Fiction: No Other You

Read More: A brief Q&A with Ross Showalter



DECEMBER 15, 2027


ARCHIVE: > [……………………]
June 21, 2027 — November 26, 2027

Date: Monday, June 21, 2027, 11:34 PM
Subject: Checking In

Hey Dad,

We haven’t talked in a week or so, since our last emails. I tried calling you Wednesday and a couple of times Friday and Saturday. You didn’t pick up, so I’m sending you another email.

How are you doing, with all the news? I’ve heard a lot of theories: pastors saying that the spaceship in the sky is the beginning of the end times, conspiracy theorists saying that this is an invasion or the last stage in the simulation. It’s all very dark and dire for our entire species.

I know what camp you’re in. This isn’t the end times.

I can’t tell you how NASA and the Space Force are handling the situation, because that’s classified. I’d get fired. The government still insists on bureaucracy even with the world burning around us, and I need my job to pay the bills. I’ll try my best to keep you updated, but I may not be able to give much information. I don’t know what to make of this. None of us do. We might be pulverized or we might be saved. This might be the end of us. It might not.

I’m emailing you to tell you I love you. Just in case. Call me when you read this, please. I don’t care what time it is. Call me.



Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2027, 4:53 AM
Subject: RE: Checking In

Hi Dad,

Thank you again for calling. Don’t worry about calls later in the evening. Phone calls are more immediate than emails and I want to check up on you.

I’m sorry I hung up on you last night. It was rude, I know. I didn’t expect you to say that the spaceship is beautiful. It’s so big. It freaks me out. If a spaceship came, I’d expect it to be like an airplane. I’d expect it to land here, to be here on Earth. For it to be a floating black circle, like a large ink blot up in the sky night and day, is intimidating. It’s big enough to block out the sun. It could block out the sun. It’s like we’re beneath those aliens, somehow.

Everyone at work is uneasy about the spaceship too—it’s been a week or two now, and there’ve been no changes, no contact. We’re about to send out a contact link to the aliens; hopefully they can connect. None of us have any idea why they’re here and why they don’t leave. [……] keeps trying to get me to relax, and it’s frustrating to not be able to tell him what’s going on at NASA.

There’s talk about physically going up to the ship, and some of us at work are worried about the repercussions of going beyond what is ours, beyond what we’re capable of. Plus, even if everything goes well, what then? Should we do anything in space if we’re only now starting to fix our home?

I love you. Can I call again? If not, I’ll send an email.



Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2027, 10:01 AM
Subject: Birthday

Hi Dad,

Thank you for the birthday voicemail. It meant a lot to hear your voice first thing in the morning. It reminded me of when I was a little girl in Albany.

I’m 31 today, which means it’s been almost a year with Mom gone. I miss her. I wanted to hear her voice in the background, or for you to give the phone over to her.

[……] tells me this is normal, that he had days where he missed his parents so much he could barely breathe, even years after they died. The ghost of routine is hard to shake.

Thank you for asking me about bills. I will be able to cover therapy, I promise. It’s just a change to the budget. It’s more money we’re spending, which is partly why I accepted the offer to be on the team that’s monitoring the spaceship. It’s very, very long hours, but the pay is good.

Thank you also for being understanding about me going to therapy. I know it’s not something you put stock in. I am fine, physically and everything. Things have just been tough since Mom passed. It’s been hard to re-establish routine sometimes, but you can’t rebuild your life if you don’t rebuild yourself.

Come visit me. I mean it. I haven’t seen you since Christmas and I worry about you. That house isn’t meant for one person all alone. I always felt intimidated by the size of it when I was the only one home, with all those creaky floorboards. All those shadows. The constant sound of dripping.

Speaking of dripping, is the roof holding up okay? How’s the basement after the flood? Can you afford vegetables still?

That last question was a joke. But coffee’s definitely costing me an arm and a leg. I don’t buy Starbucks anymore. I wonder if there’s anyone who does.

I love you. Visit me.



Date: Tuesday, August 17, 2027, 1:59 AM
Subject: Contact

Hi Dad,

You heard about the contact, didn’t you? I saw the missed calls from you. I was asked last-minute to go to NASA to observe. I left in a rush and forgot my phone at home. I’m sorry—but where I was going, I would be required to turn it off anyway.

I hope you didn’t see me on CNN. You probably didn’t, thank goodness. Media cameras ambushed me outside the building when I was just trying to go home. It was past midnight and I looked like a scrappy raccoon. I tried to basically say to the cameras, “Everything is fine,” but I said “uh” too many times to sound reassuring. The shock still hasn’t worn off. [……] told me they broadcast me live and I heard myself being replayed on the news when I got home. My voice was echoing throughout the apartment, hesitating and hesitating. It was a strange sound to come home to. The TV was the only thing on; [……] had turned off all the lights and it was spooky, following my own voice through hallways, around furniture, all through the dark.

I was surprised by how young I looked on TV. I need to stop cutting my hair short. I always thought I looked professional with short hair, but on the TV, I looked juvenile. I shouldn’t look juvenile; I’ve more than proved my worth, and there are other women at NASA who have long hair.

I can’t tell you anything more than what the media knows. What was broadcast is what NASA deems should be public. Nothing more than that. No exceptions to that boundary. I can’t even tell [……] anything.

I’m just happy I wasn’t the head of the team, the one who had to speak upon making contact and then hear themselves respond back. Can you imagine having a doppelganger? I’d hate it, hearing my own voice from a mouth that’s not mine.

I love you. When can I call again?



Date: Friday, September 8, 2027, 7:05 PM
Subject: Doppelganger


You should pick up. I don’t know if you’ve gone out and left your phone behind. I hope you haven’t done that again.

You called during dinner, and [……] told me not to answer. I obeyed him because I’ve been at work all day, grappling with politics, trying to find who leaked the information. The supervisors are closed-door furious. I needed a break. I deserved a break.

To be clear: we don’t have a complete list of doppelgangers. Okay? We’re still sorting through everything. From what we know, the travelers up in the spaceship have better control over everything, over themselves. They came purely out of curiosity; they forged a path to our universe. They wanted to explore a parallel universe and see if there were parallel selves.

Ever since we made contact and set up communications, they’ve been forthcoming. Really, really forthcoming. When we first started connecting doppelgangers to American citizens, the spaceship sent over all the health files on their residents to NASA, just like that. There was no suspicion on their end, no hesitation. There’s a lot of information in the files sent over, a lot of transparency. It’s difficult to not ask about the catch, if there is a catch. But there’s no malice, they’ve said, only curiosity. I hope that’s the truth.

Another thing to make clear: our Earth resident murdered their doppelganger. I was there. Our Earth resident slammed their doppelganger’s head against the wall and then wouldn’t stop stomping. The Earth resident was led away in handcuffs, and his shoes had blood all over them. There were blood tracks down the whole hallway. The TV is on and CNN and NBC are actually speculating who killed whom, like we’re involved in some goddamn conspiracy. We know who killed whom. I can’t even imagine how Fox News is treating this now.

Don’t turn on the news. Don’t go online. Pick up the phone.


Date: September 9, 2027, 12:03 AM
Subject: RE: Doppelganger


I swear this is not the end of us. Everything is going to be fine.

We don’t know much about the doppelgangers on the spaceship. We know they are humans (of a sort) and that’s it. The meeting between the Erde resident and our Earth counterpart was meant to procure more information about Erde, but the murder obviously fucked that up. That’s the truth. If we knew more, the public would know.

We are in negotiations over the murderer, but everything is peaceful. There is no murder mission. There is no genocide plan. There is no eye-for-an-eye bullshit going on. 85% of what the media is saying is speculation. I wish the president would give an executive order to stop their chattering again, instead of letting them run rampant. They don’t contribute anything.

We are going to be fine. I wish Mom was here to calm you down.


Date: Saturday, September 9, 2027, 6:00 PM
Subject: I’m sorry

Hey Dad,

I was upset when I wrote that last email. I’m sorry. The media is hounding NASA. There’s a permanent circle of media vans in the visitor’s lot and they swarm anyone who comes out, regardless of whether they’re on the team or not. Everyone’s asking how far the doppelgangers’ curiosity about us can go and we just can’t give them anything concrete. We don’t have anything. [……] setting up for the school year (his first in years, his first after the fires!) and his colleagues keep asking him if his NASA fiancée can come and reassure the kids in their classes. [……] keeps having to reference The Crucible and the mass hysteria around witches. He says it works, that people just nod and walk away. I wonder if a Crucible reference could make all the media vans disperse.

I knew the guy who killed his doppelganger, Dad. He was a co-worker of mine, and a nice one. He always seemed stable. He never took sick days or even raised his voice. I don’t know what happened to make him snap but seeing two of the same person in the same room was very strange. It felt like a mirror at points, and then it wasn’t. They spoke with different dialects, moved in different ways. But there was still something identical there, something beyond just appearance. It was like his essence had been replicated. It was so unnerving to watch. I can’t even imagine what he must have been feeling.

There’s a lot of uncertainty. Everyone’s crowding us. We’re stressed. But that’s still no excuse for the way I reprimanded you. I’m really sorry. Can I call tonight? If not tonight, then soon.

I love you.


Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2027, 9:20 PM
Subject: FWD: CONF: Caitlin Walton — Michele [……]

Pick up. Now.


From: […………………]
Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2027, 9:07 PM
Subject: CONF: Caitlin Walton — Michele [……]

Ms. Caitlin Walton,

It has come to our attention that, based on your DNA sample (Ref: [……….]), there is an Erde resident that matches said DNA sample. Her name is Michele [……].

Sens. info: Michele has health problems. Michele suffers from severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, which is a result of alcohol abuse during Michele’s mother’s, […] [……], fertilization and pregnancy.

Below are the results of the test. Michele’s other health statistics are attached. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have further questions.

[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],
[…….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….], […….],


Lauren Matlin
Head Coordinator of Erde Outreach


Date: Thursday, September 16, 2027, 1:11 AM
Subject: Pickup

Dad, are you going to pick up? Was Mom an alcoholic? Was that why she never drank? Because the thing is, circumstances around birth just don’t happen. They’re causal—the product of multiple factors. There is always something with the mother or the environment or something. Same thing with disability. Same thing with any condition. There is always a catalyst. Environmental, genetic, what have you—there is always something.

I’ve looked at Michele’s face. I’ve looked at my face. I don’t see a difference. I’ve run both faces through facial-recognition software. Goddamn computers don’t see a difference; it keeps coming up Caitlin Walton, Caitlin Walton. Michele has long hair, Dad. Michele has glasses. Even with those, she comes up as me. Lauren fed me a bunch of bull about how there are differences in how Michele and I live. How we smile different, carry ourselves different. Lauren didn’t look me in the eye once when she said all that. She and I both know those differences aren’t that big. How close was I to being impaired, Dad? Because Mom must have been drinking when she got pregnant with me, right? I could have been a completely different person and I never knew. Mom must have decided saving face on her demons was more important than my safety, my future. She must not have given a shit about me. I can’t think of any other good reason.

What if I got dependent on alcohol? What if I had a kid and they came out hearing-impaired? Was I ever close to going that way too, Dad? How close was I to not being able to live like everyone else, because my mother destroyed my ears, my future? Just the thought alone scares the fuck out of me.

Call me now.


Date: Saturday, September 18, 2027, 9:00 PM
Subject: Mom

No one told me Mom was an alcoholic. You said that Mom didn’t drink because she didn’t like alcohol. I never knew she was an addict.

Was her liver cancer from her alcoholism? I always thought her liver cancer was from her upbringing in Alabama—some environmental influence from there. Something maybe connected to the Fires. Something that wasn’t her.

What made her stop drinking? Was it me? Were you two afraid I would come out retarded?

Michele wants to meet me, Dad. She’s part of the collective that’s on the spaceship. I don’t want to meet her. If I see her, it’s only going to remind me that I could have been like her. I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Why did you two hide this from me? I thought you two shared everything with me. I don’t know how I can trust you now, when you knew I could have been less than what I am now. I feel like I’ve been torn in half. Half of me is nothing I know. I can’t stop thinking about how things could have been with me impaired. I wouldn’t be the scientist I am. How could you two not see this history as something I should know? How could I not know about my own mother’s alcoholism, even when I left for college?


Date: Saturday, September 18, 2027, 11:30 PM
Subject: <no subject>

Pick up, you asshole. Stop hiding.


Date: Sunday, September 19, 2027, 1:05 AM
Subject: CALL

Pick up.


Date: September 19, 2027, 1:45 AM
Subject: <no subject>

Who are you? You’re not my father. You’re nothing but a coward. If you really loved me, you would have told me everything. You both would have sat me down and told me everything. I don’t know you anymore. You’re not my father anymore.


Date: Thursday, September 23, 2027, 5:23 PM
Subject: Michele


I’m not drunk anymore. I’m sorry. You still should’ve been honest with me, but I’m really, really sorry for what I sent.

I’ve been calling you. Will you pick up? Michele wants to meet me, and my boss wants me to say yes. My boss will pay me to study Michele.

Michele has both her parents on Erde. She hasn’t lost her mother and that hurts. I envy her already, this version of me that I never expected to exist.

I can’t meet her alone. I need you here, so you can remind me of myself. You can remind me I am myself, because you saw me become myself. I know there’s technically no other me, but then there’s Michele. We are parts of each other, somehow, someway. I want one of us to hide, sometimes.

There have been two murders of Erde residents by our Earth residents, two murders in the past two months. I don’t want to snap like they have. I don’t want to be a murderer.

Please pick up. Please email. You are my father. I love you.


Date: Monday, October 4, 2027, 12:34 PM
Subject: Cait

Hi [….],

This is […….]. I’m writing to you from Cait’s email because I have a sneaking suspicion you’re reading the emails without responding—which isn’t cool.

Cait really does want to talk to you, [….]. She barely touches her dinner. She paces in the night. I find her awake on the couch most mornings now, TV on mute and all the lights on. She says she can’t handle the dark. She’s stressed about everything now. She feels terrible about the emails she sent when she was drunk, and you coming back to her would be weight off her shoulders.

We don’t have any alcohol in the house, so you’re safe from another drunken call, another drunken email. We poured out every last drop of alcohol. Yes, even the wine you got us as an engagement gift. We’re going to get married, with or without your wine, [….].

Michele is coming here in a couple weeks. We’ve already gone to NASA and called her and talked with her—there was a sign-language interpreter and all, so there were some awkward silences. But Michele’s incredibly smart. She works in Erde’s version of NASA, and it seems like she’s actually in a higher position than Cait is.

I know losing your wife was hard. I know it might be a strange thing to see Cait’s doppelganger—someone whose mother is still alive. I know Cait is nervous about it. I’ve asked Cait to go to therapy three times a week every week before the meeting, now that we can afford it. It’s helped already: she says she finds the idea of her doppelganger a little easier to think on now.

We’d be willing to pay for your therapy, if you think it might help. I know you don’t believe in therapy, but we can’t keep any feelings away, not now. We need to communicate clearly and transparently, be open with other.

I think for all of us to meet Michele would be a really, really good thing. It would allow for some healing. It would allow for Cait to maybe move forward and aim for something more. She’s been stagnant ever since Betty died and I think she knows it too. I want her to be ambitious again, to shoot for the stars again, the way she was when she and I first met.

We could pay for your flight to Houston too. Michele can’t travel to Albany because she doesn’t have a passport or really any of our identification. You’d have to come here.

Please get back to us. We miss you.



Date: Saturday, October 9, 2027, 8:32 PM
Subject: FWD: Michele [……] & Caitlin Walton — Capricorn 2 – Earth

Hi Dad,

I’m starting to understand why you like email over calls. It’s nice to see everything laid out before you, even if the technology is becoming increasingly obsolete.

I love you. Thank you for coming back to us. I’ll pay you back for the flight. It was really, really nice to wake up to your flight itinerary in my inbox.


From: [……………….]
Date: Saturday, October 9, 2027, 8:00 PM
Subject: Michele [……] & Caitlin Walton — Capricorn 2 – Earth

Dear Caitlin Walton,

Below, please find the itinerary for space travel. All parties on the spaceship CAPRICORN 2, MICHELE [……], have received this itinerary.

Flight Number: [………]

Travel Details
DEPARTURE: November 26, 2027, 11:00 AM CZT
ARRIVAL: November 26, 2027, 4:00 PM CZT

If you have any questions or concerns, please call Lauren Matlin at […………].

Sara Torres

Flight Coordinator


Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2027, 4:30 PM
Subject: Email Archive


There’s a possibility our emails could be made public. Let me explain…

President Levinson has raised a red flag about communication between interplanetary species and information that could be disclosed. There have been three murders in the three months since contact has been made. The third hasn’t been made public yet—the Erde resident shot their Earth resident and he’s claiming it was self-defense. He was terrified because he’d heard what happened with the last two meetings. Erde wants to shut down interplanetary communications, interplanetary travel. NASA is trying to make them stay, so we can study them more. Both planet ambassadors want to track those who plan to meet their doppelganger and bring the findings to both Erde and the UN. I’m one of the government workers that is maintaining contact with their Erde doppelganger, so I will be monitored. My work may be used. I may be used as an example of a successful meeting—if our meeting is indeed successful.

If this monitoring happens, I want whatever studies Levinson will order to focus on me. I don’t want you or […….] to get caught up in my mess. I’m going to try to control the information that gets put out there. I’m going to try to redact as much as possible. I’m going to try and keep your emails from the probe. I may not be able to do much, but I’ll keep you updated.

I love you.


Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2027, 3:04 AM
Subject: Visit Confirmation?

Hi Dad,

I wanted to reach out and see if you’re up for coming with me to NASA to meet Michele. I know you’ve already said you’ll come to Houston, but I was hoping you could also come to the NASA facilities and be there when I meet Michele for the very first time. It’d be nice to have support. There’s a great opportunity to talk to Michele and learn from her, and vice versa.

Michele is curt. I don’t think she understands the society we live in here. Or maybe she’s just hesitant to connect because of the murders. I told her about my job in NASA and there was this silence. Then she said, “That’s it? That’s all you do?” Or, rather, the interpreter said what she signed, I guess.

Michele’s very focused on her work; I think she hopes for her work to drive her, to define her. I don’t know of any other hearing-impaired people over there. I don’t know any hearing-impaired people, period. But Michele says that she wears her hair long so no one’s distracted by her hearing devices. She says she doesn’t want to be set apart by anything. Growing my hair out always seemed impractical to me. I would always have to fix it up and I never wanted to be defined by how I prettied myself. Too feminine for me still, I guess. Old habits die hard.

If you want to come to NASA, let me know. Don’t call me, unless it’s urgent—both […….] and I are working late now, because […….]‘s teaching and I’m needed on the team. We barely have meals together anymore. Just email me back.

I love you. I hope you’re safe and sound over there. How’s the basement? I’ve heard the rain could get worse this coming winter. You might want to consider a levee. Something.

I love you. Cait


Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2027, 3:34 AM
Subject: Re: Visit Confirmation?

I really, really need you here, Dad.

I’ve been having dreams. Dreams of Michele in my house. Dreams of me being the fourth murder. I’m surprised that Michele wants to come, with two of her people dead. […]

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Ross Showalter’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in places like Strange Horizons, F(r)iction, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Hobart, Portland Review, and elsewhere. Ross is a graduate of Portland State University’s B.F.A. program in creative writing. Showalter lives near Seattle.

Read More: A brief Q&A with Ross Showalter