roland said.

"All right…thanks…I can get started on this one book." I said.

"You finished the last book all ready?" Robert said.

"Yeah…I finished it this morning….around 4 am." I said and we laughed.

"You are prolific reader…" Roland said.

"I am not really…it took me too long to finish this last book…"

"I see you always with a book…you read a lot…" Robert said.

"I try to read as much as I can.." I said.

"That is good….well see you later….truck tomorrow…" Roland said.

"All I will have the dock all ready." I said.

"Thanks….see ya…" Robert said and Roland waved as they went on the freight elevator.

I went to a nearby stool we had and sat down. I opened up The Man Who Was
Thursday and the phone rang. I picked it up agitated. They couldn't let me get settled in first.

"Hello receiving this is Gilbert?" I said.

"Hey Gilbert….do you think you could bring us a rounder?" She said. It was Amanda. She worked right next door to the dock.

"Sure be there in a minute." I said.


"You're welcome." We hung up. I headed to our supply room to get the rounder. We had plenty of them made so I didn't have to worry about putting it together. They were just rough to push through the store sometimes. Some of them had messed up wheels and it was hard to keep them steady while pushing them. They would just want to go all over the place. I found one and it was a breeze to push luckily and so I got it to her in no time. I brought up near her register.

"Here you go." I said. She looked up at me and seemed startled.

"I am sorry I didn't mean to scare you." I said. She was silent.

"Is this the right fixture?" I asked. She went up to the rounder and grabbed a hold of it. She didn't say anything and moved it to where she needed it.

"Did you need anything else?" I said.

"Thank you for the rounder. No, I don't need anything else." She said indifferently. She had never talked to me with indifference before. What was going on?

"You're welcome for the round, anytime. Just let me know if you need anything else." I said. She just nodded her head and went to pick up some clothes to hang on the rounder. I disguised my doubts and confusion caused from her reaction. I went back to the dock and sat down. I was depressed. We had been talking for almost a year now and she had always been friendly. I couldn't understand her change in behavior. I think I sensed fear now that I think about it. I decided to wait until next time we saw each to her to see if she would react the same way or back to the way before. It could have been just a bad day for her. We were all entitled to bad days.
I sat back down in the dock and picked up my book. I couldn't read. I couldn't concentrate. The way Amanda reacted to me just had me all messed up. I couldn't think of anything I had done. She was friendly with me over the phone. It seemed as if nothing was wrong. You can't tell everything from someone over the phone but she always sounded the same way on the phone. I got up and started pacing around thinking about it. I was afraid to go back out there to see if she would react the same way or not. I was scared that she would and it would tell me our friendship was over. I knew it was too soon then to go out there so I waited. I would go back out 40 minutes later. She would still be working. She worked until 7 pm. I had time. I just didn't know if I could wait 40 minutes. I was really worried. I could find out right now just by walking out there I thought to myself. She would be in the same area most likely for she was doing something that took sometimes an hour. I didn't want to seem to eager. We had been talking for 30 minutes to an hour each day we worked together for the past year. It was just so baffling and sad. I wish I knew what had happened. You always get worried when a friend acted differently towards you than before.

I sat down on the stool for I was exhausted from pacing around. I checked my watch and only 15 minutes had gone by since I decided I would go back out to see her in 40 minutes. I was out of shape and getting old. I should have kept up the running. I shouldn't have been so tired after just pacing around for 15 minutes. Oh well, I would try to run again when I could but at that point I tried to read the book again but the phone rang. I had barely sat down for 2 minutes.

"Hello receiving this is Gilbert."

"Hello Gilbert this is Rachel. I was wondering if you were not too busy could you come pick up some boxes?"

"Sure." Rachel and I went further back then Amanda. We always got along. I may have had a chance to date her but it was a .000000000001% chance. I was too modest and lacked an ego to consider even a woman I had a crush on having a crush on me. Rachel was always receptive to me and she had started talking to me first. I was nervous around because I liked her I never knew what to say. I did want to talk to her but her area never needed anything. There was not a chance for us to talk because of that fact. She eventually started dating someone and it became serious. I gave up but we remained good friends. I went to pick up her boxes. I grabbed a flat bed. It took me a minute or so to get to her area.

"Hello Rachel…are these the boxes over here?" I said. She looked up at me and didn't say anything at first. She looked back down at the computer screen on her register.

"I am sorry…" I said. She looked up at me.

"The boxes are over there. Thank you." She said indifferently. Her reaction was the same as that of Amanda. I couldn't believe it. I never would have expected this reaction from Rachel. I was shocked enough from Amanda but Rachel? We went so far back. I examined her as I picked up the boxes. I sensed fear in her. Why? What had I done? The same questions I had about Amanda went through my mind again with Rachel. She normally would be talking to me as I would be picking up the boxes. She remained silent and just continued with her work. She was never like this even when she was having a bad day. Some handled their bad days differently and it was fine. Some stayed the same and others kept to themselves. It was okay we all had our own ways of doing things but Amand and Rachel were out of character. Why would they be afraid of me or indifferent? I picked up the rest of the boxes and pushed the flat bed back to the dock.

"I will see you later." I said.

"Thank you." Rachel said indifferently without even looking at me. I didn't know what was going on. I had not even bothered to ask them if I had done anything wrong. I was afraid to. There may not have been a problem and it could have just led to a fight. Why should I think anything is wrong? I don't know how to have explained it to them. I didn't want to make them feel like they were being rude. I didn't want to offer criticism of them or anything. I stopped thinking about it and headed to the dock. There was nothing more to really say about it. I just realized as I went to pick up her boxes I didn't even look to see how Amanda would react to me if I said hi. I close to her area and I would say hi and see how she reacted.

I was by her area in a few minutes. I looked around for her at one of the registers as I pushed the flat bed to the dock. She was the one nearest to the dock entrance. I thought here goes nothing.

"Hi Amanda." I said. She looked up at me and just made a weak smile. I had never seen her do that before with me. She always said hi Gilbert. She was always so friendly about it. This time she didn't even say anything. She just gestured towards me. It was not a fluke the first time. There was something wrong. I didn't ask her though. I was too afraid. I had hopes that maybe she was just having a bad overall and didn't feel like talking to anyone. It meant I had to wait for the next day we worked together and that was two days from now. I am not sure I could wait that long. I would probably go in the next day or so on my day off to see if things were okay between she and I.

I went back into the dock and sat down depressed. I couldn't read. I just sat there looking at the floor thinking. I had lost two friends today it looked like. I didn't even know why. I just know it seemed as if it was over between myself and Amanda and Rachel. The phone rang. I was the worst day for a busy day. It seemed like no breaks.

"Hello receiving this is Gilbert."

"Hello Gilbert…I am new here….I needed someone to break my lock….are you the ones I call?"


"Can you meet me at my locker now if you are not too busy?"

"Sure…I will be there in a minute."

"Thank you." I hung up and went to the freight elevator. I got to the locker area before she did. I should have been depressed more often I seemed to move faster than usual. She came by about 1 minute later.

"Hello…dock right?" She said.

"Yes…." I just realized I forgot the locker cutters.

"I am sorry I forgot the locker cutters…."

"Oh…that is okay…I am on my lunch break..I will wait here…"

"Okay…I will be right back sorry."

"That is okay."

I went to the freight elevator and as I turned to push the button to close the door I saw the locker cutters. I laughed a little and went to pick them up.

"I found them they were right here." I said.

"I am forgetful too." She said. We both laughed.

"I thought I was just getting old." I said. She didn't laugh. It was silence.

"Which one is your locker?" She didn't say anything but pointed to where it was.

"Now those are the kind of locks I like." I said and laughed a little. She remained silent and shrugged a little. It seemed everyone was having a bad day. I remained silent and broke the lock easy.

"Piece of cake."

"Thank you." She said indifferently and opened her locker.

"Did you need anything else?"

"No, thank you." She said and I sensed some fear in her voice. I turned around and headed back to the freight elevator. What did I do her? I had never seen her before in my life. This was strange. I guess maybe to her I came off as trying to flirt with her. I wasn't but I could understand how she might think that. I would remember not to do that next time. I sat back down in the dock hoping for a break. I couldn't read I was just too depressed. I felt like music though. I had brought a Jimi Hendrix compact disc and I put it in. It was his album Electric Ladyland. I put it on the song Little Miss Strange. I loved the opening and I just sat on the stool and listened to it and stretched out my arms. I heard his voice sing out the lyrics. It was his bass player singing and I liked his voice.

"No one knows where she comes from maybe she is just a devil in disguise." I couldn't understand the rest after that but I loved the sound of his singing and the music so it didn't matter. I would get the lyric sheet for it when I got home.

I got out of work a little early and left the compact disc in the cd player. I just realized this after I left the store. I really wanted to hear that song while driving in my car. I needed it and wanted to drive for awhile. The way the women reacted to me told me I needed a night drive. I had other compact discs and I figured there would be one there to fit the mood. I would do it after the bookstore.
I got into my car and started the engine. My gas was low. I had to head to the book store and then home. I didn't have enough money to fill up. I got paid two days from now. I went home and was so tired I fell asleep. I woke up a little frustrated. I had a plan each night after work to go to the bookstore, come home, do some reading and writing and watch some situation comedies I had on dvd I had not seen yet. It was about 1 30 pm. I didn't have much time to get a situation comedy watched. I had to take a shower and eat. I listened to a record when I ate and well I was little too tired to get up just yet to try to get the situation comedy watched. I laid there for a few minutes. My phone rang.


"Are you busy right now?" Rensen said.


"You mind if I come over?"

"No, just I have to be at work at 3 pm…just be for a little…"

"That is fine."

"I will be here." We hung up.

He got there almost after I hung up. I put on some underwear, jeans and socks and went to the door. I slept in my shirts. I didn't even check to see if anything I had put on was even clean or something I wore from the day before. I answered the door.

"Hey…" I said.

"What is going on?"

"Not much…was frustrated I didn't get much done last night…no reading…writing or situation comedies watched…."

"I didn't get much done last night either…I was too tired from work…didn't get out until midnight or so…"

"Late night customers…"

"Yeah as always."

We headed to the living room. I sat on the chair and he sat on the couch.

"I got to get out of this town….."

"I am fine with it…..but not for everyone."

"I just can't focus anymore. There is nothing here. What is there to write here?"

"I have been writing pulp fiction lately….autobiographical type stuff bored me…."

"This town is boring me." His phone rang.

"Hello……okay…….I will be there in a minute." He hung up.

"I got to go. Duty calls at home. Off today. My turn to do the housework. I took a break to get some lunch."


"I will see ya later."

"See ya." He got up and left. The clock on my vcr read 1 40 pm. I had plenty of time. I took off my clothes and left them on the couch. I went into the bathroom to get ready for work.

I didn't even think to tell him about what had been going on. I was one to let someone confide in me first and then get to myself. I headed to the bathroom to take a shower, brush my teeth, shave and put on deodorant. I was going to then watch a situation comedy as I always do. This one episode of Seinfeld I loved. The pilot episode. There is not an episode were George and Seinfeld discuss things in depth as they do in this episode. I could related for I discuss things in depth too and over analyzed as they do in that episode. It was great stuff. I had all but two seasons on DVD. I was too broke to get any more but I would get the rest one day.

I went into the bathroom and I looked in the mirror. I yelled in fright as I saw myself and ran out quickly. I shut the door. What was it that I just saw? I couldn't understand. I felt my face and my body. It felt the same. I had not changed. What was going on? I went back into the bathroom and looked at the mirror. There was nothing. I wonder if I had just been working myself too hard? I was depressed about my friends who got distance all of a sudden. It must have been stress. I grabbed my toothpaste and toothbrush. I put the toothpaste on the brush and I turned the water on and wet the toothbrush briefly. I looked up and I saw it again. I spit out the toothbrush and ran out again. I couldn't take seeing it. I felt my face again and still it felt the same. There was nothing with my face. What was it in the mirror? I went back in slowly. You had to face your fears they say. I looked in the mirror and there was nothing. I looked away briefly and looked back. I still saw nothing. I couldn't be crazy. I saw it. I saw it twice. I couldn't be dreaming. What was going on? I looked down for a few minutes and then looked up again at the mirror. There was nothing. I attempted to brush my teeth again. I don't know why I was being so casual but I had to be at work soon. I didn't think this was anything real. I was just overwhelmed with things. I looked down at the toothbrush and then looked up. I saw it. I was not going crazy. I moved my head and it moved its head. I looked up and down and all around and so did it. It was mimicking me. I yelled at it.

"Who are you? What are you doing here? Leave me alone." I screamed almost at the top of my lungs. It moved its lips as I moved mine. It mimicked me perfectly in every sense. I picked up the toothbrush and wailed it around. The thing in the mirror did too. It didn't go away this time. It was permanent. What was it? Why was it doing this to me? Was it anything? Was it alive? It seemed to just be copying me. I moved my arms and hands and walked back and forth. It did the same. It was like it was a mirror image of me. I felt my face and my body. It felt the same as before. There was nothing wrong with me physically. There was just this thing in my mirror. It was harmless so far but what was it? I walked out the bathroom and looked for something to show my reflection. I found a clean butcher knife I had but never used. I looked into it and I saw the same thing. I moved my head and it moved its head. It was what I looked like to the outside world. How could I go out in public like that? How did I get rid of it? I called my work.

"I am sorry I can't make it to work today. I am not feeling too well. I am sorry. I will be out for a few days."

They understood. It was pretty smooth. I may need a doctors excuse they told me depending on how long I was out. I didn't know how I would get one. They would not believe me on this. They have to have seen it though. My friends who became distant. It explained everything. They didn't see me but what I saw in the mirror. How come my friend didn't say anything? I wondered about something. I immediately called my friend Richard.

"Hello Richard…could you come over?"

It was good that he finally was free. He was the only one available. This couldn't wait. I knew my friends schedules and he was the only one off. I didn't have the gas to go over to my parents and didn't want to ask a total stranger. I am sure I had other options but couldn't think of them at the time. I was trying to be as logical as I could. However, under the circumstances logic didn't come easy. I waited for Richard.

He was there sooner than I thought. He usually took about an hour or so. I opened the door and he didn't react as one would seeing what I saw in the mirror.

"Hey Richard…."

"Hey…so what do you want to do?"

"Just hang out…chill.."


"Let us go in the living room….maybe we can watch the new Rambo I got it yesterday.."

"Sounds good."

We headed to the living room and he sat on the floor. I never knew why but he did. I sat on my futon.

"Richard..do I like look different to you?"

"What do you mean?"

"What do you see of me right now?"

"What I have always seen. You have not changed since the last time I saw you…granted that was only yesterday but you look the same……why?"

"I was just curious." I could tell him the real reason. He would think I was as crazy as I thought I was when I first saw that image in the mirror. I had no other answer.

"Just an odd question…."

'"I know…Richard….just forget it…"


Richard's phone rang.

"Sorry…hold on….Hello? Sure…I will be there in a minute." I was curious now about something.

"I am sorry I have to get going." Richard said.

"Are you sure I don't look different to you?"

"Why do you keep asking me that?" He was different than I saw him before now. He never used that tone with me. Was I just paranoid? I didn't know. It was just odd that is phone rang and he had to get somewhere. I know things come up but the same thing happened with Rensen.

"Richard…..hold one minute…."

"I have to go…."

"Just hold on…."

Richard rolled his eyes. What was with him all of a sudden? He never showed such impatience no matter if he was in a hurry or had to get somewhere. I went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror. I saw it. I was right. It explained Richard's behavior. I came back out. Did it disappear when he first came over? Why would it disappear and then reappear? What was going on?

"I am sorry about the Richard….something felt wrong…"

"The world is wrong…..I am late…..I got to go…." He walked away and out the door. He didn't say goodbye. His tone was completely different than anything I had heard from him and he never showed such cynical attitudes either about the world or anything. He saw the thing in the mirror and not me. I can't blame him for not telling me but why didn't he just scream and run out? Why didn't my friends at work just scream and run away? Why didn't they report me or did they?
I called up work.

"I am able to make it to work today. I will be there at the regular time." I hung up.

I looked at the time and I had about ten minutes to get to work. I had no time to get ready. I was all ready dressed luckily. I headed out the door.

I hurried through the employee entrance and up to the time clock. It was a one the second floor. You had to hit a button so they would know to beep you in and open the door. It was for security reasons. This would be the test. I was let in. I must have looked like myself again. I immediately went to the bathroom to check myself in the mirror. I briefly checked rhe reactions of everyone I came across making eye contact. There was not any. It looked good so far. I made it to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. There was nothing. Maybe it was gone. I didn't know but surely I figured it would have shown itself by now. It didn't. I smiled and left the bathroom to get to work. I wanted to be able to check without having to go to the bathroom so I bought a mirror they had in the handbags section. I was surprised they had any for sale. It was a small one and it did the job. I didn't see anything so far for I was checking after I bought it on my way to do the receiving area and there was still nothing. Why did it not come out now? Why did it come out at all?
I sat in the dock for three hours and no one called. I like it that way. I wanted to read but it was not the time. I kept checking the mirror and nothing. It was still me. I was about to maybe try to read and the phone rang. I picked it up immediately.

"Hello receiving this is Gilbert."

"Hello Gilbert this is Amanda…I was wondering if you could bring us a four way?"


"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

We hung up at the same time. It was strange but she was not distant this time. She was as friendly on the phone as she always had been up until that last time I saw her. I looked in the mirror quickly but nothing. It was still me. I may have just gone insane for a few days or just plain became disillusional or was it just a lack of sleep? I didn't know. It seemed all right now. I went up to our room and got the four way. I brought it out to her area. I placed it near where she was at register.
"Here you go." I said. She looked up and ook back down without saying a word.
"I am sorry I didn't mean to interrupt you." I looked at the mirror quickly and there it was again. I was not dreaming. This was not a nightmare. What to do to now? I didn't know. I waited.

"Where you left it is fine." Amanda said indifferently almost ice cold without looking up.

"Sure. Is that all?"

"Yes." She said without looking up and she said it almost like that of an automated voice. I looked at the mirror again and it was there. I had to get out of work. What would be my excuse? My boss was all ready gone. I would go to tell the assistant store manager. She was always good about these things. She was very understanding. I hurried up to her office. I kept glancing at the mirror and it was gone once I was away from Amanda. I hope it didn't return again when I would be talking to the assistant store manager.

It took me only five minutes to reach her office. I looked at the mirror right before I went in and there was nothing. It was me. I went into her office.

"Hello." I said and looked at the mirror. It was there again. I wanted to leave but the assistant store manager all ready had looked up at me and she looked back down.

"I need to go home. I am sorry but something has come up."

"I was going to send you home."

I was confused. Why was she going to send me home? I looked at the mirror and it was still there. She saw it. Again, why didn't anyone scream when they saw it? Why was she not screaming now??

"Did I do something wrong at work? I didn't mean to be sitting around but there were not any calls and the dock is clean."

"We always understand that. It is not that. We are overstaffed in the dock and we have to cut down on labor. I am sorry. We will call you back when we need you. However, you don't need to report into work until we call you. I am sorry." She told me all of this without looking up.

"I am sorry to hear that. I will be here when you need me." I said.

"Thank you. Goodbye." She said this just as Amanda had said like an automated voice. I left and glanced at the mirror again. It was just me in the reflection. I just didn't understand. How was I to find out what was going on? There had to be a way but I was sensing a pattern. I wondered now if I still had a place to stay. I hurried to my car and to my apartment. I didn't want to risk living out in the street. I am not sure I could get another job. This thing just seemed to pop up at certain times. It was selective. My Rent was due. I had the money saved up for that luckily and I didn't have to give to them in person. I could just drop it off in this box they had like they did at the video rental stores. I would not let the management see my face until this thing was gone. I would lose the place for sure if they saw me. I had just lost my job more or less. I had a month to figure stop this thing and then I would be thrown out. It may still be a fluke. I will try to get a job and see what happens. I will try everywhere just to test to see if it comes out then too.

I was correct. I looked in the mirror at each job interview or place of employment I applied at and all the employers who interviewed me were distant and cold as the assistant store manager was. It was not permanent. I was not myself now. The image in the mirror never left me. I didn't know what to do or where to go or why this was happening. I tried to buy a supply of food that would last for a month but everywhere I went they refused to serve me. I was forced to dig I dumpsters and anywhere else I could find food. I went to the homeless shelters and they threw me out. The food at my apartment would have to do. I am not sure how much I had left nor how long it would last but I had no choice at this point. I headed back to my apartment from the third homeless shelter I got thrown out of and laid on my futon mattress. I had to find out what was going on. Was this some kind of attempted possession? I was so tired I fell asleep at that last thought.

I woke up at 7 am the next morning. I immediately went to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. It was not me. It was that thing. I tried putting a towel over my head and it made no difference. I couldn't even see the towel over my face through this thing. It looked the same. I tried putting on everything that I could over my face. I tried shaving cream, deodorant, soap and etc. It made no difference and yet when I moved my lips or my head in one direction or another the head and lips of this thing would move in sync with mine. It just didn't make any sense. I couldn't cover it up but it was able to mimic my facial and head movements. I was glad no one had seen me come in or out of my apartment. It was amazing no one had. I was sure no one had because the tenant didn't try to throw me out or anything. I was lucky to still to be here. I didn't know where to go or what to do. Was someone behind this? Why would they be doing this to me? My life was just about ruined. I laid back down on my futon. What else could I do?

I couldn't sleep. I got up a few hours later and checked the mirror again. It was not me. I left the bathroom and sat down on the couch and put on the Seinfeld episode I had watched the other day. I left the dvd in there. My cell phone rang. I answered it.


"Is this Gilbert?"

"Yes, this is Gilbert."

"Have you seen Tom?"

"May I ask who this is? I am not trying to be rude but I don't recognize your voice."

"I am his wife."

"Oh….well I only know one Tom….he works at Bells…"

"Yes…he is my husband….have you seen him?"

"I have seen him at work….maybe two days ago?"

"I called his work two days ago…he was not there…"

"He may have been out of work by then…"

"No…he told me he was closing…and he also let me know when his lunch break was…I called him at the time he told me to call…he wasn't there…"

"Well…I am sorry I don't know….but I should have asked you this sooner…why are you asking me about him and…how did you get my number?"

"I can't tell you…..but I know you know him….and if you are covering up for him…"

"I am not covering up for him….I only have talked to him while at work…and even then…it was just a hi or a few comments about how work could be rough….I really don't know him…."

"Can we meet somewhere?"


"Meet me at the Pancake Palace in 30 minutes."

"All right….but I don't look normal….there is…"

"I don't care…..it doesn't matter to me….this is important…30 minutes Pancake Palace."

"Sure…" She hung up. I was confused and lost. I was also surprised at myself. Why did I talk to her for so long? Why did I agree to meet her? I wanted to be be kind. I always made an effort to be kind but considering what I look like currently what will happen? I should not have agreed to meeting in a public place but it happened so fast. There was not any logic to this. I know. Who was she? Why did she ask me about Tom? I didn't really know him. It was strange. However, she sounded sad or like she was in trouble. I always willing to help. I checked my watch and ten minutes had gone by. It took me fifteen minutes to get there. I left the apartment and ran to my car in hopes of no one around seeing me. I headed to the Pancake Palace. I made it there in 10 minutes. I went inside and they threw me out. I should have known. I forgot or something. I waited outside for her.

She got there about five minutes after I did. I got up to meet her. I expected her to get distant and tell me she had to leave.

"Hello…I am sorry I was kicked out for some reason."

"Right…I forgot….come with me to my car and will talk. We will just drive around."

"All right." I couldn't believe it. She didn't get distant or anything. She invited me into her car. I was afraid to ask her if she knew about it or something. I followed her to her and she opened up the door for me and I got in. She shut it quickly and got in on the other side.

"I am sorry I should have got the door for you…it is my job…"

"It is all right…" She smiled at my comment and started the car. We drove down Waterfall Avenue. My favorite place to go driving at night. I was just one long road from one end of the city to the next. It was near the beach. I looked at her and I saw the same thing on her as I did on me. I jumped a bit.

"He is on to me." She said.

"You have the same image over your face that I have over mine. I was afraid to say something and I don't know why."

"This is the work of Tom."


"Yes. What is over our faces is a holagram."

"So that explains why nothing covered it up."


"How does he do it? He couldn't project it this far."

"He found a way somehow. He is a wizard when it comes to this kind of thing….incompetent when it comes to relationships."

"Amanda said something about that."

"This is about Amanda."


"He is in love with her. He saw you and her talking and got jealous. He got this crazy idea to mess up your life because of it. He wants to mess up mine too because I am telling you everything."

"How do you know so much about it?"

"He told me about it all. He wanted me to be his partner. I refused but promised I would not tell anyone."

"The million dollar question is why you told me?" She smiled at that.

"Amanda told me about you. She and I are like sisters…but actually just good friends….feels like sisters…"

"I know the feeling…I have a few friends who feel more like siblings we are so close…"

"Anyway….she told me you were a very kind person.."

"I will thank her for that…and I thank you for telling me…"

"You're welcome….anyway…..she told me after Tom decided to pull this on you…I agreed not to tell anyone because I thought you were out to hurt him….I love him and didn't want to see him get hurt so I let him do it to you….however after what Amanda told me….and what others in the store were telling me about you…I decided to stop him….you wouldn't do anything to hurt anyone…I came to believe that…."

"Thank you for everything you said and for helping me….I am sorry if I came off as wanting to hurt him or anyone…."

"You didn't…..Tom told me you were out to hurt him…since I love him so much….I believed him….I was wrong…I am sorry…"

"I understand…..human nature…"

"I am having a lapse of logic here….how is he able to see us…can hear us too?"

"He can only see us. I don't know he is not able to hear us yet."

"What do we do now?"

"I am going to give you the address of where he is at. It is the only thing I can do."

"It will be enough. Thank you."

She slowed down and pulled up into someone's driveway. She pulled out a pen and paper. She wrote down the address and handed me the slip of paper.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. I have to let you go here. His place is not too far from here. I don't want to risk him finding out what I am doing. He just knows we are talking."

"He has no time to move anything….how far away is he from here?"

"He is two houses down. Excuse me." She reached over and pulled out what looked like a television remote. She handed it to me."

"What is this for?"

"I planted a bomb in his place. The bomb will go off when you hit the top red button. You can get him out of there and destroy the building or you can get within 20 feet of it and hit the red button. I don't care at this point. I love him and if I can't have him no one will but I refuse to let him take anyone down with him….that is why I helped you….:"

"Thank you….I can't kill anyone….what he did to me and you was wrong but not worth killing him for." I handed her back the remote.

"You take my car…forever…..I won't be back." She took the remote and got out of the car. I got out of the car and walked up behind her and got in front of her. She walked fast and almost plowed into me.

"Look….this is not worth dying for….I know you love him….he loves Amanda but…." She held up the remote.

"I will hit the button right now if you come any closer…" I backed away a bit.

"Please think about what you are doing…..he needs help…I forgive him for what he did…he doesn't deserve to die….you don't deserve to die…"
She put her finger on the button.

"You don't shut up right now and get back into that car I will hit the button right now. He will be dead."

I had not much time to think. I could charge her and she would hit the button. There would be only one person killed instead of two but someone would be dead. I couldn't think. I then thought of something.

"All right…." I caught her. She had told me I could either get him out of there or kill him while safely outside.

"You told me that I could lead him out and destroy the building or do it when he is in the building. I told you I couldn't kill anyone and you took the remote from me and are now heading over to kill him….You gave me the option of either killing him and his contraption or just destroying the building….why don't you let me just lead him out of the building and destroy the contraption he uses to create these images in front of our faces?"

"I thought you would kill him…..I was wrong so I took back everything said….I want him dead and I wish to die with him….a romantic suicide…" She took off running after she made that last statement and I went after her. She was fast. I never got within four feet of her. She made it into the building and it exploded shortly after. I fell to the ground and pieces of debris landed near me. It was a miracle that none landed on me. I slowly got up and looked at the wreckage with sorrow. I felt so bad for both of them. They needed help. Their pride wouldn't allow it. I checked my little mirror and it was me again. I wiped away the tears but they kept coming.

BIO: My name is Randall W. Pretzer. I have been writing since I was 15. I started off writing short stories and then I moved to writting plays and poetry. I recently got back into short story writing in 2006 and I have primarily just been a short story writer from then on. I live in Texas and currently work at a department store in the receiving area. I am currently working on about three short stories. My favorite authors are my father, my brother, Knut Hamsun, John Fante, Charles Bukowski, Anne Bronte, Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson.

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