Writing Excerpt from IMPERSONALITY
Prologue – The Perfect Morning
[Illustration: young man wearing jacket, with long dark hair, watching the sunrise over a cityscape]
There are places of beauty, even in a city as this.
Where gleaming towers of steel and glass
loom overhead to blot out the sky,
while beneath their foundations lie
crumbling stones overgrown in decaying pigments,
there are still such sweet small things
as to strike a chord of joy in one’s heart.
There’s a certain spot on the east side of town where I always used to go. If you slip your feet into just the right nooks, it’s not too hard to hoist yourself up top. Positioned on the slatted roof of a covered walkway, it raises you just high enough not to be seen by the casual passerby, though pedestrians are scarce so early in the day. Once you’ve settled back against the wall and tucked your legs comfortably beneath you, you’re situated almost perfectly to see between the tallest buildings and view the sunrise. First the light seeps slowly into view, glimmers and dances along the edges, and then ribbons of vivid color wash over the city, dripping through the spaces like warm, melted butter, spreading in a fire of glorious light. Its radiance shines vibrantly into the hollows of my peat brown eyes, filling them with flames so bright I must shut them. Not so much to keep the blinding sun out, as to keep that blazing spirit held inside me. I’m determined to hold fast, to last through one more day, remaining wholly myself.
The breeze ruffles my dark hair, unusually long for a young man of my age and station, a subtle sign of my independence. That, and the chocolate-colored leather jacket I have wrapped around me. A bit shabby, fraying at the sleeves, but it sets me apart from the others, and gives me something to call my very own. Along with the name I’ve chosen for myself. Adrien. Though no one else knows it… they have their own names for me. I breathe deeply and soak in the morning glow.
Moments like these prove to me I’m human, despite what I’m supposed to be.
Chapter 1 – A Hint of Humanity
[Illustration: two young men, twins with pale hair, intently observing a computer screen in bedroom]
“ ‘A Clone is an exact genetic replica of its Originator, imbued with a completely functional body, yet designed to be mindless. In effect, it is nothing more than an empty shell conditioned to carry out simple commands.’ ”
Aya shook his head emphatically, with a furious flash of his sharp blue eyes and a flounce of his wavy golden locks. He turned, and looked me square in the eye. “Nate, you’ve got to hear this!” My brother gets like that sometimes. Quite often, in fact. Just because we’re identical twins, doesn’t make him any less exasperating. In the same cynical singsong voice, he continued to read from the projection hovering before him: “ ‘Are you worried about what will happen to you in a medical crisis? Why have an organ bank stored uselessly on reserve, when those same organs can be grown fresh and authentic through a younger copy of your exact physique! Now you can have the full package, immediately accessible and conveniently portable to match the hectic demands of your everyday life. Commission from us your own Personal Clone, and see return on that investment long before a medical crisis occurs.’ Humph.” Scowling, he went on.
“’Our superb cutting-edge science assures your Clone is engineered with enough mental capacity to perform basic tasks and menial household chores. Our technology has been perfected to provide a product that is safe and reliable. Simply an organic machine, a blank slate ready and able to meet your every request.’ ”
Rolling his eyes in annoyance, he turned to me (as he usually does) when he wants to get something pressing off his mind. “Nate, dear brother, this is just a bunch of sales speak. Where are the facts? How does this so-called science work? You realize that a clone wouldn’t normally be dumb, right? This isn’t like spawning spare ears – this is working from the embryonic stage. If you’re making a sheep you’re making a sheep, and if you’re making a person you’re making a person. An entire person. How the heck did this company pull off growing only such specialized parts of the brain, and not others?” With a loud groan, he flopped backwards onto his bed in frustration.
While I may have been born with the same features as my easily excitable twin, we’re hardly alike. I suspect he lets his hair shag just so he can dramatically fling it about, while I prefer to keep mine coiffed in a shorter more businesslike trim. But then I’ve always been the more sensible one. Looking over at him, I raised a skeptical brow. “I’m sorry, were you expecting them to put all that on their company’s official infosite portal?”
“Yes! Yes I do, actually! But there’s another thing bothering me. When I’ve read about just how simple-minded these Clones are meant to be… yeah sure it may say ‘every request,’ but you should see what the small print and warnings stipulate… you’re never supposed to let the things alone. They’re that clueless, they’ll just wander off or something, and get lost. Somehow, it doesn’t sound quite like our dear Percy. Where is Percy anyway?”
‘*’ ‘*’ ‘*’
[Illustration: earlier young man in jacket with long dark hair, leaping from a rooftop]
I was still absorbed in my morning reverie, when the silence was broken by shouts below. Reluctantly stirring from my nest, I looked between the beams of the roof down to the walkway beneath me. There were signs of a struggle, and a woman screamed.
“Help! Thief! I’m being robbed!”
A man was running away from her, with a purse tucked under his arm like a rutball in play. I jumped to my feet, but he didn’t see me sprinting along the path overhead, matching pace. Just as he cleared the overhang, and looked back over his shoulder, I leapt down from above. Hair streaming behind me, I was perched on his shoulders a moment, before the weight of my body brought him slamming to the ground. The impact stunned him, and he didn’t struggle much, just raising his head weakly before it fell back to the floor. I kept him pinned there just in case, until the elderly woman tottered over, and I returned the purse to her. She gazed at me gratefully, the wrinkles around her eyes crinkling in happiness. “Thank you, young man.”
“No trouble. Just doing the right thing, as anyone would.” I bashfully covered my face, also hoping to keep her from having a clear view of it. Seeing the police had begun to arrive, I made my departure. No sense in letting the officers get close enough to take note of my distinctive attire. Underneath the jacket I was wearing the standard uniform for Clones, an atrocious body suit in screamingly vivid shades of neon color. I suppose it was for practical reasons, the idea being to keep your valuable property from getting “lost.” It sure set us apart from a crowd – no one in their right mind would be seen dead in an outfit like that. Whomever the fashion consultant had been at The Factory that made me, I wanted to strangle that person one day.
Fortunately, under the circumstances, the lady whose purse I’d saved wasn’t in a frame of mind to notice such things. You never question the apparel of your rescuer. But I didn’t expect that to be the sort of detail the police would miss. I made sure the officer jogging towards us was in range to handle the situation, and then turned to leave.
The lady looked up at me. “Aren’t you going to stay to be acknowledged? There might be a reward, if they’ve been out for his capture.” I gently shook her hand from my arm.
“Thank you ma’am, but I must go.”
And with that, I dashed away.
When I entered the housing pad, I hung my coat and donned the bright fitted cap that made a matching set with my garish uniform. Made sure I had a tight grip on the bag of groceries, the real reason for my outdoor excursion. I took a deep breath, pursed my mouth, drooped my eyelids, and stood perfectly still for nearly a minute, straightening my thoughts. I was Percy, Per-C, Personal Clone. Young genetic replica of wealthy business tycoon Barton Hallisbury. The ready organ bank, the perfect servant.
Mindless, thoughtless, obsequious.
As soon as I turned the corner, I nearly jumped, encountering the twins at the leisure room table. They looked up, double sets of eyes fixed on me, like they’d been waiting for me. Like cats who’d just spotted a small bird. Of course, they were expecting breakfast service, but surely it was more than that. This special treatment was positively uncanny.
Ah, yes, there it was. I could tell from the look on his face that Aya had been reading about Clones again. It was a disconcerting hobby he’d taken up lately. Really, of all things! You’d think in the midst of spearheading a major science project about cosmofuels – which could earn him a university scholarship, not to mention change the face of energy consumption as we know it – all while completing his senior year in school; you’d think that he wouldn’t have time for petty distractions… like analyzing the occasionally erratic behavior of his father’s Personal Clone. But so entrenched in his work, and with the added pressure of his academic future, I think he felt the need to simultaneously take on something utterly unrelated. A stress reliever, as it were, and his absurdist idea of fun. What better diversion than the one standing right before his eyes? My best chance of making it through unscathed was if Nate could deflect and debunk his wild ideas enough that Aya himself wouldn’t take them too seriously.
In my typical deadpan fashion, I slopped food-matter onto the stovetop, then a few minutes later slopped it onto their plates. Aya tried to trip me as I passed the table, and I quickly sidestepped his outstretched foot. As he tried the ploy again, I wondered if I should let him get away with it, falling to the floor just so I could get up mechanically and prove to him there’d be no sort of human reaction. If he wanted to play it that way, he’d be no match for my skill at seeming bland. But I didn’t relish the thought of a bruised nose or knee the rest of the day, and I didn’t have the patience to deal with his games. Hopefully he’d just conclude that all Clones were graciously bestowed with excellent coordination. Hopefully he’d bore of this before long, and give up on me altogether.
The Father and Mother had a networking brunch to attend with various other business types, so would not be joining the boys today. They did, however, see Nate and Aya into the car that would deliver them safely to morning practice at school. I watched their departure from the window. As he walked the brief path from door to car, I saw Aya pause, having sighted the Clone watering plants in the neighbor’s garden. Oh, those wheels in his head were surely turning. He seemed to measure the distance, weigh the options, and decide that it wasn’t worth the risk of property damage to trip another family’s Clone. He reluctantly entered the waiting vehicle. Shortly after, the Parents followed suit, boarding another car headed for company headquarters. I secured the door behind them, cleared the breakfast dishes, and sat silently with my hands folded for exactly twenty-seven minutes.