Tuesday, January 15, 2013
My New Years Resolution is to write stories and then not be afraid to share them.
So here is a story. I could edit it a hundred times and still find things to change, but for a first stab I like it and I hope you like it too.
After an excruciatingly long morning of preparation, the originals finally reached an acceptable level of primping and preening. The three of them exited the mansion’s large front door in a cloud of intermingling and choking perfumes, their brightly colored formal clothes swished as they walked. I moved quietly behind them, no overpowering perfume trailed behind me nor did the swish of elegant fabrics announce my presence.
“My horse is most definitely going to win father!” My Original, Miss. McKenna cried thoroughly assured, her nose characteristically high in the air.
“Whatever you say darling.” The Mr. replied. He rubbed his forehead absent mindedly and looked for the car. I went to close the door behind them, but before I could the Mrs. spotted me.
“Double S,” She said, looking through my mask, into my eyes. Her deep stare, unbroken by falling lids, always made me squirm with discomfort. It had taken years to master my reaction to her, to create my own mask beyond the simple one they gave all Double S’s. She continued, “I expect the house to be put back together prior to our return. As you know we will have company over tonight and everything must be perfect.” The Mrs. pronounced perfect long and slow and used her hands as an accent, as if I wouldn’t comprehend her otherwise.
“Yes Mrs. Dumphrey, the house will be pristine upon your return.” I assured her with both my government manufactured and self-mastered masks in place. I inched the door closer and closer to its frame and shouted “Good luck!” with fake enthusiasm to accompany a fake smile.
The car pulled into the drive and the family of three slowly climbed in, taking care not to wrinkle, rip, or make askew any critical piece of formal wear. I closed the large oak door with a satisfying thud, turned around, and slumped onto it. My manufactured mask was permanently in place. It covered the entirety of the face I wore, except the eyes and mouth. A sturdy elastic band, wrapped around my head, held it in place. My self-mastered mask, however, was not as permanent a fixture. It came and went with my strength. I rested my back against the cold hard wood, and let out a sigh of desperation that resonated in the now empty mansion.
This is my life, I thought to myself. I slid lower and lower down the door at the thought, until I collapsed in a heap at its foot. A tear threatened to escape my ice blue eyes, curiously brighter than Miss. McKenna’s, but I squeezed them tightly together. I scrunched up my face, and breathed deeply in, held it for a moment, and then slowly back out.
The efforts to control my body did not extend to my mind. This is all I will ever be- a slave. An uneducated, unimportant, unoriginal, organ donor. My scrunching technique failed as an uninvited sob racked my body. I brought my knees to my chest and rode out the most recent in a series of emotional breakdowns.
I hadn’t always looked at my position as a negative thing. In fact when the Dumphreys first retrieved me from the surrogate center, I was excited! The surrogate center, or SC, is where destitute women make money the only way they legally can – carrying and giving birth to clones. They spend nine months carrying and one month recovering, then they leave with a small pay check, big enough to sustain them until they qualify for their next surrogacy. The birthing mothers leave after delivery, but the newborn clones remain.
I had been raised in the SC, just as all clones are. The Federal Cloning and Surrogacy Association, FCSA, keeps clones in the center until we are 10 years old. This is done to maintain our health and safety. Additionally the time is used to prepare us to serve our originals- those who’s DNA we are cloned from. Some children are pulled out early, however, if their originals require some form of donation.
In the SC I attended foundational school where they FCSA brainwashed us five hours a day, six days a week. When the Dumphrey’s came to retrieve me, I walked out the center’s door feeling like I was finally fulfilling my purpose, serving my original- my maker.
Slowly over the last seven years of waiting on the Dumphreys and two painful surgeries to benefit Miss. McKenna, I’ve become disillusioned. That feeling of fulfillment I had leaving the SC has since faded into oblivion. In its place is a giant hole of doubt that cannot be filled.
Questions such as ‘is serving Miss. McKenna, a spoiled rotten girl, really the only purpose of my existence?’ and ‘Is this truly all that destiny has in store for me?’ plague my mind.
The Surrogate Center taught me as much.
Double S’s or Safety Surrogates, are a byproduct of the perfection of cloning. In the year 2034, cloning hit the market of the masses. Suddenly there was a way to have a backup of you- a second life essentially. Never again would someone need to worry about finding a blood donor of the same type, or wait on a never shrinking list to receive an organ transplant. People could have their very own donation center- a perfectly healthy copy of themselves. Not to mention that when the surrogates weren’t needed for medical purposes they could be used as servants! Maids and butlers, cooks and doormen, whatever position an original needed filled.
In the SC they preached to us over and over again that our existence was only to serve in whatever means our originals required. We do not have an individual life. We are not free people, because we are not people. We are copies. Our existence is made possible only by an original and that original has the sole rights to this DNA, their original version and the copy. They own us, they created us, and our lives are permanently and inseparably bound to theirs. They constitute our purpose, our only purpose.
I leaned my head back against the door and took a deep, shuddering breath. Then another and another.
I got up off the floor and tried to leave the painful thoughts there at its foot. “Enough” I thought and then confirmed it to myself out loud, “Enough”. “I have work to do”.
I walked resolutely to Miss. McKenna’s bathroom. The large space was covered in glitter, powder, and miscellaneous tools for putting those in their place. From mirror, to counter top, to floor, the massive granite room was filthy.
The hard work distracted me.
After I finished McKenna’s room I moved on to the Mr. and Mrs.’s bathroom, also a disaster. When that was completed I cleaned their respective rooms, their furnishings draped in discarded dresses and suits, considered unworthy of the ever important horse races.
Finally, I came to the kitchen. Just as I was placing the last piece of silverware on the ornate table, the Dumphrey’s returned. The Double S’s of Mr. and Mrs. Dumphrey had gone along for the original’s convenience, but immediately reported to the kitchen and began cooking.
Miss. McKenna looked at me, “Let’s go Double S, I have to look perfect for our company tonight!”
“Of course.” I replied and led the way to help her dirty what I had just made clean.
She tried on several dresses, each had more beading and sparkle than the last, but none suited her desires. She seemed particularly concerned with her appearance this evening and I wondered why. “Miss. McKenna, what look are you going for?” I asked, carefully keeping the exasperation absent from my tone.
She looked in the mirror at the most recent reject and sighed dramatically. She looked at me briefly, but then decided she would rather look at her own reflection in the mirror as she spoke. Looking into her eye’s reflection she explained, “Since you asked I will tell you. The new neighbors have a son Daddy said was my age. I don’t know as of yet if he is attractive or not, so I don’t know if he is worthy of pursuit. If he is attractive I want to blow him away with my beauty,” She sighed dramatically, placed a gloved hand to her cheek and stared at her reflection with longing. “I want him to fall in love with me in the entry way!” She paused for a moment and considered. “And even if he’s ugly,” She shrugged. “I want him to feel the same way. I need to look… irresistible!”
Both masks in place I was able to hide my disgust at her selfishness. Despite my disgust I knew exactly which dress would satisfy her egotism.
It was simpler than the rest, less beading and less sparkling. But the lack of those distracting elements allowed Miss. McKenna’s figure to stand center stage. It was black with color blocks of white. It was short, it was tight, “It’s perfect!” She exclaimed happily, clapping her hands together like a small child. After I helped dress her, Miss. McKenna slipped on her precariously high and enormously expensive hot pink heels and raced to meet her parents in the entry way, where they awaited their guests.
I went quickly to my own small room, a closet compared to the rest of the house, to change into Mrs. Dumphrey’s specified serving wear for formal dinner parties. I removed my white day mask and placed it with the others in need of a wash. I reached for my black dinner party mask, but instead, accidently nudged it off its shelf onto the floor.
I bent down to pick it up and was almost back in a standing position, when I saw Miss. McKenna. “What are you doing in-“ I began, but stopped when I realized I was talking to my own reflection. Miss. McKenna was in the entry way waiting for a boy, handsome or ugly, to fall for her.
I took a moment and looked at my face- Miss. McKenna’s face years of brainwashing corrected me. I nodded. Color flooded to my- Miss. McKenna’s cheeks in shame. I have no right to look at what doesn’t belong to me. I quickly secured my fresh mask in its place and reported for duty, leaving Miss. McKenna’s reflection disgracefully behind.
The moment I took my place in the receiving line the large oak door swung open for our guests. They were dressed just as lavishly as the Dumphrey’s. A mother and daughter in long flowing gowns, hair in a style of braids I had never seen. They were joined by a father and son in striking black tuxedos.
Their entrance was grand.
Miss. McKenna had obviously found someone worthy of her pursuit. After the Donaldson’s introduced themselves, the miss quickly snatched up her prey and dragged him away to enjoy privately.
“You simply must see my portrait!” She purred as she laced her arm in his, half led, and half dragged him away.
Mr. and Mrs. and daughter Donaldson were showed to the living room by Mr. and Mrs. Dumphrey and their clones. I was poised to follow when I realized one guest remained. Only it was not a guest, but the clone of Miss. McKenna’s new infatuation. I suddenly felt a twinge of guilt for judging her. I had uncharacteristic desire to… to know him.
He was dressed in a simple black button down shirt and pants, with a simple mask to match. He was tall and thin, but strong. I could tell. His dark hair was neatly combed and his mask couldn’t hide the brightness of his amber eyes or the charm of his smile.
I was taken aback. But I quickly regained my wits.
“Please come in Double S.” I said politely with a smile. He walked through the door without saying anything. I closed the door and when I turned around I almost walked straight into him. Standing this close I realized he was even taller than I’d thought before, I raised my face to look at his.
A thin, gloved hand jabbed suddenly into the air. “I’m Kyle.” He said.
Again I was taken aback. “Kyle?” I asked skeptically.
“Yeah” He shrugged and smiled as if he was just barely hiding a laugh behind it. “My name is Kyle”. It seemed only my manufactured mask was in place because I failed to hide my confusion. Clones don’t have names; we are all called “Double S”.
“Did your- did your original name you?” I asked in amazement, I’d never heard of such a thing. His smile turned to confusion.
“No, I named myself! I heard the name Kyle and I liked it.” He shrugged again. “It suits me a whole lot better than Double S.”
I looked at him, “It does”. Then I blushed in horror realizing I’d said aloud what was intended for my thoughts only. The wide smile returned to his face and I was certain a laugh waited just behind it.
“Well”, he said, “What’s yours?” and he jabbed his hand once again into the air between us. This time I took it. His hand swallowed mine and I shook it awkwardly, blushing all over again.
“I don’t have one,” I explained, “never thought to give myself one since- well since I’m not a person. Only people have names.” I looked up at him and gave him a shoulder shrug of my own. Kyle’s smile faded and the brightness of the banter left his warm eyes. He looked sad. Kyle glanced around the room and seeing no one put his enormous hand on my delicate shoulder. He leaned down until his mask was nearly touching mine. I froze with shock at the contact.
“They tell you a lot of things in the SC,” he whispered, “It doesn’t mean you have to believe ‘em.” Kyle saw that the words struck a chord in me. He leaned even closer and whispered in my ear. “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are. Rousseau said that, not me.”
“Who’s Rousseau?” I asked. Kyle shrugged his shoulders. He reached into the pocket of his black pants and removed a small brown book.
“When we moved into the house,” He motioned toward the neighboring house, “the Donaldson’s had me clean out the attic. I found this book and decided to read it. After I read that quote I picked Kyle as my name.” He looked at me meaningfully and I looked at him with my eyes wide. My heart raced and my hand reached for that book as if salvation itself lay between the covers. My mind thought a thousand thoughts. Someone doubts just as I do… If I am born free that means Miss McKenna has no right to own me…. I can have a different purpose, my own purpose… my own!
“Double S!” I heard Mrs. Dumphrey shout, “Help dish the food.” I looked in the direction of the dining room, but before I ran off to do their bidding I jabbed my hand into the space between Kyle and I.
“My name is Corbin.” I introduced, with the first sincere smile in recent memory. He took my hand in both of his and smiled his widest smile yet.
“I think we’ll make great neighbors.” He replied.
“Agreed”, I grinned. And with that I slipped the book into my pocket already dreaming of what I would discover within its binding.