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This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

911, what’s the address of the emergency?

“4242 Decatur Boulevard, please hurry! I- she’s been shot! Oh god please-“

Ma’am, who’s been shot? Are they still breathing?

“It’s my daughter, Ivy, she- she- there’s blood- oh god please send someone!”

Ma’am, if she’s still breathing, don’t move her. Try to stop the bleeding. Can you tell me who shot her?”

“Y-you- you don’t understand. I- I-“

Is the shooter still nearby? Are you safe?”

“Oh god, please, Ivy, I’m-“

Are you safe? Is she still breathing? Calm down, let me help you. Is the shooter still-“

“There’s someone else in the house! Please! You have to believe me! Send someone already!”

They’re already on their way. It’s going to be alright ma’am. Help is on the w-“

“Please hurry! She’s bleeding and- and- I can’t leave the room! I’m too scared, she- she- someone’s out there! I- I can’t feel her breathing anymore! No, stay with me, she stopped- please help!”


“Hello!? Are you still there!? Please help me!”


Gia’s hand trembled as she moved her phone away from her damp ear. She looked down at the screen – the call was still ongoing, but somehow the call duration time was stuck.

“Say something!” she begged as she fumbled her fingers over the buttons, trying to put it on speaker phone. Nothing. None of the buttons worked. The screen was frozen mid-call.

And Ivy was right there. Dying. Back on the floor, eyes closed, mouth slightly open as if she was in the middle of saying something. She was wearing the sweater Gia got her for Christmas last week, soft and warm, white like the snow. White, of course, except from the red blood stains.  

A single bullet in her chest.

Gia’s voice cracked as she shrieked through her sobs. “No, no, please, somebody! Somebody help-“

“Mom! What’s wrong?”

Gia’s hands threw themselves over her mouth, acting on instinct, cornered like an animal. A chill crawled up her spine, like a centipede injecting her with fear with each step. It couldn’t be. But it was…

“Mom, I’m in the bathroom. If you need some medicine or bandages or whatever, just tell me.”

Her voice was distant, coming from down the hall, but the teenage sass masking a hint of concern was genuine. At least, it sounded genuine.

That was Ivy’s voice. But Gia knew better.

“I’m fine,” she spoke, barely above a whisper, steeling her nerves. The air started to feel heavy around her as she begged her muscles to regain feeling. Slowly, she forced herself up from crouching on the floor next to Ivy. She didn’t notice that the pool of blood had stopped growing. She didn’t realize that the house was quiet, not even her wristwatch making a sound.

She knew she had to go to the voice. She had to end this nightmare. She needed to hurry to make it back to Ivy. The two of them weren’t safe until she had dealt with this. Her limbs propelled her upwards, tears no longer streaming down her face, sadness leaving a vacancy for anger to move in. Gia started to head out of Ivy’s room toward the voice at the end of the hall.

She made sure to pick up the gun she shot Ivy with before leaving.

Not a single floorboard creaked. Her footsteps made no sounds. The gun felt impossibly heavier and colder in her hands than it did a few minutes ago. But Gia’s mind couldn’t process what the lack of sound meant, everything in the world turning into cold, dead weight. Her finger was steady on the trigger, both hands finding an odd calmness to the rigid metal. She reached the end of the hall and turned into the open door to the bathroom, muscles aching as it lifted the gun once more.

“Ivy” was standing in front of the sink, medicine cabinet open, obscuring Gia’s view of her. She was rummaging through it, looking for something. Instead of seeing “Ivy’s” face, Gia saw her own face on the cabinet’s mirror. Hair ragged, eyes red, lips chapping. Gun aimed straight ahead, growing heavier with each moment that passed.

“Mom, you sounded like you were freaking out. I’m looking for some headache medicine for you.”

It was so very nonchalant, so ordinary, the way “Ivy” spoke. It made Gia want to vomit.

“What are you?” Gia demanded.

“God, Mom, if you’re gonna keep being weird, am I gonna have to call a psychiatrist or something?” She sounded annoyed now, reminding Gia of all the times she had to remind Ivy to do homework or to leave the door open when a boy was over at the house. It knew exactly how to act like Ivy.

“Stop! Just stop pretending!” Gia could only look at her reflection as she became more crazed and angrier, panting harder, arms shaking. She was moments away from pulling the trigger but needed to wrench the answers away from this “fake” daughter.

“You’re not Ivy! I saw you, I know I saw you there, standing at the foot of my bed last week! You’ve been following me around the house for days! I thought I was sleep deprived at first but no! You’re playing a sick twisted game, you fake! I kept trying to show Ivy that there was another one of her but you always disappeared before she saw! What the hell are you!?”

The Fake stopped rummaging through the cabinet. Its arms slowly moved to its sides. Gia could now see it even copied Ivy’s new white sweater. Then it spoke.

“So after a whole week, your grand plan was to shoot me? That’s the best you could come up with?”

It still spoke with Ivy’s voice, but with a tone that was more mature than Gia ever heard Ivy use. Hints of both scolding and ridicule danced along every syllable the Fake spoke. Then it slowly raised a hand to close the medicine cabinet, revealing its face.

The Fake copied Ivy’s face almost perfectly except for the eyes. They were round and smaller than normal, dull like cloudy marbles. There were scars forming a cross shape over the eyes, like someone cut wounds in the flesh just to place the eyes in. The Fake smiled, every small contortion of the face making it seem like it was just a plastic mask.

“How’d shooting me turn out for you?” it taunted, laughing at Gia’s mistake.

Gia roared with anger, finger pulling the trigger, her search for answers be damned. But as she braced for the recoil, she realized something was wrong. The trigger was stuck in place. She looked down at the gun bewildered, then the unnatural weight of it finally registered in her brain.

Everything was resisting movement.

The Fake laughed, covering its eyes out of embarrassment for Gia. She fixed her eyes on the Fake then realized in the window behind her… it was snowing earlier that morning. But now every flake was frozen in place outside, the sun shining into the room, almost like an unholy halo framing the Fake.

“You know how parents put their kids in timeouts?” the Fake began as it stepped toward Gia. “What am I saying, of course you know. Ivy would do something bad, then you would take away her free time.” Another step closer to Gia, still squeezing the trigger, her fingers turning purple.

It stepped in front of Gia now, looking slightly up at her, its beady eyes unblinking, flesh wrinkling as it grinned. “You just killed your own daughter. I guess you could think of this as the mother of all timeouts.”

Gia raged again, lifting the gun to bash the Fake’s skull in, but the gun weighed too much now. The attack wasn’t swift enough, so the Fake grabbed Gia’s arm mid-motion and wrenched the gun away. Then, completely unbothered by the weight, it flipped the gun so it was holding it by the barrel, then it rammed the grip into Gia’s throat.

Gia fell backwards, coughing as the wind was knocked out of her. Pain exploded across every bone in her body as she struggled to regain any sense of balance. With every cough, the air was harder and harder to pull back into her.

Laughter rang through Gia’s fading consciousness and the Fake looked down at her. “That’s the thing no one tells you about stopping time. The air is frozen too – good luck breathing.” Gia looked up at it and saw the grin disappear, replaced with a quick moment of fury on its face, a face she’d never seen on Ivy before. Hatred. Maybe apathy. The face you make before you squash a disgusting bug in your house. It landed a thunderous kick right into Gia’s abdomen, sending her rolling to the top of the stairs across from the bathroom.

Dark spots began to cloud Gia’s vision, both from the pain and the dizziness from declining oxygen. Through the darkness, she saw the Fake walk back to open the mirror, angling it so Gia could see it, though she couldn’t see herself on the ground. The it walked over to Gia, raised the gun, and shot the mirror.

The loud bang from the gun stopped unnaturally quick, like a pause button was hit on the explosion. The bullet hit the mirror, but the glass paused mid-shatter, dangling on the medicine cabinet, a cracked spiderweb of shards suspended without gravity.

“See, I can ignore the rules of stopped time to an extent. So I could’ve shot you Gia. But where’s the fun in that?” It began to wind up another kick, that glance of boiling apathy appearing on its face again.

But this time, Gia was ready. Every frozen second that didn’t pass made her hatred of the Fake grow. How it used Ivy’s likeness to be so disgustingly evil, so bluntly malicious. She didn’t know how but Gia was convinced that the Fake had the power to swap places with Ivy. There’s no way she shot her own daughter, not even on accident, unless this despicable creature interfered.

She was going to enjoy making the Fake bleed.

Gia caught its foot before it made contact, then pushed back and threw the Fake off balance. Then Gia lunged forward, shoving the Fake against the floor, its head slamming on the wood. She wrestled the gun away from the Fake, too stunned to react. Then Gia, having learned her lesson, used the gun’s weight for a downward swing, crashing right into the Fake’s temple.

It screeched in pain, its voice alternating between Ivy’s teenage girl’s register and something otherworldly, the sound of tv static if it could scratch a chalkboard. It kicked Gia off its body, the gun flying back toward the bathroom, pausing halfway in midair. As Gia fell once again near the stairs, the Fake stood up, its face looking downward.

Suddenly Gia realized she could hear something. A noise in the silent world. The sound of marbles rolling against hardwood floor.

The Fake looked up, missing its eyes, blood starting to pour from the cross shaped scars. Any joy Gia felt from knocking its eyes out of its face was smothered by the sight of her daughter’s visage covered in blood, a grim reminder of what was waiting for her in the other room.

“You know,” it panted, body trembling. “Gravity isn’t even supposed to work when time is fully paused…” The Fake then sprang to life, thrusting forward, picking up Gia’s body with shocking strength, holding her over its head. “But for you! I’ll make an exception!” Then it flung Gia over the banister.

Gia felt her weight almost triple the further she fell, her brain processing the fall both all too quickly and all too slowly. Then the pain burst through her body as she crashed into the desk she kept in the foyer. Unopened bills flung to the side, pens spun in the air, calendars and notes askew, all pausing as Gia’s body fell once more off the desk to the floor.

The Fake began to walk down the steps, cautiously holding the railing, starting to laugh. “That sounded like it hurt! I didn’t even plan for that to happen. You just had to go and make things worse for yourself, didn’t you? Well, that’s it, no more games. I’m just going to let you suffocate to death and stop your blood in its tracks. Maybe your brain will freeze before dying, maybe it’ll feel like an eternity before you go. How’s that sound?” it taunted as it reached the bottom step.

Gia’s body laid still on the floor.

“Hello? Mommy? C’mon, don’t tell me you died already?”

No response.

“Waste of time,” the Fake muttered as it stepped forward to where it thought Gia’s body was. Its eyes would regrow soon, but it had run out of patience. It was going to make sure Gia was dead this instant.

It wasn’t prepared for Gia to stumble forward with a letter opener, plunging it down into where its heart should be.

“YOU! YOU B-!” it coughed as it gripped its chest, the white sweater once again smearing with blood. It fell forward and collapsed as Gia stumbled past it.

“Shut up,” Gia whispered as she forced her body to walk through the door. Her thoughts were slowing down, vision almost gone. She might’ve broken an arm and a leg, but the pain wasn’t making its way to her brain anymore. There wasn’t even a plan floating in her head as she headed toward the door. Her body was stuck on autopilot, trying to escape the Fake, turning her back on her daughter’s body.

The door might have weighed as much as an elephant, but her body gifted her dregs of adrenaline as she opened it inward and crawled outside. The world grew even colder than it already was, the concept of heat disappearing. Snowflakes hovered all around Gia as she kept crawling away, making it to the unplowed street. Her strength then gave out as she collapsed face down in the snow.

“I’m sorry Ivy,” she whimpered to herself. The memory of giving Ivy the white sweater flashed in her mind, how happy her daughter was to receive something so stylish yet warm. That was before the Fake appeared, before everything was ruined. The thought of the Fake ruining even her dying thoughts made Gia force herself back up, refusing to die facedown. She pushed herself over and faced the sky. A single snowflake fell on her face, melting like a tear.

Fell. It fell and melted.

Gia’s mind sparked back to life as she realized time had started to move again. There was a chance Ivy wasn’t dead yet. She had to force herself back inside. She began to sit up, oxygen racing back to her lungs.

Then she saw the Fake. Bleeding in the doorway. Its facial scars now opened up to show dark caverns of blood and guts beneath the skin. The sweater was drenched with dark blood, letter opener still in its chest. But it was grinning. It faced Gia’s direction and pointed toward down the road. Then it spoke, its voice no longer Ivy’s but instead…

It’s going to be alright ma’am. Help is on the way,” it spoke in the voice of the 911 operator.

And before Gia could react, the sound of an engine suddenly burst into her eardrums. She turned and saw an ambulance rushing down the street, unsteady in the snow and ice, unable to brake, unable to stop from running over Gia’s chest. The sound of Gia’s own bones shattering and her heart bursting being the last things she ever heard.

The Fake smiled and disappeared, looking forward to the headlines of a mother-daughter murder-suicide to come. It was only a matter of time.

January 23, 2024 03:06

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1 comment

Joseph Ellis
05:21 Mar 25, 2024

Appropriately creepy and tense.


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