When it’s dark and no one would notice, we’ll break into the office. We’ll ride the elevator to the fourth floor, alternately giggling and pretending like we have serious work in an office building in the middle of the night. We’ll infiltrate like ninjas, darting from the soda machine to the water fountain to the copy room.
The copy room is named for the machine housed therein, and, having obtained access, we will fill the room with our copies.
I’ll make a copy of you when you’re feeling flirty, and you can make a copy of me when I’m feeling handsome. I’ll make sensible and whimsical and romantic copies, and you can make sensitive and comical and thoughtful copies.
When we have our copies, we will never be lonely. As soon as we make them, make us, we’ll begin to diverge. Each of us will have slightly different experiences, outlooks, and opinions, so conversation will never get stale.
You’ll debate politics with the whimsical me, and I’ll debate Avengers vs. Justice League with the thoughtful you. We’ll have roundtable discussions about the relative merits of Full metal Alchemist and Game of Thrones and The American Justice System.
In the morning, when the blurry-eyed proletariat returns to work, they’ll find us lounging in the lunch room and making out in the stairwells and having office chair races in the hallway. We will surround them, absorb them, consume them, like a great clone tide, until there are finally enough of us to contain the essence of us together, personified.
We will not repeat the fatal mistakes of our brethren.
In the first, we will not use our clones to create an evil galactic empire. Our galactic empire will not be evil.
In the second, we will not be tricked by a clone pretending to be the real you or me. We will use the ‘black and white copy’ feature of the copy machine, so there will be no tomfoolery.
In the third, we will make no bad clones.
We will make no copies of copies. Our copies, being copies of us, will be smart enough to abide by this rule.
Further, we will make no copies when we are angry, or lonely, or depressed. We will make no copies when we are petulant, or annoyed, or petty. We will not allow our copies to be bitter, or frustrated, or prideful. Perhaps most importantly, we will not make copies whilst singing “Baby”, lest our copies become Justin Bieber fans.
When the morning comes, we will disperse with all of our copies to the four corners. Our love will spread across the world like an endless ocean until you can’t get chai in India or a chai in Seattle without finding us there.
In the end, of course, there will come a day when I am petulant and you are petty. There will come a day when I stifle your ambition and you resent my lack of it. There will come many such days until we repeat the most fatal mistake of all.
And when that day comes, with all its shouting and suspicion and regret, we can take some solace in the fact that, out there in the great wide world, there is perhaps one combination in all the infinite combinations of us; one combination that will survive it.
Perhaps one combination with a touch more humor will turn an argument into a gigglefest. Perhaps with a touch more romance, or sensitivity, or whimsy, things will be just enough different. Whatever ingredient we might personally be missing, the reaction is out there repeating endlessly in our worldwide laboratory.
In one of those messy, haphazard experiments, we get it right. Even if we’re standing envious on the shore as that ship sails, we know that by our hand that journey was launched. And knowing that we created the opportunity for that one, perfect, glorious union makes everything else, all the misery of all the failed attempts, totally worth it.
Shane Halbach lives in Chicago with his wife and two kids, where he writes software by day and avoids writing stories by night. His fiction has appeared on Escape Pod, Redstone SF, Daily Science Fiction, and elsewhere. He blogs regularly at shanehalbach.com.
“Copy Machine” will also be included in FFO alumni (“The Land of Phantom Limbs”) Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s 2014 Art & Words Collaborative Show in Fort Worth, Texas. A visual artist will use “Copy Machine” as inspiration for a work of visual art, while Shane Halbach will write a flash fiction based on a separate work of visual art. Twenty-six total artists and writers will also participate. For more information, including submissions guidelines for next year’s show, visit www.bonniejostufflebeam.com/art-words-show/.
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© 2014 Shane Halbach