Two deliverymen appeared on my doorstep, transporting a package on a wheeled platform that mimicked a gurney. I looped Tanvi Lonkar onto three sheets of papers, initialed twice, and flashed my ID to prove my identity.
The corporation frowned upon customers requesting models of celebrities or neighborhood crushes to fulfill dirty fantasies. One could only order a replica of themselves. The products were restricted to suit the company name: Another You.
Six months earlier, I had stepped into a full body scanner in a glass domed building to have my proportions taken, my facial features mapped, and my vitals recorded. On the limousine ride home, I re-watched the first episode of A.I.Rising, wondering how realistic AI in the real world would appear.
With the product finally in front of me, I grabbed a pair of scissors from the junk drawer, then second-guessed jamming a blade into the box holding a Rs.5,00,000 replica. I peeled the packing tape off with my nails instead, denting my french tips, and unfolded the cardboard like a tiger crouched inside.
I expected a caricature. I received a mirror. The android looked like an exact reproduction — from the shade of skin to the freckles to the hair even my stylist struggled to color match. Every feature appeared identical to my own, down to the blackhead on my chin that sprouted earlier that morning. Six months ago, during the scan, my skin had been clear. Not a single blemish in sight.
I tried to visualize the terms and conditions I had skimmed through before completing my order. I had signed a nondisclosure agreement. A covenant not to sue. A stack of unending paperwork with wordy warnings and conditions and fees.
I recalled a section about the replica syncing up with me, about its body mimicking mine like women who lived together and experienced their period at the same time.
That turned out to be more than a simile. After activating the other me, her time of the month started the same week, the same day, the same moment as mine. She grew pesky hairs where I did. She fell sick with the flu when I did. Her immune system copied mine.
Before I realized any of that, the first time I saw her on delivery day, I used a command word to snap open her eyes. She ran through voice activation. No switches. No batteries. No hints of artificiality.
She tilted her pointed chin upward, appraising me. “Pleasure to meet you,” she said, same voice as me, same mannerisms, same inflections.
“You look nice,” I said. “Aside from the ensemble.”
She wore a red sweater dress with triangular cutouts on the hips, the same one I had been wearing during my body scan. A trend from two seasons back. It needed an upgrade.
“I know, I know. Cutouts are ancient. But if I’m wearing them, everyone will assume they’re back in.”
My lips curved into a smirk. In addition to her physique, she held the same personality as me due to a combination of FAQ questionnaires, ink blots, social media analyzation, and DNA testing. A perfect copy. A perfect crime.
Running underground, Another You helped the rich grow richer. I could sit on my ass while my replica draped an apron over her breasts and flopped meat over a stove. I could find a second sugar daddy and make my replica fuck him until he trusted her enough to hand over the credit card.
Throughout the following three years, I ordered her to complete my household chores — mopping and dusting and dish washing. I asked her to take my place during tedious charity events. I instructed her to amuse any guests. I even invited her into a threesome during a drunken hookup where I’d pretended to be a twin.
I got my money’s worth.
However, like anything, a puppy-love-relationship that seemed like it would never die or a breathtaking view of the mountains from a honeymoon suite, the luster wore off eventually. The replica became routine. Uninteresting. Dull.
Without groceries to order or guests to entertain, I grew restless. I wanted to attend the charity events again. I wanted a taste of the mundane because it felt better than sitting motionless in my loft.
Deciding to regain control of my life, I used a voice command to keep the replica’s eyes locked shut and stored her in a spare room, more akin to a closet. I propped her dead weight against the innermost wall like a mop, leaving her to gather dust.
By the time I remarried and my stomach bulged with a baby, I completely forgot she existed.
With a midwife by my side, I gave birth inside of my bathtub, supplementing narcotics with natural herbs. My husband gave me a turn coddling our little girl, nuzzled his bald head against her bald head, and then waved the midwife over to clean the leftover gunk from her body.
The second the pair scurried out from the room, I heard a baby shouting. Loud, screaming sobs.
“What is she doing to my child?” I said to my husband, then once again so the midwife could hear.
“It’s not your baby,” she called back.
She reentered the room, cradling the silent child against her chest. “It’s not your baby that is screaming.”
Failed possibilities flipped through my mind. Sound from the television? No. We had a no-electronics rule on Sundays. Sound from the neighbors? No. They had several children, but our walls muffled their sex sounds along with everything else.
After a sweep of the house, my midwife discovered the source of the cries. Inside of a room, akin to a closet.
Beneath a swelling stomach, a baby squirmed against the carpet. It wailed even with its eyes shut tight, not fully activated, but created.
Just like the replica had gotten her period at the same time as me, she had gotten pregnant at the same time as me. Her system had copied mine. She had given birth to another (living?) thing. A thing caught somewhere between synthetic and flesh, between soulless machine and heartless human.
Next blog will be out soon.Desai Thoughts MEdia.
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