The Architects Chapter Ten: Wake Up Call
“Wake up, Mr. Kerpetski.”
I open my eyes. The blanket feels alien under me. Where am I? Who am I? What’s going o--
Ah. Right. I’m Nick. But I’m pretending to be Mr. Kerpetski so that I don’t get tortured for all eternity. I’m in a realm full of gods and freakish monsters with badass powers, of which I have none. We build Legos all day and use our creations to represent real buildings. My girlfriend is trapped with a man who looks like me but isn’t. I have only a few days before the real Mr. Kerpetski wakes up and everything goes to shit.
“What time is it?” I ask. I look at the floating alarm clock. Yes. Alarm clocks float. Which is probably good, because several times, I’ve tried to whack it and make it shut up.
I always miss. Which is bad, because it means I can’t sleep in, but also good, because if I sleep in, I’ll end up missing work, and missing work means missing my chance to get out of here, and missing my chance to escape means I’ll effectively doom the human race.
“Why are we up?” I ask. “It’s four in the morning. Way before normal work time.”
“You asked me to update you on your human pet. So I am. He’s awake. The girl, too.”
I freeze. It’s less of a slow, frostbite kind of freeze and more of a total, lightning-shock-induced paralysis.
Fuck. He’s awake? Already? I haven’t finished my project. I haven’t even started! And now he’s awake? What am I even supposed to fucking do?
Has he already hurt Amanda? Has the end of the world already begun?
“Come, Mr. Kerpetski,” Alexei says. “But put some pants on first.”
I tug on a pair of sweatpants sitting on the side of the bed. I don’t have time to focus on my appearance right now. All I care about is Amanda.
And also dying. I don’t really want to die. And if Alexei finds out that I’m lying... Well, he’s made my fate clear.
“Where are they?”
“Currently? In a coffee shop, drinking black drip coffees and lamenting their boring lives.”
That stops me cold. That’s what we always do. Every Friday. We always drink the same black coffees at the same coffee shop. It’s our ritual. How would Mr. Kerpetski know about it?
Does being in my body mean he has my memories? Is he pretending to be me? Trying to take my place so he can get closer to Amanda and kill her? Kill everyone?
Unconciously, I speed up, until I’m almost running towards the door. I’m pretty sure it’s the same door we entered from, the big glass one with glowing blue edges and a big EXIT sign on the top.
I’m getting out of here. I’m going to get back to Amanda. I’m going to--
“Mr. Kerpetski, where are you going? You know we don’t have an earth assignment yet. Unless you’ve finished my surprise?”
“Uh... right. No. Yeah.” I realize that I’m not being very coherent, but whatever. I’m so close. So close. And I’m not able to get there. What if I’m already too late? Mr. Kerpetski could already have sunk his meat hooks into Amanda. I’ll never be able to save her. I’ll never be able to get my body back. I’ll be trapped here until Alexei finds out that I’m a fraud, and then I’ll be killed and my atoms will be scattered across the space-time continuum. I don’t really have much brain power to spare on verbal conversation. I’m too busy trying to escape.
But I can’t exactly say that, can I?
“Come. The Window is this way.”
The Window. My view into the real world. I don’t care what Alexei says about my world being fake. It’s not fake. It’s very real, and I intend to save it.
Save it from myself.
Mr. Kerpetski guides me to another door, this one glowing red instead of blue. Inside, it’s like being immersed in virtual reality. I’m literally in another world. I’m in the real world.
Mr. Kerpetski waves a hand, and... bam. We’re in the coffee shop. With Fake Me and Amanda.
I listen and I watch. Fake Me uses the same inside jokes me and Amanda have. He does the same things, talks the same way...
Mr. Kerpetski is good, I’ll give him that.
As I keep watching, a pit of dread keeps growing in my stomach, consuming my insides, eating me alive.
He’s too good. Even if he does have access to my memories, he wouldn’t be able to mimic everything. He’d slip up, somewhere. Reveal something. Anything.
Whoever is in that body... it’s me. But I’m here. So it can’t be. But it is. But it can’t be.
But it most definitely is.
My world is spinning, mind moving so fast that I’m sure the friction is slowly burning away at the walls of my skull.
When we walked through that door, I changed into Mr. Kerpetski’s body. I get the feeling that, if I were anyone else, walking through that door would have changed me into them. Which means that, if I were Nick, I would have stayed Nick. The game would be up. The end. Game over.
But I changed into Mr. Kerpetski.
Which means... even though I have Nick’s memories... even though I have Nick’s feelings, his thoughts, his desires... I am not Nick.
I am Mr. Kerpetski.