It was dark out already. The only visible light came from a flickering streetlight just outside my apartment window. The sun had set hours ago but I had only just woken up.
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and sat up, my blankets shifted and fell around me. I shivered. It was cold in my room, too cold, I wrapped the blankets around my shoulders and looked around.
There wasn’t much to see, just clothes lazily strewn around an unkempt room. My eyes focused on the thermostat, a faint glow in the dim light, sixty-two degrees. Too cold.
I laid back down, snuggling back into my blankets, trying to enjoy whatever heat was left. Going back to sleep seemed like a nice option right now, a very nice option.
There was no need to stay awake, I didn’t have anything to do, no responsibilities. I could just fall back to sleep, let everything slip away.
But I couldn’t sleep. Not anymore, it was hard to be awake, but harder to go to sleep. To be alone with myself for any longer. I wasn’t sure if I could bear that.
“Might as well do something.” I said aloud, more for the benefit of hearing myself than anything else.
I rolled out of bed and fell to the floor with a dull thump, my landing softened by a pile of blankets and clothes. My head spun as I staggered to my feet, I felt dizzy.
When was the last time I ate?
My computer was only a short walk away from the bed. The desk was cluttered with whatever papers I had been working on last night, a half-eaten sandwich sat halfway off its plate.
I settled into the comfortable familiarity of my chair and shivered. It was too cold. I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and turned on the computer.
The painful blue glow from the monitor washed over me. With a grimace I closed my eyes to shut out the harsh glow. I fumbled around until I found my lamp and switched it on.
That was better, all the light still hurt my eyes but it wasn’t unbearable now. I logged onto my computer and looked around for my glasses.
I didn’t find them right away because they were lying under a red-stained napkin, the glasses were stained too. Gross.
The napkin went in the trash and I wiped the glasses on my shirt and put them on. The world came into a clear, harsh focus around me. The comfortable lack of sight was gone.
The computer was still booting up. I checked the time on my phone while waiting.
I checked my messages while I was at it.
NO NEW MESSAGES
My computer was on by now, just a blank desktop. I didn’t even want to do anything on it. Sitting at my desk, using my computer, it was all just a habit at this point.
No enjoyment, no reason, just a habit.
How many things were just habits of mine at this point? Nothing was fun anymore, nothing to be enjoyed. It was hard to find a reason to get out of bed, let alone go outside.
Even taking care of myself had become a chore at this point. Why did I bother? Why keep all of this up? There was no real point anymore-
A sudden noise distracted me from my thoughts. It sounded like someone tapping on glass. What could that have been? I looked outside my window at the empty street outside.
There was nothing out there, just the yellow glow of a streetlight illuminating a park car. No one was out at this time of night. So what was that noise?
It didn’t matter. I turned back to my computer and opened google. Maybe I’d watch a movie or something. Maybe I’d just go back to sleep.
Tap. Tap. Tap. There it was again, the sound of someone tapping on glass. I looked outside again. Nothing there.
Even if there was someone out there, how would they be tapping on my window? I was on the third floor.
“Over here silly.” A voice came from across the room.
I jumped up out of my chair in shock and banged my elbow on the desk. The room was empty. No one was here. No one had been here in forever except for me. So who said that?
I stumbled away from my desk and checked inside the bathroom, no one there. The apartment was empty save for myself. Maybe I was going crazy from all this time alone.
I walked back to my desk and was about to sit down when I saw the sheet had fallen off my mirror.
It was an old full body mirror that was in the apartment before I even moved in. I hated it. It reminded me of myself. The sheet had fallen drifted away revealing part of the top.
I walked over to replace it, but for a second got distracted by myself.
I’d really let myself go. My shirt hung loose around my body. The red streaks on my arm stuck on like a sore thumb, I scratched at them absentmindedly.
Dark bags under my eyes stuck out against my pale face. I looked thin, gangly-
I couldn’t stand looking at myself and moved to put the sheet back up on the mirror when I noticed it. My reflection hadn’t moved with me. It just stood there looking back at me.
I tilted my head quizzically, the reflection didn’t move. I walked out of frame but the reflection stayed there. This was weird. Was I dreaming?
I moved back into frame and waved. The reflection waved back.
“What is this?” I said aloud.
“At least refer to me as a person.” The reflection said back.
I blinked, dumbfounded. “You just… you just talked to me? What are you?”
“Oh come on, I just told you I’m a person.” The reflection rolled their eyes.
“Okay, ummmm, who are you then?”
“I’m you!” The reflection smiled, apparently glad to be making progress. “Or at least I’m an alternate you.”
I stepped back, “I’m dreaming, aren’t I?”
“This is all in my head.”
“Most things are.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to help.” With that, they stepped out of the mirror, brushing the sheet aside without a second glance.
“It’s too dark in here.” They walked over and flipped the light switch. Nothing happened.
“The bulb burned out a month ago.” I explained, “Hey so like, what do I call you? Me-Two, Alter-Me?”
They laughed, “You can just call me Heather.” The smiled faded into a more serious look, “How long have you been like this?”
I looked down at my feet. Unsure of how to answer. It’d been so long I’d lost track of time.
Heather walked up to me, kicking a pile of clothes out of their way as they walked, and put a hand on my shoulder. I couldn’t meet their eyes.
I shook my head, “Well, it’s just, sometimes I get busy.” My eyes felt wet.
“This is no way to live.”
They tilted my chin up to meet their eyes, “When was the last time you went outside?”
I didn’t have an answer. It’d been so long. I just shook my head.
“That’s a start then, come on. Let’s go outside.” They took my hand and pulled me towards the front door.
I looked down at my bathrobe and slippers, “But I’m hardly dressed!”
“There’s no one around to see.”
“It’s cold out!”
“We won’t be outside very long.”
I put my heels in the ground and came to a stop. Heather stopped dead in front of me and looked back. I couldn’t meet their eyes, I looked around, trying to think of some excuse. Any excuse.
There was none.
I looked back at Heather, “But what if I’m not ready?”
“Will you ever be?” They asked.
We walked out the door.