Life Take Two

Life Take Two by Chris Barraclough, Science Fiction, 4,500 words

A controversial new agency returns the deceased to their loved ones via the process of cloning. But the consequences become obvious to two cops investigating the accidental death of an elderly man...

A darkly comic short sci-fi tale. Check out for more ebooks, and my novels Bat Boy, Crack, Kitty and Dead Dogs on the Amazon Kindle Store. Thanks!


2. Breaking the news


C5 137 When you inform relatives of a death, be sure to offer every courtesy. Ask them how they’re feeling and if there is anything you can do. Offer them a cup of tea and a friendly ear.


Jacobs pressed his thumb against the smooth black panel, and the entrance slid back into an alcove. The hallway beyond was refreshingly cool, in stark contrast to the muggy heat out on the street, and the relief was almost enough for Jacobs to overlook the gut-wrenching stench of piss.

            ‘Smells like a million dogs died,’ Reynolds said, his hand pressed to his face.

            ‘We’ve got all this to look forward to. Another thirty, forty years of work, then we’ll be shoved in a block like this.’

            ‘Why’d you think I drink myself to oblivion every night? Hoping I don’t make it that long.’

            At the end of the hall, they waited in silence until the lift arrived with a boisterous ‘ding!’, and the silver doors parted. Once inside, Jacobs pressed his thumb against another black panel. ‘Police Override’ flashed across the dimly-lit display and he pulled his thumb away.

            ‘Floor?’ asked a crackly voice.

            ‘Twenty-nine, please,’ Jacobs replied, leaning against the wall and scratching his leg. His stomach lurched at the sudden take-off, crushing itself into his pelvis.

            ‘You’re still doing it,’ Reynolds said, giving him a sideways stare.

            ‘Doing what?’

            ‘Being polite to robots.’


            ‘You don’t have to say please and thank you to lifts, vending machines or street cleaners, yeah? They don’t understand you.’

            ‘It’s just manners, force of habit. I was brought up right.’

            ‘You were brought up to be courteous to inanimate objects? Did your mother used to say hi to the wall?’

            The lift jerked to a halt and Jacobs’ stomach sprang back, crashing into his diaphragm. He sucked in a breath and stepped out. This corridor was identical in every way to the first, except for the smell – instead of piss, it stank of curdled milk.

            ‘You wanna do the honours?’ Reynolds asked, knocking on the door of flat E21.

            ‘Mmm, I wouldn’t want to deprive you of this chance to advance your people skills.’

            ‘Fuck off.’

            ‘Thanks for proving my point.’

            ‘I'm the one who got down on my knees and sifted through brain particles just ten minutes ago. You can tell her that her husband’s pigeon food.’

            ‘Fine.’ Jacobs fingered the yo-yo in his pocket as the door clicked and slid open, and an old lady with dark green hair and a rainbow tattoo on her left cheek appeared. She staried up at them with wild eyes.

            ‘Oh,’ she said. Her deep, raspy voice was probably sexy about fifty years and ten thousand cigarettes earlier. ‘You police? What’s wrong, what are you doing here?’

            ‘Is it okay if we come in, Mrs Webb?’

            ‘Well, I…I wasn’t expecting anyone, but I suppose so.’ She ushered them inside, creaking the door shut behind them.

            Jacobs stepped into the lounge and glanced around, his eyebrows raised halfway up his forehead. The sofas were a garish bright pink, a colour that had almost been outlawed just a decade prior, and covered with frilly red cushions. Exotic wooden masks hung from the walls, their slit eyes staring vacantly out into the room, mouths twisted into macabre screams. In the far corner, spread over a bald patch of the fuzzy blue carpet, was the carcass of a cat. A fresh bowl of milk had been placed by its dried-up head. Patches of fur were missing above the hollow eye sockets, displaying clean, perfectly white circles of bone beneath.

            ‘What the fuck,’ Reynolds mouthed, and Jacobs nodded in reply.

            ‘So what is it you boys want?’ Mrs Webb asked, lowering herself onto the sofa with a protracted grunt.  She patted the space next to her, but Jacobs and Reynolds remained standing.

            ‘We’ve come regarding your husband, Jeremy,’ Jacobs said.

            ‘Oh, he’s not here at the moment I’m afraid. He went out for a walk about half an hour ago. Would you like something to eat?’

            ‘We’re okay, thank you,’ Jacobs said, but too late. Mrs Webb was already back on her feet.  She shuffled across to the cat and stooped down, snatching up the bowl of milk.

            ‘Here, you might as well have this,’ she said, handing the bowl to Jacobs.  ‘Douglas hasn’t touched a drop, as usual.’ Jacobs stared down at the milk in his hands, unsure what to do. Drinking it was a bad option, given the bubbling lumps that danced around the rim.

            ‘I’m afraid we have some bad news about Jeremy,’ he said, sliding the bowl onto a nearby table covered in holiday brochures. ‘He was involved in an accident, just down the road from here.’

            ‘An accident? Oh dear, not again. I only changed him this morning.’

            ‘I don’t think you understand, Mrs Webb. Jeremy was crossing the road, when he was struck by a bus.’

            ‘A bus?’ Mrs Webb shook her head. ‘Oh dear, he won’t have liked that.’

            ‘Ah, no, I’m afraid it’s worse than that. You see, your husband is dead.’

            ‘Dead?’  She stared at him with parted lips, barely moving, her hands resting on her lap.  Reynolds shifted his weight from one foot to the other, glancing down at his feet, the silence as agonising as the gaze of the faceless masks.

            ‘I’m sorry,’ Jacobs said. He watched her lift a quivering hand to her mouth and run a dried tongue over her lips. There were no tears, but her brown eyes rolled about in her skull as if she was searching for her husband, to prove them both wrong. ‘Is there anything we can do? A cup of tea, a friendly ear?’

            ‘I don’t think so. I mean, I think I just need to sit for a while and think it over.’ She tapped her fingers against her knees. ‘Where is he?’

            ‘He’s been taken to the Boris Johnson memorial hospital.’

            ‘Can I see him?’

            ‘I wouldn’t recommend it,’ Jacobs said with a frown. His ears rang with silence. ‘Anyway, if there’s nothing you need we better leave you to it, but we’ll have to come by tomorrow and clear some things up. Is that okay?’ Mrs Webb nodded.

            ‘Let’s go,’ Reynolds whispered to his partner, and the pair turned and walked to the door.

            Mrs Webb stared about her lounge, suddenly quiet and empty. She glanced across at her motionless cat, and a solitary tear finally emerged from the corner of her eye, slipping down a leathery cheek before falling onto her bare knee.

            ‘Looks like it’s just you and me now, Douglas.’



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