The day begins as any other day—wake up, hit the alarm, wander blindly into the bathroom, shower, brush out wet hair, blow it dry and twist the pale length into a long braid. The clothes are the same everyday, too—a loose pink top and matching pants. The slinky material is not my favorite by any stretch of the imagination, and clearly unsuitable for the terrain, but hey, not my call. And, I hate to admit it, but the clothes are extremely comfortable. I pick up yesterday’s identical outfit from the floor and put it in the hamper.
I busy myself—make the bed, push the chair under the desk, close a book and place it back on the shelf, turn off a lava lamp. I look around to see if there is anything left undone, just staring, not wanting to leave. I absorb the comfort; the color of the crocheted squares in the blanket, the slow movement inside the lava lamp, the room’s smell—last night’s musky incense–and imprint it to memory.
Walking to the closet, I take out a pleasant blouse and my favorite pair of jeans, raveled to perfection at the hem, and lay them across the bed, then set a pair of platform sandals on the floor. Giving the room a second look, I make sure nothing is left to do. Everything’s in order, but still, I stand, looking around as if—
My eyes start burning. Great. Right on cue with the fluttering in my stomach. I know my nerves are tense, frazzled, have been for days, but now emotions are threatening, ratcheting up my anxiety to new levels, filling my eyes. I close them, rub a forefinger and thumb over my eyelids, willing the tears away, and breathe several deep calming breaths.
You’re stalling and you know it. Today is THE day. So get moving. You got this. Piece of cake.
Oscar demands my immediate attention in the kitchen, purring and rubbing against my legs while I set the coffee cup under the spout and push the button. He mewls loudly.
“Okay, okay. It’s your turn.” I feed him, then prepare my own lite breakfast. I sit down to eat, but find myself pushing the food around on the plate. God, the butterflies are relentless.
I clean the kitchen, then check the time. I still have plenty of it to kill. I decide to distract myself with writing in my journal, then send a video missive to mom. She worries if she doesn’t receive a message at least once a week. I talked about the weather, Oscar’s antics, menial and mundane things. But, I always, always leave out important details–like I was trained to–specifically about my job. She would only worry if she knew the truth.
Hell. Dad worries enough for the three of us. It’s not that we intentionally mean to keep mom in the dark about our work, it’s just that we know her limitations, and her penchant for gossip. Well, that, and keeping her blissfully ignorant, without her knowledge of anything, is our way of gathering input, a fresh perspective, for the program. And with dad officially my boss at work now, I am simply following orders. Technically.
I’m not happy about using mom as our personal guinea pig—a scientific human chart collecting data, so to speak for this–unexpected project–but we have to know. Have to learn. In the name of science, of course.
I look up from my writing and peer through the window. Dark clouds hang over the sharp mountains. A sun, much like our own, is trying to break through and the mist is heavy, again. Everything—the whole craggy area— will most likely be moist, slippery to walk on, to sit on like yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Rocks glisten with a thin wet sheen. It looks as if they are sweating.
My sentiments today exactly. It’s time. I shove the journal and a handful of pencils in the bag.
Oscar meows, wanting out, as he does every time I near the door. I pick him up and bury my face in his soft gray fur. Holding him a bit too tight for his comfort, he jumps down and zips off to my bedroom, the urge to go out, forgotten.
I notice the space ship’s beacon flashes red. It means the radio antennae above is starting up, emitting radio waves, signaling, preparing to leave.
It’s your signal, too, so get a move on. Ready as I’ll ever be I walk to the door, opening it wide.
I watch her carefully, still and calm, then she looks up at me. It’s unsettling seeing my own brown eyes stare back. Our same blond hair lifts from a light gust of wind, the long ends of hers, the freed tendrils of mine. Our pink clothes are identical. The thin silky material clings to our bodies in the humid, hazy atmosphere.
Are we ready? I wonder, as apprehension filters into my thoughts, hitting rock bottom in the pit of my stomach. I mean, hopefully, only mom—and Oscar—will notice any differences, the lack of subtle nuances and mannerisms, like how I have the habit of tucking hair behind my ears when I leave it loose and long; the way I chew at the end of a pen when I think; the certain way I know Oscar likes to be scratched under his chin. Those kinds of things are unteachable, really.
She sits on the large rock awaiting instructions, as she has done everyday since dad and I found her on this planet two explorations ago. The gears of the landing door groan as it descends to the ground.
I pick up my bag and walk down the steps of the ship to her. Will she, my replica, my bio-identical clone, from this parallel world, fit into my world? Did I have the ships settings, every last one of them, set correctly to automatic? Have I programmed, trained her, well enough? Will she keep Oscar safe, remember to feed him, as they travel back through time to Earth; back to the yellow house with the flimsy metal fence on Willow Lane; back to a denim and leather-fringed, bell-bottomed world I know well; back to 1970?
Only time will tell if the experiment is a success.
My stomach lurches. Again. I watch her enter my spaceship without a backward glance.
There. That is one of the telling nuances I’m worried about. I would’ve turned around and waved goodbye. She didn’t.
Stop it. She will be fine. She’ll fit in–go to the movies, music concerts, maybe even go on a date. She will become the daughter mom always wanted, while I . . .
But the more important question is, since this mission began–will I fit in, undetected, in her world?
By Ronda K Reed
Photo credit; Enrique Meseguer, or darksouls1, his handle on pixabay.