Chapter 1: The News
This morning was different from the rest. Sure, the wake up call alarm rang and we rose from our beds. We began the daily routine of brushing our teeth, washing our hair and skin, dressing ourselves. The four of us waited on our beds for our medications as usual, but they never came. Time passed and we could hear bustling in the hall outside, before our door finally beeped twice, indicating that the door was being unlocked with a key card. Gwendolyn, our nurse, stepped through with an even happier glow than usual.
Gwendolyn was a sweet, middle-aged woman who took the time to speak to us like people. I've heard of nurses, especially the ones assigned to older clones, who are not always so kind. We're lucky that she sees us as more than spare parts, like a totaled car in a junkyard, getting scrapped for its pieces to be separated and sent out to another car, one deemed more worthy.
Before the facility, Gwendolyn told me she had a family; twin teenage daughters, a small son and a husband. There was a rainy night, Gwendolyn had been working late and missed her bus home, so the family piled into their car to come and pick her up. They never made it to her. After losing her family, she chose to come work at the facility.
I don't suppose I could call this place home, but it is unfortunately where I live. It's a massive laboratory on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere in the state of New York. Here is where they house the clones purchased by all the rich people that want to live forever, specifically the ones residing in the state of New York. Every state has their own facility filled with the clones of those residents. And if they move, the clone is transported to another facility.
Somewhere out there is someone exactly like each of us, we call them our original. Too many people justify themselves by saying that harvesting us for our organs and body parts to give to our original whenever they drink their liver to crap or smoke cigarettes and ruin their lungs or heart, it gives us a sense of purpose in life. Apparently too many people go through their entire lives never knowing why they're on this planet, what they're doing, what they're made for, and we should be fulfilled and comforted by that sense of knowing. But that's bull shit.
The facility is a prison, not just for the clones but the staff as well. When you work here, you're required to live on site. You can not leave, not for holidays or even family tragedies. They're even robbed of basic things, like us, such as going outside and enjoying life or simple things like shopping for food or going out to eat.
Truly, though, most of the staff have come here because there is nothing left for them out in the world, so why would they ever wish to leave? Of course, I'll never understand that. I can't help but think that anywhere, even alone, has to be better than here.
"Morning, girls." Gwendolyn said gently to us with a smile.
Myself and my bunk mates smiled back at her; she's so sweet that it's difficult to hate her, even when she gives us medication and is a part of the organization harvesting us. After all, she's the closest thing we've ever known to a mother.
The girls sharing a living space with me are my family, though. No question. They're the nearest to sisters I could ever have. The oldest is Lynx, she's twenty-two years old, tall and beautiful with strong green eyes and dark, wild curls surrounding her naturally tan skin. Despite never seeing the light of day, her skin has always had a gentle tannish glow to it. I've never seen her original, none of us have, but I find it difficult to believe that she could be anywhere near as gorgeous as Lynx.
Then there's Ophelia, nineteen and small with long blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin. Next is Cassie, seventeen and quiet with dark red locks and a button nose with freckles, natural despite the lack of sunshine caressing her skin, sprinkled chaotically over her porcelain skin.
And the youngest, me, Rona. Sixteen with plain brown hair and nothing exciting about me. The four of us weren't always together - when I was about thirteen I was moved into their room. I could never remember exactly why, but security and nurses decided I was unsafe to be with younger kids.
Gwendolyn entered the room empty handed, which was odd as we usually take our medication in the morning. Various vitamins and calming medication, I wasn't exactly sure what all of it was. We never asked. I do know that we're sedated daily, though, I guess as a precaution if someone were to be harvested we'll be too tired to fight back.
Why even fight though? I mean, what's the point? What are you fighting for? Another day in this place, that's what. When I'm harvested, I'll go quietly and with dignity.
I stood up from my bed, confused. "Is something wrong?" I asked her.
She grinned from ear to ear and reached behind her, unlocking the door and opening it for us. "Come girls," she said, almost breathlessly. "it's time for breakfast."
"No medicine?" Lynx asked. The question rang with subtle hope that the answer was no.
"Not today, ladies. Off to breakfast you go."
Without giving her a chance to change her mind, the four of us rushed out the large metal door and toward the mess hall. Doors were beeping and buzzing open everywhere, rather than releasing room by room based on meal schedule. Since when does everyone eat breakfast together?
When we arrived in the mess hall, it was more crowded than I had ever seen it. I knew the facility was big, although I had never gone beyond the wing where our room is, but there were thousands of us packed into the cafe. What stopped me in my tracks was the person that passed in front of me.
He was older than me and tall, with broad shoulders and sandy blonde hair. In the facility, we're separated by gender, no exceptions. I suppose they don't want to chance that we're unable to control our hormones. Even as babies we're separated from the opposite sex.
I stared at him for a moment. I suppose he didn't look too much different than a girl, but also more different than I could ever find enough words to explain.
Cassie shoved me gently, playfully and asked me if I was going to eat or not. I nodded mindlessly, still looking after the first boy I'd ever laid my eyes on, and stepped into the food line with her.
Once I was at the front of the line, I was met with a blood sugar reader, a machine that resembled a large soda fountain. You stick your hand in the opening and your finger is pricked, then vitals and your blood sugar levels let the cafeteria staff know what you can eat and what you can't. It doesn't matter that I've done this every meal, every day, for sixteen years - it still hurts to get my finger pricked. I always flinch when the huge robotic hands that I can't see grab and turn over my hand, squeezing the digit until a drop of blood falls on the scanner.
After we had our food we struggled to find somewhere to sit, but finally settled on a small space in the corner where the four of us could stay together. As always.
There was excited chatter throughout the mess hall but I struggled to make out what anyone was saying individually.
"Hey, Rona." I was suddenly snapped back into the space I was sitting in, with the three people I was sitting with, rather than being fully immersed in the sound around me. I looked back at Lynx. "Yeah?"
She paused for a moment with inquisitive green eyes. "Are you okay?" Although she could be a little intense at times, she was probably the most compassionate person I know. I nodded slightly, deciding against admitting to my attempt at eavesdropping.
Abruptly, the sound faded into nearly complete silence as Doctor Morena entered the room. Morena is the lead doctor of our facility, stepping into the position only two years before I was born. She was a beautiful slender woman with strawberry blonde hair, tied always into a perfect, tight bun. Today she wore a royal blue dress and dark red lipstick, accentuating her perfect teeth that were whiter than the lab coat she wore.
She stepped up to the podium she used to announce when one of us had been 'called' as she said. It was a pathetic attempt at making being harvested sound fulfilling.
No one in the room made a sound, even those waiting for their food as well as the cafeteria workers had frozen where they stood, anxiously watching Morena.
The silence was so thick that my ears were ringing and you could hear a pin drop in the next room. Morena leaned into her microphone, the glittery white smile was bitter today, not the usual genuine excitement for us to be dismembered and re-purposed.
"Good morning," she finally said, her smooth velvety voice booming over the intercom system. She paused for attention, but for no reason, as every ear in the building was turned to her.
"As of two weeks ago, laws have officially been passed deeming the creation, usage and harvesting of clones illegal." I held my breath, not daring to let even the smallest sound, as little as air moving through my head and lungs, to muffle her words. "We waited to tell you as we had to prepare, but tomorrow morning you will all be released. Some of you will be heading to foster families, others to shelters, and those of you above the age of majority without a foster family will be sent to live in living quarters we will be providing to you in exchange for work."
My heart was pounding in my ears, and I could physically fill it banging in my head, the same way I had always imagined myself banging on the doors of this godforsaken place, begging for freedom. And now, here it was. On a silver platter. Somewhere out there, beyond this place, there were people who weren't monsters and didn't see us as property anymore. People who had fought for our chance to live. I was tingly with excitement.
"You will receive your living assignments today after breakfast." Morena continued. "Please take the day to say your goodbyes. Thank you." She stepped down from the podium with grace, despite the tears in her eyes and the cracking in her voice as she spoke. It's incredible how she genuinely believes that the things happening at the facility are good things. Although, she spent her entire life working and taking the steps necessary to qualify for the position she's in now, just for it to be ripped from her after eighteen years.
At first the room was silent, but almost as if in slow motion a few people began to clap, then another, and then another, until the room erupted in applause and cheers.
We were finally free.
We were leaving the facility, going outside for the first time. We would meet real people and breathe real air, and go out into the world.
For the first time in a long time, I was genuinely happy and sincerely excited.