Chapter 10: Practical nihilism
Copyright © 2017 by Brian Bixby
I pick up my phone. 9:58 AM.
Wait, I’m in bed. I must have been really beat, or had an alcoholic blackout, or something. I don’t remember getting out of the tub or coming to bed. I remember being in the tub and looking at my phone for the time. It was 9:57 PM. Damn, I’ve slept half way around the clock. Oh, well, it’s Saturday, so who cares?
I get out of bed, toss on a nightgown, mosey out to the kitchen, and start making coffee. I’ve got a luncheon engagement with Agatha, but I can just sit and read the news on the web for a while and still make it in plenty of time. I turn on my tablet and call up a news feed.
It isn’t until I glance at two articles that talk about the weekend that I wise up. I look at the date on the news feed. I double-check it on my phone. They both say it is Tuesday.
I try to recall what I’ve been doing the last few days. I remember nothing. Panic. Everything I do remember says it should be Saturday. Panic. I don’t remember living through the weekend. I don’t remember going to work. Panic.
I am screwed. Panic. I am probably also out of a job. Panic. I am ready to scream.
And then I remember that I just had a normal pee when I got up out of bed. I have not been asleep for three and a half days. I must be suffering from some sort of temporary amnesia.
I heave a huge sigh of relief. I’m not completely screwed. But I am already an hour late for work.
On a normal morning, I give myself two hours to get up, eat, get ready, and make it to work. This time, I make it to work at 11:02 AM. I am so desperately proud of myself. And feverishly composing fake explanations to give to Linda. I am moving so quickly that I barely have time to acknowledge Denise who sputters out something I don’t hear as I pass through reception. I am not sure a woman has ever walked this quickly in heels before, but I can. I ignore everyone I am passing and head directly to my cubicle.
I am too late. Linda is sitting in my cube. She looks up, and doesn’t look happy. She tells me, “I’ll have that project plan ready for you in a minute, Ms. Vane.”
“That’s fine, Linda. I need to take a phone call, but can you come by in about thirty minutes?” The voice is mine, just about, but it isn’t coming from me. I turn around. It’s that other me, the “perfect” Daphne Vane.
Linda smiles and says, “I’ll do that, Ms. Vane.” She seems to be addressing the other “me.”
Perfect Daphne nods and then gives me an amused smile. “I was wondering when you’d show up, or if you’d even bother. Come on back to my office.” And she turns and walks away.
I have no idea what is going on, but I’m getting a sick feeling in my stomach. I follow Perfect Daphne. She goes into Linda’s office. But now it’s my name on the door.
“Are you beginning to get it now?” Perfect Daphne mocks me. “Come in and sit down. We might as well get this over with.”
I come in. Perfect Daphne closes the door. She goes and sits behind Linda’s desk. Nothing of Linda’s is still in the office. I take a seat facing my doppelganger.
“Like the office?” she asks. “I didn’t really mean to come here. I was just going to go on some dates with our suitors. But Monday came around, and I figured I should show up here. Your job here was as pathetic as you are, so I decided to take over Linda’s. It’s just amazing how much work you can get out of humans if you control their minds. Why, all of my staff even volunteered to work extra hours last night.”
I can feel anger boiling up in me. These are my colleagues, and she’s mind controlling them. “I don’t know what your game is, but you’re not going to get away with it.”
Her voice turns hard. “There is no game, sweetie. I am Daphne Vane now, and I’m doing our life right, the way it should be done.”
She leans back in her chair and puts her feet up on the desk, giving me an evil smile. “Ah, but let me tell you about the weekend. That’s why I took over to begin with, to have a really good time, so you really need to hear this. I went on some dates with our suitors. Let’s see. There was Derrick. He was kind of surprised that I called him up so late on a Friday night, but made no objection to my coming over. Or staying the night. Then there was Tim on Saturday. I didn’t spend the night at his place. After screwing him in the car, I didn’t need to. And on Sunday I taught Adam to love submissiveness. That was quite a surprise to him. But like the others, he’s now desperately in love with me. After all, what man wouldn’t fall in love with me, if I want him to?”
She swings her feet off the desk, stands up, comes around and stands in front of me. She leans forward, her hands on the arm rests, her face only inches from me. In a very soft voice, she says, “You want your life back? You couldn’t handle it. Not the men, not the job, not the Council, not anything. No one remembers you anymore. Even your Mum won’t remember you.”
Abruptly she pulls back, and slaps me hard on the uninjured side of my face, almost knocking me out of the chair. I taste blood, again. As I get out a handkerchief to wipe off any on my face, I see a picture of a company picnic from last year on the desk. She is in it where I used to be.
She’s sitting behind the desk again. In that hard voice of hers, she tells me, “Now get the hell out of here, or I’ll have Security throw you out.”
I work my mouth a bit before saying, “You just do that.” I am not going to knuckle under to this creature.
Unfortunately, no one told Security. They come when she calls them. She has them under such total control that she convinces them I struck her, and not the other way around. So they’re pretty rough with me as they forcefully escort me out. And no one who looks up shows any sign that they recognize me.
I am in some sort of deep shit I do not understand. But my mother is a goddess, and I don’t care what Perfect Daphne says, Mum will know me. She will help me.
So I get on the subway, take the connecting bus, and walk over to my mother’s place. Mum doesn’t hold a job, goddesses manage quite well without such things, so I’m figuring she’ll be home. I knock on the door.
My mother opens the door. She looks surprised. Doesn’t she recognize me?
“Well, you took your sweet time to talk to me again,” is what she says.
I am so relieved, I throw my arms around her and hug her hard. “I am so happy to see you, Mum.”
“Well, I’m happy to see you, too, darling, especially after that little spat of ours.” She pulls back, looks at me, and asks, “What happened to your face?”
“You are not going to believe me when I tell you, Mum,” I reply.
“Well, come on in and I’ll make us up some tea and you can tell me all about it.”
So I go in and sit down on the sofa in the living room, and my mother starts heading toward the kitchen. The doorbell rings. My Mum sighs, turns around, and answers the door.
I’m busy trying to find a position that will keep me safe from the Maine Coon cat’s advances, so I don’t notice who’s at the door at first. My Mum calls out, “Darling! Shouldn’t you be at work?” Which is weird, because Agatha doesn’t have a job.
I look up. It’s not Agatha at the door. It’s Perfect Daphne. She grins at me, and then says to my mother, “I wanted to have a little private chat with you. But I see you have a visitor.”
My Mum looks back at me, then says something to Perfect Daphne I can’t quite hear. Perfect Daphne nods, and comes into the room and takes a seat at the other end of the sofa. My Mum comes over and says, “I’m sorry, but my daughter Daphne and I need to talk about family. Could you come back another time?”
I don’t move, mainly because I don’t believe I heard that correctly. But my mother’s facial expression indicates I did. I point to Perfect Daphne and say, “That’s not your daughter, Mum. She’s some sort of imposter. I’m Daphne.” My mother looks baffled. I go on. “Remember, your short, dark-haired daughter? The one the Council just decided has to marry some demigod? The one that got beat up by Vesta Fox and helped you break a chair?”
My mother turns to Perfect Daphne. “I don’t know what’s wrong with this woman. She was fine up until just now. Could you deal with her, darling?” And she turns away and heads toward the kitchen.
I start to get up to follow, to demand my mother recognize me. Instead, I take a shoe in the face from Perfect Daphne. It’s just the start. Blow follows upon blow. At one point my head explodes when it hits something hard, like the coffee table. It goes on and on. Perfect Daphne is working me over quite thoroughly. I try to fight back at first, but I never stand a chance.
I end up, broken and whimpering, on the front lawn. Before she leaves me out here, Perfect Daphne whispers in my ear, “You’re nothing now. Just go away and disappear.”
My own mother no longer recognizes me. I am nothing.
Larz told me I was Daphne no matter what. Would he recognize me now?
I don’t know. I don’t care. I am Daphne Vane, I don’t care what that creature says or does.
I get up, slowly, painfully. I walk to the nearest bus stop. The driver looks askance at me, as do the passengers, but so what? I get to the subway station. It has a bathroom. I look in the mirror. Now I understand why they looked at me that way. I have two black eyes, a great deal of dried blood from several major lacerations on my face, and bruises forming over the rest of it. I wash my face, fix it up the best I can. I’m thankful my evil doppelganger tossed out my shoulder bag with me. There isn’t much in there that can help, besides a comb, but anything will do.
I go home. I get to my apartment. My key does not work. I notice the name on the doorbell isn’t mine.
Me, the real Daphne Vane, I’ve been erased from the world.