(A/N: This is based on the 1999 movie version of 'Sleepy Hollow', starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci. Oddly enough, I found myself falling head over heels not for Depp (who seemed to have a monopoly on falling in that film), but on Casper van Dien as Brom Van Brunt. Oh, come on, he's a hunk. I was so angry when he was killed, and so I finally wrote this fic, in which he lives, and gets (wait for it) character development! Think he's nothing but a muscle-bound jerkwad? Think again.)
The last thing he recalled was the water.
It rushed around him, and the weight of his clothes dragged him down. The water filled his mouth, his lungs, and finally consumed him. His exhausted body was swept up in the current, helpless to fight anymore. He despised being helpless—it almost never happened to him. There was no situation he could not fight his way out of...
There had been a flash of intense pain across his abdomen, and then a blow to the head, sending him crashing through the wall of the covered bridge into the whirling, ice-cold river below. Splinters and pieces of the broken wall rained down on him, piercing the water like raindrops on that still November evening.
The water had turned dark red, and he realized with a jolt that the water was tinged with his own blood.
Where am I now?
Am I dead?
It all seemed so dark here...and who was that above him, crying? The only woman he knew who would cry over him was his mother—but she never cried. And Katrina was probably busy mooning over Constable Crane....
The question repeated in his mind.
Am I dead?
"Not quite," was the reply. The voice was very familiar...
Brom looked up sharply. He was lying on the bridge where the Horseman had cut him. Standing over him, almost in triumph, was...Brom himself. It wasn't just a general likeness, a similarity of build—the man standing over him was Brom, right down to the blue eyes, light brown hair and muscular build.
"And who are you, friend?" his double asked mockingly. "We have not heard your name yet."
Brom stared at this figure, real as the wooden bridge beneath him...or so it seemed. How could this be—what other devilish magic was at work in Sleepy Hollow?
"What are you?" he demanded, rising to his feet. Miraculously, he found himself uninjured.
His double shot him a sly glance. "I am you."
"In the mortal plane, yes," the double replied. "But here, anything is possible."
Brom regarded the double warily. This had to be some kind of dream, unless...
"Am I dead?"
"Oh no, you're still very much alive. Comatose, but alive." the double replied, with a grin that Brom did not at all like.
"Coma who?" Now he knew this couldn't be a dream. He wouldn't use words he didn't understand.
The double sighed. "I must say, I was hoping you'd be brighter. Now I suppose I see why the call you all brawn and no brains, eh, Bones?"
His nickname, given to him by his friends in Sleepy Hollow, was mostly due to his strength. Brom knew he was reckless, though that did not make him brainless. In any case, he wasn't about to let this figment of his imagination have the last word.
Brom charged the double, aiming a furious blow with his fist. As soon as he struck, the double disappeared—then reappeared right behind him. He didn't even have time to blink before a massive blow knocked him back to the ground, on his hands and knees.
"So long as you're kneeling there like the pathetic dog that you are, pay attention," the double ordered. "I am your doppelganger. Or you are mine, depending on how you choose to look at it. I'm your avatar, your conscience. You are trapped here, between this world and the next. Shall I show you why you're here?"
Brom paused. He didn't understand any of this. His double was regarding him with profound amusement, as though his confusion were a source of entertainment.
"Very well," Brom muttered. His double clapped his hands, a bright smile lighting his face.
"Perfect. Let's take this route into town, shall we?"
The moment Brom and his guide stepped off the bridge, the night was suddenly replaced by harsh daylight. The deep silence of the night was gone, in favor of the general hustle and bustle of a typical day in Sleepy Hollow.