Dr. Frazier scribbled a few last notes into his overstuffed and tattered research journal. Flashes of insight hastily written on scraps of paper were crammed between its coffee stained pages and threatened to escape if handled carelessly. For the thousandth time this month, he lamented the loss of his last assistant. When he looked up, a mischievous smile spread across his face.
Dr. Frazier’s clone sat motionless with blank eyes that looked straight forward in what he called the transference cathedra. The tall, straight-backed piece of equipment reminded him of the bishop’s chair he once saw while touring a church years ago. A black strap across the clone’s hairless chest held him upright and dozens of electrodes were attached to his head. Physically, his clone was at least thirty years younger than himself, and Dr. Frazier shook his head when he thought of the days and weeks he completely wasted during his youth. He wondered how much further along his research would be if he had only focused.
After positioning his own headset, he said softly, “Well my friend, I hope you appreciate the opportunity I’m about to give you, and besides, I could use the help.” He gripped a small switch between his thumb and forefinger, closed his eyes and flipped it to the on position.
Rows of digital readouts lit up as the computers went to work. The hum of cooling fans grew louder and an electric buzz filled the air as his memories and thought patterns were copied. The clone’s body twitched as its mind began to take shape. Trillions of synapses in the clone’s brain reformed themselves to retain memory.
Dr. Frazier felt a headache forming behind his eyes, and he rubbed his hand across his forehead and down his cheek. When he touched his face, he realized that he could feel both smooth skin and the unshaven stubble on his face. He blinked and stared at his hand curiously. A sense of double vision washed over him, and the pain in his head pulsed. He simultaneously saw one hand with smooth skin and a hand that was dry and wrinkled.
He glanced at the clone and a wave of dizziness washed over him. He smiled as his eyes focused even though the pain continued to grow in intensity. Likewise, his clone smiled and copied every movement he made. He thought to himself, who says that you can’t be in two places at once. After staring into his own eyes a few moments, he gripped the control switch. His cloned mimicked the action although there was no switch on his chair. After letting out a deep breath, he flipped the switch to the off position. He closed his eyes tight against the shock of having the connection joining the two minds severed.
The agony slowly subsided, and he looked into his clone’s eyes again. His clone had recovered from the separation a few seconds earlier and was already smiling at him.
They both said, “Hello,” at the same time. They both grinned and echoed each other again, “How do you feel?”
An infectious laughter filled the room as they heard each other’s maniacal cackles. Dr. Frazier held up a hand, signaling that he’d like to say something. His clone nodded once and waited while Dr. Frazier retrieved a book of names from a nearby table. He opened the book to a random page and stabbed his finger into the book. “We shall call you, Skeet.”
The clone shook his head and glanced at the floor. “How about Paul?”
Dr. Frazier’s mouth pulled to one side. “My middle name?”
“Our middle name. I am you after all.”
Dr. Frazier glanced at the book of names and shook his head before tossing it into a nearby trash bin. “Makes sense. Paul it is then.”
Paul stood up and stretched new muscles. The cold floor under his feet caused a chill to shiver and goosebumps covered his arms and legs as he dressed.
Dr. Frazier nodded. “You’re right we’ve wasted enough time.” He laughed to himself. “I think we already know each other well enough. We should get some work done.” He nodded toward his disheveled notebook. “You can transcribe my notes into the computer there, and I’ll go check the experiments in Lab 3.”
Paul stared at the notebook and his nose wrinkled, “Wait. You know I have two PHDs and over three decades of experience in my head. Wouldn’t it be a better use of our resources if I did something a little less menial?”
Dr. Frazier raised an eyebrow. “There are some things I’d feel more comfortable doing myself.”
Paul stifled a laugh. “I know how much you hate transcribing your own notes and that they need to be up to date before the funding review next week.” He paused. “Maybe we should do the transcriptions together and knock it out quick since we both hate doing it.”
Dr. Frazier let out a slow sigh and shook his head. “Look at it this way, it’s what you were made for.”
Paul’s cheeks flushed. “Well, maybe you should’ve cloned the lab assistant before he walked on us. I’ve got just as much potential as you do.” He took a deep breath and pressed on. “Now that I think about it, I actually have more potential than you do. I’ve got youth to go along with your experience. You let two marriages slip away while you buried yourself in research. When was the last time you spoke to any of your children, Dr. Frazier?”
The doctor’s face flushed red. “They all understand how important my research is.”
Paul shook his head and walked to the exit and stopped with his hand on the push bar. “They all know that you care more about your research than them. Life is made up of the choices we make every moment of every day. I’m not going to spend my life in a lab, not this time.”
Dr. Frazier’s mouth fell open as the door slammed shut behind his clone. Lost in thought, he stared blankly at the floor wondering how his clone’s thoughts and goals diverged from his own so quickly. He blinked when the door opened and his old lab assistant stepped into the room. Surprise filled his voice when he spoke.
“Jacob, what are you doing here?”
Jacob grimace and glanced at the floor before meeting Dr. Frazier’s eyes. “I didn’t realize how many hours would be required to work this project. My girlfriend felt like I was neglecting her. I thought I could save our relationship by spending more time with her, so I took off. It turns out that she was already spending her time with the team’s quarterback. I’m sorry I left like I did.”
Dr. Frazier glanced at his notebook and smiled. “I understand. If you get all my notes transcribed before next week’s inspection, we’ll forget it ever happened.” His eyes narrowed as an intriguing thought ran laps in his mind. “Oh, and I’m going to need a DNA sample.”
Eddie D. Moore travels extensively for work, and he spends much of that time listening to audio books. The rest of the time is spent dreaming of stories to write and he spends the weekends writing them. His stories have been published by Jouth Webzine, Kzine, Alien Dimensions, Theme of Absence, Devolution Z, and Fantasia Divinity Magazine. Find more on his blog: https://eddiedmoore.wordpress.com/.