Chris is an album of sweet words and poetic vows. I’m normally not an emotional woman, but the fact that I mean so much to one person strikes me to my soul. Tears pool in my eyes. Good tears though… shame doesn’t slap me from his words for once, only humility. To one person on the planet, I’m worth loving.
Oh, wow! That’s cheesy Sophia.
Everyone that’s ever told me that they loved me is either gone or dead. Stigmo may care for me, but I’m an asset that will put him in SAI archives as a tactical genius, and being used by a person isn’t love.
Tyrell and Chevonne, the genetic replicas− the clones− are great parents. Way better than my real ones, the real Mr. and Mrs. James. Whenever I see them, they dote over me. They tell me all the time how much they love me, but their faces only remind me of the originals. I wish I could extract memories of the old Tyrell and Chevonne and implant memories of the new two, but then I would forget who I truly am and where I really come from.
Chris notices I’m crying and asks what’s wrong. I tell him everything’s fine as I wipe my eyes. Rubbing my arm in silence, he allows the moment to pass, aware that a force of sorts evoked my tears. He understands I’m not at a place to reveal what that force of sorts is.
Ned’s classic pasta salad agrees with me in every mood and state of health. The traditional lemon bar tasted the best. I ordered two more after the first considering dinner’s on me. Chris got his usual peach-lime bar. That’s his second love on the planet… peach-limes. He eats them for breakfast. He’ll have peach-lime jam and honey roasted peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, and he’ll turn peach-limes into glazes for dinners and desserts. He’s a little obsessed with the fruit. Maybe my ill-bouts are the onset of a forming allergy to peach-limes. We always eat them at home, and he’ll sneak peach-limes into entrées that shouldn’t have a thing to do with any type of fruit. Last weekend he made grilled Muenster cheese sandwiches with peach-lime slices and tomato bits. Shockingly, it was amazing but that is the last combination I would develop in my food-cooking brain. I cook too, but work drains me all the time. I leave the cooking to Chris.
Waiting for Chris to finish his dessert, I tried to think of what we could do before 10 p.m. We could window shop through downtown. Shops mainly stay open until 9 p.m. Vendors− the popular ones on the street – will stay open until midnight. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll wander downtown to occupy our time. Around ten, I’ll easily lure him to the park. Of course, he’ll never know a night in the park is my gift to him. The last few times we spent in the spot together, he thought we lucked out by waking up without the threat of a citation from hovering Sentinels.
A familiar hand rests on my shoulder. I look up to see Emma friendly grinning at me. I rarely run into her outside of work. Slightly freaked out, I check my palm tablet to make sure that I didn’t miss any calls or messages. That means Emma’s not here to whisk me away for work. Her husband Wyatt stands behind her with their son, Chet, in his arms sleeping. Chet’s about five years old and has the cutest, chubbiest cheeks ever, as if his cheeks were made for pinching due to recognizable adorableness. I’ve never pinched his cheeks, but I’ve always wanted to.
Generation four with the limbless deformity have an 80% chance of producing offspring with the same birth defect. Chet’s blessed. He came out with all his limbs and a healthy heart− he was whole and unmarked by genetic mutations. Considering that Wyatt is also Branchless, and a second generation Splice, Chet’s lucky to appear human. There’s a chance his Splice inheritance will show in his older age, but for now he’s a normal little boy.
“Hi,” I say as Emma bends low to hug me. I hug her back.
While my mind swims around in the thoughts of my ‘think tank’, Emma explains that her and the family were here before us. She decided if we didn’t notice her, she would speak to us before she and the family left. Here she is living up to her word.
I take a moment to remember our cover story for work. She’s not a goods transporter like me, because she never takes cases outside the city.
The Loading Dock!
Chris’ memory seems to be working faster and better than mine currently. He says, “Right. I remember. Emma Gordon, Goods Loader.” The emphasis he put on Goods loader seemed unnecessary and melodramatic, but it provoked her and Wyatt to laugh kindly.
By Chris’ silence, I figure he didn’t mean to be funny. He’s trying not to show the embarrassment he’s internally experiencing with the awkward squint of his brow. I remember why we keep to ourselves. Chris is poor at socializing. His mingling skills practically parallel the social skills of a person with a social anxiety disorder.
“Well… I’m sure I’ll see you around tomorrow,” Emma says, stepping back to stand by her husband.
The doctor’s appointment will likely be scheduled in the morning, therefore I will see Emma tomorrow. Smiling, I say, “Yeah- yes, probably.”
“Have a good evening guys,” Wyatt says.
Chris waves quietly as I say, “Goodnight.”
He drags his feet as we mottle through the toy store. He strongly dislikes window shopping. If he’s not buying something, the last thing he wants is to step foot in the store. I love to come in here and play with the various toy guns, but tonight I don’t feel up to it. Subtle dizziness weighs over me. Needless to say I feel faint.
Inside Mickey’s Toy Shop, as we peruse aisle to aisle, I pick up toys and examine the mechanics like I usually do. While Chris is dazzled by a self-moving spiral chain, called a slinky, I decide to catch him off guard. Like the covert agent I am, I sneak up behind and press a Warf toy gun against his back.
“What are-,” Chris began to say when I cut him off.
“You’re out gunned. I got a Warf toy gun.” I whisper in Chris’ ear.
I explain that the gun shoots blue foam darts that melt into a cool chewy gum substance on contact. The gum-foam comes off as easily as a weak adhesive and loses its sticky quality after human hand oils touch the gum-foam. The gum-foam is biodegradable and eventually dissolves.
“You have ten seconds to run,” I say and then I begin to count.
He glances over his shoulder as he moves away from me. The Warf is a bulky, purple and gray toy gun and nothing like my actual EDSAI gun. Still, a gun is a gun.
I have three seconds left to count. Chris jukes right, darting down the nearest aisle, and sprints for cover. Halfway through chasing him down, the emporium of toys spins radically around, due to my jarred perception from sudden dizziness. Fear, a feeling I rarely have, consumes my mind, body, and soul, and as I involuntarily collapse to the ground I cry out for Chris by name. Before I hit the ground, all I see is the black from his nightmares.
*Edited by Aly Fry
Note from the Author:
This is the last you’ll read of the “NE:New Earth” version of “The End”.
As today is the Eve of Nones, tomorrow you’ll find out about the next version. If you really liked this variant, let me know through a comment, or by emailing: email@example.com. You can help decide how “The End” will take shape in the Official Novel Series.
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