Identity Theft

Image: narrow road through rainforest.  Text: as if the threes were crowding close, reaching for me.

Identity Theft

Short story by Iris Carden

I can tell you the truth.  No-one believes it.  I’m not really sure I believe it myself. 

It was just an ordinary day.  I was driving on the forest road.  It doesn’t matter now where I was going or who I was going to see.  

That road always felt strange to me, as if the trees were crowding close, reaching for me,  blaming me for all the crimes of humans against their kind.  I’ve always felt those trees were after me, as if anything bad that could to me would happen on that road.  

I turned a corner and almost hit a pedestrian.  There was a man walking along the road.  Well he couldn’t have walked beside it, the trees were too close.

I hit the brakes.  He walked over to my window.  I wound it down. 

“You couldn’t give me a lift, could you mate?” he asked.

I know what you’re thinking.  Nothing good ever comes from picking up a hitch hiker on a country road.  But, even though we were in the forest, we weren’t that far from the city.  What could go wrong in the 15 minutes it would take to get to civilisation?

I agreed to take him to the next service station.  

As we drove, he started to tell me his story.  He had to get away and start over, he said. He’d made some big mistakes, which he needed to leave behind.

I didn’t ask what kind of mistakes.  I didn’t want to pry.  It wasn’t my business, and in only a few minutes I would leave him behind and never see him again.

How wrong I was.  I see him all the time now.

While he was talking, I stopped to let a family of ducks cross the road.  They took their time.

I had pretty much tuned out what my passenger was saying, when two sentences caught my attention. “I really need a new face.  I think I’ll take yours.”

Suddenly strong hands grabbed my head.  I felt like my skin was being ripped off, my face, off everywhere. 

I had a moment of excruciating pain and dizziness, and what seemed like a hallucination of me, getting out of the car and running into the forest.  But it wasn’t me.  I was still sitting in the car, watching someone who looked exactly like me running in among those trees that hated me so much.

The pain came and went in moments.  The ducks were safely across the road, and I continued driving.  When I reached that service station, I stopped and bought a coffee.  It was one of those big service stations, with a food court and tables, for long-distance truckers and tourists.  There was a television playing in the dining area, and on the screen was a picture of the hitch hiker.  He was wanted for breaking and entering, for assault and for murder.

I was glad I wasn’t going to see him again.

When I walked back to my car, there were two police officers waiting there.  One of them grabbed me, spun me around and threw me against the car. He pulled my hands behind my back and put handcuffs on my wrist.

“Vincent Rhymes, I’m arresting you for burglary, assault, murder, and everything else you’ve got warrants out for.”

I tried to tell them, “I’m not this Vincent whoever.  I’m Jim Smith.  My licence is in my pocket, just get it.  You’ll see you’ve made a mistake.”

The other cop pulled my wallet out of my pocket took out my licence and looked at it.

“I guess we can add stealing James Smith’s wallet to your charges, whoever he is.”

“What!” I yelled, “what do you mean theft.  That’s my wallet, and my licence.  Just look at the picture.  That’s me.”

“Really? If you were going to try that, you should have at least picked someone who looked something like you.” the second cop said.

That’s when I noticed it. My reflection in the window glass of the car.  Only it wasn’t my reflection.  It was the hitch hiker’s.

By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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