I took a SF class my sophomore year of college, and the big assignment of the semester was to create an original work that generally fit into the genre. My piece was decidedly SF light and only garnered a B+ in the class, but I began to have a few more ideas of creating a series of short stories that completed my tale of Naomi and Ruth. In the past weeks I have successfully completed two of the remaining four stories in the series, and I know how the saga is going to end. The later stories are much stronger simply because I have grown up quite a bit since Naomi decided to step onto the pages.
With no further ado here is “With All The Best Intentions”
With All the Best Intentions
The alarm clock cheerfully buzzed, and the synthesized voice chirped, “Get up, get up! Today is a wonderful new day!”
“What if I don’t wanna get up?!” I grumbled as I rolled over to futilely slap at the snooze button. My patience thinned after about five minutes of unsuccessfully disarming the alarm, and I blearily opened my eyes. “8:30?!? I’ve got a meeting with Mr. Clark at 9! If I’m late again my job is definitely on the line…”
At 9AM I was vainly attempting to simultaneously put on high heels and climb the stairs to Mr. Clark’s office. I stumbled in the door at 9:02, a new record in punctuality, disheveled and out of breath. I hurriedly smoothed my hair and rushed toward his assistant’s desk.
Hester, Mr. Clark’s stereotypically middle-aged executive assistant, looked up at me in surprise. “Why, Ms. Smith, whatever are you back for?”
I stared at her blankly. “Back?”
“You left just five minutes ago to get the coffee stain out of your nice white suit,” Hester informed me, and then winked conspiratorially. “Mr. Clark was very impressed that you arrived early today.”
Obviously there was no way it had been me in the office earlier, so the wheels in my head began turning furiously. Nothing about this scenario made any sense, but I couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation either. “Are you absolutely sure it was me, Hester?” I finally stammered.
The older woman gave me a puzzled look and answered with another question. “Who else could it have been, Ms. Smith?”
“That’s true,” I sighed. “No one would ever want to take my place. I’m just an overworked, underpaid editor for one of the largest publishing companies in the US.” I mulled over the clues again, but things just didn’t add up. I never wore white because I had a nasty tendency to spill things on myself while rushing somewhere I should have been five minutes previously. Not only had the imposter worn pale colors, he or she (I was not discounting anything in these days of medical and holographic wonders) had been early rather than what I preferred to call ‘fashionably late.’ Still the individual saved my job with his or her stunt, and I wished I could thank the imposter in some way.
Hester watched me worriedly. “Do you feel all right, Ms. Smith? Should I call for an ambulance?”
I smiled wanly. “I’ll be okay, Hester. My body is reacting to getting up earlier than normal this morning. I’ll feel fine once I rest a little.”
As I approached my apartment I groaned when I saw the note taped to the door. “I know I paid the rent on time this month, and I didn’t request any maintenance.” I examined the paper more closely, and a chill went down my spine. “Not again! Doesn’t he every get the hint?”
The firm, bold script read:
“Came by, but you were still out.
Will be back later.
Simon was…is…one of my clients at the publishing firm. He’s a crackpot writer who amazingly managed to get a contract for wild fabrications about widespread human cloning. Medical technology had come a long way, but all scientists agreed that cloning life was still beyond our capabilities. However, Simon disagreed, and he had mass produced stories about worlds populated almost entirely by clones.
I was unfortunate enough to be the editor assigned to work with him when Simon first received his contract from Mr. Clark, and he turned our professional relationship into something more, at least in his head. Simon went through phases where he imagined that he loved me, and nothing I said or did made any difference until he came out of it himself. Things would continue as normal for a while until his next fanciful or needy bout of connecting to someone caused him to focus his affections on me again. Apparently, he’d decided that today was one of those times.
“Oh, goody!” I stated sarcastically. “Someone thought traipsing into my workplace and masquerading as me was a fun thing, and now I get the pleasure of fending off Simon’s amorous advances yet again!” I grumped about the apartment for a few minutes before going to the kitchen to prepare a cup of hot tea. I needed the soothing relief to smooth over my jangled nerves, and I settled comfortably into a corner of my sofa when the phone rang sharply.
“Hello?” I answered ungraciously.
“Hiya! It’s Sue!” the perky voice bubbled.
“Sue?” I repeated stupidly. “Was I supposed to call you or something?”
My friend laughed lightly. “Not at all! I just wanted to thank you for inviting Tim and me to your party next weekend.”
“I invited you two over for a party” I asked in surprise. I hadn’t intended to throw a party anytime in the near future.
“You just came by this morning,” Sue said perplexedly. “I liked that white suit of yours by the way. Were you able to get the coffee stain out?”
The light lit up in my head. The same person who had attended my meeting with Mr. Clark had run into Sue and decided that I would be hosting a party. “That’s right!” I snapped my fingers. “With all my rushing around today, it slipped my mind. I’ll see you guys on Saturday.”
“I was a little surprised because you’re not the most social person,” Sue confided.
I laughed awkwardly. “I thought I ought to entertain a little more.” Inwardly I fumed. The imposter may have helped me out this morning, but arranging parties in my name was too much! I ought to be grateful to my mysterious ‘benefactor,’ but I’d allowed myself to be forced into an uncomfortable situation because I was too embarrassed to explain that someone masquerading as me was interacting with my friends and co-workers.
Sue’s statement about me not being very social was very generous. In reality if an antisocial individual of the year award existed, I could win nine times out of ten. I needed a lot of space to recharge after interacting with people all day at my job, so I avoided and hated socializing outside of work. People tended to be shocked when they discovered that I was an editor because of my introverted, isolationist personality, but I could handle being with people if I had a purpose. It was the mindless ‘mingling’ and ‘small talk’ that I despised.
“Ms. Smith, there is someone at the door,” the electronic door droned.
I sighed, pasted a cheerful smile on my face, and reluctantly approached the door. I opened it slowly, only to be attacked by an immense bouquet of roses.
“What light from yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!” Simon recited proudly through the flowers.
“This is a doorway, Simon,” I pointed out dryly, “and you and I are hardly Romeo and Juliet. To what do I owe the latest undesired burst of affection?”
The rose ‘bush’ disappeared, and Simon peered at me through his thick glasses. “Don’t be like that, love,” he scolded gently. “You were so sweet when we went out for coffee this morning.”
“Me and you? Coffee this morning?” I snorted inelegantly. “Hardly, Simon! I know better than to encourage you!”
“Why’re you pretending you don’t remember?” he asked, genuine hurt in his voice. “You told me that you’d thought it over, and you decided to give me a chance and get to know me better…”
“Really?” I raised one eyebrow in disbelief. “If I’d wanted to ‘give you a chance’ it would have been a long time ago. You haven’t exactly improved with greater acquaintance, you know.”
“Did you take off the pleasant mood with your new white suit!” Simon commented acidly.
At the mention of that blasted white suit, something in me snapped. I’m not normally a violent person, but I grabbed Simon’s shirt with both hands. “Get out!” I yelled furiously. “I don’t know who you talked with this morning, but it was definitely NOT me! I’ve made it clear several times that our relationship is strictly business. I could almost believe that you’ve been responsible for all of today’s mishaps if I didn’t know you’re too straightforward to be able to lie to my face about it!”
He pulled back like a frightened turtle crawling into its shell, and I couldn’t really blame him. “Don’t you at least want the flowers or the chocolates?” he inquired nervously.
“NO!” I hissed angrily. “I’m allergic to chocolate, and I hate roses! Couldn’t you remember that from last time?!?” I shoved him toward the sidewalk with all my strength, then slammed and locked the door behind him. I heard him land hard on the cement, but in my anger I convinced myself that it served him right for being a perennial fool.
“I’ll go take a nap now,” I muttered. “Maybe that will return things to normal.”
Unfortunately, my mind continued to process the day’s events and images as I tried to relax into oblivion. I was in a dark space, waiting for something or someone to appear. She materialized from thin air, her white suit immaculate and bright.
“Have you been here long?” she inquired sweetly.
I looked up, and for a moment I could have sworn I was looking into a mirror. Her eyes, her face, her hair, everything…were identical. I backed away warily, keeping my eyes on my double.
“Who are you that you wear my face?” I forced out hoarsely.
She laughed. “How selfish of you to assume that your genetic code belongs only to you, my dear.” She turned and walked away, then looked at me over her shoulder. It’s quite simple actually. I’m surprised you hadn’t figured it out yet. I don’t just wear your face, darling. I am you.”
Mercifully the ringing doorbell released me from my doppelganger’s nightmare world. “I’m coming,” I called out groggily.
“Naomi, it’s so good to see you!” my younger sister, Evelyn, bubbled effusively as I opened the door.
“Evie, what brings you out her?” I asked honestly puzzled. My sister was a bit of a mad scientist type who spent her spare time lurking around college laboratories while working toward her PhD in microbiology or some scientific field. Any time she fit visiting family into her schedule was an event worthy of national headlines.
“I want to introduce you to someone!” she giggled, hugging me excitedly.
I rubbed my eyes tiredly. “You woke me up to meet your latest boyfriend?” I asked incredulously. My crazy sister seemed to draw the scientific types in those college laboratories to her like moths to a flame, in part because there weren’t many women in her field and in part because of her brilliance.
“This is much better!” she assured me. “Ruth, I’d like you to meet Naomi.”
My little sister moved out of the door, and a young woman in a white suit with a coffee stain stepped forward. “Please to meet you, Naomi,” she said sweetly.
I swayed and had to grab the back of a chair to avoid falling. The woman from my dream, or her earthy, physical form, was standing in the doorway reaching her hand toward me in introduction!
“Evie, why does Ruth look like me?” I asked nervously.
My sister grinned mischievously. “Effectively she is you, big sis. I finally got my human cloning experiment to work thanks to my lab partner Victor. He tweaked some of my algorithms and added some necessary ingredients to my primordial goo mixture. Ruth was the only success though.”
“You cloned me?” I gasped in horror. “Whatever for?”
“I thought that Ruth could make your life easier by taking care of some of the tasks you’d rather avoid,” Evelyn smiled. “Already we took care of today’s meetings, arranged a party, and took care of Simon!”
I sunk my head into my hands and groaned. “So your little creation was behind everything?”
“You bet!” she said happily. “I thought I’d bring Ruth by and leave her with you, so no one will ever figure out the difference. Naomi, won’t this be fun?”
I looked into my clone’s intelligent eyes, which were eerily identical to my own, and smiled wryly. “Evelyn darling, I think I’m in hell. The world isn’t ready for two of me yet.”