Author Notes : This is a short story that I had planned a while ago, so it is simply this entry. Though I did have a lot of ideas pop up in the process of writing this, so I decided that if the story was enjoyed enough, I would write a longer version.
Birthday for Two
The calendar was circled for May 21st, 2639. It would be a very important date, only three days away and I cannot wait for it to come. Can you guess what day that might be? It is my eighteenth birthday, when I become an adult and get all the responsibilities that come along with becoming an adult, like no curfew. Heh, yeah I know, I cannot wait for it to come, to be considered an adult, grown up, words that I have waited to hear all my life. It is so exciting, I cannot hold in my happiness.
My parents have been making plans for my party, it sounds weird I think. You would think that I had grown out of something like having a birthday party, but it is special day when a girl becomes a woman. Some of my friends say it is nothing more than semantics, but it is important to me. I wonder what it will feel like being eighteen; I know that technically nothing really will happen to make me any different. However, high school is almost over, I am going to college after the summer. Really if you think about, everything is going to change in my life.
I will not be living with my parents anymore; most of my friends will be going to different colleges or universities. I will have to make new friends and get used to life away from things that are comforting and familiar. It is a little scary to think about at times, how so much really does change when you become eighteen. While it is not physical changes, it is life changes, I have my entire future ahead of me and I can get to start on it. It just makes you so excited what will happen next.
Unfortunately, rather than spending the last few of my days a child with my friends having fun, I am in my room having to write an essay about myself. The teacher gave us an assignment to write about ourselves, but to also think about what it means to be an adult and the changes that were coming for everyone. That is why I am thinking about all of these things.
I have been sitting in my chair with my computer screen glaring back at me as much as I am staring at it hoping to find the words I need to write for this assignment. As I was finding out, I had ideas what it meant, but nothing I could really put into words, it seemed hard to define. I mean I know what it means, honest, I just do not know how I am going to write it to make it sound good for the teacher.
Being an adult is an important step for me, it is an important step for anyone at this stage. You have relationships, fall in love, get an education, find a career, get married, grow old, and watch your children grow up. It is a lot to look forward to; I am going to be living that soon. I am going to be an adult, it will happen when I am eighteen.
Knowing myself, that is the easy part, I already know what I am going to write for that part. I am Chris Mathews, sounds like a boys name, right? I really do not know what my parents were thinking when they named me, Chris, sure it works for a girls name too, but really there is Christie, Christina, Christine, Crystal, so many other names they could have picked. It is not even short for anything, just Chris. It sounds like I am some sort of tomboy, with short hair loose, baggy clothes and plays in the mud. But that would be the furthest from the truth, I have long, shining blonde hair and I am wearing a skirt right now. Really, Chris, can you believe it? But aside from the name, everything else is normal about me; it is a pretty easy write on that subject. Who knows me, better than me?
I have lived in the same house all of my life and grown up with all my friends together. I have no other brothers or sisters, though I am not sure I know anyone else with a brother or sister. It is part of some sort of population control. So I get all of my parent's attention. When I was fourteen I had my first boyfriend and he kissed me on my fifteenth birthday. It seemed really romantic at the time, but we were so nervous, still embarrasses me. Oh, what else is there about me to write?
"Dinner, Chris!" my mom said.
"Guess, I will pick this up after dinner. I still don't know what to write for the other parts. Oh well, it will come to me eventually."
Unfortunately, it never did come to me that night, but I have a couple days before I have to hand it in anyway. I was just hoping to be able to get it out of the way, so I would not have to do it on my birthday. It is just wrong having homework on your birthday, you should be able to relax and enjoy the day not having to worry about anything. Enjoying the company of your friends and family, getting to see what presents you got. It should be a worry free day.
School was beginning now and my friends were talking about something that happened to some student. I did not know the student, but it was apparently going around the whole school.
"They say he just flipped out on Mr. Henson. No reason at all, just started yelling."
"Yeah, I heard that too. I heard that he was acting really strange in history class, like he was talking to someone, having an argument with them."
"Really, who did you hear that from?"
"Karen, she sits next to him."
"Sarah said she saw two men come and take him out of the school. They said he was shouting about something about a conspiracy or some silly thing like that."
"That is just too weird. He seemed like a normal guy too."
"Yeah, wasn't he dating Jennifer? How is she doing?"
"Yeah, poor girl. They found her crying in the bathroom."
"No one knows, she was taken away too."
"Can, we talk about something a little more cheerful? Class is starting soon, I don't want to be feeling weird all day," I said.
"That is a little cold, Chris."
"Well, she is right, it is rather creepy if you think about it."
But they were right, it was a little rude of me, but it was already creeping me out some. It gave me chills down my back; there was something strange about it that I could not figure out. I just needed to get it off my mind so I would not be thinking about it the entire day.
However, just as I was afraid of, it hung around in my mind all day. None of it really made much sense to me and that was the problem. I did not know what had really happened or why. It was not as though I really could go ask someone why, no one knew why, it was completely sudden. Anyone I did ask could not give me a reason that actually made sense. Everyone could only tell me what they either heard or what they had seen happen, which ended up being about as much as my friends said.
It was simply that the boy for some unknown reason blew up on his teacher, and they think on his girlfriend too. He started shouting about weird things that did not make a lot of sense, like conspiracy and not being real. No one was able to remember exactly what he said, since a lot of it really did not make any sense. People probably just thought he had cracked from the pressure and was venting unintelligently across the classroom. Then after that some men came for him and escorted him out of the school along with his girlfriend. Rumor was that they were from a mental institute, but I knew him, well I did not know him per se. But still, he seemed like a normal, average boy that was pretty cute too.
The drama was all too confusing, I had to go home and try to attempt to finish my essay in the hope that I was not stuck writing it on my birthday. I already knew that I was going to be having trouble figuring it out. There was not a lot I could about it though it was part of my final grade. Why it was no one understood, but the teacher seemed to be making a big deal about it. Unfortunately for me though the only thing my fingers touch that night was my hair as I sat in the chair staring at the computer again. After an hour I laid on my bed hoping something would come to me, the ceiling was more pleasant of a conversationalist than the monitor. Still I was unable to figure out something.
My birthday was tomorrow now and I was getting excited by the moment. Unfortunately at school my friends were talking about that boy again. But there was new information; they said that he had committed suicide last night at the hospital that he was staying at. It was a surprise to everyone; no one knew what to think about it. That cute, average, normal boy was dead now and no one knew why he was. The entire school was quiet for the whole day; little was spoken outside of lectures. There was just whispers or rumors about what happened, but it was eerie how quiet the halls were.
I tried talking to the teachers he had to find out if he was acting strangely before yesterday. It was strange how curious I was being about someone that I hardly even knew, but there was something nagging at me that I could not get out of my mind. The teachers were of no help though; they were just as confused as everyone else. They told me that he was fine, a rather model student even. He might not have gotten the best grades in the class, but he was an "A" student, so the sudden breakdown had even them puzzled.
After an hour of staying after school I left just as clueless as I started and exhausted from having felt like I have achieved nothing is solving this mystery. The nagging sense was still there annoying me. It seemed to crave the answers to what had happened to him, but there were no answers to find. I did not even know what I was doing at this point, these weird events were making me do things that I normally would not. This strange, deep interest in what happened to him. It was beginning to scare me how far I was going to try to find answers.
I sat in front of the computer for another couple hours that night trying to write. However, I found myself looking around the news releases. I do not even know how I ended up looking at them, but before I knew it I was looking for information about the suicide. Though as I figured there was a very little about it other than it happened. There were no medical documents I could find or even police reports; simply that he was dead by suicide. It was disconcerting that there was nothing at all about what happened, there did not even seem to be any sort of inquiries about it, the parents did not even seem to be asking questions.
It was all just almost casually being passed along like this sort of thing happens all of the time. I could hardly believe it myself, not single person seemed to care about the death of this student. None of this was making any sense, there had to be a reason why there was nothing was being done. Even as I tried to search deeper I was still coming up empty, not learning anything that would provide me with any answers at all. I needed some answers, but I could not figure out why I needed answers. It was just an urge that I could not subside.
Sometime in the late hours of the night I fell asleep, I could not really remember when, just that my parents were waking me up telling me that it was morning. I had school today, on my birthday. I had a party planned for this evening; my parents had it all arranged. But before I left to go to school they told me to come home quickly, they had something that they wanted to give me before the party. It was something important, they had serious faces hidden behind smiles. I did not really know what it was all about, but if it was important I could not miss it. This mystery present for my birthday or whatever it might be had me excited, it had to be a present, but what could it be that it was so important that I came home right after school.
What it might be had me thinking all day during classes; it was hard for me to think about anything else. I even nearly forgot everything about that student. It was hard to keep thinking straight as much as I was trying. The school day passed at a snails pace it seemed, but after what felt like twenty hours of sitting in a chair I was finally free to go home.
I quickly rushed back home expecting to find something large in the yard or something different about the house. Though it was normal, I did not know what my parents had in mind anymore. The house was quiet when I entered; they were waiting in the living room for me to come home. They were standing there looking at me very serious, hardly a face for giving a present in.
"Welcome home, Chris."
"So where is this thing you want me to come home for?"
"We will show you, we just need to take a drive."
"A drive? Where are we going then?"
"It is a surprise."
"Okay…" I hardly knew what to say, it sounded like a weird present if you had to drive there to see it. But we all got into the car; my dad seemed to insist on driving though rather than letting it drive itself. It was a little unusual for him; I had not seen him actually drive in years. My parents said very little on the way to wherever it was that we were going. The silence and their seriousness was being to worry me about what it was that they were going to show me. What was it that was affecting them like this?
"What are we doing at the cloning labs?"
"You will find out soon enough."
"Hey, your mystery is starting to scare me, tell me what is going on."
"Please, be patient, you will see soon."
"But I want to know now!"
"Chris! Quiet, you will know soon enough."
"But…" We walked into the cloning labs a place where they grew organs and people for those that lost parts and needed to have something replaced. It seemed like a strange place for us to be going since I was in perfect health and unless they had not told me something, my parents were in perfect health as well, even if they were a little old. But it was not unusual for parents to be in the fifties or sixties and with a child still, science had given enough advances to the human body that fifty no longer seemed that old. So why be here then, there was no reason for us to be here, especially on my birthday. This was turning into a terrible a present and day. Were they trying to ruin the most important day for me?
We passed the main lobby after they spoke softly to the receptionist. We were directed down a bare hallway that had numerous doors all looking the same. It was a very plain, sterile environment; I had just heard things about them in class. I had never actually been inside one before. The whole building had a creepy undertone to it. But we had arrived at our destination, whatever it was. It seemed like a simple door in the endless hallway and opened to a small room with a glass window on one side.
My parents sat down in the corner of the room where there were two chairs. I sat down in one of the other nearby chairs with my back to the glass. A silence hung in the air even now, when I was expecting them to say something, like surprise or happy birthday, anything that might kill this eerie mood that was being set. Unfortunately, they did not say anything, just sat there not really looking at me so much, but still trying to all the same.
The lights turned down and a voice spoke, "Chris Mathews, you have reach the age of eighteen and now by the Two-Lives Act we grant your parents all the rights and privileges that are accorded in the act to inform you of your second life."
"What? Second life? What are they talking about? Mom…dad?"
"Please, listen Chris, this is going hard to be hard for you to hear, but you must listen to what we are about to tell you. As they said this is your second life this is correct, but before that you need to understand what that means. You see, years ago, long before even we were born the government passed a law known as the Two-Lives Act. This law was established in the hopes that it would stabilize the frailties of the human condition and tendencies towards extreme acts, namely violence.
"What the law did was make it mandatory for all newborns to have a genetically exact twin of the opposite gender. Created at the time of baby's conception, twins would always be born, however one would be preserved for eighteen years, not allowed to age past its moment of birth. The other would be allowed to grow up as a normal child. Then at the age of eighteen they would be preserved for eighteen years and the baby would be allowed to grow.
"However, before the eighteen year old child would be preserved all memories, thoughts, everything that made them who they were would be transferred into the mind the baby with the majority of the memories blocked away not to be accessed. Only a few things would be left, tastes in food, possibly hobbies or interests. In essence it would be the exact same person, just in a new body and opposite gender. They would have the chance to experience both sides.
"It was the hope that knowing both sides and understanding both sides would lead to a stronger, better person. Someone that understood people better and could interact maturely with others and be a better spouse. They would lead more healthy, joyous lives.
"It is now time Chris for you to decide once the mind blockers are destroyed within you, you will have access and recall all of your memories of your previous life. Your life as our son and as our daughter. You will have to decide which you will choose to be for the rest of your life."
"You can't be serious! How can this be true? You have to be lying!"
"Chris, this is all the truth."
"No, this can't be, how can something so massive as this be kept a secret. You can't possibly be able to keep it all contain. You must be lying."
"No, the house we live in, we moved here eighteen years ago."
"All of the students in your class, they are all second lifers. They will be told the same thing as you very soon."
"What! It's a massive conspiracy like that boy was talking about everyone is in on it! It can't be, how can you go along with this? This is not right to play god with our lives."
"We are just the same as you Chris, as I said this law was in place long before even we were born. We understand how you feel, but you must choose."
"No, how can you? You can't! This is not fair! What right does the government have to say what sort of people are suppose to be?" I just wanted out of the room at that point, I could not stand being in there any longer. I did not know what to think anymore, but everything was making sense in ways that I had never imagined. All those answers that I had been seeking were now revealed. I understood what had happened to that boy, he found out or was told. He might even have had done whatever was about to be done to me. He could not accept it and went crazy, two minds, two experiences and lives all inside one. How could anyone live like that? But I already had it all in me, they just had to flip a switch and I would remember too. I did not want that to happen, I would lose who I am now and be someone different, I do not even know whom this other person that was their son. They say it was me, but how can I know what that means?
I rushed to the door, smacking against it with my whole body as it flung open. Without any hesitation I fled as far as I could until I learned that the entire place was being locked down so I could not escape. They had to keep their dirty secrets and conspiracies contained. If I got out I could tell everyone, just like that boy in class tried before they took him away. But who would even believe me? No one even believed him, we all just thought he was crazy, the stress had gotten to him. Conspiracy and secrets on this scale were not even something one could comprehend. All of the adults knew it, but the children were all in the dark, kept oblivious to the truth so they can grow up safely.
How am I supposed to handle this? I do not even know what I am supposed to do next I could not run anywhere. All I really could do was think and hide for as long as I could. They will eventually find me, if not already know where I am watching what I do. Suddenly having to write that lousy essay about what it means to be an adult did not seem so bad. I almost laughed, what it means to be an adult, really what does it mean to have suddenly have to choose between your life and a previous life you do not know about. To choose to live with memories from years ago, that you actually experienced but could not remember. To have eighteen years of your life put on hold and locked away only to release them all at once. How can anyone knowing allow that to happen over and over again? For how long as this been going on, it had to stop. They have no right to be putting people through this.
I could not let them do this to me; I knew that I had to find a way out. But before I could move suddenly there was surge of pain through my head. Flashes of images, people, sounds, emotions, experiences all came back to me. And in that moment I knew what it was that was happening to me, the barriers in my mind that held back those previous memories were crumbling. Somehow they had already started the process on me without my consent. I suddenly could remember everything when I was a boy, everything. Learning to shave, getting my first haircut, breaking my leg when I was eight, having a crush on the girl next to me in fifth grade, my first kiss, my first girlfriend, my grandparent's funeral.
'My grandparent's funeral?' I thought, 'I thought that they had died long before I was born of a terminal illness. It was true, but I was there. I knew my grandparents, I actually knew my grandpa and grandma. I remember spending summers at their house playing with them. I can remember the smell of grandma's fresh cookies, just like mom always made. And grandpa with his hobbies. No, this is not fair. I missed out on these, yet I have memories of it. I know it happened.' I wanted it to stop, there were too many things coming back to me, I wanted to see them all. I knew everything that I had done, all of the pain and joys, the sad times when I wanted to cry just to be held, like right now.
"Mommy!" I said as I was passing out overwhelmed by the sudden spark of everything being returned to me. I could not handle what was being given to me. Collapsed on the floor, I dreamed, dreamed of myself the two lives I had. Two lives that were inside me now, both now forced to live together as one. The two lives that I had experienced, graduating high school, both of my proms. I danced with myself around that floor, both of us laughing and smiling.
I looked at myself, the boy and looked back, the girl, we stared at each other smiling. "You got to spend time with grandpa."
"Yes, you had time with dad."
"Uh…right, you two never got along. I remember, its strange this feeling."
"I know, I have the same feeling. I see we moved, I think you would have liked the tree in backyard."
"Yeah, probably, you would have liked the library, could fall asleep in all its books."
"Heh heh, definitely."
"So, how is this going to end?"
"I guess that is for us to decide."
"What it means to be an adult?"
"Something like that."
"But which do we decide."
"I know who I would pick."
"You were always quick to decide."
"And you always worry too much."
"We are all the same now, I know what is the right decision is."
"What it means to be an adult…" I lifted from my dream, leaving behind my other half, who was now always to be a part of me. I knew what my answer was going to be. This was a terrible responsibility to place on someone at my age. Though I felt as though I had more years than I was behind me, which was true in a since. I was actually thirty-six and not eighteen, enough to make you laugh. I was already an adult by technicality. The situation I was in, the situation every person had to go through that I was in was cruel. For such a cruel fate, was there actually good to be had? I knew my grandparents and right now that was enough for me. I knew my decision when I looked up at my parents.