Abstract structure of boxes stacked in a wall bending toward you

Familiar Faces

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Sisters, I have an idea for a trick I’d like us to play.

What is the trick you have in mind, sister?

We find a mark and follow him, learn his comings and goings. Then on the day of the trick, we all wear the same dress—the powder-blue one.

Oh, that’s a very pretty dress.

I prefer the avocado-green. But if it helps us play the trick, sisters, I’ll wear the blue.

Wonderful, yes, it will help enormously. Then I’ll follow the mark onto the subway and make sure he sees me. I can bring along a book or a handkerchief to drop on the ground to get his attention.

You could make eyes at him. That’s my favorite way to hook a mark.

We have such deep, dark eyes, they can never look away.

Maybe you can strike up a conversation.

Perhaps, but only pleasantries. We must keep a certain distance from the mark, or the rest of the trick won’t work.

So then you follow him to his destination?

Yes, but I don’t leave the train. I let him go, and wave good-bye as the doors close.

Then he sees you whisked away into the tunnel. Gone.

Yes, which is why he’ll never suspect to see you on the street, exiting a coffee shop, in powder-blue with your dark eyes just like mine!

Delicious! He’ll think I’m you!

Oh, what a surprise!

Do I speak to him?

You mustn’t speak to him; you mustn’t imply that you know him. But you must pretend to be surprised too, so much so that you spill your coffee on him. And you must scream!

Scream?

Scream bloody murder! Claw at yourself, tumble over a fire hydrant as you back away from him in terror!

He’ll be so overwhelmed!

And then you run away, sister, as fast as you can!

What a marvelous trick that will be.

That is only the beginning. For you, sister, must be lying in wait at his place of work.

Which we’ll have learned from observing him before.

Yes, and you’ll conceal yourself in the women’s restroom.

But if there are multiple such restrooms?

You will put yourself in the one nearest to the entrance, for he will seek out the first available men’s room to clean the coffee from his suit.

And I’ll leave the women’s room just as he approaches, and scream bloody murder at him!

No, you mustn’t scream.

Oh, but I’d like to be a sister who screams.

No, you must remain silent and treat him as a perfect stranger. He may start with fright, or he may scream, or he may attempt to engage you in conversation, sister, but you must resist, pretend you’ve never seen him before. Should he speak to you or reach out to you, you must pull away and react unfavorably to the encroachment.

This is a complex part to play, I’ll relish it!

Yes, it is subtle but no less important. And then you leave, and we allow him to settle, confused, into his workday.

Aha! Then as soon as he leaves for lunch, there I’ll be to greet him!

No, sister, the final trick will be much tastier if we wait. He will have seen the same woman three times already, in impossible places relative to each other. Left to his own devices, this will puzzle him for the rest of the day.

But we must strike at maximum confusion!

Patience, sister. If we allow him to rejoin his routine, his confusion will multiply with our next intervention. You, sister, will frame yourself in a window visible from his office, across the street. At some point during the afternoon, he will pause to ponder and stare out his own window. That is when you wave to him.

With a frozen smile on my face? Slow and creepy?

No, sister, with a look of genuine joy. You should be pleased to see him.

Oh, I will be, anticipating the rest of this trick.

Yes, I suspect it will be good.

So do I.

He will not believe you’re real, and he may leave his office to fetch a coworker back to see you.

But I’ll hide from view!

Right. You mustn’t be seen by anyone but the mark.

So when the coworker leaves and he settles back into work—

With increased confusion…

Indeed, I reappear and wave again?

Yes, and beckon to him. He will think himself insane, but with a bit of luck, he’ll slip away and come to your building.

Do I wait for him there?

Yes, but it must be a building with a glass entrance, so he’ll see you and know which door to enter. You must wait far back enough that you can slip into the stairwell before he catches up to you.

A chase! Do I take the stairs up or down?

You’ll take them up, sister, but only one flight, and then crouch low. That’s when a sister on a lower level will start running downward.

I’d like to be that sister! I can run very fast.

Brilliant! So he’ll follow her!

Just a glimpse of my powder-blue will suffice to lure him down after me!

Indeed, and you’ll be far enough in advance of him to reach the bottom and pass through a door into a dark room. Most likely a storage space of some kind.

He’ll follow me through the door, naturally.

And you’ll wait for him to do so, positioned behind the door so that as soon as he’s entered, you’ll close it definitively behind him.

And turn the lights on?

Yes. And there he will see all of us, sisters. Some of us perched atop shelves, others standing on boxes stacked at various heights, collected in groups here and there, but most gathered in a crowd around him at the door, all two hundred of us, sisters, all in our powder-blue dresses, staring with our dark eyes.

Oh, the look on his face!


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6 Comments

  1. jim ilika

    There is something deeply unsettling, perhaps even disturbing, about this story. The elaborate effort to mess with someone’s sense of reality seems cruel and excessive. There is no indication that there is some goal of justice or revenge being meted out. The women seem like evil latter day maenads. Or, is this a parable about coordinated gaslighting. Congratulations Zac, you have freaked me out.

    1. Zachary Dillon

      Jim, I can confess to you now that this site was just an elaborate conspiracy to freak you out. Great work, everyone! Your checks will arrive in 6-8 weeks.

      On a serious note, I didn’t write this story with it in mind, but having felt at times as if I were a mark in a similar operation or game may have subconsciously fed this one.

  2. Tim

    Powder blue is one of my favorite colors. This story seems strangely plausible at 4AM. 🤔 Think I’ll go back to sleep and dream about it.

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