Published by Full Fathom Five Digital
Published on November 11th 2015
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From the moment Laura Rivers steps foot into Englewood High, she notices the stares—and they aren’t the typical once-overs every pretty new girl endures. The students seem confused and…spooked. Whispers echoing through the halls confirm that something is seriously off. “That new girl looks just like her,” they say.
It turns out Laura has a doppelgänger, and it isn't just anyone—it's Sarah Castro-Tanner, the girl who killed herself by jumping into the Navasink River one year ago.
Laura is determined not to let the gossip ruin her chances of making a fresh start. Thanks to her charming personality and California tan, she catches the eye of Englewood’s undisputed golden boy, Charlie Sanders, and it’s only a matter of time before they make their relationship official.
But something is making Charlie and his friends paranoid—and Laura soon discovers it has to do with Sarah Castro-Tanner.
What really happened to Sarah? Why is Charlie unraveling? And how does Laura Rivers fit into it all?
After all, she’s the dead ringer for a dead girl.
It was ten o’clock at night before Sasha finally settled down to her computer and read the words she’d talked herself into believing she would never see —the ones that made her whole body shiver.
The first day back had been typically busy, plus she’d stayed after school to help Mrs. Egenoff finish organizing the computer lab for extra credit. Sasha didn’t need the extra credit. She could probably teach all of the computer classes her school offered, but new Design Suite software had just arrived for the AP engineering class, and Mrs. Egenoff said she could spend an hour playing with it as thanks for the help. It didn’t hurt that hiding out in the lab meant she could avoid walking through the first-day activities fair. The thought of table after table of screaming upperclassmen hawking a dozen different paths to highschool glory was the opposite of appealing. Sasha made it her goal to talk to as few people as humanly possible in a given day.
By the time Sasha got home, it was already six o’clock, and then there was dinner to make and a surprising amount of homework to do. She didn’t hold out hope that they might eat as a family in honor of the first day of school. They had never been that kind of unit. Mom would probably labor away at some ridiculous metal sculpture thing in her studio and Dad would hide out at the office until at least eight. Sasha was pretty sure that neither of them even knew school was back in session, but she didn’t mind. The less they paid attention to her, the more time she could spend online.
Sasha very clearly remembered the day she’d first learned what hacking meant. It was the spring of her eighth-grade year, and she was sitting in computer class. Some terrified-looking substitute teacher had been directed to keep the kids quiet by showing a “20/20” special on people who got caught cracking the New York Stock Exchange security systems and wound up serving eight years in a federal prison. It was intended to scare the class away from any curiosity about the hacking world, but it had the opposite effect on Sasha. From that point on, she was hooked. It was exactly what she needed to help with the investigation.
It takes the average baby hacker about a year to develop the skills to crack a basic office security system. After that, things progress quickly to the point of figuring out how to monitor a person’s online life. Sasha tackled all that within her first six months. That’s how she earned the name “Phenom.” You know you’re finally accepted into the community once another hacker gives you a handle, and she received hers from Syke, the leader of the Midnight Kids — one of the top hacking groups online.
Sasha’s skills expanded a thousand-fold once she had the support of Syke and his crew. They helped her develop an interface to track all the communication she was monitoring. Sasha knew everything that went on inside the computers of over three hundred fifty people — emails, chats, downloads, searches, and more. After that, she built an alert system to let her know when relevant information was shared. That is, if relevant information was ever shared.
It had been five hundred twenty-one days since the search terms she’d built her system around popped up in the interface — almost a year and a half since any of the people she was hacking mentioned the words she’d been waiting to hear. Those words were the key to building her case.
Sasha still checked in on the feed twice a day, every day, no matter how useless the act felt. She couldn’t let herself give up yet, if ever. She’d wake up, shower, get dressed, and then sit down at her computer to check the feed. At the end of the day, she’d finish her homework, change into her pajamas, and sit down to check it one more time before bed. Every single day was the same. No new mentions of the search terms.
They had obviously all forgotten about what happened, and she hated them for it. Nobody wanted to remember that kind of tragedy, least of all Sasha. And yet here she was again, as always, sitting before her computer for the end-of-day check. She refused to let a day go by without honoring the promise she’d made herself all those months ago, even if no new clues ever surfaced.
But today, all that patience finally paid off.
Sasha saw the flashing red S on the top right of her screen and a mix of joy and fear rushed through her body.
She clicked on the icon, which opened the master-panel listing of all the computers she followed. Sasha had built the system to collect a huge amount of data — enough to give her the greatest chance possible of finding the one thing she was looking for. But the deluge of information wouldn’t be a problem today. The problem now was where to begin.
You have 942 mentions of the requested search term: Sarah Castro-Tanner.
For a second, Sasha just froze. She didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, jump up and down, or scream. Somehow every emotion available felt right. Instead, she took a deep breath and clicked on the very first name on the list: Andrea Adams. An instant-message screen popped open. She noticed that Andrea Adams had engaged in an online conversation with a Christine Beck at 3:45 p.m., which was almost immediately after school let out for the day. Sasha would typically do a control+F keyboard search to find mentions of the word Sarah, but that wouldn’t be necessary. It was the very first thing Andrea Adams said.
AndieA: Ohmygod how much would it suck to look like that girl Sarah?
Chelsbells: Think the new girl looks that similar?
Chelsbells: Did anyone tell her?
AndieA: Idk. Would you?
Chelsbells: No thank you. What would you say? “Welcome to Englewood. You look just like the town’s most famous dead girl.”
About the Author
Jessie Rosen is a writer, producer, and performer. She grew up in New Jersey, attended Boston College in Massachusetts, and began her writing career in New York. Her live storytelling series Sunday Night Sex Talk has received national attention. She was named one of “The 25 Best Bloggers, 2013 Edition” by TIME magazine for her blog 20- Nothings, which was also named in “The 100 Best Websites for Women” and “The Top 10 Best Websites for Millennial Women” in 2013 by Forbes.
Rosen is the oldest of four girls, which gives her a special window into the minds of teenagers. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she’s working on film and television projects, as well as her next novel.