The Other of Thomas
Where doubles and doppelgängers exist, there is usually some will or arcane science guiding in their creation: The Other of Thomas seems to have willed itself into being.
There are some cases, albeit perishingly few, that appear to exist outside and apart from even the loosest threads that link most of the phenomena that I am tasked with investigating. This most recent, an anomaly even in a tapestry of dropped stiches, was forwarded to me by an acquaintance with whom I share certain, overlapping interests, despite our divergent views on the origins of the things few know and fewer understand. They, by inclination, tend to ascribe all these things to an overarching authoritarian scheme; some great work of an organised, secretive conspiracy, where I mainly see a tumult of chaos. Although the incident in question bears some similarity to other things that I have seen, the monster at its heart is either exceedingly rare or may even be unique; entirely alone in the world.
This case concerns the life, or at least the brief and final chapter in the life, of Thomas Rafin; an unassuming figure who would have already been forgotten if it were not for the circumstances surrounding his death and the life that continued on and took its place. Born in 1944 in Seville, Thomas was always interested in cinema and, with the advent of consumer VHS cameras, he began to experiment with making short films of his own. Callous as it might seem, these are of no real importance, since Thomas does not appear in them: What matters, at least as far as they appeal to our concerns, are the video diaries he recorded. Across a series of three tapes, over nearly nine hours of footage, we can watch the genesis of something new and terrible.
At first the diffuse greyish specks that can be observed behind Thomas could easily be mistaken for a visual artefact of some sort - a crude technology misinterpreting and blowing out shadows cast by an ordinary man as he shared the day-to-day inanities of an unexciting life - except that Thomas Rafin was followed in and out of shot and from the room by them. Though they were generally behind him and out of his line of sight, the first footage shows moments where he ought to have been able to see them; even in this nascent form. Over the course of the entries of the first tape, which were recorded daily for two weeks, the not-shadows clearly began to grow in size, spreading thin little tendrils out until they became entangled with one another.
This new, web-like configuration also moved differently in relation to Thomas Rafin. Rather than skirt the peripheries of his vision, it began to loom slightly above and behind him, allowing him to pass through it before reorienting itself. In these recordings we can see that it tensed as he touched it, then shivered in the wake of the contact. The entries on the second tape were made over a longer period of time, a new pastime becoming less pressing, but the not-shadow still only changed slowly. It gradually spread, the tendrils branching out into crude limbs and then a humanoid form, still stretched thin, still more apparition than presence. Nonetheless, even as it became more distinct in the footage, Thomas Rafin seemed to remain entirely oblivious to the presence.
By the first recording on the third tape, made several months after the previous entry, the not-shadow was far denser. Its previous, wan aspect had filled out enough that it was had depth, the beginnings of features on what was increasingly close to a face. It had started to move in tandem with Thomas Rafin, a frame or two behind as it aped and approximated his movements, looking very much as though it was learning to imitate him. Although he still couldn’t see the thing, Thomas seemed - finally - at least unconsciously aware that something was stalking him, turning around to look through it as though it was at the very edges of his perception. Even in a short space of time, across a single recording, its final transformation had started: A change from something liminal into something we have come to call The Other of Thomas.
The final recording runs for the last couple of hours of that third tape, cutting out only when the storage limits of the medium are surpassed. It begins with Thomas Rafin listing off the time and date - 12:21 p.m. on Sunday the 23rd of June, 1991 - and then recounting a story of insomnia and night terrors, of constant anxiety and a fear of being replaced. He was clearly distressed, and rank with the adrenaline of hyper-vigilance, as he feared for his mental health as much as he did his life. Behind him the creature had come into its own, now a nearly complete copy of Thomas Rafin hidden as much by disbelief as its own unexplained method of camouflage. It let Thomas speak for around twenty minutes before it earned its name, manifesting as an exact physical double and attacking in a flurry of activity.
On the tape we can see Thomas’ chair being pulled over, see a moment of dread realisation on his face as he finally and fatally became aware of his newly incarnated doppelgänger. They fell out of frame together and, after a bloodcurdling shriek, The Other of Thomas reappeared, gore smeared across its face as it continued to gouge chunks out of Thomas Rafin’s face until the struggling stopped. It stood, still naked except for the rivulets of blood left trickling down its neck and the smear and splatter of the same, like scarlet gloves up its forearms. It walked out, still something not-quite human in its mannerisms, and the footage carries on. The stillness becomes grotesque in juxtaposition to the terrible crime. As the tape ends, we see The Other of Thomas passing by in the hallway, showered and redressed in a dead man’s clothes.
Taking Thomas’ place in the world, even maintaining the few social and professional contacts he had left, The Other of Thomas lived an apparently innocuous enough life for the next couple of years, until a neighbour called the police about the smell coming from its home. They were forced to break in when the imposter, The Other of Thomas, could not be found, discovering a home which had become more of a nest. All the food had spoiled, supplies not replaced since Thomas Rafin had been. Instead they found only gnawed-upon bones. Not just his, but separate piles for other, smaller meals: Bird and cat bones for the most part, with some rats and the occasional, half-eaten dog carcass. Warrants for Thomas’ arrest were filed immediately, but they already had his bones. The Other of Thomas had disappeared - perhaps retreating into nothingness again.