If anyone alive had been around to observe the passage of time, you would learn it was exactly midnight on a Monday in the year 4783 A.D. when a former U.S.A cloning faculty’s main generator failed, and the clones in it began waking up early. Any dieter could tell you Monday is a terrible day of new beginnings, not to mention midnight, an hour of unwarranted things, but humans had long vacated earth some 120 plus years ago, so no one was around to explain all this to the struggling clones. One clone in particular could have benefited from this news. New to life, this clone sucked in the air she instinctively craved only to find herself drowning on the amniotic fluid she was suspended in. Panicked she pressed her hands on the glass she could not see out of and then beat on it when it did not give way to her touch. She was dying; although she did not understand the concept of death, she possessed an innate understand of the discomfort it brought on. She loathed the feeling and writhed to rid herself of it.
It may have been better for her if she had died like the other clones. However, a biological need to survive and a factory defect on her tank doomed her to a terrible existence. There was a pocket of air at the top of the tank that wasn’t supposed to be there, but time and neglect had allowed some of the fluid to evaporate. A shot of adrenaline had given her enough clarity to rocket herself up to this pocket. Not knowing how to stay afloat, though, she had only gotten half a cough out before sucking in more fluid and sinking. Frantic, she bobbed back and latched on to the hatch's opener.
She was stronger than you might expect for someone who had spent some 120-odd years floating in a tank. You see, her creator had been somewhat brilliant. Albeit not brilliant enough to save the human race, that had just happened by accident. However, he had been clever enough to devise neurotransmitters that grew in complication with the clones maturing. It sent electrical signals that would contract the muscles and force them to move, effectively giving them enough resistance to build strength. The makeshift umbilical cord also acted to regulate the clones’ aging, so that they would mature at the right moment. So far, the clones in their long-suspended state had matured to the point of 16 or so and were supposed to emerge around the age of 25. Too bad his system had failed early.
The body wasn’t all the creator had worried about. He had also tried to help develop their minds, so they would emerge fully functioning adults. To do this, he played mind-numbing seminars and blasted them with electric signals that evoked images on things the creator deemed important for their development and survival; swimming had apparently not crossed his mind. The concepts didn’t always sink in for most of the clones, especially with the gene pool he chose, but it caused them to dream in their pending state. Those dreams gave them a vague understanding of earth.
The clone in her tank understood how to open the hatch, and she did it with little difficulty. The hard part was crawling out of the tank because no one had thought to put a ladder on the inside. The plan had been for the clones to mature around the 300-to-400-year mark. At the point of “birth” simulation, the tank would drain slowly, allowing the clones to adjust to the temperature. The ambilocal attachment would sever itself, and the tank would be opened from the bottom. The top hatch had only been placed in for scientific interventions.
When the clone had clambered out to the ladder on the outside of the tank, she became trapped by her no longer functioning lifeline. It hurt as it wrenched at her stomach, and she looked at it in dismay. She fumbled with it, trying to disconnect it. A final sharp tug was what disconnected her. The movement jarred her from her position on the ladder and she fell from the top. As you can imagine, it was not a comfortable, much less safe, landing; but, like any newborn, her bones were soft and pliable. Thankfully, she did not break anything, only bruised herself badly.
She lay there a moment, squinting up at the dull glow emanating from the emergency lights. She could see other tanks with her brother and sisters still suspended in their fluids. They did not wriggle or writhe, so it did not dawn on her that they were no longer living. She speculated that she had just woken up earlier than they and figured she should stand guard as she waited for them to wake up. This way, she reasoned to herself, she could help them emerge more easily than she had. However, a flood of curious joy rushed her as she thought of exploring and fantasized about how she would share this moment with them once they awoke. She would in fact come back to visit them periodically, drawing comfort in their presence, but for a time she would be distracted by exploration and survival.
She spent hours combing the facility. She found hidey holes and narrow passages along with tall, long corridors and extra chambers housing more of her brethren. She found odd rooms that housed white bowls filled with feted water inside and rooms with flat surfaces that came up to her hip and obstructed her walking directly through the room. When she touched the objects, she found them squishy and full of dust. She sneezed, displeased by the involuntary action. She decided she would avoid the rooms filled with these.
Finally, she came to a room filled with more flat surfaces. These were taller and hard and didn’t bring up plumes of dust at her touch. They were also cluttered with nick knacks she found intriguing. It was her first opportunity to pick something up; that, in itself, was a delight to her. There was a steel mug that she picked up and peered inside. Something from her vague dreams made her think it would be useful and so she kept it in the crook of her arm while she perused the rest of the horde on the desktop. Everything she picked up seemed useful, but having no clothes on her nor a bag to carry it all, she gave up on all but the mug. She liked the way the metallic material glistened and felt cold on her skin.
In her exploration she brushed against a tablet sensor. Screen lights popped on suddenly and cracked images peered through the dust. She jumped; at first sensing danger and scrambling away. Nothing came for her though, and she heard a speech, a speech sha had heard often from her slumber in the tank. She had never said words before, but she knew exactly what would come next in the sequence of noises.
“You are midway in a mountain that was once in a temperate region. How the landscape will vary, we can only speculate, but you have been equipped with 100 years' worth of supplies. When you emerge, you will have to prep your new home...” The voice, a sickly sweet, authoritative, clear, educated, “please listen” tone conveyed the importance of the messenger.
It continued to drone its monologue as the clone approached the desk once again. She could see bits of the image and recognized a hand. She looked at her own hand and excitement flared in her. She brushed away more of the dust to see more of the moving pictures. An image of a woman in a lab coat with curly locks around her face and a heart-shaped locket dangling at her neck stared back at the clone as it continued to drone on.
There was something comforting about the voice, so the clone watched until the video stopped. Dismay at its ending flooded the clone. She brushed the screen again and again trying to replicate her earlier movements. Videos, words, images, and texts popped up and disappeared, in no particular order it would seem. She jumped when the voice came over a pa system, as it did every day at 3 pm. Again, the sequence finished, and the clone was left feeling bereft. She smashed on the board again trying to make the voice come on once more, but it would not come on again till the next day.
I can go on and on about this poor clones start, but most of it was boring to all except her. There really is no need to describe the dullery that came to pass over the next few months; but people are always curious, so I will sum it up for you. For the first few days, our clone moped about, trying to replicate those few hours of euphoria she had felt. However, Biological needs, such as hunger and sleep and a need to be warm, continually plagued her. Eventually, she became so desperate that mental clarity shone through, and she realized the intercom was giving her instructions.
That euphoria came back in full force once she began to piece things together and fend for herself. She especially delighted in her quest for trinkets. The mug did become of use. Over the course of several weeks, she was able to get fresh water, find clothes and the food stores. Each new task brought certain frustrations, but she was finding joy in solving the puzzles and yielding the fruits of her labor.
Despite this, things slowed down as she became comfortable. Finally, she reached the peak of what she could do alone, and boredom set in. She sat at the desk where she had first seen the video of the woman. She rummaged around for some solution that would teach her how to wake up some of her fellow clones, but there was nothing. She pulled impatiently on the drawers of the desk, rooting through the papers that held mystical symbols the clone could not read. There was nothing the clone could use.
In a fit of anger, the clone slammed the drawer and a box fell open from the desk. She looked at the contents and recognizing the locket spilling from it. When she picked it up, it opened easier than most lockets, because it had been packed with a slip of paper along with the traditional picture it was supposed to house. The clone could not read the paper; if she could, she would know it was an address to another cloning facility. You see, the scientist voicing the instructions had been a little more understanding of children's and societies development than the oh-so-brilliant lead scientist and had suspected that collaboration of multiple colonies was key to the race's survival. Unfortunately, the owner of the locket had never gotten around to putting that location into the PA instructions.
The girl only gave the scrap of paper a glance before letting it fall to the floor, so she could stare at the image. I should probably mention that the clone had discovered her own reflection and knew what she looked like from the mirrors in the changing rooms and the bathrooms, so when she looked on the image, she knew she was looking at a picture of herself. It was not euphoria she felt as she stared back at herself. She was stirred by longing. A deep absence she could not describe settled in her chest as she wished for connection. For the first time in her life, she wept. She found it gave her temporary relief, but did not ease the hurt. She picked up the scrap that had fallen, squinting at the squiggles she could not understand. Everything she knew, though, had meaning. She would have to find its meaning, and so the journey into her terrible life began.