End of a Cycle

Henry cranked his tiny flashlight in panic. The hell was that? Clutching to a pillar in the dark, the naked man turned the flashlight back on. The light shined on a naked corpse. The body looked just like Henry, pale, blonde, but no bellybutton. He didn’t want to, but he felt for his own, and couldn’t find it. What is this?

Shuffling footsteps on the smooth concrete echoed in the dark. Henry turned the light in time to see himself, charging with a metal baseball bat. Henry held out his hand, “Wait!”

***

Henry cringed from the sound the bat made against the other man’s skull. Henry’s eyes adjusted from the blinding flashlight. He knelt down and took it from his dead victim. Poor bastard just got here.

Henry shined the other Henry’s flashlight around. Yet another clone lay a few feet from the victim. Am I getting closer? Henry looked around the second body. This clone cut his wrists with a shaving razor. Bastard.

The flashlight did little to comfort Henry. Without it, his senses focused in every direction. He had killed four other clones in self defense. It seemed their creator gave a few clones just enough food to keep a few alive. Just enough to kill for.

He decided to keep the flashlight, but turned it off. The others he used were full of dead batteries now. The aluminum bat floated ahead like a blind man’s cane, but he dare not tap the ground and attract more attention.

Sharp smells stung his nose. What is that? He readied his bat in one hand, and turned on the flashlight with the other. One clone was hunched over a dead one. Shit! Henry turned the light back off, but the clone still fired a shot from a shiny little pistol.

Must’ve smelt the gunpowder. Henry took a knee. The clone had shot him in the gut. Through the deafening ring, Henry made out faint footsteps approaching. His grip on the bat was loosening. “You know we’re clones right?”

***

“Yep.”

Henry had snuck his way behind the clone with the flashlight. Immediately after answering, he pushed the gun to the back of the other Henry’s head and pulled the trigger. He thought to himself, You know we get a food drop after ten kills?

Henry’s gut was in knots. Even if their creator followed through with her promise, Henry wouldn’t be hungry. Something pinched his neck. By the time he reached for it, everything went black.

Warmth and light woke Henry up. Dizziness slowly faded as he looked around the red room. He was wearing khakis, shoes, and a black polo shirt. Henry knew this was the first time his body wore clothes, but it felt like something he was used to.

Mindy sat on the other end of a six foot dinning table. There were no windows except for a skylight. The sun was at high noon, but the window was fogged over.

His nose forced him back to the table. Smoked barbecue ribs, corn on the cob smothered in butter, and red skinned mashed potatoes sat on a single plate. Inside a rolled white napkin was a spoon, fork, and steak knife. Mindy was already eating from her own dish. She was still beautiful, but older than Henry remembered. Her dark hair had strands of gray. Wrinkles formed at the edges of her mouth and eyes. She used to be younger than Henry, but she still fit the yellow sundress she wore when they first met.

She pointed to the food. “Eat up. You got to number ten.”

The food smelled great, but his stomach couldn’t handle it. “Why?”

“You tell me. Why did you mercilessly kill yourself ten times?”

Henry just stared.

Mindy tilted her head from side to side with a slight grin. “I know what you mean, but that doesn’t mean you get an answer.”

Henry unwrapped his silverware and grabbed the steak knife. “Why?”

“Oh, so scary.”

Henry jumped from his seat and ran across the table. Mindy calmly swallowed some potato soup, before Henry stabbed her six times. Three in the chest, one in the neck, and two in the face.

Henry caught his breath as he pushed himself away from the bloody mess. A door opened from behind Henry’s chair. He snapped his attention to another Mindy. She shot him.

***

Henry looked down at his khakis, shoes, and blue polo shirt. Twenty kills got him back to the red room. He savored every bite of his barbecue ribs. Mindy entered from the door behind him.

“Sorry dear, I had another one try to kill me again.”

He kept a straight face. “When will they learn?”

Mindy chuckled as she took her seat. “So tell me Henry, how are the ribs?”

“Even better the second time.”

Mindy rested her chin in her fist. “Henry, just tell me.”

Henry kept his eyes closed, and his mouth chewing. After taking his time to swallow, he replied, “Why?”

“Because I want to hear it.”

Henry smirked to the side and shook his head. “Because you think I deserve this. You think this is the worst punishment you can give me. And it’s pretty close Min.”

Mindy smiled even wider and leaned in. “Oh? I’m not doing good enough?”

“No.”

Mindy propped her pistol on the table. Henry didn’t flinch. She cocked the hammer, but he still didn’t react. “Even if I kill you now? And you’re the only one that makes it this far? You’re okay with it all?”

“Mindy, we both know I’m not the only one that’s made it to twenty kills.”

She stopped smiling. “What? How could you know that?”

“We’re getting stronger, Min. Or, maybe your programming is getting weaker. Some of us can fight the urge to kill on sight now,” he chuckled between bites. “On sight. Like we can see a damn thing down there.”

Mindy fired a shot just above Henry’s head. “No! You don’t get to win!”

Henry took his time with his ribs. “Looks like I can.”

Mindy walked around the table and put the gun to Henry’s head. “I am going to watch you die for the rest of eternity. You don’t win.”

Henry pushed the chair backwards, Mindy pulled the trigger in panic. He twisted Mindy to the floor and put the gun under her chin. Another Mindy burst through the only door in the room, but Henry shot her three times before she could see him under the table. He scampered across the floor and carefully exited to the outside light.

***

Bearded Henry laid on the couch with Mindy in his arms, wearing their after-work clothes. The white living room looked sterile except for a brown throw rug under a glass and metal coffee table. The couple watched a special about black market organs.

Henry shook his head. “Why are people still stealing organs?”

“Not everyone can afford to clone their own tissue Henry.”

“I guess.”

Ding dong. Mindy started to get up, but Henry shot up past her. “Too slow.”

Mindy rolled her eyes with a smile and laid back down. “Want me to pause it?”

Henry was already opening the front door. “Let it play.”

Beneath the setting sun, a gun barrel stared at Henry. But he was more shocked to see himself holding the gun. Before he could ask, the clone said, “Pull up your shirt.”

Confused and horrified, Henry pulled his shirt past his belly button.

“Okay. Where’s Mindy?”

“What’s happening here?”

The clone pushed Henry into the house; to the kitchen floor.

“Stop! Wait!”

The clone dragged Henry into the living room. Mindy went for a nightstand, but the clone shot at it. Mindy dropped back into the couch, and the clone threw Henry on top of her. “How could you do this to me?!”

Henry shielded Mindy behind his back, “Do what to you?!”

The clone circled around to the nightstand, keeping his gun on Mindy. “Guess she didn’t tell you Henry. You’ve been cloned. A lot.” He reached under the nightstand and took out the hidden gun.

Henry kept in front of Mindy;  his eyes on the clone. “What’s he talking about?”

She started crying, “He wasn’t supposed to get out.”

Henry got up and backed away from her. “The hell were you cloning me for, Min?!”

The clone answered for her, “She made a bunch of us, with the added incentive to kill each other. Probably stole some bio-engineering tools from work for extra brainwashing.”

Mindy yelled at the two of them, “You think that’s any worse than what you did?” She focused on the younger clone. “I just found out he was cloning random women for his own personal sex dolls. Guess what happened to them when he was finished.”

Henry tried to fix it, “No babe! They were just cloned for their organs! They were gonna kill them anyway!”

The clone put the gun to Henry’s head, “Tell me that’s a lie. I wouldn’t do that.”

Henry gritted his teeth, “Bullshit. You are me! Just a few years behind by the look of it.” He turned back to Mindy, “So how long ago did you start copying me for Thunderdome?”

The clone pushed the barrel against Henry’s head, and aimed the other at Mindy. “Clones aren’t playthings! We both… all… You two took an oath! To treat clones like normal people!” They both begged, but the clone said, “How does it feel?” He pulled both triggers.

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