“How did do that?” My brother Jeremy asked.
“What are you talking about?” I replied.
“Go into the closet and get out without me seeing you?”
I waited a second for him to smile or admit he was joking, but he only looked at me in astonishment. Jeremy and I were just playing hide-and-seek, and I’d been upstairs under a bed.
“I didn’t go into the closet.” I asserted.
“Don’t lie to me!”
“I’m not! I’ve been here this whole time!”
He studied my face for a moment, and his realization of my honesty was apparent.
“But....he looked just like you.”
“Who? Tell me everything that happened.”
“I was downstairs and thought I saw movement near the guest room. I went in and I watched you go into the closet. I walked slowly to the door and threw it open, but you weren’t there. I looked all around inside, hoping to find some secret way out.”
“You’re seeing things.”
“No! It was clear as day. Your clothes were the same and everything. Whew, man”
He began rubbing his arms which were now covered in goosebumps. I looked at him closely, and it was clear he telling the truth too. Something out there looked just like me.
And that was just the beginning...
Not long after, I started hearing from my friends and family about times where they thought they saw me walking somewhere past or away from them. Whenever they’d investigate, I was nowhere to be seen. My parents thought at first I was playing some prank on everyone, but when situations arose that I couldn’t possibly have pulled off, it got really weird.
I was eating breakfast in the kitchen one morning when I heard my mom come down the stairs. She passed through the den, and right as she entered the kitchen she began to say...
“Sean, you need to eat...”
As soon as I saw her come into the kitchen, she caught sight of me and froze mid-stride. Her eyes went wide as dinner plates, then she slowly turned back to the den and back to me.
“Mom? You okay?” I said.
“How can you...that’s not possible...”
“You were just sitting on the couch in the den, watching TV. I was just talking to you in there, and turned my head and here you are, eating breakfast.”
“This is the closest it’s happened to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Usually it’s a minute or two after they’ve seen ‘me’ somewhere or further away from me. You saw me in the den....just now?”
“Yes! And when I saw you, I looked back and you were gone.”
We were really creeped out by that experience, and I went the rest of the day trying to wonder what the hell was going on. It’d been six months since my doppelganger started making appearances, and I just wanted it to stop. Sure, it was intriguing and interesting to tell people about, but having some “thing” appear to be so close to me really bothered me.
After I got home from school that day, I was looking for something under my bed when I realized what could have caused this whole mess. The book was under a pile of junk I’d stuffed under my bed, and I remembered that I’d intentionally covered it up. You see, this book wasn’t mine.
I read over the title “Arcana Magicae: Prohibitus Incantatum.” Running my hand over the leather bound book, I flipped through the pages again to recall the day Jacob and I found it. It was a sunny day and we’d done some urban exploring. There was a small housing development that was abandoned, so we went through a bunch of houses and admired the neighborhood that never was. We found all sorts of interesting graffiti, broken windows, and signs of people who were obviously squatting there. But above all these things, we found this old book that someone had just abandoned there. The only logical explanation was that someone was caught by the police and hid the book , or just ran away and forgot about it.
I recalled how we opened the book to see what it was all about. We were equally weirded out and fascinated by it all. It was written in another language, seemingly Latin. It was a book with a bunch of symbols we’ve never seen, diagrams, and pictures of strange creatures. After looking up the title later, we discovered the title said something like, “Arcane/Secret Magic: Forbidden Incantations.” So this was a book of spells that were not allowed by people who practiced witchcraft. Had we been smart and checked that out first, we wouldn’t have read from it.
There was a page we randomly stopped on, and I decided on it because it had the “II” symbol from the Gemini astrology sign. I’m a Gemini, so it seemed appropriate to read from that page. I remembered a strange feeling that came afterwards, and a strong wind blew through the building. Jacob and I exchanged a scared glance, then nervously laughed as we chalked it up to reading an unknown book in an abandoned house. I was so proud of our adventure I kept the book as a souvenir. It wasn’t long after that when people began seeing my double.
I decided that if this book started all of this, then it could end it too. Jacob was actually a pretty smart guy when he put his mind to something, and I bet he could decode the meaning of the words enough to reverse whatever it was we invoked.
It was a full week after that when Jacob and I sat in a circle of candles, and he began to read straight from a notebook page he’d written up. Using words he’d deciphered from the book, he created what he imagined to be a nullification of the spell I’d read before. That same strange eerie feeling came over the room, and a strong wind picked up and blew the candles out.
“It’s alright, I got a light.”
I flicked the lighter on, and began to light the candle next to me..
“See, no problem! I just gotta...”
The next thing I heard was Jacob’s bloodcurdling scream. I felt something behind me, and I turned but found nothing there. Before I could do or say anything else, Jacob bolted out of my room. I tried texting him, but got no response. He wouldn’t talk to me for days, and I left him alone. What he saw really spooked him.
A few weeks later, I finally mustered up the courage to bother him about what he saw. With his eyes darting around the room he told me.
“I saw him...your doppelganger. He was standing right behind you.”
“Oh creepy....” The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. “Did you see him from the front?′
He just nodded his head.
“Well, so his face was just like mine then?”
“No, it wasn’t.”
“So who’d he look like?”
“No one...he had no face.”
“No face?” I gulped.
“Yeah....just this horrible empty void. Look...I want nothing else to do with that book. We should have never messed with it. I feel so stupid. I’m sorry....I just can’t deal with this. You’re on your own.”
He walked away, and I stood there in total shock. Jacob was just going to leave with to deal with this problem on my own. The sounds of a bustling school hallway faded into the background, and I felt like I wasn’t anywhere.
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the book. Where did it come from? How could such a dangerous book be left there for a stupid kid like me to read it? I wanted answers, but I also wanted to be left alone by this...“thing.” It seemed whatever it was kept getting closer to me, and the mysterious book was potentially it’s only source of power. Maybe it wouldn’t work, but I had to try something. So with it being colder this time of year, I got an idea.
That Friday night, I convinced my dad to get the fireplace going for us. We had a fun family time playing board games and I’ll admit it was pretty fun. Perhaps it was the weird sense of foreboding that made me appreciate the time I had with my family more. After everyone began settling for bed, I convinced my dad to let me stay up and enjoy some quiet time by the fire. At first he was reluctant, but eventually he gave in. So after everyone was tucked away, I brought the book into the den and looked over it for a minute.
When you held the book, it seemed to give off an aura, almost like an energy of its own. Immediately I wanted to throw it onto the fire, but something held me back. I found myself flipping through the pages and admiring the craftmanship. The various drawings of creatures fascinated me just as much as it had the first time. Along with the Latin writings were unknown symbols that tantalized my brain. What do they mean and where did they come from?
After flipping through the book, I began to think of how ridiculous it would be to throw away such a treasured work. Why destroy it when I could....
“No!” I said, and threw the book away from me. The thoughts that poked into my brain didn’t seem my own, and it scared me. Without a second thought, I tossed the book in the fire and watched it burn. It may have been my imagination, but I thought I heard a scream when it first hit the flames. I sat up for hours, nudging the book with the fire poker to ensure it fed the flames until it was reduced to ash. Eventually it did, and I felt an immediate sense of relief. Maybe now this could all be behind me...
The next morning I woke up with a renewed sense of vigor and practically jumped out of bed. It soon faded when I passed my dresser and noticed that...
...the book was there.
A cramp formed in my stomach, and I ran to the restroom to throw up. Minutes later, I washed my face and just stared at myself in the mirror. I was pale, and could easily pass for sick on looks alone. There were dark circles under my eyes and I looked dog-tired. I leaned in closer to look at my blood-shot eyes when I saw it.
In my reflection, I saw a hand slowly reaching for my face from behind me.
I whirled around, expecting to see the empty, faceless monster.
Instead, there was nothing. It was toying with me now. I was its prey, and it was playing with me until it got tired and killed me. Jacob wouldn’t help me anymore, but I needed him more than ever now. Whether he liked it or not, I was coming over to talk with him.
After forcing myself to eat breakfast and thinking over what I’d do for a couple of hours, I bicycled my way to Jacob’s. It was about eleven o’clock so he was surely awake. It was to my immediate shock when I saw the blue lights as I came up the hill to his street. My pulse quickened and my anxiety was soon affirmed when I saw the police cars were parked at Jacob’s house.
Turns out that Jacob wasn’t there when they woke up that morning. They’d checked every possible place he could be, and no sign of him. If there was any clue to his disappearance, it was a full-size mirror in his bedroom that was knocked over. The police could look into foul play, but there was no other evidence to back it up. It could have fallen over its own just as easily.
Dejected, I came home and told mom all about Jacob. She of course concerned, and called them to ask if there was anything she could do. Dad helped put posters up around town. While I couldn’t prove that anything was supernaturally amiss, I couldn’t shake the notion that Jacob was just as at-risk as me. After all, we both read from that dreadful book. Why didn’t Jacob get a doppelganger?
Saturday went by in a strange haze, distorted by time as it creeped by and seemed to fly by simultaneously. I couldn’t think straight, as if under some spell. Maybe it was because I hadn’t slept any. That night, I dreamed of my faceless doppelganger that chased me. He pinned me down and began to grab my face when...
I woke up to my mother shaking me.
“Wh-what?” I said
“Jacob, they found him!”
“Oh, wow that’s great! Where is he?”
“He’s at home now. They asked to give them a day to be with Jake, so you can see him at school on Monday.”
“Oh, wow okay.”
I was still quite groggy and didn’t express my relief as much as I’d like to, but it was there all the same. The story about him going away like that must be pretty good.
On Monday, Jake and I talked in homeroom.
“So what happened?” I asked, excite and anxious.
“That’s just it...I don’t remember. I just...remember walking around in the forest and found my way back. I know it seems lame but....that’s all.”
“Oh, amnesia....weird. Remember everything before?”
“Just going to bed Friday night. When I woke up, it was Sunday and I was covered in leaves.”
“Man, what an awful way to wake up.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.”
“So hey, about the book....I burned it.”
“You did? So it’s gone now.”
“That’s just it...it’s not. I watched it turn to nothing in the fire. Saturday morning, it was on my bookshelf like nothing happened.”
“Strange...definitely bigger forces at work here. After coming back, I know that they must be after me. So I dug up my old books to look more into doppelgangers. I might know of a way to stop this whole mess.”
“I thought you wanted to stay away from all of this? Besides, last time it only made things worse.”
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t involve the book.”
“Yeah. You see, doppelgangers come from mirrors.”
“What, like a mirror world?”
“Pretty much. They use mirrors as portals or doors to our universe.”
“Seems too obvious.”
“I know, but there’s a lot of lore on mirrors having connections to the supernatural. There’s a very simple binding spell you can put on your mirror that will block them. We’ll try it tonight and see if you stop seeing your friend after that.”
“That’d be great. He’s even gotten into my dreams.”
“I’ll convince my mom to let me come over. We’re going to make this happen.”
As much as I resented Jacob for deserting me before, it was hard not to be eager to see him again. We’d been friends for a while, and he seemed genuinely sorry for leaving me out in the cold. The rest of the day went without incident, and soon Jake and I were set. I convinced my parents and brother to have a night out so Jacob and I could catch up and have the run of the place. They happily agreed.
So first, we covered every mirror in the house but one. Jacob used some chalk to draw a strange symbol on it, and I swear it looked like one from the book. He swore it was from another source, so I chalked it up to my bad memory.
Next, he cut a piece of my hair.
“It’s so they know it’s your dwelling that can’t be entered.” He explained.
He threw it into a small bowl with an herb and some other object I couldn’t discern. After wafting the smoke to the mirror, he chanted some words. To my absolute astonishment, the symbol began to glow.
“How did you...?”
“I told you, I know my stuff.” Jacob smiled. “Now you have to wait for it so you can confront it.”
“You must show your double that you’re not afraid and that will weaken its grip on you. That combined with the spell will rid you of it once and for all. Just step up to the mirror and wait.”
A nervousness formed a rock in my belly as I approached the mirror, watching and waiting for that horrifying thing to show up. I’d only seen it in dreams, and it was terrifying enough. Jacob patiently waited with me, and after a minute or two, the form of my doppelganger began to materialize in front of me. It’s blank canvass of a face stared back at me, emotionless and void.
“Show it you have no fear. Tell it to go back to where it belongs and to bother you no longer.” Jacob instructed.
“Go back to where you belong, and leave me alone!” I yelled, sounding forceful with a twinge of anxiety. The doppelganger flinched, then tilted its head as if curious. “You heard me! Leave me alone once and for all!”
The thing stood still for a moment, then thrust its hand through the mirror and grabbed me by the collar.
“Let go!” I commanded, but the latched fingers continued to pull me into the mirror.
“Jacob!” I cried. Instead of helping me, I watched Jacob simply stand there and give me the creepiest grin I’d ever seen.
He was one of them...
I should have known...
“You bastards!” I screamed, and felt my body being pulled through the mirror and into an unknown space. There was a sensation like gliding through electric jelly, then I hit the ground. When I looked back up, I watched my doppelganger step through to the other side. I scrambled to get back through, but the portal had grown solid. I could still see my imposter on the other side, but couldn’t get to him.
I was trapped, and that wasn’t even the worst of it.
The thing turned to face me, obviously to taunt its victory. A strange sensation washed over my face, like static electricity and ozone. I then watched my own face begin to materialize and take up the blank space. The doppelganger now looked just like me, replacing me just like Jacob. I screamed and banged on the mirror, striking it as hard as I could but with no result. Then I realized my own reflection was showing, and I touched my face to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.
I wasn’t...I no longer had a face.
Both doppelgangers waved good-bye in taunt, soon walking out of view. I screamed some more, not understanding how I was able to. Who knew what things were possible here.
Taking in my surroundings for the first time, I faced a swirling sea of black and dark blue. Essentially I was standing on nothing, and there was nothing in sight save for this mirror-portal. I wandered around trying to find another mirror, but could find none. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was even going anywhere because it was a sea of nothing. There was no reference point to tell if you were going anywhere.
I pondered what the doppelgangers would do to our parents, and pushed the thought out of my mind. It would do me no good to dwell on such things. Walking around, I found one advantage of this astral place was that I never got tired. I just wandered and wandered until....
“Jacob?!” I called, wondering if I was seeing him because I wanted to so badly. The figure turned to face me, and as I got closer I realized it had to be him.
We met, looking at each other in astonishment.
“They took your face.”
“Yours too. I’m sorry Sean, this is all my fault...”
“Don’t do that. I already forgive you, let’s just figure this mess out.”
“Yeah, I don’t feel right without a face.”
“Know anything about this place?”
“A couple of things. One is that you can only see or interact with mirrors related to you. It’ll make more sense with time.”
“Speaking of time, you were replaced for about a day or two outside of here. You’ve been here that long?”
“Well....it’s hard to say, that is...well, you’re not going to believe me unless I show you.”
“I’ll believe anything at this point.”
“Alright. Well let’s just say...time isn’t exactly a thing here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let me show you.”
Five minutes later, he led me to a mirror. How he found it, I don’t know because everything looked the same. Yet somehow, he did. Leading me over, I looked through the mirror and watched as Jacob’s mom put on make-up.
“Okay...so what’s this prove?” I asked.
“Just wait.” He prompted.
A moment later, Jacob came into view and began talking to her. But it was very clear that this was Jacob around four or five years ago.
“How are we seeing this?” I asked. Jacob simply tapped his head.
“I just thought about it. If I focus hard enough on a certain time, it will show me that.”
“So basically we’re....floating somewhere outside of time?”
“Exactly. Have you gotten tired yet?”
“No...so I guess that makes sense.”
“Problem is, we just gotta figure out how to get to the other side.”
“The chicken crossing the astral road....yeah I know it’s bad.”
Jacob led me over to another mirror. This one showed his bedroom, and he was sound asleep. He put his hand to the mirror, longing to be back where he should.
“You went to that time just by focusing, right?” I recanted.
“Maybe you can do the same to get through. You can do this.”
Jacob pushed his hand against the glass, and to my astonishment the glass began to waver like it was changing.
“Jake...I think it’s working!”
His hand began pushing through, and soon he stepped through entirely. He waved me on, and I tried to enter, but it wouldn’t work no matter how hard I tried. In fact, the mirror would fade each time I touched it until I left it alone. I waved Jacob on, who waved back as I watched.
Soon he jumped on the Jacob in the real world, and they began to struggle until they knocked over the mirror, and the portal on my side vanished entirely. Without Jacob here, there was nothing I could do but try to find my own portal. Eventually I did find it.
I walked up to the portal, in shock to see both Jacob and I talking. Jacob scribbled something on the mirror, and the other me walked up to the portal. The symbol glowed and there was a shimmer from the portal. I knew it was time.
Now was my chance to get myself back...ns22.214.171.124da2