Midday sunlight was already filtering through Marcy’s blinds by the time she’d woken up. She groaned, getting ready, still half-asleep, and glanced at her watch. She’d missed her first class of the day, but there was another in ten minutes.
Not that she attended class much; she never understood much of anything. But somehow she still scored perfectly on the exams.
Her therapist had explained it as, “Impostor syndrome. It’s common among high-achieving young women.”
She passed by her friend as she headed toward the hall. She caught a whiff of a strong chemical. Formaldehyde?
“I forgot to thank you,” her friend said, grinning. “I would’ve been dead if you hadn’t let me copy this morning.”
Marcy automatically answered “no problem” and hurried to her class. It was only when she sat down did she parse what her friend had thanked her for.
But Marcy hadn’t even been awake that morning.
Late at night, she walked through the dim corridor to her dorm room. She let herself into her room, flicking on the lights. She screwed up her nose as a stench hit her in a wave.
There was someone in her room. Marcy jumped, heart racing. She gasped, coughing as she choked on the smell.
As her eyes adjusted to the bright light, she saw that it was an ugly, pallid figure with sunken eyes and her face.
The thing slowly winked. The stench became so overwhelming that it burned.
She barely managed to wheeze out, “Who… are you?”
“You,” answered the thing. It was breathing now, its movements lifelike. “A better version. Why did you think nobody ever noticed you keep skipping class?”
As Marcy tried to suck in a breath for a protest, she found she couldn’t, chest and limbs leaden, brain a fog.
The thing with her face and voice winked again. “The ‘real’ you is a disappointment. So I’m here to take your place.”