Entertainingly, my very first thought is, “I should call 911!” This despite the fact that I’ve spent all afternoon trying to avoid the police. It’s hard to break a lifetime of ingrained habits.
I search frantically for a better plan, but the best that my brain can conjure up is apparently “Stall.” That’s pretty much the mental equivalent of a “Please wait, loading…” screen. Still, if it’s all I’ve got, then I’ll work with it.
I figure that the first move in any successful stall is to get the other guy talking, so I ask the first question that comes into my mind. “How did you find me? Did you figure that I’d think that the police wouldn’t think to look for me here, since I obviously wouldn’t go to the most obvious place?”
Vince, still in the ruined doorway, tilts his head to the side quizzically as he looks at me. “Did that make sense in your diseased brain?”
He steps inside, and I stand up from the chair and retreat as he advances on me slowly. “I found you,” he says through gritted teeth, “because you feel like a tear in a map in my brain. It doesn’t matter where I’m looking, where I’m thinking about going. My eyes are drawn to that ripped spot every time. I couldn’t not know how to get to you if I wanted to.”
Vince’s mood seems to have dramatically worsened since his arrival. At least when he kicked down the door, he was faking humor. Now he has his teeth bared like some sort of feral animal, and from the look in his eyes I really can’t be sure that he won’t try to attack me like one, too. I recall my attempts to talk to Brian while he was in the grips of the nano-inspired hatred, and how the very sound of my voice drove him into a rage. This is probably not a situation that can be improved by conversation, then.
My eyes flicker to the kitchen doorway, measuring the distance. As if this is a prearranged signal, all three Vinces lunge at me. Their movements are almost perfectly synchronized, which is unsurprising since they think almost exactly alike. The only thing that saves me from being immediately caught is that since they all came to the same idea independently, they all rush the same spot instead of fanning out. This allows me to stay one step ahead of their grasping hands as I sprint into the kitchen.
Never before in my life have I cared about interior doors, but now I find myself cursing their lack. I tear open the door to the refrigerator as I run past, hoping to slow down my pursuers, and a slam behind me tells me both that I was successful, and that they’re right on my heels. With my left hand, I snag a chair from the table and turn my run into a spin, swinging the chair in a wide arc around me.
I almost hit the wall, which would have been a fatal mistake since one of the Vinces is nearly upon me. Fortunately, I miss it by inches and slam the edge of the chair’s seat directly into the side of his face. Blood spatters, two of the chair legs crack and fly off, and Vince grunts and careens off into the table, smacking his face into it before hitting the ground heavily.
“Back!” I shout, brandishing the shattered chair at the next Vince, but he grins nastily and doesn’t even slow his charge until he collides with the chair. I’m knocked back by the impact, so I take an extra step back and swing the chair again, crashing it into Vince’s shoulder and head.
I see his skin briefly torn by the impact, only to immediately knit itself back together. The chair, meanwhile, loses another leg and part of the seat, and this time it’s not entirely due to the impact. Vince has stolen pieces of its material to rebuild his own body. For the same reason the police couldn’t fight him with their batons, I’m not going to be able to do any damage with this chair. And in the time it took me to try, his other clone has shouldered past him and is coming at me, fists up in a boxer’s stance.
I throw the chair at the clone on the grounds that maybe it’ll do some good and run for the hallway. I reach my bedroom ahead of my pursuers, slam and lock the door, and knock my wooden dresser over in front of it for good measure. The drawers jar open and spill their contents onto the floor.
From the other side of the door comes Vince’s mocking voice. “I just broke down your front door, spitrag. You think this can stop me?”
“Why are you after me?” I shout, looking frantically around my room for anything useful. I don’t see anything immediately likely to get me out of this situation.
“To kill you!” shouts Vince. This is punctuated by a thump that rattles the door, but it’s a solid oak door and might actually be stronger than the front door. It should hold him long enough for me to come up with some sort of a plan, anyway.
“I can tell you who did this to you. I can tell you where to find him! He can stop it!”
“I like what he did to me, moron. I love this! The only part that’s bad about it is having to feel your festering pus-wound of a life. And I can fix that myself.”
My search for useful items has led me to the attached bathroom. The cabinet under the sink has a bunch of different cleaning chemicals, and it seems like I should be able to do some damage with those. Even if he can heal it, I might be able to blind him for a second or something, long enough to get past. I sweep them all up in my arms and head back into the main part of the bedroom.
A faint scratching noise snaps my eyes to the fallen dresser. I see grasping fingers on top of it and at first, I think someone trying to climb out from underneath it. Seconds later, I realize the truth is much worse.
Vince, on the far side of the door, is converting the door into a mass of animated flesh, foregoing the complete cloning process in order to make a Lovecraftian puddle of semi-sentient limbs and organs. Not only is that horrifying and potentially dangerous, it’s also stealing away the material of the door at a concerning rate. Vince doesn’t have to break the door down if he just converts it. I look frantically around the room, at my spilled clothes and my armload of chemicals, but nothing seems to offer a way out. The pool of flesh is creeping up the sides of the door, turning the frame into fingers, eyeballs and the occasional tongue.
“I’ll be in there in a minute, Dan!” Vince calls in a sing-song voice. “I’ve got all of the exits blocked.”
I rush to the window, and sure enough, Vince is on my back lawn. Is this one of the ones who was at the front door with him? Are there more that I hadn’t seen? Even if it’s just one of him, he’s a better fighter than I am and he’s obviously prepared for me.
“There’s no way out but past me. Might as well take it like a man, you worm.”
Suddenly, an idea occurs to me. It’s stupid and possibly suicidal, but it might create enough confusion for me to slip by. Rushing to the bed, I place both hands on the comforter and focus on intensifying.
“Uuuuuuuuup!” I chant, clutching the comforter in my fists and raising it into the air. The material smolders, then bursts into flames. Thick smoke begins to rise from the bed. I cough and retreat to the bathroom, returning with a wet washcloth held to my face.
The bed is blazing merrily now and smoke is filling the room. I crouch low to the floor and pour all of the bathroom chemicals into the largest jug among them, a multi-gallon container of Clorox bleach. I don’t know if it’ll explode or what, but I cap it, put it on the dresser by the door and hope for some sort of a distraction.
“Why do I smell smoke, Dan? What nasty little trick are you trying?” Vince kicks at the door and, weakened by the structural damage it’s taken, the door pops open. He kicks again, shoving the dresser a few inches backwards. The smoke rushes out of the room and I hear him cough. This is probably about as good a moment as I’m going to get.
Washcloth still pressed to my mouth and nose, I crawl over to the door, grab the jug of bathroom chemicals and crouch by the entrance. As Vince kicks it again, shoving the dresser far enough back for him to enter, I pop the cap on the jug and squeeze it as hard as I can. Thick white vapor billows out along with a gout of liquid, and Vince screams, coughs violently and staggers backwards.
I leap from my crouch into the hallway, slamming my shoulder into Vince and knocking him off of his feet. He grabs at my ankle as I run past, so I chuck the bleach jug at his face. He pulls his hands up to protect himself and I’m running free.
The smoke alarm goes off as I make it to the kitchen, and once again my brain kicks in with, “Call 911!” Not helpful.
I’m heading for the front door and feeling like I might be home free, when Vince suddenly steps into the door frame. This isn’t the original, though, which means he’ll take damage. He steps in to punch at me, but I’m riding high on adrenaline and duck under it. He manages an elbow to the back of my head, and I see stars as I drop to one knee. But even as he’s closing in with a kick, I rise back up, putting the full force of my body into an uppercut that smashes him full in the face. Now Vince is the one on the ground, and my kick to his head is successful.
I’d love to take a moment to catch my breath, but the fire alarm is still shrieking, original Vince is probably back up by now and there could be who-knows-how-many more clones waiting for me. I stagger out into the street, coughing, and pick a direction to start running again.