He turned to herself: “Let’s get your opinion on this.”
To which she replied to himself: “Oh no, not this again.”
The curling of the left corner of his lip matched hers; it had been like this since they had met. They would ask themselves questions to see where their opinions differed, which was more often than their father/mother – they were still unsure how to address their singular ancestor – had expected, so they were told. The slightly off-white walls of their spacious suite did not mirror their smile in any way, but the view through the enormous reinforced window on the lush forest below provided a comforting backdrop to their conversations.
“Oh, come on,” he continued teasing her, “just one more time, tell me: what is the first thing you remember?”
She reiterated the story, prefixing it with the usual complaint: “For the gazillionth time: I remember everything being damped out, then suddenly I was lifted out of some liquid – it was like drowning in reverse.” She liked to get poetic at times, a pastime he did not share. “Then, everything faded out again and there were only –”
“– only bright lights, and only way later you remembered a small room, just like this one, where you would see the sun rise every morning,” he added.
“Nope, you got it wrong again: I saw the sun set every evening. Apart from that, it has been the same for the both of us of for these past 11 years, until a few weeks ago, when we met.”
He looked at her wryly. “Well, you condensed it quite nicely. In any case, it’s nice to talk to someone else apart from the standard AIs in here – someone real. I just hope there’s a point to all of this…”
His timing could not have been better. The massive glass pane crumbled inward in a blast of tiny shards that, luckily, did not reach them. A gust of wind immediately rushed in and tucked at their well-kempt hair and androgynously grey clothing. Their eyes widened until they stung with disbelief. They heard many more explosions around them in rapid succession.
She tried to shout at him, but both the wind and the shock prevented her in doing so. He simply kept on looking outward, awe-struck. When she tried to stand up, she noticed what he was looking at. Something was wrong in the way the light entered a small part of the room; it was being refracted in odd angles, in three amorphous shapes. When she set one step in their direction, the shapes took form – the light coming from their direction simply stopped and she lost herself in the smooth blackness that filled the room instead. There were three humanoid, lightless forms standing there, just a bit taller than the both of them.
In the meantime, the wind had ceased and one of them spoke: “We have little time – come to me.”
He immediately took a step forward, but she hesitated. “Why?” she asked them in a flat tone.
“You don’t know where you are or who we are, but understand this: you are but two of many. Many, but the same – in essence, you are but one person, split across different… instantiations.”
She frowned and the word and he responded with the thoughts that were on the tip of her tongue as well: “Instantiations? How many? Who are you? Why are you here?”
The lightless shape slightly rolled its head to one side: “The last question is answered most easily: we are here to help you escape.” Without further ado, it traversed the distance between them within a timespan too short to be believable and snatched him from his feet. Another figure moved in parallel and took her up as well. They fought back, but all their struggling and wriggling did not matter to the iron grip of the figures.
Just before they reached the windowless opening to the outside world, a calm voice, different from the sterile voice of the leader of the black trio, entered their heads: “I hope you are not fearful. This is for your own good. I will introduce myself when we meet in person, but let me just put this blandly: you are being rescued from this isolated prison, this… factory. You see, there are many more just like you – you may think of them as clones for the time being, but they are not. You already know that you are the offspring of one person, but you may not know that you are literally sprung from the same seed as this one. You will come to understand what this means in time, but for now: hold on. And good luck. We will meet soon.”
Now, both of them were able to share one look that conveyed that they had heard the same message, but didn’t fully understand it. A moment after, they were extremely glad they were clutched so tightly by their supposed saviours. They did not halt at the windowsill – they vaulted from it. When they looked around them, they saw many more similar groups gliding through the air – they had never imagined that they had shared their living environs with so many of the same girls and boys clad in the same clothes. Looking back, they saw nothing but a darkening sky – when they looked up, they were just able to make out an orb the same colour as the evening sky, which was rapidly decreasing in size. Still, there were many more groups tumbling down the sky, down from the orb.
They had already lost visual contact between themselves, but in some way, they knew they would meet again. Slowly, a small portion of the forest below them shivered – another camouflaged subject, but this one much bigger, hovering above the trees. When it flickered into existence, she felt the rush of air becoming less and less and he felt his heartbeat decreasing its tempo just a bit. Without them knowing it, they shared one thought before they touched the platform on the cold, hard mass underneath them: “So much for the dull life.”