It was nearly midnight. The wind howled outside. The heating had gone off, and the house felt cold. I was the only one at home–Carol, my wife, had gone away for the weekend. I had locked up, and was about to go to bed. As I turned to make for the stairs, I noticed a little whisky left in my glass. I returned to the kitchen, drained the glass, and put it down with a loud clunk next to the bottle. I heard a bang from outside, and then the lights went off. The house was plunged into darkness.
‘Oh, shit,’ I muttered. It’s the storm. It must be a power cut. That was the door of the garden shed banging closed. I shrugged, and headed for my bedroom, resigned to undressing in the dark.
As I reached the last step, my doorbell rang, and I nearly jumped out of my skin. Who the hell? At this time of night, I wondered, riveted to the step I stood on. I bit my thumbnail, and tried to figure what I should do. I took a couple of steps backwards, and looked down at the front door. The bell rang again: seemingly longer and louder.
I shuddered a little, and asked myself three questions. Is this someone with criminal intent, wanting to enter my house, steal my belongings and attack me? Could it be a neighbour in trouble, or worse, the police with some bad news?
I decided I should investigate. I turned and walked down the steps, and took a few paces to the door. I looked through the glass peephole and saw the outline of a man, about my height and build. He didn’t look like a policeman. ‘Who are you? What do you want?’ I yelled without opening the door.
‘It’s Bill Thomson, from across the road. We haven’t met. We’ve just moved in. I came across to ask if you’ve any candles.’
‘Oh sure,’ I yelled back, remembering seeing a removal van in the road a few weeks back. ‘I’ll be a second. I just need to unlock and take off the alarm.’
‘Hi,’ I said a few moments later, as I opened the door and put my hand out to shake his hand. ‘Come in. We’ve got some candles, but I’m not sure where they are.’
‘Thanks,’ Bill said, and walked in. He watched me close the door.
‘Do you mind hanging on there while I look for them?’ I asked, and turned to head for the cupboard under the stairs where we kept all the stuff we hardly ever used. Then the lights flashed back on.
‘Great,’ I said, and turned back to Bill.
A tingle ran through my body. There was something odd about the guy. He had a weird, half-smile on his face. He was wearing almost identical clothes to me–faded, navy jeans, a black jumper over a black T-shirt, and navy sneakers. He looked the same age as me, his hair was grey and cropped like mine, and he had an uncanny resemblance to me, as though I was looking in a mirror. I shivered.
‘That’s good,’ he said, screwing up his eyes. ‘Now we can sit down and have a chat.’ He spoke in a soft, almost creepy way.
I started to feel uneasy. There’s something crazy about this man, I thought, and looked at him.
‘Chat? What do you mean?’ I asked. ‘It’s midnight. Look, I’d like to get to know you, but not right now. I was about to go to bed. Some other time?’ I reached out to open the door.
He stared at me in an unnerving way, and reached into his pocket. ‘I need to talk to you.’ He smiled in the same odd manner he’d done before. ‘You see, I’m you.’
‘What the hell are you on about? Look, I want to go to bed…’
‘Not so fast,’ he snapped, pulling my hand back from the door, and withdrawing a small revolver from his pocket.
I was taken aback. I’d only seen images of handguns on TV and the movies, never in the flesh. So, seeing a real, gunmetal-black example a few metres away from where I stood, pointing at my stomach, was kind of scary to say the least. This man, who clearly wasn’t the guy from across the road, jabbed the weapon forward, screwed up his face in a menacing way, and said, ‘Move. I need to talk to you. Go in that room there.’ He indicated towards the living room.
I felt my heartbeat increase. I was perspiring. My bowels loosened, and I wanted to urinate. Somehow I’ve got to stay calm and keep myself together, I told myself, and walked into my living room.