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The Red-Clad Man

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I don’t know why I’m here, and frankly I don’t care. It’s not common for my mum to drag my sister and me out to a restaurant, so it must be an important occasion, but I don’t care. I sit at the end of the table; across from me is my sister, to my left, my mum, sitting at the head of the table. The rest of the seats are occupied, but again, I don’t care who by. I don’t know many of these people, save for a few that my mum considers her friends.

They all rattle on about their families, their friends, their lives, but it all passes straight through me. I feel like shit, too sick to care about their crap. The oysters, despite tasting glorious, haven’t sat well with me. Food poisoning? Under-cooked, perhaps? I don’t know, but I don’t like it. I sway slightly in my seat trying not to die, but I’m fading fast; so fast I can almost feel the colour rushing out of me. I excuse myself and uneasily come to my feet. Everybody seems to be too into their conversations to notice me leave, even my sister, with whom I share a strong relationship.

I stagger toward the gentlemen's toilet over the other side of the restaurant. The flood of voices, all talking about pure crap, hits me a lot harder than it normally would. Every word from every person in the place pummels me. I pick up the pace and almost jog to the toilets. I push the door open and quickly pull it closed behind me. Inside, the sound is much quieter and much more muffled. I’m finally at peace.

As I head to the sinks to look in the mirror, a man in a brown leather jacket stops to look at me. He gives me a strange look before opening his mouth. “Weren’t you just in here?” he asks me. Strange; I haven’t been in here all night. I shake my head lightly and lean onto the sink. The man nods and heads for the door. I hear him murmuring to himself on his way out, “Coulda sworn you were wearing red as well.”

Red? I hate red. I’d never be seen dead in the colour.

I shrug off the man’s strange comments and turn on the tap. I cup my hands under the steady stream of cold water and splash some on my face. It’s refreshing, I feel better almost instantly. I splash a few more handfuls on my face and pull some paper towels out of the dispenser. I dry my face off and look into the mirror. As I examine myself, suddenly much more colourful, I notice someone standing behind me; clad in a red hoodie, blue jeans and black sunglasses. I turn to face him, but before I can spin around, he grabs me by the throat and drags me into the farthest toilet cubicle. He slams me down on the seat and locks the door behind him, putting his hands in his pockets.

“You don’t know me, but I know you,” the red-clad man explains. “I am a new era in your existence.” A new era? What the fuck does that mean?

Against my better judgment, I snap at the man. “Look,” I start, “I don’t know who you are, bu-” Suddenly, I am cut off by him forcing a rolled up pair of socks into my mouth. Fucking gross. Poor sap probably can’t even afford proper gagging material.

I reach to pull the dirty socks out of my mouth, but the man quickly plants a sharp punch into my belly. Fortunately enough, the pressure coursing through my body shoots the socks out of my mouth, though the taste remains. I fall off the toilet seat onto my knees and quickly regain the sickly feeling from before. It comes back so sharply that I don’t even turn around in time before spraying vomit all over the floor… and the red-clad man’s shoes. Despite having his hood up and large black sunglasses covering a good part of his face, I see his face twist and contort in rage.

“You little fuck!” he shouts as he punches me in the face repeatedly. “I just bought these fucking shoes!” As he yells at me, I realise his voice is similar to mine, except his voice is much deeper and angrier than mine. Finally, he stops hitting me. I want to ask him why he’s doing this, this senseless violence, but I can’t summon up the will to open my mouth. As if reading my mind, the red-clad man answers the very question I wanted to ask.

“I am beating you because you have failed!” he says harshly, his voice rising and falling in tone. “I am here to replace you!”

Failed? Replace me?

Why?

Who is this complete stranger to try and replace me?

Before I can dwell on the thought, however, he kicks me in the ribs, and I fall to the floor where I roll up into a ball. I can feel more vomit trying to get out of me, but I suppress it, rather than risk upsetting this obviously psychopathic stranger. Unfortunately, it seems I have already upset him enough. He reaches into the back of his pants and produces a small hand-gun, similar to the ones used by the police force. I gasp in horror and quickly try to regain myself… but it is no use. The red-clad man pulls the trigger and a small bullet tears through the side of my face. My body falls the very short distance back to the floor and my head lands on the cold white tiles.

Instead of seeing a light, or even simply blacking out as one would expect, I lie on the floor of the bathroom, staring blankly forward. Time seems to race forward. Blood quickly pours over my head and down to the floor, colouring the tiles deep red. Various people come in and out of the toilet, all moving in fast-forward. One person that stands out is one of the people from my table, my mum’s work colleague. He enters the toilet and puts his hand on the red-clad man’s shoulder as he leans on the sink, the exact way I was. Everything moves too fast for me to grasp what they say to each other, but I know it can’t be good. The colleague turns and leaves the toilet again and red-clad turns and looks at me. He raises his hands and pushes his hood off his head, then takes his glasses off.

That’s when I figure out what he meant by replacing me. He has my face. Everything about it is perfect. The same scar over his right eyebrow, same little tuft of hair in the front that never goes down, he looks just like me. Everything except his smile. He bares his sharp teeth in the sickest smile I’ve ever seen. His eyes also look different, being completely black like a demon’s eyes rather than the yellowish brown I have. How my mum’s colleague didn’t notice that “I’d” changed clothes, I don’t know, but he seemed to fall for the ruse.

Satisfied that he has done his job, my replacement leaves the toilet, presumably to resume my life. I continue to bleed out onto the floor, completely unable to move. I can’t even close my eyes. Not that I need to, really. My vision slowly fades as I gradually slip into the blackness of death.

Fucking hell.

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