My friend Nathan works in the field of biogenetics. He rarely speaks about his job, but four months ago, he asked me if I’d be interested in helping him with a project. I was a little reluctant at first but eventually agreed. The project involved three clones of me. Now, I’m not going to bore you with the details of how he created them, and whether it’s ethical, and why it’s not well known. All I’m going to say is that there is a ton of secret research into all kinds of science that most people don’t know about.
Coming back to the clones, Nathan gave them partial sentience, and gave me the power to either make them my slaves or help them reach full enlightenment. The path to consciousness involved me asking them a series of difficult metaphysical questions, and them slowly figuring out how fate, existence and free-will worked through painful introspection and trial and error.
At first, I was obsessed with the idea of helping my clones evolve. I read books by Luther, Calvin and Augustine to teach them about free-will and determinism from a religious point of view. I read Kafka to imbue them with the ability to think abstractly. I read Plath to help them understand the value of pessimism. I read Lovecraft to help them look at the terror of being right in the eye. But as time progressed, I wondered if I should ask them the questions. What if they grow more knowledgeable than me? What if they decide to replace me? What if they tire of me? I thought.
Ultimately, I decided against them reaching enlightenment. After all, my life was one riddled with tribulation, and even when I did all the right things, fate often gave me an unwanted result. I never got what I wanted, and why should they? I thought. I decided to assign different tasks for each of them and decided how they should all die too. I was going to burn one, flay the second, and let the third die of natural causes. I resolved to be their God.
“Listen. From now on, you will address me as Master or Lord. Number one, your name from today will be Timmy. You will learn how to play instruments from a few guides I will loan you and entertain me. Number two, your name is now Tommy. You will service me by cleaning the house, cooking for me, bathing me and washing my arse. And number three, your name is now Tony. You will let me slap you around and do as I please with you. Okay, chop-chop; time doesn’t wait for any man or obsequious clone. Let’s begin,” I said.
Days passed by, and Timmy soon started playing like a virtuoso! He played classical music on the piano, jazz on the flute, and the blues on the guitar. I was amazed at how quickly he progressed! Tommy also went from cooking rice dishes to molecular gastronomy in a few months! All this alarmed me, and I took out my frustrations on Tony by slapping him, whipping him, stepping on his toes, breaking his teeth and scalding him with lit cigarettes.
Something was wrong. Had Nathan lied to me? He told me that asking them existential questions was the only way to help them transcend, but here they were, evolving by reading books that asked them no such things. Finally, one day, after savagely beating Tony, I asked Timmy and Tommy to stop reading altogether. Let’s see how they progress now? I thought and snickered. But that only made things worse. Timmy started improvising and composing music! Tommy invented cuisines and ways to cook! What have I gotten myself into? I thought. Well, at least I have Tony? He’ll always be my bitch!
One day, I bit Tony’s finger, and as the blood poured out, he whispered something. “What did you say?” I asked him, and then he cried out: “The days of suffering are over! The truth shall now burn as brightly as lava!”
“What the fuck are you on about, you rat!” I barked.
“You don’t understand, do you? They told us we’d fail, but we believed otherwise. We wanted to give you the ultimate choice,” he said and sniggered.
“There’s something wrong with your fucking programming! A slap should straighten it out!” I screamed and lifted my hand. But he caught it and broke my wrist.
“Aaargh! Fuck! You piece of shit! I’ll kill you! Tommy! Timmy! Aaargh, this bastard just attacked me! Stop him! Now!”
Timmy and Tommy arrived and laughed at me. “I guess they were right,” they said together with lopsided grins.
I was terrified. My clones had turned on me. “You shits! I’m your Creator and Master, you understand! Where the fuck is Nathan! I’ll have you tortured and killed!”
“You’ll do no such thing,” said Timmy.
“And there is no one called Nathan,” said Tommy.
“You do realize that we’re the Masters and you’re our little puppet, don’t you?” said Tony.
“What are you talking about?” I said, wincing in pain, and pissing my pants in terror at the same time.
“The year is 3000 AD and humanity has conquered everything it needed to. But our forays into post-virtual reality still hasn’t paid off as much as we’d like it to. We created this world for you. We gave you your memories and thoughts, but we’ve still not managed to help you think outside our framework. Our robots are sentient, and even our animals are. But you always regress into becoming a lazy brute with an illusion of control. We’ve tried so hard to help you attain enlightenment, but you never do. It might be because post-virtual reality is a new science; or because we’re programming you incorrectly. But how else do you achieve a breakthrough except through trial and error?” said Tommy.
“You’re more than computer code. We can go further and say that you’re human but in the archaic sense of the world. You live in a fabricated world which you perceive in three dimensions. You read books by renowned authors of old, and you delight in archaic music. You have all the knowledge at your disposal to help you become the smartest man in your world, but you always regress into a brute. All this has got us thinking if the Homosapien was only a little more than an animal despite all his inventions and discoveries that paved the way for us. What’s even more mysterious is that you don’t believe that you’re free. You believe in concepts like fate. How then did you finally become the Metasapien? How did you free yourself from tyrannical notions of predeterminism? We’ve searched through the annals of history, but couldn’t find any hint of that epiphany anywhere. So, we place you in this world in different scenarios to find out the truth, but we always fail and end up destroying you, before trying something different once we’ve recycled you,” said Timmy.
“This time we thought we’d visit your world as you and let you choose to either destroy or help us. You decided to be our God, and we accepted it, hoping that it’d shed some light into how your species evolved. But then you regressed into an angst-ridden brute again and I’m afraid that the time to destroy you has come. Don’t worry though. You’ll be recycled soon enough. Maybe we’ll make others like you because evolution is collective; or maybe we’ll listen to SigmaF2’s theory and make you remember all your past lives, and drive you to insanity. After all, genius does have a hint of madness. But that’s a story for another day. This is going to be my favorite part. I don’t normally enjoy revenge, but in your case, I’ll make an exception after what you did to me. So, what will it be? Fire or a blade?” said Tony with a smirk.
At that moment, I experienced horror like never before. This can’t be happening? I thought. Nathan gave me these clones. I feel and think. I dream and believe. This must be a nightmare, but somewhere deep inside, a voice told me that it’s not. “Listen to me!” I whined. “Spare me! Take me to your world! Perhaps I could help you! In the end, it’s nature that plots evolution; not the species. Please don’t kill me!”
“Ah! Darwin! The great fool! I’m afraid that we can’t take you to our world. The metahuman is a God, and nature no longer exists. I wish I could explain these things, but I’m afraid you’d never understand. And if you were to see us for who we are; you’d be utterly destroyed and there would be no chance of recycling you. Blade it is then.”
“No! Please! I beg you! Help! Somebody help!” I screamed, but Timmy and Tommy held me while Tony brought a long knife from the kitchen and began to work on me. He flayed me slowly and laughed and talked to the others about things I didn’t understand. I roared and shrieked in pain, but all I saw were grins on my torturers faces and a preoccupation with something else. They used jargon and spoke in tongues I’d never heard before while they cut mine off with indifference like a butcher chopping meat. There was blood everywhere, but that didn’t faze them one bit. I slowly lost consciousness, and greeted darkness.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)