The ringing phone woke me. I picked up the receiver and tried to shake the sleep out of my head while I answered. “Hello?”
“There is a car waiting for you outside your house. Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.”
Just then Elspeth rolled over and looked at me. “Everything okay?”
I handed her the reciever. “It’s for you.”
Second Call: The Lover
The phone rings just after midnight. Again. Ethan answers it. I don’t have to hear it to know the message: “There’s a car waiting outside the house. Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.”
I roll over and play my part. “Everything okay, dear?”
“Yes, Anna, it’s just Mitch. He’s drunk again and needs a lift home.”
Ethan pulls on his pants and a tee-shirt and heads out to do the duty of a sober friend.
Five minutes later the phone rings again. I pick it up this time; it’s not like Ethan’s going to. A woman’s voice speaks to me. “It was her again.”
“I figured. Who does he think he’s fooling?”
“Not us. Anyway, the problem is taken care of.”
“Are you sure?”
“As sure as anyone can be. I used the parabolic mike and heard her say they’re going up to Rockcliff Point. It is their usual spot.”
“And their brakes are only going to last two stops, maybe three. If all goes well you can start playing the grieving widow tomorrow.”
Third Call: The Replacement
The indicator light on the phone flashes that a call is incoming. There’s no sound because I turned the ringer off. I pick up the receiver and hear the message for the first time.
“There’s a car waiting outside the house. Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.”
The line cuts to a dial tone and I hang up. Just then Phillip stirs.
“Everything okay, dear? Was that the phone?”
“No, honey. Go back to sleep.”
Every few months he gets this call, then goes out for a couple of hours. When he comes back he’s different. It’s nothing tangible, just a kind of subtle undefinable thing that only a wife would notice. After two years I’ve resolved to get to the bottom of it.
While he snores I quietly pull on some sweats and sneakers. After that it’s down the stairs and out the door, carefully so as not to wake him.
As advertised, there’s a car sitting at the end of the driveway. It’s in the shadow of the streetlight, so I can only barely make out that there’s someone in the driver’s seat. I pull open the passenger door and get in quickly.
Phillip is in the driver’s seat.
In unison we ask, “What are you doing here?”
He recovers first. “Why did you come out, Macie? Has something happened to Phillip?”
“Uh, he’s still asleep, I think. What’s going on here? Why are there two of you?”
He sighs and looks resigned. “I guess you were bound to find out sooner or later. Remember two years ago, there was that accident at the lab? The gas leak?”
“The one where you ended up in a coma for three weeks and had to be wrapped up like a mummy? Of course I remember, it was the worst time of my life.”
“I wasn’t really injured, I was killed.”
“It wasn’t really a gas leak: a supervirus broke containment and killed all eight of us in the lab. They had to incinerate the bodies down to ash.”
“Then how are you here?”
“I’m a clone. The company has had the technology to make duplicates of people for years, and they used it to make copies of us. However, there’s a problem.”
“Because of the accelerated growth, the clones only live a few months, then die of multiple organ failure. They’re working on a solution, but it’s still years away.”
I think about this for a moment. It’s impossible and stupid. But at the moment I have two copies of my husband, one in the car and one in our bed.
“Okay, let’s pretend I believe you. What about Phillip’s memories? What did we have for supper last night?”
“Pot roast. I’ve got all his memories right up until we went to sleep last night. But there’s another problem.”
“What other problem?”
“You’ve seen too much. As soon as you saw me you’d seen too much.” He takes out a gun.
The phone rings in the middle of the night. It’s the usual message. I wake sleepyhead and we both get dressed. Down in the car the new Phillip and Macie are waiting.