(2006) - short story by A.R.Yngve
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This short story has been published in the Chinese magazine WORLD SF (not to be confused with SF WORLD), the Swedish magazine MITRANIA, and my short-story collection THE FACE IN THE DOOR. It also appeared in a previous version of my homepage, as "Keeping Up With the Cloneses"...
"Hi Sally! I'm fine, how are the kids? Great. Yes, I know, saw it in the news. Ed wouldn't believe it either. A whole cloned family, moving into our street! Not that I'm a hater or anything, but we do have certain standards for what kind of people can live in Green Awnings. Who knows what diseases they might be carrying? And their kids will die young, I'm sure. It happened to all those sheep and cows.
"Really? All from the same parent? It's sick, I tell you. Children need two parents. What will the mother do when they grow up, change sex to a man to get them a father? She would? Oh, you're kidding me! Well, you never know what they'll think of next.
"No, we're staying. No one's going to say my family chickened out when the clones moved into the neighborhood! I'll tell you more as soon as I know. Wait, I've got this spare web cam... I'll put it up in the window, so you can see their driveway, it's just across the street. Clarence! Come in, food's ready! Don't you worry about us, Sally. Bye!"
"Hi, Sally! Did you watch my web cam? Or did you see the view from the flying news? We've still got them buzzing about in the sky, several hours a day. Did you see them moving in their stuff? The whole neighborhood came watching. My Ed, he's putting up a brave face, but I think he agrees with me. Anyway, he walks out and greets the mother — Valerie Kin, I think her name was — and her kids come out. It was so creepy! They all look like the same woman, but in different ages.
"Valerie must be, what, forty? Her older daughter couldn't be more than twelve, thirteen at most, and the young one, I'd say six. Both spitting images of their mother — same hair, same eyes, same nose. Not the same clothes, no. Really? I thought she looked Italian. They'll send one of them to our community kindergarten.
"Well, what would you do? We can't shut that child out before something happens. Poor Mrs. Lucretia is a bundle of nerves. She's sending her little son to the same kindergarten tomorrow... but she told me she won't let him go back there if anything happens. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Right. Thanks. Bye."
"Hi, Sally... no, we're fine. I knew it was going to happen: This Valerie Kin woman, her youngest clone got sick, first day in our kindergarten... all the parents came driving in and picked up their kids from there the same afternoon. Ed says he'll get our lawyer to help Mrs. Lucretia if she can sue Mrs. Kin for endangering her poor son's health.
"And the nerve of that woman, now she claims the kindergarten made her clone sick! Is it our fault, I ask you, if clones are born with all sorts of deficiencies? Why wouldn't she get babies the normal way? No, I don't think she's living with another woman. I would have noticed, I can see everyone going in and out of her house.
"Wait! I think I saw... no, just pizza delivery.
"Anyway, where is Mrs. Lucretia going to put her son while she's working now? I've talked to her, and I'm going to baby-sit her son until she finds a good nanny. Green Awnings neighbors look out for each other.
"Here comes Ed into the driveway... I'll make sure he goes to the neighborhood watch meeting tonight, and he'll tell the council that woman's got to go. I'm sure. Thanks for supporting me, Sally. Thanks. Bye."
"Hi, Sally! Oh, it's been such a week, I don't know where to begin. Has the whole world gone crazy? No, the housing council didn't expel her. That woman came to the meeting with a doctor in tow, someone she'd hired to convince us her clones didn't pose a health risk.
"Gene Lyman who lives down the street is a renowned surgeon and he spoke up for us. Kin's doctor came from Europe, not the one who did the cloning of her though. I gave Ed a small pocket cam so he could tape the meeting.
"I'll mail a streaming video to you... there. Now, look at the tie that doctor's wearing. Awful. Do you understand what he's saying? Really? I thought he meant 'tested negative' in the negative sense. So he's not making this up? Well, you're the smart one of us.
"I'm siding with Dr. Lyman here: any cloned kid who picks up germs from other kids so easily, will be a carrier of those germs too. I'm just glad my Clarence is past kindergarten age.
"No, the council didn't want the bad publicity. It's bad enough with the news helicopters and reporters sneaking past security. No one wants to be a hater. She's staying for now, but I think she'll tire of it and move out soon. I mean, no one here is talking to her, I'm not letting Clarence near those clones — all the other kids are scared of them... it would be cruel to the clones to let them live under that kind of isolation.
"Sally, I can't figure this woman out. Why'd she do it? Why'd she move back to America? Is it political? I don't know... maybe she thinks the clones are herself in some crazy way, know what I mean? Yeah, maybe she was, and never got over it...
"You know me, Sally. I'm a regular person. I love my Ed, he loves me, and we wanted a son. Clarence is everything we could ask for. That's the way things are supposed to be. You have to give up a bit of yourself to create a new person. But cloning is so... selfish. It's like you don't want it to be another individual, but a photocopy of yourself. It's just not right, and those clones are going to suffer for it. Oh Sally, it's horrible...
"Clarence! I told you not to use the water-pistol inside the house! I got to stop, Sally, he's a bit wild today. Yes, we've got to meet soon. Let's go with our families to Sea World. Bye!"
"Hi Sally... wait, I'll get the cam from the window so you can see me. Doesn't this dress look wonderful on me? I bought it in the neighborhood shop today! They got my measurements through my web cam, and the dress was ready and a perfect fit when I came to pick it up. You could order one, too.
"You won't believe who designed the dress. Valerie Kin! And her oldest daughter is helping her, or so I've heard. I searched on the Web and they have a homepage where they sell their designs and patterns... it says here 'Copyright Valerie and Prima Kin.' 'Prima,' it's in Italian, that's the older one. 'Secunda' is the little one.
"I'm thinking of inviting Valerie... no, not here in front of the neighborhood! Sally, could we borrow your summerhouse for the weekend? Ed and I could take Valerie and her kids with her, get to know them better.
"All right, if you've already planned to be there I'm not getting in the way. No, I'm not mad at you. What do you mean? Well, they've been to themselves for several weeks now. I'm curious to see what they do, how they live. Maybe... oh, I shouldn't be speculating... maybe she uses the clones, like a personal sweatshop for making the clothes.
"God, I wish I hadn't said that. Now I feel guilty for wearing the dress! Can you imagine what must be going on, with no man in the house for weeks on end, no one except the pizza delivery ever visits her?
"Mrs. Lucretia's son is with me still, he and Clarence are great friends now. I'll miss him when the new nanny takes over. Ed's coming home. Bye, Sally!"
"Hi. Fine. Sally, I shouldn't be telling you this, but... Mrs. Lucretia was in tears today. She told me, in confidence, something that made my skin crawl... about Prima, Valerie Kin's older clone. Lucretia's daughter said that she saw Prima throwing up in the school restroom, when she thought nobody saw her. And the girl is starting to look a bit puffy.
"Do you remember the pictures of those cloned rats, or was it guinea pigs? They got a deficiency when they were cloned, and swelled up and got incredibly fat. Maybe that's happening to Valerie's kids now. That poor little girl Secunda... I don't want to think of it.
"Really? He asked you about us? The rat! I knew I could trust you, Sally. These reporter creeps have no respect for people's privacy. They can't get inside Green Awnings any more, so they try to get to friends who live outside... sick, I tell you. Ed's saying our property value has sunk five percent since the Kins moved in.
No! We've got blacks, Asians, Latino families in Green Awnings... all respectable high-income people. And they'd tell you the same thing. I still think she won't stay the year out. You'll see.
"Yes, I've thought about it too — those dresses can't pay for her house, it's just a hobby. I've been searching the Web and dug up some interesting facts about her past... here, I'll mail the pages to you...
"So you see, Valerie Kin must be an heiress. She was just lucky. Maybe the idea wasn't hers in the first place. Maybe her late husband talked her into cloning herself... is that romantic, or just twisted? I don't know! Wait, here's Ed, let him talk to your husband about it. We'll have a great weekend! I'll bring your new dress for you, you'll feel ten years younger! I'm just teasing you, Sally. Bye, see you Friday!"
"Hi. Oh Sally, I don't know what to say. The whole neighborhood knows. Prima, the oldest one, is getting worse. Mrs. Lucretia's daughter took this picture with her cam today... look. You can't believe how slim she was just two months ago. Gene Lyman says it's a well-known genetic defect caused by the cloning, it happens to cattle. She won't die, not immediately I mean, but of course it's not good for the heart in the long run.
"You know what I did? I bumped into Valerie in the store today, and I — I started talking to her. She's wearing dark glasses and I think she's lost weight lately. She said that little Secunda is depressed and wants to move back to Europe. I just didn't know what to say, but I told Valerie that she should always put the children first, whatever happens.
"I even managed to ask her if she's seeing someone. Oh, just rumors... she's been seen with Mr. Norton, the widower, a lot this week... but she said they're just friends. You've heard about Gary Norton, haven't you? Terrible accident. I think he's taken to drinking. You think I should? Well, I don't know what Ed would think... but I'll visit Gary and ask about Valerie. I'm doing some local fund raising, and he's on my list.
"Right. Right. Bye, Sally!"
"Sally? That Gary Norton is a monster. I went to his place. He donated to the community fund, all right. Then he called me all sorts of nasty things when I asked if he was seeing that woman. Called my Clarence a 'robot' and a 'mechanical freak.' I'm crying, wouldn't you? Okay, but... okay. I can see he's bitter about having lost his kids in that accident, but that gives him no right to...
"I'm not some sort of hater, Sally! You know me better. What are you talking about? You have no right to judge me! Clarence is mine, he's my baby and I love him. And I'm keeping him, no matter what people say. Sally... Sally... I can't talk any more now, I'm tired. Call you back, okay?"
"Shally? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be so... no, I'm not. Jusht had a few ones. Tell me he loves me, Shally. He does, doesn't he? He won't ever leave. Clarence. That Clarence's like a part of me. I mean, in a different way than that bitch and her freaky clones. Clarence can leave me anytime he wants! But he won't.
"We are like mother and so... where's that bloody kid? He'll tell you. I'll make him tell you right to your face, Shally, I will. Here, Clarence. Over here. Talk into the phone. That'sh right. Now tell Shally, who do you love most of all? Who's you mother? What do you mean, you don't undershtand what I'm shaying? Come here, you little -!"
GREEN AWNINGS COMMUNITY BULLETIN:
KID ROBOT IN ACCIDENT
A kid robot of the popular model Bobby Socks MK 6, owned by Norma Hemmin (37), was found destroyed outside her home last morning. Mrs. Hemmin has made no comments and could give no clues to who might be responsible. The robot had become a popular fixture of the block, and was well known under its nickname "Clarence."
GREEN AWNINGS COMMUNITY BULLETIN:
KIN FAMILY MOVES OUT OF GREEN AWNINGS
Valerie Kin (35), mother of cloned daughters Prima and Secunda Kin, has announced that she will immediately move out of the neighborhood. "I want to thank the residents of Green Awnings for my time here," she tells our editor. She stated no motive for moving out.
GREEN AWNINGS COMMUNITY BULLETIN:
NEIGHBORHOOD WELCOMES NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Norma Hemmin (37) wishes everyone in Green Awnings to welcome her new kid robot, a Bobby Socks MK-X-7 with enhanced AI. The model is reportedly a skilled surveillance bot with state-of-the-art laser microphones and biosensors, and will help keep the neighborhood safe.
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