Double, or…. Something
For the most part of his life, Jack Anderson has been plagued by a mysterious disease that makes him a weakling and unable to live the normal life of a teenager. Over the summer, he is shipped off by his parents to a special hospital located in a remote desert-like area where he is to undergo a groundbreaking treatment. After enduring months of questionable medical experiments performed by a group of doctors who are supposed to help him get better but in reality are keeping him sick on purpose all in the name of medical research, Jack escapes from the clandestine medical facility and heads for home.
While Jack was being experimented on against his will, a clone of himself named Hyde was sent to his hometown as an imposter. Enter Jack’s good friend Kayle — “The Freakazoid” — and Claire — Jack’s longtime girlfriend — who begin to see the chinks in facade. To complicate matters, Hyde can’t stand the sight of Claire and begins to develop romantic feelings for Kayle.
When Jack returns home, he comes face to face with his clone and while at first the two boys can’t stand the sight of one another, they soon stumble upon the plan to destroy them both and become allies to fight for their right to co-exist.
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School— the bane of just about every teenager’s existence. You all know how I feel about it. I don’t think I can find anyone who actually likes being there. Even the vast majority of the popular kids hold a special loathing for the place, and that’s saying a lot because they’re, you know, the popular kids. Their only advantage is they somehow figured out how to make the institution known as high school, bearable.
I’d almost be jealous if it didn’t mean sinking to the level of conformity required to fit in. Is there something wrong with partaking in school spirit and going to the weekly big game? No, but those things also didn’t meet my interests, so why should I feel the pressure to go to them? Why should I be outcast for doing my own thing? Being one with the crowd just for the sake of belonging feels an awful lot like selling out to me. Even at sixteen-years-young, I know that selling out is not worth it—ever.
If I didn’t need a high school diploma to get a decent job I actually liked, I probably would have dropped out as soon as I was legally allowed to. However, I’ve put in so much time at Becker High, I need to finish if only so I don’t feel like I’ve wasted so much of my life there.
To my advantage, I do get the privilege of roaming through the hallways unnoticed. People stay out of my way, and I stay out of theirs. Do they whisper about me behind my back? Of course they do. If there is a catty girl in the school who doesn’t hate my guts, I would have to wonder if I had landed in another dimension. When aren’t high school girls being catty? Am I right? Even I find myself partaking in the sport every so often—only out of self-defense. Though, I swear, taking the high road is a lot easier said than done when the same five people like to push every single one of my buttons. Yup, that’s right. I’m about to go on a Jack rant. Okay, maybe not a rant, but another story about him. Why do all of my interesting stories have to revolve around him?
Yes, that’s right, Jack Andersen—the sick kid who happens to be my locker neighbor. For those of you who are new to my blog, I’ll give a brief history lesson. Like most of the students in my class, I’ve known him since preschool. During assemblies we almost always have to sit by one another whenever the grade is organized by alphabet.
Jack used to be sweet. I used to feel bad for him. Used to.
The guy is always in and out of the hospital. Jack suffers from some bizarre illness that affects all of five people on the entire planet—or so the rumors say. Having known him for so long, I’ve witnessed enough of his poor health to know for fact he is in rough shape. The sickly pale color of his skin is sometimes even tinted with green on especially bad days. Oh, and how thin he is, like he only has enough muscle to keep himself alive and moving and nothing more. The frailness is another thing. One wrong move and he could be on his way to the ER with a broken bone. I’ve watched it happen many times.
Somewhere between middle school and high school, Jack ended up becoming Mr. Popular. It probably had something to do with him catching the eye of the most popular girl in school, Claire Winters…who is Satan incarnate. Ever since then, he changed and sick, sweet, Jack wasn’t so sweet anymore.
It makes being his locker neighbor a nightmare.
Back to the story. So I’m watching the main entrance of the school from my locker, keeping my eyes peeled for Jack or his girlfriend to grace the building with their presence. If I don’t sit down in front of my locker every morning, the most adorable couple of Becker High will make sure to invade on my space with their fluffy, obnoxious, PG-rated PDA. It would be easier if the two would just make out on top of my locker, but no, they have to go for the kill with their terms of endearment and Claire’s high pitched squeal of a giggle.
Claire walks into the school first. Because I’m the observant artist that I am (and for some reason some of you actually care about this stuff): her long, blonde hair was pulled back into a high ponytail, and her large, perfect curls bounced with every step she took. She, of course, wore a tight black sweater. It went far enough down her torso to barely cover her abdomen, because her low-rise, boot cut, jeans certainly weren’t going to. Black, high heeled boots clicked down the hallway past me at record breaking speeds. The girl didn’t even glance toward Jack’s locker as she went by. Even when Claire and Jack fought, there was always at least one look at his territory. Immediately I knew something was up.
I’m thinking: maybe the rumor I heard last Friday was true after all. During orientation last week, there had been whispers that Jack had died, or gone into a coma, or something equally as tragic, over the summer. I’d heard the rumor a number of times before, so I didn’t think much of it while I was setting up my locker for the year and taking my ID photo. After all, if I believed everything I heard, I’d be a member of a cult, slept with an entire rock band, and did heroin on a regular basis. Rumors are nothing more than modern day fairy tales. Fantasy filled lessons of life, or unrealistic happily ever afters, or in Jack’s case: the tragic end to a great hero.
For a moment, my gaze followed Claire down the hall to her own locker and I tried to get a read on what was going on based on body language alone. There were no tears, but Claire’s body was more stiff than usual, which was saying a lot for the coldest of ice princesses. Despite being petite in size, Claire usually holds the confidence of a giant, strutting around as if she owns the school and everyone in it. All of that attitude and arrogance was missing from the girl I saw this morning. When students started to surround Claire in droves, offering up tearful hugs, the rumor of Jack’s demise became a reality.
I contemplated briefly going over and offering my own condolences. It seemed like the right thing to do. We’re far from being close friends, let alone acquaintances, but I still knew Jack well enough. Even if he was sometimes a complete dick to me, he didn’t deserve to die or suffer the way he did. At the same time, joining in on the crowd to express my sympathies didn’t seem right either. It needed to happen in a private moment or it would probably come across as insincere.
I looked over at Jack’s locker, or what was supposed to be his locker. Every year we were on a different floor of the school, but always right next to one another. The empty space would be strange, or even worse…having someone new to annoy me for the rest of the year.
Would the school fill his vacancy so quickly? The guy was popular and loved by teachers as well as students. He didn’t cause trouble, just made stupid comments about business that wasn’t his. Almost everyone thought of him as some kind of martyr, sent to this world to suffer. If he did truly die, his sainthood would be validated. The idea makes me want to gag.
Then, all of a sudden, the halls grew eerily quiet. One-by-one the students’ chatter faded into silence. No one dared to cough, let alone sneeze. Outside of one classmate who decided to shut a locker, it was unbearably void of sound. I am not making this up.
Next, I heard the heavy, arrogant, swagger of footsteps coming toward me. Like the red sea parting, students moved to either side of the hall, giving me a perfect view of Jack walking to his locker from the front door of the school. I’d been so busy watching Claire and everyone else, I hadn’t thought to keep watching for the newcomers.
Jack’s appearance wouldn’t have been so intriguing if everyone else wasn’t acting as if they’d seen a ghost. Not to mention, there were things different about him. His body had lean, healthy muscle and a nice, natural, tan coloring to his skin. Rather than looking like a member of the reanimated dead, he actually resembled a human being. Everything else about him was the same. The short, platinum blond hair that was styled in neat, gelled spikes was still present. Jack hasn’t updated his haircut since he was twelve. His preppy attire made the classic All-American appearance complete. Ew. A miracle happened over the summer.
The silence broke when Jack started to whistle, acting as though nothing were out of the ordinary. In truth, nothing should have been. He must have been the only one who didn’t get the memo on his death.
“Morning,” he greeted me, looking down at the paper that had the year’s locker combo written on it.
I shifted my gaze up to him. “Huh?”
“I said, morning. Buenos dias, bienvenidos, pick your favorite.”
I stared up at him with raised eyebrows.
He frowned. “Konichiwa? Ni Hao? Guttenmorgen? …why are you looking at me like I have three heads all of a sudden?”
“If you hadn’t noticed, everyone is looking at you like you have three heads,” I said in a staged whisper.
“Why?” he pressed.
“You didn’t hear that you died over the summer?” I asked.
“Yeah, I know. You die every summer and holiday.” I, surprisingly, managed a small laugh, taking advantage of the pleasant moments with him while I could. When he’s nice to me, I do enjoy his company.
Jack rolled his eyes and pulled out a few books from his locker. “That’s one rumor I’m happy to officially get rid of.”
“J-Jack,” Claire’s soft voice broke in.
He spun to face her and gave her what appeared to be a rather forced smile. “Hey beautiful girl.”
“Your mother said…”
“She was misinformed,” he said blandly. “Obviously I’m alive, and even better, I’m cured.”
“H-how?” Claire’s eyes brimmed with tears. The whole scene was starting to turn into some kind of bad teenage soap opera program.
Jack placed a finger over her lips. “I don’t want to talk about it right now. What matters is I’m here and fine. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
At that point, I tuned out. The two were going to get sappy, and I would lose my breakfast if I continued to subject myself to it.
Some people think I’m jealous of people like Jack and Claire. They’re beautiful, popular, and the definition of perfect. The great deal of animosity I hold against them would be a symptom of said jealousy. So was the nauseous feeling in my stomach whenever I watch the two lock lips repeatedly over Jack’s locker, or tried to. For some reason, Claire’s kisses seemed to only land on his cheeks and forehead this morning. But honestly? I can’t think of one thing to be jealous about. Because they had each other? I have plenty of time for boyfriends once my pickings aren’t limited to the population of Becker High.
No, my problem with them isn’t jealousy. It’s annoyance. They are annoying and rude. At least Jack seemed to get some common courtesy over the summer because he finally didn’t subject me to their cutesy lip pecking. No one does that anymore. Get in the new millennium. What else annoys me about him and Claire? They are too perfect. It’s surreal how flawless they are. So no, it’s not jealousy per sé, it’s a deep frustration over the future of my generation—remember: Jack and Claire are considered cool. Everyone who isn’t me wants to be them. Soon, there will be hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of Jack’s and Claire’s destroying originality forever.
“Get a room,” the voice of Miles Stanson said, though it was mostly in jest. Still, it got them to stop, right? He nudged Jack into his locker before going in and giving the other guy a large hug. “Man, is it good to see you.”
I gazed up at Miles, who is probably the only popular kid in the school who doesn’t make me want to beat my skull against a wall. The guy is genuine, doesn’t play the stupid games the other popular kids play, and has something resembling intelligence in his brain. He acknowledged me with a small wave, and then went back to bothering Jack.
Laughing, Jack returned the hug, a look resembling relief was in his eyes. His entire body relaxed, as if he actually wanted Miles to interrupt his moment with Claire. Come to think of it, when they had been kissing, he’d been less involved in the process. While she tried to crush her mouth against his, he was much more conservative and only nuzzled her. I thought that was a bit strange. Shouldn’t they have been exchanging saliva and tongues like there was no tomorrow? Regardless of the rumor, I had heard Jack went away for the summer for some kind of special treatment program. No doubt they missed one another. That’s what normal people do when they’re apart for a long time, right?
Miles’s next question confirmed this rumor. “What happened this summer? You were supposed to call and keep me posted.”
“Don’t be offended, man, I didn’t get to call anyone,” Jack said. “Not even my parents or Claire. They were kind of strict about using the phone.”
“Isn’t that kind of weird?” Miles asked.
He shrugged. “Given all of the other things I had to do while I was there, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to talk anyway. But yeah, it seemed a little weird to me too. It got results. I shouldn’t complain.”
“Yeah, that’s for sure.” Miles stepped back and briefly did a once over on Jack. “You look as good as new.”
“I know, maybe I should actually try to play football this year instead of just manage the team,” Jack joked.
Miles clapped him on the back. “If you think you have some kind of natural skill, we could use the help. Not doing too well this year. Then again, having you back on the team to help with strategy and morale will help.”
“Can you boys talk sports later? I’m kind of in the middle of something here,” Claire said, glaring intently at Miles before her gaze wandered down to me to give me one too for good measure.
I rolled my eyes, and returned the glare, making sure to not be phased by Claire’s immaturity.
Also unbothered was Miles, who laughed it off. “You can have him for the other twenty-three hours of the day, promise. The bell is going to ring soon anyway. I’ll bug you about it at lunch, dude. Then I can get the rest of the team to back me up and you can tell us all about your awesome time in California. I mean, you couldn’t have gone down there and done nothing right?”
Jack’s body stiffened ever so slightly. No one else probably noticed it, but I did. His jaw tightened. “Right, yeah, lunch, sounds good.”
“Cool.” Miles gave a wave and made his way down the hallway. A few other friends of Jack’s attempted to come up and say hello as Miles was leaving, but anytime someone got close, Claire made sure to ice them out with glares and the possessive way she clutched onto Jack’s shirt.
Carefully, Jack lowered her grip on him, instead holding her hands in his own. “I have to get to class. Being late wouldn’t be a good idea.”
“What’s your first class?” Claire asked, and I was about to block them out again now that things were no longer interesting. Jack’s answer surprised me for some reason.
“Advanced World Lit,” he said.
My class. I had to suppress a groan. Why did he have to invade on my territory? The first thing that passed through my mind was: If she’s in that class too, I’m giving up on junior year.
The pout Claire wore was like some kind of pathetic puppy dog who’d just lost its favorite treat. “Boo, I thought you were going to stay in Spanish with me this year. There’s only one class for third year students.”
“I tested out.” He kissed her forehead. “I gotta go, I’m sorry. I’ve gotta organize my locker and all that other stuff still. I just got back on Saturday so I’m kind of discombobulated. But I’m sure we’ll have a class together later.”
“Okay, I guess I can live with that.” She kissed his cheek. “Bye Baby.”
“Bye,” he said, a large smile on his face. As soon as she was out of sight, the smile faded and he muttered under his breath. “Psycho.”
That caught my attention again. I gazed up at Jack, eyes wide.
He met my gaze with his own. “You’re giving me the three heads look again.”
“I heard what you said.”
“What, bye? Ooh, scandalous.”
“No, the other thing,” I said. I’m not crazy. He called his girlfriend a psycho.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” He winked, grabbed his notebooks for class, and then shut the door. “Come on, let’s go.”
I pursed my lips together. “Excuse me?”
“I can walk you to class?”
“Why do you want to?”
He shrugged. “Why not?”
I peered up at him. “Don’t you hate my guts?”
“Nah, but I do think you’re weird.” He paused. “Right? I mean, you are weird?”
Something about his hesitation confused me. He’s called me a weirdo, a freak, and a whole slew of other synonymous nicknames. Most are harmless. What hurts me most is the fact he feels it necessary to say them more than the actual words themselves. I expected so much more from him. Why would he hesitate as if he weren’t sure if he should say it to my face if he’d never had issues with it before? Did he finally have a change of heart? Perhaps he grew a brain while in Cali? Or rather, his brain regained its ability to think properly now that it’s healthy again.
Standing and gathering my things for class as well, I rolled my eyes again, because that’s what I do when I’m annoyed. With everything I needed in my arms, I slammed my locker door shut. “I prefer individual, but if being my own person is weird, then yes, I’m weird. Strange. Bizarre. Call me whatever you want, Jack, because what you think of me doesn’t matter in the slightest. It never has.”
“Awesome, so I can walk you to class,” he said, shutting his locker and then grinning down at me.
With a groan, I started down the hall. Jack kept pace with me. I still haven’t figured out why he was so gung-ho about taking me to class. My guard is up though in case it’s some kind of awful prank. It would not surprise me in the slightest if Claire arranged something over the summer to humiliate me in front of the whole school. When I call her Satan incarnate, I’m serious, and she’s got a huge beef against me for some reason even though I’ve done nothing to her. It’s not even because I’m “weird”, because she’s sweet as pie to all of the other kids who have still maintained their individuality. She’s nice to everyone. E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. But me.
Something is up. Outwardly, everything about him is exactly the same. On the inside, he’s different, and I am going to figure out why.
I gotta run. There will be more to this story later, you can guarantee it. Just had to vent my frustration over Jack being Jack. Once again, he’s the center of attention and if he thinks he can play mind games with me, he has another thing coming. My gut says he’s changed, though, and if that really is the case, then I need to be prepared even more because Claire isn’t going to like it.
Why do I get the feeling I’m the one who’s going to suffer the most no matter what happens?
Cloud S. Riser is a Minnesota native. She has lived in Minnesota her whole life. She will probably remain there for her whole life too. The mother of The Squid, Skyscraper, and two cats, her life is definitely never dull. An adventure she braves with her husband. In order to stay sane, she creates massive amounts of fiction which she has decided to share with the rest of the world for the simple reason of: she is a storyteller.
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