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Frostbitten air greeted Riley beyond the comforts of her front door. 

“It can’t be legal to up this early” Riley muttered to herself as she slammed the door shut behind her.

Groggy and disorientated, Riley persevered down the street. Darkness vigilantly stood guard around her, keeping dusk at bay. Her watch clearly displayed six-fifteen when she entered the park, by all expectations, darkness should have been reseeding and light would signal the beginning of the day. And not just any day, the day that was marked on her calendar for weeks.

Monday, April first, represents a perfect storm of worthwhile rationale to begin the eradication of the ever-present procrastination, that has been the constant antagonist in her story. There is the universally shared sentiment that all diets start on Monday, as well as the notion that the first of the month is the ideal time to start anew. Mixed in were the nagging thoughts of summer and that dreaded swimsuit season that creep into your mind during spring. Armed with inspiration acquired through Ted Talks, self-help books and YouTube senseis galore, Riley answered the call of her alarm clock that was begrudgingly set for five-thirty and began the molding process to create a new her.

For a minute there, inspiration was at the helm of this new endeavor, her body, however, was discreetly staging a coup. Her legs shuffled against the ground, her arms seemed to weigh a ton. If she was portrayed as an animation character, inevitably an energy meter would pop up next to her and would instantly drop down to zero accompanied by a whimsical sound. The brain quickly defected as well and her head was bombarded with a myriad of familiar thoughts. You already made the first step, the first sign of a traitorous brain came through. You don’t have to do everything at once, the second though echoed in her head If you go back now, we can still get an hour of sleep the bargaining was relentless You can run tomorrow. Her thoughts exhibited the traits of well-trained ninjas coming at her from every corner, stopping at nothing to prevent any deviation from the norm.

Noticing a bench nearby, she found herself amiable to the reasoning presented before her and to wave the flag of compromise decided to at least do a few stretches prior to her retreat. At least it’s a start she tried to make herself comfortable with her decision. Dawn began to make its appearance as an array of colors overtook the sky. Traitor, she thought as the darkness quickly retreated below the horizon. The past couple of days have been accompanied by unusually warm weather and snowbanks that graced the ground for months now have been reduced to mere puddles with small amounts of snow still visible on the ground. Swinging her right leg onto the bench, Riley was about to partake in her first stretching exercise when her brain seeming going into emergency mode, focused her attention on a small snowbank to her left.

She noticed a brown leather exterior of the object that has been previously canceled and rightfully identified it as a wallet. Quickly forgetting the task at hand, she walked towards it, picking it up from its snowy cover. The wallet had a simple brown leather-like exterior and upon opening it, Riley observed some cash in the main compartment and a few credit cards visible in the slots of the wallet. To the right, a driver’s license was noticeable underneath a clear cover. The name read Jennifer Shultz, and the address was just a few blocks away from where she was standing. This find presented a perfect opportunity to not only get a bit of exercise for the day after all but also do a good deed. She was about to close the wallet and head in the direction of the address when her attention focuses on the photo displayed on the license. Initially, she couldn’t fully grasp what made exactly drew her attention to the photo, until it finally became clear that she was looking at a photo of herself.

A need for rational explanation instantly emerged where she tried to convince herself that while the photo did resemble her in some way, surely there were commonalities of physical traits among many people. How many times has a friend stated “Oh, I saw you the other day at that book store” when you know you were on the opposite side of the city the whole day. Some people just look alike, and when facing a crowd full of strangers, surely your brain that is programmed to make sense of unfamiliar images can trick you into thinking that you saw someone that you knew versus a stranger that looks similar to that person you are thinking about. It’s just science really.

Finding that explanation satisfactory, Riley closed the wallet and made her way through the busy New York street with her new destination in mind. Briefly pausing in front of a store, she analyzed her reflection through the glass window display. Her messy blond hair was twisted up in a bun, her brown eyes were dropping with exhaustion, and it certainly didn’t help her self esteem when she spotted a stain on her blue sweatpants. Truthfully she didn’t stop to ensure that her look was presentable to the crowd of stranger hustling along the now busy streets of Manhattan. It was the nagging feeling that there were gaping holes in her newfound scientific deduction. Looking right below her right ear, she had to wonder. What is the probability of two people looking strikingly similar and having the same crescent-shaped birthmark in the exact same location below the right ear lobe? 

Many possible explanations flooded her head, all presenting a scenario that was either in the style of a supernatural thriller, science fiction derived or soap opera inspired. None made logical sense. Frustrated, she left that storefront more adamant than ever to return the wallet and prove to herself just how incredibly easy it was for the brain to misfire this early in the morning.

Those few blocks barely presented a challenge and Riley found herself standing outside of a large brown door leading into the five-floor brick apartment building. She glanced at the license once more and pressed the call button of the corresponding apartment number. The call went answered, and after a few attempts, she was just about to give up when an older woman covered from head to toe in a jacket, hat, scarf and seemingly so much more exited the building. Riley could only see her brown eyes surrounded by deep wrinkles that lit up with a sense of recognition when they saw Riley. She spoke fast and seemed excited to see her, but her scarf muffled the words and Riley couldn’t understand what was said to her before the lady waved at her and briskly walked down the street. The door was slowly closing and Riley took her chance to get inside.

Exiting the elevator she walked down an unfamiliar floor looking for the apartment, of course, she ended up going in the wrong direction initially, which really could be the blueprint to her life. Always making the wrong choices even with simple things like directions. Apartment 4E was finally in front of her and without any hesitation, she rang the doorbell fully convinced the call button downstairs was probably out of service. Again, a few attempts later her calls went answered and she knocked on the door only to see the door move inwards, slowly. Not only was it not locked, but it was apparently left ajar. It prompted Riley to momentarily pause while getting an overwhelming sensation that something must be wrong. She felt for her phone but realized that she forgot it at home and didn’t want to bother the neighbor in case this was just her imagination running away into some made-up scenario of danger.

She pushed the door open a bit more and carefully stepped inside. She wanted to call out but her intuition said Don’t. Slowly proceeding inside, she found herself in a large bright living room tastefully decorated with modern furniture. A trend Riley didn’t exactly appreciate but in this case, it seemed to fit the space perfectly. Many artworks hung on the walls, obviously painted by the hands of the occupant and were heavily influenced by the works for Dali and Picasso. Her eyes continued scanning the artworks when she suddenly screamed and dropped the wallet in her hand. In front of her, she could see a collage of photos detailing what seemed to be a very vibrant life filled with friends, travel, fun adventures, work events, and even a few celebrity encounters. All featured Jennifer Schultz as identified by the driver's license that was now on the floor. All of them were photos of her.

There were no more scientific explanations to lull her into a sense of security offering at least some sort of plausible explanation. These were all photos of her wearing clothing that she never bought, hanging out with people she has never met, traveling to places she never knew existed, and living in an apartment she has never been to before. Nothing made sense anymore. 

Suddenly an idea so ludicrous popped into her head that she had to laugh, momentarily relieving the stress. Was this some elaborate April Fool’s Joke? Nobody she knew would have the resources or the imagination to pull off something so grandiose and come to think of it, really cruel. Although, if this was, in fact, a joke. It would go down in books as the most legendary prank ever. But deep inside she knew, that this story would have a much different ending.

Laura's fingers suddenly stopped gliding across the keyboard and she just stared at the laptop in front of her. She hated it when the story just stopped at the most interesting part. Especially when her characters suddenly refused to cooperate or give her a hint of how to proceed further.

"Come on, Riley" she tapped insistently on the keyboard "What happens next?"

It was as if her muse was suddenly called away for an impromptu appearance elsewhere and Lauras' well of ideas instantly dried up. The story needed an ending worthy of the readers' time and all Laura could see is Riley standing in that big apartment shrugging her shoulders unable to find a path forward.

Laura picked up the now cold coffee cup and took a sip. The was no reason to warm this seat any longer. Perhaps tomorrow the muse would be more genial to her and the story will reveal the ending she would be proud to write. 

April 03, 2020 06:17

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