Two’s a crowd
The buzzing alarm woke him 10 minutes late as it had been for the last week and a half. No attempt had been made to fix this as Michael had no time to spare since he was rushing to work every morning for the last week and a half. He sprung from bed like molasses and with tortoise like speed Michael sprinted down with the stairs to where his elixir of life waited for him. Like a blind sloth he clothed himself and chugged his coffee. A peculiar feeling erupted from his burning throat. Michael came to the conclusion his wife Margaret had replaced his morning coffee with molten lava. He spat out the brown liquid and coughed. The brew splashed down like a dark snake hunting every white inch of fabric. Michael stood still as his stepson Stephen laughed and reflected; knowing for a fact that his day was not going to get much better than that rubbish coffee.
“Are you trying to kill me Margaret?!” he shouted.
Stephen looked up from his cornflakes, “Yesterday, you said it was too cold and we were trying to give you pneumonia.”
“I’d much rather pneumonia than have my insides go through the nine circles of hell…” retorted Michael as he tended to his shirt with a napkin.
A pink makeup box bounced into the room and caked the floor in powder. The container was followed by a woman equally caked in makeup.
“All your bloody fuss has got me in a bad mood now,” Margaret complained and picked up the kit.
“My fuss?! It’s you woma-“
Before he could finish a loud buzzing came from below. In the puddle of dark coffee sat his idPhone. Michael scowled and fished it from the steaming brew.
*Michael* you start work in *15 minutes*!
“Shit!” he exclaimed looking down at the display. Michael rushed out without a goodbye for the Glastinshire bus.
Luckily (or perhaps unluckily in retrospective) his bus arrived late. Michael hopped on with breathless relief and spent the rest of the journey conducting an impatient drum solo with his feet. The idPhone read 8:55. Nervously he put it back in his pocket, today would be his third late arrival at Medical School this month. Unfortunately the clinic was situated in north-east China, 4839.41 miles away. To get there in 5 minutes Michael was going to have travel at light speed, which was exactly what he was going to do.
His destination was WERP, he was a familiar face- a 9-5er. WERP was a molecular transporter/ constructor, in layman’s words you went in one end and came out the other.
“Morning Mikie,” the old supervisor murmured while lazily swatting a fly from his oily face. Michael power walked to the desk as a flash filled the room and a fatigued night shift worker came out of the exit chamber.
“Hello Gert, to Liaoning Medi-Centre please,” blurted Michael.
Gert craned his neck to look up for a moment (only due to company identification policy) and motioned to the entry chamber. Michael half skipped into the compartment. The time read 8:58 on his coffee stained idPhone as he pressed it into the dock.
“You know the drill, keep your arms and legs in the ride at all times,” said Gert as he slouched off to the toilet.
Michael smiled with relief. He had made it. A tiny spark emitted from the idPhone and with a loud boom the wind was knocked out of Michael Hasting. He dropped to the floor unconscious, still in Glastinshire. The time read 9:01.
The lights flickered on and Michael stirred. “Hello?” he called out, his voice echoed around him, “Is anyone there?”
He peeked round the corner and saw that a mirror had been erected.
“Oh for Christ sake, I went for a bloody piss and I come ba-…” Gert stood still and looked left and right repetitively. Michael limped out of the destroyed chamber.
“Stay where you are!” shouted Gert.
“This place looks like it’s going to collapse we need to get out of here, “his voice echoed.
“Now just stay calm…” Gert replied but Michael suddenly realised that his voice was echoing but not Gert. With a frown of confusion he looked back to the mirror and saw his reflection blink.
Gert ran to the computer and booted it up with a welcoming jingle.
“Now everyone just stay exactly where they are!”
Michael and his duplicate looked at each other in wonder and asked, “Why?”
“Well, as you can both see there’s been a minor glitch in the system.”
A red flash from the monitor illuminated the room. Gert began to tap furious on the keyboard.
“Which one though…” he whispered. He pressed a single key and the chambers behind the Michaels were basked in blood red light.
“Now uh… could-,” Gert’s finger wavered from one Michael to the other,
“-one of you please step back into your chamber?”
The original Michael frowned, “Hang on is that really um… me?”
The second Michael stared at his twin, “Yeah, and what’s going to happen in that chamber?”
The supervisor wiped his sweaty forehead. The attractive crimson was too much for the fly to resist as it buzzed towards the chamber. The twins watched with anticipation. Zap! A crackle of maroon and no trace was left.
“Right… well off you go then. You should have been deleted anyway,” said Michael 2.
Angrily Michael 1 replied, “What? I am the same Michael I was this morning. You’re just a clone!”
Gert interrupted Michael’s conflicting personality, “ Listen boys, you both make great points but I just need one of you to step in.”
“Which one?” both Michaels demanded.
“I.. uh,” he shrugged.
A voice boomed from the intercom “Hello Michael, I am the district manager. I apologise for the inconvenience but there is only one reported case of this happening before…”
Michael 1,“Why does one of us have to get deleted?”
“Yeah, we could be celebrities…”
The intercom flicked on again, “Well, for starters think about your family. How will two dad’s affect your son; Stephen?”
“How do you know that?” both Michael asked.
But no answer came.
Gert broke the silence, “Also it wouldn’t look so good for WERP, human rights wise…”
“Shut up you idiot!” the district manager shouted.
“Oh right sorry boss…” Gert muttered.
“So perhaps the one who wasn’t erased in the first place could please walk into the chamber.”
Gert pipped up again “But boss, he is the exact same guy that walked into here this morning, we can’t just… kill him”
Michael 1 began walking towards the exit, “Well that’s it I am going home.”
“What do you mean ‘going home’? You can stay here and I’m going home.”
His twin smugly smiled and lifted his keys, “Oh yeah? What with these?”
“Yes,” lifting his own identical pair.
“No one’s going anywhere,” the intercom stated as the shutters began to close.
“Oh stuff this!” the Michaels said in unison as they both took off out the door.
Gert took off after them with a scowl as the manager cursed the day he hired that ‘fat oaf’.
The elderly lady rubbed her eyes and popped two pills into her mouth as the identical Michaels hopped onto the bus. They walked to the back of the bus berating each other.
“Lursten up tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum if you don’t surttle down, I’ll thruw you off!” the driver commanded in a thick accent. They both fell silent and looked out the window to see Gert chasing the bus, his gargantuan body gracefully swaying to and fro.
The blaring of the police siren broke the silence. Both Michaels looked behind them to see a bearded officer staring at them. The bus pulled over.
“Do you think he’s after us?”
“Maybe. Quick take your jacket off!”
The elderly lady looked back with wide eyes and took another two pills.
“Open up!” the officer demanded.
He trotted onto the bus, snapped his head to the rear of the vehicle and pointed.
Michael 2 stood up instantaneously, “Oh thank God you’re here, this mad man is impersonating me!”
“What the hell?” Michael 1 whispered to his backstabbing self.
The officer stomped over and smashed his baton into Michael 2’s mouth.
“DOWN ON THE FLOOR!” he screamed, releasing the aroma of his breakfast into their faces.
“Police brutality,” Michael 2 muttered in between his sobs.
“There was no need to-”Michael 1 was interrupted with a slap from the officer.
“Brutality? Just wait to you get to the precinct and we’ll show you what we do to grandma rapists!”
The elderly lady swallowed two more pills.
“That wasn’t us!” protested Michael 1.
The officer scoffed, “And to think I arrested them single handidly. Me, Officer Willybeat… and by myself to!” he boasted.
Before he could continue the old woman fell to the floor and began convulsing.
The driver piped up, “Surmebody help that pour werman!”
“Oh piss,” Willybeat exclaimed who dived to the floor and began CPR.
In the commotion a voice whispered, “Psst!”
They looked over to a messily dressed middle age man who was pointing to an open window. Without hesitation they followed him, leaving behind the woman being filled with Willybeat’s putrid breath.
“Oi!” shouted the officer as the trio jumped into the police cruiser.
Their rescuer mouthed a silent prayer and stepped on the gas.
“Officer Willybeat; is back up needed?” the radio crackled.
He picked up the speaker, “No uh.. in fact everybody go home and umm have a cup of tea.”
“Is that you Willybeat?”
With fervor he swung the radio out of its socket. It knocked an exhausted Gert over, who could only stare as they zoomed down the road.
“My name is Alex. And I know you both didn’t rape anyone, I also know you two aren’t twins. Not the usual sort anyway…”
They bungled up into the apartment.
“So you know what happened to us?” asked Michael 2.
With his eyes watering he turned to them both and produced a photo of himself and his duplicate standing side by side.
“It happened to me as well,” he wiped his eyes. “Of course you wouldn’t have heard about it they covered it all up.”
“We took that photo when we’re going to the press offices to tell our story, but then they came in some black van.” he sobbed, “They got rid of him right there and then…
and told me no one would believe me without the proof..”
Both Michaels were aghast that this had happened to someone else.
“But then I saw you two and I knew what had happened…”
“So your copy, he was erased?”
Alex began to cry, “He was my best friend, I finally had someone I could relate to…”
The Michaels then took in their surroundings. A microwave dinner sat on the single couch facing the TV.
“I can do something good now though instead of just moping about.”
He ran to the phone, “I still have connections from when they were going to do a story about me. Now you two can be the stars!”
“Yes, David. It’s Alex Vicar. You were going to do a story about me and my umm… twin.” The room was tense with anticipation. “No don’t hang up, this isn’t about that anymore, I have with me the wanted criminals Michael Hasting and Michael Hasting.” The voice on the phone blared on for a few seconds.
“No not rapists, this is another…” he whispered with his hand over the receiver, “…cover up.” After a few more minutes of talking he put the phone down.
“Alright the cameras on their way, we are going to blow this wide open!”
“Hang on, we didn’t agree to any of this!”
Before he could answer another siren echoed down the street, Michael looked out his window and began biting his fingernails.
“Quick to the roof!” he whispered.
They sat for what seemed like hours while they could hear the police scrummage through Alex’s musty apartment. While they waited it out, Michael and his twin began to converse with each other in what had been the most peaceful part of their day so far. They talked about Margaret, Stephen, their problems and worries and although there opinions were very much similar they both felt in more in tune with themselves. They reflected on Alex as he stared into open space in silence and realised that there was a link between each other.
“Hey there here,” Alex exclaimed a little too loudly as the news team arrived.
Footsteps travelled closer to the roof, “Oh Christ” said the Michaels.
“Quick I have a plan,” said Michael 2.
Michael 1 looked his twin, “I think I know what you’re thinking.”
They both hopped onto the ledge, hand in hand. The news teams below pointed their cameras to the scene. The police emerged on the roof.
“Are we really going to do this?” asked Michael 1
“It’s are only choice. I trust you brother. Can you forgive me for what I did on the bus?”
“Yes I forgive you and I trust you too” said Michael 1.
The police edged towards them cautiously, “Come on don’t be stupid now…”
They both shouted in response so the news teams and the crowd below could hear,
“Citizens of Glastinshire, we are Michael Hastings…” They continued on and told their story and of WERP attempts to cover it up and demanded, “If they want to delete one of us, we are both going to jump.”
His brother concluded,” It’s either both of us or none!”
Suddenly a helicopter came over the horizon and hovered near the building blowing a dangerous draft in their direction.
Over the megaphone came the familiar voice of the district manager, “Listen Michael, we have reconsidered and we aren’t going to do anything to either of you.”
The helicopter had now levelled with them.
Michael 2 spied a jet black van that had just arrived down the end of the street.
“This isn’t going to work,” said Michael 2 glumly. “They are going to delete you, the manager chose you, remember.”
“You don’t know that!”
He pointed to the van again. “Then what’s that?”
“It could just be another van.”
“It isn’t Michael!”
Michael 2 let go of his hand.
“Maybe they are right, we aren’t separate people. I mean we went through that machine god knows how many times. We died and were reborn thousands of times. What’s the harm in one more time?”
“What are you talking about you idiot?” he cried.
“You saw me in the bus, I screwed you over. That’s not the person I want to be. You’re the better Michael. So live a good life mate… for the both of us.”
Michael 2 stepped off the ledge.
The cameras caught everything, the fall, Michael’s arrest and eventual release. In the coming months WERP collapsed and Alex Vicar rose, hailed as the new Assange; he secured a position in a major newspaper. Michael returned back to his family and went through counselling for several months but returned back to his studies and did become a doctor at a local GP. He stills says he imagines seeing himself in crowds and despite declining from any more interviews his last words to the media still haunt the world.
“He was the better man…”
Up next is the weather with Sandy.
I’m Mal Cater, goodnight.