J.D. and Me, by Sarah Jordan (Photo via unsplash)
Iris’s heart was racing. She could feel her pulse moving rapidly up her arms. She was dreaming about a small white dog licking her face. Then she dreamed she was flying backwards in a freezer past large metal tanks. There were people in the tanks! How absurd! Some of the tanks held whole people, dead or about to be dead. Was that Crissy’s sister Elaine? And some of the tanks contained parts of people, half eaten. But why? There were dozens of giant metal domed tanks and microscopes and petri dishes and other scientific tools, all floating past Iris as she flew backwards.
“She’s out cold, man. This stuff would knock out an elephant.” A far away voice said. The voice belonged to the man with the needle.
What a strange dream, Iris thought.
His slim fingers danced across the keys. The DNA portal flashed upon the computer screen and a variety of reports about Michael Philips appeared. He stroked the mouse and the screen moved downwards, revealing his nationality, genetic composition, sexual orientation, age, health risks, allergies, health conditions, ideal height and weight, and more. He didn’t know it, but advertisers all around the world now had access to this information too.
“Hey Iris, get in here. Come check this out!”
He heard her shoes clicking on the floor and spun around in the computer chair right before she reached the desk. She smirked and her hazel eyes darted from his eyes to the computer screen.
“What did you want to show me? That you’re 100% gullible?” They both laughed. She didn’t want him to buy into that J.D. and Me DNA test crap. But he hadn’t listened.
He turned back toward the computer and cleared his throat. “Well besides that, the test shows me what diseases I’m prone to. It says here that I have a higher than average risk for Alzheimer's disease. My Grandpa died from it actually.”
She took a deep breath and fingered the pocket knife in her pocket. She looked at the paisley rug on the floor, suddenly fascinating. She didn’t want to think about death and diseases. Of Mike forgetting who she was. She certainly didn’t want to talk about it. Anyway, she had a headache.
He wrapped an arm around her. “I know it’s scary, but we can make changes and prevent stuff like this from happening. You know the old cliche, knowledge is power? How about you do the test too? That way when we’re super old, we can both be healthy?”
She wasn’t sure what it was, but there was something different about Mike. Was that tiny yellow ring around the blue part of his eyes always there? Was she being paranoid? Was she going crazy...or going suddenly...sane?
He stroked her auburn hair and she flicked his hand away. He didn’t even smell like Mike.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
Iris smiled so as not to raise suspicion. A snaggle tooth poked out of her small lips. “Nothing. It’s just that a few months ago you were practically Mr. Privacy and now you’re giving your DNA out to people you don’t even know, sending it in the mail even. And there’s no way I’m sending my spit in the mail, or giving all of my genetic information to God knows who.”
He stood up and took a step back. “Who wouldn't want to know about their past and potential future? Don’t be silly. You're just being paranoid. The people at the DNA lab don’t care about our DNA. They’re just doing their jobs. They don’t think about us. They’re busy. They don’t care. I’m pretty sure they destroy the saliva as soon as they run the tests.”
Iris shook her head. She shook away the image of a man with a needle. It seemed so real.
“How do you know everyone who works there is honest and does their job of destroying the DNA? Look, I’m glad you’re happy with your test. And I’m totally on board with preventing diseases, but I’m not willing to take that chance. I care about my privacy way too much--that’s the whole reason I left social media a few months ago...”
He crossed his arms. “So you care more about privacy than your health?”
Michael Philips was as into health as he was the environment. They had recently watched a documentary about laboratories creating meat alternatives with animals’ DNA. Imagine all the animals that could live, he had said. Imagine all the land that would be saved, he had said. Yes, imagine.
Iris put her hands on her hips and narrowed her large eyes. “Who the hell says I can’t have BOTH privacy and health? Why does it have to be one or the other? I don’t want to have to worry about what the scientists might do with my DNA! I’m done having this conversation, Michael.”
He watched her storm out of the room. He jumped when he heard the door slam. He heard the wheels screeching in the driveway. He didn’t follow her.
She drove for about 9 miles. It was just getting dark and trees with long, witch finger branches scraped the windshield as Iris pulled the car she and Mike shared into a parking spot at the end of the scenic park. The park was behind some kind of loading dock and warehouse. She took a few deep breaths and pulled her phone out of her purse to call Crissy.
An Ad for J.D. and Me DNA testing popped up on the phone screen. “Shit! Get off my freaking phone!” She slammed her finger onto the little x’s in the corners of the screen and pressed on Crissy’s name in her phone book.
It was ringing.
“Please, pick up pick up pick up pick up”, She prayed to a god she didn’t even believe in. She turned the key in the ignition and started to back the car out of the lot, but something moving caught her eye in the distance. She jammed her foot into the breaks and threw the phone down.
“Was that Mike walking through the warehouse door back there?” She wondered.
No. It couldn’t have been. There’s no way he ran 10 miles in 5 minutes. Must have been someone who looked like him.
Iris picked up the phone and redialed Crissy. It was cold in her trembling hands. She watched the door of the warehouse, incase Mike’s doppelganger emerged.
“Hey, how are you, Iris? I was just thinking about you!” Crissy sounded worried.
Iris let out a sigh of relief. A tall thin man walking a white fluffy dog passed in front of the car and waved at her. Her muscles tightened for no apparent reason, but she smiled at the man to be polite. She disliked those barky maltese, bratty dogs. And for some reason she hated this man too. He seemed eerily familiar to her. Was he the man of her dreams?
“You were? Good things I hope, how are you Crissy!?”
She pressed the bluetooth button and Crissy’s melodic voice filled the car. “Well, I had a feeling you were in trouble. Like in a hospital or something. And covered in glitter. I know that sounds really weird- the glitter part. But are you okay? I was going to call you as soon as I got home, because the feeling was so strong. I mean I don’t want to worry you or scare you, but you know how my intuition is sometimes.”
Goosebumps sprang up on Iris’s slender arms as she stretched them overhead. She turned up the heat in the car. She thought back to some of Crissy’s premonitions that had come to pass...of she and Mike getting married years ago, of them moving across the country...
“Iris? Are you there?”
Iris rubbed her eyes, as if to rub away this information. “Yeah, Yeah I’m here. I’m okay, I’m fine. I’m not in a hospital. I’m calling because I got into a fight with Mike. And he didn’t seem, I mean I don’t know how to say this, but he didn’t seem like himself, I guess. He seemed odd, different, weird. He’s been acting strange for weeks. Say, do you know anyone who has had one of those genetic ancestry tests that everyone is raving about?”
The man and the little white dog lingered behind the car. Was he watching her? More paranoia, she thought. The dog was pooping. Great. She remembered an expert on one of those daytime talk shows saying that being too polite can get you killed. It sounded like hogwash at the time. She almost laughed.
“Awww, maybe Mike is stressed out about work. I’m sure you’ll make up asap. But come to think of it, my sister Elaine got one of those tests too. I grew apart from her after over the last few months. To be honest I thought she was on drugs or something, and had nothing to do with the test, I’m sure. It’s just a coincidence though. Listen Iris, can I call you after work? I’m on a deadline.”
A tear rolled down Iris’s cheek. Crissy the sign-seeking, synchronicity-loving psychic didn’t believe in coincidence. She was just trying to make Iris feel better. “Yeah, sure. I’ll talk to you later. My phone is about to die anyway.”
Iris pressed the Off button on her phone and tucked it into her bra. Suddenly a million bits of tiny glass exploded next to Iris’s head. She screamed and put her arms up as she ducked into the steering wheel. She was covered in glass, like so much glitter. Just like Crissy had predicted.
The man with the dog ripped Iris out of the car. She had a headache from hitting her head on the wheel. She saw that the man had a large hypodermic needle, and then everything went black.
Iris’s heart was racing. She could feel her pulse moving rapidly up her arms. Iris was playing possum, but she could hear everything. She’d been listening for hours. She finally opened her eyes.
“She’s watching us!” The man with the needle and the dog said. He was wearing a green beanie hat. The dog was laying on a rug. It had a stupid smile on its fluffy face.
“No way, she can’t see or hear anything. This stuff would knock out an elephant. Besides, the double has been prepping her, drugging her for weeks now. We got her DNA but it’s not processed yet”, a older man in a lab coat said.
Then she heard two sets of footsteps down a hallway.
Because they didn’t yet have her DNA processed, the men didn’t know Iris had the same medical condition Michael Philips had. This condition caused sedation drugs to have to opposite effect. Likewise, caffeine put Iris to sleep. So Iris was hyper alert and hyper aware, listening. Listening.
She strained to hear bits and pieces of conversation amid the buzzing of these large tanks and her own rapidly rising blood pressure.
“The double will ensure your freedom, from now on…” the same far away voice said from the room next door.
But what could it mean? That’s when she heard another familiar voice. It was Mike.
“But I want to see my wife. I have my freedom now, sort of, but I didn’t realize that would mean I’d never get to see…”
Iris’s eyes bulged and her mind raced with this new information. Had Mike allowed these freaks to clone him just to get out of working? Was that what a double was? A clone? In exchange for what? For a life inside a lab? How could he do that? She had to call him to be sure she’d heard correctly. To be sure he was...okay.
She didn’t know it yet, but they never would see eachother again regardless of whether they wanted to or not.
Believing she was drugged out of her mind, the men had tied Iris loose enough to retrieve the pocket knife out of her pocket. Always be prepared, her Dad had taught her. She cut herself free and crouched down so as not to be seen by anyone walking by the windows. She reached up and traced a finger on the name carved onto the nearest tank. It was so cold it hurt her finger. D-A-H-M-E-R, it said on the silver tank.
How did she know that name? Dahmer, Dahmer…Hmmm? She rubbed her eyebrow and a flicked the piece of glass that came out of it across the room and it landed with a little tinkling sound. She searched her memory for Dahmer.
She looked around. This place felt eerily familiar to Iris. The metal tanks. She remembered them from the dream. But what was inside? She couldn’t recall. Dreams dissolve as time passes. The petri dishes. It even smelled familiar. Suddenly she remembered learning about Dahmer and other serial killers in high school Psychology class. Jeffrey Dahmer had kidnapped young men. Then he dissected them and ate them.
But what was inside the tanks from her dream? Her memory was fuzzy. She looked for a way to open the tanks.
In the room next door, the man with the needle lunged for Michael Philips. But because the men knew of Michael’s health condition, this needle contained uppers. Michael Philips wouldn’t stand a chance.
The last thing Michael saw as he was being put into the tank, was a handsome old man in a lab coat. Michael let out a muffled scream before the needle subdued him...
What was that noise? Was it a scream? Where was Mike? Iris heard footsteps getting quieter and quieter. She crawled on the cold tile floor down the dark hallway. She stopped to wipe dirt off her hands midway.
Iris peaked around the corner. The men had left the room. The room was spotless and sterile except for some red spots on the white tile floor near the tank. The smell of bleach assaulted Iris’s nostrils.
She stood up at the tank, which she leaned against for balance. The tank was so cold! What was in the tank in the dream? She couldn’t remember. Iris gathered all of her strength and gave the wheel a great twist. A seal unlocked and the lid floated up. She looked inside and felt vomit swirling around inside of her. She realized too late that her dream was no dream. There was a half-eaten torso inside the tank. She wondered who it belonged to and slammed the lid back down.
Iris leaned over to vomit and her phone came bouncing out of her shirt. She wiped the chunks off the phone and pressed the On button. It still had 1% battery! She pressed the name Mike on the screen. Iris jumped at the sound. A phone rang inside the metal tank beside her.
Story by Sarah Jordan. Photo via unsplash