Multiples This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

We saunter down the way, peering through the food shops and hot dog stands, arguing over what to eat. I want Mexican – I’m dying for a carnitas tostada – but my assemblage hates to eat meat. They want tofu burgers or peanut stir-fry or some other disgusting display of vegetarianism. Just once, I wish I could have a grease-brimming steak smothered in ground sausage and a cup of gravy as beverage. That would be the day, though.

Another assemblage knocks into our shoulder without apology, leering at us for a moment. Then they continue urgently walking to the nearest ­office building.

“People are so rude these days,” Susan says within our head. “So bitter.”

Of course, we are just as bitter as most, especially to each other. I am bitter toward Tucker most of all. He is the part of us that ­always tries to take over the body, do all the talking, do all the deciding, everything. And then he complains when he doesn’t get his way. If he keeps it up, I’m going to demand we go to the courts to get him ­removed. Then he can go plague some other ­assemblage.

“We’re getting bean stew,” Tucker argues.

“Sorry, Tucker,” Mary says. “It’s my turn to choose.”

“No, it’s not,” his voice bully-whines. “You had us eat that vomit-soup the other day.”

“That was last week, and it was good.”

“Yeah, right.”

Arne barges in with his hunter’s voice. “She’s right, Tucker. It’s not your turn until tomorrow.”

Arne is the oldest of us, probably 40 by now. Some of the older people were put in young ­assemblages to add wisdom to the groups. Of course, each of us has a strong characteristic. I add artistic sense.

Before we were merged, I was a painter. Even as a high school student, I won dozens of awards. The teachers had me paint a mural over the graffiti-covered walls before I graduated. It was a giant crab with humans for feet. They called my style “a chaotic display of surrealism,” and everybody thought I would be a famous artist one day. But that didn’t last. After the merging, I could not paint anything. Not only were the hands I had to work with unsteady and backwards, but my assemblage couldn’t stop whining. Not one of them appreciates the creative arts.

“We’re going to the salad bar,” Mary tells us.

She was added to our assemblage because she is very left-brained. Math comes as easy to her as painting does to me. Of course, Susan is good at math too, but she’s not a mathematical genius like Mary.

Susan adds purity and religious strength. She is the one who prays for us and gives us spiritual guidance. However, religion is not supposed to be a big thing these days. We say we are Catholic, but it is only for ­Susan’s sake. She was the only one who was religious prior to merging.

We are in Susan’s body, by the way. The courts selected hers because it was the healthiest. Both Tucker and I were smokers, Mary was too hefty, and Arne was too old. Of all five of us, I’m glad we are in Susan’s body. She is like a piece of art; curvy slender features, absorbing brown eyes, platinum blond hair streaming down our back.

We go into a salad bar and let Mary take control of the arms, scooping whatever vegetables she wants onto our plate.

“Don’t get blue cheese again,” Tucker says.

“I’m getting whatever I want.”

“You like ranch. Get ranch.”

Mary says nothing, scooping shredded carrots and radishes, macaroni ­salad and pasta. When she gets to the end of the counter, she goes straight for the blue cheese. Tucker moans and resists, pulling our arm away from the bowl of creamy dressing, dribbling goo all over our front.

“You jerk,” Mary yells at him. She seizes control of the arm and dumps the spoon of chunky dressing on her salad, creating an oozing lake of white.

“Not too much,” Susan says to Mary, weight-warning as usual, wiping the cheesy slime from the shirt.

Mary takes us to a table in a dark corner, as she always does when we eat. I wonder if she was ashamed of her weight before she merged with us, always hiding in the back of restaurants so nobody would see her make a pig of herself. Now she eats salads ­instead of pizza and cake, trying to keep healthy so that we don’t get as fat as she was.

Tucker cringes as we bite into the blue cheesy ­lettuce. “How can you like this stuff?”

The eatery is mostly empty. Three bodies are in there, crunching vegetables in the stiff atmosphere. Assemblages usually don’t associate with other assemblages, talking amongst themselves instead, leaving this world a dismal, hushed place.

I wish there had been another way for humans to survive. After the drought of the twenties, our food supply could not support a population of our measure. It was either exterminate the majority of citizens or merge ­multiple people into a single body. ­Because the courts chose the latter, most people became miserable. Some think we would have been better off sacrificing our greater half. Tucker childishly jerks our hand while Mary is trying to eat.

“Don’t be so immature,” Mary says. He chuckles and does it again, causing Mary to yell outside of our head, “Stop!” The other assemblages glare at us.

“Sorry,” Arne says to them in his calm voice.

When we speak through Susan’s ­vocal chords, you can tell who is ­doing the speaking. We all speak at a different tone or variation. Arne’s is a deep version of Susan’s voice, mine is more mellow, Tucker’s is a loud and obnoxious version, and so on. I can’t imagine how she feels when she hears other people speaking through her voice – her mouth is moving, her voice is sounding, but somebody else is doing the talking. I would have gone harebrained if they chose my body. Twisted.

As Mary brings the fork to our mouth, Tucker tips it and giggles, scattering food onto our lap. She screams with our voice again, “Cut it out, jerk!”

But he just does it again on the next bite, cackling.

“Now you two stop your arguing, or we’ll take you to the courts to get you removed,” Arne says in his cool, mellow voice.

“Go ahead and take me to the courts,” she says. “I want out of this body.”

“Yeah,” Tucker says. “I want her out of here too.”

Arne says gently, “Look. We need to see a counselor for you two. You know that the courts won’t alter ­assemblages anymore unless the problem is severe. And in that case, they usually terminate the conflicting ­personality.” He falters, trying to get his thoughts in order. “We’re going to have to get used to living like this.”

We pause. Nobody knew it was ­going to be so terrible after we merged. Nobody knew there would be so much conflict. When I was a kid, I got sick of my brother because we shared a room. Well, sharing a body is a little more extreme.

“Why don’t we just be terminated?” Susan said. We all stare at our plate, frozen, surprised to hear those words come from Susan. She is too beautiful to destroy, too pure. She is our temple.

“What’s the point of living now? We’ve given up our individuality, our souls.” She shakes our head. “You ­people took over my body, took over my life. I just don’t care anymore. I can’t live like this.”

“Aren’t you afraid of going to hell?” Tucker asks.

She shrugs, shakes our head, but does not ­respond. Instead she says, “I can’t remember the last time I was happy.”

“We weren’t meant to be happy,” I say. They are startled to hear my voice in the back of our head. I usually don’t speak, remaining silent, listening to their discussions in our mind. I wonder if they forgot I was here and are just now remembering, shocked.

I continue, explaining a theory that has been in my thoughts for the past month. “We sacrificed happiness for the sake of our children’s future. The courts knew we would be miserable too, but they didn’t have a choice. The human race would have been wiped out otherwise.”

“That’s not what they said,” Mary interrupts.

“I know. They lied. They said that it would end loneliness and antisocial behavior, but they knew it wouldn’t. The only purpose left for us is to make a child, raise it, then wait to die.”

I pause, giving us a bite of salad, then say, “That was the plan they had to decrease our population without ­literally killing anyone. After we’re gone, things will be back to normal. Mankind will live on because we gave up our happiness.”

They agree with my ­theory by not speaking, glaring away from the table. The courts said that we would be more happy ­together, but it was just another illusion. I get us up, leave $10 for the food, and we go out to the street. It is flurry-cold out here, shivering in Susan’s frail skin. Our voice stutters a sigh. Everything is stale, empty as usual, so lifeless. The courts thought they had solved the overpopulation problem, but in doing so they’ve overpopulated our minds.

We decide to take a cab, the only car on the street. We don’t speak a word to the assemblage driving, ­stuttering to ourselves, dazed. And then we return to our quiet apartment, sitting numb in the dimness, alone with each other.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 225 comments. Post your own now!

tigeress3 said...
May 23, 2009 at 2:38 am
A very interesting idea! So good I will comment again!
SilverQueen said...
May 19, 2009 at 4:58 pm
Wow. I loved it!
Amber L. said...
May 5, 2009 at 2:19 am
I really like futuristic work because of the way it makes you think. You've portrayed one of society's issues wonderfully.
Chrissy L. said...
Apr. 25, 2009 at 4:29 pm
This is fantastic, and so original.
OjexXIII said...
Apr. 24, 2009 at 1:47 pm
wow... this is deep. it actually makes you wonder what overpopulation will do to the future. this is great work. you have tallent, man.
tinkerbell said...
Apr. 14, 2009 at 11:46 pm
WOW! i seriously love this story its amazing. So futuristic u really need to mke this into a full length novel! btw it totally reminded me of ray bradbury(total compliment i lve him!)
Silvia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 6, 2009 at 3:42 pm
Keep up the amazing writing. You effectively created a whole other world that everyone who reads this wants to know more about!
tigeress3 said...
Mar. 30, 2009 at 10:19 pm
Truly an amazing story. The idea is so unique and the sentence structure impeccable. I've read this story twice and I simply adore it! I personally wish I had written this, as it's so good.
Keep up the good work! I can see you going places.
Stephy Love said...
Mar. 26, 2009 at 3:17 am
This was really...
it left me...
god i mean...
i dont even know what to say.
Its so unique. So raw. Binding ideas and creativity. It shows how strong ur emotions are and the uniquness of yourself. I'm in love with it. If its alright with you, i'd like to marry it.
Seriously, ur on ur way to a full on novel
iTrumpet42 said...
Mar. 25, 2009 at 1:59 am
Tyler this is so good.
I commented on it last night. It's just amazing that i'm here in New York and ur in Florida,and im reeding ur riting
Hows the weather in Florida?
Sean W. said...
Mar. 24, 2009 at 1:25 am
This is absolutely... Breathtaking Amazing word choice, it flows so well If you publish the book, i will SO be at 1 of those late night parties like they have 4 harry potter
drumrocker43 said...
Mar. 24, 2009 at 12:56 am
This is SO good! I love the futuristic talk about merging bodies! I have so many questions 4 you! This should DEFINITLY be a full length novel!
Megatron said...
Mar. 23, 2009 at 9:32 pm
That was really good, I love the way it's written and how everyone's personalities are. Don't give up writing, keep up the great work!
elvinchangling55 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 22, 2009 at 11:16 pm
Soooo amazing!!! It is so original and creative!! i love the way you portrayed the over populated world and how genius masterplans to save the world dont always make life better!!!! keep it up great job!!!
firstsnowfalls This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 19, 2009 at 12:43 am
Wow. Not your typical story, but I love it. I love your style and the message behind it. It's true...we look at others' opinions way too much, when really, we have to look inside.
Meenie1997 replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm
Woah! That story was so awesome! This should definately become a book! 5 stars! The way the government runs things in this story reminds how the government runs things in the books 'The Giver' or 'THe Hunger  Games'. Your story rocked!
Karlie V. said...
Mar. 12, 2009 at 10:52 pm
That was great, absolutely amazing. Your writing style is awesome nad you just pulled everything together making it interesting and leaving you wanting to read more. You had a genius idea, I kind of see a resemblence to Stephenie Meyer's book The Host, well I really loved that book and when I read this story it makes me feel how i felt about the Host. Very intiguing and keep writing.
SilverLunarwing said...
Feb. 22, 2009 at 5:49 pm
This is very well-written and captivating; the detail and structure makes me wish there was more to read rather than just this part. I sincerely hope this continues into a novel. :)
Marlayna B. said...
Feb. 22, 2009 at 7:19 am
pretty good pretty good.
it needs to have more taste though, like adventure. Something more then just sitting in a restraunt eating but nice start.
Madison R said...
Feb. 12, 2009 at 1:25 am
This reminds me of Ayn Rand's "Anthem." Yours is definitely one of those cool, science-fiction-y, identity stories. Keep up the great work Tyler.
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