The California skyline stretches out before me. It’s night time and the glow of lights, blinking from helicopter tails and city offices replaces the stars and illuminates my view. I watch in a trance like state as tiny cars pass through my bedroom along distant roads intertwining seamlessly between buildings and bridges.
The world around me glows a comforting blue and I begin to wonder about the people. The ones that don’t really exist inside this computer generated landscape. The people going about their pretend lives, leaving pretend workplaces on their pretend commutes home. I wonder about their homes, do they have children? Partners? Do they have dogs? If so, are they Labradors? For some reason pretend people in pretend worlds always seem to own Labradors.
I run my hand down my face, I feel it’s shape and I question it’s reality. My hand brushes reflexively across my collarbone and down the thin tube that runs beneath my skin toward my breast where a round metal port about the size of a coin protrudes a good few millimetres from my chest wall.
For a moment I imagine injecting into it with an oversized syringe filled with heroin. A direct line to my heart, how much could I get in before I succumbed? Old habits die hard.
I trace the scar on my abdomen with my finger as I have a thousand times before. Thick and rope like, it continues past the place where my belly button used to be, beyond the bag that now lives on my stomach and disappears into my pubic bone. “Told you you’re the clone” whispers a voice in my head and I grin for a second before wondering if she is in fact right.
The person I once thought I was certainly doesn’t exist.
I remember the first moment I truly understood the world wasn’t real. I remember the feelings of fear and doubt that had haunted me for so long being suddenly replaced by a feeling of power. I was six years old, and by all definitions completely lost in a densely wooded forest somewhere in England, but none of that mattered at the time because now I had indisputable proof. I finally knew their secret and nothing else could ever matter.
How does one hold onto that secret? What can be done with such information? Who knows, who doesn’t? As time wore on I realised I wasn’t the only one who had figured it out. Hints were everywhere, some carefully testing the waters like a secret code only visible to those in the know. Others were so blatant it was as if they were flaunting their knowledge in front of those who were not yet awake to the truth just so they’d kick themselves later for not seeing it.
I reach over and fumble for the remote to turn off the television. Los Angeles fades to black and the bedroom becomes a party of silhouettes with the ability to morph into anyone and anything until my eyes adjust. I still hate the darkness.
I hold my hand on my abdomen again. The same abdomen that supposedly grew and carried four babies. I try to imagine for a moment what it must feel like to be pregnant, but all I can feel beneath my hand is scarred skin and the rhythmic pulsating of my aorta.
My mind defaults to images of self directed violence and I lift my hand quickly as I remember I’m not supposed to be here. This isn’t my body, this isn’t my life, that isn’t to be my death. I try to find a fix point in the blackened room but the darkness starts to strangle me.
I try to stifle the onslaught of inevitable screaming, I feel it in my heart more than I hear it these days. My throat tightens in terror and my chest crushes under its own weight. I redirect my hand, ritualistically running it along the edges of my hip bones one at a time over and over. It helps block it out. The dungeon, the smell of blood, the flurry of a thousand imprinted memories that did not belong to me, memories I never wanted, memories I can’t escape, memories that, just like me aren’t real, can’t be real.
The muted glow of moonlight peeks from a clouded sky and filters through the bedroom window, in its wake I can see the shape of the big black dog that’s lying on the end bed snoring softly.
It’s not a Labrador.