So they printed the copy of me, without the genetic abnormality. I lay in the bed, under constant scan. It accumulated in the tray next to me, molecule by molecule, or however they do it, till it was a he, till he was me.
A little taller. The limbs not stunted, the muscles not atrophied, the cells not set to explode decades and decades too soon. Oh, what a ticking time bomb am I, but only I will hear the boom.
Not he. Ten fingers, ten toes, no booby traps buried in the RNA.
The scanner seemed to spend forever on my brain. The brain is the hardest part. If the leg isn’t quite your leg, what matter, so long as it’s a fully functioning human leg. But the brain must be as near perfect as possible. It’s not like the mind is software that can be downloaded from one brain into another. It’s the arrangement of the brain. Hardware and software inextricable. So it has to be an exact replica.
There’s no point in a brain transplant. Though they say it will carry on functioning longer, the cells of my brain are ultimately as defective as the rest.
The printer seemed to spend forever on his brain. But at last the skull layered up, the eyes foamed in, the eyelids sprayed on.
He lay there unmoving, gestating or whatever. The nurse said it was perfectly normal. The surgeon mmmed. The technician left. My parents nodded and watched it. They tried to watch me, but couldn’t keep their eyes away from it.
It sat up all at once. Blinked its eyes open. Stared at me and cried, like it was crying for me, but I thought it was just his eyes opening for the first time. He looked at himself through the tears, then looked back at me and said, “Fredericks.”
He lisped. I don’t.
It swung its legs off the tray. My parents got up to so as to help him, but the nurse waved them away. He proceeded, on wobbly legs, to me.
It’s amazing what they can do these days.
He hugged me, but I didn’t want to be hugged, so he stopped. He said, “Do you still want to be Fredericks, and I’ll be Fred?”
I didn’t want that anymore, but that’s what I’d wanted when they scanned my brain, so I said yes.
Then we all went home, and my parents put him with me in the same room. It slept on a cot next to my bed. The thought was, he wouldn’t be sleeping on it long.
I couldn’t keep straight in my head whether it was an it or a he. Or Fred.
Fred did funny stuff. Like calling apples and oranges both apples. No such thing as error free. But as the days went by, he started calling oranges oranges. His lisp faded. His steps grew sure. He played soccer at the park. Soccer. Kicked the ball. Scored a goal. I watched from the window, thinking I’d never known I was so athletic, once the abnormality was removed.
Mom asked him how his day was. He talked about school. He was catching up. “Great.” A lot more interesting than asking my how my day had been. What would I say? “I slept for 20 hours, stared at the ceiling for one hour, and went web surfing with brain reading software the other three.” What would she say back? “Mmm, that’s nice, Fredericks, is your catheter fitting fine?” and I’d say “My catheter fits comfortably, thanks for asking Mom, but there’s a bit of mess on the sheet.”
Fred went on a date with Morticia. Mom was ecstatic, let him borrow the car, but he hadn’t told her that Morticia was a copy, like him. Probably they talked about it together. Probably they felt like they bonded over it. I didn’t like thinking about that.
When he came home he told me all about it. He told me about kissing her. He told me they’d gone farther then I bet they actually had, saying it for me, because this was the closest I was ever getting to that. Morticia was hot, and I wished I was him.
I always slept, but I couldn’t sleep. The moonlight through the window illuminated his face upon the pillow. Full and tanned and perfect, so unlike my pale, boney, ghoulish mask.
Turning around in bed was a struggle, inching and wriggling. But once I was turned, it wasn’t hard to crawl to him, reach my hands around his neck, and squeeze.
He let me try a while, but I was too feeble to strangle him, as I’d known I was. Eventually he must’ve grown tired of my squeezing his Adam’s Apple, because he sat up, and captured my arms. And embraced me. Hugged by myself, sitting alone in my room, his tears soaked my hair, mine, his shirt.
I told him to look after Jean. I told him to be a good son, and make something of himself, and go to Comic-Con one day, and do everything I’d never do, because he was the copy, so he had to live my life for me.
He told me, “When I woke up in the hospital, on the tray, I thought I’d fallen asleep. I sat up, and was amazed I could. Then I opened my eyes, and saw I was the copy. I’m you.”
But every moment we were less each other. I being changed by dying, he by watching me die. I wondered if he would become a great geneticist, and develop cures, but he started talking about audio design. What the hell is audio design? He explained it to me, and it sounded boring.
It was beginning to wear on my family, there being two of us, and one so weak, surviving beyond the prognosis. Every morning Mom saw I was alive, and looked disappointed. Alive, bound to my bed, hardly able to move, struggling to breathe, but not such trouble as I’d expected. I wondered if the doctors were wrong, and I’d spend the next 60 years in bed, hardly able to move.
No one mentioned euthanasia. I could hear them not mentioning euthanasia. I didn’t mention it too. They fed me with spoons, and I died of bedsores.
Or that’s how I think of it. The other me. Fredericks.