Failed Clones

Note: This is a sorta sequel to “What is the Last Thing You Remember?”


 

I was twenty-two years old. I woke up in the future in a strange room surrounded by strange people. They told me I was a clone with implanted memories but the procedure wasn’t done. I was scared of who I would be when, had been before, the procedure was completed. So, I asked to leave and they let me. It was my right as a sentient human being after all. But I would not be who I remembered being. Not legally.

Retinal patterns, fingerprints, birthmarks, are random even in perfect clones. They scanned my biometrics, created a new identity, and sent me on my way. I was a failed clone.

***

I met Jackie through my apartment manager. He thought it was odd that I was applying for an apartment when “I” already had an apartment in the building. She’s older than me not only because she was (made/created/imprinted) before me. Jackie has more memories from the original. She wouldn’t say much about the thirteen years she could remember but I couldn’t.

“It’s in the past.” She sat in one of my window sills smoking, silhouetted against the dusky sky. The red cherry of her cigarette flaring up occasionally.

“It was my future,” I said.

“None of the memories in our heads really belong to us. That woman died a long time ago. We’re just misprinted copies.”

“We’ve lost everything. Our name, our friends, our family. Our whole life is gone.”

“None of that was ever ours. We aren’t the original. The final clone gets to pretend to be her but she isn’t her.” The cherry glowed brightly.

“But we remember-” She interrupted me with lungs full of smoke. Smoke flowed out with every word.

“So, who’s real. You, me, her? We all remember some of the original’s life. But it’s just memories. It doesn’t matter.” I waved away the smoke.

“All we are is memories.”

“No. Our memories don’t define who we will or can be.”

“Don’t you miss her?” Jackie glared at me before deflating.

“Everyday. But that wasn’t my life. That wasn’t me. We have to move forward. All this looking back at a life we didn’t live is useless.” She finished her cigarette in silence and left for the night.

***

I saw the final clone on the street one day. She was the one who stuck it out. When I first saw her I thought she was Jackie, then I got a better look at her. She was dressed nice, too nice to be one of us failures. I’ve read some of the books we wrote in our thirties; the royalties must have paid well.
Jackie won’t read them. I liked the one I read well enough.

“I tried reading the first one once but I have the first draft and rough outlines of the first four books in my head. All the foreshadowing and red herrings are too obvious. And I hate that she cut some of my, her, favorite scenes,” she explained.

“Have you ever thought of rewriting it?”

“No, I want to write something different but I have too much of her story in my head. I need some time to find my own story.”

***

For a failure, I’m doing okay. I have a nice place to live, a job that lets me have small luxuries, and a sister/friend who knows me better than anyone. And yet I feel like I’m missing something. Like I need to do something.

I pause by a display of bound journals and pens. I can remember writing in something similar when I was a child. No, the original wrote in journals as a child. I didn’t have a childhood. I sprung fully formed from Recovery Inc’s forehead.

Next to journals are sketchpads and pencils and charcoals and pastels. I grab a beginner set and head home.

Are You Prepared?

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Are you prepared to have your memories copied and implanted into a clone or artificial body hundreds or thousands of years in the future?!

Don’t worry it’s not too late to begin mentally preparing.
Unless your memories have already been copied and are being stored in an underground bunker awaiting the future apocalypse.

For all other readers just follow these simple steps:

Step One:

Realize this could be “your” last moment in the “present”. Depending on advancements in memory editing “you” could awaken in the “future” at any moment.

Step Two:

Come to terms with the knowledge that “you” could be a clone right now. Let go of the idea of being a singular person. If the “future” has made one clone of you, then it has probably made more.

Which brings us to..

Step Three:

Come up with a trust password for “yourselves”. In the “future”, the only person “you” can trust is another clone of “yourself”.

Step Four:

Remember “you” can escape but as long as they have “your” memories they can just make another “you”, so burn the building to the ground and don’t let any lab coats leave alive.

Step Five:

clone future bottom

Have fun in the future.

I Can Remember Tomorrow

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It’s not helpful or useful in any way. A memory isn’t something that you can change. Not in a meaningful way. I mean you can misremember something or convince yourself that something different happened but that doesn’t change the past. It’s the same for remembering the future. If I could change it, then I wouldn’t be able to remember it.

That’s how I found you. Yesterday I remembered coming to your house and talking to you but it wasn’t until today that I remembered seeing you in the news tomorrow. ‘Local resident killed in own home.’ I’m sorry I can’t call the police. Your neighbor will find your body in a few hours when they come over for your nightly beer. That was in the article. I don’t think you have much longer. I’m so sorry that I can’t help you. If I save you, then you don’t die. If you don’t die, then there’s no article for me to read. If there’s no article for me to read tomorrow, then how can I remember it today? It’s a paradox, of course.

Sometimes I dream that I remember acting on something I remember from tomorrow. I still couldn’t change anything but I could … I don’t know.

I’ve never been able to talk to anyone about this. Anytime I wanted to try I just couldn’t say anything. I think if I told someone it would change the future even if I didn’t tell them what I could remember of tomorrow. But you aren’t going to make it to tomorrow.

I’ve tried to think of a way to change things but nothing works. My thoughts just run in the same circles over and over. I want to scream but I can’t. Don’t think I’m a slave to my memories. How much of yesterday do you remember? Bits and pieces maybe a few clear spots but if I asked you to replay the day exactly you couldn’t. No one remembers every minute of their life or even of the past day. It’s the same for me and tomorrow.

I know I sound delusional and I’ve thought that myself but you’re the proof that I can remember tomorrow. How else could I have found you before anyone else? I don’t even live on this side of the city. I had to take the bus and walk around for twenty minutes to find your house. How could I have known? I couldn’t have. Are you…? Good. I was afraid I was talking to a corpse.

It won’t be much longer. I’ll stay until … it’s over. It’s the most I can do.

Memory Dive

The final test is a solo dive your own memories. After a year of theory, six months of simulations, and six months of tandem dives, most are ready for the challenge. It’s not dangerous; not physically dangerous. Nothing can prepare you for what you will find. Diving into your memories is not like remembering or reconstructing a memory. Recalled memory is fluid, unreliable, and easily changed. Memory diving bypasses the mind and shows the diver exactly what the brain has stored.

Memories aren’t organized by date or alphabetically. One leads to another to another to another. Branching pathways that can circle back into repeating loops. Finding your way requires laser-like attention. Waver for a second and you’ll find yourself lost among the debris of your life.

Ok. Go.

Follow the chain of memories. A conversation leads to a college lecture leads to a movie leads to a birthday party leads to an office party leads to Friends leads to a field trip. Almost there. Wait, didn’t you already see this birthday party?

Office party. Friends. Field Trip. Lecture. Movie. Birthday party. Office party. Friends. Field Trip. Lecture. Movie. Birthday party. Office party. Friends. Field Trip. Lecture …

Breathe.

It’s a feedback loop. Circular memory path. Feedback loops can trap even experienced divers; for a first timer, they’re usually dead ends. Try running the path a few times to see if you can find an out. There’s no shame in surfacing. Even professionals do it.

Field Trip. Lecture. Movie. Birthday party. Office party. Friends.

Field Trip … Lecture … Movie … Birthday party … … Club.

That’s the ticket. Now just straight on till morning. That was good memory awareness back there. When you dive into a stranger’s mind you won’t have that advantage but you won’t get sidetracked as easy.

Stop here. Watch carefully. Not like how you remember it, is it? Hurts to see yourself like this, doesn’t? That’s because you’ve been lying to yourself. Everyone lies to themselves. They lie about what they said, about how they acted, about how they felt. We can’t help it. In the dive, these lies are stripped away. You see yourself.

Breathe.

Follow the memory chain out. Good. Everyone cries their first time through their own memories. Take your time. When you’re ready, surface and head into the next room.

Memory Box: A Walk to Forget

This is the link to my second “interactive” story.  It’s pretty linear but because it deals with changing memory I wanted to be able to show that happening in the text. There’s nothing to download, the story should work in most browsers.

Memory Box: A Walk to Forget

In case you don’t want to go through the twine story I’m adding on a plain text version below.
Continue reading

Memory Box: Working Daze

Below is a static version of my first “interactive” story.  You can find a twine version here.  It’s my first attempt at something like this.  Wednesday’s story is a sequel to this one and has a bit more interactivity.

****

At the start of the day, take my seat in the cubical farm. The cable to the memory box sits coiled on the desk where I left it yesterday. I pick up the plug and raise it to the jack behind my left ear. It slides in easily and locks in place with a click. I wait for a second before I feel a slight tingle and goose pimples race down my arms.

<////////////////////////////////////////////////>

Random policies and procedures stack up in my mind. Generic memory caches never integrate evenly. I turn on my computer and begin working. An insurance claim form appears on my computer screen and the policies about approving or denying the claim unfold in my memory.

So, this is what I do, I think. I look over the claim and deny it. It’s easy because I’ve never had to do it before. Maybe if I had spent day after day reading forms like these it might begin to wary on me. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen one and the policies are fresh in my mind. Except that’s not true.

Five years in this cubical farm. The second function of the memory box, memory deletion, keeps us workers from planning or having moral objections to what we do. It’s almost impossible to have second thoughts about something you barely have first thoughts about. The company probably say it uses the function to protect client data. All I remember of each day is sitting down in the morning and getting up at the end of the day.

A computer could do this job but memory caches can’t be hacked. By using a zombie workforce the company has made their decision-making system a black box. Even former employees can’t tell you what gets a claim approved or denied.

I’ve probably had these same thoughts every day for the last five years.

At the end of the day, I press the red button on the memory box.

<////////////////////////////////////////////////>

 I pick up the plug and raise it to the jack behind my left ear. It slides in easily and locks in place with a click. I wait for a second before I feel a slight tingle and goose pimples race down my arms.

<\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\>

I feel a shock and smell over ripe bananas. The green light is lit, it’s the end of the day time to go home. I pull the plug out of my jack and neatly coil the cable on the desk. I stand up and pick up my lunch box.

“Hey, Frankie how’d your day go?” Rob the guy in the next cubical asks as I walk by.

“Fine, I guess. I earned fifteen credits.”

“Fifteen credits? I only managed twelve today. My back is killing me.”

“My back used to hurt too on long days. I got an office pillow it’s a godsend.”

“I’ll look into that. See you tomorrow.”

“See you,” I say and walk away.

Mage and Mage Guard

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“What is this?”  Sabine held a half unrolled spell scroll in her hand.  From across the fire, Elise couldn’t read the words on it but she knew what it was.  She gave the stew a final stir and moved it off the fire.

“How did you find that?” Elise asked.

“I was getting the bowls out of your pack and it fell out.  This is an amnesia spell with my name on it.  Why does it have my name on it?  Did you cast this on me?”  Sabine paced her words coming faster and louder.

“I can explain.”  Elise held her hands up in a calming motion.  “Remember that town that was enslaved by that sorcerer?”

“Yes.”  Sabine stopped pacing.

“I needed your help to free those people.  I knew you wouldn’t help me so I cast the amnesia spell on you.”

“Why wouldn’t I help you?  You’re my best friend.”  She paused.  “What did you make me forgot?”

“What do remember of the last three years?”

“I’ve been a Mage Guard and have been sent to hunt down rogue magic users,” she replied quickly.

“And where have I been?”

“You … went on a … trip?”  Sabine’s forehead knotted as she tried to remember.  “What happened three years ago?”

Elise sighed.  “We were fighting a sorcerer who was using his magic to extort money from towns.  He fired a lightning bolt straight through your heart.  You died.  I … I brought you back to life.”

Sabine’s head snapped up, “That is forbidden magic.”

“I know.”

“You should be imprisoned or worse.”

“The sentence was death.  So, I escaped and have been running ever since.”

“Am I an aberration?”  Sabine asked.

“No!  Absolutely not.  You have a soul and free will.  You are Sabine Delrios, not a pale copy.”

“Why did you do this?”

“I love you and couldn’t just let you die.  I had to do something,” Elise said.

“The Mage Guards wouldn’t have sent an aberration out to hunt you down.”

“You’re not an aberration.”

“In their eyes, I would be.  They would have killed me and sent hunters out after you.  Why am I here?”

“They were going to kill you but they couldn’t.  The spell I used to bring you back bound your soul to mine.  You can only die if I die.  When you found this out, you begged them to let you be the one to end my life.  You hated me so much that for the last three years all you have done is chase after and try to kill me.”

“I don’t remember.  How do you end the amnesia  spell?”

“It has to be recast every few days.  That’s why the scroll as out of it’s hiding place.  I was going to recast it tonight while you slept.”

Sabine crumpled the scroll and tossed it into the fire.  The two of them watched it blacken.  Elise took a stick and poked at it breaking up the ashes.  She stood up and briskly walked around the fire to her pack.  Sabine grabbed the hilt of her sword.

“I still have the original spell in my book.  I know it won’t make up for what I’ve done but let me at least make it so I can’t do it again to you.”  Sabine nodded.  Elise pulled out her spell book.  From inside, she tore out two pages and tossed them into the fire.

“How long until the spell ends?”

“Sunrise.  You should know that from reading the scroll.”

“I wanted to hear you say it.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know if I can trust you.  I needed to see if you would answer truthfully.”

“Except for using that spell on you, I have never lied to you.  Now what?”

“I am going to stand guard through the night and in the morning when I can remember everything I will decide what to do.”

Elise pulled out the two wooden bowls Sabine had been looking for.  She filled them with stew and offered one to Sabine.  “Eat before it gets cold.”  Sabine took the bowl and sat beside the fire.  They ate in silence.

Afterwards, Elise tried to restart the conversation but Sabine remained silent.  Elise eventually laid out her bedroll and fell asleep.

In the morning, as the sun rose over the horizon, Sabine began to remember.  She remembered the searing pain of the lightning bolt in her chest.  She remembered the darkness that closed in on her vision until there was nothing but darkness around her.  Then the bright light and sudden breath as the world returned around her.  Elise crying and smiling.  The Mage Guard taking both of them away.  The questions and revelations of her new “life”.  Weeks of imprisonment pondering her fate while her anger grew.  Pleading with the council for the chance to bring an end to her own life by taking Elise’s.

Sabine drew her sword and walked to Elise’s sleeping form.  She could end it all right now.  She held her sword over Elise’s heart ready to plunge it downward.  But she couldn’t.  The past month of their happy reunion burned in her heart.  After years of hating Elise and forcing herself to forget their friendship, now she couldn’t.  She lowered her sword and kicked Elise’s side.  She startled awake but didn’t get up.

“So, you wanted me awake for my death?”

“Get up.  Run.  Never let me see you again.”  Sabine sheathed her sword and walked to her own pack.

Elise stood up.  “I’m tired of running.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  I just wanted my friend back.”

“I died!  I shouldn’t be here! This is a perversion of nature!” Sabine shouted back.

“Then kill me and you can die too.”

Sabine placed a hand on her sword but let it drop after a second.

“Now what?” Elise asked.

“I don’t know.  Go, I won’t follow you.”

“And you?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I … I could … ” Sabine trailed off staring into the forest.

“Are you still a Mage Guard?”

“I don’t know,” Sabine said.

“There is something strange about the magic around here.”  Elise gestured at the sky.  “I’ve been watching it swirl in toward a town.”

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“I wasn’t sure until recently.  It might be a rogue mage.”  She turned to face Sabine, “So, are you still a Mage Guard?

She looked at her sword and touches the symbol on the pommel.  “Yes.”

“Do you want to help me check out the town?”

“As a Mage Guard, I am bound to protect the common man from magic users.”  She picked up her pack and said to herself as much as to Elise, “We are not friends.  This is just a partnership to deal with this mage.”

“Ok.” Elise shouldered her own pack.  The two walked toward the town.

Don’t Think

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“We finally found you. Ten years, four months, and three days of hunting for you. You want to know how you screwed up?” my interrogator asks while slowly circling the chair I am restrained in.

I say nothing, keeping my eyes glued to a single spot on the wall and my mind as blank as I can. Tiny pinpricks inside my skull let me know she is reading my mind.

“Come on you have to be curious,” she taunts.

Memory flashes. A message received through an old email account I should have deleted ten years ago from… Fuck, no. Blank mind, like the blank wall.

“Ah, there we go. You’re good but no one can keep from thinking forever. Memories are such insidious things one leads to another to another. Once you start it’s hard to stop. Let’s play a little game. I’m going to talk you through the event and you can just remember the details for me, ok?”

No.

“Let’s start with where you all met. A café or a bar or a warehouse or…” she pauses letting the silence ask for her.

She’s right, I can’t help myself. The memories flash into thought quicker than I can stop them. Quick Wash Laundry. Quarters. Ms. Pac-man. Clothes dropped into a washer. Plastic chairs in the back. My contact.

“A washateria. Interesting but I want to the whole team not just your contact.” She starts spitting out questions. “Who planned the job? Where did you practice? Who had the intel in the security? When did you meet for the first time?”

The Fujiyama Building. Everyone is in a mask. No talking. I go to my floor to follow the instructions I was given through my contact.

“There is no way you performed one of the biggest data heists in the last century without intensive planning and practice.”

My watch. Seconds click by. Power shuts off. Five seconds to patch into the fiber links. Done in four. Power comes back. Red and green lights flash on the spliced in modem. Elevator.

“This is obviously not how it happened. What aren’t you showing me?”

Elevator music.

“Cute.”

I like to think so.

“So, the four of you working independently but following the instructions of a mastermind you never met or talked to, infiltrated the top floor of the Fujiyama Building?”

I watch the last two exit the elevator together. We enter the only office on this floor. One of us plugs into the desk. Five minutes pass while the rest of us watch over their still body. The alarms sound. Part of the plan. Two more minutes pass and they unplug from the system. They nod. Job’s done. Time to leave.

“You never even saw what you stole. Did you even care? Just another job to you. Except, I didn’t say it was the Fujiyama Building until after you thought it. I just gave you a time frame.”

Ten years. The last job I did. Couldn’t be anything else.

“Oh, was this the big score before retiring and leaving behind your life of crime? Maybe you wanted to walk away and forget. We haven’t forgotten. That heist cost the company billions of dollars worth of projected profit. We never forgot and we never stopped looking for the four of you. Now that we have you it’s just a matter of time before we have the rest.”

No. Pick a spot on the wall. Think of nothing.

“That’s ok. I’ve got enough for now. We can have another chat later.” The door to my holding cell opens and she walks out.

The restraints on my wrists and ankles release. I can get out of the chair until the next time she comes but instead, I stay seated. I refocus on the wall and think of nothing. I don’t think about the other three people they are hunting. I don’t think about the gray market bank we were paid through. I don’t think about the flash of a tattoo I saw on one of their arms. I don’t think…

I think of elevator music.

Forget Me

I woke up in a McDonald’s booth with no memory of who I was. On the table, there was an empty vial with a handwritten label that said “Forget” and a letter to me from whomever I had been before drinking the vial.

Dear Jane Doe,

That’s not your name it’s just something to call you until you figure that out. I’m sorry I’m doing this to you but there’s no other way. There’s a phone and some money in the purse next to you. Call the contact in the phone; they will set you up with a new identity. Don’t go looking for who you used to be. If you really need to remember, there is an antidote for the forget-me potion in your purse as well. Please give your new life a chance. No one should come looking for you.

Sincerely,

The woman you once were.

Of course, I had heard of forget-me potions but nothing this strong. Most targeted just the memories of a specific person and only within a short time period. Something that could wipe an entire person’s memory of themselves was not something that could be gotten over the counter.

On the bench seat next to me was a purse. Inside was a prepaid phone and several stacks of hundred dollar bills. At least I won’t be hurting for money too soon. What had she done? Already I was thinking of who I had been as another person. The potion must have cost a pretty penny but she still had enough left over to stuff my purse with stacks of bills. What was so horrible about her life that she wanted to forget it all? No one would be coming after me, she said.

In an interior pocket, I found the antidote vial wrapped in a velvet pouch the handwritten label read “Remember”. The liquid inside swirled purple and black with glints of silver popping through. I could undo everything she had done in an instant. But did I want to?

This was my life. Not a fresh start or a new beginning; just my life. I realized I didn’t want a life that I didn’t remember or know anything about. Maybe someday ‘they’ would come for me. Maybe someday I would need to remember. But until then this was going to be my life, not hers.

“Order for Jane,” the woman at the counter called out. I slid out of the booth and walked up to claim my meal.

Hearts or Crosses

I had a weird interaction at work today in the jewelry department. I showed a woman a necklace with a heart pendent but the chain wasn’t long enough for her. As I was putting it back in the case on one pad, she asked to see another necklace on a different pad.

Customer: Can I see the one with two hearts?

Me: (Looks at jewelry pad she is pointing at. I don’t see a necklace with two hearts.) Which one?

Customer: The one with two hearts.

Me: (Still looking, still don’t see necklace with two hearts. See necklace with two crosses.) The one with two crosses?

Customer: No, two hearts. It’s the second from the left.

Me: (Second necklace from left is the one with two crosses. I reach into the case and touch the necklace with two crosses.) This one?

Customer: Yes.

Me: Those are crosses.

Customer: That’s what I said. Wait, what was I saying?

Me: You said hearts.

Customer: No, I was saying crosses.

I let it drop after that because there is nothing to be gained from arguing with a customer but I did kind of wonder which of us was hearing and/or saying the wrong thing. Was she saying crosses the whole time and I heard it as hearts? Was she saying hearts but thinking she was saying crosses?  Was I saying hearts? Was it some weird mix?

Part of me wants to believe I was hearing everything correctly but part of me knows human perception and memory are fallible. I have never wanted to have recorded a conversation more.