Saturday, October 29, 2011

Whatever it was, it wasn't my sister: The Doppelgänger

Merriam-Webster defines a Doppelgänger as:
1 : a ghostly counterpart of a living person
2 a : double 2a
b : alter ego b
c : a person who has the same name as another

My story concerns the first definition.

It was 2004 and my sister was going to Chicago with her then-boyfriend to visit his family who lived there. To the frustration of many of live here, flights to Chicago are hard to come by at our little airport here in Muscle Shoals, so we -- meaning the whole family -- were forced to wake up at 5am, and then drive the alleged two hours to Nashville, TN, which has to have a nice, big airport to support its main industry of country music and BBQ restaurants.

(There needed to be green birds, alright?)

Now, friends, I'm going to tell you up front: I'm not a morning person. I'm not a morning person after living 23 years on this planet, going to college, and having two little sisters who screamed through the night as babies. Everything that should've conditioned me to, and prepared me for, getting up early actually made me do the opposite. Why? Because I'm that rebellious. If someone tells me not to touch the lit sparklers, I'm going to do it anyway -- just because they told me not to. (That's a true story. It was my third birthday. I got a bad second degree burn and my Mom put Bactine on it while the whole family told me what an idiot I was.)

So, yeah. I'm more apt to stay up 'til 5am. I never get up that early and I certainly didn't that morning. While the other denizens of the house were scrambling to pack and eat breakfast and all sorts of normal, last minute things like that, I was blissfully unaware of the fact that it was now half-past five -- until my dad flung my door open and said in his gruff morning!voice, "Carrie! Get up!"

Past experience had taught me that when his voice sounded precisely like that, only two things could happen if I didn't wake up: I could be left alone for several hours, the food all gone (because that's always the case when you're left alone as a kid), and left to my own devices which, if there was food left, chances were, I would decide to fry it and get oil in my eye. (I don't learn.) That, or the other thing could happen: they could wrap me up in my blanket, throw me in the car, and drive off while I'm asleep and none the wiser.

At first, you're thinking "that doesn't sound so bad," but that's because you're not really thinking about it. When that happens, you wake up in Tennessee, probably around the area where all the Mennonites are, and you disorientedly ask, "Where the fuck am I?", because you really want to know, only to have Dad shout, "Don't cuss!" and not offer any explanation. Then, of course, there's the fact that it's fall, nearly winter, you're wearing shorts, a tank, and no shoes, and they literally expect you to still go inside the airport.

So, since both of those scenarios would be bad things, I decided to open my eyes. As I said, the door to my bedroom was wide open, and me, in my bed, was on the other side of the room, where I could see directly out of it. My parent's room, being across from mine, could also be seen when their door was open. And their door was open that morning, slightly. I couldn't see into their room, but the opening was definitely more than a crack.

I glance down for a quick second as I peel the covers off of me, but look up when I hear a noise, a single patter-like noise, the noise of one bare foot hitting the floor. I look up and see my sister standing in the hallway, in the space between my room and my parents'. But immediately, I know something wrong. The noise I heard, the single pattering sound, was due to the bizarre gait she had, like someone hobbling. She had her side to me; her long dark auburn hair, curly and thick, hung down to her waist and blocked her visage except for the tip of her button nose -- it was all I could see of her face. But despite that, I knew something was wrong.

She wore a white linen nightgown, one I'd never seen before, which covered her legs down to her mid-calf. Even so, I could see how her feet were positioned oddly, pointing in an odd direction as she traveled in that slow, hobbling gait. And her posture -- she was hunkered over, making everything just seem and look a lot worse.

(Forgive the fact I can't draw well on the computer and go with it.)

My heart pounded wildly. Instantly, I think she's badly hurt, I think maybe she fell -- from where, I didn't know -- I just knew that's what came to mind, because I thought for sure she had leg and back injuries and probably some kind of brain injury, because she was moving so odd, it had to be neurological.

So, yeah, I panicked. I gasped, jumped out of bed, and ran to her. I make it to my doorway in about three strides, because I bounded in my terror. But when I reached my destination, I felt a wind on my face, neither hot nor cold, a wind that felt like nothing, but mostly, I noticed the fact there was nothing there.

And so then I wonder how my sister made it down the hall so fast, because she's obviously severely injured. I run to her room and I cry out her name, thinking for sure that I'm going to see her severely injured. But what I find scares me in a different way.

My sister was in her room. But she wasn't hurt. She was sitting on the floor, putting on her makeup. Her hair was bound, pulled up in a tight, folded over ponytail. She was wearing bluejeans, a pink sweater, and boots. She looked nothing like what I'd seen just two seconds before.

My sister will want me to tell you that she DOES have boobs now.

She looks at me like I'm crazy. And I think I've gone crazy. She asks me what's the matter, but I tell her nothing; she's about to get on a plane and go on a week-long trip, and I don't want her to worry about my sanity.

Meanwhile, I decide to write the incident off. I was obviously having some sort of waking dream. After all, I was old enough to know that the mind was a powerful thing. I knew a lot back then.

But there was something I didn't know: what I saw that morning was nothing compared to what was to come. The thing that wasn't my sister would soon come back, but not just for me -- but for many others who cared for my sister. This was only just the beginning.

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