Ok, here’s this week’s offering. Feedback- as ever – appreciated.
The Cold Glass
By Neil Beynon
It started on a Thursday. It was a strange feeling in Nick’s chest that grew steadily throughout the day and continued through Friday. He felt, alternatively, like a large weight had been rested across his torso and then, at other moments, like his torso was entirely hollow, as if his insides had been extracted with a giant syringe.
It was unsettling.
On Saturday matters came to a head and he could no longer hide it from his girlfriend. That morning a shriek rudely woke Nick from his slumber. Startled he saw Susan, his girlfriend, back pressed against the wall clutching a sheet to her front, masking her curves as best she could.
“Susan, what the he..?” Nick began; his throat raw and parched. He tailed off as he followed he horrified gaze back to the bed, there was another figure laid out on the bed next to him. Nick slid from the bed as if ejected by a giant spring. Susan made strange noise in the back of her throat, here eyes darting from the figure in the bed to Nick.
The movement woke the sleeping man and blearily he lifted his head to look at what the disturbance was. Susan slid down the wall in a slow faint, her head making a dull thud as it struck the bare polished floorboards. Nick gazed at the face, both familiar and strange for he had never seen it from this angle.
It was Nick’s own.
Identical expressions of shock did battle with each other for an independent face. In the end it was the Nick who stood that spoke first, his voice cracked and breaking like their sense of reality.
“Who…what…are you?” he whispered.
“I’m Nick. Who are you?” replied bed Nick, his voice equally uncertain.
“You can’t be,” replied standing Nick. “I’m Nick.”
“Bullshit,” said bed Nick. He was angry now, sitting up and raising his finger to standing Nick. Standing Nick stared at his own birthmark on the man’s forearm, ran his hand down his forearm to where his birthmark sat, it was still there.
“Tell me something only I’d know,” answered standing Nick.
Bed Nick blinked. He too had spotted the birthmark. He paused before he answered, uncertain if he were doing the right thing. When he spoke his words were measured.
“When I was a boy I once saw someone killed,” said bed Nick. “We were in Africa, in a convoy, I was supposed to be asleep but I wasn’t, I was looking out of the window from under the blanket…”
“…And you saw the guard at the checkpoint kill the driver in front he…”
“…cut the driver’s throat.”
They finished the end in unison, each staring at the other in shock.
“God,” they both whispered.
Both Nick’s carried the unconscious Susan to the bed; they placed her carefully under the duvet and made their way down the stairs to talk. Upstairs Susan slept fitfully, lost in dreams in which an army of Nick marched through the town taking whatever they wanted.
Bed Nick lit a cigarette before standing Nick had a chance. The smell reminded standing Nick of his parched throat and he poured himself a glass of water instead, refusing the lighter as it was offered. They sat either side of the kitchen table, as if playing chess, each one daring the other to speak, to ask the question.
“How did it happen?” asked bed Nick eventually.
“I don’t know,” standing Nick answered. “I felt weird the last couple of days.”
“Me too,” said bed Nick.
“Which one of us is the real Nick?” asked standing Nick.
Bed Nick paused, drawing deeply on his cigarette. “Maybe we both are.”
“That’s not possible,” said standing Nick. “It can’t be.”
“Well I remember everything you do, feel the same as you do,” said bed Nick. “Doesn’t that make us the same person?”
“Not sure,” said standing Nick. “Although I remember reading something by some philosopher that said it would.”
“It was a physicist,” said bed Nick. “I remember that. Do you think one of us is from another universe then?”
“It would explain this…here right now…but not the feeling from the last few days…it’s like you came from inside…whilst I was asleep.”
“Or vice versa.”
Standing Nick stared at his counterpart, lounging in the chair, cigarette in hand. His mind raced over the morning’s events, reaching conclusions, tickling possibilities and giving birth to hypotheses. Susan was an ever present whisper in the back of standing Nick’s mind.
“You know this could be a good thing…” began standing Nick.
“…we could use this to our advantage,” continued bed Nick. “Think of the possibilities…work…crime…”
Standing Nick looked at bed Nick as he spoke. The way bed Nick’s eyes wandered round the kitchen, the twitching of his cigarette, the stubble on his jaw, the slight but ever present belly and the unspoken Susan on his lips. Standing Nick knew exactly what he was thinking of, exactly what possibilities he intended to start with and more, much more than he ever wanted to know.
Nick turned his back on his counterpart. Gazed out at the garden beyond the window, it was a wild and overgrown place that he’d let get out of hand. He really ought to sort it out. Idly his hand wrapped around a dirty knife on the draining board in front of him. Glancing down, even through the smeared grime, he could see his own reflection.
He didn’t like it.