I walked over to the shadow where it was hidden to further inspect the package. Once upon a time, it must’ve been pretty. Now, the silver ribbon was frayed and the midnight blue velvet, cloaked in dust and torn at the corners, revealed the rotting oak underneath. A smarter person would’ve remembered that “curiosity killed the cat,” and left it alone. All I could remember was that “satisfaction brought it back,” so I threw caution (and the box’s lid) to the wind.
But satisfying isn’t the word I would use to describe its contents. Horrifying was more like it. As I stared into the box my own eyes stared back at me. It wasn’t a mirror, more like a portal: my eyes were black and white reflections of another time.
The girl in the photos looked just like me. But she couldn’t be me. Could she? We just moved into this house: how could this box have photos of my 19th-century doppelganger? There was literally no way it was possible. And yet, there they were. But it was too late to solve the mystery that night. I’d have to settle into my mattress in the living room and try not to think about it.
But the trouble with trying not to think about something is that it becomes all you think about. I sprinted to my MacBook to start investigating. I searched city records to find out who held the deed before us. Gregory Monroe, William Johns, Eliza Anderson, Cynthia Dixon, and Harvey Smith—all too long gone to answer my questions. My only hope was Josephine Harris, the last of the previous owners still standing.
By the grace of God and about 45 minutes of hardcore Facebook stalking, I found her son: Joseph Harris. He was a 32-year-old accountant whose status read: “Tax season is coming.” He was too smart to have put his home address on his profile, so all I managed to find out was that he liked Game of Thrones, fishing and golfing and that he worked at some place called Lieberman & Associates. It was two miles away and I could make an appointment online without having to prove I was an adult. Perfect—now I could sleep peacefully . . . kind of.
The next morning, the Uber dropped me off in front of a glass building that practically blinded me as the sun reflected off it. The waiting room and receptionist were equally hostile.
“Good morning,” I said warmly. “I have an appointment with Mr. Harris.”
Everything about the woman behind the counter was sharp. Her face was angular and her cheekbones were blades trying to slice their way out of her paper-like skin.
“Oh, do you now,” she asked in a piercing voice. “Take a seat. He’ll be with you shortly.”
Minutes later, Mr. Harris stepped out of his office. He looked and acted as I expected him to after reading his profile: weird. He practically tripped over himself walking toward me, and he stared at me as if I were a dinosaur running through Times Square.
“H-Hello,” he said, extending his hand.
“Good morning,” I replied, taking his hand into my own. His grip was pitiful, his palms were sweaty, and he held on too long. It was the most unpleasant handshake I’d ever experienced.
He continued to look at me strangely as he led me to his office. I wondered if there was something on my face. I tried to discreetly wipe off whatever bit of my breakfast might be lurking, but his stare just intensified. I guess I must’ve missed it.
“How can I help you,” he asked as I sat down in a cold leather chair. He seemed like he genuinely wanted to know.
“Well, there’s no easy way to say this . . . Maybe it’s better if I just show you.” I pulled the photos from my pocket and laid them on his desk. He recoiled like they were poisonous snakes.
“Where did you get those?”
“I found them in your—well, actually my—attic.”
He suddenly reached under his desk and unlocked a safe, withdrawing a tattered piece of paper folded tightly into a square. Without a word, he gingerly opened it up and pushed it toward me. It was a photo—one with the same girl as all the others. Me.
“Do you know what you are?”
“Human,” I said. It came out as more of a question.
He shook his head. “Not quite.”