Outside In

Monica didn’t notice the problem with the window over her couch until she looked through it and saw herself walking down the street. The other her was carrying a bag of groceries and looked tired, as if she’d just come from work. Inside her new apartment, Monica stopped dusting the blinds and stared, confusion melting into denial and then fear.

Before she knew it, her doppelganger had passed beyond her vision and was gone. She slid the window open and peered outside, but the street was empty except for a light breeze teasing the edges of her short hair. In the distance, a dog howled, starting a chain reaction of barking in the neighborhood, and the sun slipped low enough behind the horizon that the street lamps winked on.

With nothing to see, Monica closed the window and backed away, her brow furrowed. She finished cleaning and had started to boil water for pasta when movement outside the window caught her eye.

There she was again, jogging away from the building in a sweat suit. Monica’s neck tingled as she watched herself move; she had bought those clothes yesterday, swore she’d start exercising again to lose the nagging five pounds everyone seems to have. What was going on?

She raised the blinds and tried to open the window, but it wouldn’t budge. Across the street from the other Monica’s receding form, she saw a slouched man lean against a lamp post. From above, his face was hidden in the hood of his jacket, but he turned to watch the jogging Monica, hands buried in his pockets. Then, he looked up at her window. His face was still obscured, but she could see the glint of teeth as he smiled at her.

Monica grabbed her keys and rushed downstairs, throwing open the door of the apartment building. A kid rode his bike past her on the sidewalk and an older woman hobbled to the curb to dump her garbage, but there was no man anywhere in sight. Was she hallucinating? Was it some kind of trick? She covered her mouth with her hand and clenched her eyes shut. When she opened them, nothing had changed.

Back inside, she heard the hiss of water on hot metal; the pot was boiling over. Cursing under her breath, she tore open the box of pasta and dumped half of it in the water, glancing at the window as she did. The blinds were still up, and she could see the man standing where she had last seen him. Watching. Waiting. She set the timer for the food and knelt on her couch to keep her own vigil.

At last she saw the strange other Monica return. She was walking, now, with one arm raised and the other clutching what must have been a stitch in her side. The yellow light of the lamps turned the sheen of sweat on her skin into a sickly glow. As she passed the man on the other side of the street, he slowly crossed and tailed her, his steps slightly faster than hers.

“Behind you!” Monica shouted, trying once again in vain to tug the window open. In a few steps, the man would be on her.

Monica banged on the glass with closed fists, harder and harder until she thought for sure it would shatter. But it held, and she watched in horror as the man reached out to grab her counterpart by the shoulder and spin her around. There was a brief struggle, then the glint of a knife.

She screamed. The knife plunged into her chest, her belly, slashed across her face and arms in a spray of blood. Fat red drops littered the sidewalk like confetti after a parade. The man gave a little push and the other Monica fell to the floor and was still.

Frantic, Monica scanned her apartment, her eyes falling on the solid metal statue of a laughing Buddha that she’d bought in college. She grabbed it and threw it at the window as hard as she could. The window exploded in a cloud of sharp glass.

Instead of crashing outward, the shards flew inward. Too late, she reflexively threw her hands up to guard her face. Jagged chunks of the window embedded themselves in her torso and sliced open her exposed skin. Tiny worlds of pain blossomed around every wound even as her system went into shock. Outside, there was no body, but she saw the man look up at her and laugh, baring row after impossible row of tiny sharp teeth.

Monica never made it to the phone. Her consciousness slipped away into the fragmented world of the glass inside her as she sprawled in a spreading pool of her own blood.

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16 Responses to “Outside In”

  1. Marisa Birns says:

    Oh, my goodness, this was SCARY! Glad that I’m reading this while it’s still sunny outside.

    Really good. Scary, but really good. 🙂

  2. Gracie says:

    Wow! Great, totally scary story! What a freak out. Glad it’s still afternoon here, too. 🙂

    Excellent! You win the creepy award for today.

  3. Wickedly cool story! Loved how it was all different inside through the window than when she actually went outside. Pretty freaky, and quite imaginative.

  4. Jason Warden says:

    Nicely done, good story. Great buildup. You got mad skillZ. 😉

  5. Vandamir says:

    Amazing! I kept thinking she was seeing the future so she could change it. What was that creepy humanoid thing, or do you know? I want to make sure I never run into him. 🙂

  6. Wow, what a chilling, creepy tale — worth of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery! Fantastic work, and no explanations or clarity at the end. Wonderful work.

  7. The “row after impossible row of tiny sharp teeth.” made me shudder. Somehow that made it so much more otherworldly.

    Sharply jagged and nicely done.

  8. Horrific but totally absorbing. This story caught me up and carried me along without mercy to its conclusion. Great work. Whoever you are (can’t find your name anywhere on this page!)

  9. Valerie says:

    Thanks, everyone! Not sure why I’m writing this kind of story lately but I guess it’s not working out too badly.

    Mike, maybe I should add an “About” box somewhere instead of just having the link at the top… don’t want to confuse anyone. But thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed it.

  10. John Wiswell says:

    Good little descent here, Valerie. And thank you for accidentally reminding me that I had pasta on the stove. I bet it is actually boiling over, but I finished your story before checking.

  11. Great story. I was creeped our from the start. I love this line: “Tiny worlds of pain blossomed around every wound even as her system went into shock.” Excellent job.

  12. Maria Kelly says:

    Creeepy story. And I had to wait until 230 in the am to catch up on my #fridayflash reading. Don’t know if I can go to sleep now. Seriously terrifying tale. I loved it!

  13. Laura Eno says:

    Wow! I was thinking maybe she could see a day or two into the future, but you took it in a completely different direction. Creepy and awesome!

  14. Valerie says:

    Hah, John, always glad to help. Sorry you came to it in the middle of the night, Maria… I know I can’t read scary stuff at that hour or I’m too terrified to sleep. Laura, I’m glad you mentioned that, because that’s sort of what I wanted people to think but I also wanted it to go somewhere a bit surprising. Thanks for reading, all of you.

  15. Potboiler indeed. I think Graham Greene would call this an ‘entertainment.’ Good job.

  16. well plotted story, smiles.

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