I made my way down the hall to the medical facility where I found ROGER. In my memories I had heard his voice very clearly, that same matter-of-fact tone that was both comforting and reassuring.
With so little time left, I confronted him, “I remember you.” he turned and looked at me, the expressionless silver eyes staring back at me, “You performed some kind of experiment on me, what was it? I can’t remember. I need to know.”
Without a thought, or so it appeared, he began, “John, I was designed by the government under a defense contract code named Operation Phoenix. We processed thousands of human beings, including yourself. The exams focused on innate abilities and individual characteristics that would prove useful to the survival of mankind in the event of a disaster. Your bodies would die, however your memories would be kept intact as well as samples of your tissue for future use until such time as the planet returned to suitable conditions favorable for the human species to thrive.” It was hard to make sense of what he was saying. “The Protogaea Enterprise in conjunction with defense contractors built a vast interlocking network of chambers where your body and the bodies of others would literally be grown and then ‘hatched’ with the memories of your previous life already intact.”
I shook my head and stared at him in disbelief, “Wait-a-minute, what you’re saying is that… I volunteered for this experiment and it failed?”
Roger stood unmoved, “John, you are a part of that experiment. You were born, for all intents, inside that facility. And the memories you have now are those of a long since dead person.”
I shook my head again, I thought I was going to be sick. “No, no. This makes no sense.” I looked away from him, his calmness was unnerving.
“I know this is hard for you to accept, but you must.”
I was flooded with memories again, of my childhood, of my family and friends. “But, I remember, I remember EVERYTHING!”
He stood motionless, “Of course you do John, I put them there. Those memories are not your own. They belong to the man you once were.”
My mind raced, “This is impossible. I am me. I know who I am.”
“John, you only know who you are because the memories are there, but you are not John D’Arby. You share the same tissue, but you are a different person…you are a clone.”
I fingered the bullet hole in my side, “But, but, that can’t be, that’s impossible.” I worked to disprove him, “Here, I can prove it, I have a bullet wound, here in my side…” I pulled up my shirt to show him.
“John, there is nothing there. Your skin is smooth, see for yourself.”
I stared longways at where the wound should have been – it was not there. “What have you done to me?!” I shouted at him. “I’m an abomination. It’s unnatural!” I began to pace back and forth, my mind racing. He stood there silent as a stone. “Say something, damnit!” I glared at him.
“John, I did nothing that you did not ask me to do. Everything was in accordance with your decision. You have been offered a great opportunity, a chance to live out the rest of your life. Soon after the project began, your donor body died. You are lucky to be alive. You may not be the original John D’Arby, but pieces of him, the greatest pieces, still live inside of you.”
“What if I don’t want this? I rescind my agreement. I’d rather be dead than live like this!” It was irrational, I knew it, but this was completely against the laws of nature.
“John, if you wish to die, then go out into the wastes and die, there is nothing I can do to stop you.”
“No! That’s what you’d like isn’t it!?”
“I have no opinion of the matter, while I may have the appearance of a human, I do not have the emotions of one. Your decision is your own.”
I put my hands up to my face and covered it, my nails digging into my skin. “No. No. You’re trying to trick me. You act like this is all my fault, I didn’t agree to this, he did! I…I…” I shook my head as tears streamed down my face. “Why did you tell me all of this?” My eyes burned and my head throbbed and he just stood there.
“Because you asked.”
I lingered there, dumb for a moment. “But, you put them there, these memories. Can’t you just erase them? Wipe the slate clean, make me like I never knew them?” I begged him.
“John, it doesn’t work that way. The memories you possess are implanted in your brain. They are a part of you now.”
I pleaded with him, “Take them out of me!!” I looked up and around, I couldn’t accept it.
“John, I can see that this is difficult for you, but you simply must accept it. There is no other option.”
“I don’t believe you!” I snapped, “There is more than one way to do something, I know, I spent my life coming up with ways to do things that nobody thought was possible!”
“John, even if I could remove your memories, you would be an empty husk, you wouldn’t even have the mental capacity to take care of yourself. Your mind would be that of a child, completely new to this world. You must understand that the memories you have now make up who you are.”
I took it all in, either I could be a drooling mass — lobotomized and ruined, or I could go on with the knowledge that I have now. That is what I was left with. I turned and walked out of the room. I was in a daze for several minutes. I reached the end of the hall, propped myself against one of the walls with my hand and hung my head. I just stood there like that for a long time, allowing the conversation with ROGER to digest. I wanted to rip my flesh off, to unzip it and step out of it. I wanted to run back in the room and dismantle that iron-gutted monster. How could he play God with my life!? I let out a sound that was a mixture of both a wail and a howl; a mournful whimper. I dropped to my knees gagging on my own tears, dry heaving and choking. I thought if I could just get it out of me, I would be well – cured of this abomination. It was a brutal display of anguish. I wanted to die. I didn’t want to be a part of this world anymore. ROGER spoke of me being lucky to be alive; I would hate to see what he considers to be unlucky. I tried to shrug it off, to calm down, but every time I thought I was ok, the thought crept back into my mind. I pounded the floor like a child, I turned my anger outward, I wanted blood. Sitting back on my legs I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe I could quench this thirst, if I could just kill enough of these monsters I could regain what I had lost; start fresh. My breathing calmed and I stood up. I straightened my shirt, wiped the snot from and tears from my face and continued to the training room.
I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, like I was watching my life happen. It was as if the sound had been turned down. I saw people moving around in slow motion, getting ready for something, but at first I wasn’t sure why. And then Jake put his hand on my shoulder – just like that everything kicked into high gear.
“John, what did you have to go do?” I turned and looked at his face, “
Nothing…nothing, everything’s fine.” I didn’t want him to know, I didn’t want to tell anybody, this was my secret, and one I would take to my grave. “Is everybody ready?”
“Yeah, the men are packed up and ready to go.”
“Good. Let’s head out.”