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Episode: Doppio

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As Diavolo returned home, the sea breeze began to pick up once more. He’d been to visit the market in the center of town, nearly draining his allowance with overly sweet candies made in Sardegna, and colorful novelties imported from mainland Italy. All of his spoils were stuffed into the front basket of his bike as he rode back to his home, passing through the neighborhood where most of the islanders resided.

Two boys, Diavolo’s own age, watched as he pedaled down the street in front of them, glowering. One picked up a fragment of brick, shaken off the road after years of wear, and threw it at the spokes of Diavolo’s bike. The other boy followed suit as well, both grabbing anything they could get their hands on to mercilessly pelt him until something finally stopped him. One brick fragment hit Diavolo’s ankle, causing him to wince in pain and lift his foot off the pedal for a mere moment. Quickly following up on that, a stick thrown managed to lodge itself between the spokes and bring Diavolo to a screeching halt. He touched one foot to the ground in urgency, barely managing to keep control of the bike. Unfortunately, all the goods in the basket were not so compliant, and spilled out into the road in front of him. With no real knowledge of his circumstances, Diavolo’s only thought was to collect what belonged to him, and continue on his way. He knelt down to scoop up his belongings, before his actions were cut short.

“Give it back,” one of the boys spat threateningly, seemingly materializing in front of Diavolo. He nudged Diavolo's package of goods further from his hand, making an audible scraping noise as the brand new product began to scratch and collect dirt. Diavolo looked up and squinted at the unfamiliar face, blocking the sunlight. The town was by no means large, but he didn’t recognize this boy at all.

“Give what back?” He asked nervously, diverting his eyes and continuing to collect the contents of his basket in the hopes that he’d be able to book it as soon as possible. The feeling of the hot pavement scuffing his knees, though he was wearing full length pants, kept him on edge.

“You stole my wallet!” Unable to stomach the false ignorance, the boy snapped and raised his voice, stomping once on the ground. So close to Diavolo’s head, the sudden noise of rubber colliding with brick sounded like a gunshot. A small amount of dirt was kicked into his face, not much, but enough to irritate his eyes and stifle his breathing.

“Stole… your…?” Diavolo croaked, holding back the urge to cough. He tried to blink the excess water out of his vision as he looked up at the boy fearfully, cluelessly, moving his own hand close to his chest to keep it from being stepped on.

The boy reached down to grip the collar of Doppio’s sweater, lifting him to his feet and pulling their faces uncomfortably close. As if the summer sun wasn’t hot enough already, the blood rush of terror made Diavolo feel like he was boiling from the inside. Stifled breathing, teary eyes, and now flushed face, he looked and felt well past primed for a breakdown. “Pay back the money you stole! You’re not getting away with this just because you’re the priest’s son!”

“I really didn’t take anything, I swear!” Diavolo pleaded, grabbing the boy’s wrists, but unwilling to initiate the violence and pry him off. Turn the other cheek. That’s what he learned in Sunday school. “P-Please, let me go!”

The boy ignored Diavolo’s pleas, attempting to knee him in the stomach, but failing miserably. Nonetheless, contact was made, and though it wasn’t a particularly hard hit that didn’t hurt very badly, it shed light on the fact that this boy was willing to harm him over this. That made Diavolo rightfully terrified.

“Please, please leave me alone! I didn’t do anything!” Diavolo’s voice had officially cracked. He tried to step back, slowly, unable to bring himself to run away. “I don’t know what you’re talking about! I swear on my life!”

“M-Maybe you should drop him, Giasone…” The other boy grimaced, beginning to feel remorse for standing by and watching this. “He’s really... I don’t think he did it. I mean, look at him, man.”

“I don’t care if he’s a good actor,” Giasone grumbled, looking back at his friend with residual bloodlust lingering in his eyes. “I know he took what’s mine! He’s the only person in this town with that stupid pink hair…”

“You know what? I’m… not gonna be a part of this,” the boy said, stepping back slowly. One step became two, and in three, he began walking backwards as he spoke. “I’m telling my parents. If you beat him up, you’ll get in trouble. Jus’ leave him be.”

“Don’t be a snitch! Toni! I won’t be friends with you anymore if you tattle!” He dropped Diavolo to point an accusatory finger at the other boy and wave his arms about, as if that would help his case.

“Peace,” Toni called back, unwilling to negotiate his morality. He stopped for a moment to secure eye contact and flick his hand under his chin, before resuming his exit.

Giasone groaned, beginning to lose confidence now that he had no one to back him up. But he had to follow through. He turned back around to face Diavolo, and was hit with a swift, ruthless punch to the face. The boy's consciousness flickered out immediately, narrowly dodging the added pain of careening to the ground.

Breathing deeply, Diavolo felt the pain radiate through his hand as he flexed his fingers. He didn’t mind it. In fact, he enjoyed it. It reminded him that he existed. “Awake… I’m awake, I’m… Let’s take advantage of this for as long as it lasts.”

Diavolo stood over the boy's unconscious body, tilting his head and peering at him coldly. Slowly, he knelt down over him, casting a grand shadow and giving an unsettling smile. Uncomfortably close to the boy’s sleeping face, he muttered to him, “I’m the one who stole your wallet. Not him. Not my double. Me. Diavolo. Don’t give that goddamn parasite the credit.”

Without breaking gaze, Diavolo slipped his hands into the boy's pockets, looking for anything he could possibly take. All he could manage to fish out was twenty-five lira, which wasn’t much, but it was the action that counted to Diavolo. To have an effect on someone, without them knowing he existed. With no one to direct their anger towards. A way for Diavolo to leave his legacy without his double seeking treatment-- be that antipsychotics or an exorcism. To exist, without existing. That was Diavolo’s goal. He placed the coin on the forehead of the unconscious boy, pressing it in harshly with his thumb until it left a mark. “Remember me.”

Diavolo pried the coin off and stuffed it in his pocket, barely allowing himself any time to see if the coin had actually caused any damage, before grabbing the boy by the ankles and dragging him to a nearby bush. Circling to the less seen side, Diavolo shoved the boy in with no regard for how he’d feel when he woke up, like a sack of meat. And since Giasone couldn’t fit in all the way, Diavolo pressed repeatedly against his chest hard and fast, snapping several branches to force him deeper inside. The ragged shafts scraped and cut, leaving small lesions on the boy’s skin, drawing blood. Leaves and branches fell on his lap, inside his clothes, and would remain there until he arose, confused and terrified. But for now, Diavolo would unceremoniously leave him like this and be on his way.

He strode back to the bike, keeping his head on a swivel to make sure no one had witnessed that encounter. When he made it back, he righted and mounted the bike immediately, even going so far as to press his foot to a pedal before he remembered the items spilled all over the road. Momentarily, he glared down at them with distaste, before setting out the kickstand and hopping off to retrieve them. He knelt down and picked up a bag of candies, resentful of the joyous rustling of the packaging. It wasn’t an annoying noise, it wasn’t much to fret over, least of all to feel hatred for, but something about it set him off. Throwing the bag into the basket, he grabbed another item, taking a second to look at it. He didn’t own it, nor did he want to own it, but the fact that he was obligated to pick up after someone else’s frivolities ate at him.

“I’m tired of being your damn bodyguard,” Diavolo growled, thumbing the dirt off a plush stuffed animal before haphazardly throwing it back into the basket. “You’re not worthy. Weak… You don’t deserve to have-- to control someone like me. And you certainly don’t deserve to share a body with me. Parasite…”

He shook with rage as he contemplated his circumstances, forever tethered in servitude to a coward. Cursed to never live a life his own, always picking up after his double. His Doppio. Keeping him safe and comfortable, protecting him from bullies. Yet never would he be repaid. His Doppio would never thank him, or acknowledge his existence for that matter, and would continue dragging him around to live his pointless little life. It had only been a year since Diavolo had first awakened, but it hadn’t taken very long for his resentment as a mere afterthought to set in. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. He picked up a pack of pencils, the final item, and clutched it with both hands as he brought it closer to his body.

“Maybe I should just leave you to fend for yourself, dammit!” Diavolo threw the pack into the basket harshly, unaffected by the gruesome noise it made as it hit wire. He stood up huffily, brushed the dust off his knees, and mounted his bike, making sure to look both ways and ensure no witnesses had seen him. With nothing else to check, Diavolo stared at a brick house with empty, tired eyes for a moment, something in the back of his brain telling him to accept his circumstances. He ignored the feeling and kicked off.

The sea breeze rushed past his face, not giving him nearly as much joy as it would’ve given the other. Coasting down a slight hill, the steeple of the church came into view, crossed by a flock of seagulls in the distance. Their cacophonous chatter was loud enough to reach Diavolo’s ears, worsening his mood. The bright sky, the cool breeze, the ambient symphony of crashing waves in the distance, all irked him. He hated the atmosphere, not because it disturbed him, but on principle. His double would have loved this, if he was awake. But as long as Diavolo was conscious, he was going to stifle and subvert that presence, by force if he needed to. As he continued down the road, the thought of total dominance buzzed around in Diavolo's head deafeningly, the life he would lead if he wasn't shackled, and in that moment, the thought pleased him. The fantasy blended in with the relaxed scenery and blurred together, filling Diavolo with a sense of hope for the future that he’d never felt. That intense, rising happiness in his chest began to dim as his brain switched off, allowing the other to switch in and steal what little Diavolo had to his name.

A pulse of awareness resounded through Diavolo's body. The entire coast, the chattering seagulls, the crashing waves, all popped into existence in one jarring moment. All sense of hope was extinguished in the transition, overtaken by sudden panic. The only knowledge Diavolo had acquired in the second that he’d been awake was that he had no knowledge. He could smell the sea breeze, feel the wind rush past his face, but he didn’t know where he was. Fists clenched over and riveted to the handlebars he’d no memory of grabbing in the first place, he turned sharply to view his surroundings. The front tire lost traction, sliding and turning the whole bicycle sideways, with Diavolo on top. Of course, he wouldn’t be on top for long. His forearms collided with the rigid ground as the bike escaped him, skidding a meter away. It ejected the basket's contents for a second time and laid quietly, waiting to be picked up once again. Scrapes and cuts from various pebbles and other debris strewn about decorated Diavolo's arms. He winced in pain as tears formed in his eyes, grasping his wrist tightly, as if cutting off blood flow would make it hurt any less. With a severe pout, Diavolo turned and crawled over to everything that had spilled from the basket. Their shapes were indecipherable due to the blur that glazed his eyes, but the bright colors stuck out against the earth toned road. He blinked the tears away and composed himself, quickly grabbing all of his things to put back in the basket. Each item, he put into the pouch made from his sweater, one after the other. As he got up and righted his bike, a horribly disturbing and powerful sense of deja vu washed over him. For a second, he forgot his misery entirely, replaced in full with dreadful tension. The feeling that something wasn't quite right with him. A strange sensation crawled up his back, constricting all his muscles as it passed, stiffening him like a stone statue. With a shudder and a shake of the head, Diavolo shoved the eerie feeling into the recesses of his mind and transferred the contents of the pouch to the basket. He paused for a second as he looked at the full basket, and thought to himself, perhaps it would be better to simply walk the bike the short distance home? With his poor luck, it seemed the best course of action.