I’m always curious about what people are up to when they think no one is watching. I see a lot of things. I have trouble sleeping most nights so I step outside for walks. I find myself out on one of these walks, the shadow of an oak tree shrouding my presence like a curtain, when I see my neighbor do something very strange.
When you live in apartments, it’s hard to keep to yourself. If you stomp around after midnight, someone knows it. When you come and go, someone sees. When you’re acting out of character, people pick up on it. It just happens.
She’d gotten arrested yesterday. I watched the police cuff her and take her away. She’d been standing out in the street shouting into the nothingness of the pale October air. Losing her mind about ‘copycats’ or something. This was out of character for her, but I chalked it up to drug abuse. I’d suspected it for some time now. She’d been acting very paranoid lately and she had lost a lot of weight. Now here she was returning, pulling up in a Lyft. It was nearly 5am. She crept from the vehicle, and I couldn’t help but wonder…
What is she up to? Why is she creeping up to her own door?…She lives alone.
I always think people are up to no good sneaking around in the dead of night. Yes–I realize how hypocritical that sounds coming from the man watching this unfold from a shadow.
She left a note. She slunk up to the entrance of her own apartment, moving slowly and glancing over her shoulders. I ducked behind a bush to be sure she wouldn’t see me. The Lyft driver sat waiting for her. She taped the note on her own door and as quickly and quiet as the wind, returned to the car and they took off.
I know I shouldn’t have, but I crossed the street to read it. It wasn’t my business, but I’m nosey. That’s all there is to it. I won’t try to convince you I had a good reason. It was just curiosity…well, we all know what they say about that. I carefully pulled the letter from the door so I could place it back afterwards.
It was written in small print by a hurried hand. It read:
Whoever you are, I’m leaving this here because I know you will read it. You’re following my every step. You’ve ruined everything. It’s taken me a while but I think I finally understand.
Will you please fuck off? If you don’t stop stalking my life, I’m going to fucking end you. Do you understand that? Why are you doing this?
This all started in April, but I didn’t know it at the time. I moved in nextdoor to you. You seemed nice enough, but I’m not interested in being friends with the neighbors. That’s why I never talked to you, but you didn’t get the hint did you? Of course not.
I don’t want to have conversations or “share time.” I don’t want to talk to you about my life. I don’t want to hear about yours. I don’t want to lend you a cup of fucking sugar. Maybe that makes me a bad neighbor, but I don’t have to justify myself to something like you. I just want to live my life and be left alone. I’m tired of looking over my shoulder. I’m tired of you watching everything that I do. Leave me alone, whatever you are, you fucking creep!
It was almost like it was written to me, except it didn’t make sense. Was this written to me? I wasn’t stalking her like the note implied. Really, I wasn’t…and I couldn’t remember ever bothering her aside from saying hello once or twice in passing. I wasn’t watching everything she did. I just find people interesting. I continued reading…
It wasn’t enough for you to be up in my business 24/7 was it? You had to start coming into my job.
Oh, okay. No. This wasn’t written for me to read. I’d never gone into her job that I was aware of. I didn’t even know where she worked.
You had absolutely no reason to start coming into Kohl’s, poking around the men’s department. You’re not even a man. You’re subhuman. You only came in there to spy on me so you could continue to ruin my life, but I hid in the back as soon as I saw you come in. I thought that would be good enough.
Ouch. Okay. That’s weird…I actually did go into Kohl’s last week, but I had no idea she worked there–I swear. I began to wonder if maybe this was written for me, but her perception of me was askew. I didn’t care at all what she did or where she worked. I just find people interesting. I like to see what they do. I don’t spy on people. I don’t look through windows or anything like that. I just pay attention.
When you cut your hair to look like mine, I thought, what exactly does this bitch think she’s doing? You can’t just copy my “look” and become me.
Oh. Okay. No.
This wasn’t meant for me to read.
I’m a 33 year old man. I have short brown hair. My neighbor is a woman in her mid-twenties with a died-black pixie cut. I began to wonder who this note was directed towards.
Getting me fired from that job (which I had for two fucking years) wasn’t enough for you was it? You had to keep going. You had to take that job from me… But that’s not all you took. You couldn’t– wouldn’t –stop there would you? David hasn’t always been faithful. I know that. But the heart wants what it wants…I was crushed when I saw him coming out of your apartment the day before yesterday…but I should have expected you to stoop so low, because you’re less than human. Nothing is beneath you.
As far as I was aware, the apartment next to hers was unoccupied.
I’m not sure how it is that you keep confusing everyone around me. I’m not sure how you’re slowly absorbing everything that I am. I’m not sure how it is that you’re becoming me, but even if nobody else sees you for what you are, I do. I see you. It’s unnatural. It’s obvious after the stunt you pulled last night that you’re not human. I’m putting an end to this once and for all.
I haven’t been able to sleep or eat since any of this began, but you won’t win. I won’t let you.
What. The. Fuck is this? My neighbor has lost her mind.
I bet you thought you were so clever calling the cops like that. Who would ever believe the hysterical woman who says she woke up to find a woman who looked just like her, who was slowly copying everything to become her, standing over the bed with a knife.
I told them that you ran off into the woods like some feral cat, on all fours. I told them I tried to catch you to prove that I wasn’t crazy. They wouldn’t check the woods. They took me away. Gave me sobriety tests, which I passed, obviously. They couldn’t hold me. I’m coming for you now. I know everything about you. I’m taking back my life from you, you fucking copycat. You’ll see. I’ve asked you more than once to stop fucking copying me. I realize now that you’re just something that can’t be reasoned with…fine.
I know you’re some kind of demon and I’m going to make it my mission to send you back to hell.
See you soon, bitch.
The door opened then. Charlotte was on the other side of it. There was no possible way this could be. She looked normal–not sleep deprived or malnourished. Not like the woman I’d seen come and go in the Lyft. She was wearing a tank top and a small pair of shorts.
“Can I help you?” She asked.
If I opened my door to find one of the neighbors standing out front in the hours before daybreak, I would be shocked…even scared to find them there.
There was no fear in her eyes. Just cold irritation. Her eyes were the same blue as the Charlotte that I knew…but that was impossible. This couldn’t be that Charlotte. Something was off about them…the irises. Her pupils were vertical slits bisecting the center of the cool blue, like dark slashes. Deep inside was the endless darkness of eternity.
“Hello?” She asked again. “Scott, why are you standing at my door at 5 in the morning?”
“I–I’m sorry.” I stumbled through words and excuses in my mind before landing on the perfect one: “I saw this note get caught on the wind. It–uh–it fell off your door–so I guess it’s–it’s for you.”
She snatched the letter from my hand saying: “Go home before I call the police…” the slits in her eyes narrowed, “…again.”
She turned quickly and shut the door behind her…
I’m almost sure she knew that I’d read the note…
I’m almost sure she knew who the note was from…
I’m almost sure she knew what the note would say…
Because before the door slammed in my face, she gave me a curt little wave…with her tail.
What do you do about an actual copycat? Who would believe me? I’ve resolved that I should probably spend more time minding my own business. I think I’ll let Charlotte try to get rid of that thing on her own.