Alice hardly considered herself an artist, but she had always been inclined to drawing little pictures in the margins of any piece of paper she was handed. Over the years, it had turned into a cast of repeating characters, which she eventually came up with names for.

One of her most recurring and beloved characters, however, did not have a solid name yet.

He looked a little bit like this:

A couple doodles in a tiny notebook of a skinny dude with implausible hair. One of the doodles has a cat in it.

The first time she showed Joseph this character, not long after they had first met, the first thing he said was “You’re not that skinny.” It prompted a whole exhausting discussion of how this guy was actually a metaphorical guy, and also she was skinnier when she made him, and he wasn’t literally her, so it was okay that he was a skinny dude.

One of the biggest differences between her and This Guy was that he was a doctor. Or was he? Maybe he was crazy. She wasn’t sure of any of the details – having a character was a little like having an overseas pen pal with a hobby of changing the details of their entire life in between every letter. She just waited patiently for answers and went with the most recent ones.

The worrying thing about This Guy, however, was that he had a secret evil side. That Other Guy also could never seem to hold down a name for more than a month, but when he did, it was always a stupid derivative of This Guy’s name. And while This Guy was a normal doctor, the kind that over-prescribed SSRIs and was rich enough to play golf, That Other Guy was an evil surgeon who did horrible things. And This Guy never remembered any of it!

That was why Alice had developed a new fear: she was now certain that she had a secret Other Guy, and that her Other Guy was the surgeon who had mutilated Mary.

She had shared none of this with anyone. Why would she? If she told Joseph, he’d laugh at her and change the topic. If she was an evil surgeon, she’d go to jail for sure, and then her parents would be very mad and she’d have no computer. The only thing she could do was try her best to track her own patterns and see if she could catch herself in the act.

But her Other Guy was smart. Maybe he was lying in wait.

They turned onto Surgeon Drive.

Fuck, that’s not a coincidence, she thought. Oh fuck. She was in trouble now.

It wasn’t until they turned off of Sturgeon Drive that she realized what the sign had actually said.