Copies of Clara
The first one was truly a marvel. My mother’s boyish frame, my father’s pale skin on top, and very few muscles between them. Eyes the same undiagnosed color – blue in the passport, grey in the ID card. Narrow feet. A constellation of freckles, the one resembling a fish, or a unicorn, across her right shoulder. Freakish index fingers. Hundred-sixty-four and a half centimeters of height. Angular fingernails. The hair the colour of dust specks in the sun, reminding us of what was lost to my sister’s obsession with change and her hairdresser’s compliance. A perfect Clara.
The following ones were the same and the novelty soon wore off. Clara herself was more and more embarrassed. Each morning another copy stepped out of her bedroom, she blushed a little more. She apologized for more things, too. For the cereals they would eat. For the bath water they would use. For the energy we would need to hide nine, eleven, sixteen Claras from the neighbours. For having no excuse and not knowing how. The only reason we even distinguished the freshest copy from the rest was that they always revealed themselves naked. Due to that, we all knew my sister’s body so well it felt like a shared commodity. That must have bothered her too.
To Clara’s content, the copies remained mute in their early life. Remembering some of the most disturbing moments of our childhood, I must admit that I opened their pale mouths multiple times to ensure their tongues were in the right place. They were. In fact, all the copies did start to speak once they’d gotten comfortable around the house and its original inhabitants. The scope of their mental capacities, however, seemed rather limited. There was a copy for each one of my sister’s diverse interests. One danced salsa. One knitted. One would speak of nothing but functional programming. Another – geology. Their sharp focus proved useful. Some sat for Clara’s exams and did groceries. Some we sent to dinner with our least favourite grandparents. They didn’t seem to mind and remained mostly passive. Only once a copy left the house on its own accord to help a neighbour with a satellite dish. We admittedly got carried away on that occasion, but the copies had short life spans anyway.
That was somewhat problematic. Copies functioned like humans and decayed like humans, meaning forever. I remember watching the first one with childish excitement, expecting it to disintegrate as suddenly as it had once materialized. It didn’t. It made the house stink.
It’s only that often and in so many places you can inconspicuously bury a body. We used our backyard to its maximum; the dog park nearby was due for demolition. Even though, at this point, it has been due for three years, it still felt too risky. So we drove to the forest upstate, our trunk soon permanently stained and stinky. A couple we buried at the riverbank. The trick was not to get caught in the act itself. Two of the dead copies were found, but it caused us no issues – there were no personal possessions to identify them, no matching missing person profiles. Only once an attractive police officer found his way to our door where he encountered Clara - hungover but generally unharmed. He didn’t stay very long.
The death of each copy brought out yet another one of Clara’s interests – that of biology. She asked once and again to be allowed to cut them open, even if just for a peek. It made me shiver. I did not enjoy the vision of my sister over her own dead body, handling her own insides with her usual carelessness.
We grew sick of the effort after the thirteenth trip to the national park. Screw the demolition, we said. We buried nineteen more bodies in that dog park. Seven years later, it’s still standing.
All in all, the copies weren’t very problematic. The only real setback was my having to give up drinking. Because when I did drink, I had those thoughts that it was my very own original sister being buried, over and over, in that dog park overdue for a demolition.
A.C. has published fiction and poetry in spots such as Litro, Maudlin House, Sideways Poetry, and Pulp Poet Press. She can be serious and lawyerly but hardly ever wears black when nobody's dead.
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