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Urban Fantasy Coming of Age

My twin saved my life.  The problem is, I didn’t have a twin.

I first met her at a New Year’s Eve party at my friend Phil’s parent’s house.  His parents were conveniently out of town for New Year’s Eve, so of course Phil invited two dozen of his “closest” friends over to celebrate.  At 18 years old, it was a thrill to be away from my parent’s house for New Year’s Eve, nursing a cheap beer I wasn’t old enough to drink, and dancing in my brand-new purple dress with friends old and new, waiting for the clock to strike midnight.

Phil’s parents had a nice house.  It didn’t exactly feel like a lived-in house.  Everything felt rigid and uptight, and spectacularly clean. Phil had wasted no time in pushing furniture aside to make a dance floor.  I like to think that rather than “trashing” the place, we were really just setting it free.

I was an unprecedented two beers in and singing and dancing to Dynamite by Taio Cruz, when I saw a girl standing on the edge of the cleared space, looking, I thought, a bit scared to join our rowdy group.  I danced my way over to her, seized her arm, and pulled her onto the floor.  She seemed willing enough and threw her hands in the air in a way that was…. Very familiar.

I looked more carefully at her through my buzz and stopped abruptly, staring.  She noticed me stop and stopped in turn, staring back.  I could not find a single detail in this girl that was not exactly like me.  She had the same spray of freckles across her pale face, the dark choppy bangs, the turned-up tip of her nose.  Same height, same chin, same shoulders. She even moved like me and her ears glinted with the same diamond studs.  It was eerie. Her face reflected the same bewilderment and awe that mine did.

“What’s your name?” I asked her.

“Calliope,” she replied, in my voice.  “Yours?”

“Lila.” A pause. “Weird.”

“Indeed,” she said.

And that was that. I was not exactly sober and neither was anyone else, so when a stand-up Tiffany style lamp came crashing down, scattering colored glass across the plush carpet, we were slow to react.  By the time the mess had been cleaned up, Calliope was gone.

I did not see her again until I was 19, again at a New Year’s party, this time at my friend Celeste’s.  Celeste was the only one of our friend group who had moved into her own place.  We were thrilled to have a parent-free space, even if it was a tiny apartment with a sagging couch, second hand table and chairs, and mysterious carpet stains.  Was someone killed here? we asked each other with ghoulish glee.  Should we try to raise the dead?  Alcohol was flowing as we tried to outdo each other with creepy ideas.

I saw her lingering, beer in hand, near the tiny kitchen and made a beeline for her.  The light was better this time and I could see that while my eyes are hazel, she had one blue eye and one green.

“Calliope”, I said. “How’s it going?”

Before she could reply, a fire broke out on the stove in the kitchen behind her.  Someone had had the drunken idea of making popcorn and had spilled oil over everything, causing it to ignite on the gas of the stove.  After this impressive fire display (quenched by a quick-thinking friend dumping a large box of baking soda on it), Calliope was nowhere to be found.

This time, I made enquiries. I called Celeste.

“Who?” asked Celeste.

“Calliope.  Looks just like me except with weird eyes. She was at your New Year’s party.”

Celeste said she had no idea who I was talking about.  “Friend of a friend maybe?”

Phil was even less helpful.

“What the fuck you talkin’ about?” he said on the other end of the phone call, clearly distracted by a loud video game he was playing.

“CUH-LYE-OH-PEE,”, I said loudly, stretching the name out. “SHE WAS AT YOUR NEW YEAR’S PARTY LAST YEAR. DO YOU KNOW WHO SHE IS?”

“Naw,” Phil said. “Gotta go.” And he hung up.

I rolled my eyes at the phone.  That was the end of my enquiries.  Dissatisfied, I brooded about it for a few days, and then my brain filed it away in the archives.

Until I was 20.  I guess Phil and Celeste didn’t want any more mishaps occurring at their respective places, so we went to the gathering of several hundred people in Old Sacramento, ready to ring in the new year with City-sponsored fireworks.

I saw Calliope’s dark head a dozen yards in front of me in the crowd.  She had a purple hairband and I could see her profile.  I put a hand up to the purple headband on my head and impulsively started pushing my way forward, trying to keep my eye on her while weaving between the tightly packed crowd.  By the time I reached the spot I thought she had been standing, she was no longer there.  The fireworks started at that moment, bathing the faces around me in their glow.  I turned around, looking somewhat frantically for her and saw her at the edge of the crowd, walking away down a side street, wearing an identical coat to my own.  There was no way to catch her, so I gave up.  As I turned to track down my friends, a tremendous boom rolled across the sea of people.  There were screams and I could see smoke near where the fireworks were being launched.  People were pushing their way in the opposite direction, some of them running.  Despite the crush of panicked people, I was able to make my way to a nearby boardwalk and to safety.  It turns out that one of the fireworks had misfired and exploded not long after launching.  Luckily, no one was hurt, but the show was cancelled, and I was left feeling shaken.  

The existence of Calliope became an itch in my brain that I couldn’t scratch. I couldn’t find any information about her. I scoured FB for any sign of her, including stalking through the profiles of the friends of my friends.  Google searches were busts.  Twitter was no use.

Finally, I ran across the term “twin strangers”, a modern term for “doppelgangers”.  The mythology surrounding doppelgangers is creepy AF.  Apparently, seeing your own doppelganger is a harbinger of BAD THINGS TO HAPPEN.  I held my breath for a moment, afraid to move, lest that bad thing that I just learned about that is supposed to happen if you meet your doppelganger, actually tried to happen.  I huffed out my breath once I realized what I was doing.  I was being silly, nothing bad was going to happen.  

I tried to remember if bad things had happened to me after seeing her, but those years were so full of new and different and exciting changes for me. If anything, each time I’d think that something bad had happened to me – a boyfriend gone, a job lost, a friendship revealed to be unhealthy – good things had come of the resulting shifts. Yet, I still felt uneasy.

As the year went by, I became increasingly anxious as New Year’s Eve drew close.  Of course, I consciously chose to not believe in doppelgangers being a harbinger of bad things to come, but my body was channeling some inner anxiety just the same.

I was supposed to go with friends to the Old Sacramento fireworks show again, but I somehow couldn’t muster any enthusiasm.  Quite honestly, I really, really didn’t want to run into Calliope again. You know, just in case.  And I was growing tired of getting drunk.  I wasn’t a big fan of the hangover the next day, and I was getting more serious about finishing my classes at community college and transferring to nearby UC Davis.

So, at the age of 21, I spent New Year’s Eve with my parents and their two dogs, watching old episodes of Dr. Who.  Around 10PM, we realized we had no sparkling apple juice with which to toast the new year.  I dutifully volunteered to drive to the nearby Safeway to get some.

I was nervous, but still stubbornly believed there was no way I would run into Calliope at the random Safeway near my parent’s house in the suburbs, miles away from Old Sacramento.  I parked and went into the store, successfully finding the sparkling apple juice and some bonus munchies for the rest of the evening.

I must have been distracted when I stepped off the curb in front of the store to walk to my car.  Otherwise, I would have seen the asshole in the black BMW whipping through the parking lot. Had I not been distracted, I most certainly would not have stepped RIGHT IN FRONT OF THAT CAR, been struck straight on, flung 20 feet, and left for dead as the BMW screamed out of the parking lot.

I felt a crushing pain in my chest, at least one of my legs was broken, and something was oozing out of the back of my head.  My arms seemed out of commission and I wondered if this was the end of me.  Dead in a Safeway parking lot at 21.  I heard someone nearby vomiting. I took an agonizing breath and felt myself slipping away on the exhale.  

The next thing I knew, I was standing next to someone who had clearly been struck by a car.  I blinked woozily and stumbled forward to see if there was some way I could help. I took a sharp breath and saw that the person on the ground was no other than Calliope.  Calliope with her one blue eye and one green eye wide open in shock.  Calliope with blood pooling around the back of her head and one leg clearly broken.  Calliope surrounded by the diamond-like glass shards of a broken bottle of sparkling apple juice, air escaping in a short wheeze from her open mouth.  Not me.  Calliope.

I turned away and vomited, then staggered back to where she was lying, tears blinding my eyes, my chest heaving with sobs.  Calliope was no longer breathing.  Several people had seen or heard the accident and were gathering around. A siren wailed, coming closer.  I knelt down and took her hand in mine, tears still streaming down my face.

The paramedics arrived.  “Is she your twin?” they asked.

“Yes,” I replied.  Even though I knew nothing about her but her name, it was the truest answer I could give.

Far from being bad luck, Calliope was clearly my guardian angel. I was certain it had been me lying there dying, but now she had set me free.

January 01, 2022 02:55

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8 comments

Julie Woodside
06:48 Jan 04, 2022

Love this story. Took me by surprise, and yet - the author led me right to it, too. A treat to read :-)

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Melissa Lee
01:52 Jan 06, 2022

Thank you Julie!

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Stevie B
14:03 Jan 03, 2022

Melissa, very interesting little fantasy tale you've conceived and very well written.

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Melissa Lee
17:51 Jan 03, 2022

Thank you, I appreciate your comment!

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Stevie B
18:12 Jan 03, 2022

You're welcome.

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Graham Kinross
23:36 Jan 13, 2022

This reminded me a bit of Dawn Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Great story.

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03:36 Jan 13, 2022

when I was scrolling I read the first line and then scrolled and then came back because it was so interesting thank you for an amazing read could you cheek out the story i wrote to see ify ou like it.

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Alex Sultan
21:56 Jan 07, 2022

I really liked the first line. It caught my attention and kept me interested - I think you sowed a good question with it for an intriguing hook. Nice work!

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