They were out there again. Different van, but they were the same two guys as before, he was pretty sure. Dressed as some kind of utility workers or something, parked off to the side next to where Hampshire Street crosses the railroad tracks. Simon picked up a post-it pad and a short nub of dull pencil from the window ledge and scribbled a note. Utility guys Thursday 8:24 AM. He drew a horizontal line and beneath it added: Eat something. He was more likely to remember things when he wrote them down, and he’d been especially distracted as of late. Simon tore the note from the pad and stuck it haphazardly beside the circular window at the staircase landing with all the others.
The window faced east, and sunbeams streamed in, highlighting the dust in the air. This had once been a bustling research laboratory. Now he had the whole wing to himself. Mostly, anyway. Beneath the window, piled like a snowdrift and hiding from the morning sun, were old and faded notes that had fallen when they’d lost their stick. Simon knelt down and picked one up at random. The black and white tile floor was in some state of disrepair; tiles cracked, some coming loose. Everything was falling apart. He just hadn’t noticed. He looked at the old note: Tachyon degeneracy pressure. And below it: Get more pencils. He put the note in his coat pocket and climbed the final half-flight of stairs to the third floor. Down the hall to the right was a lab identical to his own. A brilliant blue light pulsed and spilled out from all around the door frame. Simon turned left and entered his own lab.
Someone was sitting in his chair. Someone who wore his same leather shoes and wrinkled trousers, dusty coat, and unkempt hair. “What are you doing in my lab?”
“My lab. Listen to you. Get off it.”
It was his twin. His most unusual twin. He hated the word doppelganger, and clone was inaccurate. Duplicate. Copy. Double. Any of these were true, but he didn’t like the implications. Easier not to think about it. “What if someone sees you?”
“People see me every day.”
“I mean us. Together. Just now I saw two men outside posing as utility workers—”
The other Simon hopped to his feet. “Not that secret agent nonsense again. Really, you are quite full of yourself. As evidenced, I might add, by my being here…”
“Why are you here?”
“Glad you asked!” said Simon’s twin, thrusting a finger into the air. “There’s someone I think you should meet.”
“Meet?” He then felt the blood drain from his face. “No…”
“While neither of us has been able to solve our unique conundrum, I have at least been able to replicate it. Simon—the first, of course, all due respect—I’d like you to meet Simon III.”
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Maksym Harahulin, used with permission.