She was at the edge of the bar, nursing a tall bottle, staring forward blankly. She looked almost like a normal Human, except she seemed smaller, thinner, and was perennially shrouded in black.
“Bark heap!” The girl yelled, slurring her words. “Gimme anudda.”
I took away the empty bottle (of soda). “I think you’ve had enough,” I said with a grin. “You’re going to have to pee like crazy.”
“Bah!” She said, slamming her hand down on the counter and rattling the glasses. She looked up wide-eyed at the noise, fearful she might cause a crash, before her face contorted again in her version of rage. “I’ll have you know that I can have the bladder of a camel with the snap of my fingers!” She punctuated her odd boast with a forceful snap of her pale white fingers. “Because I’m a doppelganger. Know what that is?”
I frowned. “You can look like a guy’s crush, right?” I asked.
“It’s so much more than that. So here’s the deal…” she leaned in, close to me, her purple lips inches from my ear. “I can look like anything. Anything that anybody can want. Anything with boobs, at least. I can be a tall, leggy blonde, or a short, feisty Latina. I can be a long forgotten lover, an unattainable crush, an unrequited love. A Doppelganger is like the iPod of women: I can play any women like an iPod can play any song, and just as well as the original.”
“Wow,” I said, picking up her shot glass and dumping out the remnants of soda down the sink. “What’s your name, anyways?”
“I’m Reiva,” she said with a little smile. She looked at my nametag. “I know you are Drew, unless you are wearing the wrong nametag.”
I laughed. “Nope, this one’s mine. Well Reiva, with a gift like that, I bet you have your pick of suitors.”
Reiva didn’t say anything, and when I looked up, her face was red, and looked vaguely like tomato.
“OH HO HO, YOU’D THINK SO, WOULDN’T YA?!” She announced sharply, so loudly that I jumped back a bit. Her face went back to her pale countenance, and for a moment I feared she was going to cry. She sniffed. “Every time I go on a date, the same thing happens: I give my spiel. I say all the things I can do, and do you know what the guy says?”
I shrugged. “I would imagine they would say different things…”
“Nope! Always the same thing. Always the same sentiment…” she paused. “They say the most awful thing one can imagine…”
I leaned in, by now entranced. “What?”
“They say…they say I’m perfect just as I am!” Reiva said, and her face contorted. She let out a sob, and buried her head into the counter.
I stared at her a moment, perplexed, and decided that the instinct of saying she was pretty – for she was – would do more harm than good. “You’d…like them to pick something else?”
“Of course!” The Doppelganger blurted out. “I’m a doppelganger! I shape shift, it’s my thing, my talent. It’s what makes me, me. To say you want a doppelganger to be as she is…that’s like saying you want a Holstaur to get a breast reduction, or a goblin to grow a few inches. I want to be and experience and try all kinds of things. I want to be someone, to play a role, to be that role. When a guy says they don’t want that, that’s saying that they don’t want me.”
Reiva sighed. “I’m sorry, Drew . I’m being the cliche of ranting all my problems at a hapless bartender,” she said. “You must be sick of that.”
I shrugged, and washed my hands. It was only after a minute that I realized I was using the Pabst tap instead of the faucet. I quickly corrected my mistake. “To be honest it doesn’t happen much nowadays. Most people just look at their phones.”
“Oh God, don’t get me started,” Reiva said with a hand wave. “And they watch these cartoon women nowadays…” she leaned in with big eyes. “…you know, one of them stapled her-her VAGOO?”
I recoiled. “Really?”
She nodded, her dark eyes big. “Weirdos, I tell you. Now, explain that one to me: how can a guy watch a cartoon woman, than not ask ME to be her? How?”
I shrugged. “Maybe it feels like asking for two scoops of ice cream,” I said.
“What do you mean?” Reiva asked.
“Well, imagine there’s a place giving out free ice cream, and there’s tons of it, and they give everybody one scoop. Now you know they could give you two scoops, but you don’t want to ask and be greedy. Maybe your shapeshifting is the second scoop that everyone is afraid to ask for.”
Reiva stated at me, and her dark eyes sparkled. “Well, how about your second scoop?,” she asked with a playful smile. “If I said you could have any girl as your girlfriend, who would you pick?”
I laughed, but began to redden. “Well, I’m not sure I want to really…”.
“Aw come on,” she said. “I’m just curious. There must be something…”
A thought – a cursed thought, an impossible fantasy, flashed in my head. I gasped. “There’s nothing like that,” I lied.
But it was too late. Doppelgangers are perceptive, and she saw that moment where I had contemplated the potential of fulfilling a fantasy. “Oh ho! So you DO have someone! Is she a long-lost love, an old flame? A girl who got away?”
“…no,” I said. “T-there’s nothing…”
“Is it some famous starlet, maybe some porn star or stripper?” Reiva pressed.
She stirred, leaning in. Her normally dark countenance seemed to glow like a lantern, and a fetching smile stretched across her pale face. “Well now I have to hear this!”
I cleared my throat, looking skyward. I realized that an impossible dream was in my grasp, and it terrified me. For the briefest of moments, I saw myself reach for impossible stars, but drew back, aghast, as a Promethean Icarus might have done. “It’s…it’s weird,” I whispered, almost a plea for her to stop.
But Reiva didn’t. She was hungry now, and the soda pop was coursing through her veins. “Stop teasing, I simply have to know! Come now, you can tell me,” she said.
“I can’t say it,” I replied hoarsely.
“You know you want to,” she replied. “It’s something weird…is it something that doesn’t exist? Like a fu-“
“No, no no no,” I said. “Not that. I don’t go that way.”
“That’s just as well; I don’t go that way either. I mean, there are a lot of fetishes…”
“It isn’t anything normal,” I said. I took a deep breath. “I have always found myself drawn to fetishes of a…bizarre dimension.”
“No. I…” I pulled out my phone, and the video which had captivated my fancy since I started it. My heart pounded, and I held up the phone before her inquisitive eyes.
She stared for a moment, watching my screen with a look that wasn’t judgmental or disgusted, but just uncomprehending. Her gaze returned to me, slowly, and she blinked.