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Disoriented? At least you're not a clone...

Eyes open. A bright light pierces my brain. Fluorescent bulbs, that’s the cause. Stretch the jaw muscles, the face muscles. Stretch the neck muscles. Get up. What am I lying down on? A couch…an old, plaid couch, old fashioned, like what, thirty, forty years old? Look around, there’s nothing but a white room. Between two windows there’s a TV on, but it’s just static, like the cable has been disconnected. The shades are pulled. I don’t quite know how to operate shades, but I think you’re supposed to pull down on them to get them to go up. I try it; it works – the blinds go up with a snap and roll up violently. I look outside, there’s red traffic lights changing to green and yellow intermittently, the occasional car with shiny headlights and red break lights, all reflecting on a glistening rain soaked street. I feel like I’m about four stories up. I look up but the windows don’t open and I can’t tell how many floors are above me.
Paranoia. I panic. I reach for the shades frantically. I can’t let anyone see me. Finally I grab a hold of them. I pull down on them but they keep snapping back up. I reach for them again and pull down but they keep snapping up again. After so many tries I think I finally got them to stay.
Paranoia. I tiptoe to the front door and put my ear up to it. There’s shouting. I make out a curse word. This is frightening. I swallow hard and take a deep breath. I make sure the dead bolt is locked and wipe my forehead with my sleeve. What am I wearing? A blue coverall. No name. Damn, I could have used that information. My face muscles are still sore but it feels like two days after a hangover.
I look around, there’s nothing to use to defend myself with. No sticks, nothing sharp. Just the TV on, sitting atop a TV cart. A mismatched coffee table centering the old couch and black leather recliner with several holes. No weapons to speak of. Against better judgment, I go around the apartment to see if I’m alone. Some highlights include a kitchen with one fluorescent bulb missing and cabinets without contents or doors; a bathroom with no shower curtain and not much else; a bedroom with a bed and a mattress; and two rooms that were completely bare. I’m alone. This calms me a bit.
I go back to the living room. I sit down on the couch and rub my eyes. It feels good. I look down at the coffee table and there’s an orange phone. I stare at it. What am I doing here? What is going on? What just happened to me? What kind of trouble am I in? I pick up the phone and start dialing a number that I don’t know. I can’t explain it; my fingers start pressing the buttons.
“Hello?” the voice says, calm and soothing. This soothes me, for a moment.
“Is Tom all right?” I ask. I’m surprised at the sound of my voice. It seems foreign. Then I realize, I don’t know who Tom is.
“Tom’s fine,” the voice says. “Is this Phil?”
“I think so.”
“You don’t know if you’re Phil?”
“I’m having a rough night.”
“Listen, Phil, I think you’re in danger. Cad has been looking for you for a week. I haven’t been able to get a hold of you. Where are you?”
“You mean like what city am I in?”
“Yeah. Are you in Los Angeles?” When I asked her if she meant what city was I in, I was hoping she would say something like “Well I know you’re in Omaha,” or something. I was hoping she’d know and make it obvious.
“I’m not sure,” I said finally. Then I got upset. “Who is this?”
“You’re the one who called, don’t you know who you called?”
“Just tell me your damn name, please. I don’t mean to be curt, but I’ve had a really rough night.” I was just assuming, of course, considering my physical state at the moment.
“Phil, this is Linda. Hey, Cad is looking for you, and I think he’s up to no good. If you’re in LA, you’ve got to leave.”
Phil, Linda, Cad…none of these names mean anything to me. “Linda, I’m about four stories up, it’s been raining all night, the traffic where I am is light, and there’s a traffic light on outside—”
“I’ve gotta go, Phil, and you should too.”
“TELL ME WHERE I AM!” I tried to get her attention before she hung up. I was too late. Who the hell is Cad, and why is he looking for me?
Paranoia. I go to the front door again, and put my ear up to it. More cursing. This is the only door in or out. What if he’s waiting on the other side of the door? I can’t move out of here. I feel stuck, suffocated. I need water.
I run to the kitchen and look for a glass. There was one on top of the fridge. I turn on the water and, thankfully, it works. I gulp down a cupful and it soothes me. I look behind the fridge and I see a dirty old broom. I grab it and make my way to the front door. I undo the dead bolt, undo the chain, finally undo the knob lock. I get ready and open the door fast. Nobody. I close the door and secure it again. I can’t think straight. My mind is going too fast.
I go back to the phone and hit redial.
“Hello?” the calming, soothing voice again.
“Linda, it’s Phil—”
“Are you sure?” she’s being sarcastic.
“Yes,” I lie. “What’s the story with Cad?”
“You know Cad. He’s a bad guy. You run with rogue biochemists, you get in trouble. Didn’t your mama teach you anything?”
“What does he want from me?”
“He wants your genes. He’s come up with a new cloning procedure that will produce precise clones and he wants you. He thinks you’d be the perfect specimen for the prototype. But he needs a blood sample. So just steer clear. You may want to go to the desert or something, he’ll never find you there.”
“All right. Thanks. Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I love you,” she said this almost offendedly. “Phil, thanks for not telling Tom about us.”
“No problem.” I had no idea what she was talking about. “All right. I’m out of here.”
“Okay, Phil. Be careful. I love you.”
“Good-bye.” It would be unwieldy to carry a broom around, so I break the broom in half over my thigh and it is easier to carry it surreptitiously this way. I peak out the door and see the coast is clear. I run down the stairs and see that the cursing is coming from a couple of large men berating each other on the first floor. I could hear them all the way up the stairwell. I excuse myself as I walk by them and out the front door. The full moon shines in the little puddles on the pavement and the film of rainfall on the sidewalk splashes as I walk on it. I make my way down the unknown street and soon see about a mile down the road the fluorescent glow of a collection of gas stations. Maybe I can find out where I am.
As I walk down the street, a voice from the alley calls out. “Phil! Phil, come here!” I stop and turn. Of course, I don’t recognize who it is. He’s got these round dark glasses, a headset and a leather trench coat. His hat is covering his head. “Phil, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I say defensively. I don’t let on that I don’t know him.
“What you got there?” he asks, pointing at the broomsticks. “Weapons? Ah Phil, you don’t need those anymore.”
“No. Your mission is complete,” the stranger says with a smile. “You can drop those. You don’t have to run anymore.”
I sigh in exasperation. I drop the sticks and my hands go to my head. “What is going on?”
“Well, Phil, since you are a prototype, I wasn’t sure if this would happen to you, but that’s sort of the nice thing about being the first of your kind, you know? You know the funny thing about fluorescent lighting? It duplicates the effects of the sun. Plants love it. Think they’re in full sunlight…if you believe that plants think, that is. I hate to ask, but are you feeling okay? Because clones don’t always have it easy. You’ve got all those disembodied memories floating in your head.”
“So I’m not Phil?”
“Well, technically, yes, but technically…no.”
“Are you Cad? Am I in danger?”
The Stranger smiled. “Just come with me and those questions won’t matter anymore.”
I made a break for it. “Damn, I forgot to pick the sticks up again,” I thought. I reached around and felt for any pockets. Maybe there was some money. There were two twenty dollar bills in a pocket. I assumed this was LA if Cad was here.
“Phil, wait! I won’t hurt you,” the Stranger said. Yeah right, I thought. I ran into a Vons next to the gas stations and found out that the bus would be coming by in ten minutes. I waited, walking around the store, the soothing fluorescent lights calming me, and finally the ten minutes were up. I went outside and jumped on the bus. It took me downtown, where the homeless are. My next move is to find Linda, maybe find out who Tom is, maybe the real Phil, maybe they can help me get to where I should be.

Submitted: September 20, 2010

© Copyright 2022 Peter Amaral. All rights reserved.

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