The Body Double

      Roman Theodore Brandt
The Body Double

"Have we met?"He laughs again and turns to look at me. "Every day of our lives," he says. His face is familiar. I've seen him before, the stubble and the angles of his jaw. "Where have I seen you? I’m usually good with faces."He smiles and turns back to his coffee. "Oh, just about everywhere," he says."There's a diner at the wrong end of the highway. I've seen it before, but I don't know where."Frank pulls into a diner parking lot to get something to eat. The service is terrible, the cook is rude, and the food leaves something to be desired. But who is that man at the other end of the counter, and why is he so familiar? Something about him is wrong. He's a phantom, haunting the depths of Frank's peripheral vision. Has this all happened before? Is this guy a ghost from his past?From THE BODY DOUBLE:"Have we met?"He laughs again and turns to look at me. "Every day of our lives," he says. His face is familiar. I've seen him before, the stubble and the angles of his jaw. "Where have I seen you? I’m usually good with faces."He smiles and turns back to his coffee. "Oh, just about everywhere," he says.I take a bite of my hamburger, and it's about like every other diner hamburger I've ever had."We come here every day," he says.I look over at him, and he's stirring his coffee. "I've never been here," I tell him.He looks over, raising one eyebrow at me. "Sure you have. You were here yesterday. We had this conversation, only you asked me how old I was.""I wasn't even in the state. You're thinking of someone else.""No," he says. "It was you."
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    Midnight at the Bowling Alley

      Roman Theodore Brandt
Midnight at the Bowling Alley

Midnight at the Bowling Alley is the story of Oscar, who attends his partner's mother's bizarre late night birthday party at a remote bowling alley and wants nothing more than to go home. But will he find that he's doomed to be stuck with Zeke's family forever? Is this possibly the last night on Earth? Was anything ever real?(Note: this is the revised text, posted 07/30/2014)Midnight at the Bowling Alley is the story of Oscar, who attends his partner's mother's bizarre late night birthday party at a remote bowling alley and wants nothing more than to go home. But will he find that he's doomed to be stuck with Zeke's family forever? Is this possibly the last night on Earth? Was anything ever real? This ebook began as a live story, meaning it was posted online and made available as it was written, uploaded again with each revision. It became the most successful of my live stories, with an average of at least 10 reads per day, and sometimes as high as 100. Now, in final form, it's available for free from Smashwords! Let's welcome back the most popular story I have ever written, and the story that earned over half of the readership I have to this date.*TRIGGER WARNING* Contains references to violence and sexual abuse.
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    The Last Bus Home

      Roman Theodore Brandt
The Last Bus Home

A man receives a bus ticket in the mail from his dead mother. The ticket says Route Zero: Home. Everything in his life from his mother's death up to this point has been as dull as cinder blocks and just as dirty. Should he take the Zero bus? What waits for him at the end of the line?The calls only come when I’m at work. They start as vibrations in telephone wires, igniting under bird feet perched high above the freeway, metal boxes sending electric spider webs into the ground, crackling beneath dead bodies rotting six feet under corn fields, faster and faster into the dark abyss of sewer pipe acid trips and up into my fifth floor apartment, jangling in the handset of my telephone, waking the crack heads next door. I imagine the phone ringing once, twice, a million times before my answering machine picks it up with a click, recording silence for five long seconds before clicking to a stop and rewinding in the dark of my living room. Lights come on in the apartments around mine, but I’m not home. I’m never home anymore. I haven’t been home in years.
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    Empty Rooms and Hallways

      Roman Theodore Brandt
Empty Rooms and Hallways

Oh look, Half-finished stories :) these will have to do until I can finish something substantial. Soon! I promise. These aren't meant to be taken seriously.Quartet OverviewThe Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet is a near future fantasy with a progressive political bent, a diverse set of characters, and links to recordings of many original songs.Ninas Twei is the mystical place where all of Earth’s species dance and sing together to ensure the continuance of life on Earth – all, that is, except Homo sapiens. Greed and the lust for power has barred them from the dance.Giselle, an activist school teacher, finds herself called to a small rural community to join a group of people who, becoming their Tla Twein (mythical animals or gods), are able to travel to Ninas Twei.Gathering an increasingly diverse group of people from the city, the country, and the world, the Tla Twein engage in a life and death struggle to heal the rift in the natural order and defeat the forces of greed.Giselle, the Earth Woman Tree Woman, joins with the Wolfwind, and together they become all things – earth, air, and water; flora and fauna – a compassionate force for the well-being of the earth.Book One: Journey to Ninas TweiA stray cat struts into Giselle’s apartment bringing an elusive melody? A majestic homeless woman sings her a prophesy and a red-tailed hawk silently urges her to travel north from the city to a rural farming community on the north coast, where she finds an ocean-side house next to a hilly forest, and a new job.Three people in Arundel have been waiting for Giselle, believing that she, and two children, Enid and Jésus, are missing pieces in their attempt to bring humans back to the dance of life. Yameno, 30, the last member of the Tuwillian nation living in Arundel, is guardian of the sacred spring. His nation has a tradition of transforming into their Tla Twein and traveling to Ninas Twei to watch and guard the dance. Yameno’s Tla Twei is a large grey wolf. Dan, 50, a black gardener and scholar, is the hawk. Hazel, 47, a librarian, becomes the cougar. With subtle, often musical encounters, Giselle and the children are drawn into the group. Yameno, carves a sculpture of Giselle’s Tla Twei, the Earth Woman Tree Woman and transform to their Tla Twein and join, becoming all things – wolf and tree, earth, water, and air.But Enid’s grandfather, Gunther, who learned the secrets of the Tla Twein when married to Hazel’s sister, blames Hazel and the others for his wife’s death. When he stumbles on an encounter between Enid and the cougar he knows is Hazel, he arouses the town and a cougar hunt is planned.Ninas Twei is in imminent danger. Hunt or no hunt, the Tla Twein must travel there. On the day of the cougar hunt they meet in a forest clearing where, singing their songs, they transform to their Tla Twein, journeying to Ninas Twei through a vortex splashed with color – and sometimes pierced by tremors and sharp pain. In Arundel Jésus and Enid are reported missing and the townspeople’s hunt for the cougar turns to one for the children.In Ninas Twei they watch the incredible dance of life and find the Weaving Tree where Giselle can trace people’s stories and see the relationship between the problems on earth and the absence of humans from the dance. The source of the tremors and pain is somewhere beneath this tree and it is dying.Suddenly the ground shakes and a gapping crevice opens up swallowing the screaming children. The others are tossed back to earth in their human form just as the hunters come down the path into the clearing. Obsessed with anger, Gunther raises his gun accusing Hazel of being “the devil”. Hazel and Dan have only a moment to transform to their Tla Twein as he shoots. Hazel and Dan disappear, leaving behind the bodies of a cougar and a hawk.The children are missing. Giselle and Yameno are accused of kidnapping them. They walk back down the hill back of Giselle’s house in the custody of the sheriff.Hazel and Dan call to each other, their voices growing fainter and fainter as they float away from each other in a gray empty place.
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    A Column of Ash

      Roman Theodore Brandt
A Column of Ash

A Column of Ash is the story of two brothers, one away at college and the other stuck at home, and the small but game-changing betrayal between them. Jim has been away at college for over a year, visiting on holidays. Jeremy has been stuck at home with their verbally and emotionally abusive mom, but his time to leave home is coming. When Jim is invited home for dinner, the family secrets come out.Jim kicks my bunk in the middle of the night to wake me up, and it scares the shit out of me. I sigh and try to get comfortable again."Jeremy, you awake?" he wants to know."What?""I'm sorry I didn't take you with me," he says from somewhere below me.The ceiling is starting to come back into focus above me, and I look over at the window, then the closet where some of Jim's stuff still takes up the top shelf. "Yeah, well," I tell him. "You never do."
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    Michael

      Roman Theodore Brandt
Michael

Michael has always been there, waiting outside windows and watching from the mirror, pulling me out of my college mistakes. I spent whole years trying to figure out how to get rid of him. Adults aren't supposed to have imaginary friends. Sometimes, though, I think he's the only thing that's real.We hurt one another, but in the end, the wounds are all mine.Michael has always been there, waiting outside windows and watching from the mirror, pulling me out of my college mistakes. I spent whole years trying to figure out how to get rid of him. Adults aren't supposed to have imaginary friends. Sometimes, though, I think he's the only thing that's real.We hurt one another, but in the end, the wounds are all mine.FROM MICHAEL:My vision went out and I heard my own voice echoing in my head. I remember glimpses of dark hallways, and then being taken into the showers inside my building. Michael pulled my sweater over my head, and I almost slid down the wall behind me, but he grabbed me. Then, I was naked in the shower, water stinging my eyes. I heard Michael’s voice behind me. “Turn around. You’re puking on the wall.”I turned to face him, and I looked into his eyes. Suddenly, the water slowed, falling around me in slow-motion, glistening pearls of all the things I had ever learned half-asleep in class, math equations and philosophical arguments colliding across our bodies and swirling down the drain at our feet.“Do you believe I’m real now?” He asked me.I stumbled backwards, and the water began to fall again from the showerhead, crashing into his chest as I crumpled against the wall behind me, my heart pounding. This time, he didn’t try to help me as I went down. “I’m sorry,” I said again, and I still had no idea why I was sorry. Maybe I was sorry for being drunk, or for being naked, or for vomiting.I sat staring up at him, tears forming in my eyes, combining with the water from the showerhead. He looked so sad. “Stand up,” he said finally, and he knelt and tried to pull me up, sending another wave of sickness through me. I painted his stomach and his underwear with vomit, and I forget the rest.
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    All the Stars in the Sky

      Roman Theodore Brandt
All the Stars in the Sky

Mom always told us to stay out of the woods behind the house. There was something final about the way she said it, like she had been there her whole life. She didn't always say a lot to us growing up. Sure, sometimes you couldn't shut her up, but she spent a lot of time just standing at one window or another, staring out at the woods behind the house.I made friends at college; stupid, lost boys who were always drunk. Bearded artists and philosophers, retching their dreams on the side of the road like magic shows, calling out for an audience to help them clean up. I might even have become one of those boys, sad and dark and twisted into spaces I didn't fit into. Kill me, I said to the walls. Kill me, floor. Drown me in my own vomit.There was a forest along two sides of the school, dark and silent, watching us destroy our immune systems in the light of the street lamps. I watched it follow me home, out every window up the stairs of my residence hall, out my room window at the end of the hallway. I remembered Reed saying, "The woods are all the same." Because they were.The first night I went out to that tree line, shaking and scared, was the last time I ever hoped to be normal. I watched my fingers reaching for the bark, trembling fingernails pulling back to reveal the nail beds, pulsing red, blood blisters boiling on the backs of my hands. I closed my eyes and smiled at the pain.
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    I Left My Heart at Terminal Tower

      Roman Theodore Brandt
I Left My Heart at Terminal Tower

Cleveland was darker without him. They shut the subway down when he left. I remember his voice in my ear, whispering. "Don't let it consume you." Well, I guess I did. I guess it happened, because here I am.He always said he'd come back.He told me to transform, and so I did. I became a satellite burning up in the atmosphere. Even when we were apart, I left my lungs in his room so I could smell him. Never mind all that.I listened to the sounds of the train, passing and passing, my skin cells dividing, peeling back in the dark, balls of white hot gas and debris, veins unwinding and untangling into a single line, leading from me to Wyatt, red light fibers connecting his aorta to my superior vena cava.We rotated, umbilical tether twisting in the vacuum of space, tumbling toward each other in the dark with the stars around us already dead.
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    A World Without You

      Roman Theodore Brandt
A World Without You

My dad is a ghost. My life is in ruins. There's nothing more to tell.He comes back to stand in my closet sometimes, a shadow in the open door. He tells me stories. There was a boy. He lived at the lake, and he was Dad's friend."What was his name?" I ask him.Dad doesn't look at me. He looks anywhere else, and finally he says, "Franklin.""What happened to him?"Dad looks down at me and smiles, his eyes the color of the lake at night, dark and bottomless. "I don’t know.""Come on, Dad. I want to know.""No you don't," he tells me, and he tucks me in. But this time, he doesn’t go away."Dad, why did you go away?""You're tired," he says, and I can't stay awake anymore. I wake up a couple times, and he's still sitting there, holding down the corner of my mattress.
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    Our Constellations

      Roman Theodore Brandt
Our Constellations

Wade was a lonely grocery store clerk in a small town, a young man stuck in a world of numbered aisles and checkout lanes, parking lot wastelands and movies repeating in a theater below his apartment. Then, a stranger appeared in the cereal aisle, his eyes the color of the night sky, changing everything.“Turn around,” he said. “Please.” When I turned to look at him, his eyes were the color of the night sky again and full of constellations. “I have come back for you.”“I live here, now,” I told him.He smiled, his eyes deepening into black holes in his face, an inescapable force. I felt myself pulled toward him, stumbling forward.“No one lives here,” he whispered, “Come here,” and I took a step toward him, and then another, until finally I was pressed against him, our body heat combining, a single radioactive mass. Somewhere, in the theater, credits were beginning to roll. His breath was warm against my neck, and my eyes spilled over, wet and hot and lonely. Somewhere inside me, something dark and cold thawed and beat again for the first time in years, a single, burning thump inside my chest. I remembered every star, every constellation inside him, because they were our constellations.
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    Life Among the Voids

      Roman Theodore Brandt
Life Among the Voids

Somewhere on the lake, far down the highway, a gunshot echoed across the water. Birds took off from the trees, their fluttering silhouettes dark against the sunset, and then both my parents were gone. I was completely alone in this world, with no one to shield me from the oncoming voids of death and old age.Sometimes, when I don’t recognize the ghost looking back at me in the mirror, I think of the fireworks on the lake. I think of the whistling right before the explosion, spider webs of light streaking across the sky, the water coated in a thin film of ash and memory. I think of my brother in his hoodie, staring up a night sky that was alive with the burning remains of freedom. He was the fireworks, and I was the ground: bathed in his light, in awe, lucky to be burned by his embers.I think of the ghosts I always assumed were waiting in the woods to haunt someone, too, and I realize that I can relate to them. I haunt the trees around our house, the furniture in our bedroom, the dishes in our kitchen. I stand on the back steps and stare at the trees, and I’m no longer a human, not quite a memory, but somewhere in between, some limbo that I share with Harvey and all his flaws. He’s a gas giant, glowing red and hot in the emptiness, and I am the cold, rocky world that can’t quite escape his gravity. I’m happy here. I’m okay with falling slowly toward the surface, the fiery death of a satellite.I've thought about going back to the lake, but after that year, there were no more fireworks. Eventually, the whole park closed and everyone went home and never came back. All that’s left are the stars overhead, the distant band of the milky way, explosions of white hot heat so far away now that we’ll never know them again.
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    Illumination

      Roman Theodore Brandt
Illumination

It's Mark's birthday, and he has a secret to tell his mother. But will the world as he knows it end before he can do it? Did it end years ago? Or did it ever exist?Mark: What if we're already dead?Cody: I think we would have noticed by now.Sometimes I dream that I'm in a dark room, and it's like nothing's there in the dark at all. There's no sky, no stars, no grass or carpet or anything else. I think, therefore I am. I think, therefore I am, damn it. I'm in a void, and all my words are silent.The world is silence, and nothing makes sense. My blood is 90 proof. I could bottle it and sell it if there were still liquor stores or grocery stores or even a gas station shining in the dark, flickering lights buzzing cold and florescent over a parked car. And then I'm there, I'm there, and it's so bright it hurts. The cooler's got shelves and shelves of 90 proof boy blood, and there's a car at the end of the row of gas pumps with the horn blaring, echoing into the night. The trunk is crumpled up into the back, and the front bumper is buried in the pole by the pump.Go look, I tell myself. I dream in the present tense, because I live in the past. I don't ever look in the car, though, because I already know what's going on.
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