Alex Dawson S4C

The Domestic Deceased

Meredith Sinclair possessed all of the qualities of a hare. Intensely curious, vivacious and untrusting, she dwelled as a constant victim and housemaid to her master, Paul Bosworth.

It was the year of 2046 and presently, she was heading through the maze of corridors of Paul's Manchester mansion balancing a tray on her palm. It carried the finest Rosé wine and various other delicacies. Upon arriving at the door to Paul's "private lounge" she knocked anxiously and entered.

"Is that my meal?" the middle- aged man demanded.

Meredith stumbled with her words, cowering under Mr. Bosworth's

condescending gaze. She felt her eyes tear up as they often did when she was in this sort of predicament. She stuttered, "Yes-uh- sir. It's just…er- as you ordered. Here I have the-uh- Beef Wellington, assorted vegetables….uh… chocolate truffle cake for dessert, and um…Becky was able to find the finest Rosé wine just for you sir."

His tone was calm, "I specified that I wished for red wine today, do you not recall?"

Meredith froze, eyes flitting, she began to search frantically for a path of escape, "Why- no- no- Sir. You see- these things- they all get jumbled up in my mind and- and I have quite a bit of trouble remembering everything…." She waited for his reply, practically catatonic.

"I suppose that would be the daydreaming of an imbecilic child interfering with her duties, then?" Mr. Bosworth allowed a sardonic smile to creep onto his lips, taking pleasure in Meredith's intimidation.

She wanted to stand up for herself. She yearned to blurt out that she had been 18 years this February. Yet the interrogation light was burning her, so, instead, she stuttered, "Well….no- sir- I- I mean- yes- yes sir…" The hairs on her neck stood erect. Mr. Bosworth drew out the silence; he seemed to hold some kind of unjustifiable grudge against her and seized every opportunity to take advantage of her skittishness. Finally, he smirked,

"I'll try this, but if it doesn't take to my fancy, you'll fetch me the red wine immediately, understood?"

Meredith curtsied, "Yes sir."

As Paul took his own sweet time taste testing the wine, Meredith drunk in her surroundings. He was lounging in front of his company's "viewing screens". These revealed the goings on at "Domestics Domicile" through the glaring angles of fifteen security cameras. The first screen was blank, indicating that only those who knew the password could gain access. Meredith liked to imagine that some illegal act, integral to the company's function occurred here and that's why the screen was kept guarded. In fact where the servants came from and whether or not it had something to do with this room was a mystery that many of the servants pondered.

The next five screens revealed a room that was lined with hundreds of giant test tubes. Glowing at the center of these were organisms, which after research Meredith had identified as fetuses, at different stages in their development. She had learned over the years that the tubes were in fact simulations of the female uterus. They contained nitrogen and proteins that were pumped in from external sources to sustain the baby's growth. In the past she had seen the babies being "born". A red signal light would flash and a group of very official looking people would mill in to perform something doctorial before carrying the baby away.

The following screens painted a vivid picture of the lives of these children. Within the pasty pink walls of a nursery they grew and played, until…

They were brought into the commercial room. Here, they were examined like horses and sold to the most aggressive bidder.

"Meredith…." Meredith blinked and focused back on Paul. With no words he caused her to feel the weight of her impertinence.

"The wine is fine, you may leave. Though tell me, when did I EVER give you permission to observe my private viewing screens?"

"Never sir- I'm dreadfully sorry. Have a nice evening Mr. Bosworth sir." She ducked out of the room with a sigh of relief. Prey had escaped predator, for now.

Meredith passed from one book to another, inspecting each spine for dust. Cleaning the library was like taking one giant leap into a past full of authentic treasures. This room was the "old fashioned library", a faded memory among the "computerized catalogues" of the present.

Swamped in thought about her encounter with Paul and the "secret room", Meredith knocked a book off the shelf. She turned and kneeled to pick it up, running her hand along the gilded title, "A Scrapbook of the History of Domestic Domicile". Curious, she flipped in a few pages. If this was the history of the company, then wouldn't it reveal what the room contained? Meredith met the third page with determination and gasped. A tall lanky woman with straw- like hair stared back at her, as if a reflection in the mirror. The heading labeled the woman as "founder". She gaped wide- eyed at it and then pinched herself to make sure she was neither hallucinating nor dreaming. She was not. The questions thundered in. She found that she could not answer any. How could the founder look EXACTLY like her? Could it be possible that the secret room had something to do with this? She took a few moments to digest everything, and then….

She felt a shiver trail the length of her spine and something spark inside of her. She leapt up, and hiding the book beneath her blouse hurried out of the library.

Paul Bosworth entered the initial and most important area of his factory. This was a room that sunlight never touched. In its place, luminescent lights flickered down on stone floors and microscopes loomed in each corner, cold and glinting like giant beetles.

As Paul stalked in, the scientists turned from their tasks and moved towards him robotically. The kiss of the sun seemed the only cure for their zombie state.

Their boss began to pace in front of them, hunting for a particular face, "Hobbs! Step forward and tell me what goes on in here. I need to know that at least the head knows bloody well what he's doing."

A small pallid faced man ruffled the line, "Well- s- sir you see- ….well- the- the DNA is composed of a series- of- units called nucleotides and these- these- nucleotides are- are made of a sugar called deoxyribose, a- a phosphate group and four- four nitrogen bases called adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine. Each- each nitrogen base is attached to a phosphate group- and this- all of this forms a single nucleotide. Adenine and guanine are doub- double ringed structures and they belong to a –a nucleotide group called- called purines. Thymine and cytosine have a single- ring structure and they are called pyrimidines. The- uh- nucleotides- they join together to f- form long chains and the phos- phosphate group of one- one molecule is bonded to the deoxyribose mole- molecules of a- another. The actual appearance of a DNA strand can be compared to- a- uh- to the hand- rails and steps of a spiral staircase. In-between the sides there- there are paired nitrogen bases which are guanine and cytosine together and thymine and adenine together. These are joined by hydrogen bonds. This- this shape that DNA takes is- is called the double helix sir. Well, with- with knowing the- the struc-"

Mr. Bosworth yawned; and at this moment, he was the very essence of a lazy feline. However, he kept his eyes fixed on Hobbs. Sweat was dripping steadily down his employees cheeks. As he took his victim by surprise, the pitter- patter became a heavy rainfall, "HOBBS! That is not what I asked you to tell me. Quite honestly, I believe I'd have more success engaging in conversation with a sock. I will give you one more chance, begin again."

Hobbs gulped and wrung his hands, boring holes into the floor, "Uh- yes Mr. Bosworth Sir. Uh- well- how- how- the DNA divides sir- is it- it- well….the two strands "unzip" and they split up- they become the base strands of each "daughter strand". Then- well- the- the other strands which are composed from materials in the cell's cytoplasm- they- they join the daughter strands- one each- so that what are left are- uh- two identical replicas of the original. Then- well- well…."

He waited one beat. Two- three, and since he had not yet been throttled or bombarded with heinous insults, he raised his head. Mr. Bosworth was observing him placidly. His worker breathed a sigh of relief.

Mr. Bosworth smiled warmly. "That is not what I asked you to tell me either. I was wrong the first time. You're not a sock- but you ARE fired. Though first- let's see if "the third time's a charm" is a tragically true saying. Try again Hobbs. Stop that sniveling too, at least try to accept your idiocy with a little bit of pride."

Hobbs bit his lip, face still masked by shock and eyes enflamed, "Oh- Sir…sir….oh- oh…no- uh…oh… must I? I- I- I- well- sir- you see- uh- well- Marshals transports the- uh- bodies here from Saint Paul's and- uh- since they've been frozen in liquid nitrogen at -220 C, their-their…oh sir….their cells have been perfectly preserved through cryostasis. We remove a- uh cell- usually the- uh mammary and take out it's-it's- it's nucleus….then- we- uh- we take the nucleus of a fertilized egg and place it inside of the cell. We then filter the-uh- cells into their individual sim- simulation tubes. Sir- sir- please- please- please- don't…sir….."

"That's quite right Hobbs. So long." Mr. Bosworth waved him off dismissively without as much as a gracious smile. Mr. Hobbs, sweat no longer causing the dampness on his face, slouched away.

The middle- aged man continued pacing, tossing a threatening glare at all of those who dared murmur to a neighbor. "Marshals!" Mr. Bosworth called next. A pencil- thin man clad in pin- stripe pants stepped forward. Determined not to make a fool of himself, he recited confidently,

"The media is still oblivious. None of the customers have started asking questions as to where the slaves are coming from and my work at St. Paul's is undetected. No one ever goes into the burial chambers, anyways sir, it's so damn frigid. As I say, leave the dead to their own fun and games Mr. Bosworth."

Paul let loose a manic laugh and replied squarely, "Well Marshals-quite right you are- quite right you are. You're still a painstaking smart- aleck of course- but I much prefer that to an idiot. I'm glad that at least one of you isn't a whimpering ninny. Say Marshals how would you like a more prestigious title at this company?"

Four nights after finding the book, Meredith lay awake in bed, her dreams plagued by visions of the haunting figure. In her spare time she had managed to read as much about the founder as possible, only to find that she had been mysteriously poisoned and killed. An article pasted in suggested that some believed it to be the doings of jealous colleagues, though no names were mentioned. This notion brought back one of Meredith's stored childhood memories.

She recalled kneeling in the shadows of a half closed door around the age of 6. A much younger Mr. Bosworth and an associate were partaking in a heated conversation about Mrs. Jackson's death. Paul was claiming that she deserved it because she had run the company with the delicate hand of a withering woman and been very stingy indeed with payment to those beneath her. The stranger seemed to be pleading with Paul. He was arguing that the case had lain wide open for seven years and he couldn't deal with the guilt any longer….he wanted them to inform the authorities that they had….

Meredith gasped. Her detective skills kicked in, connecting all of the obscure pieces of the puzzle together. Mr. Bosworth and a coworker had killed Mrs. Jackson.

The discovery didn't take her at all by surprise. It was as if it had been a faint whispering in her ear, reminding her of something that she had known all along. She sat upright in bed, flicked on her small night light and reached for the book which lay at her side beneath the covers. She turned to a page that she had bookmarked as indiscernible. Only the top corner of the page remained, and it read in bold, "Woman runs terrified out o….". She knew all too well what this was discussing.

Another memory appeared in her mind's eye, this one more vivid.

Becky, the cook and herself were chatting in the kitchen when Becky brought up something that had been bothering her. She announced that she had read in the newspaper that a woman had entered "Domestic Domicile", only to run out screaming having claimed to have seen her dead daughter in the line of children. Meredith had thought nothing of it at the time though now she felt that this piece of information connected somehow with Mrs. Jackson's death.

She figured that she was drawing some kind of parallel between the lingering ideas of death and life. Mrs. Jackson had mysteriously died just as this woman had seen her dead daughter at the factory. Meredith herself seemed to be the reincarnated replica of the founder, just as the children that were sold were not ghosts, but living people….

Then it struck full force, and she grabbed for her notebook and pencil that were resting on the nightstand. She jotted down the theories, and just as one was recorded, another one formulated itself in her mind.

The secret room is where they clone dead people. That is why that woman thought she saw her dead daughter in the line and why the second room contains fetuses.

Mr. Bosworth killed Mrs. Jackson and cloned her dead body.

I am the clone of Mrs. Jackson, created so that Mr. Bosworth could rule over me as I ruled over him when I was alive.

She found it painfully hard to swallow the final theory. Yet, it was the only way to untangle the last big knot. So, Mr. Bosworth was not a grumpy business man but a sick jealous lunatic. He was violating strangers to their very roots. As well as participating in illegal activity, he was disturbing two things that she herself valued beyond compares, human rights and human dignity. It was not in his place to clone the bodies of the deceased without even consulting their relatives or acknowledging what they themselves had planned for their bodies post mortem. In this world of robots and spaceships, had the fundamental aspects of life and death been completely forgotten? Meredith quivered and drew her thin blanket around her; she knew the answer to that. Families didn't even bother with headstones for graves anymore. Since tombs were stored away underground where there was much more room, their monuments were the alphabetized doors of metal safes. The acronym "RIP" had been buried along with all of the bodies of the 19th century.

Meredith grinned despite her impending thoughts. She was tempted to get out of bed right this instant and confront Mr. Bosworth, but she knew that she could not. Though, tomorrow was another day.

"Mr. Bosworth, I know what you are up to and I will expose you to the authorities if you do not end this injustice and close down your company."

Meredith stared at him, a fire of new confidence and passion alight in her eyes. She sensed a status shift as he regarded her quizzically She had never in her life done anything quite this daring, but would gladly go through with it, determined that it would be Paul's downfall.

"What do you know, Miss Sinclair?" Mr. Bosworth asked smiling amusedly and picturing ten different ways in which to denounce "Your time is over here Miss Sinclair. You're fired."

She inhaled deeply, "I know that the servants that you sell are the misused clones of the deceased."

Paul stilled. Clutching his armrest with white knuckles, he met her gaze. His response was stiff, but his mind was active and calculating, "So. I've been found out. Well- I must say it was about time. After all- it's impossible to hold up such an ingenious hoax past its 13th year. 13 is a very unlucky number you know Miss Sinclair. You say you'll expose me if I don't give it up? Well…..very well, it was about time I retired anyways."

Meredith forced her jaw to go slack. She had half expected him to say something along these lines. Painting on the smile of a triumphant child, she announced, "Well, that's that then. I'll just be getting back to my housekeeping now."

Paul's top lip curled down in a sneer that went unmissed by Meredith, "Wait! Miss Sinclair, come join me in the dining room for dinner this evening. This hardly seems the way in which to finalize an official agreement."

"Oh yes sir! What a kind offer!" she exclaimed. However her eyes had a different story to tell. They betrayed the light of someone who was preparing to turn the tables.

Two hours later, Meredith stood at the edge of dining room door. She loved this room just like the library, for its vintage virtues. The large hearth on the left side caused shadows to play on the walls like ghosts waltzing to the rhythm of a dance long forgotten. Curtains draped over domineering windows, rich in buttermilk and crimson. The long table at the room's center lay adorned with chipped china. In contrast to the room however, Meredith did not like what she saw from Mr. Bosworth. Dressed in an elaborate evening robe, he was stirring a mysterious powder into the champagne glass on the left side of the wine cart. So, he had chosen poison. Meredith almost choked, realizing that this was his second encounter with this type of powder.

Once her master had completed his deadly deed, he turned to manually fill up the fire, since this evening Meredith could not do it herself. She tiptoed into the room and stopped a minute by the champagne cart before making her presence known. Paul turned, smiled genially at her and snapped his fingers. A butler emerged from the shadows and drew her chair back politely, allowing her to seat herself with all of the feminine grace that a clumsy 18 year old could possess. Paul too sat down.

"Welcome Miss Sinclair. Why, don't you look lovely this evening?"

Meredith stifled a giggle, running her hand impulsively over her faded lilac dress.

"Before we get into formalities, I am rather interested in knowing how you found me out," Paul said, tilting his head to one side.

Realizing that this was his way in which to cover his tracks, she replied sweetly, looking him straight in the eyes, "Oh- it's hard to say really. I just pieced the puzzle together; I suppose…" she added a girlish giggle to emphasize her "innocence".

"Oh, I see…." He posed his next question hurriedly, "And you didn't inform anyone else?"

"Oh no!" Meredith replied with an innocent little smile, "What would be the fun in that?" This at least was not a lie.

Paul breathed a subtle sigh of relief and asked gentlemanly, "Would you like some champagne, Miss Sinclair?"

"Yes please!" she answered fervently. The butler, who had taken up residence beside Mr. Bosworth, offered him the trolley and he took the glass on the left, leaving Meredith to the one on the right. Mr. Bosworth snapped his fingers once more and the butler disappeared behind two swinging doors.

"Well, Miss Sinclair, A toast to you! You have the makings of a great detective!"

He took a sip of his wine and watched with beady eyes over the rim of his glass as she brought the goblet of death to her lips. She drank deeply and Paul seeing no point in singing his praises alone on her grave spoke up,

"Well Miss Sinclair, in a minute or two you will feel the full effect of the poison I placed in your champagne kicking in. You thought that you could outwit me but you were wrong, because Paul Bosworth is always the wittiest. Soon, you will be the second of your kind to experience a painful death at my…"

Mid- sentence his face became a distorted mask of pain and a shriveled cry escaped his lips, before he….

Meredith Sinclair- Jackson swiveled in her leather chair as a young boy of about six years old entered her lounge room. Here was where she observed the goings on at her factory, "Designer Babies and Co."

The youngster placed a tray carrying a platter of chocolate brownies at her side, and then, summoning all of his courage, tapped her on the shoulder,

"Excuse me Mrs., I was talking to Becky and she told me that you could tell me where I came from….I really would like to know."

Meredith responded as quick as a fox, "It's a long story, Paul, dear, a long story."