This is the fifth installment of Doppelganger. Check out the fourth here.
I stumbled backwards, blinded by the glare after spending so long in darkness. Cautiously, I opened my eyes a sliver and peered through the doorway into what looked to be a laboratory of some sort. Stepping towards the empty room, I heard the crunch of glass underfoot as the fluorescent lighting cast a diamond-like sparkle on the powdered beakers beneath my boots. The whole place could not have been more than about twenty feet long, with grey laminate countertops over which an array of flasks, congealed liquids, and broken Bunsen burners lay scattered like some chemical graveyard. To my chagrin, the lights above me began to flicker, a constant, ghostly display which did not distract my gaze, but was prominent enough to be an annoyance in my periphery. Ignoring it for the moment, I decided to explore this new environment.
After roughly ten minutes, a lone string hanging from the ceiling caught my eye. As I approached, the pulley-like fibers revealed themselves to be metal, and the long strand revealed itself to be a chain. Following its path upwards, I determined it was attached to a barely discernible hook in the ceiling, surrounded on four sides by the faint outline of a trapdoor. Without hesitation, I yanked the chain, throwing up my hands just in time to catch a half rotted wooden ladder seconds before it would have collided with my jaw. Gingerly, taking care not to step through the crumbling planks damp with age and mold, I inched my way up the rungs and into the space above.
Whereas the laboratory had seemed small, the room from which the ladder dropped down was barely large enough to hold the ladder and myself. Lit only by the eternally flickering fluorescents below, I could barely glimpse the outline of a small table in the far corner. Creeping slowly over, afraid the floor boards were as rotten as the ladder rungs; I started as a sharp metallic glint bounced off a dust particle hanging in the air. I froze, the breath catching in my ribcage, and prayed that whatever the reflection had been, it was not an eye, as I had first believed. Finally, I let out a rattling exhale, before lunging at the spot where the glint appeared.
My fingers connected with the empty wood of the table, and I stifled a yelp of surprise as something akin to a razor sliced the side of my palm. Peering down, I realized the metallic sheen belonged to that of an old name plaque, the corner of which now bore a wet, dark-red drop of my own blood. Overcome with curiosity, I ignored the dripping gash on my hand and walked quickly back towards the trapdoor, tilting the plaque in an attempt to read the words engraved upon its surface. Worn but still discernible, the letters stared back at me as I mouthed “April DeNonno”, in puzzlement. Those were the only words I managed to decipher before something knocked into the back of my skull, and the dimly lit room went completely dark.