As the plane bounced gently, settling on the runway, Marty grabbed his briefcase and prepared to deplane. The other parcel would be waiting for him on the luggage carousel. Or, rather, he’d have to be waiting for it , which was upsetting because there was somewhere he really needed to be.
The several yawns he’d experienced during their approach had each been followed by an aggressive sensation of awakening. He was beginning to understand what they’d meant when they’d talked about a link to yawning.
He couldn’t really remember at this point what he’d been watching on the TV. Currently, there was just a map of the airplane’s present location, with information about altitude and airspeed. He stared blankly at it until the plane arrived at the gate.
His package was the first to slide down the chute inside. One of his co-passengers pawed at it curiously, but he quickly grabbed it from them and left. Shortly thereafter, he was in the back seat of a cab, instructing the driver to bring him to the nearest electronics store.
His exhausted mind was finally beginning to lose its grasp on the passage of time, but in what seemed to be extremely short order they’d arrived in the parking lot of some enormous warehouse of a building. There was a brightly-lit logo on the front but he didn’t care enough to look at what it was.
”Can you wait?” he asked the driver, tossing him a rather generous amount of money.
Marty got out and jogged quickly into the store.
Though it was at the very rear of the building, the stack of high-definition televisions on display were visible from anywhere in the store. He quickly navigated the carefully-arranged maze of aisles and product displays and found a smaller television away from where most of the salespeople were concentrated.
Pawing around for a moment, he found the remote in a plastic cradle adhered to the side of the set and used the on-screen IPTV guide to call up the America First News feed. He wasn’t sure why he’d made a special trip to the store to watch, but he felt as though they were going to be telling him something really important.
”You know, the thirty-inch model is only four hundred dollars cheaper than the forty-two-inch one,” said an enthusiastic voice somewhere off to his right. “If you’re going to make a purchase this big, you might as well go just a little extra and get all you can out of it.”
Marty glanced quickly at the red-shirted kid standing next to him, making sure not to divert his attention from the screen long enough to miss anything. “Uh, my apartment’s kinda small.”
”You can always find room. It’s twelve inches more diagonally, so it only expands the footprint by maybe another nine inches. I’m sure you’ve got nine more inches of space wherever you’d be putting something this big.”
”I, uh, look, I really don’t,” he replied, keeping his eyes fixed on the screen. “Sorry.”
”We also have lighter, flatter screens you can hang in front of things and move around when you need to. Or put it on the ceiling.”
”Uh, just looking, thanks.”
”Projectors are a little more expensive, but they take up a lot less room. All you need is some unobstructed wall space.” He continued speaking but Marty didn’t catch a word.
A minute or two after the salesperson had eventually grown frustrated with Marty’s obvious lack of interest and left, the patterns of blocks popped onto the screen and disappeared in rapid succession. He felt as though he’d seen the effect somewhere before but he couldn’t quite place it.
Possessing what he’d unwittingly come into the store to obtain, Marty briskly exited and returned to the cab. Before the driver even had a chance to ask, Marty leaned forward and spoke through the holes in the plexiglas, “I’ll give you an extra three hundred if you can get me to the Ambassador Bridge in five minutes.”
The young, towheaded border guard of the New Canadian Republic tried to glare at them with intimidating coldness, but his boyish, doughy features made the gesture humorously unsuccessful. Still, he had a gun so none of them dared laugh.
”They can cross,” he said to Ben. “You can’t.”
”How the hell do you expect them to get to Toronto? On foot?”
The guard dropped his head, staring at him with mild exasperation, and sighed. “Ever hear of buses?”
”What do you think I’m going to do, take out an entire fucking military installation using a handgun and a motorcycle with a half-depleted turret on it?”
”You think we’re that good that we could stop you?” He smiled a little after a second. “That was a joke. Self-deprecating humor. Look, we’re more than willing to take in refugees and escapees and such, but unless you’re planning on defecting I can’t let you in. Mostly because there’s no way you’ll be coming back out again. Really, I’m doing you a favor — you think your guys are going to be any more lenient going the other way?”
Ben sighed resignedly and turned to the Denises. “Well, you guys can either cross the bridge yourselves and take a bus, or we can string together some driftwood into a crude raft and float ourselves and the bike over to the other side of the river.”
The Denise to Ben’s left said, “bus is a lot safer than that damned motorcycle.” Simultaneously the Denise to his right said, “I’m staying.” The former glared surprisedly at the latter.
”In Detroit?” asked Ben. “Why?”
”With you, dumbass,” she snapped defensively, mild embarrassment tangible in her body language.
She sighed and rolled her eyes.
The other Denise, standing beside her, tried to get a better view of her duplicate’s expression. “Well?”
”I’m bored. Don’t take it the wrong way but I’ve grown kinda tired of you. I’m sick of seeing myself walking around all the time, constantly reminding me of how old I’m getting. It’s like I’ve got this walking, talking mirror around me all the time. And your voice — my voice — sounds like someone muting a trumpet with ground beef. It’s bad enough when it’s in my own head, but hearing it twice as much is torture.”
”Well, that’s a goddamned relief,” grumbled the other Denise. “I was going to try to ditch you when we got to Toronto. I feel the same way. Hell, you know that. You’re me. Go, have fun. Get yourself blown up.”
After hugging her doppelgÃ¤nger for a while, she started across the Ambassador Bridge into Windsor. Before leaving speaking distance, she stopped briefly and turned around. “I don’t get it, though: We were both cloned from the same person at the same time and lived about the same life since. Why didn’t I want to stay as well? ‘Cause I really don’t.”
The staying Denise shrugged. “I killed more brain cells inhaling oven cleaner? Hell if I know.”
Everyone was silent for a minute.
”Well,” said the leaving Denise, “have a nice life. Try not to die. Come visit if you don’t. Both of you.”
They watched her walk away for a while.
”You should probably go, too,” advised the border guard. “Before someone sees.”
Ben mounted the motorcycle and started it, checking the sparse instrument panels to be sure it was running. With an incredibly small nuclear reactor powering it, it was difficult to tell whether it had actually been turned on. Denise climbed on behind him. They rolled toward the bridge for a few feet, the border guard watching them closely, then u-turned back toward Interstate 75.
Before reaching the highway onramp, Ben pulled over in front of some kind of vacant industrial building. “I’m taking you back. You can sneak across the bridge and take a different bus to Toronto. Or wherever else you want to go.”
”What? No. Keep driving.”
”I never said you could come with me, you know.”
”Should’ve said something earlier.”
”You mean I should’ve somehow preempted your deciding to stay with me before you even mentioned it?”
”Let’s just go, before your big metal girlfriend comes along and crushes us. We’ll talk about it later.”
”That’s exactly why I’m not letting you come along with me. I didn’t want to say anything on the bridge because you made it clear you wanted to get away from each other, but I have to drop you off somewhere else. Or leave you here. Your choice.”
”Always wanted to see California.”
”So, since that’s part of Canada now, I’ll drop you off at the bridge and you can find a train over. This isn’t ‘Make a Wish’, I’m just trying to get you somewhere safe where you can start a new life.”
”Hey, I know, how about we stay here arguing about it and get crushed by a tank.”
He sighed exasperatedly. “Is there any way I’m going to convince you?”
Ben let his head drop forward and shook it slightly. “Fine. But I’m still going after Anna, so if you’re so afraid of getting crushed, anywhere around me is going to be a really bad place to be.” He started the bike toward the road. “At least you’re wearing comfortable shoes.”
Shortly after continuing toward the highway, part of a building exploded onto the road about a hundred feet ahead of them, flaming debris raining through the subsequent dust cloud for a moment or two following.
Ben immediately stopped the bike. “Here, for instance. Here is a very bad place to be.”
After idling in the remains of the building she’d destroyed, taking in her surroundings, Anna launched herself into the building on the other side of the road, demolishing it as well.
”Well, you asked for it,” said Ben over his shoulder, riding toward the explosion.
Denise screamed for a moment, but soon, realizing its futility, stopped.