July 20th, 2016.
The building towers over us in the midday sun, glinting where the light hits the windows. I walk up the stairs steadily with my parents following closely behind, and a crowd of cameramen snap photos and record my every movement. It’s odd to think that this is probably being broadcasted somewhere for everyone to see - for everyone to find out if I am who Farrow said I am.
We’re visiting a top-of-the-range biological science facility in California; specifically specialising in genetics. I’m going to run through some tests, matching my DNA to my parents and seeing if it is the same as One’s (my mother still has a ‘baby’s first curl’ box from when One was a couple of months old, and also a box of mine – gross, I know, but it’s no surprise from someone who can’t seem to let go of her children in any way). Luckily, with some trace of One still around, it makes it much easier to run accurate tests. Otherwise, I would just be their lastborn who looked an awful lot like her – I don’t know if they would ever go as far as an exhumation of One’s body just to prove that Farrow isn’t a crazy old bat or that our family are fraudsters.
Once we’re in the building, the noise of the press fades into muffled sound behind glass, though still loud enough not to notice. I feel like something of a celebrity, though not the way one would want to be celebrated. I mean, if I turn out not to be a freak clone, I’ll be ridiculed and berated by the masses for pulling some sort of stunt (despite Farrow instigating it all) and if I am… well, then, I’m not sure exactly how I’d be treated. I know that the current response (since five mornings ago when it all kicked off) is of pure shock, curiosity and wonder. But how long will that last? What if I just become a strange headline story and I have to sink back into normality - what would I do?
Not to mention the people I’ve fooled. I know Bret and Naomi are no longer scratching their heads or narrowing their eyes. They never thought it would turn out this way, but it did. They never thought the one answer to their questions was simply that I was a goddamned clone of Jennifer-Rose. Maybe it justifies why I did the things I did - it’s better than me being a curious sister. But still… it doesn’t exactly paint me in the best light.
Kal tried calling me many times once the news got out, but I never had the guts to answer. I am already too exhausted to explain everything. Even finding out this new revelation wouldn’t really clarify the journey to Presley, where I bumped into him – there are still gaps in the story.
Abby and Miles and a few other acquaintances have tried hitting me up too, and my social media has exploded into a frenzy. I’m just not used to this much attention. I love company and I love being noticed by people, but when I know there’s an ulterior motive or it’s just my fifteen minutes, I think I’d rather do with solitude.
The media has been a whirlwind for the past couple of days – though nothing has been officially confirmed before today, it’s almost as if it has. News and TV outlets are competing to get an interview with me as if there’s sufficient proof. I just don’t know if I’m really willing to put myself out there. And say… what? Talk about what? At the end of the day, I’m still a human being. I don’t want to be idolised or dehumanised in any way, shape or form. Adhering to any social status or responsibility will do just that. I’m already having a hard time settling on my identity - this would just make everything worse. I need more time to reflect on the direction my life is going, I guess.
“Hello, Miss Middleton.” A researcher in a lab coat smiles when we reach the belly of the building, into the quiet and away from the noise outside. “How are you feeling?”
“…There was a time where I felt relatively normal once, but I can’t remember when.” I say. He just nods in response, as if it was a regular way to answer such a simple question.
“How about you, Mr and Mrs. Middleton?”
“Call us Jeff and Roseanna,” my father says, smiling as he shakes his hand.
“I’m Dr. Redman,” he says before fixing his glasses as he leads us into another room. “Now, we’re not exactly sceptical of this entire situation, as we are very familiar with Farrow’s work – may he rest in peace – but, as scientists, we do need concrete empirical evidence. If this really is true, it is ground-breaking in scientific history. It will raise a lot of questions and debates – it will keep the world talking for a long time.”
“We’re sure it would,” my mother laughs awkwardly. I can tell that this whole time, she’s shrunken into herself. She’s now being watched under a microscope, just like me. She was adamant and dominant when it came to getting her way with One being replicated, but the idea of people knowing frightens her. Especially with Farrow not around to play defence. My father on the other hand… it’s hard to tell how he feels about all of this. He’s difficult to read sometimes, but I think he’s just as nervous as the rest of us. Jacque and Jamie drove over the second they found out, with Jamie freaking out, getting angry at Mom and Dad, saying that she “knew this would happen, goddamn it! This would never be kept a secret for too long. There’s no way something this absurd – this extraordinary could hide away forever.” Either way, their reactions were much more negative, but mainly towards my parents.
“We’re going to run a few blood tests, as well as a saliva sample and other things, as well as checking your overall health – it’s important to see if you differ at all from your… donor. If we find that you have one.” Redman shakes his head in disbelief. I don’t think he ever thought he would be having a conversation like this in his lifetime time.
The tests take longer than I thought. I have to strip down so that they could do measurements such as height and weight, waist, etc. it’s as if I’m a model being gauged for a casting. Then come the blood tests, and the hair samples. With a lock of One’s hair, they begin the comparisons with mine. My parents and I sit in the waiting room, being offered coffee as they consolidate their results. Normally it would take a few days, but the technology used means that they can get it over with in a couple of hours.
I’m starving, as I was not to eat anything to ensure my weigh-in was accurate. The closest place to get something to eat it outside, and I’m wondering if two and a half hours later, people might still be there. This must be what Leonardo DiCaprio feels like all the time, I think to myself. Being famous must suck. I should probably invest in some groovy masks and wigs to disguise myself in public next time.
As we wait and my stomach grumbles, my mother switches on the television in the room, with the news flashing onto the screen instantly. It’s as if by magic, they happen to be reporting about me.
“Seventeen-year-old Jennifer-Anne Middleton is in the centre of a media storm after a suicide letter left by eminent scientist Dr. Vincent Farrow, claimed that she is the world’s first human clone – a product of his own creation. It is stated that in the year of 1999 when Jennifer-Rose Middleton, a happy-go-lucky teenage girl was left brain-dead after being shot at a tennis tournament, parents Jeff and Roseanna Middleton went to Dr. Farrow in a desperate plea to ‘keep’ their child, one way or another - specifically to replicate her - a very unorthodox and controversial means of sustaining their daughter’s existence. Today, Jennifer-Anne will be undergoing thorough testing in a laboratory.
“Many debates will spring from this newfound discovery – including topics like whether cloning should ever be for reproductive purposes regarding humans, as well as therapeutic purposes. Since the cloning of Janus in 1992, many other mammals such as dogs and hamsters have been cloned – with some pet owners even going as far as cloning their own canines. The questions is: should this really be acceptable with human beings? Should there be legal regulations? Is this likely to become a slippery slope? There will be more talk regarding the Jennifer-Anne debate tonight at 8pm.”
As the reporter talks, photos of One and I flash across the screen (which were used with my parents’ consent), and it’s obvious that there might be truth to the speculation. You can’t create the same-looking person twice just by chance.
It’s so weird seeing myself on TV. All my life, I’ve seen other faces flash on screen. Seeing my own is just… an odd feeling. It’s almost like it’s not me. It’s kind of like being deprived of mirrors all of your life, only ever seeing other people. Then when the reflective glass is thrust into your face, you have no choice but to get used to knowing how other people see you.
“Hello, Middletons,” Dr. Redman enters the room, along with two other science-looking people - an Eastern Asian woman and a red-haired man, both donning lab coats. I look at the redhead’s name tag, and find his last name to be Brown, and I laugh inside my head. I think him and Redman should switch names, just to stick to the hair colour co-ordination.
“I don’t know if this is good or bad news, but it’s certainly jaw-dropping. The DNA from Jennifer-Anne matches 99.999% with that of Jennifer-Rose’s. Usually that wouldn’t be odd - most monozygotic twins share the same DNA. But the fact that Anne was born after Rose died… means they obviously are not twins.” I find it odd that I’m right there in the room, and he’s talking about me like I’m not. “Like I said, we weren’t extremely doubtful when we saw the letter from Farrow, as we’re familiar with his older work. But we just had to be confident. I’m sure that you understand.”
My parents nod slowly in response. It seems like there is more that he wishes to say afterwards – he’s getting awkward, and so are the people he’s with. They give each other looks - you know, when you’re not sure whether to tell someone something and you try and get permission from someone else. “…Uhm… Anne? Do you think we could spend a second speaking with your parents?”
“You already are.” I mutter. He smiles uneasily, trying to find my dry humour amusing.
“I’m sorry. I mean with them... alone. I can get Dr. Lin to send you to the cafeteria in the east wing of the building; I’m sure you’re hungry.”
“What are you going to talk about? Is it about me in particular?” I raise my eyebrows. I’m not a fan of any information being told behind my back.
“…I’m sorry, Anne. You’ll be informed on the conversation in the near future.” The way he says it scares me. I know I’ll be receiving bad news by the looks of it. I think back to when my mother read Farrow’s letter and collapsed in tears, apologising to me profusely. I think back to how Bret apologises in tense situations, and like classical conditioning, I begin to internally panic at the sound of those two words. What more could there be to know?
I wasn’t expecting such good food to be sold here – I was mistaken in thinking that there was nothing to eat here in the first place. It’s my lucky day – I got a hamburger, fries and an iced caramel frap for free. Maybe being a scientific oddity grants you a few privileges every now and then.
It’s while I’m eating that I get a text from Kal. He hardly ever texts now that we call each other more often- he would tell me that he’d rather hear my voice. He’s not a fan of communication via typed words, as he says he wouldn’t know how I’m really feeling. It’s a surprise to see him finally text, but I guess it was bound to happen after ignoring his calls for over 24 hours. I’m scared to read it – God knows what he might say. You’re a freak! Or something stupid like that. But then I remember that this is Kal. The sweetest boy in the whole world. Even though he knew I’ve been keeping secrets, he never pushed anything out of me. He never questioned me. What could he possibly have to say about all of this?
Call me back ASAP.
I roll my eyes. What did I expect? He would never sit there and write out a long paragraph, would he?
I need to talk to you. I want to see you IRL. This is important.
I get that text a couple of minutes later, finally followed by:
I still like you, a lot. Nothing has changed. If it’s true, it doesn’t matter to me. Call me Annie.
I laugh at the last sentence, because without the comma it’s like he’s asking me to refer to him as Annie. This is why it’s probably better to just talk to him - to avoid all of the grammar mishaps. Either way, for some reason, I can’t get myself to do it. I just can’t. there’s something I’m afraid of – a tingling in my stomach that won’t go away. A nagging in my chest. Something is wrong, I know it. Something is very wrong.
Roseanna tries her best to hold back tears - she hates crying around Rose. Of course, she hardly ever does, but she always wants to look strong for her daughter. Jeff hasn’t said a word since they got in the car, and Rose just sits at the back on her seat, staring blissfully oblivious outside the window, up at the sky. She calls out to her mother with her undeveloped pronunciation, trying to describe how the clouds look like the shape of a doggy but not getting the words out right. Roseanna laughs and smiles in response, and hearing her daughter’s fresh, little two-year-old voice makes her fall apart inside.
She’s scared for the future. She is in pure denial. She can only dream of a good ending. She’s scared, but she doesn’t want to be. She should start preparing herself for the worst now, before it’s all too late.
She needs to learn to let go.
She needs to let go.