“You look just like your mother”. It is amazing how six little words can have the power to turn your whole world upside down.
Elena stood numb for a minute or two, not quite sure if she could believe her ears.
My mother?! What does she mean? Did she know my biological parents? And how did she recognize me? I was still a baby when they died!
A thousand questions were swirling in her mind all at once. She was especially taken aback by the assurance in the woman’s tone. There was no doubt about it, she was certain of what she had just said. Finally pulling herself together, Elena uttered: “Who are you? What are you talking about?”
After considering for a few seconds, the woman said gently: “Let me just tell my husband to take the kids to school, and then you and I can take a little walk. I’ll answer every one of your questions.” There was so much sincerity and sweetness in her eyes that Elena strangely felt reassured. She immediately agreed, and as soon as the woman went back to her family, took that opportunity to call the newspaper company she was working for and tell them she was running late.
The woman reappeared a few moments later, and she and Elena stepped out of the shop. They started walking in an awkward silence. The woman finally broke it and said:
“My name is Carmen. I was your parents’ housekeeper twenty-five years ago. Four years after I left them, I was told your mother died in a car crash. That was the last I heard of them until today. When I saw you, it was like travelling back in time… You are the exact photocopy of Carol Parker!”
“Wait a second… Parker? My name is Cooper. Elena Cooper. I was raised in an orphanage after my parents passed away.”
“No, that’s impossible… Look for yourself!”
Carmen took a picture out of her wallet and handed it to Elena. In that photo, she was smiling next to a young couple, a man and a woman. The moment Elena caught a glimpse of the latter her expression changed. Her face grew white, her hands started to tremble. She found it difficult to breathe.
This has got to be a bad dream… It’s like I’m looking at myself in the mirror! But how could that be my mother? We have different names! Unless… But that’s ridiculous! Why would anyone try to change my identity?
“Are you all right? Do you need to sit down for a while?”
Carmen’s voice dragged her out of her thoughts.
“I’ll be better when I get to the bottom of this. I need you to tell me everything you know about that couple.”
When Elena left Carmen, she felt like a whole new person. She was no longer the sad girl who didn’t belong. She had become a lost girl trying to find her way home. She had to figure out who had decided to change her identity and why. Was it her father? Did he do it to protect her? Was he still alive? But what would a scientist’s daughter need protection from? Or maybe she was taken away from him! But that still didn’t make any sense.
She called the office to take the week off, and then went to the orphanage where she grew up. Seeing it again sent a chill down her spine. Some of the worst moments of her life had happened there.
Come on, Elena… Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself.
She met with the owner of the establishment, Mrs. Roberts, and urged her to explain every detail concerning her arrival to the orphanage.
Unfortunately, that meeting didn’t get her very far. A man from social services had contacted the orphanage twenty years ago, saying they could expect the arrival of a one-year-old little girl who had just lost her parents in a car accident and had no family to raise her. There was nothing off or shady about it.
Either I have a doppelganger, or someone very powerful managed to change my identity and make it clean, untraceable.
The second she got home, Elena opened her laptop and researched Carmen’s old employer, Mark Parker. She started by examining every picture she could find of him. He looked very kind and approachable. His glasses gave him a cute nerdy look she liked a lot. After that, she proceeded to read about his life.
Talk about a great academic career!
After getting a full scholarship, he had majored in quantum engineering at MIT. He was by far the first of his class, and received numerous awards for his creative thinking and the many projects he partook in. When he graduated from college, he set up his own science laboratory, and dedicated all his time to researching what he liked to call “cloaking”.
Cloaking? What does that even mean?
Elena spent hours reading article after article, and what she discovered was beyond anything she could have ever imagined. Apparently, Mark believed that bending light waves over metamaterials could make them invisible to the human eye! However, his views were not taken seriously by his colleagues, who considered them more as science fiction than actual science. They must have been right, since Parker never proved them otherwise.
That was twenty years ago! The same year I entered the orphanage! And nobody has heard of him since! Something must have happened to him! But what?
Wait, what was that?
Elena thought she heard a noise coming from the kitchen.
I just discovered that my dad disappeared from the face of the earth; I’m obviously just being paranoid.
She heard another noise two minutes later. It was louder this time. There was no doubt about it anymore: someone else was in the house.
Oh dear God what am I going to do? Okay… The most important thing is not to panic. I have to stay focused.
Elena scanned the room to look for something she could defend herself with. Her eyes rested on an umbrella leaning against the table. She started moving towards it as quietly as possible, when suddenly she felt a cold hand on her mouth…
Coming up next: The Price Of Science
Isabelle Jambart, FM