The Black Tail – Enter the Doppelgänger

This is a true account of the hair-raising experience that happened around spring 2011. I was waiting for my dance class to start with a female friend, at a cafe across the street from the studio. We sat outdoors; it was hot and balmy. Mosquitoes kept biting my legs. I remembered that I had a can of bug repellant in the car, and so I told my friend that I was going to walk across the street to get it.

My car was parked underneath some hundred-year old trees in an open compound that was fenced in, part of a corner-lot bungalow house where the studio was. I crossed the street in broad daylight — it must have been 2pm in the afternoon — it was a relatively quiet street but not entirely lonely, given that the parking lot faced a shopping mall on one side and was flanked by a hotel on the other. There were people around, they just weren’t immediately close by.

As I did, I was certain that someone was walking just a few paces behind me, because I felt their warmth and heard matching footsteps. Naturally, I figured that my friend who I was having coffee with had followed me, either because she wanted some bug repellant too, or because she didn’t want to sit alone at the cafe on the chance that the studio might already be open.

The parking lot was empty except for us. There were a few other cars, but I didn’t see anyone else in the lot or at the entrance of the studio. So I opened the car door and swung into the driver’s seat, and closed my door. As I did, I saw her reflection in the rearview mirror walking in her trademark lazy way around the back of my car, the skirts of her floral red dress billowing in the wind.

I waited a few seconds, anticipating that she’d join me in the car where it was air-conditioned instead of standing outside. I paused, and was confused momentarily because I didn’t hear any of my other car doors open. I swung around, and the hairs of my neck stood up as I realized there was no one else in the parking lot. No one right behind my car. No one standing anywhere near the studio or in the street nearby. (Not that they could’ve moved that fast). It was unnaturally silent.

Heart beating fast, I made a grab for what I came for, and got the hell out of dodge as fast as I could. I ran back to the cafe and saw my friend and noticed for the first time that she wasn’t wearing a red floral dress at all. I said, “Dude. Something really weird, borderline supernatural, just happened to me.”

She said something equally strange in reply: “If this is a weird experience that will give us nightmares, can we talk about it another day? I’ve just had a weird experience too, but I don’t think we should talk about it right now.” She widened her eyes in warning.

My heart beat even faster. I didn’t know what to make of it. The only thing I remember thinking at that point was that the night before, we had just been traveling together down a pretty dark road near a forest. And she had told me that she absolutely refused to walk down it with me just the two of us at that hour of the night, because the locals said that many car crashes had happened on that stretch, and that it was haunted by malicious spirits. We had stayed close and walked down it anyway, and made it out fine.

When a few days had passed, and we talked about it — in broad daylight — my friend surmised that something(s) had followed us back, and that we’d experienced its after effects. (Whereas I had seen a doppelgänger of my friend in my car, she had apparently seen a doppelgänger of me in her apartment, in mirrors too).

Nothing else transpired once we discussed this. The whole thing just became a really weird memory. But I did start looking up doppelgängers, and what they meant, either in dreams, or as symbols in literature, and all manner of old wives tales across cultures and timezones. I read memoirs of celebrities and historical figures who claim to have seen their doppelgängers.

Since the Black Tail storyworld is already a looking glass into the duality of human nature, good and evil, (wo)man and beast, anima – animus, reality and dreams, truth and deception… the idea of a doppelgänger got weaved into the tale very fast. I mean, it was like, once I started journalizing about possible plotlines around a mermaid story, the doppelgänger basically had me at hello.

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