The Cloning of Bethany Tillman

 

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Bethany came home today. I thought it would all be fine, she is to all intents and purposes the spitting image of my wife. Yet, something is missing, something I just cannot put my finger on. Oh sure, her memories are perfect, her voice – the lisp, her little idiosyncrasies: the way she holds her head, the lifting of her hand, the way she stops in the midst of a sentence – as if in thought, then laughs; it’s all there. Yet, when we touch, when I reach over and kiss her lips, it’s as if they were the lips of a stranger, of some other woman. It makes me feel strange.

I asked the doctors about it and they assure me that this is all normal, the way it should be. They insist I should just take it a step at a time. Day by day things will fall in place, her old self will come through as if by magic.

* * *

It’s been three weeks now, and I’m even more ill at ease. She seems to repeat her stories, seems to be stuck in an record or old memories as if she couldn’t think of anything new to say. She wanders around the house almost sleepwalking, puttering, mumbling, trying to figure something out in her mind that she just can’t seem to comprehend.

She looks at me sometimes as if she doesn’t recognize me, as if I were someone from her past, but that she couldn’t quite grasp who. She’ll come up to me and gently touch my face, feel my skin, explore my nose and eyes, my ears; touch my Adam’s apple as if in doing this she might grasp some intangible memory of desire., a fleeting world of life that for some reason had fallen away from her. Tears will come into her eyes then and drop onto her pale cheeks like angels condemned to some forlorn world they’ll never be able recognize nor escape. 

* * *

Today she smiled. It was the first time she actually put on a dress. Said she wanted to take the children to the zoo. It was wonderful.

But when she returned she was crying, and the children seemed cold and indifferent. I sent them to bed. I asked her what happened. “I couldn’t remember how to drive, John.” She ran off to the bedroom and locked the door.

I slept on the couch.

* * *

We went to the movies to see one of her all time favorite stars. She sat there silent through the whole film. She didn’t laugh or cry once. She even forgot to eat her popcorn. I’m beginning to think something is wrong. But what? On the surface she seems her old self. She plays with the children, rocks Lizzy and sings to her; and, with Joey she walks him through his lessons carefully and with patience. Her eyes seem almost to have the old fire. Yet, something is missing. What? There’s this void, this emptiness. She seems to be absent while present. Elsewhere.

* * *

Joey asked me something today that frightened me: “When’s mommy coming home, daddy?”

“Mommy is home, Joey!”

“No, no, daddy: I mean my real mommy, not this one.”

“What do you mean, Joey? This is your mommy, the only mommy you’ve ever had.”

“No, daddy, this one just looks like mommy, but she’s not. She’s someone else’s mommy.”

I wanted him to explain, but was afraid to inquire further and didn’t want to upset him. So instead I just told him that mommy would come home someday, but that he needed to pretend he loved this mommy for now. What else should I have told him?

* * *

Bethany didn’t go to work today. She stayed in bed all day. Said she wasn’t feeling well and that I should just leave her alone.

She didn’t want to see the children. I asked her why.

“Their not my children!” she said emphatically.

That’s when I called Dr. Cael.

* * *

He explained to me that it happened like this sometimes. Some people reject the idea of immortality, they just cannot accept an endless life of becoming other skins. It’s the strangeness of the skin that upsets them, they seem to be unable to make the crossing into reembodiment. Bethany cannot accept being a clone. She knows what she is and feels guilty for having cheated death, as if she were a zombie and not your young wife. She says she feels distant, cold – as if she was watching someone else’s life, not her own.

What do we do now?

There’s nothing that can be done, John. You have to let her go. She’ll find a new life, maybe even have children again. Meet someone else, but she has rejected her former life and cannot return. She has her memories, but she cannot have her former life. It happens, John. Why? It’s a mystery we have yet to figure out.  

So what do I do? My children?

John, she is dead. Your real wife is gone, her ashes are right here. Do what you must. Take your children and see a priest or children’s therapist, work through it John.

* * *

I did. I worked through it. I finally met someone else. Her name is Judy. We love each other very much, and the children seem to get along with her beautifully. But there is a slight complication.

She is a clone, too. Should I tell the children?


 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

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