H-U-M-A-N. THE FIRST WORD WAS hu-man.
There were two kinds of humans: natural-born humans, people, women and men, girls and boys, like the doctors and staff, the researchers, the guards, and the Suits who came sometimes to survey the island and its inhabitants.
Then there were human models, males and females, made in the laboratory and transferred to the surrogate birthers, who lived in the barracks and never spoke English. The clones, people occasionally still called them, though Lyra knew this was a bad word, a hurtful word, even though she didn’t know why. At Haven they were called replicas.
The second word was M-O-D-E-L. She spelled it, breathing the sounds lightly between her teeth, the way that Dr. O’Donnell had taught her. Then: the number 24.
So the report was about her.
“How are you feeling today?” Nurse Swineherd asked.
Lyra had named her only last month. She didn’t know what a swineherd was but had heard Nurse Rachel say, Some days I’d rather be a swineherd, and had liked the sound of it. “Lots of excitement last night, huh?” As always, she didn’t wait for a response, and instead forced Lyra down onto the examination table, so she no longer had a view of the file.
Lyra felt a quick flash of anger, like a temporary burst in her brain. It wasn’t that she was curious about the report. She had no desire in particular to know about her- self, to find out why she was sick and whether she could be cured. She understood, in general terms, from things insinuated or overheard, that there were still glitches in the process. The replicas were born genetically identical to the source material but soon presented with various medical problems, organs that didn’t function properly, blood cells that didn’t regenerate, lungs that collapsed. Or they simply failed to thrive. They stayed skinny and stunted. They smashed their heads on the floor, and when the Suits came, screamed to be picked up. (In the past few years God had mandated that the newest generational crops be picked up, bounced, or engaged in play for at least two hours every day. Research suggested that human contact would keep them healthier for longer. Lyra and the other older replicas took turns with them, tickling their fat little feet, trying to make them smile.)
Lyra had fallen in love with reading during the brief, ecstatic period of time when Dr. O’Donnell had been at Haven, which she now thought of as the best months of her life. When Lyra read, it was as if a series of small win- dows opened in the back of her mind, flooding her with light and fresh air and visions of other places, other lives, other, period. The only books at Haven were books about science and the body, and these were difficult and full of words she couldn’t sound out. But she read charts when they were left unattended on countertops. She read the magazines the nurses left behind in their break room.
Nurse Swineherd kept talking while she took Lyra’s blood pressure with Squeezeme and stuck Thermoscan under her tongue. Lyra liked Squeezeme and Thermos can. She liked the way Squeezeme tightened around her upper arm, like a hand holding on to lead her somewhere.
She liked Thermoscan’s reassuring beeps, and afterward when Nurse Swineherd said, “Perfectly normal.”
“Don’t know what it was thinking, running that way,” Nurse Swineherd said. “Breathe deeply, okay? Good. Now exhale. Good. It’ll drown before it gets past the breaks. Did you hear the surf last night? Like thunder! I’m surprised the body hasn’t turned up already, actually.”
Lyra knew she wasn’t expected to reply. The one time she had, in response to Nurse Swineherd’s cheerful ques- tion, “How are we today?” Nurse Swineherd had startled, dropping one of the syringes—Lyra hated the syringes, refused to name them—and had to start over. But she wondered what it would be like to come across the dead body on the beach. She wasn’t afraid of dead bodies. She had seen hundreds of replicas get sick and die. All the Yel- lows had died, none of them older than twelve months. A fluke, the doctors said: a fever. Lyra had seen the bodies wrapped and prepared for shipping.
A Purple from the seventh crop, number 333, had sim- ply stopped eating. By the time they put her on a tube, it was too late. Number 501 swallowed twenty-four small white Sleepers after Nurse Em, who used to help shave her head and was always gentlest with the razor, went away. Number 421 had gone suddenly, in her sleep. It was Lyra who’d touched her arm to wake her and known, from the strange plastic coldness of her body, that she was dead. Strange that in an instant all the life just evaporated, went away, leaving only the skin and bones, a pile of flesh.
But that’s what they were: bodies. Human and yet not people. She hadn’t so far been able to figure out why. She looked, she thought, like a normal person. So did the other female replicas. They’d been made from normal people, and even birthed from them.
But the making of them marked them. That’s what everybody said. Except for Dr. O’Donnell.
She wouldn’t mind seeing a male up close—the male and female replicas were kept separate, even the dead ones that went off the island in tarps. She was curious about the males, had studied the anatomical charts in the medical textbooks she couldn’t otherwise read. She had looked especially closely at diagrams of the female and male reproductive organs, which seemed, she thought, to mark the primary difference between them, but she couldn’t imagine what a male’s would look like in real life. The only men she saw were doctors, nurses, security, and other members of the staff.
“All right. Almost done. Come here and stand on the scale now, okay?”
Lyra stood up, hoping to catch a glimpse once again of the chart, and its beautiful, symmetrical lettering, which marched like soldiers across the page. But Nurse Swineherd had snatched the clipboard and was writing in Lyra’s newest results. Without releasing her grip on the clipboard, she adjusted the scale expertly with one hand, waiting until it balanced correctly.
“Hmmm.” She frowned, so that the lines between her eyebrows deepened and converged. Once, when Lyra was really little, she had announced that she had found out the difference between people and replicas: people were old, replicas were young. The nurse who was bathing her at the time, a nurse who hadn’t stayed long, and whose name Lyra could no longer remember, had burst out laughing. The story had quickly made the rounds among the nurses and doctors.
“You’ve lost weight,” Nurse Swineherd said, still frowning. “How’s your appetite?”
Several seconds went by before Lyra realized this was a question she was meant to answer. “Fine.”
“No nausea? Cramping? Vomiting?” Lyra shook her head. “Vision problems? Confusion?”
Lyra shook her head because she wasn’t very practiced at lying. Two weeks ago she’d vomited so intensely her ribs had ached the following day. Yesterday she’d thrown up in a pillowcase, hoping it would help muffle the sound. Fortunately she’d been able to sneak it in with the rest of the trash, which went off on boats on Sundays, to be burned or dumped into the sea or otherwise disposed of. Given the storm, and the security breach, and the miss- ing-now-probably-dead male, she was confident no one would notice the missing pillowcase.
But the worst thing was that she had gotten lost yes- terday, on her way back to the dorms. It didn’t make any sense. She knew every inch of D-Wing, from Natal Intensive to Neural Observation, to the cavernous dorms that housed one hundred female replicas each, to the bathrooms with dozens of showerheads tacked to a wall, a trench-like sink, and ten toilets. But she must have turned right instead of left coming out of the bathroom and had somehow ended up at the locked door that led into C-Wing, blinking confusedly, until a guard had called out to her and startled her into awareness.
But she wouldn’t say so. She couldn’t go to the Box. That’s what everyone called G-Wing. The Box, or the Funeral Home, because half the replicas that went in never came out.
“All right, off you go,” Nurse Swineherd said. “You let me know if you start feeling sick, okay?”
This time, she knew she wasn’t expected to answer.
She wouldn’t have to tell anyone she kept getting sick. That was what the Glass Eyes mounted in the ceiling were for. (She wasn’t sure whether she liked the Glass Eyes or not. Sometimes she did, when the chanting from Barrel Key was especially loud and she thought the cameras were keeping her safe. Sometimes, when she wanted to hide that she felt sick, she hated them, those lashless lenses recording her every move. That was the problem: she never knew which side the Glass Eyes were on.)
But she nodded anyway. Lyra had a plan, and the plan required her to be good, at least for a little while.