The Replacement

Clones have one purpose: to replace deceased children.
But some people have other ideas.
Ariya is in trouble. She and her Clone are running. To the other side. Will they make it before they're caught?

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3. 2: Chapter 2 –Just a small sliver of hope

2: Chapter 2 –Just a small sliver of hope

 

Date: 7th May 2072

Time: 8am

 

I’m sitting in the cafeteria in my designated spot. There are no tables where people can sit together. Just single seats so that everybody is separate. I eat everything that’s on my plate but I don’t enjoy one bite. It’s just loathsome slop. I don’t think that it can even qualify as breakfast. The ingredients of it will forever be a mystery that I can’t fathom. Viacamp recently cut the food budget in half. This stuff actually makes me miss the old breakfast menu. I press the blue button on the side of my small, one-person white table. Straightaway, a worker comes to collect my plate and sweeps it off the table.

I walk out of the building and walk into the school building on its right. The halls are swarmed with Clones in black blazers and stripy ties. But there’s only the sound of shoes slapping against the wooden floor. Nobody is allowed to talk. It’s not an official rule but it’s ‘frowned upon’ as the teachers say. Saying hello apparently interferes with your education. The truth is they just don’t want us socialising and making friends. We are all meant to stay by ourselves. All the time. Everybody’s mouth is welded shut. They don’t even open them to breathe. It’s just a way to stop yourself from speaking. Pushing through the waves of students, I drive myself to my classroom.

My first class is Biology. I sit myself down on my desk near the middle. It’s the perfect seat – I’m not so close to the teacher that she’ll pick on me for every question but I’m still surrounded by people so that I don’t feel completely alone. Other students flood into the classroom and all take their seats. Teacher 1 walks in. He’s a middle aged man with a receding hair line and a droning voice. Nobody responds when he says good morning. He puts down his briefcase and starts to talk about stem cells. I don’t bother listening. There’s nothing he could teach me about the topic that I don’t already know. There’s nothing he can teach me about any Biology topic that I don’t already know. I look over at the student on my right. He’s looking at the teacher but his vacant eyes tell me he’s not listening either. I see this guy in every class of mine and I don’t know his name. I don’t know anybody’s name except the two who live on either side of my room.

The bell rings signalling that we need to go the next lesson. I have English next. I actually pay attention in this lesson. Everybody does. The one hour that we spend in it four times a week is one of our few connections to the people in the outside world. We’re discussing key themes in a book today. It’s about a war fought a century and a half ago. We sum up the themes of the book in one word: tragic. It’s interesting to learn about what people’s lives were like before the Separating Barrier. It seems humans were as flawed then as we are now.

For the rest of the day, we all tune out. It seems like us Clones are a collective group that you can control with the flick of a switch. We seem to respond to things in similar ways sometimes. Sometimes.

. . .

Date: 7th May 2072

Time: 3.30pm

After the final bell marking the conclusion of school goes off, I stroll out of class with my eyes closed in a relaxed haze. Something collides into me. It’s a tall Clone running to some place. I’m on the floor. I think my nose is bleeding. He smiles apologetically and offers me his hand. I take it and he lifts me up. Taking hold of my shoulders, he drives me forward, out of the school building. He doesn’t say so but I know he’s taking me to the medical unit. We cross a few roads. All the way there, we say nothing. It just feels uncomfortable to speak to a Clone. He drops me off in front of the unit and gives me a wave goodbye. The automatic doors open to reveal a pristine, spotless white reception area. It’s a large circular shape with hallways stemming away from it like tunnels. Two receptionists sit on swivel chairs in the middle of the room and a glass table encircles them. I approach the elderly woman who seems to be filing away paperwork. She looks up at me and immediately her face becomes concerned.

“Oh dear. You need to get that checked out right away.”

She telephones someone and nurses with a stretcher come running out just a few moments later.

“Just lie down here dearie.”

I do as she says. They manoeuvre me through one of the hallways and into an elevator. We get off on the third floor. They take me to a patient room. All the way there, I see no other Clone – only nurses and doctors meandering leisurely about. I get up out of the stretcher and onto the hospital bed. The room reminds me of my bedroom. A doctor rushes in and quickly and silently attends to my nose with cotton buds. He seems energized and excited by my injury. It’s probably the only accident to have happened all week. That’s why they’re making such a big fuss over my bloody nose. After he has cleaned it all up, I sign some papers and he clears me to go to my room. I remember I have homework to do that’s due in for tomorrow and I veer towards the library.

Next week I won’t be carrying on my dreary daily routine. I distract myself from the thought by trying to remember what other work I have due in this week.

 

. . .

 

Date: 14th May 2072

Time: 10.12pm

 

Night falls. Carefully, I slip into my bed, the covers warming me. I look up at the plain white ceiling of the plain white room in the plain white building. My room is mostly empty – a window, my bed, a table and a small dresser are the only objects in here. The layout of the rectangular room is pretty simple. The side walls are about double the size of the front and back wall. From the viewpoint of the door, the bed is placed vertically in the corner against the right wall and back wall. The dresser and table are next to each other on the other side of the room. Above the table is a computer screen built into the wall. And everything is painted white. There’s not much you can do here. Most of time is taken up by thinking – and reading.

I feel restless. Somewhat...uneasy. My legs need to move. It’s past the 9 o’clock curfew. The only movement I’m allowed to be doing is in my room. I walk over to the computer screen as a way to stretch my legs. My index finger gently brushes against the screen, touching the ‘Information’ button. The harsh light of the monitor glares at me. Written in a white font against a black background are the words:

 

The Comprehensive Guide to your Human Original

To prepare for an event where you must replace your human, you need to learn key information specific to them so that it is easier for you to take their place and fit in with the surroundings.

Key Information – Last updated: Today

Full Name: Ariya Jasmine Khan

Date of birth: 15th May 2054

Gender: Female

Ethnicity: South Asian

Address:

56 Lemon Perivale

Wembley, London

TR5 3MK

Height: 5’5

Weight: Not applicable due to constant change

Brief description of their physical appearance (shared with you): Chocolate coloured eyes, long curly brown hair and golden skin.

Brief description of their personality (key words chosen by parents of Human Original): Timid, unrealistic and clumsy.

Hobbies/interests: Reading, sprinting and

Family:

Mother – Priya Khan (aged 45)

Father – Seb Khan (aged 46)

Siblings – Sonia Khan (sister, aged 22), Jay Khan (brother, aged 20)

School: Home schooled by Governess Edna Barnet”

I stop reading even though there are still a few more lines of summary information left about her. My head feels drained. I have just read a load of information but it’s not being processed in my mind. This isn’t my first time reading about her. I have read this all before but I never try and attempt to understand her. I don’t like learning about her life and not experiencing it as my own. It just feels like I’m punishing myself for not being the original and only a copy.

Jumping into bed, I attempt sleeping but the racket of the rain prevents me from doing so. I get up and walk towards the dresser. Opening it, I find all the clothes I own. Except for my uniform, all are the same size, colour and style. I shut the drawer and clamber back into bed once more.

It’s seems odd to me that only 20 years ago was the computer reinvented. But I guess it makes sense. The Departure meant we had to start again. Society had regressed. Technology had been lost and understanding of the world had decreased. Logic was not considered anymore. Humanity was at a state of chaos and confusion. Apparently, it was the only solution. The video they showed me after I turned 12 – the age where we are deemed intelligent enough to understand the situation – told of how the country was split on the idea of cloning. Those for it became the Escapees who took their knowledge of cloning with them. And nothing else. Their idiocy meant we had to start all over again and the only aid we had was us clones. The survival rate here dropped as soon as the escapees made the Separating Barrier. Most lived until the age of 32 and then dropped dead, most probably due to the lack of water or food available in the barren lands they now occupied. Barren because they had no seeds to grow crops. A clone, who was and still is considered the same person as the original, was made every time a child was born to ensure that a replacement human was available if they died at an early age so the family could cope better. It’s all stupid if you ask me. But it’s apparently better now. All the scientists and politicians and generally important people of the world agree that we’re at the technological stage as we were before the Departure. So we’re back where we started. Big whoop.

I try to remember what was written about her on the screen. Why did her parents choose those particular words to describe her? ‘Timid, unrealistic and clumsy.’ They obviously don’t think much of her. For once in my life, I actually pitied her. It must be difficult to have parents that don’t care much about you. My sympathy quickly turns into jealousy and loathing. At least she has parents. I have a Carer that barely visits and when she does it’s only to ask me if I’ve seen her stupid boyfriend anywhere. As if I really pay attention to what he does or where he goes. Every Clone has a Carer and I am the only unfortunate one that has Claire. She’s possibly the most moronic person I’ve ever met. But I guess I don’t really have the opportunity of meeting that many people. Apart from the Carers, only Clones live in the Dome. And we all have set areas that we have to be in at certain times or ‘severe punishments would have to be handed out’ so there is very little chance of socialising with many different Clones. Maybe if I just close my eyes I’ll find some company in my dreams.

. . .

Date: 15th May 2072

Time: 5.03am

 

I wake up – alerted by the sound of branches knocking against my window masquerading as thunder. It still surprises me that sounds from the outside world still reach us inside the Dome. Sunlight streams in through the window behind the bed and splashes around the room giving me just enough light to survey my surroundings. I turn around to look out at my world. The semi-sphere Dome can be seen ‘sheltering’ the Artificial Habitat. I can’t see past it. They designed it in that way so we wouldn’t be able to see what we’re missing. I take a glance at my silver wristwatch on my slender arm – it’s just past 5am. But I’m not tired. I look out of the transparent door into the hallway. All the lights have been off. It’s not as if people would actually be awake to need them at this time of night. That side of me that I’ve given up on trying to ignore tells me to go exploring. It dares me to go all the way to the edge of the Dome. Maybe it’s due to my utter boredom but I decide to listen to it.

I go to my desk and bend my head down to try and find a torch. I spot one instantly. As I grab hold of it, my eyes flutter over the computer screen. Something on it catches my eye. It displays the date. 15th May 2072. Crap. Oh holy crap. I’d forgotten about it. For the past week I had trained myself to take it out of my mind. I had trained too well. It was my – and her – 18th birthday. And that means that the inevitable will happen today. Just as it had happened to so many other Clones before me. I am to be destroyed today. Because she has lived to adulthood. No. No. No. I won’t accept my death. Now I have an even better reason to get out of this place. I need to run. Escape. Before they come to collect me. I curse myself for being so senseless. Why hadn’t I prepared for an escape this whole week rather than distracted myself from my fate? What is my next move supposed to be? I can’t sit idle and wait for them. And neither can I run. It was impossible to escape the Dome. Clones have tried. But anyone has yet to succeed. I don’t even know where the main entrance is. They keep it hidden from us.

I have no plan so I have to think on my feet. I’ll face each problem when I get to it. I place the torch on the floor. Ignoring the fact that this was a stupid idea, I grab a rucksack from under my desk and open my dresser. Hurrying, I fill the bag with as many clothes as I can. As for food and water – I guess I’ll get to that when the time comes. I slip into my plain white trainers near the door. I grab the handle. Before I start twisting it, I realise I’m still in my pyjamas. I grab the last remaining clothes out of the dresser and swiftly change into them. I’m now wearing a plain white shirt and plain white trousers. Snatching a coat from the dresser and picking up the torch, I open the door and tip-toe out. I really should have prepared properly.

I press the torch button. The hallway becomes illuminated. I think this place used to be a hospital before the Separating Barrier was built. Then they renovated it into accommodation for Viacamp Clones. And by renovated I mean they removed the medical equipment from the rooms, added in desks and wardrobes and replaced the bed sheets. I can actually feel the adrenaline rushing around in my body along my blood vessels, reaching my fingertips and causing a tingling sensation to spiral up from my toes to the rest of my body.

I race across the hall to the other side. An open door is in front of me. A green ‘Emergency exit’ sign was placed above it. Well this is an emergency and I really need an exit. Sprinting through the door, I run down a twisting flight of steps. My feet are anxious to find the bottom. I fly with the aid of gravity. Nearing the end, a bright artificial light glares straight into my eyes.  I look at the source from the corner of my eyes – it is a single light bulb on the side wall that buzzes and fizzes as if it is eager to explode. My eyes skirmish past it and fall upon what’s beneath it. A door. With a shadowy figure in it coming straight towards me. I’d forgotten about the night guard. A bulky, man is in front of me now. He’s left the door unguarded and unblocked.

“What are you doin’ down ‘ere?” his deep voice rumbles. “You’re gonna be in heaps o’ trouble. You’d best come wi’ me.”

He reaches out to grab my arm. I manoeuvre past him with the agility of a bullet. I head out of the door which opens out like a mouth to the street. I run so fast, I feel as if my organs are being knocked out of place. Tall structures of Clone accommodation line the street. The air resistance tries to push me back and stop all my progression. The burly guard’s voice shouts at me to stop but it’s just a faint sound in my ears – like the flutter of wings of a small bird.

 

. . .

 

A few seconds later, still running, I look back to see how close my pursuer is. He’s only a few metres away. He decelerates. A grin emerges on his doughy face. My body bangs into a hard, solid object. My face turns around to see what I’ve hit. My eyes travel up until I see the face of a woman. She has sharp features; angular cheekbones; a thin but long hooked nose and eyes as lifeless, colourless and empty as a black hole. She is ghastly and her air: unapproachable. Her irises dart around, trying to memorise my face. She wears a smart blazer and an immaculately clean black skirt. Her age could be anywhere between 30 and 50. I realise I’m still in only a few centimetres in front of her. I step back to give her some space – and to try and get out of her magnetic pull. Two stout soldiers in army colours of mud brown and sickly green stand on either side of her. They seem to be body guards but look as if they’re under her protection instead of the other way around. They’re stuck in her orbit. Long rifles are held by their hands. They don’t look at me but stare straight over my head as if I’m too insignificant for them to be aware of. One of them is a woman but looks more like an ogre. The man looks younger but has the rough face of a bully. He probably loves to terrorise Clones.

“What are you doing up this early?” the daunting woman enquires.

I stand there, too nervous to speak, afraid that the guard will give me away and they’ll realise I was trying to escape.

“But I guess it doesn’t matter. In fact, we were just coming to collect you, A15-J5-K54. That’s your full name, isn’t it?” she asks. “I’m Rita Throws. I’m in charge of running the Habitat. She’s coming with us now,” she informs the night guard.

A tidal wave of panic pushed against me, causing my balance to become unsteady. I was close. I was so close to escape.

“Yes ma’am.”

“Now A-15, we will take you to the Office. It is your birthday today and as you know the rules state that we must dispose of any Clones that surpass the age of 18. You can choose incineration or

All resistance is futile. If you behave, I’ll make sure the process is less painful for you.” She spoke it with such animation that you could tell she had memorised this speech after saying it a thousand times.

Finally, I build up the courage to say “Yes ma’am.”

She briskly turns around and heads in the direction of the tallest building in the Dome. It is the only colourful thing in here. It is a surreal blue with sea-green windows. It is situated a few kilometres from where we are. After reaching the end of the road, we take a right turn and walk down a thin lane which leads to a large square area with the Office in the middle.

“W-wait! Stop what you’re doing!” yells a tall, bumbling man while hurtling like a hooligan towards us.

“What is it Jeremiah? And make it quick. We have important business to attend to,” Ms Throws says impatiently.

“Well that’s just it. Y-you can’t dispose of this Clone ma’am,” he takes a sharp breath. “T-the parents of her H-human Originals have sent us a letter,” he wheezed.

My excitement is like a firework that has been sent up from the pit of my stomach. Is she dead? Do they want me to replace her? A thousand questions pop up into my head but I don’t need to know their answer because I am going to be freed. Pure elation fuels me up and sends me rocketing into the stars.

“Ms Khan has died.”

“Did she die today? If so, the family is no longer eligible to be given a Clone since their daughter would have died as an adult.”

Her words seized my lungs like a snake constricting its prey of air. It would be like punching me in the stomach just after I had a stomach transplant if her words are true. I wouldn’t be able to handle having my one chance of freedom snatched away from me.

Jeremiah bends down with his hands resting on his knees, clearly exhausted from his run. He had obviously been eager to send this message.

“No. She dies yesterday. They sent the letter yesterday but it only arrived today.”

“Well get up and give me the letter then,” Ms Throws orders.

Jeremiah straightens up. He delves his hand into his pocket to search for the life-changing letter.

“Here it is,” he says as he waves a scrunched up piece of paper in front of her face.

A look of aversion appears on Ms Throws face. She probably thinks she’s too high and mighty to touch such a letter. It wasn’t even filthy – just crumpled. I roll my eyes. It’s unbelievable how haughty some people are.

“Read the letter.”

The male guard obeys her and takes the letter from Jeremiah. He reads its contents aloud. I only pay attention when he says ‘We would like to purchase her Clone from Viacamp Incorporated.’ Yes! I am definitely going! A smile erupts on my face. I can’t hold back my happiness. And then I remember that a girl had to die for me to leave. Guilt flows like poison in my mind.

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