“…I’ve got nothing.” I stare at the blank screen in front of me. Blinking cursor, taunting. I tangle my fingers in my hair, tempted to start pulling. “Two weeks past deadline, less than 24-hours to publication, and I’ve got fuck-all for a story idea. This revenge assignment is a nightmare! It’s like it’s tailor-made to–”
“Drive you crazy?” I say, from across the desk.
I release my hair and glare at my doppelganger. He’s sitting comfortably across from me, grinning. “Something like that, yes,” I say.
“Think it’s intentional?”
That gets a laugh from me. “What? The editors handed out this assignment just to spite me?”
“I do cause trouble. Always submitting late, always questioning the rules. I’m a rabble-rouser and a delinquent. Maybe they’re fed up with me.”
I push my chair back from the computer. “Let me back up a minute. Give your ego a bit more room to swell.”
My reflection gives me the finger from across the desk. “It’s not ego. I’m right. The topic couldn’t be more difficult for me. It’s the perfect tool to drive me crazy And it’s working, isn’t it? I’m seeing a perfect copy of myself sitting in the chair next to me. I’m conversing with myself, out loud. And I haven’t felt this frustrated about writing in quite a long time.”
“I haven’t felt this frustrated in a long time. You feel nothing. You are just a fever dream. Stop confusing pronouns.”
“Still, I…sorry! You can’t help wondering if the assignment is meant to flush you out.”
“How? Either I write the story, or I don’t. It’s not that big a deal, is it?”
“If you write the story, are you being true to your principles? Revenge is antithetical to your person.”
“So what? It’s just fiction. Shouldn’t matter where my personal feelings lie.”
My mirage points to the screen in front of me. “So why are you struggling so?”
I pinch the bridge of my nose, trying to release tension. Trying to regain some semblance of sanity. “I don’t know,” I whisper.
“Yes, you do.”
I nod. I know myself quite well, it seems. “ I’m scared. It feels like writing this story, dwelling on the concept of revenge, is…dangerous somehow. It’s stupid, but that’s how it feels. It’s terrifying.”
“You find yourself tottering on the precipice. Peering into the darkness.”
“Melodramatic, but yes.”
“And if you don’t write it? If you don’t submit a story?”
A sigh dribbles out of my lips. “It should mean nothing. But it feels like I’d be admitting defeat. It feels like they win. Even though that means they’re out to get me. Which they’re not.” I grind my teeth. “I feel trapped.”
Across the desk, I look smug. “So…?”
“So? If you have a solution, please tell me. Hiding ideas from myself is truly insane.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Write…what? What’s ‘this?’”
My reflection waves his arms about judiciously. “This. You, talking to you. Struggling with the assignment. Avoiding the issue. Not writing about revenge.”
“Write a revenge story about not pursuing revenge? That’s stupid. Besides, it’s a bad idea to write about having trouble writing. It’s in poor taste.”
“Fuck that! Who cares? Since when did those kinds of rules and guidelines ever inform your writing principles?”
It’s my turn to grin. “Never. But what does writing this ridiculous, batshit-crazy banter with my imaginary self accomplish?”
I just stare at myself, not providing an answer.
“Oh,” I say. “Now I’m just me, talking to myself? Switching to a singular internal monologue all of the sudden?” Still no response. “Asshole.”
What does writing down this fever dream accomplish? It’s not a tale of revenge, at least not exactly. The protagonist (and that’s…me? How odd) isn’t seeking it. The protagonist is actively avoiding the topic altogether!
But…this tale, it is about revenge, at least tangentially. I’m no expert in existentialism, but I appear to be trodding all over it right now. Just talking about revenge means I’m addressing the topic at hand, right? And if this assignment is some nefarious, circuitous attempt by the editors to drive me out or drive me crazy with frustration (which it simply cannot be, even I’m not that paranoid or egotistical), then by not writing the story I’ve been assigned, but still writing an effective story, am I–?
“Revenge in absentia? Revenge via cowardice?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know. It hurts too much to think about.”
“So, stop thinking. Start typing. Time’s wasting.”
“You’re an asshole.”
I smile at myself. “Yes. You are.”
Disclaimer: This is PURE FICTION. I do not believe, in any way, shape, or form, that anyone at Confabulator Cafe is out to get me. On the contrary, I had a great time finally writing this story (although getting to that point was agony). I want to thank the Confabulator folks for challenging me, and getting me to write things I normally would never imagine or attempt. Also, I do NOT see doppelgangers of myself sitting across the desk. At least, not that you know of.