“Security breach. Subject 001 Escape. Security breach. Subject 001 Escape,” an ear-shattering robotic voice drilled over and over again.
My heart lurched. I felt a cold shudder rip through me. Of all the subjects, why Subject 001? The flask in my hand shattered on the ground. I sprinted blindly out of the white laboratory. My trembling hands fumbled for my card in the coat.
I needed to get to the room.
Where is everyone?
I turned the corner, still digging for my lab identification card.
My hands froze. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. A shadow stretched the length of the hallway. A figure turned the corner slowly.
It was her.
It was not just her; it was me. My lips pulled up in a sneer, arms crossing over each other under my chest.
My duplicate stared at me straight in the eyes, not blinking. Subject 001. I was stone cold. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe.
For the past year, I worked as a research assistant for a highly classified human duplication project. We were tasked with creating a human duplicate, more superior than a clone. I was chosen to be the first model. This creature had identical flesh, blood type, denture, birthmarks, DNA, physical attributes and even memories as me--an exact copy. We were successful with our experiments, and everything was on track. Until now.
My eyes flickered to my duplicate. The sneer still lingered on her lips. A cold, relentless hatred gleamed in her onyx eyes. She was waiting for me to make the first move.
“T-there are hundreds of guards. You won’t get away with this. There are cameras everywhere,” my voice trembled.
My duplicate let out a piercing shriek of laughter. It echoed through the hallway. “You created me smarter than that, JENNIFER,” she spit out our name with venom, “I killed them all. It was quite easy, you know.”
She took three steps towards me. We were then face to face. Her eyes--or my eyes--bore into my own.
"You can’t kill me!" I shook my head in panic, "I created you!"
"No, you’re right. I won't kill you," she smirked, "but THEY will."
"What…?" I mustered up every ounce of courage to speak. Before I got the chance, darkness engulfed me.
My head pounded as the migraine wore down. I cracked open one eye. My hands were bound to a clean white chair. I squinted and looked around the room in a haze. Next to me was an identical white chair with an identical Jennifer sitting right in it.
My duplicate was shouting to a group of people behind a glass panel, moving her head in my direction, "This is the duplicate that killed the guards. She was knocked out in the fight! Kill her, or she'll kill you all!"
“What is your earliest memory?” I asked the other Jennifer.
“You’re really going to ask me that when you know the answer?”
I flung my hands in exasperation. She is not giving anything up. She is good. The only thing separating her from me is the fact that I know I am real and I know she isn’t. None of my colleagues seemed convinced. They were suspicious of both of us.
They knew the dangers of releasing her into the real world. We created her as a weapon of mass destruction, the perfect deception that can penetrate through any enemy line. She could transform into a high-profile officer of any organization and gain intelligence without ever being spotted. She is lethal.
“You’re stupid if you think you can ever get out of here alive. Hit them with any trick in the book. You know I’ll win,” she snapped at me in a low voice, too low for any of the hidden microphones to pick up. Malice marred her face--all I could see was pure hatred for me. She clearly wanted to destroy me. She moved closer to brush her lips against my ear, sending shivers down my spine, “After all, I am the better Jennifer.”
I clenched my jaw in disgust. She is really getting on my nerves. So far, I couldn’t find any way to prove that she is the duplicate. I have no idea what my colleagues are looking for either. This is mission impossible. We are completely alike. I am lost.
Behind the glass, I know they are lost too.
“What do you see when you look at this,” Rodney, another research assistant, held up a picture of an inkblot that resembled Batman or maybe a butterfly. I tilted my head to get a better look. He was doing a Rorschach test, and I was determined to find something different in the picture from my duplicate.
However, no matter what image was able to make out, the other Jennifer did exact the same. The more I tried, the angrier I got.
The test was to decipher our personality traits and thought processes. It made perfect sense, but their efforts were fruitless. If only we weren’t so thorough with our methodology and research previously, maybe I would have the chance to prove myself. But we were too good because the other Jennifer showed no flaws--she is identical to me in every way.
“You’re right about one thing: you both sure are identical. Even the reaction was the same,” Rodney muttered under his breath.
He got up to leave the room. Before he stood, I grabbed him by the left sleeve and whispered in desperation, “Please, Rodney. You have to believe me. I’m the real one. Last Thursday, I let you in the lab when you forgot your ID. Remember? I don’t know what else to do to prove it.” Tears came to my eyes.
His eyes softened for a second before they turned cold, “The thing is, that was exactly what she said too.”
My hand fell to my side. I felt a presence near me and looked up to see her.
“Hi,” she muttered, looking at me behind her lashes.
Oh please, she was pulling the shy, innocent card like that isn't going to work. I know they’re watching us right now as we interact--she was putting on a show.
“Look, I didn’t ask to be trapped in here with you, okay, so let’s just call a truce,” she encouraged softly, holding her hand in front of me.
She is good. I was always the peacemaker, settling differences among my colleagues. Everyone knew this. They’re not used to seeing me so angered like I was right now.
I played along and took her hand, “Truce.”
I had to find a way out of here.
I could feel the tension behind the large, tinted glass pane that my colleagues were observing us from. I tried everything from begging to badgering my duplicate, but nothing worked.
Speaking of her, she was too confident, and from the way people have been looking at me during interrogations, I think they believe her. How is that even possible? I am the real one.
A shuffle from her brought me back to the present. She glanced at me up and down, confidence oozing from her pores.
“So, it looks like this experiment,” she nodded her head at me, “will have to be terminated.”
Is she actually serious? She is the experiment! She should be the terminated one.
She moved towards me, like a lion stalking its prey. Her hand brushed across my cheek, “So precious, you look exactly like me. We worked so hard on you to make you perfect, and now here you are, all to waste.” She made a “tsk” sound.
I gritted my teeth. She continued, “You created this game for me to play, and I outsmarted you. You thought this would be the perfect way to escape, but you just trapped yourself.”
An evil look glimmered in her eyes. I kept my mouth shut. There was nothing she could do that could intimidate me. I had no idea what I was going to say in that room today to prove my innocence, but I was going to do it. But it’s so hard…I almost wanted to give up.
I sighed deeply, my eyes dropping to the ground. The tiles were worn down from my constant pacing in the middle of the night. I had so many sleepless nights when worries and doubts plagued my mind. The worn-down tiles so starkly clashed with the immaculate tiles in the corner. So imperfect.
Something ignited inside my mind. My eyes met hers, glowing with a new determination.
I knew at that moment, I discovered how to do the impossible.
Rodney blinded my eyes with a bright lamp, a weak show of intimidation. He shifted in his seat before placing a pristine notebook in front of him.
“Begin,” he beckoned.
I took a deep breath, steadying my hands. If this works, it could save us all. I was almost certain this was the most preposterous, idiotic plan I have ever created, but it was worth a try. I have nothing to lose.
“I give up.”
Rodney adjusted his glasses and stared at me dead in the eyes. A puzzling look formed on his face. “What do you mean you ‘give up’?”
Here it goes. “Please execute me. I’m so tired of fighting, the battle is killing me inside. I can’t take it anymore. No matter how many times I tried to tell you that I am the real one, you just don’t believe me.”
I ran my hands through my hair in desperation. “I’m going to spare you the headache and just let you kill me. If she turns out to be the duplicate, then let her destroy the world. I don’t care. Just end my suffering. You may say that I'm selfish. I don't care anymore.”
Rodney stared at me in shock, trying to process my proclamation, “Y-you want us to kill you?”
I continue, “I’ll spare you the trouble. Just kill me. You'll end up killing her anyway. We tried so hard to create the next scientific masterpiece, but we created a monster, a being that hates our existence.”
As I walked out of the lab unscathed, I triumphed over my greatest archenemy.
This was a battle of identity. In science, we strive so much for perfection. All experiments we perform in the labs are done repeatedly until we get the ideal answer, but sometimes we forget the flaws. When perfection is the result, we often push aside the mistakes that ultimately provide that perfection.
My duplicate was created as a perfect version of me, so I was not going to win by being the best version of myself. She would most definitely beat me at that game. So I fought a battle of imperfection. Instead of having the will to live, I had the will to die, an irrational choice. By dying, my selfishness would allow my duplicate to destroy others, but I didn’t care because all I wanted was to end my own suffering. However, my duplicate was not designed to be either irrational or selfish. She could not copy my imperfect actions. She was created by science which strived for perfection--she had to live to carry out her mission. I didn’t.
We are who we are because of our flaws. It’s what makes us human and what sets us apart from scientific marvels that aim at perfection. Once I grasped that idea, I was able to embrace my flaws and use it to my advantage. Humans are not perfect. We are far from it. Our archenemies are often ourselves--our own quest for perfection.