The landlord was looking at me, my loose T-shirt and my shapeless slippers with suspicion, so I took what little money I had from my jeans’ pocket and ordered the first thing that came to mind, a diet Pepsi.

My head was spinning, but I forced myself to think.

Something had gone out of control, seriously out of control. I was banned from my own family, my own home, but for what reason?

What if my family wasn’t my family?

Maybe I was dealing with doppelgängers, the spirits who could be completely identical to living people and who were sometimes evil, like in one of H.G. Wells’ stories...

Or with changelings, these elves who take the appearance of missing people, like in Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide

Or maybe, yes, maybe they were extra-terrestrial entities imitating their human prey after having digested it, like in The Body Snatchers, which had kept me up the night before…

Or humanoid androids, exact replicas of each of my family members! Why not those, eh?

No, no, none of that made sense.

Of course, there was always another possibility, perhaps the most rational, which was that I had totally lost my marbles.

But I didn’t believe that hypothesis. Much to the contrary: I refused it with all my heart.

Well, OK, during my first confrontation, the one with my mother, the idea had crossed my mind. What if she was right? What if I was completely off my rocker and had invented a family for myself?

But the following reactions had been different: my father thought I was a criminal while my sister thought I was a ghost…

Therefore, there had to be, I convinced myself, something more concrete, more objective to this mystery.

I thought for a moment of Maupassant’s fantastic tales I had devoured in one sitting at a friend’s house one Halloween party, while the others were jumping up and down to Thriller and Ghostbusters. In those slightly twisted stories, one never knew if the main character was crazy or not.

But I knew, I knew for sure, I wasn’t crazy.

No, not crazy…

I vigorously shook my head, as if to get rid of the disturbing doubt which refused to leave, but to no avail.

I suddenly realised that the best thing to do was to send an SOS. My choice was immediate: it would be Chunk, my best buddy ever, my brother for life.

I took my mobile phone out of my jeans’ back pocket and texted him to ask if I could come by. I selected his number, with difficulty because my hands were shaking, sent the text, and waited.

That evening I lived the longest five minutes of my existence.

Because – I’m asking you the question, guys – what would have happened if the answer I received had been:

who r u?

Hmm? What would have happened?

My phone’s ringtone went off, I jumped and grabbed it and, my heart in my throat, pressed the OK button like a mad man. To my huge relief, the message read:

come by

wen u want

Finally someone who recognised me and whom I could count on! I abandoned my Pepsi on the table (I hadn’t touched it) and left immediately. Ten minutes later, I was ringing my buddy Chunk’s doorbell.

(Go to PART 8 )


All rights reserved
(C) 2015-16 Jérémie Cassiopée

Illustration: Marzena Pereida Piwowar

Translation from the original French: Emilie Watson-Couture and the author.

Do you like Harry Potter, Oksa Pollock or Bobby Pendragon? "In the Shadows, Down By the Bookshop" is just as good, but radically different! Give it a go, and you won't be disappointed!

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