The streets were suddenly alien to her, even though she had lived in the same town for her entire life. Suddenly, this place wasn't home. Everywhere she looked she saw hostility, when in reality there was none. The people she passed no longer had faces; they moved in blurs, elongating the path they had taken across the street. She ignored them, her eyes scanning the horizon. Something was missing and she had to find it. Soon.
Time passed sluggishly in her mind, and she felt that she was wading through thick mud, instead of walking on solid concrete. Each step was heavy, difficult. There was a weight pressing down on her chest, and it was getting harder to breathe. She became vaguely aware of a hand on her shoulder, a voice in her ear. Spinning, she almost grinned, expecting to see Sylvie standing behind her, having appeared out of nowhere and laughing that loud, infectious laugh.
But she was not there. Sophie wanted to scream as her sight registered the elderly woman smiling kindly at her, concern etched into the wrinkles around her eyes.
"Are you alright, my dear? You look lost." She shrugged off the hand that kept her stationary. She had to keep moving. Sylvie was here somewhere, Sophie knew.
"I'm fine. Leave me alone," she muttered. She did not look at the woman again to see her reaction. She did not care whether or not she'd caused offense. People could stare at her all they liked. Sophie started to walk again.
As she paced, she began to worry. The sun, setting slowly on the horizon, cast a red, ominous hue over the world. It would soon be dark. Sylvie had never liked the darkness, never trusted the night. Sophie, on the other hand, never minded it. You can't see the stars if it isn't dark. It made her sister nervous. She would always make sure she was home before the streetlights switched on, unless they were with friends. Then they would walk home together. But now Sophie was alone, and therefore, Sylvie would be too.
She could feel her heart pounding so forcefully inside her chest that it hurt. This wasn't a dream; this wasn't some terrible nightmare that she could wake up from at any moment. This was real life, inescapable.
Sophie tried to remember the last time she had been separated from her sister. It must have been years. Even when Sylvie was rushed to hospital with appendicitis, Sophie stayed with her for every minute. Now, she felt like she was missing something as essential as her left arm.
Ahead, she spotted the bridge Sylvie would come to when she wanted peace and quiet. Often, she would sit and dangle her feet over the edge, above the water, and sketch the view. Sketch the sun, the sky, the birds, the trees, the small boats as they floated lazily along the river. Sophie would sit quietly beside her, taking photographs so that Sylvie could finish the drawings later, without having to rely on her memory. Sophie sped up, squinting her eyes in the dwindling sunlight in the hope she could see her sister's slight figure, legs dangling above the rushing water of the river.
She thought, with a surge of hope, that she could in fact see a figure in the distance. Something told her it was Sylvie, and she broke into a run, shouting, calling her name. Everything, for a moment, seemed brighter. Everything, for a moment, was going to be okay.
For a second she couldn't see the bridge in front of her; she was running toward the sunlight. But a second was all it took. When Sophie looked back toward the bridge, the figure sitting on the edge had disappeared. She felt her stomach drop. Surely Sylvie had not jumped? She must have fallen. And right now, she must be drowning.
Sophie found herself standing in the same place she had spotted the figure, leaning over the railing, over the water, screaming her sister's name. There was no reply. Sylvie seemed to have vanished without a trace. Sophie was frantic. She began searched to the left and to the right, but couldn't see anyone. Nobody came to find out why she was screaming. The streets were deserted.
Something pale seemed to flash on the water, and she took a double- take. Just below the surface of the river was a face. Long, black hair billowed out around it like a fan. The eyes were wide open, made darker by the murky waves but Sophie recognised them all the same. The perfect bow of her lips were stretched into a scream, half formed.
Without a second thought, Sophie climbed the railing on the bridge, took a deep breath, and dived into the river, fifteen feet below.
She hit the water cleanly, but the water was so cold it took the breath in her lungs away, and she swam for the surface, gasping for air. In retrospect, she should have taken off her jacket; now it was bogging her down, and she found it difficult to swim. Then she thought of Sylvie, and steeled her resolve to dive under again.
Yet now, Sylvie was nowhere to be seen. Sophie was confused; she had been certain it was her sister's face she'd seen on the surface. Wasn't it? She swam to the surface, gasped a breath and dove for a third time. A fourth. She was swimming in the river alone.
The water was beginning to freeze her muscles. Spots started to encroach on the edges of her vision, and she wondered bleakly if she was going to pass out herself. Her mind was shouting at her to paddle to shore, but Sophie was hesitant. If Sylvie was here...
But she wasn't. Of course she wasn't. And she never had been. The face Sophie had seen on the surface of the river was her own reflection. They were, after all, identical twins. She felt so stupid, to not have realised something so blindingly obvious. Sylvie was dead. She could remember seeing her sister's body at the hospital, pale, cold, inanimate. And now here she was killing herself for no reason. Drowning over a figment of her imagination. She wanted so much to tell someone that she'd never considered suicide, but there was little point.
She stopped struggling to keep her head above the water, and closed her eyes. The cold had made her numb; she simply couldn't feel anymore. The sound of the water rushing in her ears was almost relaxing. It seemed so final. She spread her arms wide, relishing the sensation of her clothes drifting around her still form. It was the last thing she felt.