A chiller from Bill.....
Max was being followed by a man who looked exactly like him. At first, Max had thought that he’d seen his own reflection in that shop window. But just as he was about to descend into the tube station he suddenly stopped and quickly looked back along the street. It was empty. He had realised when feeling in his raincoat for his ticket that the reflection wasn’t wearing a raincoat. And he had a flower on his lapel. Max instinctively checked his own lapel as if to make sure that he wasn’t, after all, wearing one.
The different clothes confused him for a while but he dismissed it, forgot about it and moved on.
The following morning the face of his doppelganger stared into his through the window of the train as it was leaving the station.
Max had always been confident, optimistic, on a continuous burn of achievement, but this gave him a fright.
Doppelganger was across the road when Max left his office, looking directly at him. It was the look that scared Max - a superior, detached stare. For the first time in his life Max was rattled. Max saw his double a number of times over the next few days; in the supermarket - on the golf course - across the street - and each time close enough for Max to see that - that look, that questioning gaze - yet far enough away to make a confrontation impractical.
Getting on a bus he looked back as the bus was moving away and there he was, his other self, at the bus stop looking into Max’s eyes. By this time Max had got into the habit of looking, checking now and then, but he hadn’t noticed him before; it was as if he’d been standing right behind him all the while.
Despite himself, and to his own irritation, he was getting a little nervous and phoned in sick for a few days. Something he had never done. Unable to relax and loaf about he paced. Kept looking out of the window. His wife Laura was concerned by his uncharacteristic behaviour and Max had to suffer her endless questions about, ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘Is it work?’ ‘What about your project?’ ‘Didn’t you get the promotion?’...on and on and he felt powerless to do anything about the situation and reluctant to confide in her so he decided after a few days to go back to work thinking that maybe it was just a phase. Perhaps he was just tired. On the first day back to work doppelganger was there on the platform. Max watched him. Doppelganger played with the hair behind his right ear, curling his hair around his finger - just as he, Max himself, was in the habit of doing.
On the way home he saw him through the window of the connecting door, sitting in the next carriage. He gave Max a grin this time.
He took another few days off away from the office and tried to keep his finger on the pulse by keeping in touch by phone and e-mail but he’d lost his zest. All his experience and knowledge deserted him. His colleagues worried about him and rang Laura, instead of Max.
He kept looking out of the window. Helping Laura in the front garden he checked down the street and worried about unfamiliar parked cars.
After a few more days Laura had soothed and reassured him. Max gave in to the pressure from the office and said he’d be back on Monday. Today was a suburban hedge clipping, car washing Sunday and he decided to take a trip into town. He stopped now and again and checked up and down the quiet cherry blossomed Avenue.
He checked around him at the station - peered onto the platform before he reached the top step. Waiting for the train he thought about Laura - her painted nails, her fussing, her body smell. And remembered the scent of flowers and polish in the oasis of their quiet hall, remembered her quizzical look as if she had detected something - feared something - how she had hugged him tighter.
He heard the rumble and clatter of the approaching train and moved forward. He heard his own voice behind him, felt a hand on his back and was propelled forward. Twisting as he fell, his last vision was a face; his own, giving him a disdainful look.