Gwen heard the footsteps every night. They made her queasy. They paced in an unsettled pattern across the floorboards. Sometimes the faucet was turned on. There had come to be an unhealthy obsession with the flow of water. It made her shiver. She would pull the blankets high above her head, in hopes of blocking it all out, but she had never been good at make-believe, not even as a child. When other little girls were off gallivanting with knights in shining armour, she stayed behind painting pictures of what she saw before her. Even on canvas, nothing was created that wasn’t already there.
She tried to remember the happy times. How much they smiled, how much they laughed, how much they loved. It was all just within her grasp, and sometimes she thought she could reach out and take it back, but then she looked at him and nothing felt the same. Everyone told her she was being silly. Nothing has changed, they said. She wanted to believe them. But then the faucet turned and the Calix that she loved would once again disappear beneath the ripples.
He felt the distance between them, the distance within himself, and he grew angry.
She sat on the couch, stroking Lancelot gently. A song played softly in the background, her eyes drifting in and out of waking. Somewhere, a sink was being filled with water. She turned her ears away from it. Lancelot began squirming under her hand. He growled. She peeked at him but he stilled, and she closed her eyes again. Suddenly she jumped up, yelping. She squeezed her finger to numb the pain and stop the bleeding. Lancelot had bitten her, and he was now up on all fours growling and barking madly. “No, bad dog!” she cried, cradling her finger, which shivered with pain. Lancelot jumped down from the couch, snapping at her heels. She jerked out of the way. He ran around in wild circles and then zipped out the door. She quickly closed it behind him, but immediately jumped back as he began hurling himself against the door, snarling. “Lancelot!” she cried in despair. She turned around and jumped. Calix stood right behind her, staring unblinking at her. He didn’t say a word, only maneuvered around her, slipped out the door, and began cooing at Lancelot. Gwen’s knees trembled, and she hurried upstairs, not wanting to be around when either came back in.
The pacing increased that night.
Ever since the incident, she noticed Calix giving her funny looks. His jaw was stern, his eyes cold. It had always been the eyes. They lay empty on his face. Those were not Calix’s eyes. She called August once, but he brushed away her fears, saying it was only in her mind.
They were sitting in the dining room, eating dinner. The only sound came from the clinking of china against metal. Gwen chewed slowly, carefully. Calix sucked up his food. He wiped his mouth, staring past Gwen into the dampness of the night. She pushed her food around her plate, too nervous to look up. Before long, she felt him staring at her, and it seemed as though she were on fire.
“Do you want to know what he felt?”
She frowned and peeked up from beneath her eyelashes. Calix’s face had turned into a stony mask. “Who?” She tried, and failed, to keep her voice steady.
“Do you want to know what he felt when the water was rushing down on him, squeezing all around him? Do you want to know what he thought?” His voice dripped with contempt.
Gwen’s skin prickled. She shook her head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. And I don’t want to,” she added quickly. She picked up her plate and began clearing the table, not daring to raise her eyes again. Her mouth formed a thin line.
“S-so cold. I’m freezing. Help. It’s s-s-so cold.” She could see Calix’s body begin to shiver, turn blue even, as he hugged himself and whimpered. “Please help me, s-so c-cold. I can’t breathe. Gwen. Don’t leave me. F-freezing.” Gwen’s throat closed and she squeezed her eyes shut. She tried to hurry past him, but he was faster. He pushed her against the wall, clamping his hands around her wrists, breathing down her neck.
“Why are you doing this?” she gasped.
“Because you don’t believe I’m him,” he snarled, “and now I don’t know what I am.” His grip tightened and she tried to squirm away. The dishes shattered when they hit the ground, the pieces flying into their legs, cutting into them. Calix did not move. “Why don’t you believe I’m him?” he snarled, a quiet menacing hush at her neck.
She finally managed to push him off of her, and she pulled her arms away, hugging them close to her chest. She glared at him. “Because he would never do that. And you just did.” His lips twitched, but she shoved by him and stormed out of the room, calling over her shoulder, “You are no longer welcome in my home. Leave, and don’t you dare come back.”
Calix slipped into the dark house. He crept along the hallway, clamping it tightly in his hand. He found his way to the bedroom. He closed the door behind him and turned to face the bed, his shadow elongating itself across the sleeping face. He drew closer, bringing his arm up. The gun pointed at the forehead; the finger ready to pull the trigger. Suddenly the eyes opened.
“Calix!” August sat bolt upright, staring in horror at the figure that stood before him, lit up in the moonlight. “What are you doing?”
“You never should have brought me back!” Calix shouted. “Do you know how hard it is to be someone I’m not, to live up to those expectations, to see the disappointment in her eyes because I’m not like him?”
“But Calix, you are him! We recreated you, cloned you straight from his DNA! You’re exactly the same!”
“No, I’m not!” he roared, throwing his head back and tearing at his hair. “I have all these memories but it wasn’t me who lived them! I’m nothing but an image of him, I could feel it from the start. I knew there was a role for me to play, but I can’t play it! We all feel like this, everyone like me. This is torture, to me and to Gwen – and I will not let you tear into anyone else’s life again!” Calix raised the gun. “The dead were meant to be dead. Who are you to think you can change that?”
“Wait, Calix, stop, we can figure this out!” August held out his hands, pleading.
Calix snarled. “It’s too late for that, August. You never should have brought me back.” The gun went off. August’s body fell limply forwards, the bullet going straight through his forehead and ramming into the headboard.
Calix dropped the gun. He sat down in a chair opposite the bed and stared coolly at the lump of flesh. Dawn was breaking outside. Calix felt at peace for a moment. He was unsure how long he sat there. The sounds of a waking neighbourhood began drifting through the window. Calix did not move.
Someone was knocking on the front door. Calix jerked up, suddenly alert. The knocking continued. His eyes narrowed, his lips curling.
“August? Could I talk to you?” No! Calix’s body froze. It was Gwen. No, he thought, his brain buzzing frantically, not now, not now, Gwen just get out of here please! He heard the door open. “I know you’re home. You can’t keep someone out who you’ve told where your spare key is,” she tutted. “August, where are you?” Gwen began mounting the steps. Calix panicked. He threw the gun under the bed. He ran out onto the landing. Gwen’s eyes widened when she saw him.
“What are doing here?” She crossed her arms.
“Where else did you expect me to go when you kicked me out?”
“It’s eight in the morning.”
“He wanted eggs and he didn’t have any. So he went to get some.” Calix’s sentences blurred together. Gwen narrowed her eyes. She peeked around him. His shoulders sank when he saw that the bedroom door had bounced partially back open.
“Isn’t that him in there?” She began to move towards the bedroom.
Calix stepped in front of her. “Gwen…” His tone was warning.
She stopped and looked at him nervously. Her eyes flittered to the bedroom then back to him. “Calix, what did you do?” He gave her a blank stare, his jaw clicking. She dodged around him, running to the bedroom. He followed her calmly.
She screamed when she saw what was inside. “What did you do!” Calix bumped her and she fell against the body. He grabbed her by the arm and she screamed again. He started dragging her away and she struggled against his grasp, but this time he wasn’t letting her go. Calix got her outside and threw her into the back of the car. He climbed into the driver’s seat.
“What have you done? How could this have happened?” Gwen was trembling. She stared in morbid fear at her hands, which were smeared in August’s blood. Calix remained silent, brooding as he pulled into the driveway. As soon as the car got under way, Gwen shook herself, and started pulling desperately at the door handles. Calix had already locked her in though. She threw her hands against the window and screamed. Tears smeared her face. “Please let me go,” she sniffed. Calix still would not speak. Gwen’s thrashing quieted. She leaned her head against the window.
After several minutes of driving, he opened his mouth. “Maybe things can be different now. I know I’ll have to go on living, but maybe it will be better this way,” he muttered.
“Different how? There’s no changing what you are, no matter what you do.” The car was approaching the bridge. He glanced in the rear view mirror. She looked back at him. “Calix, you don’t have to do this.” Her voice was soft, weakened. He knew she had figured out the plan, but she didn’t fight against it. “Please don’t.” Her face had glazed over and her lip trembled slightly.
“Maybe you’ll be with him again. I only wish you could have loved me the way you loved him.”
He spun the wheel. The car flew off the bridge, crashing down into the water below. His body slammed against the door. The front window was broken and water gushed in through it, making the car sink faster until they were fully submerged. He watched until the bubbles stopped streaming from her nose. She had been thrown forward, and her hand hung limply over the headrest, floating delicately in the water. He stroked her fingers. Her hair spread out and she looked like the most beautiful water nymph. He reached out and gently slid her eyelids down. With an inward sigh, he closed his eyes and let the water lull his mind away. He would stay with her forever this way and they could both be happy at last.