Halfway through summer you receive an e-mail with the subject line: YOUR WEBSITE IS LIVE & VIEWS ARE ALREADY PEAKIN. Knowing that you aren't what others might describe as “internet savvy” and that you have never thought of commissioning a website, you decide the e-mail is either spam or a scam. Still, you click it open—the skin-crawling necessity to know has driven your entire existence on this planet. As a kid your moniker was Kitty and although others, grownups mostly, found it endearing, you truly were afraid that one day this curiosity of yours would land you into an Agatha Christie-like mystery that would get you killed. But, alas, against the high-inducing aha moment, fear alone could never do much, so even as an adult you are Wilde's brother-in-thought—you can resist everything but temptation.
The e-mail reads as such:
There are no friends nor foes in business. Only opportunities. We value our effort $3,000. We're big fans so if you ask nicely we will let you talk us down a couple hundred. Hit us back ASAP!
Followed by a link to a name-surname-dot-come sort of website you are disciplined enough not to click. Instead you google the name, finding out that Merilin Amore aka Norma Lover aka Priscilla from Perugia is a US-based Italian adult film star. Interesting. And what's even more interesting is that—holy cow!—Merilin looks just like you, if you wore a tad bit more makeup and carried yourself as if you considered yourself attractive.
The discovery leaves you speechless.
You have a doppelganger. A doppelganger with a questionable career. A doppelganger who receives more love in a day that you managed to beg for in a lifetime. The thought plummets you into depression, then into despair. You start panicking.
What if your family and friends find out about it? What if your coworkers do? You can't get fired because of this, can you?
You take a deep breath.
I am me and she is she, you think over and over, your new mantra. There are laws in place protecting you from such defamation. They can't fire you just because someone who looks somewhat like you engages in highly questionable activities. She's not even your twin, for fuck's sake.
You conjure back the e-mail and check the sender's name. A customized domain. You google it, coming up with words such as “cybersquatting,” “domain squatters,” “brandjacking,” and many more web-related portmanteaux. The multiple articles and forum postings you find paint an unfriendly picture of those who e-mailed you. They prey on emerging pornstars, registering domains in their name and then, as the actresses begin building a following and want to create an online home for their work, asking them for not indifferent sums of money in exchange.
You finally click the name-surname-dot-com website link. The homepage is you—or, the other you—fully naked, against a black background, legs wide open and the word ENTER superimposed over your/her genitalia. How could you turn down such an invitation? Inside you're met by a classical porn website layout. A wall of videos, four per line for about—you scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll down—forty or fifty lines. The other you sure is a hard-worker.
You close the tab, turn off the computer. You take the rest of the day off from the internet, watch TV, read cheap novels, and try your best to constrain your mind in the here and the now instead of letting it wander across the ocean, in a house—which you picture wealthily-furnished, decorated in laughter and giving off a vibe of belonging—that was paid for with your likeness and that same ambition you frequently think you can pinpoint in your eyes while staring into the mirror.
How did they get to me? you wonder at dinnertime.
They, the cyberquatters, must've google-reverse-image-searched Merilin's headshot and rummaged through all the social media profiles not directly connected to the industry. They were either looking for Merilin's real name, or trying to maximize their profits by blackmailing every girl resembling her. Are you the first one they've e-mailed? The first one who hasn't replied yet? The first one who—
After dinner, you sit in front of your computer and press PLAY on one of her scenes. You watch it in its entirety: 23 minutes and 40 seconds. You take in the eagerness, the dedication, the enjoyment. You wonder if that's how you sound when speaking, if that's how you moan, and how you look having sex. You feel like a Peeping Tom. You're fascinated. You put on a second video and race your doppelganger to orgasm. You win, too, but then again you don't have a contractual minute-count to oblige.
It's almost midnight when you make up your mind. You copy-paste Merilin's showcase website and send the link to every single one of your Facebook friends, minus family members. You preface it with a short message:
Hey, X. I've been working hard on this side-project and I'd love it for you to give me some feedback. Thanks.
You hope replacing the X with the recipient's name will make it read human enough, that whoever opens the message doesn't start questioning if it's a malware attempt.
You have one hundred-eighteen friends. It takes you roughly four minutes to contact them all. Your left pinkie is sore for pressing down on CTRL for too long; your left thumb for switching from C to V.
Once you're finished, you prepare yourself a ham-and-cheese sandwich and devour it with gusto while flicking through the television channels. After the meal you get on Twitter— where you purposefully have fewer friends—and tweet:
My FB account has been compromised. Dont click anything I send you. Will deal w/ it ASAP.
You spend the night awake waiting to see who—friends, coworkers, old classmates? —will message you first to say that they thought they knew you but boy were they fucking wrong.
WM is the author of a surreal fiction chapbook, "Kennel-born," out from Thirty West sometime in 2018. His work has popped out here and there in Litro, Geometry, The Airgonaut, and elsewhere. Drop him a line @WillemMyra.