by Frank Aversa
Bill Madsen stood in the middle of his living room, an ultra-thin cell phone pressed to his ear. “It’s a done deal my man. You’re talking to the VP of Foreign Relations.” Madsen casually walked up to the black futon, leaned forward, and straightened a picture frame centered above it. “I told you I would conquer the world before I turned thirty-three. . . I said, I told you I would conquer the world before I turned thirty-three.” The young man’s brow wrinkled, but his annoyance subsided as he gazed at the picture before him. In the sleek, titanium frame was a carefully cut article from the Wall Street Journal with the headline GERALDINE, INC. WINS BIG IRAQ CONTRACT.
“You don’t know the significance of thirty-three? I thought you went to Catholic school? . . . Never mind, move forward as planned. I’m expecting a kickass congrats party. . . I said, I EXPECT ONE KICK ASS PARTY!” The crease returned to Madsen’s brow.
“. . . I’m not sweating it. Hell, when I roll into town I’ll be the worst bastard in Baghdad. They should be worried about me. . . Man, the only language you ever have to know is American. . . . LANGUAGE! AMERICAN! . . . Never mind; stop wasting time and tell me what I really want to know – how many chicks are gonna be at my party?”
Madsen picked up a remote control lying on the futon, searched for a button, then pointed it toward the large, flat-screen television hanging on the opposite wall. The young man watched with pleasure as the monitor pushed back then disappeared behind the plain grey wall as a panel slid closed. He absently wondered what should be his next hi-tech installation.
“That’s why I count on you. Spare no expense; this is a well-deserved victory party. . . I said, I REALLY DESERVE THIS PARTY! Shit. . . Look, my phone’s just about dead. . . . Don’t have a home phone, hardly ever here. . . . Just go ahead with the arrangements. . . . I’LL MEET YOU LATER!” Madsen cut the call. “Pain in the ass.”
The young man stepped over to the computer desk, its sleek finish reflected the bright fluorescent light overhead. He carefully inserted the phone on its base, then sank into the black leather chair with a sigh, rubbed his eyes, and began reading the open file on his laptop. He reached for a tumbler of scotch on ice sweating beside a bronze bull sculpture. Madsen took a swallow and moaned comfortingly as it ground down his throat.
He placed his hands on the keyboard, but when he tried to continue working on his report, the text began to blur and he found himself struggling to keep his eyes open. His hands slid off the keyboard and onto the soft armrests of the throne-like chair. I really have to finish this damn thing, he thought. Just get it done. I’ll revise it in the morning. Maybe I’ll pick up a double-latte before I meet the guys at Godiva’s.
Madsen shook off the fatigue and once more attempted to type out on his report. The tap of the keyboard clattered sharply in the otherwise eerily quiet room. Madsen knew he would make his fortune in Iraq and it would just be the beginning. Most of his co-workers cringed at the idea of going there, but he had little to worry about. The rhythmic patter of the keyboard lulled the weary man and he felt himself being stretched thin as if he were starting to fade away. Then he heard the unmistakable creak of a footstep on the floorboard behind him. Madsen’s Ferrari of a mind shifted to high gear, snapping out of its hazy consciousness. He spun around in his chair and saw himself standing in the archway of the apartment foyer.
The other Madsen stepped into the white glow of the living room light; his body arched forward as if ready to pounce. The other wore the same black Burberry pleated slacks and mauve Polo V neck; the same layered haircut; everything the same. Even their old Rolex watches had an identical scratch in their faces. Though the other’s eyes were dark and full of hatred.
The first Madsen stood up and pushed the chair out of the way. “You again,” he said in a weary voice.
“I want what’s mine,” responded the other.
“What is yours? I built this life, not you. None of this was yours, not the planning and certainly not the risks.”
The other clenched his fists. “I’m taking it all back!” Madsen dove at his doppelganger. He reached desperately for the creature before him. The thing had come to him one night and sucked his soul out of his body, like a vampire sucking blood.
The double grabbed the bull sculpture, dodged out of his attacker’s way and swung the heavy figurine. There was a satisfying crack as it made contact with the now solid skull. The real Bill Madsen fell to the ground, clutching his head in pain.
The creature stood over him and laughed, almost gently. “Your life certainly was inviting. How could I resist the ideal opportunity you created? But I’m here now and I made it so much better.” Madsen lay on the floor moaning. He struggled to lift himself up, to claw himself back into reality, but another blow to his skull ended his struggle abruptly. Everything went black for the real Bill Madsen.
As suddenly as the second Bill Madsen appeared it disappeared; as if the real man were no more substantial than a wisp of cloud in a gale. The other felt the solidness of his body returning. He loved all the sensations he could experience with it, pleasure and pain, fatigue and exhilaration. He would not trade it for the world. The doppelganger set down the sculpture in its proper place and snatched the cell phone from its charger. He moved casually toward the front door. Madsen took one glance around the sterile room and at the unfinished report before shutting off the lights and opening the front door. His head full of all the work and play there was to look forward to, the young man laughed to himself as he shut the apartment door.
“Double Shift” copyright 2015 Frank Aversa. All rights reserved.