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I Know You

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The puddles on the street shone golden, shimmering in the darkness where the street lamps lit them up. It must have rained heavily.

Something was not right. I could tell it was late at night, probably around 2 or 3 a.m., but I had no clue what I was doing out on the street all by myself. I pulled the hood lower over my face, tucking in a stray strand of hair, and buried my hands in my hoodie’s pockets to keep them warm. Random thoughts drifted through my mind. Why am I wearing a hoodie? It was unusual for me. Why don’t I remember what I am doing outside?  

I tried to recall the last thing I remembered. Nothing. I came up blank. 

Looking around, I recognized the place. It was the main street leading up to my house. Usually jam-packed with vehicles and the sound of honking, it was deathly quiet now. My sneakers squelched on the rain-soaked street, the sound unnaturally loud in the silence. The trees looked ethereal though, and I was momentarily distracted from my panic by the leaves glinting silver and gold. I watched, fascinated, as they rustled and shone like pennies. Slowly, they started winking out, one by one, their borrowed light growing faint. No, the night was getting darker. Insubstantial blackness was creeping in from all sides, dark tendrils wrapping the trees and lamp-posts in an insidious embrace. I stopped walking, feeling the reverberations beneath my feet. Then, I felt more than heard something behind me. A chill crept up my spine as all my instincts screamed at me to run. I threw a quick glance over my shoulder as I burst into a sprint and spotted two figures, still quite far away, but picking up pace. The darkness raced beside me, its numerous hands reaching out to hold me back. I ran as I had never before. Fast. Faster than I could have. The night was closing in, a velvety blanket that would smother me the moment I slowed down. The jar in my hand was shaking. Where did the jar come from? It trembled as a soft light pulsed in it. 

The creatures behind me..They must be after the jar. I hugged the jar closer to me as I dashed past the shuttered storefronts. What is happening? I could still feel them close behind me. I ran fast as the wind, the lamps and puddles blurring into one hazy background and then I was home. 

I didn’t stop to catch a breath till I was inside, sliding the bolt home. There was a fire burning in my chest, my mouth dry as a desert. The light in the jar fluttered like a trapped butterfly and I held it closer as I panted, clutching my side. It took several minutes to steady my shaky limbs; the light ceased its fluttering and settled into a slow pulsing rhythm. I straightened and looked around. It was my home and it was not. It didn’t look anything like my house but I felt sure it was. Clean, spacious rooms, neatly decorated with furniture I had chosen with great care. I wondered why all the lights were on at this time of night. 

My mom and little brother were sound asleep on a thick mattress in the hallway. But the bedrooms are right here, unoccupied..What are they doing out in the hallway? Light fell at my mom’s feet from my bedroom. The door stood ajar, and as I walked towards it, the brightly lit cozy house seemed to thrum with a strange energy. I paused and looked around. Everything was still the same, but the warmth was gone. The house didn’t feel cozy anymore. 

I stepped inside the room. My fluffy quilt was rucked up around someone sleeping in the corner of the bed, one hand dangling off the edge, hair strewn over the white pillows. I wiped my palms on my trousers and tried to shake off the terrible feeling. There was an ache building between my eyes, spiking as I frowned. The jar grew warmer in my hand. She, whoever she was, seemed so familiar and yet, I was freaking out. Perhaps, it was the strange familiarity that spooked me.

“Who is she?” I realized I had spoken out loud but neither my mom nor my brother woke up.

 The girl stirred at my voice, turning over to her side and goosebumps erupted all over me. Those hands clutching the pillow were as familiar to me as my own. 

No, they were my own. 

I watched, frozen, as she yawned and slowly sat up, gathering her curly hair into a bun. My curly hair. Her eyes found me and she started, stumbling out of bed, backing away as she asked in a quivering voice, “Who are you?”

I couldn’t feel my legs. It was me! The girl was me! From her head to her toes, not a speck of difference. I couldn’t process what was in front of me. What is she? How did she get into my house? I had to get my family out. 

“Who are you?” she shouted. Anger brought me back to my senses. My mind was racing. She had to be a ghost trying to trick my family with my face. I could not make sense of it, but the night had been strange enough that I’d believe any explanation for this.

The girl inched towards the bedside table and I could see the panic in her eyes. I knew what she would do; pick up the glass vase on the table and throw it at me. I also knew I was faster. In the few seconds it took for her to turn her head and reach out, I was out the door to the shelf in the hallway where we kept holy ash in a bowl. I was back before she had even picked up the vase and flung a fistful of ash at her face.

Silence.

Interrupted with the sound of her spluttering, trying to get the ash out of her mouth, rubbing her eyes. 

I couldn’t breathe. The jar in my hand was now getting too hot to hold, its light glowing brighter, pulsing like a racing heart.

She should have gone up in flames, crumbled into dust, or blown away into smoke;  yet here she was, standing in front of me, coughing.

The smell of burning and the terrible realization struck me at the same time. 

I raised my hand, smeared with the holy ash, fuming and crumbling, black chased with orange. The jar fell to the ground, shards of glass skittering across the floor as the light enveloped everything in a blinding glaze. 

She was me. She was real. She was human. I was not.

The light dissolved into her as I ceased to be.

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