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Doppelgäng

By M.E. Solomon

 

Image by Barandash Karandashich

 

I have a story to tell that overwhelms the mind.  I sit scribbling furiously to recall every detail of this day, but I fear I will not capture it whole, since no words can truly translate the hideous incidents that have occurred, yet I must strive to reveal this tale in its entirety.

My Christian name is Phillip Gregory Michael Greaves III. I was born in 1858 and turned 30 at my last birthday. I am a man neither of hubris nor folly. I am of sound mind. I have been awhile in need of a vocation.

On this early November evening, I picked up The Daily Telegraph to examine the Employment pages. The front page carried a headline about another bewildering sheep panic. The headline read:  Flocks of Sheep Scatter in Reading.

I took a cursory read of the article – “a thousand men could not have frightened and released all these sheep.”  These headlines had been filling the paper late editions for two days now. In spite of this off-putting headline, I did not delay my search for employment.

Some description of my history is in order here before I finish describing this foredoomed day’s events. I have few relations, but for an uncle – my father’s brother – whom, before tonight, I had not seen since my twentieth year.  This uncle, Charles Greaves, never married, and lives alone in an inherited mansion in Spring Hollow in the West Midlands, about one hundred kilometers from here. He is cared for by professional keepers since my father, mother, and sister died of consumption when I was thirteen.

Uncle nurtured me through childhood when I became an only child, and he saw to it that I should study at seminary upon reaching maturity. I immersed myself in theological study for two years, after which time I underwent a period of doubt and deep anguish over my calling and left the seminary. I ceased my studies and submerged myself in carnal pleasures that provided some escape. What led to this crisis of faith can be described only as a traumatic blow to my perception of the world and all that is in it.

At seminary, I had made an acquaintance of a fellow student a few years older than I named Theodor Kreissler. Theodor’s disposition was pleasant and jocular. We quickly developed a friendship and found time to fraternize at the pub after our courses ended, where we discussed highs and lows of the day. Theodor increasingly referred to how, prior to entering the seminary, he had become deeply engaged in and drawn to what he referred to as “the Unrevealed.” He took courses in magick and engaged with a cabal of others who explored ideas of preternatural forces. One of these ideas was of the Doppelgänger.

“The literal translation of the ‘doppelgänger’ is from the German ‘ghostly double,’ which represents one’s own counterpart in another realm.”

“Do we ever meet them?” I asked, humoring Theodor.

He maintained his disposition: “If one is unfortunate enough to meet this counterpart, he is staring into the vision of his own death, which follows quickly.”

I took him to be quite serious on this matter and turned sincere.

“Who has seen theirs?” I asked.

“In contemporary times no one has been known to have encountered their doppelgänger, but there are legendary tales that linger from past centuries.”

 

His father, said Theodor, had insisted that he enter the seminary as a way of purging his soul of the obscure and, in turn, devoting his life to the church in which he had been brought up.

“My father was going to cut off my education if I didn’t stop these pursuits. I refused.”

“He knew what you were doing?” I asked.

“He had never spoken of it, but I now know my father had done the same at my age.”

“He was in the same course?”

“He was a Spiritualist, another method of seeking the Unrevealed. He told me that he stopped when I was a child, and he insisted I stop, too,” explained Theodor.

“What did you do?”

“I told him I would enter the seminary.”

“But you did not really stop, did you?” I asked.

“Not entirely, no. I had to show my father I would accommodate his wishes, but I did not give up all of my own,” he said with a wink.

Theodor explained that it was not merely the social class and reputation of his family that created concern, but more importantly, a rising fear that Theodor’s involvement could open an unwelcome portal from a territory of the Unrevealed into our own.  It was not so much what he might see, Theodor said, but – and here Theodor stalled his speech pattern – what might be visible of our world to theirs.  On that matter, he did not expound.

So you see, dear Reader, it was that final night in the library which led to my sudden departure from seminary.  Most of the students had completed exams the week before and had departed for the summer, though there were a few who remained.  Though the library had limited hours and was about to close, I happened by, knowing Theodor would be there.

I arrived a few minutes too late. The front door had been locked, but I gained access through a side door. I walked into the dimly lit main library and saw Theodor sitting at the table, his back to me. He was the only patron there.

I approached and whispered his name, anticipating that he would twist around in his usual welcoming manner and tell me that we could initiate our discussion sooner on the walk across the green. Instead, he didn’t move. His head was not lowered – as if positioned to read – but instead, was level and straight. I stepped slowly up to him on his right side, hoping this might jolt his attention, but no, there was no movement at all.

Once again, I called out his name, a little louder this time.

“Theodor!”

Nothing.

Finally, I circled around to face him. What I saw horrified and bewildered me. It seemed to be Theodor who sat there, but his eyes were missing. By that, Reader, I do not mean they were darkened, or even whitened – no, I mean they were missing.  Simply not there. No skin. The eye sockets were in the place where Theodor’s eyes should have been, but — nothing was inside!

I gasped.

I did not peer into the darkness of the craters, for another portion of Theodor’s face gripped my attention instantly, and that was his mouth.  Theodor’s mouth stood agape, and just like the sockets of his eyes, it was simply a dark hole.  Even more horrifying, from what I could see, his gaping mouth lacked a tongue! I felt a shock pass through my body and had to look away from this morbid scene.

In that moment, I heard a far-off door close.  It sounded as if it had come from a mezzanine in a remote section of the building. I trembled as I looked up and saw no one in the immediate area. My palpitating heart kept me from looking upon Theodor again. I fled quickly out the side door through which I had entered and hurried to the dormitory.

On the way there, I decided I would hastily pack my possessions when I got to the room, and then dispatch myself as soon as I could find passage out of town, to anywhere at all. I passed the meeting place at the edge of the green where Theodor and I had planned to walk.  To my consternation, I saw him, my friend – yes, Theodor himself – seated as if waiting casually for me to arrive. I drew closer to the window. With my disbelieving eyes, I stared, not knowing whether to hope or fear that he would see me.

At that very instant, he looked up, directly at me.  He waved me over to join him, and – I cannot write this without a profound shudder – he smiled at me. It was a baleful smile, projected from his warm, well-lit, comfortable perch, directed to the place I stood in cool darkness, telling me – and this I know with full certainty – that this creature was the thief who had stolen Theodor’s life and taken his place.

 

The next day I left the seminary.  I could not escape the gruesome face I had seen that previous night. My subsequent days were tormented and my nights sleepless. When sleep did visit, usually through an intoxicating mix of spirit and opium, it was accompanied by indescribable hallucinations.  Over the years, the more the image of that sickening face of my friend and the thief who took him faded from my memory, these trials diminished. I found myself easing up on my self-tortures, and eventually I reached some degree of normalcy and began a search for modest employment. I spent much time recovering from the sights of that cursed night. I never spoke a word of what I saw at the library, nor of any discussions with Theodor while at seminary.

Yet now, a new unspeakable horror has befallen me!  Oh, Dear Reader, I wish I could reveal a different reality, but I cannot. As I walked to my uncle’s, I believe that what I saw today must certainly be my double, my Doppelgänger, my own twin on Earth, an Earth that has become my Hell.

I had just departed a meeting for a job as an orderly at the hospice near Sutterly Garden. I went through a rear door that exited on the chapel and its cemetery and noticed a stranger of my height and frame standing alone at the cemetery yard, wearing a long coat and a deerstalker hat, seeming adrift in his surroundings.

“May I be of assistance, Sir?” I asked the stranger, as I reached out to touch the elbow of his coat.

When the stranger turned immediately to look at me, my heart stopped mid-beat while a paralyzing terror held my body in suspension. As I glimpsed his face, it was as if – unless I could look away immediately – he were suctioning my very soul right from my body. I strained to pull my gaze from his, as if he had attached a noose to me. But pull I did, and when my heart began its beat a moment later, I ran home to the house of my uncle, or the shell of him that remains in his elder years.

 

I sit now on the cold cement floor of Uncle’s cellar, where I arrived only an hour gone, seeking the last haven available to me and my only relation who remains in the physical world.  I entered through a ground-floor window, as no one responded to the bell, and here I am, bent halfway over, scrawling my story.  I fear the arrival of this vile tormenter once more.

I can only pray that I be spared a few more moments to complete, perhaps, no, now I hear Uncle descending.  I call out.

I see nothing in the shadow. Uncle, is that you?  My sweat falls onto this very page on which I, on which I, oh dear Uncle.  You do not respond to my call.  I eagerly await your appearance. I entreat the highest authority now to take my soul lest a despicable abomination reach me instead… Uncle, please…

The light is going out.  An intense pall overcomes me.  Cannot keep eyes open.  Lost a moment of time.  Hand weakened…

An alarm… I reach… Yet… No.  I write again:  No one. Darkness fades … a memory.  Theodor.

We walk along a pathway at Wycliff Hall. Theodor. Me. He speaks of a dark night that frightened the animals.

“What frightens them, and where do they go?” I asked.

“It ever only happens under the blackest cover of night,” said Theodor. “It is as if a veil falls upon the pasture to conceal an event.”

     An event… an event, he said…

     The image of The Daily Telegraph headline flashes through my mind: “Flocks of Sheep Scatter in Reading.”

Now I hear a sound on the step again. A dark veil…

 

#

 

Dear Reader,

My Christian name is Phillip Gregory Michael Greaves III.  I am a man neither of hubris nor folly and am now of sound mind.

 

About the Author: M.E. Solomon is an American writer of supernatural horror. She finds inspiration in worlds that exist in the slivers of daily life and once took a haunting train ride through Transylvania. She is currently working on a novel while releasing frightful tales into the world. For updates, follow her at twitter.com/MESolomonHorror.

 

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My name is Jack L. Bryson and I'm the editor of Teleport. I studied literature at University of Montana. I live in Mountain View Ca, and my email is coffeeant1@gmail.com

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