Life Goes On
by Frank Wight
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
Yuri added another log to the open fireplace. The heat wasn’t the only function he liked about his old fire. He loved the way it made the house smell, reminding him of something just out of reach, a childhood memory? Perhaps. As he gazed into the flames he relaxed, the gently leaping flames put him into a trance-like state.
As he sat back and closed his eyes a memory came to him. New Year’s Eve! An evening of unashamed debauchery, revelry and fun! Old friends, drinks and good times.
He remembered the mischievous Feliks fondly. “Come on Yuri, down it!” Another drink to be finished — downed in one go, to be instantly replaced. In the corner of the pub a group of young men danced naked in a huddle. Music blared deafeningly and the girls looked inviting.
Feeling his stomach churn, and his mouth water Yuri paused and looked into Feliks’ smiling face, “If I drink this death juice, I’ll be sick, man.” He burped and covered his mouth with a fist.
Feliks chuckled and drank his shot, then without a second thought drained Yuri’s. “Come on, let’s get you some fresh air. We can have a smoke and walk to the next bar.” The cool sea air felt good on their faces, in contrast to the sweatbox bar at their backs. Walking down the hill bought them to the seafront.
“A clear night.” observed Feliks, looking towards the sky. “Check this out.” He ran and vaulted the seawall, landing cat-like on the other side. “Ha! Come on Yuri!” he challenged.
Yuri took a few steps back, took a deep breath and... faltered, sobriety dawning on him. Then he sprinted and leapt! His jump was timed well, but his back foot caught the edge of the wall and tumbled him. His face hit the floor first. Drunkenness disguised the pain.
“Owwwww. Your face is bleeding pretty bad, mate.” Feliks screwed his face up and turned away to hide his laughter, unsuccessfully.
Pleased by the memory, Yuri laughed gently, and absently scratched his forehead, seeking the scar. It felt smooth. “Strange...” he thought. Yuri stood and caught his reflection, and to his astonishment, there was no scar.
* * *
For the next few weeks Yuri gathered data on his dead wife. He collated pictures, home movies, voice recordings, and all manner of personal artefacts that helped define Tatiana.
He revisited Denuo Dawn and answered the questionnaires as truthfully as possible. The level of detail at times became rather intrusive, but it gave Yuri a mission, and he relished the task.
At last, after ten long weeks, the hologram personality was ready. Yuri hyperlinked his VisiWall to the Denuo Dawn CompuBrain, and excitedly launched Tatiana.
Instantly her face appeared, filling the wall. She looked just as he remembered: the long curly blonde hair, well-defined cheekbones, storm-cloud gray eyes, even the mole on her cheek. Slowly her expression changed. The serene sleeping features were fast being replaced by panic. Her eyes opened, but were unseeing, like a blind person, one feeling pure horror.
“Where am I? I can’t feel my body, I can’t see! Oh my God, I’m paralyzed! What’s happening? What the hell’s happening?” Her voice was dripping with fear.
Coming out of his reverie Yuri tried to calm her, “Darling, it’s okay, I’m here, it’s me, Yuri... There was an accident. You’re fine though, it’s just the anaesthetic... You’re okay, it’s all okay.”
Her face rotated wildly, as if trying to focus on the direction of his voice, but failing. “I’m scared, Yuri, I’m scared! I can’t feel...” The face contorted and showed sheer terror.
“Off! Turn it off!” he shouted. My God, it’s more realistic than I thought possible... And then he laughed as he covered his mouth in profound disbelief.
Gradually, over the next few days Yuri further tested Tatiana. He explained much about the ‘accident’ and tested her memory. He would soothe her with their favourite music, and recited old love poems from their heady 20’s spent in Lithdon. He reported back to Denuo Dawn with his progress.
The Fountain process was complete, and now the Personality Imprinting Process was underway.
* * *
Six months after Yuri’s initial meeting with Denuo Dawn, Tatiana returned home. It was just as she remembered! The open planned living areas, the mini gym! How she’d missed that. And the studio on the top floor of course.
It seemed that some of her clothes were missing, but Yuri put this down to having packed them into a bag that was still at the hospital. Yuri was so happy, as was she. “Life is good,” she said dreamily, “I’ll have a little drink then watch the Visi,” she said, before mixing a martini.
She chose the Lithdon-brewed vodka mixed with Ionian ice-water and shook it with a twist of bitter lemon. She poured it into a spiral glass. She treated herself to an olive, Very expensive to import this time of year, she thought, but decided she deserved it.
Tatiana relaxed on the L-shaped sofa. A programme debating the religious, ethical and governmental aspects of cloning was just starting. Unsure on her views on the subject she watched keenly.
The female presenter’s dialogue chirped along. “The Government’s approach is to highly tax the profession, but also to enforce strict moral guidelines. Clones should be made aware of their ‘manufactured existence’ if they are to be reintroduced to society. However, it is the legal guardians’ duty to do so, not the Government’s or the clone shops’. Re-incarnates, or Re-In’s, cannot reproduce; the reasons for this are unknown. Females may get pregnant but a successful birth has never occurred.
“The Church believes it an immoral practice. And I quote Rev. Dr. Piotr Zaslavski ‘The clone’s lost ability to procreate is a memorandum from God, a divine message warning of the dangers of tampering with His creations’.”
Tatiana’s attention waned. The HoloD wasn’t even on, she thought with mild irritation. Stretching to her physical limit she flicked the wall switch with her toe. The VisiWall suddenly zoomed up enclosing her within the programme. Stifling a yawn she turned the channel...
A train crash scene invaded the room and she felt unable to move or blink. Frozen with fear she dropped the glass to the floor, barely hearing it shatter in her catatonic state. The olive rolled under the sofa and neatly came to rest alongside a business card from Mr. Molodin.
* * *
Yuri had always been fascinated with knives. Cutting, slicing, chopping examining, playing. Being God. The studio that occupied the top floor of the house was his play area. Within it were the thick black marble operating tables and the fluorescent voice controlled ceiling light. Laser knives adorned the walls and surgical masks and gowns — black, of course, only added to the odd feel of the studio. The colour scheme was the antithesis of a regular operating theatre.
On the other side, the robotic arm sat idle. Like a patient cobra, Yuri thought. It was this that would install the animatronics within the skeletal structure of his sculptures. Yuri looked at his prized tool. The retina-controlled laser torch; a futuristic, pirate-style eye patch. Precise to within 1 micron.
He tried to turn his head to gaze upon the beloved collection, but couldn’t. The neck restraint was wound tight, Tatiana knew what she was doing, after all.
Her face crept into his vision. Disappointment cruelly etched into her features. Why was she acting like this? Surely life together was what they’d always wanted? How was is it that now she stood poised to hurt him? To kill him? Exhaling deeply, and calming his mental state, Yuri initiated what he feared would be the hardest conversation of his life.
“Why so angry my petal?” How much does she know?
“You have created a monster Yuriglav.” The full name, usually reserved for intense confrontation. didn’t surprise him. “You have bought me back from the dead! Back from the dead...” She spoke levelly and then screamed, “Again!”
Her face was a picture of sadness. The pain emanating like heat. “I couldn’t live without you, my love, my darling...” Yuri sought calm, “I didn’t know how else to ease the pain, I was heartbroken. You left me! You killed yourself,” This time Yuri’s anger escaped, and he screeched, “AGAIN! You keep leaving me!”
Tatiana’s jaw wobbled a little before she continued, “I’m a clone. Yuri, do you know what that means? I’ll tell you: no children, no working ovaries, no authentic memories, no reproductive ability. No soul, Yuri! I am a puppet.”
Her eyes twinkled viciously. “I know, Yuri...” She pulled out the business card, and showing Yuri closely the salesman’s name, she flicked it into his face. “So just tell me the account information and we can forget this whole mess...”
Yuri’s mind reeled. Why does she want the account information? To kill him and then destroy all the evidence of the cloning account? Maybe. “Why, Tazzy, come on — we can work past this — remember the vineyards, the happy times, think of that, think of the new memories we can make together...”
Coldly, Tatiana replied “All memories are lies.” She stepped back a little, “Give me the account passwords and ID info. If you ever loved me, let me end this ungodly nightmare. Even after I killed myself, you bought me back. What do you think, that we can keep going like this forever? It’s not right, we shouldn’t live forever — else we watch all our friends die. Each re-gen waters down the original. I don’t want that... I don’t want that.” Her words trailed off.
Yuri’s tears streamed down his face, the lines of age filling like riverbeds. “Account 11107011. Password Salzburg. The place we first met.”
All the tools were laid out in perfect order. Sharpened and ready, just the way he liked it. The irony wasn’t lost on Yuri as Tatiana made her first incision in his skull.
* * *
“Good morning and welcome to Denuo Dawn, Madam, I am Mr. Molodin. How may I help you?”
Tatiana’s excitement conspired to overtake her face. But with stringent willpower she calmed herself. “Mr. Molodin, just the gentleman I was seeking. My name is Tatiana Alekseyev. I have a joint account with my husband, account 11107011, password Salzburg. I would like to review it with a possibility of closing the account and moving it to Re-InCarnO Industries.” The words had sounded convincing. Tatiana could feel excitement stir in the pit of her stomach.
Molodin’s expression remained unreadable, “Of course Mrs. Alekseyev. Let me run your PrintFile, this way please.” Leading her to a booth he gently placed her palm on the reader, before sitting opposite her behind his monitor. As the data popped up, the screen lit up his face in a ghostly manner.
“Ah, here we are. All our clients are highly valued, Mrs. Alekseyev, especially a repeat client like yourself.” Tatiana remained focused. “It would be a shame to lose an account with, shall we say, heritage such as yours. Tell me how we can make you happy and I will do my utmost to accommodate you.”
She smiled and leaned forward. “I need to view all prior orders and I would like two free incarnations, Mr. Molodin, or I move the account.” Molodin’s perfectly poised expression crumbled.
* * *
Molodin wasn’t looking forward to this. Not only had he lost the commission on the job, he’d also lost face. And now, to add insult to injury, he was hand-delivering the products like an over-educated pizza delivery boy.
He rang the bell and straightened his tie. The door opened. Molodin hid his surprise. There stood Yuri Alekseyev. There was something strange about him, his movements seemed rather mechanical.
“Good afternoon, sir! What a pleasant surprise, I trust you are well?” No response. Molodin frowned and tried again. “I have your delivery, as ordered by Mrs. Alekseyev...” Again no response, just a wild stare. Sod this, thought Molodin. “I’ll just leave them here.”
Placing the container on the doorstep, Molodin bowed stiffly then turned on his heel and left. Glad to be away from the place, he felt his spirits rise.
Tatiana appeared at the door. She tapped a few fast commands into her watch then stepped back as her husband bent down and picked up the container.
Inside the house Tatiana opened the box and felt her heart would explode. Clasping her hands tightly she covered her mouth, then gently lifted out the first twin girl.
Copyright © 2012 by Frank Wight