12 Aug Backwards
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Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
You wake up to a text one morning. It is 7:03—you blink, sleepily. It’s from your best friend, Tom. The message reads,
hey! do you wanna hang out some time today?? i’m free whenever
You blink at your phone and then send him a response.
yeah, I can be there around ten
With that, you turn your phone off, roll over, and go back to sleep.
When you wake up, the clock beside you reads 9:26. Instinctively, you check your phone. You have a text.
cool! see you then
It’s from Tom, of course, so you roll out of bed to begin your day. You have some breakfast, throw on a pair of jeans and a comfortable shirt (a red one with the word “Adidas” spelled boldly across the front), and you head out the door.
You have known Tom for a very long time. He is a good friend of yours, and you have a lot in common. He loves music, is into photography, and is, in general, a very laid-back person. Today should be a good day.
You pull up at his house, and once the car is stopped, you text him.
can I come through the front?
…i guess so… are you here?
oh…ok come on in
With this response, you head in through the door of Tom’s house, slightly confused about the conversation.
Once inside, you call to him: “Hey, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know, you tell me! What’s up?” The response comes from the kitchen, where you find Tom sitting and eating cereal. “You want some?” he asks. You shrug and grab a bowl from the cupboard. As you fill it, you ask him, “What’s going on, man?”
His mouth is full, so he responds with a, “Hm?”
“You asked me to come over… what’s up?”
He looks genuinely confused for a moment, but then starts to laugh.
“Oh yeah, I know… I was just messing with you back there.”
“Ok… well, cool. Any particular reason I’m here, then?”
“Not really… I guess I just wanted to hang out.”
“Nice. So do you want to watch a movie or something?”
“Yeah, if you want. It’s up to you—you’re the guest.”
As he says this, you notice something peculiar about his shirt. It’s clearly supposed to say, “Walt Disney,” underneath a blue castle, but the words are backwards. You question him about this and he responds quickly.
“Oh, this? It’s not really Disney—I think they just reversed the words so that they wouldn’t infringe on copyright or something. I don’t know. I got it from Wal-Mart.”
He laughs again, which is odd, because you don’t find anything particularly funny. It’s a nervous laugh. You forgive this, and chuckle with him.
“Ok, that’s weird. Well do you wanna—”
“No, it’s not weird, it’s just the way I bought the shirt.”
He interrupts you sharply with this thought. It catches you off guard.
“Oh, I know it is. It’s just kind of funny, that’s all.”
There is an awkward pause. You speak again.
“So do you want to watch a movie?”
“Sure… pick something out on my Netflix. I’m gonna grab some more cereal.”
You move to his TV and turn it on—you know how to operate it, since you’ve been over here pretty much every other day all summer. You find a movie, sit on the couch, and scoot to the right to make room for Tom, who plops down beside you.
You’re more concerned with him than you are with the film, though. Is there something wrong? You look over at him to see if you can discern any noticeable distress. He seems to be enjoying the movie well enough, but…
You blink. Something isn’t right about his face. After looking closely, you realize what it is—there’s a mole on his cheek just beneath his right eye. You know that he has a mole on his face, but you realize that it should be on the other side. You look away, and then look back. Are you imagining it? You must be imagining it. Moles don’t move like that. You must be mistaken.
You go back to watching the film, but you are eventually drawn back to his face. You couldn’t be imagining it—that spot was on the other side. A quick glance at a family picture on the wall confirms your suspicion, but you’re not quite sure what to do with this information. You try to forget it, and go back to watching the film, but your sense of unease grows. You have the irrational thought that Tom has been altered somehow, that someone has taken him apart and put him back together, but made a mistake somewhere. You try to shake the feeling.
Tom gets up from his spot beside you for more cereal, which is nothing odd—he’s always been able to put away at least four bowls of Cap’n Crunch. He comes back in with the box and pours it into his bowl. You blink. He then proceeds to pour milk over the cereal. You can’t put your finger on why this is making you so uncomfortable. He lifts his spoon and uses it to carry the cereal from the bowl to his mouth, and you realize what’s wrong.
He’s using his right hand. He should be using his left hand. Tom is left handed. Why isn’t he using his left hand? You feel an incredible wave of insecurity wash over you, but before you can look away, he notices you staring.
“What?” He says, in a more threatening tone than you’d expected to hear.
“Nothing—I just… um…” You get up from the couch. “I really need to go to the bathroom.” You begin to move towards the stairs.
“You can’t use the bathroom. Don’t use the bathroom!” Tom shouts in a dangerously urgent tone. You hear him get up from the couch hurriedly.
You move faster, determined to get away and get to the bathroom.
“STOP!” He yells after you. He is running now. “Don’t go in there!!”
You sprint to the bathroom door, slam it shut, and lock it. You turn around, expecting to be standing in between his two bathroom mirrors, but are greeted with a different sight.
The mirror above the sink is smashed. On the ground lays Tom, face up, with the words, “Walt Disney” written correctly on his shirt. The mole is on the left side of his face. He is not moving.
You’re about to shout something when you hear the sound of glass shattering behind you. Upon turning around, you see a figure springing through the newly broken mirror that hangs on the wall, and the last thing you see before everything goes dark is the word “Adidas,” spelled backwards across its bright red shirt.
CREDIT: Daniel Z. Miller