I have a sister. We are twins. She is my mirror image. It’s all I can think.
I dream about her at night, even more now that I know who and where she is. Gwen and Gabriela Lenson. Her face is visible, and so is her birthmark. Our birthmark, the half-heart that’s on both of our arms.
“Lenson?” I sit up as straight as I can. I miss having Grandmothers as instructors- they’re much nicer than real people. I can tell already, even if this is just an ‘orientation’ class.
“I’m here.” The teacher, a man, nods and moves on to the next name.
“Rale?” A girl in the back nods, and I do a double take. It’s Jina! She’s back! Then I look again, and my excitement fades. That girl only looks slightly like her. It’s just my mind playing tricks on me.
I sigh. It’s not the first time that’s happened lately.
As the class goes on, I wonder if I made the right choice. Being a Grandmother designer seems like it’ll be interesting, but government officials supervise them- us- closely. And because of Gwen, that’s something I have to be really careful of.
I’ve been reading more on the ‘twin curse’ superstition, and it’s made me realize why she was hidden. Besides the fact that our parents didn’t want her be raised by robots, twins are considered dangerous and when they’re born, they’re taken away to be ‘studied’.
Except I’m not dumb. I know that they take them away, and that the twins never come back. If they find Gwen, we’re both in huge trouble.
“I’ll be handing out your schedules for your different classes- robotics, mechanics, programming, whichever ones you’re taking- please come forward now.” I walk up to the front with everyone else, almost trip over the girl I thought was Jina, and grab my schedule. The top reads Castle.
Castle? They know, they know, they know is the only thing I can think. They know.
Then I hear the boy next to me- Benjamin, who was in Lincoln with me- says, “Castle? Why does Castle want to see me?” and adjusts his thick glasses. I sigh with relief. It must just be a simple, routine check-in of some kind, because there’s no way Benjamin did anything.
I look at the paper again and realize with a jolt I’m supposed to be at Castle in ten minutes. Oh no, oh no, oh no. This classroom is on the outskirts of the complex, and Castle’s in the center, just like it was at my old home.
Running is something I’ve not had the chance to do before, but now I realize that I’m fast. Fast enough that by the time I reach Castle, it’s only a few minutes late.
Two robots meet me at the front desk. “Gabriela… Lenson,” I gasp. One robotically nods, maybe running an internal schedule check, then latches onto my arm, pulling me with it. “Ow! Let go!” I say, forgetting my exhaustion. All I can think is Jina- they’re taking me, just like they took her.
Stay calm. Relax.
They push me down the dank hall and through a stairwell. There’s a room there, with a person in it. The figure stands, light hair swinging. “I can handle her,” she says sweetly, gesturing to me. The clamp on my arm releases abruptly. I rub it and glare at the woman.
“What do you want?” I didn’t mean to say it so brashly, but they could’ve been nicer too.
“I’m sorry about that,” the woman’s voice sounds like honey, if that’s possible. She gestures to a chair. “Have a seat. They must have a programming bug.” I relax slightly. She’s probably right. “I’m Clara.”
“Gabriela,” I respond simply, not wanting to give much away.
Clara nods. “How are you enjoying the Advanced complex?” she asks. That’s an innocent question, I suppose. Maybe this really is just a check-in, and has nothing to do with Gwen.
“Good, I guess.”
“Gabby-” she starts. “May I call you that?” No, I want to scream. No, that’s what Ella called me. That was my nickname when I was younger. I’m older now. I still miss Ella, and you’re opening the wounds. Can’t Clara tell? She must not be able to- she wouldn’t hurt me on purpose, I can tell. So I smile politely.
“Alright then, Gabby, what’s your least favorite thing about the Complex?” Clara folds her hands in her lap.
“Being dragged here.”
“I am sorry about that, sweetie, honestly. Is there anything else you don’t like?”
“Yes,” I say carefully. “There’s no contact with people outside here. I’d like to be able to send messages to my family and my friends back at the Learning Complex.” I don’t really like pointing out flaws in someone’s system- it just feels rude- but if I’m going to design Grandmothers, I need to get used to it. “Also, more options for food would be nice. You’re supposed to learn to make your own choices here, so maybe a system where we could save up for more expensive food, or even just have a reward for people who eat simply?”
Clara looks shocked, and for a second I’m afraid I went too far. Then her smile is back, painted on her face. “Those are really good ideas! You should be a government worker. We need people like you.”
“Really?” I ask doubtfully. The teachers back at Learning never appreciated my essays, opinions, or anything else that allowed me to think creatively- outside the box, i think the saying is. They wanted textbook answers, slightly reworded.
“Yes! I’ll mention it to everyone at the meeting,” she says. Creativity could be rewarded here, the people are nice, and the food is decent. This is perfect.
“So who’s your lucky family?”
“My mom and my dad. My grandparents are dead.” Clara’s face falls.
“Oh, you poor dear!” She hugs me, and I almost start to cry. The back of my neck tingles, and I scratch it. “Do you have any siblings?”
That’s when it clicks. I search the room and see Gwen’s shadow behind me, attempting to catch my attention, just as she disappears. It’s a trap, and I almost fell into it. I almost killed both of us. Clara almost fooled me.
“No,” I say. Her expression slips again, and I can tell she’s disappointed. “Can I go now? I’m hungry.”
“Sure, honey,” she replies, beckoning the two bots back into the room. “Please escort her back. Gently, this time.”
On the way out, I glance back and notice her talking into a message bot’s recorder, probably telling someone my response. They must suspect us.
The bots roll alongside me back to my room. It’s the same size, although I get to personalize it more- I’ve got a desk, and a bookshelf. There’s a small note sitting on top of my bed. “Repairs were completed. Thank you.” I read out loud. There’s also a number sequence- for the bot that printed this- and the date.
I wonder what they were doing in here. I haven’t seen anything that would need repairs. I don’t really know anything about repairs, though, so maybe it’s just me.
There’s another prickle on the back of my neck, and I hear shouting, although my room is absolutely silent. My vision hazes over and I’m pulled into my sister’s world.
“Find everything ok?” I can almost see the smile on his face.
“Yes, thanks. I like this cabinet- where’s it from?”
“That story’s for another day.” That’s the last thing I hear from my sister before their voices fade off.
The house is searched one more time before I hear everyone go out the door. I’m barely awake as I hear someone say, “have a nice day now ma’am, and don’t get into any trouble,” and the door slams shut.
I’m still not allowed around the house, and I’m only given one meal a day. I’ve lost a lot of weight, and my clothes don’t fit. I like to do what I call hibernating most of the day because watching in on Gabriela is more exciting than my life. Speaking of which, I think it’s night so I curl up in the corner for nap.
The world is almost clear. I’m walking towards a stone building with two guards on either sides of my sister. They clamp on to her wrists. Gabriela turns pale white and looks very worried, but she stays still in between the two guards. I. They sit her down, “I can handle her,” a lady says. She asks her easy questions and Gabriela answers calmly. Their words start to blur as they talk on. Gabriela starts to relax the more she talks to the lady. This worries me but I can’t tell why. Suddenly I realize it’s a trap, I try to warn her but I don’t get close enough before I wake up.
As my eyes adjust, I notice I’m in my “bed” covered up and tucked in. I hear the sound of the cabinet moving outside and my door slowly opens. As the light floods in I see my mom walk in and close the door- she’s alone. Anger floods through me and I feel the need to shout at her. “We need to talk about how you’ve been behaving lately,” she says in an almost calming voice. I ignore it and instantly reply.
“So, how is Gabriela your favorite daughter when she looks just like me?”
“You don’t have a sister or anyone in the family named Gabriela, and I’m really getting sick of your attitude towards me.”
“If I don’t have a sister than how come I met her?”
“Gwen, I think you are Imagining things again.”
“ I am not!” I yell, “you never believe me. She came into my room and I talked to her.”
“You do not have a sister, and even if you would, she would not look anything like you! Now stop yelling- it’s giving me a headache. Gerald, could you come up here please?”
“Don’t you realize, I don’t care! I’m sick of sitting in this room doing nothing for my whole life. Having to listen to you is the worst part!”
“Gwen Lenson, how many times have I told you not to shout? Now go back to bed and be quiet!” It’s too much for me to handle and I just can’t stop.
“No!” I scream. “I hate you and this house and I never want to come back!”
I rush to the door, pull it open, and run into the hall, almost bumping into my dad. I hug him quickly, and jog down the steps and over to the front door. Grabbing hold of the door knob, I tug it open and rush through the open door. I stop for a moment, and the realization of what I’m doing hits me. I stand there in the open door and take in the fresh air- it feels like an old friend, and I spare every last gulp of it. I never want to leave, but the sound of police sirens jerk me back into reality. . Charging through the street, I run down sidewalks. My anger grows rapidly as I run towards nowhere in particular. After less than five minutes of running the police start chasing me. They’re calling me little girl and trying to get me to calm down. I’m loving the sudden rush of freedom and ignore everything they say. All the sudden I feel a pain in my leg. My anger fades, and the world goes fuzzy, like in my dreams. “Gabriela, is that you?” I say. People are all around me and all I hear are muffled voices except one.
“We've finally caught her. This one is older, so she should be a lot more interesting to...” I blank out before they finish their sentence.