Chapter 11: My life as an unperson
Copyright © 2017 by Brian Bixby
I have been erased from the world.
That’s not quite right. My version of my life has been erased from this world. Another version has replaced it. Another me has replaced me.
So how is it I’m still here?
Something’s not right. But I don’t know how to figure out what.
I have to start somewhere.
So I start at a drug store. I buy some bandages and cosmetics. Weird thing: at least one of my charge cards still works. I am not completely gone from this world.
I go downtown to a restaurant I know, use their rest room to fix up my face the best I can, and then sit at the bar and slowly consume a drink while waiting for inspiration to strike. It doesn’t. But I find out that two of my charge cards work, not just one. My Mum doesn’t recognize me, but two banks do. Ah, the marvels of capitalism!
Out the door, onto the street. Traffic flows by, pedestrians walk around me. I have not a clue as to what to do next.
“You look like a lady who wants her fortune told.” It is a statement, not a question.
I look beside me at the woman who said it. She’s exactly my height, exactly my (natural) hair color, and otherwise looks nothing like me. Given her darker coloring, I can’t help but ask, “You a gypsy fortune teller?”
She shakes her head. “It’s Romani. Gypsy is a derogatory term. But I’m Turkish, anyhow. You want your fortune told or not? Are you too vain?”
Odd choice of words, that. So I nod. “Here in the street?”
“No, silly, follow me to my parlor.” And off she goes. And I follow right behind. Maybe her calling me “vain” is some coincidence, or maybe a sign. I don’t have much else to go on.
We walk only about a block before turning into a building, going up two flights of stairs, and into an apartment with no name or number on it. Directly inside is a single room with heavy curtains draping all of the walls. She turns on a light, sits down in a chair, and motions for me to sit down in another facing her across a low table.
I sit and look around. This is an odd room. It does not seem to have any other doors, or any windows, either. The woman, who is maybe thirty, has gotten out a deck of cards and is shuffling them.
In Victorian novels, if you meet a fortune teller, you have to cross her palm with silver. Today, I hope a credit card will do. “How much does it cost?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “Someone with no money of her own cannot pay me with money. You will owe me a service instead, Daphne Vane.” She smiles at me. “First, your past.” She flips up a card and puts it on the table.
I have to look at it twice to believe it. It’s a picture of the Fool in a Tarot deck. Except that I’m the fool on the card.
“Your present.” She flips another card, places it to the right (from my perspective) of the Fool. It’s not a Tarot card that I’ve ever seen. It is labeled “Gemini,” and shows twins: me and Perfect Daphne.
This is too weird. I grab the card deck from her hands and flip it over. And get a real shock: all the cards are blank on their non-patterned side.
The woman holds her hand out and I give her back the deck. She takes it back and shuffles it a few more times while saying to me, “Your fortune is not told until I read it. That is why the cards are blank.”
This is creeping me out. “What does the next card tell me?” I think I know the answer.
She grins at me. “The future. And you are right to be scared. You should be terrified. There is no escaping fate.” She flips the card up, but only so she can see it. She holds it before her face, looks at it, and then looks at me. “Your fate is cast, Daphne Vane. Do you dare see it?”
I am getting a panic attack. I feel weak. My head is throbbing with pain on the inside. I feel sick enough to throw up. All I need now is to piss myself.
I really, really am tired of pissing myself. I grip the arm rests on the chair as hard as I can. “Show me the card.” My voice sounds as if I’m trying to auto-asphyxiate.
She places the card to the right of “Gemini.” This one is “The Magician.” It’s me, dressed just like the fortune teller.
I look up at the fortune teller. It’s me, my face. Maybe ten years older, but my face. Her eyes . . . they are not brown, nor do they shift in color. They are colorless. There is just no other way to describe them. They are my eyes as they really are.
The nausea threatens to overwhelm me. I blink, but she’s still there, and she still looks like me. This means something. Reason it out, Daphne. You aced your SATs, graduated with honors from Swarthmore, and even Vesta Fox said you weren’t stupid. The fortune teller is telling me my fate. The fortune teller is me, in essence. “You aren’t Fate. You’re my fate.”
No reply. She looks at me. There is more I have to figure out.
“If you’re my fate, you don’t exist apart from me.”
What comes next? This fortune teller is another doppelganger. Oh, I get it. “Perfect Daphne exists because I exist.”
Next step. “Perfect Daphne doesn’t exist apart from me.”
“One more step, child.” It’s my voice coming from her mouth.
“If she’s not what I want to be, then she’s not Perfect Daphne. She doesn’t exist, at least not in that form.”
Her head drops. I look down at the cards. They are just standard playing cards, now, not even Tarot. The fortune teller’s head comes up. She looks like what she was at first. She’s no longer me. “You’ve had your fortune told, Daphne Vane. How you fulfill it is your responsibility. Now be gone.”
My headache, panic, and nausea are all gone from the moment I saw her face. I get up, nod to her, and walk out. I expect to step out into a hallway. Instead, I step out onto the street. When I turn around, there is no door behind me. Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. Diminishing returns on being surprised, I suppose.
It is late afternoon. I go find a coffee house, buy the biggest cup of espresso I can get, and sit and think. It’s hard. I’m having to think in almost mystical terms about identity, psychology, motivations, and realities. I reflect ironically that it’s all part of being a goddess. (If only I were one!) But as I work at it, bit by bit, some of it comes into focus.
Perfect Daphne is me the way I would want to be if I were a goddess. No, she’s the way I would be, not want to be. She’s cruel and treats everyone like shit. She really is superficial. I don’t want to be her.
But I do. Being her would solve a lot of my problems. I’ll bet she has a god for a father, and ends up with some god as a husband, someone better than anyone on my list of suitors. No, not better by my criteria, better by the Council’s criteria.
And that is the key, or at least an important piece of the puzzle. Perfect Daphne isn’t perfect by my standards. And, despite what I just thought, she’s not perfect by the Council’s standards. She’s perfect by my standard of what I’d want to inflict on the Council in revenge for how they are treating me.
So, how do I get rid of her? If I could get the Council to back off, she wouldn’t need to exist. Or if I could simply defy the Council, I wouldn’t need her, either.
This is nuts. This implies I created Perfect Daphne.
And yet I must have. Where else could she have come from? Face it. Somehow I did. I don’t think exactly how I did is that important. What is important is that I cannot destroy her, not completely, because she’s really a part of me. Which no doubt explains why I’ve lost every time I’ve struggled against her so far.
But that also means she was simply wrong when she said I couldn’t do the things she’s done. Because ultimately she’s me doing them.
I recognize I’ve got hold of something real here, the core truth. Perfect Daphne is not perfect. She can lie. And I’m not her inferior, because she is me. She is not better than me. She is a part of me, and not even the best part. She only thinks she’s the best part. Maybe I thought so, too, when I created her, but I don’t anymore.
I breathe out a sigh of relief. I don’t know how Perfect Daphne was created, but I know what she is. She’s only a part of me, and ultimately she’s dependent on me, not the other way around. Which means I’ve been going about this all wrong. I don’t have to beat her. I’d just be beating myself, and all that gets me is bruises, as I’ve proven. I just have to take charge.
I feel immensely better. And I realize I am definitely on the right track. All the pain I’ve been suffering from where Perfect Daphne beat me? Gone. I feel my face. The bruises and cuts she inflicted are gone. Somehow I’ve regained the initiative. She is not beating me anymore. She never could beat me, really. And now I will show her who’s in charge.
I reach into my shoulder bag and pull out my keys. I know what I’m going to see. These are not the keys to my apartment. They are the keys to hers. I even know its address. I have the keys and I know her address because she is a part of me, not the other way around.
Bitch, you better get ready. Because I am coming for you.