Every month I do a story in the SF competition on LinkedIn – this month’s theme was resurrection, and the elements to be included were a glass of wine and silver coins (bit of a genre crossover, to be sure). This story wasn’t used, in the end, I replaced it with another, but it was darker than my usual and I rather like its understated nastiness.
Harris paused unseen in the doorway, adjusting to the dim light and unpleasant mix of odours before approaching the old man’s sickbed. The nurse touched the old man’s arm to rouse him, then slipped away, and Turner stirred, rolling his head on the pillow and opening rheumy eyes.
‘Harris.’ His voice was a breathy husk. ‘What news?’
‘All good, sir. The clones should be fully mature in days.’
‘Excellent. Excellent! How many?’
‘Four—better than I hoped.’
‘And the woman? Beautiful?’
‘Early to tell, but yes, I believe she will be. ‘
‘She was the most beautiful thing I ever saw.’ Turner mused, and wheezed a chuckle. ‘Getting her DNA was worth your fees just on its own. You’ll thank me, too. You’ll enjoy her.’
‘Er, I don’t think I should, sir. Not very professional.’
‘My dear chap, you won’t be able to resist. No-one ever could. I shall insist. The other three are all me?’
‘They are, sir. I do need to remind you they will only have an active adult lifespan of months. A year at best; less in view of your plans for them.’
‘That’s longer than the doctors are giving me, and I don’t really care what happens to them afterwards. In view of—as you say—my plans, I doubt I’ll last six months, but I shall die a happy man. You’re still no closer to resurrecting me permanently in them?’
‘Sir, no. I did warn you. When you die, they become inanimate. Presuming they outlast you.’
The old man shrugged. ‘When can you start linking my consciousness to them?’
‘Within the week. Will you start with the woman?’
‘I want to, but I won’t. I’ll start with one of mine. I want to experiment with the degree of sensation before you start linking the next. I ordered four cases of the world’s best wines ready for this. If any of the boys has a particularly healthy liver, link him first.’
‘They’re all perfect and identical copies, sir. Your own liver managed seventy years before it started failing.’
Turner wheezed another chuckle. ‘It got the occasional break while I was getting on with the tiresome interruptions of living. This boy won’t have interruptions, but yes, even with my plans for him, it should last six months. The last pleasure taken from me, the first to be recovered, a simple glass of wine. Have you named the clones in your case notes?’
‘You’ve always referred to the woman as Desiree, so she’s in my notes under that name. The males are just the glutton, the sensualist and the spare.’
‘Well, the glutton hardly needs a name. He won’t be getting out much. My sensualist, though, he can take my nickname. Burner Turner, they called me. Burned through the sheets in over a thousand beds in my time. I tell you, Harris, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most. Burner having Desiree, with me experiencing both. Even more than the orgies.’ His raddled old frame shuddered in anticipation.
Harris swallowed, repelled, and was relieved when the nurse returned and sternly ordered him from the room. He returned to his superb lab and paused, as always, in front of Desiree’s pod. Cool, remote, inanimate, she stared back. He had bribed his way into the clinic where the real Desiree flickered toward the close of life, and she had opened her eyes unexpectedly as he drew off the DNA tissue. Glorious eyes, shockingly out of place in the frail parchment of her ancient ruined beauty, the eyes of a woman totally confident of her impact, adored and desired to the point of madness, arrogant and knowing; the only woman to ever reject Turner’s money and power. She had laughed at him, but it would be Turner’s corrupt and depraved soul that directed her clone. Harris reminded himself again that the original Desiree would never know, but a trick of the light seemed to scatter a handful of glinting silver coins over the pod as he turned back to his desk.
This piece of yours reminds me of Anne McCaffrey. She could write fat novels to explain all the backstory details in her shorter pieces. This short story would make a great novel.
Wow, thank you, I’m a huge Anne McCaffrey fan so very flattered indeed 🙂