CULTURE

This Haunts Me: The Strange Parallel Universe of Off-Brand Knockoffs

What dimension do these products come from

There are moments in life when all the balance and normalcy we take for granted are turned on their head by the introduction of one uncanny detail.

Perhaps you're putting together a package to ship to your mother for the holidays, but when you reach for a marker, to write her address on the box, what you find in your hand isn't a Sharpie at all, it's a Skerple.

And now it's like the wind has been knocked out of you. Nothing seems to be quite what you thought. Is this a dream? A nightmare? An alternate reality. You reach for your phone so you can apologize to your mother—she won't be receiving that package on time—but you freeze in the moment before you click call, overwhelmed with a dread that whoever answers that call won't be the woman who raised you.

Where do these off-brands even come from? It would be easy to assume that they are simply the result of cynical cash grabs, designed to confuse consumers and tap into the loyalty that trusted brands inspire, but that doesn't sit well with me. That doesn't account for the otherworldly horror that a person feels after a night of romantic indiscretion, when they go into the pharmacy looking for Plan B, and all they can find is After-D.


after-d Reddit user Discochickens

No. The feeling these products inspire is of contact with another world—a distorted, horrifying version of our own. Like the Upside Down of Stranger Things, or the subterranean clone world in Us. The twisted creatures who live there have some foggy perception of our world that they use to guide their pantomime—a portal through which they try and fail to discern the forms and functions of the objects that populate our lives. And through that portal slip their clumsy attempts to mimic our creations.

sweep What does it even do?!Reddit user edgeofruin

I try not to think of these objects and their origins, if I can help it. It frightens me to think of why the creatures who make them put so much work into these strange facsimiles. Are they improving their craft? When they learn to truly mimic us, do they intend to take over? Perhaps they are already infiltrating. I don't know. And thinking too deeply on it can put me off my dinner.


panburger partner Even a dinner of Panburger PartnerReddit user Mooseguy1441


But recently another thought has occurred to me that scares me even more. It came to me in a dream in which all the electronics were failing to function, my body felt strangely distant, and everything seemed just a little bit off. I knew it was a dream, and then suddenly I didn't. I began to wonder if I had ever dreamt at all, or merely been transported. Was I in that other world—the knockoff reality? Was I making a connection in sleep to another version of myself—the off-brand me? Or was I the off-brand all along...