The Day She Met Herself
It had been a long time since Mara had heard the stories about the cryptids. Mara had heard about nymphs, sirens, and most importantly, doppelgangers. It was a cold December night, the night of the winter formal at the high school, Mara was looking in the mirror as she put her makeup on. Suddenly in the mirror appeared a second face, so similar to hers that she quickly turned around; nobody was there.
Mara turned back to the mirror to see that there was only one reflection there. Creepy, Mara thought as she went to tell her parents goodbye.
"Have a nice time," her mother said.
"Be careful, don't take anything offered to you," her father ordered, "who knows what might have been placed in the punch."
Weird, that sounds like Dad's adding to the warning from my doppelganger. If it was my doppelganger. Mara just nodded, "of course, Dad, I'll watch myself."
When Mara arrived at the high school she couldn't help but keep scanning the crowd of her peers. Immediately her eyes locked on a girl who looked quite similar to her, but as the girl turned around Mara could tell that it was one of her friends. Her friend, Jackie, looked almost exactly like her, and almost the whole school year they had been mixed up by friends and teachers.
Tonight's definitely different, Jackie looks a lot like my second reflection I saw earlier. Maybe I should try my best to avoid her tonight, just in case my theory is correct.
"Hey, Jackie," Mara heard a male voice from behind her.
Mara slowly turned around, it was Michael Fischer, the boy that she had had a crush on since eighth grade. Why? Why has he always seemed to think Jackie is more attractive than me?
"Actually I'm Mara, sorry." As Mara turned away to go request her favorite song to the DJ, Michael grabbed her arm.
"I know, I just wanted to see your reaction," he smiled. Mara knew that the rumors about his canine teeth weren't true, but tonight they looked a little exceedingly sharp. Though she knew that if the rumors were true, he would have bitten someone by now.
"And?" Out of curiosity, Mara also smiled.
"You're still mad when people mix you and Jackie up," Michael said, chuckling, "I actually came over here to ask you something."
No way! Is he about to ask me to dance! I can't believe it!
"Do you wanna go outside and dance, I don't like dancing with girls in front of other people?"
Oh, well it's close, but I might have to stay inside.
"Sorry, Mike, could we just dance inside? I feel like it's too cold to go outside."
"Well, if it makes you more comfortable, I guess it won't kill me," he smiled again.
As they glided across the floor, Mara almost forgot all about Jackie and her theory. Until the song ended.
"I'm thirsty, wanna get a drink?"
"Maybe later, I think the punch might be a bit dry," Mara said, trying to make a good excuse.
"Oh, yeah. I'll probably wait until I get home as well."
Is he only agreeing with me because he likes me, or is there something I'm missing?
As Michael walked away, a hand holding a cup appeared in front of her. Mara looked up to see Jackie smiling. Jackie, with her brunette hair in a princess bun, sporting a short black dress, and red and black Louboutins. A small tiara sitting perfectly in the middle of her hair.
"Hey, girl. I was wondering if you were here." Jackie's smile seemed a little inhuman like as she pushed the drink into Mara's hands.
"Don't worry, I already took a sip for you. Drink it, you look dehydrated."
This has to be a threat, is there a way I can fool her into thinking I drank it? Maybe I can tell her that I have to go to the bathroom? Dad never told me how he survived his encounter with his doppelganger, if only he were here, he'd know what to do.
Before Mara could say anything, Jackie was already forcing the drink into her mouth. Mara, trying hard not to swallow, allowed the punch to enter her mouth. I hope Michael comes back, she couldn't help thinking.
Before she knew it everything went blurry.
"We're the worlds slimiest nerds," John said.
"Nah," I say, admiring the fake membrane hanging off my arms. "Slimiest artists, more like. We're going to scare the shit outta Baker."
"Anyone can scare Baker, Ryan. Hell, a local news story about a science fair winner can scare Baker. He's so paranoid that he doesn't even have a phone."
"He doesn't own a phone? Jesus, it's a miracle he hasn't up and died yet."
"Maybe he has," John says, wiggling his fake-webbed fingers. "But nah, I'm not interested in scaring Baker. I'm thinking bigger."
"Baker's like, hundreds of pounds. He's the biggest guy in town," I say with a snort. "Any bigger and we'd need to bring a coffin, to deal with the heart attack victim."
"I heard his mom took three urns to carry her," John says. "That's pretty damn big. Bigger than Baker, I'd bet."
"I heard his dad took four," I counter.
"Ah, fuck off. I'm thinking bigger than four urns. I'm thinking about a whole damn graveyard compared to that."
"Hm," I say. "How big?"
"It's going to be the biggest thing in Loveland since Lola Smith was caught banging Mr. Little in the school bathroom."
"God damn, John. You set your standards pretty high."
"Listen, Ryan. We've got the latest iPhone. We've got costumes so good Frogman's mama couldn't tell us apart. In other words, we've got the beginnings of the best Halloween prank in existence."
"D'ya think two Loveland Frogs are too weird? Maybe people'll get suspicious."
"Nah," John says. "You can be the Loveland Frog's beautiful wife." He swoons and makes kissing noises into the air.
"And you can be the inbred cousin," I say, punching him in the shoulder. "Hideously deformed and destined to die alone."
John flips me off, and I smile.
"So," I say, still grinning. "Who're we gonna scare?"
The flashlight traces a drunken path in front of us, a golden patch dancing from sidewalk to sidewalk, flowerbed to flowerbed, minivan to minivan.
All the houses look the same. Red brick and white siding. Navy blue shutters.
The only house that doesn't match is 1313, with shutters as red as blood.
Guy who lives there, Dan Baker, he's a paranoid son-of-a-bitch. Says that red brings good luck. Keeps his shutters locked all the time. Rarely leaves. Real kook.
One Halloween, some kid made the mistake of coming to his house for trick-or-treat.
Baker thought he was some kinda actual monster, shot him in the gut. The gun was loaded with rock salt, so the kid didn't die, but poor Harry hasn't been the same since. Pretty sure he just got outta St. Luke's Hospital after he almost killed a girl.
Baker's loony, and his type of crazy is contagious.
"Little further," John says.
"Hang on," I say. "How do you even know where Julie's party is gonna be? It's only for the best of the best. The strongest of the strong. The cheeriest of the cheer squad. The hottest of the hot. How'd you get it?"
"Ha, ha, very funny. Believe it or not, I got invited."
John holds up a small business card. On it is an address and a date.
"No way," I say. "No goddamn way. Really?"
"No, not really," John snorts. "I might fit the hottest of the hot criteria, but I'm also the gayest of the gay. I don't get invited to things."
"Didn't I invite you to my house?"
"You don't count."
"Ouch. So how'd you get the card?"
"I promised Luke Star that I wouldn't tell good old papa Reverend Star about his tryst with Gina and Carrie. It was purely out of the goodness of my heart. I'm following the 'bro code.' I just... asked for something in exchange."
"You sick bastard."
"See, now you get it. I told you, I'm planning for this to be the most fun this shithole has had in years. I mean, our claim to fame is a police officer who shot a crippled iguana, for God's sake. We need to liven things up around here. Now shut up. We're getting close."
With no small amount of trepidation, I pull the frog mask over my eyes, covering the last bit of exposed skin left on me. Everything, from my toes to my eyes, is covered by the frog suit. It took us all month to make it, and finally, it's done. And done well, I might add.
A few minutes later, the flashlight goes off. No use in revealing ourselves until we're ready.
We've got some popular assholes to scare.
The door, of course, is open. Julie's party is elite. It moves around every year. So she's not too worried about uninvited guests.
Well she's about to get two guests she never invited.
As I sneak towards the sounds of raucous party-goers, I realize that John has vanished, taking my iPhone with him. Preparing to film, I guess.
Bastard. If there's a single crack on that thing, I'm gonna kill him.
When I feel like I'm close enough to the action, I hide. Waiting for John's signal, whatever that may be.
Then the lights go out.
Stupid bastard. You can't film if there's no light. And we can't exactly rely on flash photography, now can we?
Some high pitched, giggly screams come from the room ahead. Ah yes, cheerleaders. Always with the dramatic flair.
Not all cheerleaders. There was this one girl named Tori who was awesome. But she moved away, and only the worst that the cheer squad has to offer get invited here.
Think of any high school movie you've ever seen. Now picture the main antagonist: the Blonde Barbie, leader of the cheer squad and girlfriend to the most popular guy.
Now you've got Julie.
See? Worst of the worst.
"Anyone got a Ouija board?" asks a loud, definitely drunk voice.
There are some nervous giggles, but overall, no answer.
I fiddle around in my suit until I find the little speaker in my pocket. It should be connected to my phone, which should be transmitting a signal, playing music for my frog ears.
Hell yeah. Works like a charm.
I can hear the room getting tenser. More nervous laughter.
"Who is that?"
"Turn it off, you assholes."
"Damn, which one of you thought this would be funny?"
And then, the voice of Julie, filled with false confidence.
"Don't worry guys, my older brother does shit like this every year at Halloween."
There's a relieved silence for a moment, but then I hear another girl speak up.
"Isn't Brayden away at college?"
My smile is invisible under my frog mask. Soon, the panic will set in.
Julie ignores her.
"Dammit, Bray, shut up! My friends are over!"
One step forward. Two steps forwards. A bit farther and they'll be able to see me. Not all of me. In the dark, they might not even be able to tell that I'm the Loveland Frog. But they'll be scared just the same.
Another step. And another.
"Holy shit, Jules," says a boy. "I see something moving over there."
"I'll deal with it, Seth. It's fine. I told you, it's just my brother.
"But Jasmine just said—"
"I said, I'll deal with it!" Julie snaps.
She walks right into me.
Her face tilts up towards me, and her eyes bug out as she observes me in horrified shock.
But then, something goes horribly wrong.
Her eyes keep bulging. They grow and stretch until they look like the eyes of a bug.
Or... the eyes of a frog.
A thick, pink tongue shoots out and back in.
"Jesus Christ, Brayden," she says, her voice taking on a horrendously unnatural lisp. what are you thinking? If they see you like this— If our secret gets out—"
"Julie?" asks the boy named Seth.
"It's fine," she says. "I was right. Don't worry, I'll tell him to piss off."
I can do nothing but stare.
"Hang on," she says, staring at me with an intensity I really don't like. "You're not Brayden."
Yeah, nope. I'm done. I'm out. Who gives a shit about scaring people now? I've seen way too much. I am out of here.
I do the safe thing.
But Julie's faster than I thought. Her little frog legs let her jump and catch up to me, easy.
"Just a costume, hmm?" she says, easily keeping pace with me. "Who's under that mask?"
I stop dead and start sprinting in the opposite direction. Okay. Outrunning her is not an option My little trick bought me a few seconds, at most. What do I do, what do I do...
A loud bang right next to my head makes me fall to the ground in shock.
Ow, dammit, my ears...
I wait for Julie to catch up to me.
I look up and squint into the darkness, trying to find the source of the noise.
"I'll be damned," I say. "John? That you?"
"It is indeed," John says, pulling me up. His hands are 100-percent-costume free. I take my costume off pretty fast, too. As far as I'm concerned, I never want to see another webbed hand in my life.
"What was that?" I ask.
"That," John says, "was the real Loveland Frog. And, with the night mode on your iPhone, we just got it on film."
"You knew?" I ask.
"Course I knew. I know everything. I'm the man, man."
"You sick bastard," I say.
Despite everything, I smile. He's a sick bastard, sure, but he just saved my life.
And I just saw a real life legend. I'd say that's a damn good night.
He'll have some questions to answer later, though.
Right now? I'm just happy to be alive.
"So next," John says. "Next, I'm thinking Bigfoot."
I just laugh and shake my head.
He thinks he's found something here? Footage of a Loveland Frog?
He's got no idea. He's only just found the tip of the iceburg.
But I'll play along.
When going camping in the woods pick a place many people have been, I was on my way to said spot when I saw a beautiful clearing not on my map. However, as soon as I set foot in the clearing a terrible odor filled my nostril's, so horrible in fact I had to take a few steps back and grab onto a tree so I wouldn't fall. I collected myself and held my nose as I looked around for the source, only to finally see it. I don't know how I didn't notice it before those big black paws, giant stained teeth, and those deep red eyes that stared into my soul daring me too look away. It was a hellhound, it took a couple of steps in my direction then lunged, I flinched and ducked behind a tree terrified but once I heard the scream of pain coming from far behind, I realized it wasn't me he'd come to collect.