Last Week’s FFF –Apples
It hurts every time I die. I didn’t think it’d be this way. But what did I expect? I was playing god and cheating death. I should have know there’d be side effects.
I walked down the stairs, tray in hand, to the small room below the house. At the base of the stairs, I met a heavy steel door. I balanced the tray in one hand. The eggs jiggled and orange juice threatened to spill as it wobbled. With the other hand, I pressed my thumb to the scanner. A green light emitted and trailed up and down as it confirmed I was who I claimed to be.
The thought made me laugh.
The door beeped as it opened inward. I walked in and the door shut behind me. The lights flipped on. The glow bounced off the steel lining of the walls, yet, somehow, the metal absorbed the light, making the room appear darker than it should have.
He was lying in the bed. He. Some days I felt like I was losing my mind. Things were getting muddy, and confused.
I set the tray down on the side table, and helped him sit up on his cot. He responded by completing the motions I encouraged, but no other way. Sometimes I wondered what went on inside his head. When I wasn’t in there, anyway.
I sat next to him on the bed and placed the plate of eggs on my lap. Using a dull fork, I scooped up a bite. As it neared his mouth, he opened it and accepted the food. His eyes stared through me as he chewed.
Some days I felt like looking at him was like staring in a mirror. We did look exactly alike. Same dark brown hair, same hazel eyes, same scar on our cheek, same everything.
Today, I felt like he was a stranger. Someone, some-thing, that I pitied.
He dropped a bit of egg on his chin. I wiped it off with my fingers. It was always strange to touch him. Any moment of contact connected us. His eyes darted to mine, and he looked deep into me. I pulled my hand away, and his eyes went back to whatever far off thing it was he had been focused on before.
But in that instant of skin on skin contact, we were one. I felt it from both sides. Only, things felt more real in his skin. They always felt more real in him. There’s nothing like the original, I guess.
Even so, even with his enhanced sense of taste, and especially touch, it wasn’t worth going back in there. I had a headache and a lingering sense of sadness from just the momentary touch. The last time I was in there, I almost didn’t get out.
I had managed to not go back inside of him for almost three months. I was getting better at this cloning thing. I was getting better at anticipating my own deaths and creating new life to cheat it. It was only when I was slow, when I didn’t have a chance to transfer my consciousness into a new clone, that I found myself back inside him.
At first, I thought that would be a good thing. Where else would I go? It made sense that if I ran out of clones, then I’d be snapped back into my original body. But, as it turned out, it wasn’t that simple.
The first clone I ever made barely lasted five hours. I was eager to try out this instant-cloning thing. I transferred my consciousness into a new body, and took it out for a test drive. While I was driving it around, my partner and I got a lead on a suspect that we had been hunting down. The tipster told us just where he’d be and when.
We found him in an alley, just as we’d been informed. What we weren’t counting on, is that he was waiting for us. He had his gun drawn and ready. He cut down my partner. He wasn’t wearing a clone.
Instinctively, I copied myself behind him. In an instant, there was a fully formed version of myself standing across from me. My consciousness lagged only a moment behind, and made it there before the bullets tore that first body apart.
The suspect was surprised to find me behind him. He turned, wide eyes and gun blazing. I managed to snap his neck before the bullets destroyed this me, too. My consciousness was back in my original body moments after that one hit the ground.
It had worked. I had escaped death. For a split second, I thought that it was all going as planned. Then it hit me. The echo of two deaths. I couldn’t breathe. My body ached all over, and felt like it was being shredded. Eventually, the pain passed, but something was left behind. Something dark stuck in my brain like a shadow.
The answer seemed simple. No more clones. For a few days, I was actually able to stick to that. But then, everything began to pile on. Reminders of my mortality were everywhere. And when a suspect was improperly frisked at the station, and came at me with a knife, slicing my cheek, I knew that I couldn’t live a normal, mortal life any longer.
I became agoraphobic.
To protect myself, I locked him, my original body, down in this basement. I’ve been cloning myself for some time, now. I’ve died almost three hundred times. He’s felt every single one of them.
I don’t want to go back into him. I can’t.
He finished eating, and I helped him use the restroom. I laid him back down in the bed, picked up the dirty dishes, and left the room. The light winked out behind me as the door closed. It let out a deep tone as the locks reengaged.
It was time for work. Another day. Another clone.