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Horror

It was after midnight. Stephanie Armstrong stood on the sidewalk in front of her apartment building, an odd figure for this time of night. Her brown curls had been pulled tightly into a ponytail, her face wore light make-up, and she was dressed in a black business suit. She had a white purse slung over her shoulder, and a suitcase stood next to her.

Stephanie stared intently at the entrance of the apartment complex where her ride would soon appear. Then she saw a white SUV, which came to a stop in front of her, and the driver leaned out of the window. In the darkness, all Stephanie could see was a head of bushy hair. 

“My name’s Sarah,” said the driver, her cheerful voice almost jarring in the nighttime silence. “You’re Stephanie, Amanda’s friend, right?”

“I am,” she answered. “Where would you like me to put my suitcase?” 

“If it fits in the back seat, that’s fine, but I’m afraid you’ll have to sit in the back seat as well,” she said apologetically. “The floor of my passenger seat is kinda messy.”

“Ok.” Stephanie did as she advised. 

Sarah drove out of the apartment complex, and in a minute, they were on the highway to the airport. 

“Thanks for picking me up,” said Stephanie, realizing she had forgotten this courtesy. “I was happy to get an Uber, but Amanda reassured me that you wouldn’t mind taking me out to the airport this late at night.”

Sarah waved a dismissive hand. “Amanda knows I’m a night owl, don’t worry about it.”

“Like staying up late?”

“Oh, yeah. I love to game at night. That’s how I met Amanda, actually. We’ve never met in person but we’ve been gaming with each other for a year now. I guess when you’ve gone on so many missions to kill dragons together, you feel like you know each other pretty well.”

Stephanie obliged Sarah with a laugh, but she was glad it was dark so she could bite her lip nervously. Amanda had talked about her “great friend, Sarah,” and she had naturally assumed she knew Sarah very well, but they were apparently superficial friends at best. However, there was nothing to be done about this now, and she resigned herself to a trip with someone who was barely a friend of a friend. 

“So Amanda said you’re flying to New York City?” continued Sarah.

“Yes. I’m making a new start.”

“Well, I figure that’s the place to do it,” she said. “Got a job already?”

“Not yet. I’m staying with relatives.”

“Oh, how nice. Are you originally from New York . . .?”

“Yes, and I wish I’d stayed there,” she said vehemently. “I only moved out here because my husband got a job. But Junction City is such a boring town, and Oregon is a boring state, at least compared to New York, New York.” She panted a little, a look of relief on her face at being able to vent. “I’ll never do anything for anyone again. I know it sounds selfish, but I want to be selfish, I do! That’s why I’ve left my family.” She laughed again, but it was slightly nervous this time. “I didn’t tell them I’d left, but I don’t care. I’m going to live for me now.”

There was a brief silence, then Sarah said, “Sounds like you’ve put some thought into your priorities. Nothing wrong with that, huh?”

Stephanie was surprised at the gentleness in her voice. She had expected shock, or even disgust. She hadn’t told either Amanda or her New York relatives that she had abandoned her family without warning. She had simply said that she and her husband needed some space. 

“Thanks for being understanding,” said Stephanie. “I really appreciate it.”

“Of course.“

A minute later, Stephanie heard a loud bang. “What was that?”

“Oh, dear,” said Sarah, as both of them heard a repeated thudding. “Tire’s flat.”

“What?” exclaimed Stephanie. “I‘ll miss my flight.”

Sarah sighed and pulled the car over to the shoulder of the highway. “I’m really sorry about this. The tire must have rolled over something sharp on the road.”

“I’m gonna call an Uber,” said Stephanie frantically. 

“Good idea,” she agreed. “I’ll go check on the tire.”

To Stephanie’s relief, there was an Uber nearby that could pick her up in five minutes. Carefully opening the door so it did not jut out onto the highway, she went around to the other side of the car, which faced a long stretch of grass running towards hills in the distance. 

Sarah was examining the right rear tire from a crouched position. “Flat as a flapjack, as Dad used to say. I’ll need to call a tow truck.”

“Well, don’t worry about me,” replied Stephanie. “I’ve got an Uber coming, so I should make it to the airport on time. Thanks for coming out all this way, though. Sorry about the tire.”

“Oh, it’s all right.” 

Sarah stood up quickly and moved around her towards the trunk. “I wonder if I have something in here that might help. Here’s something,” she said brightly, and pulled out a wrench. 

The wrench gleamed dimly in the light of the street lamps. Stephanie did not know much about tires, but she was fairly certain that a wrench would not help. She was about to point this out when she finally caught sight of Sarah’s face. 

Framed by curls that were just like her own was the same face that stared out at her every time she looked in the mirror. 

Stephanie screamed. “What - Who are you?”

Sarah seemed to have expected this reaction, for she smiled. “I’m everything you should be, Stephanie. Or, at least, I soon will be.”

“What do you mean?” she gasped.

“You know, when I found you on Facebook, I couldn’t believe it at first. I was you, and you were me. Then I created a fake profile, and I was lucky enough that you friended me, though you didn’t know who I was. You know me as Gemini.”

“Gemini?” Stephanie then recalled all the conversations she had had with her, including one in which she had revealed her plan to leave her family.

“I met Amanda through you, and it’s true we game together. But of course I couldn’t let her see me, that would freak her out. But you can understand why I was fascinated with you. How many people meet someone exactly like them? Well, I wouldn’t say we’re exactly alike, but in appearance - Anyway, you have no idea how envious I was of you. You had a husband who loved you and took care of you, and you have a young daughter who always wanted to be with you. But you kept complaining about wanting to be on your own, do your own thing. That’s when I realized it’d be better if we switched places. But how? And then you told me about how you were going to leave them. My luck changed, and I knew I could take your place. I offered you a ride, but you turned me down.”

“I didn’t know who you were, but I thought if Amanda knew you - “

“Yeah, I convinced her to recommend me to you. And it worked!”

Stephanie was breathing heavily. “But that’s crazy. You can’t replace me. You don’t have any of the same memories that I do - “

“You’ve told me a lot about yourself, remember? I’m sure I can bluff my way through the conversations. Your husband probably won’t care as long as he knows he can come home to a loving wife, and your daughter will get the affection that she deserves.”

“No, no, no,” said Stephanie, panicked. “It’s wrong - “

“And what you’re doing is right? Oh, no, Stephanie, you’re in no position to judge.”

During the conversation, Sarah had been lazily swinging the wrench. Now she walked slowly towards Stephanie, who began backing towards the grass. 

“What’re you doing?” murmured Stephanie, frightened.

“What if you change your mind and decide to come back? You’d ruin the life I’ve built for myself. Unlike you, I’m not letting anything get in the way of the family I want.”

Stephanie tripped and fell on her back. She shrieked briefly as the wrench was raised in the air and came down.

A little while later, the Uber driver arrived on the side of the road, and he addressed the woman leaning against what he realized was a car that had broken down. 

“You’re Stephanie, right? Listen, I’m so sorry for being late. I thought I’d make it sooner, but this man had to run in and get his wallet and he took forever.”

She beamed at him. “No problem. I just need a ride home. I’ll call a tow truck in the morning. I hope you don’t mind if I’m a bit dirty, I’ve been on the ground looking at my busted tire.”

“Nope, glad to help.”

“Thanks. You won’t believe what a night I’ve had. My car broke down, and I found this injured woman on the side of the road. I just got done calling 911.” 

“Whoa, really? Should we wait?”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do,” she said regretfully. “Looks like she got hit by a car. I’m pretty sure she’s dead. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get home. I’m exhausted, and I have to tell my husband in the morning that I blew a tire trying to get medicine for an upset stomach.”

April 14, 2023 05:00

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9 comments

Irama Vadira
08:57 Apr 30, 2023

(Sorry for really bad grammar, i understand English but can't speak English very well) Hi, I'm Vad and I'm starting a blog. I'm looking for a good stories to be translated to my language. I'm interested to yours and I'm here to ask your permission, can i translate this story and post it on my blog? I will give you credit and put source on it (i doubt my blog will blow up tho). If you don't mind, thanks! But if you don't let me to do it's ok i respect you too.

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Anne Reed
18:31 Apr 30, 2023

Wow thank you! I’m very honored and I’d appreciate it if you translated it! That’d be great.

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Irama Vadira
09:03 May 01, 2023

Thanks, I'll let you know when it's done.

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Anne Reed
22:54 May 01, 2023

Sounds good! 👍

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Sedrat Alkrad
14:52 Apr 26, 2023

the story was really good it needs more attention and maybe a part to see if her husband notices the changes

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Anne Reed
18:18 Apr 26, 2023

Thanks! I did consider writing a scene in which she talks to her husband. That would have been showing versus telling. 👍

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Mia Tavares
18:59 Apr 26, 2023

it would be an amazing idea, me and sedrat talked about how much we love your stories. you have truely made my day :)

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Mia Tavares
14:43 Apr 26, 2023

oh my god the plot was amazing I love this so much

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Anne Reed
18:20 Apr 26, 2023

Thanks so much! 😊

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