By Neal Williams

"You really fouled things up this time, Harold. You let Robinson get away again, and whatís worse you affected history, which is something we strongly discourage around here." Lieutenant Merriweather sat across the table giving me dirty looks.

"The Aztecs would have defeated the Spanish anyway," I said. "They had them outnumbered five to one. Besides, I know where Robinson is. Heís posing as a young student at a university."

"Itís a trap; heís trying to kill you before you kill him."

"I realize that. But Iíll get him anyway."

"Youíd better. Good-bye, Harold," the lieutenant said and abruptly disappeared.

Robinson and I had been through some horrible ordeals together -- the best dirty tricks life could offer -- and we endured them all. I was chasing Robinson when he was in the LAPD. Not long after that it was the Gestapo. You see, Robinson knew how to warp time. And when he warped time he also warped space, or at least bent it a little. He did what he had to to survive in a wicked world. Life couldnít corrupt him because he was already corrupted, which was kind of a paradox. He was rotten to the core and had long since given up all pretense to goodness. Logic was his virtue, cruelty his necessity. Pride was a stranger and compassion for fools. I admired Robinson, but I felt guilty for doing so.

My first day at the university I said, "Welcome to French 101, where my goal is to introduce you to the fundamentals of la langue francaise. My name is Monsieur Harold. As you know, all languages are quite similar to each other. They are, of course, divided into different language groups, such as Asian, American, Asian-American, Anti-American, Semitic and Slav. Nevertheless, all languages adhere to the same fundamental principles, the most basic of which is that if you want to say something, you simply think of the word or words that correspond to what it is you want to say and then you say it. For example, if you were looking for your chapeau, you could ask someone, ĎOý est mon chapeau?í Now, provided that this person or persons: A: knew where your chapeau was; B: was not deaf or hearing impaired; and C: had neither stolen nor purposely hidden your chapeau from you, he or she could then respond to your question, at least in theory.

"The French language takes minutes to learn and a lifetime to master. I myself am fortunate because my mother was French. On the bright side, sentence structure is relatively simple because you make up your own sentences and pronunciation is seldom a problem because it doesn't matter if you pronounce it wrong."

Thirty minutes later I dismissed the class. "I look forward to seeing you all again very very soon and until then, as we say in French, Bluh bluh bluh bluh Blaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh."

The room cleared out but one student remained.

"Oui, mademoiselle?" I asked. "Did you want something?" It was Robinson and I knew Iíd have him soon.

"I was wondering if you had a minute to go over something with me -- I have a question about your lecture."

"Of course, mademoiselle. What exactly didn't you understand?" I sat down next to her.

"The part about everything having a number from two scales..."

"Yes, that's right. In French, all questions and statements are assigned a numerical value on each of two scales: the sex scale and the aggression scale. In the example I was using in class, ĎOý est mon chapeauí, for instance, we give a zero on the sex scale and a five on the aggression scale. The reason that it gets a five on the aggression scale is that the question is being posed to your boyfriend who has purposely hidden your chapeau from you, thus making you late for class. Now, can you guess why this question gets a zero on the sex scale?"

"For the same reason?" She was guessing and her eyes and nose crinkled together as she waited for my response.

"That's exactly right. TrŤs bien, mademoiselle. TrŤs trŤs bien."

Her face lit up. "I think I'm starting to understand, Monsieur Harold."

I gently put my hand on her thigh. Neither of us spoke. I slowly leaned forward to kiss her.

"I love you, Robinson."

"Nice try, dickface."

"But youíre the student and Iím the teacher. That means I won."

"Iím not the student; Iím the principal." Then he shapeshifted into Dr. Landers the principal.

"Weíre very disappointed in you, Professor. Itís your first day on the job and already youíre harassing students. Young Mary-Anne here may even press charges against you."

I knew my life was in danger. I shoved the desk into Dr. Landers and ran out of the room.

When I sure that I wasnít being followed, I sat down on the stairs in front of the library. I had to figure out how to shapeshift into someone in a superior to that of Robinson. He had been a student so I became the teacher. But when he became the principal he almost got me. If I hadnít run out of the room he would have killed me. Guns were effective, but only if you could trick the other person-- at least temporarily. You had to convince him or her of your reality. Battle of the hearts and minds and all that bullshit.

I noticed an elderly woman off in the distance. As she got closer I could hear the sound her walker made each time it hit the ground. Clap, then a pause. Clap, then another pause. She would move her walker forward, take a step, move the walker forward again, take another step. I remember thinking, God is she slow! She's worse than a snail on tranquilizers. I wondered what she was doing, where she was going. Was she a student? Did she go to the park every morning to feed the pigeons? Whatever the case, I noticed she was making a beeline directly towards me. When she got within ten feet of me I looked up, expecting her to ask me something.

Instead, she picked her walker up over her head and threw it against the wall. Then she transformed into some sort of snakeman. It was roughly the size and shape of a large human, but much more reptilian in appearance, with dark green, scaly skin and a long tongue flicking out from its snout. It wore no clothes except a holster around its waist with a phaser stuck in it.

"Do you know who I am?" asked the snakeman.

"Of course I do; you're Robinson. You just shapeshifted into some sort of monster and now youíre going to try to kill me."

"Thereís no such thing as shapeshifting and there is no Robinson. It's all in your head. And you canít speak French, either."

"Then how come my mother was French?"

"She wasnít."

"Then why am I teaching French at the university?"

"Youíre not; youíre teaching nonsense and when they find out theyíll fire you."

"So you shapeshifted into a monster to tell me thereís no such thing as shapeshifting. Am I the only one who sees a contradiction here?"

"Youíre delusional. You donít know what youíre talking about."

"I know that if youíre not real you canít hurt me with your phaser."

The snakeman scratched his chin. "Yes... I suppose thatís true. But youíre going to have to face the truth sooner or later."

"Iíll face it later, but thanks for your concern." Then without saying another word I got up and quickly walked away without looking back. Nice try, Robinson. Until next time.

You canít imagine how tiring it is looking at each person you see and wondering if he or she is Robinson. I was exhausted and needed a healthy diversion so I went to a go-go bar. I sat down and ordered a beer. A stripper was dancing right in front of me on top of the bar. She had unusually long legs that appeared very firm and muscular. Then she started gyrating her hips to the music. She was in excellent shape. I finished my beer and ordered another one. I was enjoying myself; thereís just something about drinking beer and watching girls take their clothes off -- I don't know what it is. Go figure.

I was on my third beer when I started looking around for Robinson. I knew heíd show up sooner or later because no matter where I went he was always there, like my evil twin.

A drunk and dirty biker was sitting alone, staring at me. He got up off his barstool and approached me. "Sheís got some fine titties on her, donít she?" His speech was slurred and he spit when he talked.

"Why donít you take a hike, buddy?"

"Whatís your problem?"

"Just buzz off, OK?" I pulled up the front of my shirt so he could see my gun.

"Asshole," he mumbled as he walked away. It wasnít Robinson.

I decided that I needed a better vantage point to scan the crowd so I slipped backstage to wait for the dancer. Finally I saw her coming.

"Yes?" she asked. She was obviously accustomed to strange men waiting for her backstage.

"Hi," I replied. "My name's Detective Harold. Iím looking for a suspect whom I have reason to believe is in this bar. What I want to do is go on stage, disguised as you, and perform a little number. I'll pay you whatever you want."

"Fifty bucks," said the dancer.

"You got it." I reached into my wallet and gave her the money. Then I put my hands on her shoulders and closed my eyes. Oh baby, I thought, I want to look like you so bad. Your body is so firm, and so solid, and so healthy. It's the only thing not rotten in this wicked world,... at least, not yet anyway. I concentrated as hard as I could then I opened my eyes. It worked; we looked exactly alike.

I concealed my phaser in the back of my bikini bottoms and looked at myself in the mirror. God I was beautiful. I walked out into the bar and over to the jukebox to select my music. I chose an oldie but a goodie: Salt and Peppa. When the music came on I climbed up onto the bar and started to dance. Oooh! baby baby. Baby ba-baby... Oooh! baby baby. Baby ba-baby. I danced slowly down the bar looking for Robinson, strutting my stuff all the way. It was a pretty typical crowd as far as go-go bars go. You had your usual assortment of perverts, degenerates, scumbags, dickheads and assholes. Then I spotted him. He was dressed as a cop. How appropriate, I thought.

"Hey sweet thing!" he shouted. "Did you come back for an encore?"

"Not really," I replied. "I came back to see you." I flashed him a sexy smile.

"Iím not really a cop," said Robinson. "Iím a fugitive from another dimension."

"I know," I said, "but Iím into kinky sex. So do me a favor and donít change."

"Why? -- Do you like cops or something?"

"Let's just say I'm crazy about a man in uniform."

"Well why don't we go back to my place and make this a private party?"

"Sure," I said. "Just one more thing before we go."

"What's that?" he asked.

"This!" I pulled out my phaser from behind my back and pointed the red beam of light at Robinson. But he ducked before I fired and I hit some guy who was standing behind him instead, blowing a huge hole in his chest. Robinson returned fire and as I ducked and fired my weapon again. This time I hit some other guy, blowing his body in two. I stuck out my phaser without looking and fired a few rounds as suppression fire. When I peeked over the bar I saw Robinson slipping out the door. I fired at him again, blasting holes in the walls. But it was too late -- Robinson had escaped again.

"What happened this time?" asked Lt. Merriweather.

"He got away."

"Is that all? I understand you demolished an adult entertainment establishment, killing several innocent people."

Iím sorry -- I was so close and I didnít want him to get away again. I guess I overreacted."

"Iím giving you one last chance, Harold. I know where Robinson is: heís posing as the girl next door."

"Thank you, sir. I wonít let you down."

The next morning I spied on Robinson from my bedroom window. He was disguised as my sexy young neighbor -- he was literally the girl next door. She had sandy-blonde hair and long tan legs. I watched her as she lay out on her deck getting a tan. She turned over on her stomach as her dog came up and licked her face. I wish I were that dog, I thought. Then she untied the back of her top -- she didnít think anyone could see her. God she was beautiful.

I stepped out into my yard and was immediately struck by the heat. I could feel it baking my skin. I couldnít see my neighbor because of various forms of vegetation all along the fence between our two yards, especially little saplings trying to become trees. It was imperative that I cut them down before they succeeded. Once they became trees nobody would ever get rid of them. I cut down several trees and bushes, making a hole in the undergrowth. Through this hole I could see into my neighborís yard. There she was, standing right by the fence, bending over a garden hose squirting off her legs. Her dog was running around in circles at her feet also getting squirted.

"Hi," I said.

She glanced up at me briefly. "Hi." Then she continued squirting her legs, as if it were a task requiring total concentration. Her dog ran over excitedly and jumped up to the hole in the fence. The spaces between the links were small but I stuck several fingers in and tried to pet the dog as best I could.

"Arenít you using the pool anymore?" I asked, trying to appear nonchalant.

"Yes," she replied. "We just put the cover on so it wouldnít get leaves in it." She was very polite.

"Itís been pretty hot these past few days," I said.

"Itís been really hot." With more than a little effort she managed to smile -- but only for a second. Then she looked back down at her legs, staring intently at the water pulsating from the hose. She was pretending to be shy.

"My nameís Harold."

"I know. Youíre a teacher at my school."

"You go to the university?"

"Yes, I want to be a teacher... like you. Would you like to come over for a dip?"

I went over into my neighborís yard and we swam together in her pool. When I thought the time I was right I leaned over to kiss her but she pulled away.

"You donít want to kiss me," she said, "you want to kill me." Then she slipped under the surface of the pool and disappeared. I saw her father walking towards me.

"I know what youíre up to and youíd better cut it out," he said.

"I donít know what youíre talking about."

"My daughter is only twelve years old."

"She looks a lot older than twelve to me," I said. "Besides, sheís a college student so she has to be at least eighteen."

"Well sheís not; sheís only twelve. So stay away from her or Iíll report you to the police. And get out of my pool."

Very clever, I thought. Just when Iím about to kill him as the daughter he changes into the father. But I was very close and the situation called for quick thinking. So I shapeshifted into the daughter myself.

"Hi darling," said my father as I lay stretched out on a lawn chair.

"Hi, Daddy. Do you love me?"

"Of course I do, dear -- with all my heart."

"Then kiss me." He leaned forward and I sat up in the chair. Suddenly I shapeshifted into another girl -- a brunette. Then I shapeshifted again into the real me -- Harold. I pulled out my phaser and pointed it at Robinson.

"Now whoís the dickface, dickface?" But before I could shoot, the father shapeshifted into Robinson.

"Remember me, Harold? Youíre arch enemy?"

I shapeshifted into the mother and walked out with a tray of refreshments.

"Who wants lemonade?" I asked. I looked up and there she was -- my mother -- standing right in front of me. She was wearing a long flowing white gown and her feet were levitating several inches in the air.

"Mama?" I asked.

"Oui, mon fils?"

"I need your help, Mama; I'm having a rough time down here."

"I know, Son; thatís why I came."

"I do speak French, donít I?"

"Of course you do."

"And I am able to shapeshift, arenít I?"

"Of course you are... listen, Son: I want you to kill yourself. That way we can finally be together."

I shapeshifted into God and pulled out my phaser. "Not so fast, Robinson. I canít kill myself; Iím God, therefore, Iím immortal." I squeezed the trigger and watched in amazement as Robinsonís head blew off his shoulders. I had succeeded at last.

Copyright 1997 by Neal Williams

This is Neal's second story in Aphelion about Harold and his evil twin, Robinson. You can email Neal at nealwilli@ or visit his web page at

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