The roads damp and a wool blanket of grey clouds hovering above, I make my way to the market. With the air so muggy, I feel as though I am inhaling filthy rainwater. The streets of London seem rather quiet today in an eerie way. The people I pass by would act distant and avoidant. I suppose this is quite natural behavior during a war.
I reach out for bread, placing a few loafs into my woven basket, but then remember with Steven away at battle, I do not need that much bread. I sincerely hope that we defeat the Germans soon so my husband can return home. We have only been married a month before he was called. Fate can be quite cruel at times.
As I reach over to grab an apple I gaze down the market road and a woman by the cloths table catches hold of my eye. With her back turned, I am unable to see her face, but I can see she has the same long brunette hair as I do only hers falls straight. My eyes feel compelled to keep gaping in her direction. A brief chill touches my skin. Haltingly, the young girl I gaze upon begins to turn. The moment my eyes come upon her face my heart drops through my stomach. My shivering fingers release the apple. Her face, her body, every part of her appears just like me, the same soft fair skin, long dainty neck, hazel eyes, and high cheekbones. This girl could be my twin.
Just as I assure myself this must be the work of my mind playing tricks her eyes meet mine, and her even her expression transforms identical to mine, her face reading the same faintheartedness.
The town workers lift a satin purple veil up in front of her and as it lowers I find that my lookalike had vanished. This could only mean one thing. She is my doppelganger, my ghostly double, an omen of death.
Dr. Moore's office is located within a small rectangular building just outside the main streets of London. I desperately need to seek him this instant. I still do not know what to make of what I just saw. Does it mean I really am going to die soon or am I just simply losing my mind?
As I walk up the steps to the building, I cling to the tiny silver cross that hangs around my neck. I wonder what I must have done to bring God's judgment. I make it priority to go to church each week, even though every time I go the chapel it appears to have grown into more of a ghost town. It seems so strange. During a war, would that not be the best time to turn to God?
The entrance door leads straight to the waiting room, currently vacant. The wooden floor appears unleveled, the light green fabric chairs lie about, crooked rather than lined up orderly. I can see the dust on the table next to the end chair from here. It appears no one has been here for years.
I pace backwards, step by step, admiring the landscape paintings on the wall. I then feel an unpleasant tingle on my shoulder. A moment later, a hand snatches that very same spot. My blood nearly flows out of my flesh from the shock as I whirl my head around. Behind me stands an old hunchback man wearing a brown trench coat and rounded hat. As he opens his mouth, I notice he has several missing teeth.
"I am not ready," he mutters in a shivering tone.
I back away unnerved. "Not ready for what, sir?"
He just keeps shaking his head as though he did not hear me.
"It cannot be my time," he rambles on slowly stumbling out the door, relying on his wooden cane.
I back away more as I watch this man make his exit, my heart pounding heavily. Just as my breath calms I hastily turn my body back around and gasp yet again, my hand flying over my heart, as I see a man standing by the hallway entrance only centimeters from where I stood. He has brown hair at the start of its graying and wears a dark grey suit and bowtie.
"Good afternoon, my dear," he says. "So sorry. I did not mean to startle you."
I take a couple steps back as my breath slows. "Are you Dr. Moore?"
He smiles warmly, extending his hand. "Indeed I am, Dr. Robert Moore, and who are you, young lady. Are you here to see me?"
I take his hand, only briefly. "My name is Delia Hall. I tried to make an appointment with you but every time I tried calling no one answers. I just stopped by to see if you were still in business."
Dr. Moore lets out a deep sigh. "Business has been rather dead lately but I will always be here for those that need me, and you, Ms. Hall, do seem to have need of my services."
"Mrs. Hall," I correct gently, lifting my long dainty fingers to show my ring. "I am married."
"I see," he utters airily as he turns around. "Come, let us talk in my office."
I follow and as we enter the room he motions for me to sit on the maroon velvet couch. The walls appear to be dark tones of plaid containing only one small square window. Between the sofa and forest green easy chair sits a wooden table with a lamp that lights up the room. We both seat ourselves, Dr. Moore on the chair and I on the couch.
I open my mouth, but shift my body in discomfort, as I am unsure of what to say.
Dr Moore merely smiles and opens with, "So tell me, Mrs. Hall, what brings you to my office?"
"Well," I begin, sitting on my hands with my eyes directed to the floor, "The other day I was at the market and while I was there I saw something rather disturbing."
He gazes at me intently and presses, "And what might that be?"
"A girl," I reply, my voice vaporous. "A young woman, I mean. She looked exactly like me. I know some say seeing your double is a sign that your death is coming soon. What I want to know, is my time really coming or am I simply going mad?"
Dr. Moore puts his elbow on the chair arm and rests his chin on his knuckles. "There have been cases similar to yours, but no evidence that such an omen exists.
Just as I let out a breath of relief, he continues, "Tell me, Mrs. Hall, why is it that you fear death so? After all, is it not every person's fate?"
In my distress, I manage to lift up my head and give him an odd look. "Well, I suppose that is true. I just did not expect my time to come so soon."
"Life is short for all of us my dear," the doctor explaines. "After all, the earth is but thousands of years old, at the very least, while human beings tend to live less than a hundred years."
I look him directly in the eye and ask, "Are you saying I should just accept the fact that my time is soon to come?"
He does not answer, but instead stands up and strolls to the door, opening it.
I gaze at him, befuddled. "Are you asking me to leave?"
Dr. Moore nods. "I fear we are not making any process at this time. Perhaps we should try again another day."
For a moment, I remain on the couch gawking at him. This therapy seems so unreal as though nothing happened. I feel just as mystified as I did before.
I finally arise, awkwardly, shake his hand, and then rush out of the building in a rapid pace. As I reach the end of the road I make one final glance back. I do not think I will return to Dr. Moore's office anytime soon.
As I lie in bed, I could feel the chill of the air blown through the open window against my skin. I pull up the covers, willing myself back to sleep, but the sound of thunder and rain sprinkling against the roof keeps me awake. Lying on my side, I open my eyes just slightly seeing a shadow among the wall. Lifting my head, I turn to the foot of my bed. There she stood, my doppelganger, this time wearing a sly smile as she cocks her head to the side. My veins shivering, I rapidly scurry up to a seated position. At the flash of lightning she is gone. I rub my eyes as though it would somehow make her reappear but she does not.
A moment later, I hear a knock on the door. Throwing on my ivory robe, I walk to the door to answer it. On my front porch, stands a young woman with dirty blonde hair in ringlets wearing ragged clothing. Beside her is a boy, no older than five, his hair the same color but short and untidy.
"Um, hello," I greet uncertainly, still rubbing my sleepy eyes. "Can I help you?"
The woman beams, holding out her tiny hand. "My name is Abigail Berkman and this is my little boy, Aiden. I am here for maid service."
I frown. "I do not remember calling any maids."
"It was actually a Mr. Hall I spoke to, Madame."
I shake my head. "My husband is away at war. He has been so for quite some time."
"Yes, I actually received his call over a month ago, but little Aiden fell ill so I had to stay and care for him," Abigail explains as she pats the child on the shoulder.
"I wonder why he never told me," I mumble more to myself.
"Is it alright if we come inside?" Abigail asks.
I open the door wider. "Yes, of course, come in. You must be soaked from the rain. I can get you a cloth."
"Not to worry, Mrs. Hall," Abigail says. "We managed to stay quite dry."
"Please, call me Delia."
I hold the door open so they could enter. They appear as though the rainwater had not even touched them. Before closing the door, I give one last curious glance out at the rain still drizzling down with intensity.
A week passes by since Abigail and Aiden moved in for service. It does feel quite nice having people in the house for a change. Abigail would spend the day dusting every centimeter of the place, which indeed took some time, while Aiden would play in the nursery Stephen and I made for when we have children. As she cleans, Abigail would always hum what sounded like a hymn sung at mass. I have not yet found the chance to ask her what song it was.
I go to the kitchen for some bread, and thought of Abigail's little boy, as I have not seen him eat yet today. I put some bread on a small plate and make my way to the nursery.
As I enter the room, I find little Aiden with a teddy bear in his lap and some drawings spread out along the floor of various people. They appear to be a family. One of the boys he drew appears just like him, but no one looks like his mother.
I stand for a few moments looking at his artwork, until he lifts his head up.
"I, um, thought you might be hungry," I explain quickly, holding out the plate. "Would you like some bread?"
He shakes his head and then turns it back down to his pictures. "No thank you, Miss Delia."
I kneel down on the floor, setting the plate down beside him. "Are you sure? I have not seen you eat anything today."
"I am never that hungry anymore," Aiden replies sully. "Not since I got sick."
"Oh, well that's understandable." I gaze some more at his drawings. "You are a very good artist. I see that's you right there by that tall man."
He smiles. "Yes, and that is my father."
"I do not see your mother anywhere," I comment, still looking for Abigail.
Aiden grows quiet until he responds with, "I should put these away. She would not want me to draw them."
As he stands up to put his pictures away in the drawer, I remain seated, confused. Why would Aiden not draw his own mother in a family portrait? Perhaps she was there and I just did not recognize her. He does not seem to have any bitter feelings towards Abigail.
"Who is this?" Aiden asks, bringing me out of my own thoughts.
I gaze on to the photograph, which appears to be an infant baby. The child, wrapped in a tan wool blanket was lying in a wooden crib, materializing just like the one in the corner of this room.
I take the photo, starring at it in befuddlement. "I do not know."
That evening I sit with Abigail by the fire, without a word. She had made tea for both of us. Moments ago, Aiden had gone to bed.
"Abigail," I utter, breaking the icy river of silence. "Do you know where this picture came from?"
I hold out the photograph I had kept in my pocket for her to see. As her eyes come upon it she frowns.
"I do not know," Abigail answers. "Is it not yours? That crib looks identical to the one in your nursery.
I shake my head, setting the picture on the round table beside me. "No, Stephen and I never had children."
Abigail merely mutters a soft 'hmm' as she takes a sip of her tea.
"Your son seems to have an remarkable talent for drawing," I comment, changing the subject. "Are there any artist in your family?"
"No, not that I know of," Abigail answers simply.
"He drew several pictures of him with his father," I continue. "Were the two of them close?"
Abigail's eyes remain pointed downward as she speaks, "As close as any boy would be with his father."
I consider inquiring Abigail of her own relationship with her son, but before I had the chance she stands, hastily, mumbling something about needing to get a good night's sleep. Alone now, I ponder over the conversation we just had. Something about the way Abigail acts rather distant when discussing her child is unsettling to me. It almost seems that she is intently veiling something from me, something capacious.
Two days after our evening conversation, I decide best not to get involved in the matter. At least, I do not intend to question Abigail any further. It continues to bother me that Aiden acts rather distant to his mother. He does seem to be a rather reserved child, always playing alone in the nursery.
Now, once again another storm awakens me. I believe it is just past midnight. I make my way down the hall towards the kitchen for some water. The lightning flashes continuously. Glancing out the window, I see the sky appears white in a ghostly manner. As my eyes move down, they fall upon something in the field. It is her, my doppelganger.
Instinctively, I back away from the window into a warm body.
"Abigail!" My hand hits up against my chest to slow my breathing.
"What is the matter, Delia?" she asks. "You appear as though you have seen a ghost."
"I, um…" I start to point out the window but could not develop a good explanation without me sounding utterly insane. "The storm just awoke me, that's all. I should go back to bed."
"Did you see her again?" Abigail inquires, her hands folded neatly in front of her.
I stare at her blankly for a moment. The ground below me seems to have vanished, as though I were floating about in a dream.
"What do you mean?" I finally croak out. "See who?"
"Your doppelganger, of course," Abigail responds casually, as she strolls towards the window. "She is not out there anymore."
I do not even bother to look out the window. I just gape at her, my blood flowing cold.
"How do you know about that?" I pant in a slow breath. "I never mentioned her to you!"
Abigail approaches me, gradually. I just now notice the paleness of her skin tone.
"There is quite a lot that I know that you need to understand."
I stammer back, my lungs exhaling heavily. "What do you want with me?"
Her voice remains tranquil. "I am only here to help you, dear."
"You are the reason I am seeing her," I conclude in a vapid breath. "My double. You are the one that plans to kill me!"
She continues to move in closer to me. I snatch a candlestick from the hall and fling it at her, knocking her body into the entrance of the family room. When I turn into that doorway, I see that Abigail had vanished.
Without moment's hesitation, I bolt back down the hallway towards the back of the house. I then hear a soft wail and notice the light to Aiden's room remains on.
I open the door just a crack to find the little boy sitting upright on the bed whimpering. In his hand, he holds a drawing of what appeared to be him and a woman with short wavy hair that I have never seen before.
"Aiden?" I ask softly, glancing down the hall to be sure his mother was not close. "Why are you crying?"
He chokes on his tears a couple more times before muttering, "I miss Mommy."
The uneasiness I felt before surfaces again. I cannot tell him that I believe his mother is attempting to murder me. Perhaps if I send her son to her now, I can distract Abigail giving me the opportune moment to escape and call the police.
"She is just in the other room," I inform still grasping the door. "Maybe you should go to her."
Aiden just shakes his head. "That woman is not my mother."
My breath flutters, as my hand swung over my mouth. Aiden is just as much a victim as I am. Abigail must have kidnapped him. I desire to inquire the boy more on how he ended up with her but time is not on my side at the moment.
I release the door, holding out my hand to him and whispered, "Come on, Aiden. We have to leave this place, quickly!"
Aiden wipes his sleeve on his face to dry his tears. "Why?"
"We have to get away from Abigail," I explain in a sharp breath.
"But she's the one who's been taking care of me," Aiden protests. "She says I will see my family again. I don't think she's bad."
I kneel down beside his bed. "Aiden, listen to me. Someone who takes a child away from their family is not a good person, even if they do act kindly to you. Now, if you come with me, I can help you find your parents, okay? I'm sure your mother misses you very much."
He nods and takes my hand. Tiptoeing out the door, I lead him to my old station wagon. I have not driven it in quite some time so I hope it still functions. Fortunately, the rustic car seems to work as I start the engine.
I drive, unknowing of where I am going. The storm seems to have cleared but is now replaced by a thick layer of fog, hovering above the ground, making it nearly impossible to see much beyond a couple meters in front of me.
Now, from what I could tell, we are in a two-lane road, alpine trees along both sides. In the fog, I can barely make out headlights coming in our direction. I consider motioning to the other driver for help, at least some directions.
"Miss Delia," Aiden whimpers, his face glowing white. "I think they might hit us."
"No, darling, that car is on the other…" I stop when I realize the car is coming at us, in the very center of the road.
Frantically, I honk my horn, but the vehicle still emerges with intense speed. Once it comes into sight, my heart drops. In the passenger's seat beside the young man driving sits her, my doppelganger. This could very well be the end.
She is laughing, but the moment her eyes fall onto me her smile vanishes. In a panic, my double flings her arms over to the steering wheel, causing the small roofless car to swerve and wobble over down the hill. Letting out a shriek, I veer as well, my headlights slamming into a tree. My entire body shaking icy cold, I step out of the car. The shivering is so intense I can hardly stand upright. I gaze down at where the other car had fallen, but it is gone, vanished, as though it had never even existed.
"Aiden?" I turn my head back to my own car, peering into the window. "Aiden, are you alright?"
But the little boy is no longer sitting in the passenger's seat. Hysterically, I look about my surroundings hoping he remained close, but he is nowhere to be seen.
"Aiden!" I cry out in a shriek. "Aiden, where are you?"
My bones still agitated, I rush about in search of the child. My foot then catches itself in a tree root, causing me to tumble down a steep hill, landing roughly. As I press my hands on the ground to help myself up, I find I had fallen into a graveyard. I briefly glance at the stones around me until one particular name captured my eyes, Abigail Berkman.
I let out another panicked shrill before calling out again, "Aiden! Where did you go? I need you to come to me now!"
"Not to worry, my dear," I hear a familiar voice from behind. "The child is perfectly safe."
I turn around, the car behind me. "Dr. Moore? What are you doing here and where is Aiden?"
"He is safe as I told you," Dr. Moore explains. "He is with Abigail."
I shake my head, a lump forming in my throat. "No, he is not safe with her! She's… she's dead!" My heart still pounding heavily against my chest, I look down, and mutter, "I will be, too. I keep seeing her, my own ghost."
Dr. Moore remains calm, yet does not try to approach me. "There is still quite a bit you don't understand, my dear. One thing you must know is that the dead live among us. We must learn to coexist."
I shake my head, fearful tears starting to stream down my cheeks. "No, what does she want. Why can't she just leave me in peace?"
"I assume by her you mean your doppelganger," Dr. Moore rationalizes. "There is still something you need to know about that." He extends his long bony finger towards another gravestone. "Why don't you take a look?"
With apprehension, I slowly tremble to the gravestone. My tears flowing more heavily, I sink to the ground as I read the name, Delia Hall.
"No." I shake my head, blinking as though it might somehow make the name evaporate. "No, it can't be!"
"I am afraid it is, my child," Dr. Moore speaks in the same tranquility. "This whole time, you were the doppelganger."
"NO!" I wail more intensely in front of my own gravestone. "It cannot be! I AM NOT DEAD!"
Wiping my tears, I see the stone beside mine reads, Stephan Hall. The dates of death both said 1942. On the other side the stone bares the name, Benjamin Hall. His date of death reads much later, 1991. Now I am beginning to understand.
Dr. Moore drives me back to the house, where Abigail waits for us. The three of us then sit down by the fire. Sitting in a daze I wrap a black coat, Dr. Moore loaned me, tightly around my body.
"Where is Aiden?" I finally ask.
"I tucked him in," Abigail answers. "He is sleeping soundly."
"And is he…" I start to choke, unable to get that word out.
Abigail nods, understanding. "Yes, he is dead as well. He died recently of a disease, cancer."
Still dazed, I nod, gazing on to the fire. "And what about you?"
"It was over a century ago," Abigail explains. "I was accused of being unfaithful to my husband and stoned for it. For at nearly fifty years, I could not remember what had happened and went about my daily routines as usual."
"You see, Delia," Dr. Moore interjects. "Death is such a traumatic experience for any human being to experience. Our minds often block the memories because they are too painful. Do you remember yours yet?"
I shake my head and ask him, "What happened to you?"
"My wife shot me right in the head with a rifle," he replies in a shockingly casual tone. "She did not seem pleased with the fact that I had a little fling with my secretary. I did not realize until I had this patient I was assisting with a ghost problem and I found that he was the one trying to help me."
Having no idea how to respond to that story, I simply nod. Abigail gazes upon me with concern.
"Can you recall anything now?" she asks.
I sigh as I shake my head.
She holds out the photograph. "Perhaps this will help."
I take it, seeing that it was the same picture of the infant child in the nursery. My hand falls onto my stomach as a heavy burden uplifted from my shoulders. Finally, I remember.
"He is mine," I breathe slowly. "I have a son, Benjamin."
Suddenly, the memories of holding this child's warm body in my arms flow in from the back of my mind, where they have been buried for so long. These were the final treasured moments I had before the fever struck. Having just gone threw a laborious birth, my body must have been too week to fight it off. That day was the happiest day of my life but also the day I let out my final breath.
"You see, Mrs. Hall," Dr. Moore states. "As long as we are in denial, we fail to see the changes of the world. Everything appears just the same so in our minds, we can go through the motions of our daily lives as normal. Now, that you have accepted, you be find yourself able to see the changes occurred within the last fifty years."
"My husband died in the war, didn't he?" I ask them.
"I believe so," Abigail answers.
"Is it possible for me to see him?" I press, hopeful.
This time Dr. Moore speaks. "Perhaps soon. Now that you have both come to acceptance it should be easier for your souls to reconnect with one another."
"And what about that girl?" I finally inquire. "The one who looks like me? What happened to her?"
"She died in the car crash just recently," Dr. Moore answers. "You may have been the last thing she saw, but you were not the mere cause of her death. Her boyfriend, the man driving, was heavily intoxicated, as was she."
I fold my hands resting my chin on them. "So was I indeed her doppelganger?"
Dr. Moore sighs. "There is still quite a bit I do not understand about the ghost world. There have been a significant number of cases where people see their look-alikes right before their time but not everyone. Usually when a ghost makes contact with the living there is a connection between them."
"What is that girl's name?" I ask, seemingly understanding where he was going.
"Katherine Hall," answers Dr. Moore. "Though I am to understand she prefers to be called Kate. She is the daughter of your son, Benjamin. That is why you look so much alike."
I nod, still in awe. "Could I see her?"
"Perhaps in good time, but not now. She too must come to accept what has happened," the doctor explains in a heavy breath. "At this time, I do not think seeing you will help."
Dr. Moore then rises and announces his departure. I thank him for his part in helping me come to acceptance. Now, Abigail and I remain alone by the fire.
After a few moments of silence, she speaks, "If you wish me to leave, I fully understand. I know this has come as a shock for you."
I shake my head vigorously. "No, of course not. I need someone around who understands." I gazed up to her, meeting her eyes. "And what of Aiden? Does he know?"
"No," she replies in a whisper. "He is not ready. He will need time to accept. Perhaps when he can see someone from his family."
I nod, fathoming. This would be quite an ordeal for a young boy.
The next morning, I walk down the hallway. Peering out the side window I see that it is still quite foggy. The ghostly vapor still gives me chills even though logic told me I no longer had reason to be afraid. I then notice the girl, Kate, out in the field with her boyfriend. He lifts her up in the air and she giggles as though last night never even happened. Even now, seeing this girl gives me an eerie feeling in my spine. Perhaps it was partially because I know one day she must go through a similar traumatic experience to the one I endured when she finds that she, too, is dead.
A/N: Thank you all for reading. I know this story has been here before, but I took it off for editing and to try to get it published in a magazine. I still think it needs some work so I would appreciate any advice or commentary. Anyone who reviews, I'll be sure to check out and review one of your stories. Thanks!