Outside In

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Lockwood Towers, 1st Floor

June 1st, 2013


Stiffness from waiting slips when the lights flicker, causing Rachel to sigh in irritation at her own jumpiness. The back of her hand makes it to her mouth just in time to cover a soft, but relevant, yawn. She's tired. It's late. "Keen job, maintenance," she murmurs around a second attempt by her gaping mouth, tightening her fingers on her shoes as she squints into the undependable hallway to stroll towards her apartment door; she's done this enough times to know the way in the dark, and that in itself causes her to second-guess her life as much as her exhaustion.

That one piece of glass that contains the restless flicker of faulty electricity near Rachel's apartment flashes like a lighthouse beacon.

* * *

Andrew Friendly breathes a shaky sigh that only plays at relief. The lights have turned back on. He holds the bathroom doorframe and chastises himself with a lowered head.

The light in the bathroom starts to flicker. Dark, light. Dark, light.

He shakes his head, runs a hand through his half-up, half-flat hair, and pushes his way in, glancing at the strobing mirror.

He startles so fiercely his muscles tense and thrust him back against the wall.

* * *

Before Rachel can touch the familiar handle of her door, it starts again.

Clip… clop

A cold tendril of sensation crawls onto her neck, more than fear, more than imagination.

It's a hand.

* * *

Barry the security guard startles at his post. He awakes in a fog of darkness, confusion. He turns the desk lamp back on; it obeys, but assaults his eyes. He turns it off and reaches for his bag of B.B.Q. potato chips. The screens catch his dulled attention, a flicker of black on the sixth floor. There and gone. He spies activity on the the first floor corridor feed instead.

His lazy eyes start to widen and widen, no longer so tired.

* * *

"Jesus Ch— " Twisting almost too fast, her ankles barely let the rest of her body catch up and her hair whips out of place as Rachel turns, prepared to whack someone in the face with a set of heels. But the fuzzy black blur in her vision has the hair on the back of her neck standing up even as she fights to ignore the surge of adrenaline and sheen of overly ready sweat — thanks, expensive deodorant doing nothing right now. "… rist… I need… sleep…" She thumbs the corner of her eye, skeptically willing sights away.

Faint shadows convulse on the walls every time the lightbulb flickers. The harder she wills, the more the fuzzy black blur tunnels her vision until her view of the world is a narrow sliver of the corridor.

A figure is standing in it.

It's Rachel.

The bright eyes staring back at her are her own, framed by her own mascara. Her face, her skin, her lips.

The hand holding onto her throat looks just like hers, but the cinching fingers feel as though they've been left out on a frigid winter night, frozen down to the bone.

"Hh— " It's just a breath, as though it's been sucker-punched out of her gut. Hauling backward, Rachel— she's Rachel— hits the door with a rattle and thump that seems distant. There's no processing what her brain tells her she's seeing, so it boils down to a purely physical reaction. Rachel's identical hands leap up towards the one holding her, the doppelganger icicles, the noisy heels still swinging from a couple of knuckles. Sleep— now she must be sleeping— !

The cold seems to seep from the hand on her neck, infecting her with a chill as cold as the impossibly familiar eyes that stare at her … no, they aren't staring at her at all; they're staring into her. The eyes may look like hers, but they've been stripped of all emotion; all that's left is a deep, powerful drill of a look. She could be pried apart piecemeal by that look, but it's the grip around her neck that digs in. As Rachel's hand touches that which tries to choke her, her skin feels magnetically fastened to her likeness, to the cold, hard and solid.

No apparition. If she's dreaming, it's with all her senses.

Clip clop.

The mimicry steps in close enough for its forehead to brush Rachel's out-of-place hair. Her suckerpunched air doesn't cause a singular breeze in the other's styled locks.

* * *

The feminine figures converge on the grey and black security monitor.

Barry the security guard's bloodshot eyes shine in the dark of the tiny room. He's waiting with bated breath.

"Swee ee eet…"

* * *

Rachel's likeness doesn't stop walking.

It walks Rachel right into the door, never letting go. A hoarse sound rattles needily in its throat, a faint revving of words that struggle to find any natural syllables.

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