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 www.chrisbarraclough.co.uk for more ebooks, and my novels Bat Boy, Crack, Kitty and Dead Dogs on the Amazon Kindle Store. Thanks!

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5. Deja vu

 

One month later

 

Jacobs leaned against the bus, the yo-yo spinning in lazy circles between his legs. The scene before him was spookily familiar, another oldie ripped apart by a city bus, only three months after the last one and in the exact same spot. Only this time, the mobility pod and chunks of flesh had scattered even further. The cordon was almost ten feet beyond the old one, keeping the crowd a safe distance from the gore (but still close enough to get a kick from the viscera).

            ‘This is total fucking bullshit,’ Reynolds said, bagging a section of bumper. ‘When the hell are you gonna touch this shit, instead of playing with that fucking toy?’

            ‘I’m your superior, so never. My job is to do the admin, you do the labour.’

            ‘Dammit, I hate this road. That crossing sign’s so far away, no wonder the wrinklies keep getting smushed. How they supposed to see when it’s green?’

Jacobs’ phone buzzed and he checked the screen. His eyebrows raised and he turned the mobile so Reynolds could get a look.

            ‘You know that deep sense of deja vu? Well, I just got the ID back on the vic. It’s Jeremy Webb.’

            ‘Jeremy Webb? What the hell? You sure we didn’t just pick up some old piece of him, the street crew missed last time?”

            ‘Positive. This was a fresh blood sample from the bumper of the bus.’

            ‘So…’ Reynolds’ eyes bulged. ‘His wife got him cloned?’

            ‘Looks that way. Great, I get to tell Mrs Webb that her husband is dead again, for the second time in three months.’

            ‘Hey, at least you didn’t have to scrape his guts off the road twice,’ Reynolds said, nodding to the street crew captain. Four men in black overalls moved in to clean up as the two detectives paced back to the car. ‘How unlucky was this guy, to be hit by a bus twice, right in the same spot?’

            ‘That’s just what I was thinking.’ Jacobs stopped and glanced over his shoulder. ‘Wait here, I’ll be back in a minute.’

            ‘Where you going?’

            ‘Looks like the driver is talking with Gloria. I’m going to have a word.’

            The driver was a skinny stick of a guy who looked as if a strong breeze could carry him high over the rooftops and far away. He had a vacant look in his eyes, the kind of look you might inherit after seeing someone separated into a hundred different pieces just inches from your face. Officer Melendez was finishing up her interview, and she took a step backwards to allow him room. Jacobs flashed his badge at the driver. No response.

            ‘Hi, I’m Officer Jacobs.  You were driving the bus when the accident happened?’

            ‘I…yes, I was,’ the driver said, nodding dumbly.

            ‘He’s still in shock,’ Melendez whispered.  ‘He should go to the hospital, get checked out.’

            ‘I just need a second.  Sir, can you explain to me what happened here?’

            ‘I was just driving my route, same as I do every day.  The old man, he was on the pavement in one of those mobility things. My light was green, I swear to the Lord Almighty. He just sat there, didn’t move an inch, not ’til I was about to pass him. Then he just…’ The driver held his hands to his face. ‘I had no chance of stopping, God as my witness.’ He wept into his fingers and Jacobs nodded, patting him on the shoulder.

            ‘I believe you,’ Jacobs said with a frown.

 

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.

 

Reynolds stared out of the passenger window, tapping his fingers on the dashboard in time to the old rock ballad that pounded from the stereo.

            ‘He killed himself, didn’t he,’ Reynolds said, staring at a young couple walking down the street, their hands in each other’s back pockets.

            ‘Looks that way,’ Jacobs said. ‘I’m not a big believer in lightning strikes twice.’

            ‘Are you going to tell Mrs Webb?’

            ‘It’s either that, or we scrape her husband off the road every couple of months.’

            ‘Shit. Good luck with that. Telling them once is bad enough, telling them twice though. That’s rough.’ Jacobs didn’t answer. Instead he turned off the high street and drove down Prince Close. ‘Hey, where are we going? The Webb flat was straight up.’

            ‘Quick detour,’ Jacobs said.

            A minute later he pulled up outside a bleak row of shops, their windows covered with metal barriers. The keys span in the ignition as Jacobs slid out of the car.

            ‘Back in a sec,’ he called through the open window. Reynolds watched his partner stride down the pavement past a girl walking her dog and disappear into a tiny store at the far end, then he turned his attention back to the stereo. Five stations later he found some mellow soul music. He closed his eyes and sucked in a breath, his head lolling on his shoulders. The stress of the morning oozed from his pores, swept away by the tender notes and the melodic voice of the singer. He smiled and released the breath, just as his door was yanked open and a plastic carry-case was dropped into his lap.

            ‘What the fuck?’ Reynolds said, gripping the case and peering through a slit on the top.  Two tiny blue eyes stared back at him. ‘Jacobs, what the fuck is this?’

            ‘What does it look like?’ Jacobs said, slamming his door shut.

            ‘It looks like you went and bought a cat.’

            ‘Your powers of observation never fail to astound, officer. Say hello to Douglas Two.’

            ‘Douglas Two? Well, fucking hello, Douglas Two.’ A tinny meow came from inside the box.

            ‘I think he likes you, you foul-mouthed guinea.’

            ‘Great. So, what gave you this idea?’

            ‘If she can’t have her husband back, the least she can have is some company that isn’t going to kill itself.’

            ‘Are you kidding me? Cats run out in front of traffic all of the time! It’s like a fucking hobby for the little shitbags!’

            ‘Well, not Douglas Two. He’s a house cat, aren’t you, Douggy.’

            ‘You know what I think? I think you’re more nuts than she is.’ He watched the cat stretch its tiny front paws towards him, then it curled up in a ball and closed its eyes.  ‘Never said I wasn’t,’ Jacobs said with a grin. He pulled away, headed for Flat E21, 93 Alscot Road.

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