The sun had risen. Rays of golden light peeped in through the holes and gaps of the decaying wood of the cabin. They struck the hard dirt floor in haphazard lines and cast a faint glow into the surrounding shadows. Micheal watched the dust float in and out of the light. He shivered against his chains. The dilapidated cabin offered little respite against the freezing night air, and he knew it would be a few hours before the sun’s heat seeped through the wood and warmed him. After that, only a few more hours would suffocate him with oppressing heat. He needed to get out of here before then.
Shivering again, Micheal stood and shook out his chains. They rattled unceremoniously, tugging the bare skin around his wrists and ankles as their weight fell to the floor. He winced, fresh blood already seeping from the cuffs and onto his fingers. Despite the pain, he shuffled to the far corner of the cabin, pulling the chains as taut as his wrists could bear. He had seen it in the shadows, a single nail protruding from the wall, but now that he sat closer, the darkness oppressing on all sides, he had to feel for the small prick.
Ah! There it was!
Micheal pulled at the nail. It resisted his tugs, tearing his fingernails and bruising his finger tips, but finally it fell free. Carrying it back to where his chains were anchored, he rested the cuffs into a particularly large shaft of light and wiggled the nail through the lock until it slipped open.
Shaking of the cuffs, Micheal winced as he saw the injuries on his wrists in all their glory. Blisters from heat and sweat and scuffing bubbled around the white raw flesh that scabbed and bled. Tenderly blowing onto the hot sores, Micheal resisted the urge to cry. When some of the pain abated and he could move his fingers freely, he set to work on his ankle cuffs. Thankfully, he hadn't moved his feet nearly as much as his hands, so the sores didn't sting as much.
After freeing himself from the chains, Micheal carefully stood and stretched his aching body. By now, the sun had driven away the chill. Shoving the door open, he stepped out into the light and took a deep breath, absorbing the fresh air. The bruises on his body quickly reminded him of where he was and what he needed to do, so he hastily searched his surroundings. An old dirt road overgrown with grass led into the forest behind the cabin. Micheal debated which way he should go. The road would certainly lead him to civilization, but the risk of running into his kidnapper was extremely high. On the other hand, while the open meadows before him promised security, it could be days before he found another living soul. He would starve long before then, not having the survival skills necessary to endure the plains.
His mind made, Micheal started down the forest road. At least the trees would provide enough cover for him so that if he did chance upon the kidnapper, he could hide in the underbrush. The dirt crunched beneath his bare feet, and he hissed every time he stepped on an unseen burr. The sun seeped through the foliage to light his path, but Micheal depended upon his ears to alert him of coming danger.
Hours passed. Dismay began to fill his heart. How far out was that cabin? Why had his kidnapper taken him there? What was the purpose of his kidnapping in the first place? Micheal didn't have much money and didn't know anyone who had a lot of money. So a ransom capture seemed unlikely unless the kidnapper was that desperate for spare change. And if the purpose was more... intimate, Micheal speculated that an abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere certainly wasn't the place to store him. Whatever the reason, it didn't matter much. All that mattered was that Micheal had been taken from his home and he would do just about anything to get back to it.
He stopped and held his breath. His ears had detected something, hopefully not the overexcited sound of his heart. Again. Yes, it was footsteps. Micheal crouched down beside the brush and crawled into its protection, cautious not to make too much sound and alert the approacher. He peered through the leaves at the road, hoping to catch a glimpse of whom he supposed to be his kidnapper.
The person walked down the road without any care. Micheal's lungs suddenly shrank ten times. He touched his face in awed wonder, for the person who now stared at was... himself.
No, surely that must be wrong.
Micheal studied his hands. The lines on his palms, the shape of his fingertips, they were indeed his own. He had studied them since his youth. He again touched his face, confirming that the features he felt had not changed since the last time he had gazed upon a mirror. Maybe his eyes had played a trick on him. He looked again at the approacher, and again his heart lurched from its proper place in his chest.
Driven by panicked curiosity, Micheal forgot his circumstances and leaped out of the bushes at the imposter. Hardly flinching with surprise, the kidnapper pulled the gun from its holster on his hip, his movements as flawless and practiced as Micheal's when he carried that same gun.
"Who are you?" Micheal demanded.
"The one with the gun," answered the imposter.
Micheal shivered. That voice... aside from the snarky quip, that voice was indistinguishable from his own. "Who are you?" Micheal again asked, confused wonder filling his muscles.
"That's not important. Not to you at least."
"I should like to know who my own doppelgänger is."
With a slight roll of his eyes, the imposter answered, "I'll tell you only if you agree to go back to the cabin."
"Do you intend to kill me?"
"No, I need you alive."
"Many things can kill a human in an abandoned cabin," Micheal retorted. Why had he said that? Surely the person before him was human too... right?
Lowering the gun slightly, the imposter's expression betrayed his surprise. Maybe he wasn't human after all. Micheal slowly stepped forward as his look-a-like said, "Well what else am I supposed to do with you? I can't let you go for rather obvious reasons, but I can't let you die either. I have to keep you hidden, but you won't stay hidden, apparently."
"Tell me who you are and what you intend to do with my face."
"I can't do that."
"Don't come any closer!" The imposter raised the gun again, suddenly realizing he was caught off guard.
Micheal hesitated, then slowly approached again. He prayed with every fiber of his being that this familiar stranger did indeed need him alive and wouldn't shoot to kill. "I can help you, I think. Help you achieve whatever you aim to do."
"Help me? We know more about your kind than you think. I know you're just trying to save your own skin. The moment I let my guard down, you'll kill me and reclaim what I've taken from you."
Now Micheal was close enough to touch the imposter. He tentatively reached for the shoulder, bypassing the gun, which rested against his chest now. A brief glance at the weapon, and Micheal's heart sighed with relief. Whoever this person was, they at least knew the basic rules of gun safety.
"I wouldn't touch if I were you," the imposter said, pulling his shoulder slightly away.
Micheal disregarded the warning and made contact, instantly regretting his choice.