QSFer Berlynn Wohl has a new queer sci fi anthology out: Dreams and Machines.
Arriving on another world to negotiate a trade deal, Shane discovers that Earth has another commodity that his hosts desperately crave…
Drake throws a party for time-travelers: the invitations will only go out after the event. But then someone knocks on the door…
Jac has two lovers, one a cop, one a criminal. Getting off the wretched outpost he calls home in the midst of a galactic war means leaving one of them behind…
It all happens in Dreams and Machines.
Berlynn is giving away a copy of her first book, “Oh, Earthman!”, with this post. Comment below for a chance to win.
And then Kyle woke up to utter silence for the first time in weeks. Adam was not there in bed with him, but neither was that barely-perceptible electric droning that made Kyle’s fillings ache.
Kyle showered and went into the kitchen to make coffee and toast. He flipped through the paper in the blessed silent calm. Adam came in and poured himself some of the coffee.
“Mrn…” Kyle mumbled. He was absorbed in a particular crossword clue. Adam left quietly.
Moments later, Adam reappeared, pouring himself another cup of coffee.
Kyle tilted his head. “I said good morning. Up to anything today?”
“Not particularly.” Before leaving, Adam picked up Kyle’s toast and took a bite out of it, knowing that he would get away with it.
Shortly thereafter, Adam stepped into the kitchen once more, pouring himself another cup and saying, more sprightly than ever, “Morning, Kyle!”
“I said good morning. What’s with all the coffee?”
“What’s with all what coffee?”
Then Adam walked in again.
“Kyle, I lost my keys again,” he said. “Have you seen them?”
Both Adams wore the same black t-shirt and blue jeans. Kyle looked from one to the other.
“I hate dreams where I get up and do my morning routine,” he said. “Then when I wake up, I have to do it all over again.”
Typically, the moment Kyle realized he was having a dream, he woke up. But now he remained where he was, staring at the two Adams, who stared back at him, albeit in a less maddened and more captivated way.
A third Adam popped his head around the door frame. “Found your keys,” he said, and dangled them from two fingers. “They’d fallen between the sofa and the end table.”
The second Adam plucked the keys from his doppelganger’s hand. “That sounds like a place where I might drop them accidentally,” he said approvingly.
“You know, that was my thinking as well.”
Kyle closed his eyes and sucked on his lower lip, then said, “Exactly how many Adams exist, currently?”
“Just the three,” one of them replied matter-of-factly, as if to say Four Adams? That would just be silly.
“And are there more on the way?”
A different Adam replied. “Not that I’ve created.”
Kyle lowered his head and began rapping his skull slowly against the table. “Why, why have you done this? You know this will all end in tears, don’t you? I’ve seen Star Trek. At some point, these two will realize that there can only be one Adam Barkley in the world, and eventually they’ll have to go. Then they’ll turn evil and decide they must eliminate you in order to go on living, so I’ll end up holding a gun while the three of you each try to convince me that they’re the real Adam, and at some point one of you will say, ‘You don’t have a choice. You’ll have to kill all three of us if you want to save the planet from destruction or whatever.’ And that’s supposed to help me identify which of you is the original, because only the true Adam Barkley would be so self-sacrificing, but then I’ll have to wonder if the one that said that only said it because they’re savvy enough to know how I would react to it–”
“Kyle.” Adam waved a dismissive hand. “This isn’t one of your science fiction shows. This is reality. When I created these two clones, I gave them a built-in limited life-span. They’ll expire in two days regardless of how they feel about it, and then life will go on as normal.”
“Two days? If they’re only meant to last two days, why create them at all? You didn’t – You didn’t make two clones just to help you find your keys, did you?”
“Don’t be daft,” said Adam. “They’re a present. For you.”
Kyle leaned back in his chair, now more incredulous than ever. “Right. That’s what I need. Three Adams. I understand now, how women feel when they get lingerie for Christmas. Two more Adams is a present for you. And wait a minute. If they’re due to ‘expire’ in two days, what’s to be done with them after that?”
Adam frowned. “It insults me that you think I won’t know how to dispose of two bodies.”
“I’m offended as well,” one of the other Adams piped up. “In case anyone’s interested.”
Kyle dropped his plate and cup in the sink without bothering to rinse them. “I don’t have any more time for this nonsense. I’m meeting someone in half an hour.”
Three pairs of eyes glittered with jealousy. “Meeting someone?”
“Just Mike,” Kyle said. “And his cousin, at the Bean. Mike thinks his cousin would fit in well with my team at P7.” He grabbed his coat and paused in the doorway, nodding his head in a wide circle to indicate all three Adams. “When I come back, I want this taken care of.”
He left without saying goodbye.
“What do you mean, taken care of?” Adam called uselessly after him. “You think I can put them back in the packaging and return them to Sears?”
Fidgeting, another Adam protested, “I’d like to think of myself as more of a Macy’s situation.”
Kyle returned in the afternoon to find there were still three identical Adams in the flat. One of them was explaining to the other two about some of the chemistry equipment in the kitchen, and how it had proved useful in a recent experiment. Kyle sat on the sofa and listened to the lecture as it turned to the various competencies (or lack thereof) of the staff at the university, then to the some recent developments in genome editing, and then to Kyle’s inexplicable and often annoying tendency to tell people who visited about things that were completely irrelevant, such as Adam having been unaware that bacon, pork, and ham all came from the same animal.
Listening to the authoritative lecturing and the quick but curious responses, Kyle gleaned that the new Adams had most of their creator’s knowledge, but not all of his memories and experiences. They were like amnesiacs, who knew what a cinema was but had no clue what their favorite films might be. It was quite entertaining to eavesdrop on; one Adam was obviously thrilled at having such a rapt and perspicacious audience, and the other two seemed delighted to have someone interesting to listen to.
There was no indication that the clones possessed any variations on Adam’s personality. He had not produced split-Adams, one that was sweet and kind and one that was cruel and nasty. That was a shame; Kyle might have been inclined to lobby for the preservation of a particular one, when the time came.
Before he could delve too deeply into the topic of site-directed mutagenesis, Adam ended the lecture, insisting that it was now time to take Kyle out to dinner.
“Are you the original Adam?” Kyle asked, over dessert.
“Does it matter?” said Adam.
“Well, no, in the sense that, if you aren’t, there’s nothing I can do about it at the moment. But I have questions.”
“Such as, what did you mean about this being a gift for me? What am I meant to do with three Adams?”
Adam sighed. “You’re asking the wrong questions, as usual. It’s not what you’re going to do with us. It’s what we’re going to do with you.”
And he refused to say more on the matter. He just continued licking crème brûlée off his dessert spoon.
Whether it was obsessing over The Real Ghostbusters as a child, or devouring the work of Harlan Ellison as an adolescent, Berlynn Wohl has always been fascinated with worlds of limitless possibility. In “Oh, Earthman!” she explores what happens when love and lust are not bound by time or space.