London was covered by a black blanket of people, all of them moving briskly, looking at no one, and named Irene Bardakci. No buildings larger than two stories, save one, were left to hide the presence of millions of identical preteens dressed in countless variations of drab oversized sweaters. That one remaining tall building is where Irene Bardakci stared at her living circus mirror, at the other hers she ruled over.
It was from this sunny balcony that Irene decided that there was no point disguising how bored she had become anymore. The new books had not shown up yet, and she doubted she’d get any enjoyment from learning a new trade that she’d never use. And even if she did want to talk to someone (a thought that was continually gnawing at the back of her mind again), what would be the difference between that and just talking to her own thoughts? The air’s chills were becoming too much for her this morning, and everything seemed in place - no smells, no noise- so she calmly walked back inside of her flat. That was when the idea struck her.
Though it took her a while, she eventually remembered which organized pile she left the Zero in. It was safely hidden in its pouch underneath the erlenmeyers and books on robotics and casings of dust. Scanning the room and confirming that there were no other Irenes around, she grabbed a forgotten metal piece shaped like a dreidel and stationed it in the middle of the room. She opened the door to the balcony with a tight tug, letting a large beam of sunlight strike the center. Quick angle calculations were made inside of her head as she opened the white pouch halfway and pinched the thick steel of the Zero. With a balancing breath, she held up the bag between the piece and the sun, then swiftly removed the bag to reveal the large ring inside.
She had to move quickly to put the Zero back, lest the entire building forever transform. But her timing was impeccable, and the light that went through the ring and turned grey only hit the piece. Swiftly, it grew into a peach blob, violently expanding while somehow denting itself until the world’s youngest Irene Bardakci stood straight in its place.
This copy of Irene Bardakci was no different from the others: small, frail as glass, and with thin black hair reaching far behind her. Her new eyes scanned the room calmly as if to keep the rest of her body from shivering. She was almost too frightened to take the folded robe given to her from the lordly duplicate of herself, but eventually put it on and began to take in her surroundings.
It was as if her greatest wishes had thrown themselves down and kissed her feet. A ceiling, domed and higher than anything she had ever seen, was encased by a magnificent bookshelf of facts, with gateways to their worlds provided by curved ladders. Though workbenches and tools surrounded her, they looked as if no human hands had touched them. Best of all, she felt the air of sanctuary here, as if no one in their busy wild workdays would ever find this treasure. But there was still the fact that she had no idea how she got here from her bed, and why another one of her was here, examining her as if she was hunting her.
“How did I get here?” said Irene to the taller version of herself that wore baggy sweaters and colorless braces like herself. She then realized that her teeth felt less pressure than usual, and a finger to her teeth confirmed that her own braces were gone.
“You are a copy of myself from two years ago, sans nonorganic possessions” stated the planet’s current leader. “Other than that, you’re the same woman I was before I was given this,” she said, holding up the heavy white pouch.
“Yes. It was someone in shimmering white wearing glasses, from what I could tell. He disappeared after dropping the ring.”
“I see.” The clone looked at her feet, not sure what to say yet.
“I brought you here because I want to… talk to someone.”
Irene felt as if she should have seen this coming, especially since she knew how she preferred solitude. It was now her turn to look at her feet, only she was thinking of excuses for why she would create a new life and then leave it behind.
This gave the clone a chance to glance outside and see a London nearly leveled. Below her marched a silent parade of doppelgangers, all moving forth to destinations invisible.
“How did… where is everybody?” The clone’s panic stopped a departing Irene in her tracks, moments before she reached the door.
“There all like us,” she said, turning back towards her copy. “They are the only ones alive. I am their goddess.”
The clone was at a loss for words- not for anger or despair, but only for surprise. “How did this happen?”
“I created the first clone by accident, through a flashlight. I was able to keep it hidden and fed, and even used her when I didn’t want to talk to anyone. But then I found out we were moving again.”
A familiar pang hit the clone’s heart, which triggered a spreading dread through her gut. Then, a new, terrible thought struck.
“Our family is alive,” said Irene, noting the fear in the clone’s hazel eyes. “A team of my women could not bring it to themselves to harm them. We’re keeping them safe.”
“You took over the world because you were moving?”
“It’s more complex than that. It was while crying into the arms of my copy that I discovered how much they’ve done for me and how little they asked of me. So we ran away from home. Our life savings got us out of town, and we even found a motel room, but that didn’t stop the police from finding us. I panicked, and used Zero on them,” she softly spoke as she motioned to the white pouch. “With them gone, I realized that I would be consistently hunted and that I had ventured far beyond the point of return. I needed everyone to leave me alone.”
“Months later, I arrived at Washington D.C. and made my way to the top of an observatory tower. The landscape was cleared within seconds, replaced by thousands of myself. Afterwards, air support was obtained, and the rest of the country fell quickly. The world quickly united against me, but they were preoccupied with slaying the building wave of preteen girls approaching them and had no idea about my secret.”
This image caused the clone to wince slightly, but only for a moment.
“Now, we are at peace. Zero was enough reason for my world to elect me as their ruler, but everyone carries on so well that I might as well not exist. I finally have time to learn what I want and to achieve all of my projects. But I have since grown without something to do, and no reason for pursuing other things, so I created you. All other clones were fed lies to keep them in place, whether I needed them to farm or work factories. They all trusted me since I controlled both facts and the Zero. You’re the first one I’ve ever opened myself up to.”
The clone was at a loss of words for a little while. But then she meekly stated, “I understand.”
“What did you say?”
“Your actions seem reasonable to me. We’ve established world peace, brought ourselves solidarity, and created a world where we can accomplish our dreams. Whose to stop us from becoming great scientists and athletes, now that we’re free from everyone else?”
There was a new coldness emitting from Irene. She then harshly stammered out, “I want you to leave.”
“Why? I can…”
In a grey flash, the old clone morphed from a blob to a blob with dents to another one of herself. Irene placed the Zero back in the pouch and straightened her posture.
“Your dreams have come true,” she commanded. “A life of peace and quiet awaits, where you can achieve your greatest aspirations. But we need you to work in order for that to happen. Report to E-L-0000834 for further instructions. She should be on the lower floor.”
The clone, shaking from the cold and from shock, moved quickly out the door.
Irene kicked the side of the workbench the moment her copy left. Why on earth would I think that this time would work better than the others? she thought. No matter how much worse I word the story, I open up to receive the same responses, that this is something ok. Well, I can’t say how, but this is not ok, she cried as she stared at the ever-blue sky that had made her the most alone she ever could have hoped for.