Eventually, he tried to stop looking at the clock. He tried to forget about the crawling hands. AS the sun set outside the vibrant white rays of late afternoon light that poured in through the slanted spaces of the blinds gradually transformed into a dim orange glow.
The floor became a canvass of shadows cast by the larger furnishings. Outside it was quiet. Occasionally the sound of a passing car or the trailing voices of passersby would float in with the breeze.
The calm semi-urban atmosphere was one of the things Higgins enjoyed most about her upscale neighborhood.
He checked his watch it was 7:04 she would be home any minute. Soon he would have everything he ever wanted, or he would have nothing at all. He stood up and walked over to the full-length mirror she kept against the right wall of the bedroom. He brushed off his clothes and used his hand to smooth out his dark brown hair and raised his arms to check his body odor. He still smelled like the green flower infused body wash she kept in the shower.
“Mouthwash,” he muttered to himself, remember she kept a bottle in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
He studied himself while he gargled the minty green sanitizer. He examined his reflection carefully. It was the first time he had shaven in weeks, and the razor left him with patches of irritated, red bumpy skin on his neck.
He stepped back from the mirror and turned off the light. He was confident the rosy red blemishes wouldn't be so noticeable in the dark room. He had spent countless hours with her beneath the sheets, but she had no there were two sets of eyes she was gazing into. He had spent countless hours with her, but this was the first time she would ever meet him.
Higgins was a remote doppelganger operator. He remotely controlled a body that had been reconstructed to be an identical replica of deputy secretary of defense Pendleherst.
These biological puppets were created with painstaking attention to detail. Every blemish on his skin, every strand of body hair, every fold every scar was replicated exactly. The film industry's most diligent continuity editors could never spot a difference between the clone and the real thing.
Higgins was a puppeteer and an actor. He wore the powerful official like a suit. It was something akin to possession. He inhabited the vacant flesh shell and spent many of his waking hours talking like Pendleherst, walking like Pendleherst, It was a second life that became more real than his first.
Living as the deputy secretary, he enjoyed the most superficial trappings of power the shadowy figure had accumulated for himself over the course of a long career in the black heart of the American intelligence community. The disarming decadence and luxury available to him were far beyond his means.
As much as Higgins enjoyed the powerful man's treasures, there was nothing he delighted in more than his young companion Clair Miller. The beautiful and ambitious young woman had come to DC after college to pursue a career.
Higgins realized there was much more to her than that. He came to idealize the beautiful, intelligent, and somehow still naive young woman.
The nights he spent in her moonlit room admiring her perfect body, no worries or inhibitions were a living paradise. Making love to her, even through the doppelganger was a pleasure he could never match in his life.
At the end of the day when he disconnected himself from his other he loathed the prospect of having to return to his life, a reality that seemed miserable by any comparison.
When he returned to his home, he numbed himself with alcohol until he fell asleep. The sooner he sleep came, the sooner he could return to his fantasy life
This unparalleled form of escapism compelled Higgins to try to insulate himself as much as possible from reality. He neglected his own body, his own relationships, and his own life.
After these connections were severed he slowly began a process of physical deterioration; he had completely abandoned every aspect of his existence Nate Higgins. He seemed oblivious or just indifferent to his worsening appearance.
Since he spent most of his time in the sunless operating facility or locked away in his bedroom trying to sleep through the time he had to spend as himself the color drained from his face leaving pale skin and heavy puffy eyes. Severe depression diminished his appetite, and his malnourished body began to wither. He was a sad, decrepit figure with rail-thin limbs joined together by an alcohol bloated torso.
Higgins controlled the Pendleherst doll from a subterranean facility. The virtual reality helmet put him behind its eyes. Her feel of her touch and the sight of her body stimulated his senses in ways unmatched by anything he had ever experienced as Higgins.
Integrative Neural technology allowed him to feel what the clone felt. Higgens own fingers could feel her soft, warm skin even though his real hands stroked nothing but air.
When an assassin destroyed the doppelganger, Higgins services as an operator were suddenly no longer required. They informed him he would be reassigned to another project.
Just like that she was taken from him.
Without his time as Pendleherst Higgins saw his life as an unbearably boring tedium that he would be relieved from only by death. The longer he thought about it, the more he hated what he and Pendleherst did to her. The deception was with a grotesque regard for her. What would she do if she found out many of the nights she thought she was spending with a man she adored, her body was really being enjoyed by a complete stranger?
Higgins was far different from Pendleherst both physically and regarding personality. The obsequious middle aged programmer turned method actor was far more sensitive than the shark-eyed intelligence chief.
It may have been the ostentatious tendencies of the spy chief she was first taken with, but Higgins was sure it was him she was falling in love with. Every night he was with her he went off script and revealed who was inside the living costume.
It was Higgins, not Pendleherst she spent all those hours with in bed sharing things about herself one could only confide in someone they've formed a true bond with. The emotional distant and pathologically untrusting Pendlhurst was not somebody she could have revealed her deepest layers to.
He knew he never came to see her himself. He had already discarded her. Why he felt he needed to keep her believing they had a relationship was a mystery to Higgins.
She deserved better than him. She deserved someone who loved her like he did. Pendlehearst could keep everything else, but she Nate was not going to lose her.
He heard the sound of the front door opening. A nervous smile stretched across his face. He pushed his hair back for a last minute quick fix. He brushed off his shoulders, smoothed out his shirt, and took a deep breath. He was as ready as he was ever going to be.
He heard her footsteps approaching the bedroom door. He felt his heart pounding and his leg was shaking. The knob turned, and he configured his face into the warmest most welcoming smile he could muster. This was it this was the moment they would finally be together.
She pushed the door open, and the light from the hallway flooded into the bedroom. There she was in the doorway. Her ebony hair draped over her shoulders; her perfect olive skin glowed from the kiss of the sun's rays. She saw him and froze for a second before she screamed.
Nate was startled. He jumped off the bed. “Clair it's me it's me,” he repeated calmly.
“Who the fuck are you what are you doing here??” she shouted backing away from him.
“I've been waiting for this a long time.” he said warmly.
“Please just take what you want and leave.” she pleaded still backing away.
He slowly stepped forward. “Clair I know this is gonna sound crazy, but you know me.”
“How do you know my name?” She demanded.
“I''m Pendleherst,” he said calmly still slowly approaching her.
She turned to run, but Nate drew a small pistol. “Please listen to me,” he whispered. “Please just listen.”
“Please just don't hurt me.” she said fearfully tears now welling in her eyes.
“I won't hurt you. Just let me explain. I'm the man you love Clair Miller.
He held out his arms. “Come here. Let me see you.”
She reluctantly stepped forward. He looked down he could see her knees were quaking.
“Don't be afraid,” he said again.
She looked away from him, and he put his hand under her chin. “Please let me see those eyes,” he whispered.
She looked at him with her perfectly oval face. Her breath was shaky, and her body was trembling. The tears flooding her eyes obscured the beautiful brown orbs.
“I love you so much.” He whimpered. He pulled her close and embraced her tight.
“please don't hurt me. Don't hurt me.” she cried.
“See this is just the way it should be.” he murmured.
HE closed his eyes and clenched her even tighter. She was finally his. Life would finally be perfect.
She smashed into his groin with her knee. He gasped, he fell backward reeling from the pain. She screamed and smacked him in the face with the sharp end of her key. The metal cut across his eye. The wound stung like fire, and he could feel the warm blood instantly start seeping from the gash. She sprinted from the room.
“Wait!” he cried. He heard the front door slam behind her, and she was gone.
He lay in the dark bedroom on the hardwood floor whimpering. He didn't know how long for. He suspected the police would be along shortly, but that didn't matter. Nothing did at that point. He felt a cold emptiness in his chest, and he started sobbing.
He wiped away the blood and tears and carried himself back to the bathroom. He looked at his wounded face in the mirror. That was his only chance, and it was gone. Life as Nate Higgins was now totally without any hope and without any meaning. He put his pistol to his temple and with the click of the gun's hammer brought his reality to its terminus.