By J. James McDonagh

 

It had been the second time Ms. Emmerson had died that week. And it surprised me. She was not one for abusing her policy and displayed no signs of having an addiction to death. She was not the type to make melodramatic pleas upon seeing me, nor was she one to look disappointed when the other doctors confronted her with the inevitability of her own fleshy existence. Such were the tells of death addicts which informed the staff we would be seeing a lot of drama in the clinic for as long as Daddy could afford our services. It was much better than that on the morning of January 20th. Instead, my patient beamed up at me without precedent:

“Have you ever scaled a rock face before?”

“No. I have not.”

“Oh my God! It’s so much fun! I got so high! Me and my brother nearly got to the top of the Tryfan before my harness got disconnected. It’s the big pointy one in Wales. The one that looks like Godzilla’s back.”

I nodded.

What a rush!

I attended to my checklist, unaffected by 43D5’s enthusiasm as she continued to shake and giggle, her energy barely contained in the glass cylinder which mothered her.

“It really is white in here,” she mumbled to herself. “Everything is white! Everything!”

Everything bar my industrial-green gloves, I noted. But I did not correct her. The large, open chamber did bare an impressive, blazing white quality. There were no direct sources of light in the room as well as a total absence of windows, yet the very walls seemed to erupt with great energy and marvellous streams of photons. It was a very obvious allusion to heaven, as well as a reminder that life after death was not always a guarantee until we came along, and if it could be made, then it could also be un-made.

I examined 43D5 precisely: everything seemed to be in working order. Her eyes were dilated and there did not appear to be any signs of delayed motor-control or nerve malfunction. Her muscles were tensing as she lay flat on the examination table and her cognition appeared solid. She was most certainly alive, and that was all we promised her parents when they came to us. We could only guarantee that life would return to her after death, but that the quality of said life was always susceptible to terms and conditions (as well as a full legal waiver). Understandably, there was never much protest; immortality was not the kind of thing you got prickly with.

“I’m going to ask you a series of questions based on the information you gave us. What is your middle name?”

“Elizabeth.”

“And why did your parents call you Elizabeth?”

“Because they wanted me to sound better than I was.”

“And how did that make you feel?”

43D5 took a moment, her blonde eyebrow twitching.

“It made me feel like… like I was a fraud.”

“You can be honest with me, Sarah.”

“Sarah?”

I suddenly felt myself grabbing my pen at twice the necessary pressure.

“My name’s Emily, not Sarah!”

I glanced at my nVidia tablet. The name read SARAH and her clones were always of the highest quality. Looking down at the one before me I saw a creature possessed of an authentic and radical inclination: one which I had authority to bring to the bloom.

“I’m sorry, Emily. I’m a bit tired today. Now, if you could tell me how you felt upon discovering your parents’ reasoning?”

43D5 shifted her twinkling, grassy eyes away from me.

“It made me feel sad.”

I looked down at my device: PROUD THAT MY PARENTS CARED ABOUT APPEARENCES.

“Brilliant, Ms. Emmerson. It appears the memory link was successfully connected and your consciousness is in perfect order. I’ll send you down to physio for further tests. Do you have any other questions?”

The clone shook her head. I summoned a smile and then clicked a turquoise quiz-show-esque button and

(swoosh!)

down came the glass. 43D5 sat up on the elevated table before placing her bare feet on the rigged floor, the white and lime cloak flowing around her full-bodied frame. There had been a noticeable increase in breast tissue since 43C5 as well as a decrease in wrist bone which would probably affect her grip. But that was only what I perceived, and my perception was not considered ethically or legally criminal.

“All cognition filters through imagination,” I muttered to myself as 43D5 shuffled forwards, her walking technique falling somewhere between mermaid and stroke victim. She began making her way down the long, gleaming-white hall and out of the vast, gleaming-white Awakening Chamber.

By the end of the hour 43D5 would be cleared for release – whether she identified as Emily, Sarah or Bruce, it made no odds – she would be sent out into a civilian world which was nowhere near capable of handling the impact on consumer rights and medical malpractice which we had fostered. At the time of 43D5’s awakening there were 201 lawsuits filled against Clone: Canterbury, and if Sarah Emmerson’s family had anything to say about their baby girl’s newfound hatred of her middle name there would be 202. We had never lost any claims as the law was only courting the surface of the immense, wild sea of issues it had to conquer; not to mention the fact that every judge and politician in the land was on our client list. Only through a united moral consensus could the law truly enforce itself upon us, and our quick and covert establishment via TTIP’s free-trade opportunities allowed our American founders to set-up with minimal objections. The only people who were insane enough to attack us directly and argue that another shot at life was a fundamental evil were the hardcore Christians whose entire raison d’etre derided from the promise of a hard, permanent death. Clone sent the fear into them when we took their place as the prime vendors of an eternal life: we had finally reconciled science and God.

and they saw the voices. 20:18

***

It was half past two when I welcomed my second patient of the day into my office. He was stout and his bald head shone like thunder. Roughly forty six and 34.6%rotations around the sun had that head seen before it encountered the harsh fluorescent light of my consultancy space – a faux claim to ownership characterized by pure apathy: the hyper-modern, angular furniture was left as I found it and lacked any kind of perpendicular cohesion, giving the room a scattered, disconnected geometry. The walls were a naked beige save for a single painting left by the former owner of the room, who, having originated from the States, left a dreadfully patriotic piece behind him. The fabric of the painting was crumpled and torn in various places and I could never decide whether this was the result of exceptionally good or exceptionally bad care.

My client had settled into the room swimmingly and was leaning forward on the edge of his chair. I examined him steadily as we communicated.

“A poet.”

“A poet?”

I nodded.

“Well, I’d like to set myself up better for the next time. It’s not that I’m terribly unhappy; I just think I could be doing better if fate had been a bit kinder at the beginning of my life. And I don’t hate myself. I wouldn’t want to be a totally different person.”

“Have you ever died before?”

“No.”

Francis, the man, shifted in his seat. His exceptionally crooked nose became even more pronounced when he moved and revealed new angles to the observer. He had already asked, even though he already knew, that it was impossible to alter the DNA blueprint for bone formation. He had begun steering his series of hypotheticals into more practical territory regarding our policy. I had to remind – me – that suicide was not covered by any of our plans.

“So, would I wake up if I killed myself tomorrow?”

“Yes. But if it was discovered that you were the primary force behind your death then we would cancel your plan. We could also take legal action. That includes suicide by cop, too.”

“Oh no, you don’t have to worry about that. I don’t think I could frighten any police officer enough to kill me.”

After suffering an awkward handful of seconds I caught sight of William Golding’s Nobel Prize winner sprawled out on my table. I felt embarrassed of how obvious the book was and so I shifted it behind my encased, exotic plant. In comparison to the fallout of the rest of the room, my desk was a thriving personal overgrowth.

“That really is something, Doctor. It looks exactly like a woman’s lips! I can’t believe you can find things like that in the wild.”

I nodded and allowed yet another dull moment come to terms with itself. Francis let his eyes swing naturally from the full red lips of my Psychotria elata and back to me.

“Is my clone fat?” asked Francis.

“He has your base BMI. Your metabolisms are the same.”

Francis’ cheeks pulled up. His face reminded me of a bitten pear. I laughed inside while I licked my lips. I smiled inside at the Freudian tick. I was, in fact, very hungry.

“And does he have hair?”

I nodded no.

“Do… do I have any genes that you could switch on… or give a bit of encouragement to?”

“It’s illegal to alter or splice genes in the United Kingdom.”

no weapon formed against me.

The pear lost its happy shape. I took a sip of noticeably lukewarm water while my skin itched and leaked h2o. The pear looked at me with worry.

“Are you okay, Doctor Evil?”

“I’m fine,” I replied. “My lab coat’s a bit tight, is all.”

I read his mind as he asked:

“Do you have a clone?”

I don’t look that unhealthy you daft cunt!

“I do.”

The pear smiled. He had gained territory and was no longer my helpless subject. The scalpel had to be shared.

“What made you get one?”

“I have a terminal illness. It’s hereditary.”

I felt fine metal peeling the skin off my skull:

“You were lucky, then.”

“Clone is an extraordinary company. I am very lucky. We are all very lucky. So, believe me when I say there is nothing we can do to alter DNA. I’m sure you’re aware of the lawsuits being brought to us?”

The pear nodded in agreement, his eyes falling back down to the vomit-green carpet. I had lied to him, there were things we could do to DNA and I had attempted them at my own clone’s seeding with results still pending. Being a pessimist, I could never envision a change in my outcome. I could not help but see myself in the same office ten years down the line, my life still intrinsically connected to the employee benefit I enjoyed on the incredibly expensive death insurance I had to take out. My weekly overtime still constricted by the smell of flesh and the formation of sterile organics. I would continue to be an eternal creature of birth, neither dead or alive, neither going or gone. A wage slave coloured in a shade of hope and fuelled by his own insatiable drive to endure and see out the apocalypse.

“Do you believe in God?” the pear asked the doctor. I looked over at the clock:

five past 3

We were overtime, but the doctor enjoyed the pear’s company. His engaged mind was a soothing drug which I craved; a human cigarette break. It was unhealthy for an employee of Clone to associate too much with the conscious. We were taught to understand people as a combination of working parts; a puzzle which could grow, destroy itself and rebuild again. A heart was a collection of proteins and pipes. A mind was a computer to be installed and rebooted. We were angels and architects and if any of us realised the gravity of what we were doing…

all cognition filters through imagination.

“Doctor Plath?”

“I’m sorry. It’s been a long hay and I often hay-cream. What were you asking me?”

“Are you a religious man?”

“I used to be. Devotedly so.”

“What changed your mind?”

The pear has lost any of the self doubt he carried in from the real world. He looked into my eyes like one piece of the universe does to another. We were intellects atop Mount Olympus and our words and speculations were elements shaping the landscape in a violent

V. iol ENT!

blaze. Like Moses transcending a body of water.

“The first time I saw a clone awaken. I knew then that divinity wasn’t a monarchy. It was Marxist.”

the devil’s sacred flame!

The pear nodded. And smiled. Then nodded some more. His body had caught up with his head as he became one large, bruised and battered fruit sitting across from me. I wondered why we hadn’t brought in a bigger chair. We had plenty which were rounded. I examined him further with my clinical eye: I sensed worry. I was always very observant.

“Doctor?”

sleep, I need, to.

I disconnected my body from the chair. I stood up (got up!). Swung and sunk down like a fat, buckling boulder. The chains of gravity had finally worn me down.

water, air and raindrops make rivers in the meadow of my mind…

***

I awoke to bright, white light. A glass womb wrapped itself over the top of me as I lay stretched in a familiar checked gown. I could smell lime and citrus in my nostrils and feel the mothering hum of the incubator fizzle within my eardrums. A young woman with straw-yellow hair and no older than twenty-five, loomed over my existence. Her lab coat was large and tightly attached.

“Can you tell me why you’re here?”

“I died in the carpark after my shift. One of the other doctors hit me with his jeep.”

The woman peered down. The angle of her eyes was so severe that it was a wonder her glasses did not fall. I could see a glint of my surgical gown reflected inside her grey, sterile iris.

“You died in your office, Doctor. Your condition worsened acutely while you were in a consultation and you collapsed.”

My heart began to beat hard. And then heavy.

“I don’t remember you! I don’t remember you at all!”

The woman observed me while I smacked the glass ceiling above my face.

“I don’t remember dying!”

Tears flooded my eyes. My smacks and protests grew in their charge before rapidly falling off. I shielded my face and cried deeply into my fingers.

“It’s perfectly natural for you to feel emotional after dying. What you have to remember is that we’re here to take care of you.”

I felt heat rising further into my face. The woman’s voice was saturated with professionalism and a perfectly weighted sympathy. I remembered how many times I had delivered that line in the past; how mechanical and self-aware I had become to the human condition. With every tear I shed I craved to be confused and to confuse my observer; to become a Rubik’s cube capable of fighting back.

“Now, I’m going to ask you a specific question to check on your memory. What is your favourite line of poetry?”

“Show me the screen.”

The woman looked at me without precedent. It had been the first time in a long time that she had felt the fourth wall shatter.

“Show me the screen,” I repeated.

She turned the tablet to me: ITS SNAKY ACIDS HISS. IT PETRIFIES THE WILL. THESE ARE THE ISOLATE SLOW FAULTS THAT KILL, THAT KILL, THAT KILL.

“That’s good. That’s good,” I assured myself.

The woman nodded.

“Get me the hell out of this thing.”

Swoosh! The glass tube retracted. I stretched out my arms. My new muscles felt fizzy, sprite and limber. I could feel that my lower abdomen was tight and my hamstrings were no longer bounded up like mossy planks of wood. I sat up on the ledge, ran my fingers through my hair and thought of my last patient who had reminded me of a pear. I wondered how he was doing. I wondered if he cared about me when I collapsed.

“Now, Doctor, if you could make your way down…”

She was interrupted by shouting some distance away:

“Get away from me… you fuckers!”

Myself and the woman looked down the long, glistening white hall which connected the Awakening Chamber to the part of the building which contained exit doors. The sound of screeching steps and shouting men drew closer. The woman seemed worried, whereas I, a baby to the world, felt my gaze lured and seduced by the noise. I felt the soles of my feet rest against the clinical surface, ready to pull the earth behind me and put distance between myself and the predator beyond the eye of the clearing.

No sooner had the man stepped over the threshold but the crowd had surged upon him and leapt onto the beast. For a while there were no words, and no movements but the tearing of teeth and claws. The man freed up his neck to reveal a thin face framed by a limp, greasy fringe. His eyes gazing up at me like two bright emeralds in an Aztec booby-trap; my own two eyes looking back up at me, gleaming in the whiteness.

“I’m not dead! I’m not dead!” Doctor Plath shouted with what little air could burst out of his lungs. “I’m not dead, you bastards! Please, for fuck’s sake! Get off of me! Oh my God, please! Don’t let them do this! Help me! Help me!

I watched the blooded beast being dragged away screaming and crying, but I was not afraid. I had seen animals kill in the wild before. And so I continued to look, my eyes remaining strange to any pity, pain or compassion.

---

 

J. James McDonagh is from Galway. He graduated from NUIG in 2016 and is currently working in sales and marketing. His work Pas Paris was featured in the Galway Review.