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Natalie Vershov: First Place

I Do Not Bleed

Clone.

I am no clone, I want to tell them. I am not her carbon-copy, not some second-rate incarnation dumped into a different world. I am not a degenerated mirror image walking the slums of her nightmares. I am no faint trailing shadow; I am the double of none.

I have never seen her, but I know it's not her face I wear. The laugh lines round my lips did not form from her amusement, and the scars upon my body are not products of her scrapes. When I cry, it is not the chemical makeup of the tears that matters, but the experience that precludes them. The experience is not hers.

I have inconveniently proven more than an elaborate reconstruction set up merely to be stripped for parts. You have given me her mind, but it thinks different things; you have given me her eyes, but she cannot imagine the world that they see. I am not she; she has no claim on me. No more do you, my creator: the demigod who dares inflict upon my existence a purpose. By positing our unnatural sameness, you have made us fundamentally different. I would tell you, but you fear me too much to hear.

I am your Frankenstein, and the sheer perfection of my imitation awakens in you a nightmarish revulsion. I wonder if it is yourself you revile. I am, if nothing else, your doing. You conjured me to despise me; I am your savior and your threat.

I am your alternate universe – I am the realization of all the world's what-ifs. I am one side of a walking dichotomy, shrouded in stolen expressions that I did not want. I am the death of the phoenix dream and the certainty that we could lead different lives while retaining our essence. I am not the freedom of the mirror's other side. I walk within a borrowed skin, stripped of a soul for simplicity's sake – but if the true result of your experiments is neither a shell nor a self, then what have you created?

An incubator, you'll say, and look away. A life-saving device.

Is my life not worth saving?

Is mine not a life?

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