Mr. Jones was hesitant to enter 'Electronics Ectronics' on 41st and 8th. The small store was cluttered with electronic devices that looked like they belonged in the last century, collecting dust as the world advances and leaves them behind. "Hello?" he mumbled to the empty space, closing the door behind him. Is this the right place? He checked the little crumpled piece of paper in his hand. Yes, That's it. Standing there alone, surrounded by dead devices, he felt like the store was closing in on his throat. He decided he should go to the counter and ring the little bell sitting there, but before he could take more than one step towards it, a young man entered the room from a door on the other side of the counter.
"Yes? What's up?" the young man asked casually. He startled Mr. Jones. So much so, he had to put one hand on his hat so it wouldn't fall off. The young man was handsome, and had a look that would intimidate most people, in a confusing kind of way. It appeared he had no idea the real reason Mr. Jones was in the store, and that made Mr. Jones nervous "Yes- well- hmm…” he mumbled, clearing his throat. "I'm- I am looking for... Mrs. Garganoodle?"
The young man stopped and took a long, examining stare into Mr. Jones's eyes, as if he was looking for something. Then Mr. Jones saw the realization sink in behind the young man’s eyes. Now he knew, but still wasn't showing it. Then his face softened, and it seemed he found what he was looking for. "Down the stairs, last door on the right." he said, opening the white door for Mr. Jones, the same door the young man just walked through a minute ago. It’s your last chance to back down thought to himself Mr. Jones. “Thank you,” he said, and made his way through the door.
He walked down the stairs into a basement-like hallway, lit by only one lightbulb dangling from the ceiling, and passed about four doors until he reached the last one on the right.
He opened the door to a small grey office. Everything about this room was sad, and screamed corporation. Against the walls there were grey cupboards with files upon files in them, stacked so high they almost touched the low ceiling. Directly in front of the door there was a small woman in her 40’s, sitting at her desk facing the door, typing on a computer.
"Are you,- Mrs. Garganoodle?" asked Mr. Jones.
"Obviously not, it's a ridiculous name. We use it as a code." she said, not taking her eyes off the screen. "Why are you still standing?". She wore those big librarian glasses that you only see in movies. She was dressed like a grandma, but somehow it made her look young. Mr. Jones, that felt like someone snatched his vocal folds from his throat, immediately sat down. The sound of her fingers typing on the computer was echoing off the concert walls as they sat there in silence.
"Uh-uh!" she shushed him professionally. She looked bored. Her behavior made Mr. Jones even more nervous than he already was. His leg began to bounce in distress. He tried to put his hand on it in an attempt to hide it and make it stop, but he thinks she noticed anyway.
"Federal organization or private?" She still hasn’t looked at him, but at least she stopped typing.
"Federal organization, or private?" She repeated herself a bit slower, like she was trying to explain simple addition math to a kid, turning her head to look at him.
"Private". said Mr. Jones
"Name?" She is back at the computer, ready to type his answer.
"Jones. James Jones."
"1318 Bushwick avenue."
"Who is chasing you?"
"Sorry, what?" said Mr. Jones in shock. I must have heard that wrong. He thought.
"Who is chasing you?" She looked at him and repeated the question, doing again the same thing she did before. He didn't like that.
"What do you mean?" He asked a little more assertively. Maybe that will fix her attitude.
"What organization, or 'bad men', is it that's chasing you, that made you come to us?"
"No one is chasing me." She stopped, deserting her typing session. Her dismissive manner now became visible annoyance.
"So why do you want to disappear?"
"I don't want to disappear."
She squinted her eyebrows. "You do know what we do here, right?"
"Yes, and I don't want to disappear. I want to be cloned."
"Because I want to die."
This statement took her by surprise. She paused with her mouth slightly open, looking at Mr. Jones as if she was seeing him for the first time since he walked into her office. At this moment there was no trace of her stuck up attitude, but only confusion.
“What? What does that have to do with anything?” she asked.
“That’s why I’m here. I’m-”
“I thought you said you knew what we’re doing here. We don’t do mercy killings.”
“That’s not what I’m asking you to do.”
“I don’t get it.” she said plainly.
“I heard about you from a friend who works for the police. He said you were a conspiracy theory, just a myth, but I had to look you up. You are the solution to my problem. I know what you do, you clone people, and the clones take the place of your client’s lives, so the client can be free from it. All I’m asking is the first part of the bargain, so I can commit suicided without the guilt of leaving my family behind”.
They both paused, as the lady was taking in everything Mr. Jones just said. Her body was now fully turned to face Mr. Jones, immersing in his words. As a result, her name tag was visible. It said Mrs. White.
“You’re joking right?”
“You’re asking me to help you kill yourself.”
She looked at him in disbelief as they both gazed at each other. Mr. Jones was wondering if every client of theirs is met with such interrogation into personal affairs.
“No. You've come to the wrong place” she said.
“Why? I thought you were a cloning company. Like I said, I need a -”
“Yes, we are, but not for this. We give people a better chance in life, in a different life. A new start, not an end.”
“I’m just asking for a way out. How is that any different?” Said Mr. Jones. He wasn’t expecting to face such difficulty in becoming a client less than five minutes into the meeting.
“You don’t understand. We are helping people. We make their problems go away, wipe their past and give them a new identity. What you need is therapy. Or gin.” she said. She was visibly anxious, fidgeting with the papers that were lying on her desk.
“If I was a criminal you would take my money no questions asked” argued Mr. Jones. “but just because I am an ordinary guy who doesn’t want to break the heart of his wife and kids, you won’t help me?”
Her voice became softer. “Look. it must be frustrating, but we can’t help you… I have some resources for you, I can send- ”
“I don’t understand. All I need is a clone. I’ll do the rest. It’s much less work for you than your regular clients.”
Mrs. White paused and looked at him, trying to find the courage to ask her next question. Then finally she said “Why do you want to do it?”
When facing that question Mr. Jones came to realize something. This conversation was the first time he ever admitted to anyone he didn’t want to live, and more so, he said it to a complete stranger.
This question seemed so simple coming out of her glossy red lips. It was, in fact, the ultimate question, whether she knew it or not. It was hard for Mr. Jones to think of an answer to her question. He didn’t really know what to say. He wanted to say something honest and true, but didn’t want to sound pathetic. There were so many answers running through his head in that moment, but he knew in his heart that there is only one reason, and one reason alone. That was Mr. Jones’s tragedy. No matter what he did it will always be there, unsolvable.
“Does it matter why? I am miserable. And that is that.”
“Don’t you think there are things that can help you become un-miserable?”
“No. Those things don’t exist.”
“You sure you tried?”
Mr. Jones has had it at this point. He didn’t come there to get interrogated or talk to a therapist. The cooking pot has come to a boil, and he decided to give Mrs. White a piece of his mind.
“Yes, I’m sure. And that’s a rude question, you know that? Are you really gonna try to convince me not to do it five minutes after you met me? It’s not gonna work because the fact is, The only thing that is keeping me from doing it right now is my family. I truly don’t want to hurt them, and I want them to live a good life after I’m gone.”
“But it doesn’t have to be that way, James,” she said his first name. All of a sudden Mr. Jones felt like she knew him. Like she knew more about him than he knew about her. It was a very strange feeling for Mr. Jones, but not strange enough to make him stop.
“No matter what I do there is a deep sorrow that I cannot get rid of. It’s a sadness that doesn’t have a root in anything else in my life. It’s not because of my job, my family, my financial situation… No. there is a feeling… a feeling I don’t belong in this world. I know I don’t. I just don’t want to live. That’s that.”
“You can’t really do much about it when a person just doesn’t want to live. I’m going to do it anyway, whether you help me or not.”
Her tone of voice was different. She looked at him with a defeated look, sorrow in her eyes. It was the type of sorrow of someone that knew they lost. Even more so, someone who knew they would lose before they even entered the game… As if this wasn’t the first time she heard this kind of speech. Suddenly she looked like a different person. Her whole being shifted, and there was a new profound importance and understanding in her words as she continued.
“I know there’s nothing that I can do to stop you”. She said. “But I am going to try one last thing, to see if that will change your mind, one last time. It’s going to be a shock, so you will need to stay level headed. Will you do that for me?”
She was now standing, gazing over at the shocked man in front of her, not moving her eyes from his. The air in the office shifted, there was a heaviness to it that wasn’t present before. Mrs. White looked nothing like she looked when Mr. Jones entered the room. She was now strong and serious. Even though fear was creeping in to Mr. Jones’s mind, he knew he had to know, and with a faint nod he agreed.
“Follow me.” She walked past him and opened the metal door that lead to the same hallway Mr. Jones walked in just a few minutes ago.
They walked the empty, dark hallway, Mrs. White in the head. They passed the four doors, and instead of turning left to go up the stairs back to ‘Electronic Ectronics’, they took a right turn, which led to another set of stairs. They walked down in complete silence, until they reached the end of the stairs where there wasn’t a hallway, but one green door standing alone.
Mrs. White opened the green door and they both walked into the biggest hall Mr. Jones has ever seen. It was a large library, full of the same grey cupboards that were in the office they were just at, only three times bigger. There were overflowing amounts of files and paperwork tucked in those cupboards, continuing endlessly in the long hall. As they walked in the set path in the middle of the hall with those great cupboards on each side, Mr. Jones realized they are organized alphabetically. When reaching the letter J, Mrs. White took a right turn and said “Stay here.”
When she was back, she was holding a large file with the name James Jones written on it. Mr. Jones couldn’t decide if he was more confused, or more terrified. With shaking hands he opened the file to find 6 different pages, all had his picture at the left hand corner of the page. It was him, but each photo had a slightly different hairstyle and attire.
“What is this?” he asked. His voice was trembling.
“This is my last attempt at saving you.” said Mrs. White. “What you are looking at, is you. You don’t know this, but you’ve come to us before. Six times, actually. When the first James Jones came to us with the same offer you came with today, I was shocked. He was the only man ever that wanted our services not to escape, but to die. I guess it is escaping in a sense… We argued, but finally I agreed to clone him and let him kill himself. I immediately regretted the decision, but the thought that his, your, family and the clone that I made would live peacefully calmed me down. I was wrong. After only a few months the first clone we made found out about our services and came to ask for the exact same thing.
“The first clone?” asked Mr. Jones
“He was saying the same things the original James was saying,” she continued “That he doesn’t want to live anymore. I again tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t listen. We cloned him too, and he shot himself. And again, like clockwork, a few months later came the new James to ask for the same thing. I’ve realized that no matter what I do or how I try to help, you will always come back. And it kills me, James. Killing you over and over kills me. Even though you are the 6th James Jones, this is the first time I ever brought you here. I wanted to make sure this time you knew what you were doing, and was hoping, maybe this time, maybe after seeing this, you would stop this cycle and say no.
“Now, do you still want to do this?”
Her teary eyes were pleading him to agree and change this course of events. She looked twenty years younger, almost childlike. Mr. Jones was wondering how it was possible for him to feel that much pain in his life, if his life wasn’t really his. How was it possible to have all those memories in his brain if he was walking on this earth for only a few months, and not 44 years. He imagined all those other clones that came to see Mrs. White, the conversations they had, the different ways she was trying to save them. Was this bound to happen with every clone or was it just him? At the end, every clone will suffer one way or another. The clones are bound to live the life the humans didn’t want. His mind traveled to the small parts of the brain, where long lost memories are hidden. He remembered his mother, it was just a faint memory of her smiling. Was that real? Is it all real? Then he gazed up from the papers and looked at Mrs. White, directly in the eyes and soul. He realized then that the real question he should be asking is, does it really matter?