by Pratik Mainali
The abandoned ancient house at the end of the street was a mere shadow of its former self. The paint was flaking off the walls, the shutters hung erratically from their hinges, and the front yard was overgrown with weeds. Nonetheless, the locals never ventured to approach it too closely, as though they sensed that something sinister and unknown lurked behind its walls.
Shahil and Shivani, a young couple, moved into the neighborhood one day. They were two dreamers with a zest of adventure and brilliant eyes. They viewed the old mansion as a gem in the rough, an opportunity to restore it to its previous splendor. Despite their neighbors’ cautions, they chose to make the old house their home.
As soon as they moved in, odd occurrences began to occur. Doors would open and close by themselves, footsteps would echo through the hallways, and objects would travel from one location to another as if by magic. Shahil could not escape the feeling that something was amiss, despite Shivani’s attempts to brush it off as her imagination.
While asleep one night, Shahil was awoken by the sound of his name being whispered. His heart beating, he sat up in bed and surveyed the room. Nevertheless, there was nobody there. He attempted to return to sleep, but the sensation of being observed persisted.
The following day, Shahil went to investigate the residence for hints as to what was going on. As he traversed the dusty chambers, he discovered an old photograph. It was a photograph of a man who looked identical to him in every way. His hair was the same shade of brown as Shahil’s, his eyes were the same piercing blue, and his nose was even slightly crooked.
Shahil was unable to believe his eyes. He stared at the image intently, attempting to decipher its meaning. Who is this person? And why did he resemble him so much?
That evening, Shahil dreamt. He was standing in front of a mirror, but instead of seeing his own reflection, he saw the photograph’s subject’s face. The man spoke to him with icy, hollow eyes, “You don’t belong here.”
Shahil awoke sweating profusely. He was aware that he needed to learn more about this man, his double. He spent the following few days investigating the history of the old mansion, searching for any clues that would lead him to the truth.
He eventually discovered an old newspaper piece. It was about a man named James Hargrave who had resided in the mansion. James was a hermit who avoided all interaction with the outside world. The post continued by stating that James vanished without a trace one day. His remains were never discovered, and his fate remained unknown.
Shahil recognized that this individual must be the subject of the photograph. But how was it possible that he resembled him so much?
Again, when Shahil lay in bed that night, he heard the whispers. It was louder and more insistent this time. He sprang from his bed and followed the sound to the attic. There, he discovered an ancient trunk with journals and letters covered in dust.
As he went through James Hargrave’s journals, he learned the truth about him. James had been experimenting with a serum capable of duplicating an individual’s DNA. He had injected himself with the serum in an attempt to clone himself perfectly.
But, something went wrong. The serum had altered, transforming James into a perverted version of himself. This creature with James’ memories and characteristics had taken on its own life and began wreaking havoc on the community. James attempted to destroy the beast, but ultimately failed. The thing had vanished, and James was considered deceased.
As Shahil read the letters, he concluded that James had repeatedly injected himself with the serum in an attempt to perfect the procedure. Then he discovered it, a letter containing the final reveal. James injected his wife with the serum in an attempt to produce an exact replica of her. But, the serum had once more mutated, creating a perverted, evil version of his wife.
Shahil’s heart began to rush as he grasped the repercussions. In the house, he was not the only doppelganger. There was another, identical in appearance to Shivani.
Shahil hurriedly descended the stairs while yelling for Shivani. But, there was no reply. He examined the entire residence but was unable to locate her. Eventually, he heard it. There are footsteps emanating from the basement.
He dashed down the steps and pushed open the cellar door. Shivani was there, standing in front of him. But it wasn’t Shivani. That was her double, a perverted replica of the lady he cherished.
The creature regarded him with empty, icy eyes and murmured, “You do not belong here.”
Shahil understood that he had to eliminate the beast, just like James had attempted to do many years prior. But, he was no match for the creature’s mobility and strength. It was as if he were facing a reflection of himself who knew all of his techniques and weaknesses.
While he struggled for survival, he recalled something his father had told him as a boy. “To defeat a doppelganger, one must outsmart it. You must plan one step forward.”
Shahil recognized that the thing was employing his own strategies against him. He had to devise a plan that the beast would not anticipate. He subsequently recalled the serum.
He dashed to the attic and discovered the trunk containing the journals and letters. He searched it till he discovered the serum. That was dangerous, but he had no other option. He injected himself with the serum in hopes of gaining an advantage.
He could feel the serum rushing through his veins as he hurried back down to the basement. He was more powerful, swifter, and focused than ever before. Shahil was able to score many critical punches because the beast was taken off guard by his rapid burst of energy.
Like his father had predicted, he was able to defeat the monster in the end. As he observed the doppelganger’s lifeless body, he felt a sense of relief rush over him.
As he returned up the steps, though, he discovered he had misplaced something along the way. He had lost a piece of himself that he could never recover. He had confronted his own double, and in doing so, he had confronted his deepest fears and insecurities.
As he left the old house at the end of the street, he realized he would never be the same again. His attitude on life had drastically shifted.
About the Author:
Pratik Mainali, BIBM University of Wolverhampton. Mainali is an aspiring writer from Kathmandu, Nepal