Short Story by: Ati
Deja - Vu
It was with a sense of deja-vu that Paul died. He watched with a detached, almost bored disinterest as he saw the car spin around the bend like some metal monster otu of ancient mythology, saw himself trying to escape. Finally, saw himself be struck and felt his neck snap and his thoughts fade into grey oblivion. The thing that heitated in his crumpling brain during the last few time-less seconds before he was no longer, were thoughts of home. Not much of a home is was, though. His parents were living proof that money didn’t buy happiness, always arguing, always trying to buy his love before the inevitable divorce finally came.
He was only here, flung through the air with a broken neck and a shattered spine because he had fled them. Them and their ceaseless fighting. He had run out the door in tears on his way to find Maxwell, the closest thing he had to a friend, or Cindy, the closest thing he had to a girlfriend. He had stepped off the curb and his life had begun to end. He felt his thoughts running from his mind like water from a glass, dashed against the floor, his world shrinking to a single pinprick, and vanishing into nothingness. And so Paul fell through a hole in the world.
It was some time later that he was encircled by a gentle, maternal warmth. He wondered absently if this was what the afterlife was; just warmth and darkness. That wouldn’t be so bad. Then he noticed something. A single pinprick of light hovered in the darkness. Suddenly, it expanded into a sliver off cold, harsh light. It fell into the darkness, piercing his eyes like a brilliant sword of ice and fire, stabbing into his brain, laying open the folds of his vulnerable conciousness. He screamed involuntarily as a gust of cold more intense than any he had felt before rushed in with the light, burning his skin like blazing fire.
He lunged forward, and found himself trapped, as though tied down. He lunged and he heard wires breaking. Quiet agonies arched down his spine and explosions of light and sound ruptured within his sense. He lunged again, smashing out of the casket and into the light. Half blinded and in an agony of cold he hurled himself past a shocked white coated man and crahsed into a table. He stared down at his hands, and felt a disbelief rapidly fading into white shock as he saw that they were wasted and pale, withered almost beyond recognition. That wasn’t possible. He has spent many hours on the football field, his one retreat from home, working to build his muscles to what they had been. Where had they gone? As he continued his parabolic arc onto the table, he saw a newspaper. He was too far gone too read the words which smeared blearily on the page before him like so many swarming insects. Indeed the only thing which penetrated his mind, as it faded into a sickened oblivion was the date. January 3, 2023. How?
He keeled over, striking his head against the table as he fell to his knees. He vomited and the darkness came down over his eyes.
When he awoke again, the first thing he noticed was that he was in pain. Stemming from a small cut on his shoulder, the pain was exquisite, a livid burning far more agonizing than anything he had felt before. He could feel every edge of skin, as though on fire. The second thing he noticed was that he was secured to the couch he was on by several straps. He opened his eyes, squinting as his atrophied iris struggled creakily to close. He saw faintly the man in the lab coat he remembered from earlier. He looked closer, and a pair of blurs beside him resolved into what was recognizably his mother and father. But something was wrong. They were old, far older than he had left them. Then the date on the newspaper rushed back into his memory, and he had to close his eyes to prevent from throwing up again.
Without opening his eyes, Paul swallowed, and with as much force as he could muster, asked a question.
“What is going on?” The effort exhausted him, but he kept his head straight, and his expression carefully blank.
It was his father that answered.
“It’s all right son. We’re here and your safe.”
Paul clenched his fist, long (too long?) fingernails biting into his hand so painfully that he almost screamed. Again, he spoke, cold, hard, like a man of ice.
“I asked, what is going on?”
His father began to answer, probably with something equally useless, but the man in the lab coat, perhaps fearing for the sanity of his patient, cut in.
“You’ve been dead a long time Paul.” He said quietly.
“I know.” Was the cold response.
The man hesitated at this, young face carefully arranged as he considered how to phrase the next.
“When you were hit by the car, Paul, your spine was broken. You were dead. The only thing we saved was a sample of hair. “
Here he pause, again thinking.
“You’re a clone, Paul. We cloned you and raised you to your original age again. Your mother and father spent a lot of money paying for it.”
Paul thought about this for a moment, considering whether or not it was the truth. Then he spoke.
“What about my memories?”
The man paused again- too long, for Paul spoke again.
“A clone would not have my memories. How did you get my memories? “
Before the man could reply, his mother cut in.
“Oh honey, we loved you so much- we couldn’t stand to see you get into trouble. We put–“
Here, his father interrupted rudely.
“Shut up Marge! This isn’t the time!”
“You shut up. Go play golf or something, but leave me and my son alone.”
She turned back to Paul and continued,
“We put a camera in your glasses. So we could keep an eye on you. We used the recordings to give you back your memories as you grew.
Inside Paul (or not Paul?)’s mind, a stab of violent anger grew. They had put a camera on his GLASSES? No wonder they always knew what he’d done, always somehow KNEW whenever he did something wrong. They’d been inside his head all this time, years and years and he’d never known it. His teeth, soft from disuse, clenched and he spat the next words, fury burning in every syllable like acid.
“And HOW, precisely, did you give them back to me?”
His mother seemed shocked by his anger, and the man in the lab coat took the opportunity to step in front of her and continue.
“We tapped your nervous system; we fed the signals directly into your brain - a kind of virtual reality. “
It was now with a kind of crawling horror that he became aware of the metal wires extending from the sides of his head and running down his spine.
The man continued, apparently oblivious to the involuntary shudder that racked Paul’s ruined body.
“It almost didn’t work. You kept rejecting the simulation right before you got hit by the car. We had to use an electric current to delete your short term memory and try it again. It took almost a dozen repetitions for you to accept it. In the last one, you just seemed resigned to it, almost as though you didn’t care”.
Paul considered this for a moment. His life was over. He was dead. He only existed now as a ghost, some memory of a boy that had once lived. His body was totally wasted, ruined by fourteen years of disuse and his skin was totally white, having never been exposed to the sun. There was a kind of grim amusement to him, how well he fit the stereotype of a ghost. A kind of gallows humor. Mostly though, he was simply furious. He wasn't who he thought he was. They could have made a dozen of him and none would be quite right; he'd always wondered why couldn't remember before his fifth birth day - when he got his glasses. A horrid thought occured to him. Had they made two? One for each of them... The thought stunned him, but he quickly put it out of his mind. No matter how petty they were, he could not- would not beleive that they would do something that evil.
Doing his best to hide this, he asked another question.
“Their outside. They want to see you as soon as they can.” Replied his mother.
“Let them in.”
They entered the room nervously, looking like men walking to another’s death bed. They were older now, of course, fourteen years older. Maxwell’s red hair was stretched back into a pony tail, and he wore a shirt of a fabric that Paul couldn’t identify. Cindy looked as beautiful as ever, not quite blond hair hanging at shoulder length and her slightly impish features glowing.
With another shock Paul realized that he could no longer go out with her. She was far too old. He gave her a half smile, and turned his attention to Maxwell. He slipped his pale wrist out of the restraint and reached out to him. Maxwell took his hand. As he looked at him, he realized that something was different about him. He had a look he had never had before, one of a cunning predator. Paul ignored this for the moment, and said in a voice weak from the first use it had ever had, said
“Yo.” Was the slightly sad response.
They looked at each other for a long moment, Paul weak and ruined, Maxwell tall, strong, and old. Then Maxwell turned and left, taking Cindy with him. There was nothing else to say.
As they left, he saw them hold hands, and saw with a pang of sadness that they both wore wedding bands.
A hot, sudden fury took him. A bottomless rage that made him sit up, pulling the strap loose and scream at his parents. Screaming at them to leave, and never return. They fled his rage, fled as they always had when confronted. They didn’t go far though. He could hear them quarrelling in the corridor.
Sinking back into the chair, Paul turned to the man in the lab coat, who had wisely gotten out of the way, and retreated into a corner.
Paul beckoned him closer, and gave a command.
“Do it again.”
“You did it once. Do it again. Kill me and bring me back in a hundred years. When everyone I know is dead. When I don’t have to pick up the shards of a life I never lived. A fresh slate.”
The man looked horrified, and struggled to come up with an argument. He paused for a moment and then said
“The price. It is expensive. How will you pay for it?”
Paul grinned, a look totally without humor or any kind of happiness.
“I stand to inherit all of both of my parents fortunes. You can take whatever you need. “
The man looked terrified at this, and spent several minutes trying to think of an argument. Finding none, he finally acquiesced.
There were waivers to be signed of course. Lots of them. Miles of legal papers to be notarized. When it was finally over though, Paul relaxed and sat back on the couch while the man readied the syringe. As the chemicals flooded his blood stream and his vision began to grey, he smiled faintly, the smile of a man who’s suspicion has been confirmed, as a sensation of detached deja-vu swelled inside him.
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