A man learns he's been selected by the government to be a host for a mass clone production
|I sat up straight, eyes wide open. Terror clung to my heart as the scream resonating through my head slowly faded into silence. The nightmare was different. It shouldn’t have changed.
I rubbed my eyes and blinked in the morning sunlight, which drifted weakly through the window next to my bed. The whir of my car charging in the garage was soft and comforting, familiar. I could smell the silently brewing coffee in the kitchen. I breathed deeply and prepared to face yet another day.
My plain white bedding was rumpled and twisted from my frantic nightmare. They could probably use a wash. I sniffed the T-shirt I was wearing and decided to throw that in the laundry too. At least my boxers were clean. Reluctantly I climbed out of bed and glanced at the time in the stand next to my bed. The screen was hibernating, which wasn’t surprising; my internal clock was better than any digital one, but the nightmare had thrown me all off.
“Time and day.” I commanded. The screen came to life immediately and voice synchronized with the red letters that appeared.
“7:08 am, Saturday, November 5th, 2054.” The computerized voice always bugged me, the friendly, light female voice that was supposed to be pleasant but to me just sounded nauseating.
I tugged the white Hanes shirt off and then stripped my bed. I walked to the far wall of my room, and tapped in the code. The shoot opened out of the wall and I dropped the laundry in. I couldn’t handle that feminine computer voice too much so early in the morning, so I usually preferred to do things manually. I was probably the only one in the country who did that. What can I say? I’m old fashioned. And slightly paranoid.
I turned to the computer screen in the wall and sighed. I would have loved to have gotten my own sheets, heck, even do my own laundry and put it where it belonged like in the old days but that was unheard of now. Why do that sort of work when 6-15s existed to do all the household labor for you? The robots issued to every home in the nation were essential now; living without one was like a girl living without a mirror, it couldn’t be done.
It turned on.
“Command, please.” It requested.
“Laundry. Clean bedding. Clean T-shirt and jeans.”
“Anything else, sir?”
Talking to the dumb computer made me feel like I was ordering drive-thru at some crappy fast food place. It was almost degrading in a way, but apparently I was the only one who thought so.
“No. Music.” The screen changed, revealing my options.
“Play artist, The Beatles.”
Immediately the sound of the ancient band filled my room. I was probably the only person who remembered who the Beatles were. And I was still really young.
I pressed the pad in the wall again, and a second compartment opened, producing a navy blue t-shirt and some faded jeans. I snatched them and threw them on the bed. I went to take a shower, in an attempt to wash away the terror of last night’s dream. The Beatles were still playing and I put the shower TV on mute, watching as the figures on the screen debated the heated topic of cloning in the U.S. I could care less at this point; it was already legal and happening fast. I had even seen two of the same people walking together at the subway a while ago. It was perverted, but the way I saw it, if someone chose to have another one of them made, who had a completely empty head, and allow it in public, they would suffer the consequences. Let them.
Finally the Beatles track was replaying and my fingers were wrinkling. I switched off the shower and grabbed a towel from the plastic case where it was being warmed. I rubbed my head with it and then wrapped it around my waist. I stepped over to the sink, washed my face and brushed my teeth. Finally, after shaving I looked into the mirror, something I usually didn’t bother to do. A pair of forget-me-not eyes fringed by black lashes stared resentfully at me. The face was ordinary, nothing extremely handsome or outstanding, nor was there anything exceedingly ugly. I was indifferent to my face. My hair was buzzed short, black velvet. I was toned from years of rough training and football, but the sports days had ended with graduation, and I worked out simply for something to do.
The reason I had suddenly found myself in front of the unused mirror was to look for reassurance. To make sure it was my face I was seeing.
The nightmare was so different from the ones I’d always encountered growing up. Many were recurrent for about a year, and then it changed, but I hadn’t even reached the year mark yet. Not even, I was six months away. This nightmare was one that left me hollow and terrified.
In my dream, there was a girl, young, probably my age. She was pretty, I remember that. And she was angry at me. It was as if I was supposed to have done something for her and I hadn’t. When she was about to attack me, she was held back by a figure, and when I looked closer I could see it was her again. Then another came, and another, until tons of herself surrounded her and they began to tear her body to pieces before my eyes while I watched, helpless. Her scream still rang in my ears. Then clones of me attacked me, but they only went for my face, tearing it to shreds.
It must have been because of the two girls I saw on the subway, the host and her clone. Though the girls on the subway and the girls in my dream looked nothing alike, it must have been where the dream came from. But I had seen those girls a month ago.
The computer screen that was part of the bathroom mirror turned on and the digital face that was more feminine than masculine but had no definite gender appeared.
“Excuse me, sir.”
“Phone call. Number: restricted. Accept or Reject?”
I deliberated for a few minutes.
“Accept.” Immediately I could see the line connect, but no image appeared with the voice. That was weird, even restricted numbers didn’t do that. All that appeared was a set of letters and numbers. D68S15. Again, weird.
“William Bradford, this is Dylan Jones for the FBI.” Said a deep voice.
“Can I help you?” FBI, that was not good. It was never good. Not on a Saturday morning when I had plans.
“I’m afraid you’re going to have to come downtown with us.”
“You know, usually you say that when your at my front door with a warrant. Isn’t that how it’s done?”
“We are at your front door and we have a warrant. You have fifteen minutes to comply.” Now I was freaked out. This made absolutely no sense. I had never committed a crime, hell I’d never run a red light in my life. I wasn’t into drugs, I was the legal drinking age and never exceeded the proper limit. I was the perfect citizen when it came to the FBI. At least thought I was.
“If I don’t comply?”
“We will use force if necessary Mr. Bradford.”
The line went dead. The code-thing disappeared and the computer screen was replaced with my mirror again. Numbly I threw the towel on the floor and went to my room, where I pulled on my clothes in a daze to the sound of Hey Jude, playing for the second time. My fingers merely followed habit as I buttoned my jeans and tied my shoelaces. I took my phone off the bed-side table and turned to my computer in the wall.
“Music off, power off.”
Instantly the screen went black and the sound stopped.
I braced myself and slowly walked down the stairs of my condominium to the silver door.
It opened. There I saw two thugs in suits and sunglasses, straight out of the movies, standing in my doorway.
It did and I fixed a friendly smile on the agents. One was tall, with a dark look in his worn face. He was older, probably late 40s, early 50s. The other was younger, closer to my age than I’d have thought until I looked closer. He was shorter than me, but he held himself like someone who you didn’t want to get angry.
“Hey guys, what’s up?” I figured they wouldn’t respond anyway, so it didn’t matter what I said.
“William Bradford?” The young one asked.
“I’m Agent Jones, this is Agent Milner. Please come with us.” He flashed his badge, and then the warrant they had. They both turned on their heels and walked toward a non-descript black Mercedes parked on the curb. It blended in with the other cars, but seeing who it belonged to made me guess that baby did great in a drive-by shooting and other stuff involving guns and FBI agents.
We got in the car and started to drive through away from the edge of the city, where I lived towards the center. All the while we sat in silence. Finally we left the city altogether and entered a very non-descript area with a lot of apartment buildings and tiny shops and strip malls all in neat, orderly rows. It was quaint in a way, and I had been here before, but I was looking at it with new eyes. I wasn’t really afraid for myself, but I dreaded news they might give me, or the questions they might ask me. What if someone was missing, a family member or a friend and they thought I knew something? As far as I knew the worst thing they could connect me with was a couple friends in rehab. Nobody was missing that I had been informed of, and nobody I knew had been murdered or involved in a murder. What could they want me for?
Eventually we pulled up at a gray, weathered building that looked like a bank or something. We got out of the car and entered it. What I found when we went inside was polar opposite if the outside. Everything was shiny silver and plastic. Men and women in suits were bustling around everywhere, but there had been no cars outside, and I hadn’t seen any way to access a parking lot or garage. There weren’t even any outlets for cars to charge.
They brought me to a small room with a table and two chairs. It was like the old crime shows from my grandpa’s day, back in the ‘00s and ‘10s, just a lot more advanced. Rather than like in the shows where the tables were metal and there was a two way mirror, the table was neat, unbreakable plastic and the wall itself was probably two-way. They indicated that I sit down, which I did. I figured my cooperation would get me out of here faster.
Jones sat down opposite me and Milner placed a file on the table and left the room.
“Please, call me Will. I’m guessing I’m gonna be here a while.”
Jones smiled slightly and understood. I was uncomfortable and confused. Being called a strange name other than the ‘Will’ that everyone had only ever known me as was weird.
“OK. Will, as you know my name is agent Jones.”
“I assume I’m not allowed to call you Dylan.”
“Sorry, but no. This process must remain entirely professional. I need to first inform you of the reason you are here.
“You are age 21. You have no criminal record. You’re what we call the ideal citizen, but you already know that. You’re health is perfect, and you’re in shape. But more than this, you have a large capacity for absorption of knowledge. You have excessive skill at retaining information. You had the highest GPA in your class of 700 students in highschool. You are unusually intelligent and yet you blend in with your surroundings so well you’re all but invisible. Tracking you was more work than we are used to. Somehow you manage to escape notice.
“It may not seem so to you, but you are an asset to the government. As you probably know, the race between the United States and most of Europe is to replace clones for robots in our country’s army. Eventually they will replace all labor robots as well. Or at least, so we hope. But we want something they haven’t thought of yet. We want spies so perfect they will never be found out, never be able to infiltrate our nation’s secrets, just do their job and disappear. And you, Will, or should I say D68S15, are the key to this dream of the scientific engineers of our nation.” As he spoke he opened the file he had in front of him. All the while I sat silent, not daring to try and make anything out of what he said.
“I’m sorry, I know you think I’m intelligent but all of what you just said passed straight over my head. How am I the key to this cloning dream of yours—” As I spoke I processed what he had been saying.
“Oh.” Was all the intelligence I could put into words. Immediately denial filled my mouth. They wouldn’t, they had no right.
“I know what you’re thinking Will, but you’re wrong. Just think of the history you’ll be making. We need you, the country needs you.”
“So explain to me what it is you’re asking of me, exactly. Some DNA samples so you can clone a million and one of me to be slaughtered and regenerated as need demands, correct?”
“Well, it’s not exactly how we see it. Your sacrifice will lead to a new age, a new era of the future. And DNA is not just what we need from you. The process is a little more complicated than that.”
He was hesitant to say that, it was clear. By now, if I had hackles, they would be way up. I wondered if I was given a choice about what I assumed would be my decapitation. I gulped.
“We would need… we would have to get samples of every muscle, tissues, organs, everything, we would…uh…need a lot of skin samples and…uh stem cells.”
He was looking nervous. There was something he wasn’t telling me. Something big. The process already sounded painful, but I could tell it was worse than he let on.
“And… come on Jones, I know there’s something you’re leaving out. How much more? Will you need chunks of my brain, maybe a few pieces of my heart?”
My voice took on a mocking, sarcastic edge. I was usually an easy-going guy. I got along with people in general, never really got in an argument. I guess you could say I was a people-person. Jones didn’t bother me. You know what they say: don’t kill the messenger. I wasn’t about to give him shit for doing his job, but I just hoped that the person responsible for this assignment would hear everything I said.
His hands shook on the table. He put them in his lap. I pitied him.
“First, before I, uh, enlarge upon the requirements of the procedure, I must inform you the, um, benefits so to speak, of being the host of the largest clone production that will ever take place.
“Essentially, the monetary reward will be excessive, as most of the government funding in the area of medical research at this point is directed toward cloning experimentation looking for unexplored methods of mass production of clones. After we learned that it was possible, we had to find the ideal host, who was you. Believe me, the sacrifice is well worth it, at least, well—”
He seemed very uncomfortable at being so unprofessional. He glanced toward the right wall, and it was confirmed, that was the two-way wall. Seconds later a man walked in. He wore a lab coat and a suit underneath. His hair was gray and his face wrinkled. He wore glasses, small rectangular acrylics. They must be 40 years old. Antiques practically. Glasses didn’t exist anymore. Must be a pretty strange guy.
He shot a disdainful look at agent Jones, who promptly left the room. I really felt bad for him; it wasn’t going to go over well that he obviously hadn’t done his job.
The old man sat down with all the agility of the much younger Jones, or of any man for that matter.
He was clearly on longevity steroids. I didn’t even want to know how old he really was. He could be well over 100. It was impossible to tell. The longevity steroids made the aging process twice as slow as a normal person’s. I’d avoided those when they were on the market.
“Mr. Bradford. My name is Doctor Snyder. I am the head of the Cloning Experimentation and Reproduction in the Institute of Government Sciences and Research. It has been my research that has allowed for the funding and development of this new project. I take great pride in my work, and I would like to inform you that you are the final key in the next stage of evolution. You are what has been labeled as the physically ideal human. You are mentally capable and physically at the peak of your health. You’ve never been sick a day in your life. You blend in, you—”
This guy was really getting on my nerves. He talked with such pride in his accomplishments, and talked about me like he was a dealer informing someone of the perfection of their horse. He talked about me like I belonged to him and his stupid organization. Like I wasn’t even human. I couldn’t hear anymore without gagging.
“Look doc, skip the prologue, I’ve heard it all before. Your FBI goons already told me all I need to know about your sick plan and I know just how healthy I am. I am also aware of my gift at blending in, I went through my entire thirteen years of school not once getting noticed, so don’t just revisit where I’ve already been, its really unnecessary. You can tell me how great a sacrifice it will be for this fucked up country of ours and how I’m the key to your plan for evolution, but it won’t change the fact that I’m not gonna give you what you want. I could care less that you think humans, even dumb, empty headed clones, are a great supplement for robots, interpretation scrap metal, anyway. I don’t give a shit. Take your worn out cause to someone who cares.”
My voice had risen and was pretty angry, even for me. The smug doctor with his spiffy lab coat just stared complacently at me the whole time. He didn’t flinch, not even when, halfway through I slammed my fist on the table; he just stared at me like an insect he was inspecting before crushing. That look gave me knots in my empty stomach.
“Mr. Bradford, you really think we are asking you if you would like to comply or not? You think you have a choice in this matter? The decision was made long ago that clones from the perfect human would make the perfect spy. How capable your clones are for use in the military is as yet to be determined. This plan of the military’s is still under inspection. I doubt it will pass so soon. But the project, which has in fact been lovingly entitled the ‘Bradford Revolution’, in your honor has been passed, approved and is almost completely operable. The one missing piece is you. When we obtain what we need from you, we will be the most powerful country in the world.”
“You say ‘when’ like it’s going to happen. You can say all you want, I don’t accept, I don’t care how much you pay me, or how great this country will become, I am not going to be a part of it. This is wrong in every sense of the word. The repercussions of this are more than you can fathom, I don’t care how many doctorates you may have. You can have no idea what you’ve already set in motion. I won’t be a part of it.”
“Mr. Bradford, you don’t have a choice. You were not accepted, you were enlisted. We’ve been watching you since the day of your birth. We know who you are, we know who you’re connected to, we know every move you ever made.”
Now I could see the full truth of it. I would never escape. They could anticipate all my moves, every thought I would have. They would kill me, and in 48 hours there would be millions of me walking around. It was sick. Worse, it would not be a humane death. I knew the drill. One clone, all you’d have to give was a little DNA sampling. Hell, ten clones wasn’t anything worse, but what they were planning. It was overkill in the extreme. Literally. They would have to decapitate, dissect and dismember every inch of me. I had been a dead man walking since the day of my birth. I needed to puke.
The smugness radiating off the bastard who called himself a doctor was like a fume. I stood up and bolted out of the room that hung heavy with my long-awaited fate. I ripped open the door to the bustling building full of FBI agents. I ran faster than any of them could have; pure fear and rage drove me on. When I left the building, an alarm went off. They would be after me in a matter of seconds but that was all I needed. I saw that the car had not been left out front, but that was no surprise. I raced down the street and I could hear some goons behind me. I turned down a small alley littered with trash and a few garbage cans. I threw those out behind me and continued to run, but I turned, swerved and faked better than any time I had in a football game. Finally, I found myself heading toward the middle of the city again, and the thugs running after me had fallen behind. Soon they were gone altogether, but that only meant I had a limited amount of time before they caught me.
I pressed myself against a building and pulled out my cell phone.
It dialed and on the first ring she picked up. She had been asleep. The sound of her voice was like music.
“Will? What’s wrong?”
She knew. Brandt always knew when something was wrong with me. She and I had a spiritual connection, or so we said. We had been dating since freshman year of highschool. We were made for each other. I couldn’t live without her. Hearing her voice reassured me that everything would be okay.
“Brandt, I need you to pick me up. I’m in huge danger right now, I have the FBI after me, their going to kill me.”
“Where are you.”
“On the corner of West and 33rd. please hurry baby, please.”
“I’ll be right there.”
The line went dead. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I could figure everything out with her around, she was like a good luck charm. It wouldn’t take her long; she drove like a maniac and didn’t live far away. She was closer than I was to the center of the city.
I positioned myself so that I couldn’t be seen but I could see pretty well. I barely took one breath. Fifteen minutes later, she showed up in her silver Audi Hover. Apparently it had been charging for a while because it was at least four feet off the ground. I ran out of cover and dove into the car, slamming the door shut behind me. She slammed the pedal, and we were already forty feet away and gone. I loved her car. Within ten minutes we were outside my condo, but without stopping we took a long, complicated route to her house, where she lived with her sister and their cousin. It was small, but I loved it.
She pulled into her garage and we both sat there shaking. She remained silent, waiting for my explanation. I took a deep breath. How to start?
“Okay Brandt, how would you describe me?”
She looked at me, and saw I definitely wasn’t joking. She sighed, her chocolate eyes, so deep and beautiful, were troubled, frightened for me.
“Perfect. That’s the way I see you. Absolutely, inside and out perfect. Why?”
“The FBI thought so too. They called me this morning…” I proceeded to tell her the entire story. She didn’t say anything when I finally finished where she had picked up.
“Shit, Will. Shit.” Was all she could manage at first. And there we sat for two hours discussing what we should do. I held her hand the whole time, just for the reassurance it gave me. I was also only much too aware of the fact that this may be the last time I was with her. The government would never stop hunting me.
I began to slowly grasp what my fate really was. I was going to die, the only question was when. I handled it all like I did any traumatic situation, I closed down. I still responded to Brandt’s questions, I still held her hand, but I inside I was numb, hollow.
“Will? Will, it’s going to be okay, we’ll get this figured out, baby look at me!” She grew upset. She knew what I was doing. She called it shutting down. I turned my face to her, only to see she had tears running down hers. I immediately felt the weight of my selfishness, like I always did. Her tears nearly broke my heart. Brandt never cried; she was too tough. She could hold her own through thick and thin, she was a fighter. I could see now just how frightened she was for me.
“I’m okay Brandt, really.” I tried to smile at her, but I couldn’t.
“You shut down on me. Last time you did that was when your dad was in the hospital.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll figure this one out.”
“Will we? I mean, it seems like the FBI is dead set on having you for this master plan of theirs. What options do we have when the government has been watching you since you were born? They know every move you’ll make.” Panic filled her eyes as she realized the weight of her words. “How soon?” she whispered.
“There’s no way of knowing, I—” and then we heard it: the SWAT cars pulling down the street. It was a buzzing sort of vibration in our seats, and we looked at each other at the same time, with the explanation in our eyes. She commanded the garage to open, and then thrust the car into reverse, moving at almost 175 miles per hour, faster than the SWAT cars were expecting. She fishtailed around and threw the car manually into first gear.
In any other car, we would have been run down in seconds, but not in Brandt’s car. She was an automotive technician, and the best in the industry as of now. She could turn a wheelbarrow into a Lamborghini in minutes. She had privately remodeled her Audi to go twice the normal speed of the average race car, and she could handle it like no other. She was amazing at it; I’d never seen anyone drive a car like Brandt. We were miles away in the first few seconds. I merely held the bottom of the seat firmly and looked ahead. I checked the rearview camera, and the SWAT cars were far behind and pursuing but they weren’t giving up. We were halfway to Canada by the time they began to catch up. Three quarters of the way and they were gaining fast.
“What’s wrong?”I asked, keeping my voice calm. She was scared already.
“It needs to charge. We’re getting pretty low to the ground.”
“Do you have your portable charger?”
“In the trunk.”
I nodded and moved my way to the back seat and pulled open the compartment that attached to the trunk. I reached in and pulled out the small charger I found there. I yanked open the door and, shifting my body to angle out, I jammed the charger in the outlet, my T-shirt flapping around my body, the speed making me numb all over. This made it barely possible, but I plugged it in and switched it on, all the while gripping tightly to the seat belt. I felt it under my hand begin to buzz, and I pulled myself back into the car, slamming the door shut behind me. As I did, she floored the accelerator again and we were off even faster, our speed increasing greater and greater as the engine charged.
“Will we get to the border in time?” I asked quietly.
“I hope to God we do.” She whispered softly, the despair a frail echo in her words. I reached over to her and held her hand. It was shaking.
“Brandt, whatever happens, get away as fast as you can, don’t let them find you. You’ll be safest in another country, somewhere in Europe or something. Just don’t ever let them near you.” I kept my voice calm and collected, but fear for the one girl I loved sliced at my heart with every word, because with every word I accepted defeat. We would never get away safely. I was doomed to an inescapable fate and I had just dragged Brandt into it. A glance in the rearview camera showed me exactly what I expected, the SWAT cars, now followed by helicopters, were close behind and we had one chance before we were mowed down by the tank I realized was moving a fast and as noiselessly as the cars. We were now closed in from every angle as two helicopters swung around to face us and a SWAT car was driving down our lane towards us. We were completely cut off, with no chance of survival except to give up. But neither of us had ever been quitters. We always fought our battles to the end, no matter how hard it became or what we lost.
We looked each other square in the eye. I lost myself for the few moments I had in the dazzling brown pools that had always fascinated me. Without a word of communication we knew our only option. The only way to free me of my fate.
“I love you, Brandt.”
“I know Will, I love you too. Do you trust me?”
“With my life.”
“If this is the end, it’s the only way I would have it. As long as I’m with you, nothing else matters. If I die, you have to live for the both of us. And don’t give in, Will, never give in.”
I nodded, tears streaming down my face.
“We’ll make it through together Brandt. I’ll never leave you. Just don’t let go of my hand.”
With that our hands intertwined and she spun the wheel to the left, driving us off the road and down the side of the gorge there. Down, down, the speed increasing, the windows shattering, the noise of wind making hearing impossible, the glass flying, the pain. Shredding flesh, snapping bones, all in a whirlwind where I couldn’t distinguish sound from feeling. The only solid in the whirlpool was Brandt’s hand, warm and strong in mine. And soon the shattering of our bones separated even that. The last I saw was her face, bloody but beautiful. Her eyes met mine and at last the noise stopped and the glass fell downward and the whirlpool held still. And my eyes locked with hers in an everlasting and instantaneous moment of pure love, and then she was gone. The eyes that saw to the depth of my heart closed for the last time and her body slumped over the wreckage. Her blood softly trickled down over her hands and the twisted piles of metal, forming pools where it found no other escape. I had no tears, just the heart ripped out of my chest at the sight. A strangled cry of defeat echoed through my lungs. Why? Why was I still here? I should be dead. Gone and unable to be used. Instead Brandt had taken my place, and I was alone in the heartache and the emptiness.
The position I found myself in was one in which I could have moved if so many bones hadn’t been broken, but need drove me on. I shifted and squirmed, suppressing cries of agony at every movement. Eventually I was able to get to her, and I cradled her broken body in my arms. My blood dripped on her face, and I tried to wipe it away, but my tears did that for me. I kissed her bloody lips, unresponsive, but still warm, as if life was reluctant to leave such a deserving person.
“Please come back to me. Please, I need you. I can’t survive without you Brandt, please.” I whispered over and over, in a desperate attempt to erase the incontrovertible. She was gone. I could feel her soul, around and through me, but her broken body remained lifeless. I held onto her until darkness overcame my struggle to remain, to keep her face before my eyes. Then all was emptiness and darkness and I was gone.
Consciousness slowly writhed its way into my mind, bringing with it the destructive nothingness that the block in my memory concerning what the last two days held. I knew immediately who I was, I was still able to do math and read and all that, I remembered my family, I remembered Brandt, and our date we had planned for Saturday. I knew I had missed it, but that was where the wall started and my memory ended. I needed answers. Why was I so uncomfortable? Where was I? What was that stupid beeping noise? Where was Brandt? I knew she wouldn’t be upset with me for missing our date. She loved me too much to get angry at me. She always more than understood me and all my flaws.
An ache in my heart appeared when I thought of her. It had no summoning, no reason for existence. Why did I hurt at the thought of her?
Finally, I found the courage to open my eyes and what I saw threw me all off.
A plastic case surrounded me. An incubator. I was in the hospital. Movement was impossible. I couldn’t see but I was probably strapped down. I didn’t feel any pain, but I was probably heavily dosed with morphine. A soft light was shining on my face. I saw an IV line leaving the incubator and attaching to a liquid filled sac. What had happened to me? Why was I in the hospital? How long had I been out?
I looked around, trying to see if anyone was on the other side of the incubator, but the room, unclear and hard to see through the sterile plastic bubble that protected me was empty, silver and blank. The beeping of the heart monitor next to where I lay, a computer screen embedded in the wall, was starting to get to me. It was incessant and obnoxious, mocking me. I wanted to move, but the morphine, straps, and weak consciousness all made it unfathomable.
Suddenly a terrible thought occurred to me that sent the heart monitor beeping like crazy. My lungs, shallow and weak, struggled for the air they weren’t able to get. What if Brandt didn’t know I was in the hospital? I had no idea why I was here, but what if she didn’t either? I could only begin to imagine how panicked she would be to find me gone. The only fear Brandt ever felt was for me. Was she okay? Questions built up, growing more terrified and agitated, in sync with the increasing heart monitor.
Finally, after I almost passed out, a nurse walked in. She looked surprised see I was awake. She was carrying a needle. That was not good.
“William Bradford, my name is Elizabeth. I’ve been assigned as your tech. Do you know who you are?” Her voice was slightly muffled, fuzzy as it came through the microphone in the incubator.
“Yes.” My voice was numb, dead from lack of use.
“Can you read this?” She held up a piece of paper with some words on it.
“What is the square root of 8464?”
“Do you remember your age?”
“Where did you go to school?”
“West Bridge High.”
“Do you remember everything, nothing seems blank?”
“Yes, except why I’m here. And what happened to me. That’s where I draw a blank. I remember up to Saturday morning. I had a nightmare.”
“I see. And after the nightmare?”
“Nothing. I hit a wall.”
She nodded, jotting something down on the clipboard computer she had. She sighed, tapped on the wall-computer where my dumb heart monitor was beeping. The sound continued, but now the screen, from what I could see, showed the last few hours of my statistics. She showed little emotion when, scrolling down, she saw where I had panicked. When I saw that my heart beats had been few and far between, all consistently even, something clicked.
“I’ve been in a coma.” I said, but she detected the slight question in my statement.
“Yes.” She did not look away from the screen.
“Two weeks.” She finally turned to me, and read the shock in my eyes. Two weeks. Just like that. How could Brandt not know by now?
“Where exactly am I?”
“The hospital.” She said it like I was stupid, and I grew frustrated.
“I know I’m in the hospital, which one?”
“I am not at liberty to relay that information.”
What the hell? Not allowed to tell me what hospital I had been in a coma in for two weeks? What was this?
At that moment, someone else walked in. Another nurse. And that’s when I passed out again. She was Elizabeth again. She came and stood next to her, and my eyes swam. Clones. Nausea racked my body and I lost the consciousness I had so grimly held onto.
When I awoke, I saw a new face. A smug, face, old, wrinkled, and he had glasses. That struck a chord. I knew that glasses had practically been all but eradicated. They had to be antiques. Something behind the wall tugged at my memory, like it recognized what I saw. The vanity was clear behind his aged gray eyes. Something about him bugged me, but I couldn’t say why.
He wore a lab coat over a suit, so I figured he had to be my doctor. Maybe he would give me some answers.
“William, how do you feel?”
“Confused. Do I know you?”
“Yes. Don’t you remember, my name is Dr. Snyder.” He smirked at me, and I had a feeling it was because I didn’t know. He was starting to bug me.
“Will you tell me why I’m here?”
“Don’t you know?”
“That’s why I’m asking.”
He smirked again.
“Your tech tells me you have a perfect memory but for the day before your coma began. Strange.” He left me then, with a feeling of dissent broiling in my system.
Weeks passed. I learned I had suffered multiple broken bones, a severe concussion and trauma to the brain and lower back. When they finally released me from the incubator, I was in a wheel chair. I was recovered enough then to be given a room to stay in. It was really a small apartment in a way, but that was all I had. I was never allowed to leave the hospital I was in, though it seemed much more like some professional institute than a hospital. I wasn’t allowed visitors, so I didn’t see Brandt, but I missed her so badly it became painful. Eventually, I was walking, and healing at a very fast rate. I became friendly with the nurses and employees who were assigned to me. I was allowed to explore my environment between physical therapy and acupuncture sessions. I found what seemed to be an office building attached to the hospital ward. Next, there were labs, science departments, all the most high-tech and advanced. I was never told the reason for my being there, what accident had caused my injuries, what the place I was held was called. Answers were in short supply. After the first month, I felt like a prisoner, not a patient. And by the second month, I was going insane with the restriction. And then it happened. The two techs who escorted me to my quarters every night led me away one day to the labs, down a hall I’d never been, and to a room so different from everything else I’d seen I didn’t even try to make any sense of it. When I entered, everything became fuzzy, and I passed out. I went into another coma. One week later I awoke. What I found horrified me.
Every inch of my body was graphed with neat, orderly, even rows of squares. They were scars that were already healing. Everything but my face, which had circles and lines in a complex array. I was Frankenstein without the bolts. The lines were mostly thin, spidery things, but some, like on my stomach were thick and large, redder than the others and slower to heal. When I was recovered enough from the massive amounts of drugs that had been pumped into my body during the coma, I asked what had happened, and was again never given an answer. I knew the key to my questions was behind the wall in my head. That last day. What happened after my nightmare. All my answers were there, but it was inaccessible. Frustration was a tangible bitterness haunting my gut. Why? Why, why, why? Repeated like the heart monitor’s beeping. A question became a scream of rage when no answers were given. But I found solace in my exploring, and in that I eventually found my answer.
I learned that my ‘protection’, or what I called imprisonment, was an FBI operated project. The FBI. That explained the suits everybody was wearing. So then I went looking for the arsenal they were sure to have somewhere. And I found it. Buried away in the farthest corner of the basement, protected by a code-locked door I easily found the code to. I had found my preceptor senses had been highly sharpened, and attaining information was simple, like tying your shoes. It just came naturally after you learned to do it.
The arsenal held all manner of weapons, some that hadn’t been even released to the military yet. Sweet. I explored there, and stored it in my memory for future use. I continued on in my searching, never really coming to an end, until I had found what I was never meant to live to see.
It was in the third month, and most of my scars were thin, white lines. I had finally found a door I had never seen before. The code was really difficult to find, more difficult than any I had encountered yet. My curiosity, well-used to being smothered for lack of answers, was aroused out of my mind where I had eventually learned to bury it. What did this door hold?
When I did find the code, I waited until no one was around to stop me, and I tapped in the code. The door opened on pitch black, and I stopped.
One by one the rows of lights turned on. The room turned into a hall, then into a gymnasium, and then, when the lights finally stopped and the entire room was illuminated, it was the size of a football stadium. And what I saw held my lost memory, the key to the wall.
In a wave of confusion, anger and pain, I saw the entire day I had lost flash before my eyes. The phone call, the FBI at my door, the announcement that I was their perfect host for the first mass clone production, my blatant refusal, Brandt and me together, driving, speed so fast it took my breath away, and then the whirlpool of pain, Brandt’s eyes closing, the blood…A scream built up in me, anguish and rage in a bloodcurdling battle cry of defeat. Don’t give in Will, don’t ever give in. she had said to me. Brandt was dead. Gone, and there I found the base of the emptiness that had engulfed me, but over all the emotions I had festering and growing inside me at the memories swamping me with such perfect clarity in that instant, horror took its precedent. For as my eyes adjusted to the strange light, the greatest denial was overturned in that instant.
Before me stood rows upon rows of chairs, hundreds of yards long, neat and orderly. But the occupants of those chairs were what sent my head reeling with the realization that I had failed Brandt. In each chair sat a man. He was young, plain, normal. He was me. Thousands of me sat there, staring blankly at their host. Their eyes reflected their empty heads. My face stared at me from a thousand different angles, my body sat on a thousand chairs. Snyder. He had done it. That was the reason for the scars. The graph that was my body. They had dissected me. And cloned me. And here I was surrounded by thousands, maybe millions of me. Don’t give in Will, don’t ever give in. And I had. Brandt, I’m so sorry. I’ve failed you. I gave in when I swore I never would.
I couldn’t take another second in that room. I turned, slamming the door shut even as I ran, fighting the overwhelming revulsion that consumed me. Brandt’s dieing face, her perfect eyes, strong hands, swimming before my eyes, tinged red by the hot rage sweeping through my system. But soon I didn’t run mindlessly, just seeking escape from the truth, I found a path and followed it with purpose.
I’m not giving up, Brandt. I’m coming, but I have one last thing to do. I ran until I came to the door of the arsenal. Once inside, I grabbed a hovercart and began loading the biggest, most deadly-looking bombs and grenades. On top of those I loaded all the gun powder. I ripped a piece of tarp from the covering of the weapons, and covered my load. Quietly I stepped out, and, keeping to side halls and shadows I made my way past the agents beginning to mill about. No one saw me because no one cared. My mission was clear. I may have failed Brandt’s demand once, but I would make my wrong right. I ran with the cart loaded so heavily it sank close to the ground. I didn’t stop until I reached the door again, the door. Without a moment’s hesitation I opened it and found the lights still on. Immediately I closed the door behind me, and went to work. I set up the bombs throughout the hall, between the rows of me. I did my best to ignore the prying, curious, empty eyes. I set all the bombs for the same time. When I finished with that, I scattered the gun powder, and lastly I took the grenades, as many as I could, pulling the pins five at a time until they were gone, throwing them at my clones. And it began.
One by one the bombs went off. The gun powder caught fire and the grenades exploded. The flames were a brilliant blood red, liquid rubies dancing before my eyes. Rows of me, of the creatures which had no right to existence, were destroyed in the blink of an eye. And before the fire consumed me, my eyes were filled with Brandt, and she was there in front of me, holding out her perfect, strong hands for me, just waiting. And I wrapped myself in her endless eyes, took her hands, and walked toward eternity with my love at my side, forever the final breath away.