Originally posted April 2010; somehow my dumb ass deleted it.
The dream was of my father. No, that's not right, but he was there. The dream was of two moons, their shining images rippling through moving clouds, side by side and large in the sky.
"This isn't real," he said. "How do you know?" I asked.
"Fucking asshole," I muttered, as soon as I was sure I'd hung up the phone. "You cannot go deleting your stylesheets and then getting pissed when we won't fix it for free."
I announced to my coworkers I was taking ten, and hurried out of the office before the phone could ring again. Outside, I arranged myself on a grassy patch by the street, facing the sun, and lit a cigarette. A Western and godless Dhuhr of sorts, but just as important for getting through each day.
I spotted Lari, a friend of a friend, walking down the street, and waved to her. She quickly ran over and stood above me as I sat on the grass. "Just wanted to say hi," I said. "Enjoying this beautiful day?"
Lari kept glancing at a doorway across the street and looking around nervously. "It's nice," she said, distracted. "Do you see smoke over there?"
I looked in the direction she kept glancing, to the red door at Cafe Yumm. The delivery man was walking out, opening the door with his feet, hands full of boxes. "I don't."
"Hmm." She kept glancing back anyway. "Today's been kind of weird, actually."
"I know it, people are being assholes. That's standard Monday, I guess."
"It started off... do you ever see bright spots or circular patterns out of the corner of your eye, and when you turn your head to look at them they move away? Like it's just the skin cells or something on the surface of your eye?"
"That's what I thought this was when I first got up this morning. But it's darker and it doesn't move the same way, and it doesn't always move out of the way when I turn to see it. It's like everything.... OK, now that I'm trying to explain it out loud I realize how ridiculous I sound." She laughed, and smiled for the first time. "Anyway, I don't know if there's something wrong with my eyes or if this is some weird pre-migraine thing, but I'm actually on my way home. I think this warrants a sick day."
"Well I hope you feel better!" I called. Lari was already walking away.
"I hope your customers are nicer for the rest of the afternoon!" she called back. She seemed less upset, but she still stopped to examine the cafe door as she walked past.
With both of us still gazing up at the sky, Dad put his hands around my waist and lifted me up into the air, above him. I reached my hand up, waving at the new, second moon. The back of my hand was suddenly brilliantly lit, as though by a spotlight behind us. The shadow of my hand danced in the center of the rippling moon.
"What is this?"
When my alarm rang Tuesday, I sighed. I hadn't gone to bed early enough, and the rainclouds had rolled back in. No light streamed through the window to help the day begin.
Pulling up the shades, I thought, that's odd. The sun was out, just not... as bright as it should be. Everything seemed hazy, like the days following a field burn when ash filters from the sky onto everyone's cars and clothing.
And then, in the shower, I saw a spider on the tiles beside me and screamed out loud. But after arming myself with a shampoo bottle, I couldn't find him.
Clients were indeed nicer on Tuesday than Monday, a pretty typical pattern, but I felt no less stressed out. I kept catching strange movements in my periphery, seeing images on the computer screen that didn't seem quite right. One website's navigation had the most bizarre flash animation, black beaded ripples that reached out for the rest of the screen and then popped back into place. But when I got to work on their code I saw they weren't even using flash, weren't even using animation.
On schedule, I went outside for a smoke, leaning against the wall instead of sitting in the grass, as I still had this odd feeling that it was raining and the grass would be wet. I saw Lari walking down the street again, then turning and walking toward me. "Lari, oh hey, how are you feeling today? Did you come down with a migraine?"
Lari stopped at the grassy area where I'd been sitting yesterday and looked down. She focused her eyes a couple of feet in front of her, then turned her head towards the cafe. Then she looked back at the grass again, then towards the cafe.
I walked towards her. "Lari?"
She didn't look at me at all. And she looked terribly ill. Her face was shadowy, her eyes three shades darker than I remembered them, she said nothing. Then, I watched a string of smoke begin to drip from her mouth like saliva... and then pop back into place, disappearing.
"Oh shit, Lari, what-"
"Cass!" Someone calling my name from behind her. I looked past Lari and saw... Lari. Looking panicked and shocked, but far more like herself than the shadow in front of me. I immediately stepped backwards, not looking where I was going, until I hit the wall of the building.
She ran to me, breathless. "You can see her? Yes, of course you can, I think just about everyone can, but not all of everyone. Oh, fuck, Cass, I don't understand what's happening, but I'm not the only one."
She pointed to the door of Cafe Yumm, where this time I could in fact see smoke, a 5 foot 6 pillar of smoke with a strange man inside of it. Their delivery driver. And following helplessly behind the smoke, a second copy of the delivery driver.
"It got stranger as yesterday went on," she continued. "Everything got more and more strange looking, and it was almost interesting after I had convinced myself it was a migraine symptom. My television was practically interactive, all the dark ripples reaching out into the room and then sliding back into the screen. I tried drinking a glass of wine and I could see every little molecule of the wine, the way they spiraled into each other and moved constantly. Finally I just went to bed, planning to go to the doctor today. But when I woke up... she was there. She was getting out of my bed, turning off the alarm, getting into my shower... she's been doing exactly what I did yesterday, except she doesn't speak. I've just been following her around. I don't know what's happening. But it isn't just me."
"Cass, I'm sorry to scare you, but I have to go," she said, beginning to walk away, following her shadow. The shadow stopped and glanced at the door of the cafe as they walked down the street.
That evening I poured myself a glass of dark beer. I watched the bubbles hit the surface and continue up to the ceiling of the kitchen, popping there, leaving tiny, black, circular stains. I didn't drink it.
My father turned around, still holding me in the air, and I squinted as the strange light hit me straight in the eyes.
"Can you reach the projector?" he asked.
I extended my arms as far as they would go, barely glancing my fingers across the bottom lip of the lens. The moon's twin shook in the sky.
I didn't sleep. I was almost expecting her to be there, but when my alarm went off Wednesday and she got out of bed to turn it off, I still screamed. She didn't seem to hear me. She went to the window and raised the blinds. She showered, got out of the shower with the water still running, grabbed a shampoo bottle as though to kill a spider, and then shrugged and continued showering. I just watched and, crazier, registered annoyance at the fact that I probably wouldn't get a shower of my own.
She got into the driver's seat of my car, and I hesitantly climbed in on the passenger side. The streets of the city made my head swim. I felt as though I had double vision. Fully half the cars had a smoky, sick looking driver, and a frightened, identical passenger. Of those with one occupant, some looked to be normal people. Others looked like the distorted copies; perhaps not everyone had chosen to follow their nightmares around, and had instead stayed home to watch The Price Is Right. It seemed like the wiser choice, but I felt a panicky need to supervise myself. At one point I saw a copy riding a bicycle down the sidewalk, the horrified original running behind them on foot, unable to keep up.
Nor was I the only person in the office with a twin; it seemed our staff had grown quite a bit. But no new work would be done, just the same work as we did Tuesday, with those who were seeing the ripples for the first time looking on in fear. They would likely have their share upon waking the next day, I thought.
At the same time as usual, I followed my twin down the stairs, doing my best to grab one of my cigarettes from her pocket. I watched for Lari, but never saw her - though my copy moved towards the grass and back towards the wall just like she was repeating yesterday's encounter with the couple.
If Lari wasn't there, what did it mean? Did it mean the experience was over for her, was she safe back in reality? Or did it mean something else? I didn't know her well enough to have her number, but she was suddenly the most important and esteemed person in my world.
Back in the office, we had already disconnected the phone lines. Twins were still answering ghost calls, holding the phones to their ears but saying nothing. I lifted my cell phone from my copy's jacket, and called three people before finally finding Lari's number. Each call took forever as my panicked friends told me of their own visions or twins.
She answered the phone after 2 rings. I was talking before she'd even finished saying hello.
"Lari? What happened? Is your twin with you?"
"No, why, have you seen her?"
"No, I haven't, that's kind of why I'm calling. I was just outside, with MY twin, and I didn't see you, or you, and I was afraid. I didn't know if you were dead, or if something had changed.... She's not there?"
"No, she left last night."
"Yes, for the entire day yesterday she did exactly what I'd done the day before, just distorted, and silent. And at the end of the day we went home. She poured a glass of wine, watched TV, and I just sat next to her. I didn't know what else to do. And then, just before we would have gone to bed, she turned to me and said 'It doesn't mean anything.' And I said, 'What?' but she just got up and walked into the bedroom. When I went in behind her she wasn't there. And she hasn't come back."
"It doesn't mean anything?"
"I know. What's it like out there today, Cass?"
"It's.... It's happening to everyone, I think. There are ghosts everywhere. They aren't even doing anything, just kind of hanging around and creeping everyone out. Everything looks dark with all their black smoke merging together."
"You know, it looks sunny from here."
We hung up, and I was left to decide what to do with the hours before sunset. Still too afraid to leave the twin unwatched, I sat in a corner of the office and let my mind wander.
"Can you reach it?" asked my father. "Can you knock it down?"
"What will happen if I do?"
"The sky will be okay."
I extended my arms even further, reaching for the moon itself.
That evening I watched my twin re-wash my clean laundry. I watched her pour a beer and then stare at the ceiling. The black patterns from the previous evening were no longer visible there, but I could easily draw them from memory.
"What does it mean?" I asked her.
She looked at me, for the first time that day. "It isn't real," she said. "It's an illusion."
She stepped onto the back porch, and disappeared, like a smoky distortion suddenly popping back into place.
My hands finally made firm contact with the protruding lens of the projector, and I slapped it once, moving the moon directly onto itself, and then again, knocking it from the sky. The machine fell to the grass, fan whirring, casting a small and unimpressive image into the ground.
"I guess everything will go back to normal now," I said.
He put me down, back on my feet, and we stood together on the lawn.
"What does it mean?" I asked.
"It's just a little distortion. It doesn't mean anything. It just spoils the illusion."