It ain’t me going out the door. He has ninety years of my memories along with my genetic makeup. But he ain’t me. Not quite. I was there when they pulled him out of the clone tank. Looked like a water-filled coffin to me.
After the last brain scan, that Bill Jacobs and me were identical — except he’s roughly twenty years old. But we’re already different. He’s been in the testing lab all night and I’ve been out here drinking coffee. I couldn’t leave, even if I wanted to. They won’t let me meet my clone, but I can watch him leave the clinic. Never was a dad in my time. I ain’t sure if a clone can be called a son, but that’s the way I think of him. They say most fathers see themselves in their sons, even when it ain’t true. I know he’s like me. I suppose he’ll have the same ambitions, same stubborn behaviors, same manner of speech. I can only hope he doesn’t inherit some of my appetites. I’d like to see his face when he remembers them.
Now they’re coming for me. His leaving was the signal, I guess. Making a clone ain’t free. It costs a lot of dough, for sure, but that ain’t all. A life for a life. That’s the law. Don’t matter anyhow. My mind is full of dead ends and my insides are rotten with cancer. I’m lucky to be here to see my flesh and blood — my son, by God! — walk out into a new life.
A new life. A different life than mine. I hope.
“It’s time, Mr. Jacobs. Come along quietly now.”
“Oh, I got to go quietly, son. I’m too old to make trouble.”
It ain’t me they’re leading to the euthanasia room. He has all my memories, except for the last half day or so. But it ain’t me.
He thinks I left and that’s what he’s supposed to believe. Gives the procedure a kind of ending, where the two of us are concerned. I can’t really leave until he’s gone. Two has to be reduced to one. The doctor in the testing lab assured me that Bill Jacobs — the original — made that decision. It was my decision too. I remember making it.
I’m watching on a monitor outside the lab. The old man is cooperating. There will be no change of heart. His fate was sealed before he made the decision to let me grow to adulthood. I recall the doctors and tests.
He’s out of sight now, in the euthanasia room. They say it’s not a good idea to actually see his death. I smile at the thought. I recall lots of things the old man does not. Sometimes the rush of memory overwhelms me. There were many episodes buried in cells no longer in touch with the conscious part of his ossified brain. But I remember them. Some are very interesting. No, the old Bill Jacobs was not one to agonize over trivialities. And I’m him.
One thing I know is that he hasn’t been with a woman in forty years. I remember her name. I’ll bet he doesn’t. Rachel. A brunette. Good looking. Like the clerk at the discharge desk. She could be Rachel’s daughter — or granddaughter, more like.
I glance at the monitor. Two smocked figures are wheeling a gurney down the hall. It’s now grammatically correct to refer to Bill Jacobs in both the past and present tense.
I note the clerk’s name. “Hey, Kindra, Bill Jacobs. The new one. It’s time for me to leave.”
“Yes, Mr. Jacobs.” She scans her computer display. “Do you want to schedule your first check-up now? The doctors want you back in about thirty days.”
“Go ahead. But I’d rather schedule a dinner with you.” I smile down at her. Nice chest.
Kindra laughs and shakes her head. “I’m not that kinky. Besides that it’s against clinic policy.” She hands me a memory chip. “Keep this with you. Regardless of how well your predecessor — you — prepared, it will often be necessary to prove your identity to banks and government agencies. That will help.”
Bill, the senior, has already notified his — our — bank and various agencies of the impending change. But, as clinic staff were so careful to point out, clones are not so numerous that the legalities have become routine. There will be problems. I slot the chip into my comm unit and put it away. “Thanks. Too bad about the dinner date.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Jacobs.”
Outside, I pause, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. It’s been a long time since I felt the rhythms of life this clearly. A young woman wearing not nearly enough clothes walks by. Yum. I remember what I liked the first time I was young.
That will have to wait. I’m starving and I don’t even have a place to live. My predecessor left me with some cash in the bank and not much else. I don’t mind. He spent most of his money giving me life.
So — first I’ll have a good meal, then look for an apartment. Later, I’ll have to find a hardware store. I begin a mental list. Rubber gloves, large trash bags, duct tape, and — what else? Oh. A good selection of butcher knives.
Butcher knives? Scarlet gloom envelopes me. I stand beside a high table, up to my elbows in the torn body of a woman. Empty eye sockets gape from a landscape of bone and gristle. Hyena laughter fills the void in my mind.
Slowly, my vision clears. I slump down on a low concrete wall. The feel of a beating heart fades from my cupped hands.
Life flows around me, bright with promise. In the shadows of my soul, a gory hand beckons.
JR Hume is an old Montana farm boy who writes science fiction, a little fantasy, some weird detective tales, an occasional poem, and oddball stories of no particular genre.