by Mary Renzi
Evil Linda had dark hair that flooded the alley like a black curtain in a storm. From the window I saw her eyes flash under the sulfur lights like animal eyes. Evil Linda was my double. She was me, minus the spare tire and extra chin, plus the ivory fangs and phantom green aura which off-gassed like Goosebumps radiation from the top of her boots and out her jacket sleeves.
We all have Doubles, and Triples, and Quadruples, Evil Lin told me, living in pocket universes that collide during certain space-time fluctuations. And strand unfortunate passengers such as herself. So she stood outside KoKo's Diner, waiting for a mark. She would get one. Seduction was easy for E. Lin, as simple as jaywalking, or setting an alarm clock.
I watched her trot back towards our moldering building with her latest john in tow. Evil wore lightweight denim that night, and a bold, orange sweater, along with fantastic rainbow pumps. Evil loved bling, loved shopping, was convinced these were the only things worth saving in this dead-end universe. Trumpeting personal worth via cars and apparel appealed to E. Lin greatly. She was a perfect demon witch.
As she climbed the stairwell to the second floor, I felt her thoughts burn cleanly. I felt Evil Linda in my bones, nestled between a jigsaw of organs, super-charging my blood with E. Lin power. She could feel my thoughts, too. Said my mind was a runny egg yolk, that only horse-tranquilizers and booze could keep her out. She chomped aspirin beneath her fangs to dull the headaches. She was ashamed to have a double who cowered, she said, who showed no initiative or destructivity. She scoffed at my Wayne Dyer books, at my recent appointment with Life Coach USA.
I heard voices on the landing and saw their silhouettes through the frosted glass panel of the doorway. It sent shivers down my spine because one of the silhouettes was mine-- exactly mine-- and was about to do horrible things. I'd seen it many times before. Evil Linda would subdue her mark with deft, predatory precision, incapacitating it with perfect coordination, balance and power. E. Lin played with gravity as a sculptor molded clay, her feline motions surgically precise and perfectly deadly. After the kill, Evil Linda would-- less gracefully-- glut herself on gray matter and cerebral fluid, like a serpent gorging a stolen egg, a serpent with thick, stolen yolk dripping from its guiltless face.
I felt a dark anticipation building, an elemental desire that stirred within the dense calcium matrix of my bones. That was what Evil Linda had passed on to me: through some subtle quantum influence I didn't understand, I had inherited from my double a fresh-budding blood lust. My mouth watered for the show. The knob turned.
They came in laughing, which was new, this laughter from E. Lin that wasn't derisive in nature, but which tinkled like the bells of her new sterling bracelet. I was just standing in the center of the room, dumbly holding a box of doughnut holes, and evil Linda said, My sister-- apologetically, as an explanation. Her john touched his straw cowboy hat, and nodded a dimpled grin which revealed a row of perfect ivory teeth. His muscled arms ripped through the tight sleeves of a thin, pearl snap shirt. His look was cowboy chic. He was the type of man you must objectify. Perfect, really, for E. Lin.
I watched them walk into my bedroom, and listened to their outre, manic sex, which went on for hours. It both excited and angered me. It was hard to not want to be a fly on that wall, but I also felt left out, and embittered by the ultimate lack of carnage. Evil Linda came out of the room eventually to grab a beer. She was smoking a cigarette, and wrapped in a bedsheet.
“What’s going on?” I asked, disliking the sound of my voice, which hung in the air priggishly.
“Fucking,” she said simply, then added, “Didn't you see those dimples? I couldn't.... It would have been like flaying a penguin. Your influence, I guess. Trying to get to know people.” She gave me a thumbs-up and smiled a fanged grin.
The next morning upon waking I discovered a vestigial tailbone protruding from my lower spine. I didn't understand. Evil Linda explained that doubles inhabiting the same universe always set off a somewhat tangled spaghetti of weird cosmic consequences. She didn't seem worried. Evil Linda took on more of my light, just as I took on more of her dark. My light seemed to sculpt her to even sharper perfection. She radiated a sinister angelic beauty, whereas her evil manifested in me as in a drunk who beats her dog. I noticed myself becoming anemic, septic, angry. I felt myself start to wither like a dying vine.
As the weeks went on my skin began to hang from my body like an ill-fitting suit, and when I looked at my reflection in the mirror, I found it surprising that I was tolerated in public without terror. I looked like some inhuman gollum made from spent jism.
“Not everyone's a poet,” Evil Linda said, all self-satisfied, “able to transmute their darkness into sonnets. Figuratively speaking.” Then she added, “It is very enjoyable to see you suffer, I must be honest.”
Evil Linda took over my responsibilities at the factory. She made regular visits to my mother in Dartmouth and worked on a horror novel about homicidal puppeteers. Finished a draft in three months. Said it would re-brand evil, and show everyone that the do-gooder Chief Gordons of the world were the real menace. She had preternatural focus. She killed now only when she needed spinal fluid. She didn't want to draw any suspicion. She was starting to really like it here, in this universe. Evil Linda read the King James Bible before bed every night, laughing furiously. I like this Yahweh! she'd exclaim. Brutal!
I spent most of my time at the bar of the Green Motel across the street, getting soused, putting back sugary drink after sugary drink. I was becoming something not recognizably human, something viscous and invertebrate, a gooey, vaguely-mammalian wineskin. I sidled like an amoeba from room to room. People avoided me like the plague. I just needed to try harder, I told myself. To make new friends. Maybe I could write a novel like Evil Linda. We were the same, after all, weren't we? The lie comforted me, and I crawled home with a new sense of alcohol-inspired hope, trailing ribbons of pond scum in my wake.
I slunk under the narrow opening beneath my apartment door. There was a spicy aroma of curry in the apartment which made my mouth-like aperture water. Evil Linda had cooked dinner for my mother, who was sitting across from her at the table looking so healthy, vibrant and proud. In my excitement I raced towards mom in a wild earthworm scamper, drawing myself across the thin carpet like a legless torso. My mother drew up against the wall, shrieking in terror. I tried to talk to her, to tell her it was me, Linda, but my words came out as a wet, bubbly cough.
“Shit,” Evil Linda said. She hooked me on the end of a broom handle like I was a pair of biohazard underwear. “I didn't mean for this to happen but, to be honest, I'm not sorry,” she stated flatly, as she carried me outside. “There can only be one of us, I guess,” she said, “like in that Hitchcock show. One double must lose out. Them’s just the rules.” Then she flung me into a storm drain.
I looked back up to street level. The drain let in a weak beam of light. I could see Evil Linda's rainbow pumps, and saw my mother’s moccasins join her near the opening. I heard my mother's muffled, still-startled voice, but my perspective was that of a Peanuts character, where all you can see of the adults are shoes and legs, their voices a strange, high-pitched murmur. I found a dry nest, and moved in beside the rats.
I still think about Evil Linda. I watch for her pumps from below. She has a new ankle-bracelet, a gold one.
I bet she is doing great.
About the Author
Mary Renzi is a feral-brained Phoenician (AZ) who enjoys spinning punk-rock vinyl at obnoxious volumes. She runs like a motherfucker.
Post-Trauma Robotics, Hypnos Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 2, 2016: http://radiumtownpress.com/store.html
In Bird Territory, Zymbol Magazine, January 2016: http://www.zymbolmag.com/short-story/in-bird-territory
Trilobites, Crack the Spine, Volume XII, 2016: http://www.amazon.com/Crack-Spine-XII/dp/0692686223/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1462587794&sr=1-1&keywords=crack+the+spine
Negative Space, Short, Fast, and Deadly January, 2016: http://www.deadlychaps.com/SFD/
School Busses, rigor motr.US, September 2015, http://www.rigormort.us/mary-renzi/
Moonflower, Short, Fast, and Deadly, January 2015: http://www.amazon.com/SF-Fall-2014-Echo-Chamber/dp/1937739678/
Everything is More Beautiful Here, One Throne Magazine, September 2014: http://www.onethrone.com/#!everything-is-more-beautiful-here/c11d8
The Dog With the Rhinestone Eyes, Jersey Devil Press, May, 2014: http://www.jerseydevilpress.com/?page_id=6083
The Crows Followed You Here, Pantheon Magazine, January 2014: https://pantheonmag.com/the-crows-mary-renzi-2/
The Message in the Sound, Swamp Biscuits and Tea, January 2014: http://www.swampbiscuitsandtea.com/the-message-in-the-sound-by-mary-renzi/
World's Shortest Author Interview
What's your favorite imaginary emotion?
Fascomimesis. This emotion is similar to an airborne pathogen in that it is transmitted through the spittle of an angry mob. Think of it as a contact high of hate. For example: The Buddhist felt great shame after throwing his shoe at the single mother. He had become quite fascomimetic after strolling past the Donald Trump rally.
(Unfortunately, this emotion is not imaginary.)
If, due to some very poor logistics, you had to survive several days in some random tropical wilderness, what would you do to find food, and what species would your imaginary companion be?
I'd eat the hell out of some mangoes and coconuts, and mow down on some tropical crickets for protein. I'd boil my water over a raging campfire which would hopefully deter the jaguars and boa constrictors and bird-eating tarantulas. My imaginary friend would be an alien werewolf. We'd wax philosophic about the missteps of the human species as we skewered our crickets romantically over the crackling fire, plus I'd feel better about the jaguars and dog-sized tarantulas if I had my own werewolf.
About the Artist
Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology. He does the Space Squid cover designs and other squid stuff.