Right, I’ll tell you what happened and feel free to call me a lying cunt if you like but this is really what happened and that’s all there is to it.
It was in nineteen ninety five and that was a pretty good year for a lot of reasons, a lot of different reasons, and not necessarily because of things that had actually happened but mostly because of things that had not yet happened, like jokers flying planes into American buildings and financial bubbles bursting and Princess Di had yet to die and we didn’t go around staring at cold black obelisks in the palms of our hands all day long. Yeah, we’d just been to war in Kuwait against Iraq and gently kicked Sadam’s butt (YEEHAAA) but we didn’t know that these were the first rumblings of a whole load of shit that would eventually turn the twenty first century into a bleak dystopia where TERROR was apparently the enemy (or as I like to call it TERRY as in The War on TERRY, because it makes it funny not scary).
All that shit was to come, but for all intents and purposes we were like children in nineteen ninety five, splashing around in the last sweet dregs of the twentieth century, and man, we were so excited about partying like it’s nineteen ninety nine, weren’t we?
What fools we were.
But that year turned strange for me in the late Spring as I was walking through Bradford on a mild Friday evening after work, heading to a friends house to crash the weekend on their couch whilst we all partied and got drunk and had sex with various people.
It was a girl called Claire who I was friends with on a few different levels, nothing serious on any level, just… you know… friends.
Claire seemed half amused, half pissed off. “Why did you blank me last Tuesday?” she said, in a ‘what the fuck?’ kind of way.
I was confused. I couldn’t remember seeing Claire on Tuesday, or any day recently for that matter. Tuesdays I was usually recovering from Mondays because Mondays I get drunk in mourning for Sundays, so I wouldn’t have been anywhere, just work and home. That didn’t mean I hadn’t necessarily seen Claire, or not seen her, as the case may be.
I said, “I’m really sorry, where was I on Tuesday, where were you?” and she said, “Here in town by the bookshop across from The City Vaults bar. You were walking across the road, I shouted you, you stared then you blanked me then you walked away!”
I frowned. Could I have been in town? No way… I think. I explained this to Claire but Claire wasn’t having it. She’d seen me, I’d blanked her, end of. I offered to take her for a drink, right then and there. A drink to make up for it. She said she didn’t have time but it was nineteen ninety five, everyone had time, so I knew she was pissed off.
Claire went on her way I went on mine, feeling pretty confused.
Had I been in town?
The first person I ever doubt is myself, I know I’m not a trustworthy witness. I wondered what the fuck I’d been doing in town on a Tuesday? And where else had I been without me knowing about it?
But this was only the start of things.
Other incidents followed.
Friends, close acquaintances, people I knew who knew me, they started calling me, saying they’d seen me, that I’d looked right through them. In the street, in bars, on the bus, my social circle was seeing me everywhere, saying how do, getting a frosty response or no response at all.
Another girl, Liz, saw me on a train going from Bradford to Leeds and sat down and started talking to me, only to be greeted with bewilderment. Apparently I asked Liz her name, made some clumsy attempt to ask her out, and when Liz asked me if I’d forgotten we’d had sex the Friday before she said I’d become flustered and left the carriage, gone to sit somewhere else.
Now, I might forget a lot of things, but I don’t forget a face that’s had my dick in it.
It was starting to freak me out.
It became known that I had a double, a doppelganger.
This made things a bit easier because now when people approached what they thought was me and I gave them the cold shoulder they didn’t get offended, they just realised that it was THE FUCKER WHO WAS STEALING MY LIFE.
You want to know the strangest thing? It didn’t happen the other way round. What I mean is, no-one who was friends with my double accosted me in the street. I didn’t suddenly get stopped by a girl called Mitzy in the newsagents telling me what great sex we’d had last week, or nobody called Phil shook my hand at a bus stop and paid me back a fiver I’d never lent them.
No, it was all one way traffic.
So who the fuck was he?
Spring was now Summer. My mate Genuflect quit work and went to manage a studio somewhere else and that was a shame. I missed my old mate.
The sightings were coming thick and fast. People were out and about in the warm weather and the light nights let you see things you don’t normally see and what they were seeing was me, all over the fucking place.
This fucker was seeing my friends more than I was. I’d walk into a pub and he’d have left minutes before. I’d go to the bar and the the barman would say, ‘same again?’ when it was my first drink of the night. All very annoying but pretty low level, I think you’ll agree.
But then I got the phone call.
Genuflect had been a busy man and I suppose I’d been busy too, with this and that. What I mean is, we’d not really stayed in touch since he left work. Anyway, he called me one night. I’d been at work and I’d got home and I had me feet up, a few glasses into a bottle, and I answered the phone and said,
“Luci, it’s me Genuflect.”
“Mate! How you doing? Enjoying being a boss rather than a slave?”
“Yeah, no, both I suppose, pros and cons and all that. But anyway, that’s not what I’m ringing about.”
“Okay. What are you ringing about?”
“I’m ringing about him. He’s here.”
“Who? Him? You mean him? Him him? The Me Him?”
“Yeah, the You Him.”
I felt very weird, I remember it vividly. A bit like an out of body experience. I felt like Ahab hearing about a sighting of the great white whale, somewhere close. I let Genuflect talk.
“You see, I’m the day shift manager here and there’s a night shift manager and we meet up and pass jobs over but I don’t really need to see the rest of the night staff. Anyway, the night shift manager is on holiday so I’m doing a few hours cross over, seeing the night guys, making sure they’re okay with the work, got any problems, all that. So I’m watching the night shift clock in and I see you.”
“You. Your clothes, your face, your hair, the lot. You clock in, sit down, get busy. I can’t believe it! I ask one of the other guys what your name is, they say Cypher.”
“Wait wait wait. I’m Lucifer, He’s Cypher. You’re taking piss…”
“I’m not!! But get this. His job? He’s a reprographics mac operator. On nights, but the same fucking job as you. I watched him writing out his time docket – he’s left handed, like you!!”
I couldn’t reply. It was getting too weird.
Genuflect babbled on a bit more but I cut him off. “We need to meet for a pint. You have to find shit out, I need information.”
Genuflect agreed and we hung up.
Then I made sure my front door was locked.
I could feel my identity slipping away.
You can copy someone’s look, that’s easy, but their fucking job? Don’t get me wrong, I’m no genius, but reprographics isn’t a job you can pick up over a weekend. There’s a lot of shit involved, technical shit, you know?
He knew this technical shit.
He was left handed.
Girls I’d slept with were saying hi to him.
Would they notice if I just disappeared and HE took over?
Would anyone notice?
I did what I usually did when things got heavy.
I got drunk and passed out.
I met Genuflect a couple of days later. We drank pints of Moosehead lager and talked about Cypher and what his evil intentions were.
“I tell you, mate, he isn’t mortal. He’s come from some fucked up nether realm to take over my fucking life and bone my girlfriends.”
“You don’t have girlfriends, Luci. You have girls who are friends who occasionally have sex with you because they’re not interested in having a proper boyfriend.”
“I’m a convenience fuck, G, I know it, but it has it’s perks. Maybe that’s just what Cypher is after. He’s seen my sweet lifestyle and he wants in!”
“Your lifestyle isn’t so sweet, mate. You have a job you hate and you don’t have a car and by Monday you don’t have any money so you have to walk to work.”
“Walking is healthy. Don’t knock walking, G.”
“Luci, you’re walking six miles, each way. Twelve miles a day. Who wants a slice of that pie? Anyway, Cypher can drive. He’s got a car. I’d say his lifestyle is probably better than yours.”
“Oh. What else do we know about this character then?”
“Well, Cypher’s got no family. His dad died ages ago. His mum died last year. It’s a weird story. He’s got a thing about DVDs. Spends all his money on them. He got into debt, apparently, spent thousands on box sets and movies. Anyway, he was rushing home from work because some new movie was being delivered and he hurried up the path, looking for his keys, and he glanced down at the letterbox which was one of those low ones that postmen hate and it was open and an arm was sticking out, all clenched up like a claw.” “Fuck…off… Really?? An arm sticking out of his letterbox??”
“Straight up. It was his mother’s arm. It seems that his dear old mum had heard some post land on the mat and gone to see what the postie had brought and she saw yet another DVD there and it was, like, the last straw, you know? Her ticker packed in. She falls to the floor, clutching her chest, crawls to the door but she can’t reach the knob. She needs help, so what does she do? She shoves her arm out of the letterbox in a feeble attempt to attract the attention of some passing good Samaritan, but she dies there. Right there, on the mat, laid on the offending DVD, her rictus arm protruding through the letterbox.”
“Fuck indeed. He reckons they had to break her fucking arm to get it free!”
I take a big swig of Moosehead. “You know what I reckon, G?”
“What do you reckon.”
“I reckon that story is bullshit. I’m calling bullshit.”
Genuflect looked offended.
“Well thanks a fucking lot, Luci…”
“No! Not you, mate! I’m not saying you made it up. I’m saying this impostor, Cypher, he made it up. Dad dead, mum dead with her arm out of a letterbox? Come on! It’s a made up story! You know what I reckon? You want to know where he really comes from?”
Genuflect sighed. “Go on, then. Where is he from?”
“A fucking seed pod, that’s where he’s from, and he’s come to take over my fucking life.”
I finished my beer and grabbed my coat.
“I got to go, G. Cheers for the information.”
I took a walk. I wondered if I should hunt him down, wait outside his work and confront him, but what could I say? ‘Hey, fucker, Take that look off your face and get your own life’?
I’d sound like a mentalist.
No, I needed a better plan, but the problem was that I was me, and I can’t plan for shit.
Friday came around and there had been no sightings of the offending doppelganger. I hit my favourite pubs and no-one acted like I’d just been there. It was all good. Usually we go to my mate Baz’s sticky carpet smelly basement Indy club but that night was Rock night, so off we went to the biggest rock club in the area, Rio’s.
The music was so loud it hurt but that was fine, and the beer was so bloody cold you couldn’t taste it which was also a blessing.
I always liked to have a mooch around a club on my own for a bit, see if there’s anyone I know or anyone I might like to know. I really was a randy bastard then, still am I suppose. Anyway, I soaked up the atmosphere and slurped a few cold ones.
I saw my mate Rabbit pushing through the crowd, grinning wildly. He grabbed my sleeve.
“Luci! I can’t believe it!! He’s here! You.. I mean him… I mean the other you… he’s here!!”
I went colder than my pint of Miller Lite.
This was it. Confrontation time.
I’d had enough drinks to give me the courage for it. I couldn’t have another bloke on the scene mopping up the limited pool of women who might actually consent to sleep with me. I had to state my case.
I eased through crowds of headbangers and patchouli, Rabbit close behind.
“There, Luci, There he is!”
And you know what?
I couldn’t see it.
He was stood on the edge of the dance floor, seemingly on his own but maybe he was having a mooch, checking out the talent. He was wearing similar clothes to me, his hair was… similar, close enough to be mistaken but obviously nowhere near as nice as my majestic mane. He was heavier than me too, at least two stones heavier. I was offended.
So this was how people saw me?
A fat rocker with mediocre hair?
But then he turned.
It was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen.
Suddenly he turned into me. His face didn’t change, not really, just his expression became exactly like mine, how he held his face, a bit of a smile, a raised eyebrow.
He was me.
“Fucking hell. That’s creepy.”
Rabbit was pissing himself laughing.
I walked towards him, the other me. Multi-coloured lights revolved over the dance floor and lit up his face, giving everything a trippy feel, surreal and sort of exciting.
And then I was stood right next to him. He looked at me. Then he smiled my smile at me. It was a smile of recognition. All those blank stares he’d given my mates, all those frowns and shakes of the head, but here I was, meeting him for the first time, and he gave me a really charming smile, if I say so myself.
I said, “Now then mate.”
He laughed and reached out a hand to shake and I shook it, but he shook it in one of those cheesy rock hand shakes, a kind of clench thing, something I’d never do.
He said, “Hey, how you doin’ man?”
I was bewildered. I said, “I’m doing good! You?”
“Awesome!” came the reply.
I looked back at Rabbit. A few more mates were with him now, all of them gawping at the freak show unfolding before them.
I looked back at my double.
I said, “This is fucking weird, isn’t it?”
Now a troubled expression crossed his face, my face, and it suddenly dawned on me that the only reason he recognized me was because we looked the same – he didn’t realise that he recognized me from the fucking mirror and that we’d never met before.
He said, “Weird? What’s fucking weird?”
It was loud in the club, so I beckoned for him to lean closer.
I shouted in his ear. “We look the same, you know. Me and you, we have the same face.”
He pulled back and stared at me. He blinked, looked a bit freaked out. I couldn’t help but laugh and I thought he was going to laugh too but he didn’t. He became suddenly furious.
He leaned towards me, hissed, “Fuck you! Fuck off, you weird cunt! I don’t look like you, you fucking fucker. Don’t ever come near me again, you here? Fuck off and don’t come near me again!”
He turned and barged through the crowd and vanished.
I was a bit stunned.
I looked at my mates and they were as bemused as I was. We went to the bar for drinks and found a booth where we could talk.
Rabbit said, “What did he say?”
“He told me to fuck off. Told me never to come near me again.”
“What? Couldn’t he see the likeness, see what you were on about?”
I shrugged. “I dunno, but if he did he didn’t like it. It properly freaked him out. Then again, if I’d met my double for the first time in a rock club I’d be freaked out.”
Rabbit laughed. “Dude, that’s exactly what’s just happened to you and you didn’t freak out. Anyway, fuck him, man. Let’s get drunk.”
And that’s what we did.
A few days later Genuflect called.
“Hey Luci, just thought I’d let you know that Cypher has quit his job. He’s gone.”
“Gone? Where the fuck has he gone?”
“No-one knows. He sent a letter saying he quit, no-one’s seen him since.”
I thanked G for the call and hung up.
Over the next few days the phone didn’t ring at all. No-one called to say I’d blanked them, No-one had seen my doppelganger.
The last person to see him had been me.
I made a few inquiries in the industry and nobody mentioned a Cypher coming for a job. Genuflect got no letters asking for references.
He had gone.
now, I’m not an overly superstitious person, but I can’t see any straight forward explanation.
I wonder if he’s out there still, or did he just go up in a puff of smoke when I called him out?
Did he move on, change his face and start to mimic some other schmuck?
I’ve no idea.
Maybe he’s copying you now, watching how you move, how you frown, how you smile.
If he is, and you end up confronting him, say hi from me.
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