The sensation was unpleasant, like going through a giant slide in the middle of a pitch black night. When we were dumped on the street in front of our house, I worried that someone might see us since it was the middle of the day, but the block was barren of people. Everyone was either at work or in their houses.
“I guess this is goodbye,” Orin said.
I scowled at him. “Where do you live? My parents can give you a lift.”
“Kelly, he doesn’t live anywhere. His parents killed his changeling.”
My scowl deepened. “A what?”
“Apparently, to throw off suspicion, they replace each of the children they take with a doppelganger of some kind.”
“So are you saying that our doppelgangers could be in the house right now?”
“If it’s Saturday, otherwise they’d be at school, right?”
Then it hit me. My perfect grades, my perfect attendance. My doppelganger better have kept up on those, or I’d strangle it myself.
Orin looked down. “Do you think you’ll need back up.”
“If you’re offering then, yes! I absolutely believe we’ll need back up.”
He nodded. “You have a plan?”
“If they’re there, then confront them and ask them to go back to the Realm Under the Hill. If they refuse. Well, are you prepared to kill?”
“Isn’t that a little harsh?”
I patted Matt’s head. “That’s why confronting them is the first option.”
“Yeah, I’m prepared to kill.” He said that a little too gravely as if he’d personally had to kill far more than he liked.
“When we’re done, don’t you dare try to run off. We are going to talk about what happened to you two in that garden.”
We walked up to our empty driveway.
“You think Mom and Dad are home?”
“If they are, they left their cars in the garage.”
I threw open the door and marched into the house. Mom stood in the kitchen cooking stroganoff. She looked haggard, with bags under her eyes and hair in a messy bun. She didn’t have any of the usual makeup on her face. She stared at me and looked confused then angry.
“Kelly! Did you break out again? And what’s with those clothes?”
I ran up to her. She flinched. I hugged her. “I missed you so much.” I couldn’t stop the tears falling down my face.
“Kelly?” My dad’s voice. I cried harder. “What are you doing out of your room? Don’t tell me. I just repaired that window!”
“Daddy!” I ran at my dad and threw my arms around him. He too flinched but took it better than Mom.
I heard Matt throw himself into Mom’s arms.
“Kelly? Matt? What’s going on?”
“Guys,” Orin spoke up. “We have to take care of the doppelgangers.”
“Sure, be the voice of reason,” I sighed and let go of dad. I wiped my cheeks. “Dad. You may not believe us, but we were taken and replaced by lookalikes.”
They both looked relieved like they believed me. Mom started crying.
“I knew you two couldn't have done all those horrible things.”
Just what things were they talking about?
“Where are they?”
“We couldn’t handle them,” Mom said.
“Kelly, the other you brought fake drugs to school and sold them to the students. You’ve been expelled.”
I started hyperventilating. I touched thumb to ring finger and calmed myself. One step at a time. No emotions. I just needed to murder my doppelgangers. No, first ask them to leave.
I stepped out of my parent's embrace and walked through the hallway to my room. There were gouges in the door frame, and they’d replaced my door with a metal one that locked from the outside. I pulled out my bow and a cube. In my mind map, I saw the pair relaxing on my bed, which appeared broken. I also saw Orin come up behind me and my mom and dad behind him.
I unlocked the door.
A voice like my own but scratchy and angry sounded from behind it. “It’s about time. I told you we were starving hours ago!”
I threw open the door and pointed my bow at them.
My mom and dad stifled shocked gasps.
“Leave, or I will kill you.”
“Heh. Kelly? I thought you were supposed to be gone for good. In the garden. Never to return.”
“You thought wrong.”
A voice much deeper than Matt’s came from a person who appeared exactly like him. “What? My boy Matt’s here too. Hey, Mom. You don’t really think they’re us do ya?”
“Yeah, mom. They’re the obvious fakes,” other me said.
I stepped deeper into the room. Orin came in after me, sword in hand.
“I said go back to the Realm Under the Hill or die.”
“Heh. Go ahead and try brat. I know you could never hurt a fly.”
“What about me?” Orin asked.
“If you’re her friend, then you must be a goody-goody too.”
I used the cube to charge my bow and shot a warning towards their feet. A hole tore into my wood floor. “I’ll have you know that I’m the one who defeated Nenvari.”
Fake-Matt tapped Fake-Kelly on the hip. “Hey, look at her free hand.”
Fake-Kelly cursed like a sailor. “Alright Kid. We’re going. But if I ever see you in the Realm, I’ll kill you, and you won’t see it coming.”
“Don’t worry. I’m never going back there. And if I do, I’ll kill you first.
They shimmered away in a golden light and relief flooded through me. That was when I felt the knife hit my stomach. Pain shot through my mind, and I had just enough adrenaline to shoot an arrow at the once invisible fake-Matt. It screamed and disappeared. Orin seemed to attack air, but a screech broke through the room, and a fake-me fell to the floor and disappeared.
|You have killed a Doppelganger and earned 7 experience.|
Wait. Weren’t these supposed to go away once I reached Earth?
I saw Orin frown and flick his information box away.
“Oh no! Kelly,” my mom yelled and turned Matt’s face away.
“Mom. I’m fine.” With a wince, I pulled out the knife. The pain made the world dim for a second then I was back to normal if a little more bloody.
“Kelly,” Dad said. “We need to get you to a hospital. We need to put pressure on the wound. You shouldn’t have removed that knife!”
“Mom, Dad. First, there are some things we need to talk about.”
“That sounds like my cue,” Orin said and turned to leave.
I grabbed his arm and held tight. “This is Orin. He’s saved Matt and me several times now, so he’ll be staying with us.”
He swallowed. “Thank you, but—”
“No. You’re staying here unless you have a better option lined up, and then I refuse to let you go unless I see this better option for myself, you hear?”
“Secondly, I’m not entirely human anymore,” I said as my wound and clothes slowly repaired.