*Copyright H.M. Jones, 2017. All rights reserved. No reproduction without consent of author.
Jay & Silent Bob’s Tattoo Parlor
February 28th 2016
Mel flinched as the needle stabbed quickly in and out of the sensitive, thin skin around her wrist but gave no other sign that she was in pain. Jay noticed the nearly indiscernible tilt of her eye, however, and smiled.
“Dude, I think that’s the first time you’ve ever looked like you were a little uncomfortable. You know the reason I have you in the chair up front is because it tricks our clients into thinking this shit doesn’t hurt.” Hay laughed and shook his head. “Seriously, I thought you were made of steal.”
Mel laughed. “Jay, I’m a woman. I’ve had a human fall out from inside of me without any medication. Women have to be tougher than men, or the world would be sorely lacking in people.”
“No way. I’ve had plenty men and women tear up under the gun. You just lack basic nerve endings.”
They both laughed. But Mel shook her head. “Or I’ve just known real pain.”
She immediately wished she hadn’t said it. Suddenly, her usually rigid exterior started to crumble, water she hated to shed sat just inside her lids. Her throat was thick with grief. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard, pushing it away.
No, you can’t cry right now, Mel. Not in front of the guys. You can cry at home.
The buzz of the gun, the pinpricks of pain stopped momentarily. “You wanna talk about it?”
Jay motioned with a hand covered in black, smiling skulls towards the tattoo he was outlining. It was a sky full of stars cut by a baseball with a meteor’s tail. The baseball was inked with her brother’s baseball number, unlucky 13. And he had been unlucky, in the end.
She couldn’t trust her voice, so she just shook her head.
Jay continued tattooing, but quietly murmured, “Why number 13, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Mel closed her eyes and lay her head against the medical paper covering the soft leather of the tattoo chair. It felt strange against her newly buzzed head. She’d always had much more hair when she visited before—black, thick strands falling in soft cascades around her waist. All gone now. She rubbed her free hand through the soft spikes of her grief made tangible.
“It was my brother’s baseball number. He loved baseball, and he was great at it.”
Baseball was the one thing he never seemed to tire of. He tired of her, especially her “judgements” about his addiction. He tired of going to work, paying his bills. But he never tired of baseball. If he was healthy, he was playing baseball.
She hated putting his life, her words about him, in past tense. But it was easier than saying the words she couldn’t bring herself to utter aloud—that he was forever gone.
“Shit, I’m sorry, Mel. It was recent then? You were just talking about having dinner with him last month.”
Mel nodded, her eyes still closed. “We had dinner. He wanted money, like usual. He said it was for rent. I knew it was for drugs. I gave it to him, anyway.”
Was it my fault? Was he killed buying dope with the money I gave him? Was he killed for the money another addict wanted?
She’d always wonder, and would probably never know the answer.
Mel shook her head, but didn’t explain further. The buzz of the gun resumed.
“Sorry, you said you didn’t want to talk about it. I can respect that.”
He put his head down to his work, and she let out a broken sigh before replying. “It’s okay. It’s just still too much.”
Jay nodded over her arm, his forehead wrinkled in worry. The fact that he was obviously worried about her was one of the reasons she came back, time and again, to this shop. The guys could say some idiotic things, but she liked them anyway. They were rough around the edges, but they cared about doing their jobs right and Jay was a good friend.
She leaned back and closed her eyes as Jay made progress on her arm. She’d never say it out loud, but the in and out of the needle was one of her favorite feelings. She realized that probably made her sound like a sicko, but she often felt like she didn’t experience sensation the way others did.
She didn’t process pain like others, she was sure of that. Was it because she’d suffered so much at such a young age—assault, the loss of both of her parents, the loss of her brother—that this kind of pain was almost pleasant? Relaxing, even? One thing was for sure, this feeling didn’t hold a candle to what was bottled up inside her, the volcano of emotion that was almost at the bursting point.
She didn’t know what to do with it all, so she took a few deep breaths, closed her eyes and focused on the way the needles felt as they danced across her skin. She pictured herself as a canvas and the needles as a brush. She imagined them remaking her entirely. She knew to others, the ink probably made her look more worn, unapproachable, dingy. But ink made her feel beautiful.
Hours later, the sun outside the shop window had fallen and the buzz of Jay’s gun was silent. He scrubbed her arm with a blue shop towel soaked in the sweet aroma of witch hazel. He slathered a layer of Vaseline that smelled like hazelnut latte over the raw skin on her arm, working it into the pores.
“You know the drill. Keep it clean. Keep it moisturized. Don’t scratch it. You’re like fucking wolverine, so it’ll probably heal up in a couple days.” Jay smiled out of the corner of his mouth and Mel laughed. Her skin did heal freakishly fast. Probably because it was used to the process.
“You got it. What do I owe you?” She opened her Star Wars pocket book and felt a twinge of grief stab at her heart. James bought it for her last Christmas.
Jay watched her carefully. “Three hundred.”
“Bull. What do I really owe you? I’ve been here for five hours.” She raised a suspicious eyebrow at him.
He sighed. “Just let me be fucking nice. I know you’ll be back. I feel like I get most of your money, eventually, so just let me be nice. Consider it a donation. I know you probably have shit to take care of, what with all that’s happened.”
Mel crossed her arms, “Yet I still came in here and spent money, so I must have enough for both. Don’t worry about what I have to take care of. You have a family to care for, too.”
“Three hundred.” The snake on Jay’s left bicep flexed as he crossed his arms in stubborn determination.
She rolled her eyes and gave him four-fifty. He never counted what she gave him anyway, so he wouldn’t know until it was too late.
“Thanks, Mel. I’ll see you soon, okay? You said I could do a phoenix on your back and you know I’m up for that.”
Jay wrapped Mel in a hug that was more fervent than his usual lazy, half-armed embrace. He towered over her long frame by a good five inches, so that his hug felt like it enveloped her entirely. It was nice. He stretched his long arms in the air, after she broke their embrace. His back cracked so loudly it startled her.
“Jeez, man, you need to go to a chiropractor.”
Jay patted his pocket, “And now I can. Or I can buy some new ink for myself.”
She shook her head and turned to go, just as the red shop door opened. The bell above the door clanged, and a stocky man walked in. She stared open-mouthed at the person framed in the peeling red paint of the shop door. She drank in the familiar bushy brows, the muddy-water eyes, the dark, full lips with a small mole just above them on the right side.
Her heart raced, and her head swam in a feeling so foreign to her she couldn’t place it. Elation? Is this what pure elation feels like?
“James!” Her exclamation was half-awed whisper and half-shout.
James looked confused and embarrassed, though she didn’t understand why. Why was he acting so strangely around his own sister? It hit her like a baseball to the brain.
James is dead. He died last week. He was shot in the heart by a man who didn’t have one, so it couldn’t be beating. He can’t be moving and breathing without that beat, can’t be whole and standing in front of you. This is not James.
“I’m sorry,” James’ doppleganger mouthed, his eyes wide, “I think you have the wrong person.”
Mel’s hard shell fell apart. It was almost palpable, the way she crumbled. It started with her face—crunched in despair—and ended at her fingertips which trembled so badly she dropped her wallet. Money and cards spilled onto the tiled floor.
The young man who was not James bent down and gathered the handful of twenties off the floor, while Mel shook and stared at her brother’s double. He looked so much like him that her body ached to hold him to her, to protect him from a fate she could not protect him from before. She didn’t even bend to retrieve the wallet he offered her from his position on the floor.
The way his right brow lifted just slightly, the way James’ did when he was anxious, sent her into hysterics. Tears streamed down her face, which she covered with both hands.
Jay put his arm around Mel. “Mel, what’s wrong?! Here, come sit down.” He guided her to the worn-down, puke green love seat in the waiting area of the shop.
He took her wallet from the man with his free hand, thanking him. The young man’s face was crinkled in concern, wrinkling above his nose just the way James’ did.
Mel tried to speak, attempted to stop the cascade of tears running down her face, but it was all in vain. Once the volcano erupted, it had to run its course.
The young man grew more and more concerned with every sob that wracked her body. “I’m sorry, miss. I counted the money. Two-hundred and fifty. It’s all there. You can count. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
But his voice was what finally calmed her. It was not the cocky tenor she grew up with. It didn’t have the lilt of self-confidence James’ had. It was a bit higher, shy and uncertain.
And, anyway, James would’ve pocketed at least sixty of those twenties and this guy didn’t even try. It’s not James, Mel. Get ahold of yourself.
“No, I’m sorry. I am just not myself.” She stood, swiping her face with an impatient sleeve. “I’m sorry, Jay, for making such a scene. I’m sorry to you, too. It’s not your fault.”
She ran from the shop before Jay could stop her. A paper clipping escaped the wallet she snatched from his hands. It hung in the air for a moment before drifting on the chilled breeze from the door right into Jay’s path. He plucked it from the air and gazed into a picture that looked exactly like the young man frowning out the window at Mel’s fleeing back. The only difference was that the man before him was alive.
Jay read the obituary to himself, but he could see the young man turn slightly, listening:
James A. Patterson was killed Feb. 2nd 2016. He is survived by his sister Melany B. Patterson. He is preceded in death by his father James Sr. and mother Edna. He was the best baseball player in Clinton county. He will be missed by many a fan, coach and player in the Titan league.
“Dude, you look exactly like him. Like, to the T. It’s uncanny.” Jay offered the young man the picture of Mel’s brother, but he shied away from it, as if it might burn.
“I know,” was all he said before turning on his heels and ducking out of the tattoo shop, his shoulders hunched and guilty.
Teevia Rex’s Loft
February 29th 2016
Teevia closed the blinds to the blinding Chicago morning sun. His loft looked out over the Sear’s tower, which shone the sun’s rays directly into his windows first thing in the morning. He knew that most humans would think him spoiled by the fancy loft apartment with bamboo flooring, a wall of windows and modern granite counter tops, so he tried not to take it for granted.
His home planet had provided him with a very luxurious human life, by hacking into their feeble systems and creating him from nothing, with the all the necessary numbers, bank accounts and credentials attached.
He usually found his human life pleasant, his view tremendous, but was in a foul mood after last night’s run-in with the woman who was his double’s sister.
He had other reasons for closing his blinds to the sun this morning. The glare on his log box would make it hard for him to see Professor Finalog. It was time to make his weekly report home. Professor Finalog demanded weekly speaking sessions for his intergalactic students, especially when they were on travel assignments.
He clicked open his log box. It was similar enough to a human laptop that it was inconspicuous to carry around. He pushed the video com button on his log box and waited two minutes, watching the glowing “wait” orb on his screen while the lightwave connection responded. After a couple minutes, Professor Finalog’s drooping white face popped up on the screen.
“Hello in Chicago, Teevia Rex. We will speak in English, to acclimate you to using it daily. I would hate for you to slip into our language accidentally and frighten some easily spooked humans.”
The professor guffawed at his own speciest joke. Teevia wasn’t so sure all humans were easily frightened, though many of them seemed to be.
“Hello, professor. It is Feburary 28th, 2016 on the earth calendar. I am reporting to you at 6:00 a.m., Midwestern time.” Teevia rubbed the stiff stubble on his human chin, while reciting the standard log introduction.
The professor nodded as Teevia went through the motions. “Good, good. Now please tell me about anything of consequence you’ve discovered in your travels. Remember, I am most interested in hearing about advances in technologies and politics. You are entirely too interested in recounting the mundane for my taste.”
What professor Finalog thought mundane was what most of his species thought mundane—human relationships, their volatile passions. Teevia used to feel the same way. He’d come to earth to finish the work study portion of his thesis—Repetitive Animalistic Tendencies in the Human Species: The Reason Humans Have Failed to Evolve for Centuries.
Conducting research on his home planet—scouring through journals, books and papers written on humans over the span of their small existence—had confirmed his primary thesis. But his work study brought with it conflicting ideas.
Overhearing chatter in the local shops, cafes and stores often confirmed his thesis that humans failed to evolve because they couldn’t battle the instinct to praise bravado, beauty and brawn over intellect.
“Technology is fairly stagnant, though the elderly humans seem to think it moves too quickly. The bookstores and cafes are filled with elderly men and women who complain about ‘kids’ and ‘technology,’” Teevia chuckled, “It’s rather humorous, actually.”
Professor Finalog’s drooping countenance didn’t alter. “You must be careful not to get caught up in their humors, Teevia Rex. Their humors are the reason they war so often, killing each other like animals.”
Teevia stopped smiling, though inside he was still thinking about the curly, white-haired couple he’d overheard toying with their new cell phones. They grumbled, pushed the wrong buttons, then giggled when the male one accidentally took a picture up his nose.
They didn’t seem to mind all that much that they were failing to comprehend the simple technology. Instead, they played with the zoom feature of the camera, trying to see if the man’s nose hair was as white as the hair on his head. Teevia’s people would think it all a silly inferior display of animal behavior, but the way the couple had laughed, kissed, then giggled again…
“As I was saying, technology is comparatively stagnant. Most technology seems to be used for the sole purpose of vanity—taking better pictures, lying to themselves about how they look through filters that make them look younger, skinnier. Or they play games. The new fad is hunting for invisible creatures, or, rather, creatures that show up only on their phones. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it, apart from amusement, which is the other purpose most of the created technology serves. There are a short supply of scientists and engineers who are concerned with serious problems that most of humanity seems unconcerned about—global warming, new energies, disease.”
Teevia paused for a moment, considering his words. “I would say, in this part of the world, that capitalism reigns and technology serves the frivolous. This is also an election season, and the favorite candidate on one side is…”
Teevia didn’t know what to say about the man. He searched himself for the most correct description. “He seems a lot like men of other human pasts—selfish, primarily concerned with obtaining wealth, single-minded, and angry about so many things. He is angry and frightened all the time. It’s hard to see why, as it often is. It feels like a video on repeat, like he is something that has happened to humans before.”
Teevia waited for professor Finalog to comment, but he just rubbed his jowls for a moment before saying, “But none of this interests you, Teevia?”
Teevia turned his human hand over, amazed at the lines showing his ‘age.’ “I met the sister of my body’s double, the young man whose make-up we copied. The meeting was…fraught.”
Professor Finalog’s face didn’t change. Emotional displays did not rate high with his people. They prized themselves on logic. Teevia was considered hot headed, but he was young and it was expected that he would mature.
Finally, he spoke, “It is strange that that occurred, Teevia. We placed you in Chicago because it is far enough from your DNA partner’s hometown that this would not be a problem. Perhaps our research team made a mistake. I will do some delving, and get back to you.”
Teevia was anxious to hear anything about the woman he ran into, but he didn’t want to seem eager. “It was easily rectified. She was emotional, but quickly dismissed my appearance. I’m only a ‘doppleganger’ to her.”
Professor Finalog nodded. “Yes, humans like easy explanations. Avoid the place where you met her. If that is all, I must be going. I have a conference with Melton in five minutes. Interestingly enough, he wants to discuss a similar occurrence. He claims to have met his DNA partner’s daughter yesterday. There must be a problem with our system. Meetings like this so rarely happen. I shall get back to you soon.”
Teevia promised to avoid the tattoo parlor again. His people didn’t tend to feel guilty, but he did feel a little guilty for lying to Professor Finalog.
Mt. Vernon, WA
Feb. 27th, 2016
Melton glanced over his shoulder, past the yellow bricks of processed macaroni and giant cans of chili. He couldn’t remember how he got into the heartburn aisle, or what he’d been looking for when he came into this swarming mega-store.
From the moment he’d exited his vehicle he’d been trailed by a short woman with worried eyes. He couldn’t mistake her intent. She didn’t hide the anxiety sitting just under the surface, didn’t pretend to shop. Her cart rambled behind him, its emptiness echoing as she shuffled after him, straining on tiptoe to see his face.
He didn’t know what to do. Everything about her told him that she would not give up until he acknowledged her presence, turned and faced her. His training, however, made it clear that he should do no such thing. Humans like this one—in the heat of some sort of passion—were to be avoided at all costs.
So he rambled on and threw things into his too large cart that he didn’t need—a fifty pack of baby diapers, a tub of some sort of powdered drink, enough batteries to power the entire city of Mt. Vernon—and he ignored the young woman with a determination he hoped would deter her.
It did not.
She looked around desperately, noticed an oversized bag of popcorn just out of her reach and made a show of reaching for it before sighing in an exaggerated manner.
She turned her blonde head towards Melton. “Hey, I’m sorry, but can you help me get something from this shelf here? It’s just a little too high up for me to reach.” Her voice was tense and choked, but she attempted to keep it even.
Melton saw the way she strained to see his face, as he half-turned to her. He searched his training, confused about what to do. On one hand, he thought he understood why the woman was agitated and wanted to assure her that he was not who she thought he was. On the other hand, his training suggested that he should avoid such a confrontation.
The woman craned her neck and waited for an answer, lifting herself onto the balls of her toes and falling back down, rapidly. Her entire body was a mass of anxiety. Melton turned to her, hanging his head and avoiding her eyes.
The way recognition turned to hope, and hope filled her entire face to bursting was nothing short of magnificent.
Humans are the most feeling of all beings.
The word fell uncertain and heavy around them.
This was a traveler’s worst fear, meeting his or her double’s lifemates, but Melton prided himself on his composure.
“I’m sorry. I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else.” He extended his hand, “I’m Mike Brown.”
She stared at his hand in disbelief. The hope that filled her face seconds ago visibly leaked from her, as if she were a punctured balloon. Her blue eyes began to glisten, her pink bottom lip trembled.
“Oh, gosh. I’m…uh, I…” She shied away from his outstretched hand, and he dropped it to his side. “I was just so sure you were him, but that’s stupid. Of course you’re not. I mean…he’s…” She didn’t say what he was, but Melton knew.
He’s dead. I’m not him because he’s dead.
The distraught woman raked her hands through her short hair and turned from him, leaving her cart in the aisle. Her shoulders shook as she pushed past harried shoppers. Her passion almost overcame his sensible side. She let out a high, chocked wail, and his feet moved forward automatically. Despite his years of training, his cool temperament, there was nothing more he wanted to do than apologize to the young woman, explain to her that she was not crazy, hold her as she cried.
But he remembered himself, and stayed put as she ran, trembling and sobbing, from the mega-store. He knew he was doing right by staying put. Professor Finalog would not approve of him getting tangled in human problems.
But watching her suffer and doing nothing felt wrong.
Jay & Silent Bob’s Tattoo Parlor
January 20th, 2016
It was immature of Teevia to study the appointment card the sad woman dropped from her wallet a couple weeks back. It was even more childish to come to the tattoo parlor he was supposed to be avoiding. He wanted to see the sad woman again, though it was hard to say why. Their meeting felt unfinished.
Professor Finalog found the glitch—an error in assignment programming had caused four travelers to be placed in the hometowns of their body’s doubles. It was quickly patched up. Apologies were made to the travelers, who were being moved immediately to new locations, so that they could continue their studies unhindered by awkward meetings with their DNA-double’s friends and family.
But what about the friends and family? Who would apologize to them? Were they not the ones truly suffering after such encounters? Teevia couldn’t help but wonder.
It hadn’t been awkward to meet his double’s loved one, as it had been for Melton and the other two travelers. Awkward was not the right word. Teevia didn’t know what to call the sensation that sat heavily upon his shoulders every time he remembered the way the woman’s eyes had soaked him in—as though he were everything to her—then darkened and filled when she realized that he was nothing to her.
The way her shoulder’s shook and her face crumbled played over and over in his mind. He didn’t know how to lighten the burden of that meeting, but he knew leaving wouldn’t do it.
She was walking towards him now, her spikey black head down, her eyes on her red cloth high-tops. She didn’t notice him at the corner of her favorite tattoo shop until he cleared his throat.
She looked up, and covered her mouth, horrified. “What?...”
He backed away, his hands held up. “I’m sorry. I know seeing me brought you grief last time. I don’t mean to bring you further grief. That is the last thing I want.”
Teevia was frustrated that he hadn’t better planned what to say to the woman, who was trying to locate her voice. Her mouth was moving, but no sound came out.
Finally, she found it. “It’s not your fault. You just look like somebody I lost. I don’t know how you figured out I’d be here, but you shouldn’t have bothered coming back to apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Anxiety pulled uncomfortably upon Teevia. He was not used to such a powerful emotion. It made it hard to think, to speak. “I looked at your appointment card. I apologize for prying. But I do think I did something wrong. You are sad because I look like your brother. I do look exactly like him, or almost exactly. Therefore, I caused you pain. I am sorry for that. I want you to know I am sorry for looking like him, and for making you sad.”
The woman frowned and smiled at the same time. It was the most perplexing expression Teevia’d ever witnessed. “Well, I accept your apology for the snooping. Jay told me I dropped my brother’s obituary on the way out, so you must have figured out why I lost my head. I think it’s sweet that you were concerned, but you can’t help how you look. So, please…just…just don’t worry about it, okay? I’m going to be fine. I’ll be even better if we can pretend it never happened, alright? It was more embarrassing than anything. I don’t like crying like that, and you caught me off guard…”
She studied him, her eyes narrowed and a little glassy, as though she might be overcome again. “Honestly, it’s hard to see you. It’s not your fault, but seeing his face on you makes it hard for me to get over all this.”
Teevia frowned. “I see. I shouldn’t have come. It was the wrong decision. I wanted to apologize, to make you feel better, but seeing me makes you feel worse. I…I am not always good at saying and doing the right things.”
Teevia’s head spun and his heart sank. Disappointment was a terrible feeling. He’d hoped he would make her feel better but had done the opposite.
The woman shook her head, and studied him as though he were a puzzle. “You’re nothing like James. That helps a little.”
Teevia tilted his head to the side. “What do you mean?”
“Well, first, James never was much for apologizing, even when he did wrong. Second, and no offense, you’re pretty stiff and formal. James was confident as hell, cocky even. He wasn’t stiff about anything, except maybe his drinks.” She laughed a little.
Teevia liked the sound of her laugh, so he smiled even though he didn’t understand the joke. “I suppose I am tense. I’m not good with people, I’m sorry to say. I…I guess that’s why I miscalculated and came here again. It is hard to know what to do in a situation like this. Only, I didn’t want to leave Chicago knowing that I had caused a person grief and not tried to assuage it.”
“Wait, you’re leaving? Do you not live here?” Her black eyebrows rose in alarm.
Teevia rocked from one foot to the other, anxiety causing his body to fidget. “Uh, no. That is, I was here studying, but my studies here have ended. I have research to do in another state.”
The woman’s eyes lost a little of their sparkle.
Why? Why does she look upset about me leaving? She just said it is best that she doesn’t see me.
“Oh,” she stated. “Well, this is going to sound backwards, but that’s kind of a bummer. I mean, it is hard to see someone who looks so much like James, but I can see now that you’re a very different person, and, well…I don’t know. It’s stupid.”
“What is stupid?” Teevia urged her to continue, wanting to understand the emotions that volleyed over her countenance.
“It’s hard to see you, but…it’s also really nice. I don’t know why, but just after James died, I couldn’t picture his face clearly. I’d close my eyes to see him, but his face was blurry, like a picture out of focus. After seeing you, it was different. I could see him in my mind’s eye again. I just…I was wondering if I was already forgetting him. Seeing you makes me remember the little things I don’t want to forget. Grief does weird things to your mind.”
Teevia wasn’t sure how to respond, so he just said the first thing that came to him. “I’m sorry for having the face I have and for taking it from you.”
She laughed, her brown eyes sparkling. “I am being ridiculous, aren’t I?”
Teevia knew Professor Finalog would think the woman was ridiculous, emotional, unstable, but he didn’t. Despite his upbringing and training, he was different from other beings on his planet. His insides twisted uncomfortably with a feeling he was having a hard time naming.
“I don’t think you are ridiculous. I certainly wasn’t implying that. The way you speak of your brother makes me feel…” he grasped for the perfect word. English had so many words. Which one was most correct? What was this feeling? “I guess it makes me feel a little envious.”
The woman smiled. “You don’t have any siblings?”
Teevia shook his head, “No, nor do I know anyone of whom I would speak with such admiration.”
“I don’t know if I’d say I admired him. Maybe sometimes I did, like when he was playing ball. But I loved him even when he was being awful. I don’t think you can help but love your siblings, no matter how flawed they are. I definitely can’t help but mourn him. He was all I had left.”
Her smiled failed. Teevia couldn’t help but wonder how a human could feel so many different emotions in such a short time. He shuffled from foot to foot, not knowing what a human usually did when words or silence got uncomfortable.
The woman exhaled heavily, pulled her phone from her pocket and pursed her lips, as if thinking. “I should go into the shop, or I’ll be late to my appointment. Thank you for coming back. I’ll admit that this wasn’t how I hoped my day would go, but I feel more at peace now. It was nice meeting you…uh…” she laughed, “I guess I don’t know your name. This is the most backward meeting I’ve ever had, and not just because you have my brother’s body.”
He cleared his throat uncomfortably, knowing that she couldn’t guess how close she was at the truth. He wasn’t in her brother’s body, but it was a nearly exact replica of it.
I wonder if she suspects anything. She seems bright, for a human.
“My name is Tim Ryan.”
He took her accepted hand and studied her face, but it held no suspicion. It was cheerful and kind. Smile lines showed around the corners of her mouth and eyes. She shook his hand with a grasp both confident and strong.
“I’m Melody. It’s nice and very weird to meet you, Tim.”
Teevia smiled. He couldn’t help it. Melody amused him.
Her smile faltered and her eyes held a hint of pain. “You have dimples. James did, too. It’s just…it’s uncanny, you know?”
He nodded, “Yes, I do know. Goodbye, Melody Patterson. You have an appointment to make and I have a train to catch. I hope the remainder of your days are more happy than sad.”
He turned from her, noticing how her mouth fell open, but not wanting to engage further. He’d already done and said more than he should. Professor Finalog might even cut his travel study short after this.
It was worth it. I don’t understand why, but I think this meeting was worth whatever punishment comes my way.
Mel watched as the strange, formal young man walked away, her head dizzy with questions unanswered.
I never told him my last name. How did he know it?
She soon shook the suspicion off when she remembered how he gathered her wallet from the floor of the tattoo parlor. He probably saw her ID then. She watched her brother’s doppleganger until he sulked out of view. James used to strut wherever he went, his arms wide and his head high.
Not Tim. He pushed his shoulders forward as if he were drawing in on himself. He dropped his head, as if apologizing for walking the earth. It was strange that the man who looked exactly like James could act so drastically different.
The hundreds of emotions that ping-ponged against her skull were interrupted by a familiar arm flung around her shoulder.
“You coming in or am I going to have to dock your deposit?”
Mel rolled her eyes at Jay. “Yeah right. This is a touch-up appointment. I don’t owe you shit.”
“We can change that. Let’s get in out of the cold and set you up an appointment for that phoenix.” He waggled his pierced eyebrows at her.
She chuckled and pushed Jay’s lanky frame towards the tattoo parlor’s red door. “You know what, I feel like a fucking phoenix today—like I was burned to ashes and rose from them, stronger than before.”
Jay held the shop door open for her. “I’m glad to hear it. But I hope you’re not much stronger. You already make me feel like a pussy.”
Mel’s laughter filled the shop.
Listen to this short story on Redshift Radio's Fancy Pants Gangster Sci-fi stories: HERE.
H.M. Jones is the author of three novels, two novellas and many short stories and poems. She writes for the love of it, and hopes you enjoy her work. Visit her books in the tabs above.
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H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.