Doppelgänger

Katy has always lived in York. She knows it's busy streets like the back of her hand. So when strange events begin to unfold, and the very streets she knows as home begin to turn against her, she begins to realise that no matter how familiar a place is, it will always hide secrets... and some of those secrets are staring you right in the eye.

(For the City of Bones competition)

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2. Seeing Double

For an eternity encased inside a second, Katy stared at herself. She took in her dark green eyes, her pale face with its explosion of freckles, her black-brown hair, all staring at her with a sinister smile. She knew the stories: seeing one’s doppelganger was supposedly an omen of death, and even as the thought passed through her frenzied mind, a tendril of deadly black vapour seemed to snake out from behind her double, reaching towards Katy like some gnarled claw made of smoke. Then she ran.

      Out of the house, onto the cold, twilit street, and away, running flat out without looking back. Adrenaline powered her onward, and she didn't stop until she must have put at least two miles between herself and the house. And hopefully what was in the house too. Suddenly exhausted, she stumbled downwards into a frost-covered alleyway and fell to her knees, panting and shaking uncontrollably.

      For the next hour, Katy sat hunched in the ever-darkening alleyway, trying desperately to come to terms with the day’s events. First the pain, then the strange claustrophobia, followed by the unlocked house, the signs of her father’s struggle… then the doppelganger. And the smoky black fog that could only mean terrible, terrible things. But before she could even begin to understand it, she was brought to her senses by a foul, sulphur-like smell and a chill that seemed to drain the winter’s air of any warmth it had left. Suddenly very alert, Katy got to her feet and with her heart drumming out a hectic rhythm, she slowly turned her head from left to right. Cold fingers of dread stroked her spine as she spotted the source of the stench- a black, snaking tendril of vapour.

      She glanced all around her in horror; everywhere she looked claws of smoke were reaching out of the alley walls- it was as though the very city was turning against her; she tried to run but her ankle was snagged on something clammy and cold; she fell onto her face. It was then that she heard a hoarse voice, laughing without humour. Still on the floor, she looked up to see an old man sitting on the other side of the alley, clearly homeless judging by his haggard face and torn, filthy clothes. 

      “There’s no point trying to escape, little girl”, he chuckled. Blood from a cut on Katy’s forehead trickled warmly into her eye as she stared at him. “Look behind you, yes, there she is.” Standing over Katy was, sure enough, her doppelganger. “You've got no choice, girl, the Void will take you. Gotta restore the balance, see? Your doppelganger crosses over, they take you back. One for one, swapsies.” He laughed again, his guffaws morphing into coughs as the tendrils of black curled around Katy’s wrists and ankles. She remembered crying out in terror, then everything went black.

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