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The foot-falls beat out a rhythm as the two girls ran on a trail along the river.
“A nice fall day and you've got me out here running!” Katrina called to her friend. “I thought I was the impulsive one?”
Sasha scowled back.
“I don't mind, you know. It’s a lovely day and the Charles doesn't stink.”
Sasha turned onto a path cutting through the park towards the city while her friend happened to be looking across the river. Katrina had to cut over the lawn to catch up.
“So, we're going this way, are we?” Katrina smiled.
After a minute, Katrina spoke up again. “You know, you don't have to keep blabbing on about it. We could run in silence for a while.”
Sasha responded by picking up the pace. The two sprinted out of the park and came to an abrupt stop before the deluge of cars racing down the road.
Sasha punched the crosswalk button and paced the sidewalk. Katrina rested against the light pole and caught her breath. After a minute she said, “I suppose this is about her?”
Just then the light changed and Sasha darted across the road. Katrina sighed and followed. Two blocks later, Katrina caught up as Sasha ran into a pastry shop. She was ordering a chocolate croissant as Katrina stepped up beside her.
“And a chocolate milk,” Katrina added.
Sasha stormed over to a corner table and sat facing a wall.
Katrina paid and joined her friend. “Now this is worth running for!” She took a big swig of the liquid chocolate. “How about we run to Ben and Jerry's next?”
Sasha spoke while staring at her pastry. “It's not fair.”
“I hate things that are not fair!” Katrina responded, slamming her fist on the table.
Sasha looked up at her friend, “Why, because they’re unfair?”
“I was thinking unjust, actually,” she responded with a smile.
Sasha returned a faint smile.
“So what's up, girl?”
Sasha sighed. “You were right. It is about her.” She took a big bite of the croissant.
“OK, you know she's added all my classes, and sits behind me.”
“Like a puppy dog following you around?”
“There is nothing cute about it. It's creepy. Two weeks ago she dyed her hair to match mine. I swear she has a spy who reports to her what I'm wearing in the morning so that she can match it.”
“Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.”
“Yeah, and stalking is the most sincere form of affection?
“It sounds like you're developing a twin. It's probably a phase she’s going through.”
“She claims her name is Sasha, and hangs with people I know when I'm not around.”
“Alright, that's pretty far up there on the creepy scale.”
“Yes, and last week she started dressing a bit sexier, a bit more cleavage, and tighter jeans, etcetera.”
“Have you spoken to her?”
“I've tried, but she ignores me. Anyone else, she'll chat up like an old friend.”
“I yelled at her after history on Friday and people came to her defense. They told me to stop being a jerk.”
“Now Sasha, people say that to everyone.”
Sasha stared her friend in the eye and set her jaw. “You know Janice Thornton?”
Katrina's thought for a moment. “Of course. She's a sweet girl. Took a year off to go on a Peace Corps trip didn't she?”
“That's the one. She went all postal on me; threatened to put a venomous snake in my bed if I harassed Sasha again.
“Sasha, Sasha!” she raised her voice. “I know that's not her real name.”
Katrina sipped her drink and asked, “So what happened today?”
“While you were sleeping in, my dear roommate, I went down to the dining hall. She was holding court at our usual table. Sweet little Janice bumped past me to take the last seat. When I walked over no one looked up. I said hi to a couple of people and they ignored me. It was like I didn't exist. And then, that witch, looked at me for just a second and smirked.
“She's taken all my friends ...”
“Except for me.” Katrina interrupted.
“Yes, except for you.” Sasha reached over and squeezed her friend's hand.
Katrina finished her drink and slammed it on the table. “How about that Ben and Jerry's now?”
“Hi Sasha. Nice to see you.” A male voice broke in.
They looked up into the beaming face of Chad Perkins. They shared two classes with him.
Sasha looked to Katrina and rolled her eyes.
Katrina responded, “Hello, Chad.”
He looked towards her as if he hadn’t realized she was there. “Oh, hi, Katrina.”
He immediately looked back to Sasha. “So, um, there’s a concert next Friday and I thought you might want to …”
Sasha cut him off. “Next Friday. Gee, sorry, nope I’m busy.”
“Oh,” He looked down. “Maybe some other time?”
She just shrugged.
“Oh, OK, I understand.” Chad gave a little wave, turned and left.
“You’re so mean,” Katrina said.
“He’s not taking the hint.”
“Hello Katrina,” a melodic voice said from behind Sasha.
“What is it, South station in here today?” Sasha said.
Katrina looked up to see a near perfect twin of her Sasha. She was wearing the same running shorts as the real Sasha and the same color top, although it was tighter. Katrina scowled at her. “What do you want?”
“Well,” the Sasha clone said, “I'm having a party and thought you might want to come along. It's tonight about eight o'clock.”
Katrina was about to turn her down when a thought occurred to her. “Can I bring a friend?”
The fake Sasha's face lit up in a bright Hollywood smile, “Sure, I'd love to meet your date. Who is he?”
Katrina smiled back. “It'll be a surprise.”
“OK, then, I'll see you tonight. Bye.”
“Not you, too,” Sasha growled.
“What, choose it over you? No way. What do you say? Want to go to a party with me?”
“No, no, no way. You're not dragging me to that impersonator’s room. There is absolutely no way that you can get me to go too.” Sasha folded her arms over her chest.
At seven thirty the two stood outside fake Sasha's door.
“I can't believe you talked me into this.” Sasha said sourly. “Are you certain you can distract her?”
Katrina met Sasha’s gaze with one corner of her mouth up in a mischievous grin.
“Oh, yeah, for a second I forgot who I was talking to.”
“Who is it?” came a sweet reply.
“Doesn't it just make you sick?” Sasha asked miming putting her finger down her throat.
It took a few seconds before the response came. “Katrina, you're early.”
“Yeah, that's me. Just thought I could lend a hand setting up.”
There was a longer pause before the next response. Katrina was about to knock again when they heard, “Alright, I just need a minute.”
After a moment the door swung open and a broad faced grin contracted to a pout at the sight of Sasha. The clone stood frozen for a moment.
“May I come in?” Katrina asked as if she were alone.
“Um,” the clone paused.
Katrina could see the wheels turning. Before the clone came up with another mono-syllabic response, Katrina pushed past her, dragging Sasha in with her.
About midnight they stumbled back into their own room.
Sasha collapsed onto her bed. “Well, that was fun,” she muttered through clenched teeth.
“Yes,” Katrina spun about and dropped onto her own bed. “I think it was, actually.”
“Fun for you, maybe. You weren’t being jostled, bumped and stepped on by people who couldn’t see you. And not even one apology. It’s like I don’t exist.”
Sasha gazed at her friend who seemed entranced by her nail polish.
After a moment of silence Katrina looked. “I’m sorry, were you speaking to me?”
Sasha took up her pillow and beaned Katrina over the head.
“You know she has a picture of Chad?” Katrina said offhandedly.
“What, I didn’t see any.”
“That’s because you didn’t go through her drawers while Dave was distracting everyone.”
Sasha smiled briefly. “I guess he learned it’s not a good idea to kiss someone else in front of his girlfriend.”
“I wonder if they’ll ever get back together?”
“She deserves better. But, what about the picture?”
“I don’t know. They were kids in the picture. It was taken at a beach. Maybe they’re cousins or something?”
The next morning Sasha woke up to Katrina humming. She rolled over to see the back of Katrina as she worked on her hair.
“Bee-Hive today?” she asked with as much effort as she could drag out of her semi-conscious body.
Katrina continued humming.
Lying there for a few more minutes, Sasha decided she wouldn’t get any more sleep and slowly got out of bed.
“You seem cheerful today. What’s up?”
Katrina didn’t respond.
Standing next to her friend, she said, “Boo,” and jabbed her in the ribs.
Katrina screamed and backed away holding her ribs. Her eyes darted wildly about the room, searching every corner, even the ceiling.
“What’s up, Kat?” Sasha walked up to her friend. “Stop playing games.”
Katrina suddenly stood up, crossed her arms, and leaned her back against the wall.
Sasha let out a sigh of relief. “For a second there I thought….”
“Alright,” Katrina cut her off. “Be ye poltergeist, spirit, ghost or ghoul, you should be warned that my Sasha will be back soon and she’s not the kind you want to be messing with."
Katrina reached out to grab onto anything to brace herself against the violent shaking. Her hands wrapped around Sasha’s forearms. Then her eyes focused on Sasha.
“Sasha? What? Where did you come from?” And then with a smile, “How did you do that?”
“How did I do what?” Sasha turned panting. “I was here the whole time, you just couldn’t see me.”
Tapping her chin with her index finger, Katrina replied, “That doesn’t seem likely does it?”
“Do you think? It’s that other girl; she’s taking over my life. One more day and you may not be able to see me again.”
Sasha fell into her chair and laid her head on the desk.
“Come now, you shouldn’t let a little thing like this get you down.”
“A little thing,” Sasha sneered.
“That’s right you’re not a quitter.”
“Nope, not any more. What can I do? If you want me just look for the white flag. It’s the battle flag for us quitters.”
“No, no,” Katrina pulled Sasha up into a proper sitting position. “You are not a quitter.”
Sasha rolled her eyes.
“Remember back in high school. Who was it that convinced the school nurse that we came down with potato famine and had to go home? And who was it that convinced the entire school that the president was going to visit and we all got out of afternoon classes. And who was it who locked the entire faculty in the guidance office?” Katrina blazed a glowing smile at Sasha.
“Those were all your ideas, Kat.”
Her smile diminished a bit. “True, but you were the one who made them happen. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of those things without your planning and execution.”
“We wouldn’t have been involved in any of them without your warped, twisted, deranged, fly by the seat of your pants insanity.”
“It was fun, though, wasn’t it?” Katrina beamed.
Sasha smiled back. “Ok, but how can I do anything if no one knows I exist?”
“If you ask me, it’s a gift.”
Sasha perked up. “Yeah, I’m like a ghost. No one can see me. I can be her personal poltergeist until we figure this out.”
“What ya going to do first?”
“Well,” Sasha paused in thought. “First, I’m going to gorge myself on breakfast.”
Katrina sucked in her breath.
Sasha smiled back, “If no one can see me, what does it matter what I look like?”
Katrina’s smile brightened again.
That day she tailed her clone from class to class. No one looked at her all day. It was all rather boring. She wondered how cops managed a stakeout. Then, in the early evening, just before sunset it happened. It started just as dry and boring as everything else.
“Hey,” a female voice called.
The clone swung around almost striking Sasha with her elbow. “Hey,” she called back.
A petite girl in a loose black dress came up and gave the clone a quick hug. They started walking together.
“We missed you at last month’s DV meeting.”
“Yeah, sorry. I’ve been tied up working on my final project.”
The newcomer perked up. “Really! I haven’t decided which lesson I’m going to do. I was thinking twelve or eighteen. What are you doing?”
“Lesson 88,” the clone said dead-pan.
The newcomer froze in her tracks. After another step the clone stopped and looked back raising her eye brows.
“That’s super-advanced,” the newcomer said tentatively.
“I wanted to stretch myself.”
The girls resumed walking. Sasha pulled up beside the newcomer to catch every word said.
The girls continued talking in hushed tones.
“Who’s the victim?” the newcomer asked.
“Oh, just someone who thinks she’s special.”
“I hate people like that.”
“Indeed,” the clone intoned.
“How’s it going?”
“Very well, except for her best friend. The bond is strong, hard to break. But it’s coming along.”
“Well, this is me,” the newcomer said pointing to a building. “Kick-boxing in the basement. You should join us sometime.”
“Maybe,” the clone responded. They gave a brief wave and parted.
Once the clone was home for the night, Sasha went back to her room to search the internet. Katrina was asleep in her bed.
Sasha started with DV Lesson 88, but didn’t find anything. After hours of searching, she was about to give up when she saw something in the corner of the search screen. She blinked several times to verify that it was actually there. It was DV Lesson 1 in just a slightly dimmer shade of white than the page. It wasn’t in the search results, but in the corner.
Clicking on it brought up a black screen. There was nothing in the web address at the top of the page and nothing to click on. Nothing happened when she tried clicking randomly over the page. Neither did typing every key on the keyboard.
She went back to search and tried other lesson numbers, each coming up the same. She noted that other words appeared in that space just before the lesson number. When she typed in “DV Lesson 88” it did just the same as the others. Try as she might, the words flashed too fast for her to make it out.
Sasha awoke with a start pulling her head up from her desk, Katrina’s hand on her shoulder.
“That doesn’t count as an all-nighter you know,” Katrina said.
Sasha rubbed her eyes. “It would have been a waste of an all-nighter as I didn’t find anything.”
“Nothing?” Katrina pointed to the screen, “It looks like you’ve found the great black screen.”
Pressing the back button on her browser, she pointed to the lower right corner of the now white screen.
“DV Lesson 88,” Katrina read out loud. “What’s that mean?”
“I don’t know but it has something to do with what is happening to me. Now watch it closely during the refresh.”
“Did you see it?” she asked once the screen refreshed.
“What am I looking for, exactly?”
Sasha pointed to the suspect words. “There is something else that pops up in that space just before these words, but I haven’t been able to catch it.” She refreshed again.
“Yeah, I see,” said Katrina as she ran to her dresser and pulled out her camera.
“What?” Sasha asked.
“Oh, come now. We record the screen refresh and play it back frame by frame.”
Sasha perked up. “That’s brilliant.”
“Not really. I used the same technique to capture some great shots of Patrick Dempsey.”
Sasha raised an eyebrow.
“I was just 15, give me a break.”
Reviewing the frames they saw the words, Digital Voodoo.
Sasha crossed her arms. “Voodoo, really Voodoo? This is twenty-first century Boston. How do we get Voodoo here?”
“Salem witches,” Katrina responded.
They looked at each other for a few seconds and shrugged.
“Ok, but how do we fight it?” Sasha asked. “When I click on it nothing happens. I’ve been at it most of the night.”
“There is this shop on a back alley in Newburyport, called Granny's. I think I saw some voodoo stuff there.”
Sasha squinted. “When did you go there?”
“Last month when you were sick.”
“So, while I laid here on death's door step you were off having fun.”
“Pretty much, except for the fun thing. Jenny wanted to try a raw vegan restaurant in one of those old mill buildings converted to a mini-mall. I tried a bit but ended up eating from the convenience store across the aisle from them.”
“Don't ask me. It's the sushi of PETA, I guess.”
Sasha sighed. “What about the Voodoo shop?”
“It's not a Voodoo shop, per se, more of a macabre knick-knack hovel. You'll see when we get there.”
They arrived at the alley a few hours later. On either side were the backs of shops. On the street-facing side were bright and inviting window displays. On this side they were plain concrete or brick. A couple of aged trees grew in the middle of the path shading the area and adding to the general gloom of the place.
“Ok,” Sasha said, “This is kind of creepy.”
“Well, they are not going to put a Voodoo shop in Harvard Square now, are they?”
“A macabre knick-knack hovel,” Sasha corrected.
Katrina led the way to a set of stone stairs that led below ground level. At the bottom a door led into the basement of the building. Above the door a small, hand-painted sign read: Granny's.
“How did you find this place?” Sasha asked.
Katrina shrugged, “Lucky, I guess.”
“And would that be good luck or bad luck?” Sasha asked with a wink.
They were immediately struck, not by the jumbled mess of a store, but by the overpowering odor of spices, incense, and other unidentifiable smells.
Sasha gagged and coughed. Katrina smiled and took in a deep breath.
After a couple of minutes, Sasha got to the point that she could breathe the spice soup atmosphere of the store. The room occupied by the store was long and narrow like the inside of a school bus. Running down the center of the room were floor to ceiling display shelves. Between the shelves on the wall and the ones in the middle, they had to turn sideways to navigate between the overstuffed shrunken-head pillows and porcelain vampire teeth.
After half an hour of searching they returned to the front of the store empty-handed.
“I thought you said there were voodoo dolls here?”
“Hum,” responded Katrina, “Well, they do have some pretty creepy dolls.” She reached out and stroked a wind chime made of animal fangs.
“We'll see.” Sasha stormed off to the counter. A large black woman who looked old enough to be a great grandmother sat flipping through a copy of a fashion magazine.
“Look, can you help us?” Sasha demanded.
The woman turned the page and continued her perusing.
Before she could yell at the relic, Katrina touched her on the shoulder. “Here, let me try, invisible girl.”
Katrina cleared her throat.
The woman looked up in surprise. “Well child, you gave granny a bit of a start. You know I get so tied up in my reading that I'd miss an earthquake."
“What can granny do for you, child?”
Sasha groaned and turned away in disgust. Would she be ignored forever, moving as a ghost through the world?
She shook the thought from her head and looked around while Katarina chatted with granny. As she turned, she noticed a narrow doorway with a bead curtain leading into another room. An ‘employees only' sign was hanging conspicuously on the wall by the door.
Walking up, she pushed some beads aside and peered in. Piles of various shaped small boxes filled the room. In the middle of this mess, a girl, no older than herself, sat at a table. A pile of emptied boxes littered the floor around her feet.
The girl looked up as Sasha parted the curtain. Cocking her head to one side she stared directly into Sasha's eyes. The girl stood up and walked over, looking Sasha up and down.
Sasha felt she should move, back away, but she was transfixed by the pitch black eyes of the other girl.
Stopping less than a foot in front of Sasha the girl smiled. “You're supposed to be invisible.” She turned and walked back to the table.
When the eye contact was broken Sasha felt as if she had been released.
“It's not a very good job. Cheap work.”
“Tell that to everyone at school.”
The girl shrugged. “The force can have a strong influence on the weak minded.”
“You can see me.” Sasha stormed into the room. “How come?”
“Granny sees much, knows even more.”
Sasha shook her head. “You're granny? Then who?” she gestured with her thumb back towards the counter.
“Oh, that's Rachel. Plays the part well. Tourists love her.”
“But, that doesn't explain how you can see me.”
“Granny sees much...”
“And knows more. Yeah, I got the fortune cookie version earlier.”
The young granny dropped her smile. “You, girl, are the victim of voodoo. Weak, cheap voodoo. Who have you ticked off?”
“Some girl at school is taking a digital voodoo course and I'm her big project.”
“Digital Voodoo?” She spat on the floor. “Digital Voodoo is a charlatans’ game. A trick of mirrors, sleight of hand to the true magic.” As she spoke her voice grew louder and deeper, like she was speaking into a 50-gallon drum.
“I'll tell you what to do, girl. Do you have a Facebook account with your picture on it?”
Young granny shook her head. “People never understand the power of personal items. Change your picture. It doesn't matter to what as long as you're not in the picture.”
“But how would...”
“Are you going to listen or talk? ‘Cause if you want to talk, you can talk outside.”
“Right now. You change your picture; she'll have no more power over you. She can't do anything beyond what she’s already done to you. Then you have to take your identity back from her. You do that and you'll be visible to the world again.”
Sasha stared at her intently. Their gazes locked for what seemed like minutes. Finally young granny spoke.
“Ok, you can talk now.”
“How do I take my identity back?”
“Easy way, you kill her.”
Sasha pondered it for an instant. “And the hard way?”
Young granny smiled. “It's hard because no one can tell you. It's your life; you're the only one who can figure out how to get it back.”
“But, I don't know.”
“Then, as master Yoda would say, 'stuck like this, you are'.”
“Why are you quoting Star Wars?”
“We take good analogies where we can get them. Now go. I'm too busy with the dead today to worry about the invisible.”
Sasha grabbed Katrina and headed out.
“Bye, Granny!” Katrina called over her shoulder. Outside Katrina continued. “That was a nice grandma.”
“Katrina, I have to take my life back. How can I do that?”
Spreading her arms wide, Katrina responded, “Go shopping.”
Back at the dorm they sat facing each other.
“I figure to get my life back I have to want it more than her.”
“Okay,” Katrina shrugged.
“I really don't think that I can want it any more than I already do. Therefore we have to make her want it less.”
Katrina thought for a moment and then a wicked grin bloomed on her face.
On the third night of sitting in the clone’s room Sasha finally saw how to log into the digital voodoo site. Using Katrina’s camera trick, she managed to capture the password.
“My, don’t you look disheveled,” Katrina greeted her the next morning.
“Yeah, but I got the goods,” Sasha said with a weak smile. “And after a decade or so of sleep we’ll get to it.” Sasha fell on the bed and dozed off almost immediately.
She awoke in the early afternoon. Katrina was out. Taking out her laptop, she entered the site. Besides rather dark graphics the site seemed rather ordinary. A couple of hours later Katrina returned Sasha’s broad smile.
“Hello, Cheshire,” Katrina said.
“I’ve found something that should just be perfect. Look,” she pointed to the PC, “gravitas, living a fuller life. This should strengthen my grip on my life, while we work on the other half.
“It’s amazing how much they use social media. A voodoo doll is supposed to be a representation of a person. On Facebook we each build our own representation.”
“So, what’s this gravitas?”
“To start, I just change my Facebook picture to my family. A strong bond to me and not her.” She said the last word with a sneer. “I’ve also poked everyone I know. Each one that pokes back builds me up.
“And, of course, I have to link to their main site for the mojo.”
Katrina smiled. “Someone’s been busy.”
“Indeed, and now for the fun stuff.”
The friends headed out to look up the clone. They found her leaving the dining hall. As they approached they saw Chad creeping up on the clone from behind.
Sasha and Katrina stopped and watched. Immediately behind her, he reached over her head and covered her eyes. “Guess who?”
“Chad,” she said with a smile as she turned and wrapped her arms around his neck. They hugged and kissed deeply.
Sasha reached over and closed Katrina’s gaping mouth.
“She did this for Chad?” Katrina asked.
They stood silent for a few seconds.
“Ok,” Sasha said. “I know how to end this."
She stormed over and pushed them apart knocking the clone to the ground. Chad looked down dumbfounded. Sasha pulled him in close and planted one on his lips.
“No!” the clone shouted as she got to her feet. She lunged at the two but Katrina swung her around and held her at bay.
Chad seemed to be in shock standing with his hands out staring at the clone. Sasha struggled to turn his back away from the other her. Once she was out of sight he relaxed and closed his eyes. When he did, Sasha whispered, “Kiss me, Chad.”
The clone, with tears running down her cheeks, turned to Katrina. “I can’t watch. Please you must stop this. I’ve worked so long. Please, I’m begging you, please stop this before it’s too late.”
“Sasha was never interested in him. You could have just waited for him to take the hint.”
She started sobbing and fell to the ground. “He’s Chad. I’ve loved him since we were kids but he never saw me as anything but a friend.”
After what seemed like minutes of making out Sasha pulled away. Chad slowly opened his eyes and smiled.
“Yes, Chad, it’s me.”
He reached to pull her back into his embrace but she stepped away.
“Chad, I’m sorry to break it to you this way, but I’m not interested in you.”
“But, we just…”
“That was a goodbye kiss, Chad. I don’t want to be mean, but if you continue to bother me I will report you to the campus police.”
He looked as if he were about to cry.
“There are plenty of girls on campus that would love a guy like you. Give up on me and find one of them.”
He started to speak but she cut him off by raising a hand.
She walked past him to the clone. “You have done enough, messed up my life, and forced me to break that nice guy’s heart. I hope you flunk your DV class."
She glared up at Sasha. “You’ve ruined everything. I will get you for this no matter how long it takes.”
“What do I care? You can fiddle around with that digital stuff while I’ve got resources in the real thing.”
The clone got up and started to leave.
Katrina said, “Maybe you can start by comforting Chad.”
In a few seconds both Chad and the clone were gone. “That’s the first time I’ve seen you have a fight over a guy you didn’t want,” Katrina said.
“Hopefully my last.”
“We only missed one thing.”
“What’s that?” Sasha tilted her head looking at her friend.
“While you were invisible we could have stolen a case of Ben and Jerry’s.”
“You know what’s a shame?”
“He’s a really good kisser.”
They both laughed and headed arm and arm back to their dorm.
by Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
by Timothy O. Goyette