I’ve never wanted to kill someone before today.
I swallow, pressing my tongue against my teeth, testing out the idea of conversation. “…Hey.”
“I’m glad we’re talking.”
I’m not. “Me, too.” I glance around the room: a metal cube, with a table and two chairs. I know there is a door behind me—locked.
“This doesn’t have to be awkward.”
God, does my nose twitch like that when I talk?
“And yet, it is.”
Her jaw swerves as she bites her tongue. “What do you want me to say?”
I bite my own tongue, a reflexive mirror. “Whatever. Just—talk.” I should have a notebook or a voice recorder or—something. But those jobs have been passed off to people and machines working outside the cube while I slowly go insane in here with her.
I can’t remember why I thought this was a good idea. Any of this. Screw fame—I want my sanity.
“I don’t remember everything yet,” she says. “But the doctors say all of it will come back over time. Probably just a few weeks more.”
“Great,” I say, tight-lipped.
“I remember the last day of second grade, when your mom bought us ice cream—mint chip, because it’s our favorite.”
“I like vanilla now,” I say.
“I know that, too.”
She plays with the tip of her hair, twisting it around her finger. “And I remember middle school graduation, when you got that plaque for Best Science Student.”
“Ironic.” My fingers itch to find my hair but I keep them firmly clasped in front of me.
“Prom night,” she jokes, winking. My insides clench, not because the memory is bad—it’s pretty fantastic—but at the idea that she knows about it.
“It’s like being twins,” she finally offers. Then a shrug and a smile, like a mix between a beaten puppy and a flirty preteen. Both of them just trying to get the right type of attention—from me.
I lean back. “No, it’s not. Twins are separate people. Twins have different dreams at night. Twins have different hobbies and have read different books. Twins have different strides and like different condiments on their burgers.”
She counters, “Twins have the same birthday. Twins have the same genes and the same home lives and the same inside jokes about chores and crushes.”
“Identical twins,” I clarify. “And only if they have a good relationship and grow up together and—there are variables you haven’t considered.”
Variables. I’m the math/science genius and I still can’t figure all of them out.
It’s making me twitch, being in the same room with her. I can’t stop noticing every little thing she does: worry the hem of her shirt, shift her shoulders, crack only the knuckle of her index fingers.
“Can you just—stop?”
She freezes. “Stop what?”
I’m trying not to scream and I know she can tell. “Stop—being me? Can you, I don’t know, learn ballet or get a scar or go to the South and pick up an annoying accent? Just something that makes you be different?”
“That’s not the point.”
“Well, the point can fuck off, okay?” I yell.
She flinches. I want to feel guilty, but my anger shoves the rest of my emotions out of my brain and locks the doors.
“You’re not supposed to exist. You’re impossible. You’re a mistake. And just because I agreed to talk to you doesn’t mean that any of that has changed.”
Her eyes—my eyes—meet mine. “I’m the greatest thing you’ve ever done.”
“Smartest. You’re the smartest thing I’ve ever done. The most impressive. Maybe the most influential. But Prometheus stole fire and all he got for that was saying goodbye to his liver—and not in the fun, alcoholic way. Marie Curie fried her own brain so that we can make microwave pizza. Let’s ask Nobel and Oppenheimer about the most influential things they ever did, huh?
“Science doesn’t reward scientists. Achievements don’t make your own life better, no matter how happy everyone else around you is.”
She laughs. “I’d say you’ve been working on that speech for a while, but I don’t have any memory of it.”
Wow, she’s a bitch. “You don’t have to be obnoxious about it.”
“Right, because you’re a poster child for kindness.” That kills the conversation, and we sit in tense silence.
She taps her forehead. “Damn, you’re smart.”
I can almost see the memories as they flood into her mind, but I know she is past middle school moments and exes. Her eyes are slightly glazed, her mouth open the tiniest amount. It is an expression I have never worn, and I am suddenly struck by the fact that someone else—someone I can’t control—has my brain. She knows every math equation I’ve ever learned, every idea that I’ve ever had.
I’ve had a lot of bad ideas over the years.
I stare at her, really look at her.
She’s me. We’ve got the same eyes, the same hair, the same crooked front tooth and mole just above our lip. She’s my height and weight. We’ve got the same fingerprints and the same genes. She remembers the same life that I remember. The only difference is our ages.
I’m twenty-five years old. She’s been alive for barely one week.
She’s my ticket into every science journal, every prestigious conference, every history book in the world. She’s a Nobel Prize taunting me with memories of elementary school.
She’s the world’s most successful clone—pushing past gene replication to factor in life chronology and outside influences—and it’s my own romantic, dumbass fault that she’s…me.
“Why do you hate me?” she asks, leaning in. “I’m you. I have your head. And I know you don’t hate yourself.”
What makes a person themselves? Memories—she has mine. Genes—ditto.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
We were only clones for one second—
And then she existed and I existed, separately, and both of our selves branched out from there and we’ll never come back to where we started. Entropy—human style. A study of human identity locked in a box—is she me, or someone else?
The history of the world is the development of weapons: rocks to spears to bows and arrows to cannons to guns to tanks to missiles to the A-bomb to chemical warfare to this—putting someone in a box with themselves and watching them slowly rip each other apart.