Michael C. Keith
The idea that everyone has a lookalike, a physical double, fascinated young Sam Doppleman and set a series of events in motion that would change his life. Could there actually be another person out there who looks exactly like me? he wondered, running his finger across the spider-shaped vascular birthmark that covered most of his left cheek. If so, we are brothers, true brothers. The notion excited him and prompted his month’s long search on the Internet to find his mirror image.
After viewing thousands of pictures from every conceivable source, he finally found what he believed was his mirror image. His heartbeat quickened as he enlarged the photo of his seeming duplicate. At the bottom of it were the words: “Jacob Ganger of East Hamden, New Hampshire, was returned to the custody of his parents after being charged with bringing a gun to school.”
Sam immediately Googled the name and got six hits, none of which matched the person possessing his unique facial stain. In fact, there was no further mention of his twin on any search engine. Next he launched a search for his clone’s hometown and discovered that it was located just two hours north of Worcester, where he lived. Great! I’ll go up and check him out personally, he thought excitedly. This could be the start of a great friendship. How can he not connect with someone who looks like him, especially someone who has what he has on his face.
Sam had long hoped to have a meaningful relationship with someone . . . anyone. As an only child he always felt lonely, and with his pronounced facial blemish, finding friends proved a real challenge. He had only one close friend in high school, Billy Canon, and he was as much an outcast as Sam, because of his crippling Lupus. That friendship had come to an abrupt and tragic end when his sixteen year-old companion accidentally fell to his death on the stairs in his house. It left Sam inconsolable and once again feeling isolated.
Having discovered his double Sam now felt renewed hope that he might meet someone that could genuinely relate to his world. Would anyone with his disfigurement not appreciate what he felt? Sam was convinced that finding Jacob Ganger would make a significant difference in his life ––and perhaps that of his double ––and he resolved to find him. With his objective in mind, he set out to change his fate the following Monday.
His plan upset his parents, who tried to dissuade him about pursuing what they felt would likely lead to more frustration and disappointment. “Yes, we can see the similarity in your appearances,” said Ann Doppleman examining the image of Jacob Ganger. “But he’s a complete stranger who may have nothing in common with you.”
Sam pointed to his birthmark. “He has this in common with me and that’s a lot . . . a whole lot.”
“Son, I don’t think you should just show up at this young man’s house unannounced. Why don’t you call him up first? Or send him a twit . . . or whatever you call it.”
“Text, dad. It’s a text. I couldn’t find anything on him. Just his house address, so I’m going to go see him. No big deal. I’ll just introduce myself, and he’ll see why I did,” said Sam, touching his discolored cheek again.
“It sounds like he’s got some issues. Taking a gun to school isn’t very smart . . . or sane.”
“Maybe it was an accident or he just took it there to show a friend. He didn’t do anything with it,” replied Sam defensively.
“Well, call us when you get there, and be careful. You never know what you’re getting into.”
“Don’t worry, you guys. I’m eighteen. Not a kid anymore,” assured Sam, putting on his coat and taking his car keys from the pegboard in the kitchen.
“We will worry,” replied his mother. “That’s what parents do, honey.”
Sam kissed his mother and hugged his father and bounded out of the door to his waiting Corolla, formerly owned by his recently deceased grandfather.
Two-and-a-quarter-hours later he entered the small village of East Hamden.
* * *
After thirty days in the Millbury Cove Psychiatric Center, Jacob was pleased to be home, but not for the reasons one might suspect. He hated the house that he had lived in since birth. It was not filled with good memories. Indeed, from Jacob’s perspective, the opposite was true. His parents had never treated him with the kind of affection he craved. They pretended to care, but he was certain they didn’t. He believed his tarnished face was a painful reminder that they had given life to something defective . . . even ugly. Through the years he developed a profound resentment toward them. They had made him––brought him into the world––and were, he thought, repelled by what they made.
The kids at school were no better. They treated him like a freak or just plain avoided him. Every girl he had formed an interest in looked down on him, and every guy he tried to befriend treated him with cool reserve, if not explicit contempt. In junior high school they had given him a nickname––Boris. At first he thought it was funny that they called him a name he did not recognized, but then he discovered that it was the moniker of the actor that played Frankenstein, and it crushed him. During the next several years of school he became a loner.
Jacob immersed himself in the fantasy world of video and online games and developed a reputation among his anonymous combatants as a fierce, if not ruthless, competitor. “I demolish them all. No one ever gets the better of me. Bam, bam, they’re dead!” he boasted to his parents over dinner. “That’s good,” they mumbled, half-listening to their needy son, and he recognized their indifference. “Bam, bam,” he muttered again, shooting them with his index finger.
* * *
“I’m looking for the home of Jacob Ganger,” said Sam to a middle-age woman sitting at a desk in the tax assessors office in the East Hamden Town Hall. It was the first office he found as he entered the solemn brick building. When she looked up from her computer her expression became distorted.
“Jacob? What do you mean? You know where your house is.”
“No, ma’am. I’m not Jacob. I’m his lookalike. I live down in Worcester and came up to meet him.”
“I don’t have time to be playing games with you, mister. You’ve been in enough trouble already, and you shouldn’t be coming in here acting like you’re someone else,” replied the woman, her firmness compromised by the look of anxiety in her eyes.
“Really, my name is Sam Doppleman. Here, this is my license,” said Sam, handing it to her.
The woman looked at it and back to Sam. “I’ll be darned. You sure could be his identical twin, except your voice is a little different, and your manner, too. Amazing.”
“So do you know where he lives?”
“Sure I do. He’s Alice and Howard Ganger’s son. They’re over on Russell Street. It’s not far. Go down to the next light and take a left. That’s Russell. They’re at 142, only a couple blocks after the turn.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” said Sam turning to leave.
“I’m not sure he’s the kind of double you want to have, son.”
“Just going to say hi,” replied Sam on his way out of the office.
* * *
At the exact moment Sam climbed back into his car, Jacob was inflicting the last of several blows to the head of his father, whose wife lay nearby in a puddle of blood. “You never cared!” he screamed, throwing the murder weapon, a garden shovel, across the wood paneled dining room. He reached into his father’s pocket and removed a set of keys. He then ran to his father’s study and unlocked a tall walnut cabinet, removing several guns and boxes of ammo and placing them into a large leather case.
When Jacob returned to the dining room, the doorbell rang and he peeked out the window to the porch. A kid his age bearing a striking resemblance to him stood at the door. “What the . . .?” For a moment Jacob wondered if his mind was playing a joke on him, and then he became convinced that his lookalike at the door was a police officer disguised as him to take him back to the Wacky House, as Jacob called it. He would make sure that would not happen.
After another ring of the bell, Jacob answered the door. The doubles stood face to face without uttering a word for several moments. Sam finally broke the awkward silence.
“I’m Sam Doppleman from Worcester. God, you really do look just like me. I wanted to meet you. Sorry I just showed up without any warning. I know it must be really weird.”
Both young men unconsciously held their forefinger on their birthmark.
“Yeah, weird,” said Jacob, who then invited Sam inside.
“Thanks,” said Sam as he was escorted into the living room.
It was the last word he ever said. Jacob crushed his skull with a fireplace poker.
“You do look like my twin, but you didn’t fool me. Maybe you’ll fool them.” Jacob removed the wallet from Sam’s pocket. “I’m you now, and you’re the poor dead me. Nice trade off.”
He then grabbed the case with the guns and ammo, and headed out to the garage. “World, watch out. Here I come,” he muttered, as he drove away filled with raging purpose.
Michael C. Keith is the author of several story collections. www.michaelckeith.com