This is a story that I originally read at Penguin Plays Rough
, which is completely awesome and you should drop any and all responsibilities to go to. Your child? Your crippling cancer? Drop them.
This is a story about clones, doppelgangers and to a lesser extent, celebrity lookalikes. After a steady diet of pop cultural references, we should all understand by now that these hateful beings are not our friends. They might start off as a clever way of getting out of family lunches or as an elaborate alternative to mirrors – but it will always end with us kneeling on a rainy street screaming
‘they stole my face, my faaaaaaaceeeeeee’.
Whether grown in labs as narcissistic sex aids, or sprouting bodily from your unconscious desire to hunt down and kill Derryn Hinch, it’s certain that there’s always something to learn from these ungodly abominations. Sometime’s it’s as obvious as the parallel version of yourself who crosses dimensions to give the warning of ‘whatever you do, don’t get drunk in a penguin enclosure on New Years’ before showing his horribly mauled and pecked visage to you from under his hood. Or perhaps it’s as simple as realising ‘Huh, Mum was right. My posture is awful’, as your sullen clone hunches up the stairs to the belltower.
Of course we’d all love to believe we are unique – freaks of nature and lonely aberrations. We can only hope that passers-by see us lumbering down the street and scream in abject terror, ‘My God, look at that malformed jellyfish man, you don’t see that every day’. And with a wink and a grin, we are safe in the knowledge that there isn’t another ectoplasmic nightmare in the world to steal our thunder.
Unfortunately I’ve discovered that I’m generic looking. Yes, there are other loping, corpse pale, lank-machines in this world, and their appearance has been documented. One of my favourite incidents was when I was introduced to a young man who looked like me in the same way that cake resembles bread. Yet my thrilled friends decided he was definitely my clone. Neither of us could see it – that was until we both laughed, and stared into the terrifying gaping maw of each other’s excessive gums. Or there’s the elusive ‘hot arts building guy’, who seemed to be distinguished as different from me by both his hotness and his presence in the arts building, which was upsetting as I was also frequently in the arts building.
There was one clone with a more significant impact on my life. He’s always a step ahead of me, invisible, mysterious, yet there’s no doubt that he exists. It’s like walking into a room and smelling the strong perfume or bear-musk of the person who’d been there before you. Or bear.
When I came back to Australia after living and completing my primary school education overseas, I was slightly worried about fitting in to my new high-school. But I wasn’t stressing too hard, because I knew that if I was the victim of schoolyard bullying, taunting or discrimination, I could take refuge in Narnia, where I plan on starting a lucrative turkish delight bartering system.
At first everyone was really nice, nobody really singling me out as different, and readily including me in their activities. But after a week or so, I realised that these people were also calling me Jeremy. It took about a day before a few bright sparks realised that I wasn’t their ex-school chum Jeremy, and actually some foreign interloper. I didn’t last long at that school, not so much because of the mysterious clone shenanigans, but mostly due to the rampant face punching.
In year 8, I go to my second High-school, a little older, a little wiser, a bunch more traumatised and no longer believing that if things didn’t work out at this school, I will be whisked away by the Jesus-lion. But on the bright side, the school could have been run by malevolent toad gods with a view to world domination, and i still would have felt safer than in the last one.
Somehow during all the punching I had forgotten the whole Jeremy Clone incident, but was swiftly reminded when as I was awkwardly introduced to my new class, and someone pointed at me and said ‘He’s looks exactly like a gay, English, Jeremy’. Keep in mind I had an absurd secret garden-esque accent at that point. That’s right. Jeremy had been in this school as well, and then moved on at around the exact time that I arrived. “He took my life, my liiiifeeeeeeee”.
Now let’s move on. Naturally the majority of the teachers didn’t realise that I was a different person. This didn’t mean much, until the waterpolo shanghai incident. One day one of the PE teachers pulled me aside and told me to grab my things as we were heading to the pool. If there’s one thing you learn in high school apart from basic arithmetic, journeys and awkward formal dances, it would have to be a kind of resigned obedience to uncomfortable physical education. It wasn’t until I was standing on the edge of the pool, looking at another schools water polo team that I realised I may just be about to play water polo. It was only after we’d started playing water polo that I realised maybe this was because Jeremy had been a water polo player, as nobody had yet explained how to play the game to me. What followed was about fifteen minutes of sheer terror as I swam around trying to seem useful and unthreatening. When the ball skidded across the water to me, I would surreptitiously disappear under the surface, like a hyper-energised ‘Jaws’ victim. But after a while that got boring, so instead I tread watered in a corner thinking about Xena.
LACK OF STARS:
Since writing this story, I’ve been struck with the horrifying realisation that it shouldn’t be too hard to track down the elusive Jeremy. With the stalk-tastic power of Facebook, he could be only a few clicks away. But as I started trawling my old school-friend contacts, I had to hypothesise about where this would end up, about the dire ramifications of having an apocalyptic showdown with my clone. Here is my hypothesis, and I challenge anybody to think of a more logical conclusion.
We decide to meet up for drinks. I say cocktail bar, he says boutique beer garden. Well played, Jeremy. It turns out whatever resemblance we once shared has probably been obliterated by a difference in life choices. Namely, he’s continued his morbid obsession with water polo and I’ve developed a couch addiction. He’s probably tanned and chest haired. He has feature wrists sticking out of his casually hip shirt.
He is friendly, and generous with buying drinks. I am nervous and awkward until at least three drinks are in me. Conversation hits an awkward pause. This is when I probably say something like ‘Nice water polo arms’. He chuckles uneasily, and gets slightly skittish eyes, like a horse remembering thunder. By now I’m having a great time, throwing back drinks and drunkenly meandering through a heavily edited version of my life story. I start calling him George Cloney. He goes to the bathroom, and I yell after him ‘don’t leave me a-clone’, cackling like an ancient pig.
By the time he comes back, I’ve forgotten any and all reasons why it isn’t completely logical to hit on your own clone. It’s just a fancier type of masturbation! Jeremy is fidgeting with his empty beer, and asking if I have enough material for my article yet. I’m jolted out of my creepy staring, remembering slightly too late that I’m probably posing as a journalist to make this meeting seem less weird. Jeremy naturally leaves, after ignoring my slurring requests to ‘see where the night takes us’. He gives me a passive-aggressive limp handshake and leaves.
Afterwards, the feeling of existential dread deep inside my chest is not simply from another experience of being a complete drunken ass. It’s a cold, dead sensation aroused by watching the person I’ve thought of as ‘my clone’ leaving the building, and realising that he is in fact, the original. It’s always been me stumbling after him, sucking on the dregs of his life like a toothless goat on a discarded ice-cream cone. With a weary heart, I know what I must do. I have to steal Jeremy’s face.
THE SCORE: 2.5/5 stars