This is a story I need to tell.
I don’t want to tell it. I don’t want to admit that what has happened wasn’t a dream, or a hallucination. If it’s not real, it can’t be bad, right? I told myself that for a long time, too long.
I used to be a normal person, a normal college student with a busy class schedule, a few good friends, and a less-than-healthy Sherlock addiction. I was probably on the Internet a little too much, discussing headcanons where Sherle and John were lovers, or taking quizzes telling me where I should live based on how I cleaned my dorm room.
I had a good life. It wasn’t anything special, but then, that was what most people felt about their own lives. Study, work, do what makes you happy. My dream was simple: get a decent job, an apartment, a cat, a boyfriend, maybe write some fanfiction on the side. I didn’t think I wanted more.
And then I found her. I was scrolling through Tumblr while taking the bus home from class, and right there on my dashboard was a reblogged photo of…me. Her hair was the same as mine, long and auburn, though where my hair was frizzy hers was sleek. In the photo she was eating a fancy meal and smiling just like I did in every one of the (admittedly few) photos of me.
The post linked back to her blog, so I clicked through, and if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought it was someone playing a trick on me, creating a fake blog and photoshopping me into these photos, but as I kept scrolling, it was clear this girl had a completely separate life, an adorable cat, a job at a bakery where she shared pictures of her creations, plenty of friends who held garden parties and bonfire nights. She even had her own fanfiction page where she posted short stories from various fandoms.
I felt like I was staring at my dream life, the life I could live if I worked harder, if I was intrinsically better than the person I was today.
I tried to tell myself this was just one of those coincidental things, how a similar hairstyle can make two people look like twins, but as I moved on with my life, I found myself obsessed. I followed her on every social network, learned she drank her coffee like me, wore her hair up at home like me, even liked the same flowers as I did—Tiger lilies.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out where she lived. It was only about an hour away. So one weekend I took the train there. I went to the bakery where she worked, but I couldn’t make myself enter. I could see her through the window, laughing as she rang in a customer’s order, and the sound of her voice sent jolts through my body. I ran off before anyone could see me.
I realize how creepy this sounds. Why couldn’t I just set up a meeting? We could have made it a thing, like those twin strangers from across the globe. But in the end I was scared, because seeing her didn’t make me feel like I’d found my twin. It made me feel like I couldn’t be real if she was, couldn’t exist at the same time as she did.
I followed her for longer than I’d like to admit. I became an expert at being inconspicuous, at hiding between buildings, at covering my face without drawing more attention, at hiding in her apartment. There was one time I thought she was going to find me as I hid in her closet watching her watch TV. Her building had a concierge who easily let me in when I told him I’d lost my keys.
She heard me move, I guess, and started looking around for the noise, but then her door thumped as someone knocked hard, and she moved her focus there. It was her boyfriend, a tall, dark, refreshing drink of water. She forgot about the noise. Neither of them found me.
My obsession was causing problems in my life. I was missing class, missing work, I was late on my phone bill, and I’d barely eaten in months. I could barely go a day in my life without wondering what she was doing, how she was living better.
I wanted to fix it, though, because there is a gutted emptiness that comes with that kind of obsession, so I found a therapist I could afford. I went to her house, sat on her cushy couch in a room with pictures of the mind and humans making weird poses in the desert.
And I told her all about my doppelganger, how watching her, wanting to be her was ruining my life.
She told me I had to work hard to make my own life as valuable as I saw hers, and that we were two separate people; it was impossible for us to both exist at the same time. I had to live my own life.
When I left the appointment, I knew what I had to do.
I waited until the perfect time, when she would be home alone, our boyfriend out of town, no one to check on us. I went up to the apartment before she got home from work. I had a key, now, a spare I’d found in a junk drawer. I waited for her in the closet beside the doorway, and when she came in, I covered her mouth with a chloroform rag until she passed out on the floor.
Seeing her this close, it was uncanny how alike we were. We even had the same freckles, the same scar on our thumb from a chain-link fence. I almost wanted to keep her, but I remembered what the therapist said. We couldn’t live like this, not both of us.
A week later the newspaper published an article about the pressures of college after a student was found in her dorm room having overdosed on sleep medication. She was a good student, a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, and had recently been seeing a therapist. No one would comment on whether the death was an accident or intentional.
As for me, I continued to live my life—my true life—with everything I’d every dreamed of: an apartment, an adorable cat, a boyfriend, and the occasional short story about my favorite show.
The therapist was right in the end. Only one of us could live this life.
I had to tell this story because I know there are others out there, a copy of you living a better life, or a worse life. If you don’t find them, don’t let yourself become complacent.
After all, they could be the one to find you.
Originally published on Reddit NoSleep