Chapter 34:

Haru Meets His Match

It’s My First Time Working Late Nights at a Convenience Store, and If I Keep Getting Demon Lords, Kappa and Other Oddballs as Customers, I’m Giving My Two-Weeks’ Notice

This is my thirty-fourth graveyard shift.Bookmark here

Ding-a-ling-a-ling...  Bookmark here

“Wel-... Whoa, what the hell?!”Bookmark here

Right, so. A question for anyone working in the service industry:Bookmark here

What would you do if someone showed up at your place of business...who looked exactly like you?Bookmark here

Would you pretend you didn’t notice the similarities? Nah, that’s not going to happen. It’s impossible not to stare.Bookmark here

Sure, you can tell us apart right now — since he’s in jeans and a T-shirt and I’m not. But...if we were wearing the same thing, I don’t know that you could.Bookmark here

Still, I have heard that there’s supposed to be three people in the world who look more or less like you. Wait, hang on. Doesn’t this guy look a little TOO much like me? That can’t be right.Bookmark here

I can’t tear my eyes away from this dude who is literally my double.Bookmark here

I mean, he nailed it. I’ve never seen anyone look so similar to a stranger (?) before.  Seriously, how is that even possible?Bookmark here

My clone glances at me, chuckles a little too smugly, then starts to wander around the store.Bookmark here

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“You’ve got to be kidding me. ...Huh. I wonder if Ayame could tell us apart?”Bookmark here

 I stare a little too hard at this copycat customer from my comfortably distant spot behind the register.Bookmark here

The other guy, meanwhile, is doing a really good job of pretending not to notice...when he’s totally checking me out.Bookmark here

Aw, c’mon man. Of all the things you could stop and browse, did it have to be the porn? I haven’t done anything wrong, but I’m already suffering from second-hand embarrassment.Bookmark here

The customer grabs I-don’t-know-how-many adult magazines and brings them up to the cash, plunking them down on the counter with a cocky grin.Bookmark here

“Mind ringing those up for me?”Bookmark here

“Whoa, dude!”Bookmark here

He even sounds like me.Bookmark here

Okay, that’s just freaky. Is he like, me, but from a parallel world?Bookmark here

Honestly, that wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that’s happened at this store. Hm, I guess he could also be me, but from the future?Bookmark here

Actually, doesn’t that seem a little more likely?Bookmark here

Like, why else would he not be bothered that we have the same freaking face?!Bookmark here

And he walked up to the register with this swagger that seemed to suggest that he’s the original Haru and that I’m the fake.Bookmark here

Isn’t this weird? Am I the only one who’s totally flipping out over here?!Bookmark here

I keep sneaking peeks at this guy in between each beep of the scanner.Bookmark here

Yep. He’s a dead ringer for me. And that jerk seems to be enjoying my discomfort while he waits for me to finish the transaction.Bookmark here

“Um, if you don’t mind my asking...”Bookmark here

I can’t help it. I’ve got to know. So, I decide to just go ahead and bite the bullet.Bookmark here

“Yeah? What’s up?”Bookmark here

He smiles, and I swear, it’s like looking in a mirror. I’ve basically given up on treating him as a proper customer.Bookmark here

“I know this is pretty far out there, but... You’re not like, me, from the future or something, right?”Bookmark here

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“Huh? Uh... Heh heh... Wait, you’re serious?”Bookmark here

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He covers his mouth as he tries to hold back his laughter, in the same way I always do.Bookmark here

Look, I didn’t want to have to say it, but here we are.Bookmark here

Don’t you snicker at me, guy who looks like me.Bookmark here

“Uh, yeah man. Ha ha!”Bookmark here

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Yep. That’s a flat out lie. And I should know — that’s MY face. I’d know my own mocking smile anywhere. That jerk. Well, now I’m pissed. What kind of self-centered ass do you have to be to try and fool yourself?Bookmark here

“Nice. Okay, if you’re from the future... What am I going to be doing three years from now?”Bookmark here

Asking about something a little closer to the present day ought to be trickier than the cliched five or ten years, right? So, what’ve you got for me, buddy?Bookmark here

“...Sure, alright. Well, you get married to the love of your life, and you have two kids. You’re not working here anymore, though. You’ve got a full-time gig in the big city.”Bookmark here

Honestly, that sounds like a pretty decent set up. No complaints there.Bookmark here

Huh. Maybe he’s not trying to screw with me?Bookmark here

“Okay, what about my manager? What happens to him?”Bookmark here

If this guy doesn’t have anything to do with me, then he shouldn’t know who I’m talking about, right? Bookmark here

“The manager, huh? Well, he gets asked out by a bunch of girls, but since he’s so darn shy, nothing ever comes of it. He stays on as the sole manager of the store.”Bookmark here

That seems...really, REALLY likely. I can’t call him out on a lie there, either!Bookmark here

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Wait, so if he’s giving me honest answers... Then maybe he IS from the future?Bookmark here

I lean back, to get a better look at his whole body.Bookmark here

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“Dude, do you have to stare so much?”Bookmark here

The longer I gawk at him, the more I start to think that between the two of us...he’s the more handsome one. And that’s just not fair.Bookmark here

More importantly, if my manager saw this, he’d faint. I should quietly wrap things up and send him on his way.Bookmark here

“Thank you for your patronage.”Bookmark here

“Hm, might as well flip through a couple of these while I’m here.”Bookmark here

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He makes himself way too much at home in the seating area, shamelessly unwrapping his porn and reading it in full view.Bookmark here

Dude, could you not?! I’d never be able to show MY face in front of my manager or Ayame if they caught you looking at that stuff here! Ugh, why couldn’t he look like that shitty influencer instead?  Bookmark here

“Hey, is that your girlfriend standing outside?”Bookmark here

“Uh...”Bookmark here

The sudden question catches me by surprise. Shouldn’t he already know that?Bookmark here

“Yep, figured as much.”Bookmark here

With the biggest grin on his face, the guy who looks more like me than me slinks out of the store.Bookmark here

...That can’t be good. He’s not going to do something to Ayame, is he?!Bookmark here

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“Hold on a second! If you mess with her, so help me...”Bookmark here

When I make it outside, he’s already chatting with her, casually holding her hand.Bookmark here

And something inside me just snaps.Bookmark here

“Don’t you touch her, you creepy clone.”Bookmark here

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I yank him away from her, stepping protectively in front of Ayame.Bookmark here

“Haru...”Bookmark here

“Ayame, that guy’s a fake!”Bookmark here

“Dude, that hurt! Why’d you have to tug so hard? Ayame, he’s the imposter.”Bookmark here

That jerk screws his face up in pain, shamelessly trying to play the sympathy card.Bookmark here

“What the hell are you talking about? You’re the one she should be worried about!”  Bookmark here

I’m so angry that I’m almost shouting at this point.Bookmark here

“No way. I’M the real Haru. You believe me, don’t you Ayame?”Bookmark here

That con-artist, on the other hand, manages to keep his cool.Bookmark here

Sure, I was pissed that he had the balls to read porn where I work — but not so much that I’d have the guts to get up in his business about it.  Bookmark here

His attempts to deceive Ayame, though... Now that’s another story.Bookmark here

“I don’t care if you don’t believe me, as long as you don’t trust a word HE says.”  Bookmark here

Ugh, this whole conversation is a mess. I don’t even know what I’m saying.Bookmark here

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“I’ll bet you can tell us apart. Can’t you, Ayame?”Bookmark here

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The copycat grins, like he’s got this in the bag.Bookmark here

“Well, of course I can.”Bookmark here

I feel her press up against my back.Bookmark here

“Oh, um, A-Ayame?!”Bookmark here

“The man who would throw himself in harm’s way for me — that’s my Haru. You don’t smell the same, either. And there’s slight differences in your voices. But, above all...he doesn’t make my heart pound like you do.”Bookmark here

She wraps her arms around my waist in a gentle embrace, as my own hands fly up to my face.Bookmark here

Oh, Ayame... Could she be any more perfect?Bookmark here

“...Geez, that got old quick.”Bookmark here

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The mimic shakes his head in disappointment, then turns around. When he spins back...this time he looks exactly like Ayame.Bookmark here

He’s kept the T-shirt and jeans, but they hang a little more loosely on Ayame’s slender frame.Bookmark here

“I’m a doppelganger, so screwing with people like this is my jam.”  Bookmark here

He explains all of this as Ayame, with her voice and mannerisms.Bookmark here

“He looks just like me...”Bookmark here

She stares back at the other Ayame, muttering in disbelief.Bookmark here

Wait, where have I heard about doppelgangers before?Bookmark here

Okay, I know that they can imitate people almost perfectly, and... Uh, wasn’t it that if you saw one, it’s a sign that you’re about to die?!Bookmark here

“Hey, um... I heard that seeing one of you guys means that your days are numbered. That’s not true, is it?”Bookmark here

“What, that rumor? Ha ha! Naaah, that’s just some superstition. If I could do that, I’d be more like a shinigami.”Bookmark here

“...Oh, thank god.”Bookmark here

“Psyche! You’re totally gonna die.”Bookmark here

“Dude, seriously?! Which one is it?!”Bookmark here

“Ahahaha...! Oh my god, your face...! Aw, you’re alright, man. You didn’t try to kill me, and you’re so easy to tease. You can bet that I’ll be back to bother you again!”Bookmark here

Hm? One of those compliments (?) was not like the others.Bookmark here

“Most people get really weirded out when they know there’s another version of themselves running around somewhere. Usually to the point of wanting to dispose of the other. I should know, I’ve had to learn that the hard way.”Bookmark here

I feel a chill run down my spine.Bookmark here

My visible shudder makes him smirk. Grinning from ear to ear, he says...Bookmark here

“Y’know, we don’t skimp on any of the details. We copy bodies down to the last tiny mole. Soooo, making a perfect pair of tits is no problem at all. Wanna see?”Bookmark here

Still as Ayame, he grabs the edge of his T-shirt and starts to pull it up.Bookmark here

“○♪☆*+\・\%?!!”Bookmark here

With a wordless shriek, Ayame dives at the doppelganger, desperately trying to cover him up.Bookmark here

“Ahahaha! Seriously, you guys are hilarious!”Bookmark here

The doppelganger howls with laughter as Ayame yanks his shirt back down to where it ought to be.Bookmark here

“Hey, hold on a second! What about all that stuff you told me about the future?!”Bookmark here

“Oh, that? I made it all up.”Bookmark here

...I hate that he was so spot on with his half-assed “predictions.”Bookmark here

“Honestly, I kind of envy you two. I don’t have a face of my own, so I’m always stuck borrowing someone else’s.”Bookmark here

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he sounded...sad? That troublemaker twists away from Ayame, turning and making his way across the parking lot.  Bookmark here

“See you later, dumb and dumber!”Bookmark here

The doppelganger looks back and waves goodbye, laughing as he does.Bookmark here

“Don’t you dare show any of your faces here again!”Bookmark here

Red-faced, Ayame points a threatening finger at his retreating figure.  Bookmark here

Great. He spent the whole evening just toying with us.Bookmark here

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On my way back to the register, I spot that loser’s pile of porn sitting out in the open.Bookmark here

Dude, seriously?Bookmark here

“Yeesh, at least take your trash home with you, dumbass.”Bookmark here

Right as I’m taking the pile of adult materials over to the counter — to bury it deep in our less visible garbage bin — my manager pops out of the break room.Bookmark here

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“Ah, Haru. I wanted to go over this month’s shifts with yo-...”Bookmark here

“Um.”Bookmark here

Crap.Bookmark here

“I won’t judge, since you’re the right age for it, but... Um... I’d much rather that you didn’t, uh, purchase those sorts of things while you’re on the clock. To say nothing of, um, reading (?) them. Right. Well. I’ll...leave you to it, then.”Bookmark here

He backs into the break room, shutting the door softly behind him.Bookmark here

“Manageeeer!! It’s not what it looks like, I swear!!”Bookmark here

That’s it, I’m banning any and all doppelgangers from this establishment.Bookmark here

Yeah, you’d better not come back here, you dick.   Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.