The silence that stretched between us was the loudest I had ever heard. I opened the bottle of water and tossed the pills into my mouth, washing them down without really registering the motion. It was something that had to be done, and so I was doing it; that was all. The silence continued, Gregory waiting to see how I would respond, my mind racing through all the possible ways that sentence could have ended.
None of them were good.
“With Shaun what?” I asked. Gregory didn’t answer. “With Shaun what?” I repeated.
“Off the grid,” said Gregory. He took the empty bottle from my hand. “He and the rest of your old news site dropped off the radar following Tropical Storm Fiona.”
He mentioned the storm like it was a big event. I frowned. “Were they in the area? Are they missing?”
“No. There have been a few sightings, all of them on the West Coast. The EIS has been planting sighting reports elsewhere in the country, but it’s hard, with as little data as we have.”
“So what, they’re thinking they can tell me to find him, and I’ll know where he’s gone to ground?” I scoffed. “That’s not going to happen.”
“No. They’re thinking they can finish running their tests on you, demonstrating to the investors just how stable a clone can be, and then they can decommission you in favor of a Georgia Mason who’ll be willing to play the part they ask it to play.”
The chill continued to uncurl, spreading to cover my entire body. “What part is that?”
“Bait.” I couldn’t see Gregory’s expression with the light shining so brightly behind him. I didn’t need to. His voice told me everything I needed to know. “They’re going to put the new Georgia on the air, and they’re going to use it to do the one thing they couldn’t do on their own.”
“They’re going to use her to lure Shaun in,” I finished, in a whisper.
“They’ll use her to do more than that, if they possibly can. I’ll be honest, Georgia, because this isn’t a time for being anything else. Shaun’s psychological profiles since your death have been… disturbing, to say the least.”
“Disturbing how? Cutting up children and old ladies disturbing, or not showering anymore disturbing?”
“Talking to himself. Refusing to let go of the idea that you’ll come back someday. That’s part of what let the investors sell the idea that you would have multiple uses.”
“But not me in specific.”
“No,” Gregory admitted.
I took a deep breath. The painkillers hadn’t had time to work, but the chill was muffling the pain nicely, making everything seem a little more distant, and hence a little easier to deal with. “Well, all right. I guess that means it’s time to get me the hell out of Dodge, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it does,” said Gregory—and now he sounded sad, and deeply concerned. “There’s just one problem.”
I closed my eyes. “You still don’t know how you’re going to do that, do you?”
“No. We don’t.”
“Well.” I opened my eyes, sighing once. “This is going to be fun.”
Given a choice between life and death, choose life. Given a choice between right and wrong, choose what’s right. And given a choice between a terrible truth and a beautiful lie, choose the truth every time.
Fuck it. Let’s blow some shit up.
Every time I think my life can’t get any weirder, it does. Today has included a missing Newsie from the Rising generation who just happens to be running a rest stop on the smuggler’s route to Canada, rednecks with guns, listening to Shaun sing along with the radio (badly), and a zombie bear. Who knows what delights tomorrow will bring? And will tomorrow bring a shower with enough hot water to finish washing my hair?
Stay tuned for our next exciting update that I can’t post because it might give our location away to some mysterious shadow conspiracy.
Fuck, this sucks.
—From Charming Not Sincere, the blog of Rebecca Atherton, July 26, 2041. Unpublished.
IF YOU ARE READING THIS, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR ROOM. If you are already outside your room, find a secure location immediately. The following places on campus are currently secure: The library. The Life Sciences building. The student store. Durant Hall. The Optometry lab. The following places are confirmed compromised: The English and Literature building. The Bear’s Den. The administrative offices.
THIS IS NOT A HOAX. THIS IS NOT A PRANK. This is Professor Michael Mason. We are in a state of emergency. If you are reading this, do not leave your room.
Stacy, darling, I’ll be home as soon as I can.
—From Breathing Biology, the blog of Michael Mason, July 18, 2014. Taken from the archives of The Wall.
Dad’s map was just that: a large piece of paper with roads and landmarks drawn on it. He spread it out on the dining room table, smirking a bit when he saw the disbelieving expressions Becks and I were wearing. “What?” he asked. “You’ve never seen a map before?”
“Not outside of a history book,” I said. “Haven’t you ever heard of GPS?”
“What isn’t on a computer can’t be hacked, oh foolish son of mine,” said Dad. He was comfortably in professor mode now, that old “I am imparting wisdom to the young” twinkle in his eye. George used to love it when he’d get like this, like it was some secret language the two of them could share—the language of knowledge and the truth. Naturally, that meant I’d always hated it when he’d get like this, because he was lying to her. He was letting her believe he cared.
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