Two of a Kind
AwakeThe bright garish light blinded him. He felt heavy. He felt numb. He felt stupid. One swing of his arm would break something nearby. The light continued to burn. All that he could think of was how pretty the dust motes looked in the light. They were fairies with silver wings dancing to some slow waltz. They entranced him.
There was a sigh. A voice, distant and slightly tinny, spoke, “Hey! Speak to me.”
The small gust of air from the sigh had interrupted the dance. Still the fairies continued to prance around in mid-air, fluttering their wings as they sparkled in the light.
There was no reply. There was a pause and he felt a slap across his cheek. It hurt. The same voice repeated, this time slower, “Speak. To. Me.”
He turned. He saw a boy with dark hair and eyes that were distinctively Asian yet strangely placed upon a Western face. The boy grinned smugly.
Still he said nothing.
The boy decided that it was no use. He cleared his throat. “My name is Saint James Hale. You are my clone. From now own, you will follow my orders. They’ve done a great job on you, I admit. But you look kind of pathetic in my opinion, even though it’s my face.”
He had spoken very quickly with a matter-of-fact tone. The clone stared at James. He thought his name was James. But somehow he knew that James was, strictly speaking, his master.
“You can call me Jay,” James added helpfully.
“Jay,” the clone croaked. The word brought a dizzying rush of memories. Yet they were unclear and the name left a bad taste in his mouth. Like speaking in a foreign language, almost alien. His tongue immediately felt dry and sandy.
Jay laughed. It was a something like a delighted gurgle, the sound a five year old would make on Christmas. “Nearly there, nearly there. Just a bit rusty.”
The clone coughed. “Who am I, Jay?”
For a moment, Jay’s eyes became chipped pieces of onyx, hard and shiny. “I told you. You’re my clone, James. I’ll allow you to call yourself James. None of the people I like call me that anyway. They call me Jay. I like you. And I need you. I need someone to cover for me while I’m away.”
“Okay.” James nodded. Some feeling was coming back to his body. He shivered. “I’m cold.”
Jay slapped his forehead. “Dammit, I forgot to dress you up when you were delivered. Well, I didn’t want to touch you. That’s my body after all. Wait a sec.”
He stood up from his stool. It fell behind and Jay kicked it out of his way. James couldn’t turn his head just yet. After Jay left his peripheral vision, he took in his surroundings.
The ceiling was littered with tiny light bulbs in the shape of stars. Unlike most bulbs, they were on the same surface on the ceiling. In the dark, it would give the illusion of a night sky. James could tell that the bed he was in was round, like an egg. The blanket on him was the egg yolk. It was yellow and thick and soft. Still James shivered. There wasn’t a stitch of clothing on him as a cool breeze brushed his shoulders and neck.
Jay came back with an armful of blue fabric. He dropped it right on James. “Here, dress yourself. They said that you’d still know the basics and stuff. They already put some sort of computer chip inside your brain and all that scientific whatnot.”
James began to slip a dark blue t-shirt over his head. He breathed in the fabric, felt it, and sensed it, memorizing the details.
“Anyway, while I’m gone, you have to speak like me, eat like me, and act like me, whatever. Just be me. You are Saint James Hale. But remember, I am the real one.” Jay pointed to himself self-importantly. “You are a copy. You were ordered from the Uni-net and you are expensive. It’s important to know what you are.”
Jay’s mouth, which had been a thin line of a grimace, curled up at the corners. “You don’t need to worry. You’re part cyborg so I there’s probably this machine thing that tells you what to do. You’re not a perfect clone. They had to put a few gigs inside you so you function like a real human.”
“Where are you going?” James liked the feeling of how his tongue and mouth moved to make different sounds. He repeated, “Where are you going?”
Then his face turned to the left as he felt a force on his left cheek. Jay had punched him in the face. James looked at him.
“No questions,” Jay said coldly. “That was my first warning.”
James’ hand moved to his cheek. It felt hot. And it stung. He realized that this was called pain. James marveled at this new sensation.
“I want you to know,” Jay began slowly, “that you are a robot with human parts. You have no emotions. If you were a real person, then you’d be angry. If you ever feel, well, weird or unclear, let me know.”
Jay turned away, his back to me. “Because emotions make you weak. And that’s the last thing you want happening to you.”
“I understand,” James lied.
The real Saint James Hale clapped once dramatically. He rubbed his hands together. “Now wear your pants. And I’ll you everything you need to know.”