Finally, after having a sad but hectic week, the funeral finished. The undertakers did a proper job in a short time. Her body was cremated, and her ash, left in a stylish urn and later placed in a tiny vault in an apartment-like tombs block at the cemetery. It was then ornamented with a golden plate, with her name carved on it with superb penmanship. That tomb became her final resting place. A place for the family and friends to gather, to remember her, and show their respects.
Many of their family members and friends gathered at the funeral. A show was organized, made by photos and video clips of her, created an appealing motion picture of her life, Sandra’s life story. It started with joyful and happy photos, and videos were taken by her parents and her family members at the time of her birth in the hospital and ended with photos and a short video clip from her last moments on the hospital bed. Intriguingly, even at the last moments of her life, she appeared to be calm, and her death was portrayed as a peaceful event, as she just simply fell asleep. However, as it is customary, the organizer just cut and pasted the happy moments of her life. The sad parts were deliberately omitted. But no one, not even Michael and Paris, their daughter, complained about it. As it is part of human nature, they all wanted to just remember and cherish the happy moments of her life and nothing else.
Later, while food and beverages were being served, mourners listened to songs from long-deceased singers like Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, Madonna, Celine Dion, and Sia, as Sandra liked those old singers and their songs more than the recent ones. She used to say, ‘the current singers are too dependent on technology and have lost the art of singing.’ Apart from a few contemporary ones, Michael had a similar opinion about the current musician and singers. Many new age artists had become masters of using technology in their works but lost the essence of making a piece of art. Michael sadly recalled the latest concert he and Sandra attended, just a few months before her sickness came on the surface. A famous singer who named himself ‘DART.’ He had successfully synchronized his songs with 3D hologram projection of colorful kaleidoscopic patterns all over the concert hall, a fantastic and mesmerizing show. Still, by eliminating 3D hologram projection technology, his songs would be categorized as average and not worthy of that much credit.
After suffering from headaches, visual disturbances, and vertigo for a period, Sandra Smith was diagnosed having a malignant brain tumor just about three years ago. Even after having two surgeries, first, to remove the tumor and later take the regrowth out, ten days ago, on Sunday 15th of February 2111, she lost her battle with this devastating disease. For Michael Smith, this was very tough. Even though less than five months ago, her doctors lost their hope and transferred her to the palliative care unit. So, Michael was supposed to be ready for the eventuality, but losing Sandra came as a great shock. He lost his friend and partner for over forty years. Now there was a void in his heart and an emptiness in his home. He didn’t have anyone to talk to or to argue with. Michael was even missing her occasional nags and complaints. He missed all the good times they had together.
The first few weeks after the funeral was very hard for Michael. He and Sandra lived faithfully together for over forty years. After a few decades of cohabitation, they gradually got used to each other and became more or less similar. They didn’t just share their space and foods, but they shared their emotions. They laughed together and cried together. After years of making the same expressions, their body language and facial expressions had also become similar. On many occasions, they had shown similar behaviors. They liked the same kinds of foods, the same type of wines, to watch the same genre of movies, or even listen to similar songs. They were completing each other. And now, without Sandra in his life, Micheal found himself incomplete.
While she was sick and in the hospital, he was frequently visiting her. And later, when she returned home, he was busy looking after her needs. But now, the home was empty. He was bored in his home, something that Michael never thought could happen in a million years. He used to say, ‘home is a place that one can do nothing for hours or even days without getting bored. I won’t get bored by staying home.’ But now, he was questioning his own longtime logic. He tried to make himself occupied by seeing friends, but they had their own agenda and things to do. Then he spent more time with his daughter Paris and granddaughter Maya, but they also had their own lives. He didn’t want to be a burden on his daughter’s family.
He tried reading books, as he used to be a bookworm in the past. Michael wasn’t in the right mood, and reading more than a few pages without losing his concentration was the most challenging thing he had ever done. After he failed to convince himself to read, he stopped trying, and his excuse was, ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’
Later, he joined the local gym and did volunteer work for a charity, but none cheered him up. He was busy but still bored with his life. Nothing filled the empty place of Sandra in his life. Finally, he accepted defeat and quitted all. He stopped trying to find a purpose for his existence. He was spending long hours sitting in his armchair, absentmindedly surfing on the virtual net. He was depressed, and he knew it, but he didn’t know what he should do about it. He could go to his doctor and ask for some pills, antidepressants. He had tried them before. They just made him lumpish and indifferent to what was going around him.
Soon two years passed. And during this time, Michael had gradually become withdrawn and inactive. Now he spent most of his time in his armchair aimlessly surfing from one virtual site to another. The programs that practically made to consume their viewers’ time and dope them into inactivity than teaching them something useful. The active fit Michael transformed into an overweight and depressed couch potato. He was showing no interest in the world around him. Michael was indifferent to his life and health and impassively passed his time, wishing death took him away.
One afternoon, while he was senselessly sitting on his armchair and passively surfing the virtual net, an advertisement attracted his attention. He had seen that ad before, but he had never paid attention to it up to that day. It had been just a white noise among all other noises. But somehow, he concentrated on the advertisement this time. A fit, handsome young Asian man in a white lab coat, while standing in front of some advanced laboratory machines in a modern-looking lab, said, ‘there is no need to mourn for the loss of your loved one anymore. In our high-tech labs, by using advanced and accelerated methods of cloning, we will bring your loved one back to life.’
This time, the advertisement and its message occupied his mind. It gave Michael a second chance to bring Sandra back to life, to be with her again. For a few days, he had accommodated the thought of bringing back his late wife. There was a debate between his rational and the emotional parts of his brain. One minute he wanted to have Sandra back, and a moment later, he found it immoral. ‘But what is morality?’ Michael asked himself. ‘It’s just a man-made concept. There is no morality and ethic without us, humans. The universe per se is moral-less.’
After a few weeks of internal debate, Michael finally decided to bring Sandra back to life. He contacted the laboratory, which was in Vietnam, as in many other countries, including his country of birth, Australia, cloning humans was strictly forbidden.
Telling no one, he withdrew his lifelong saving and booked a flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. Michael needed to have Sandra’s DNA samples and anything like photo albums and personal videos to build as a base for her clone’s memory. As he was told, they would expose the growing cloned embryo to those pictures and videos to create a base memory for her. But they warned him she might never gain all the shared memories he had with Sandra.
Seeing Sandra on the hospital-style bed in that modern and high-tech room brought tears into his eyes. It was over four years since he had lost his wife and soulmate. The clone was exactly like Sandra, the healthy Sandra, but about twenty years younger. She was casually drinking a yellowish liquid, possibly a fruit juice, through a straw. He stood at the door and watched her for a few long minutes, but crossing the door frame was a challenge to him as if a force field stopped him from entering the room. Finally, with shaking legs, Michael hesitantly walked into the room.
By the noise caused by his shoes on the immaculately clean and shining white linoleum floor, Sandra raised her head, and by seeing him, she said, ‘hello.’
Michael’s heart dropped by hearing her voice. After a moment of pausing, which sounded an eternity, he responded, ‘Hello. How are you, Sandra?’
‘I am fine. But who are you?’
He had been told she won’t have all the deceased Sandra’s memories, and he must be patient. Bits and pieces of Sandra’s memory were planted in her brain by exposing her to Sandra’s images and videos during her maturity in the incubation tank. In theory, they would work as seeds of memories, and through time she would build the rest of memories around those planted memory nuclei. But he was also warned that this was still in its experimental phase and might not work.
‘I am Michael. Don’t you remember me?’
‘Um, I have a vague memory. I don’t know!’
‘I am your husband, and we have lived together since college. Do you remember?’ Michael was cautioned about not revealing her clone nature. ‘It is better for her to believe she lost her memories or part of that in an accident. She needs to trust you. Telling the truth will destabilize her confidence.’ The chief scientist told him.
Michael sat next to her and softly grabbed her hand and said, ‘doctors believe by the time you remember everything.’
‘What happened to me?’
Michael repeated the fabricated story given to him by the institute’s psychologist. ‘you were involved in a hit and run. You were unconscious for a long time.’
‘I don’t remember anything. My mind is blank.’
‘I am no expert. But doctors believe the trauma to your head caused you to forget part of your memory. But they are optimistic. You will gain your memory back soon.’
Soon five years passed. During this time, Michael had frequently told her about the good times they had together, and as it was predicted, she developed some false memories. But she had never fully acknowledged him. Though she was physically an exact copy of Sandra, she lacked the personality and Sandra’s warmth. Although Michael was happy to have her in his life. But in reality, she was an empty shell of Sandra.
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I love this tragic story!! It's wonderful!
Thanks for your kind words
It was an interesting exercise for me to decipher your thought process as you wrote this story. Personally, I‘d have left out much of your description, e.g. the funeral. You said it was finished so there was no need to detail it. Delving into cloning, I thought of it being a rebirth, did he wait twenty some years in Vietnam before bringing her home? But sorry you said only 4 years, I cannot picture it this way. My last point lies with grammar - at times I would have chosen a different tense or preposition. I know you enjoy writing. Good luc...
Thanks for your honest words.
I love this story so much Sasan!
Thank you for your kind words
Of course!! :) I just posted my 100th story, and would love to know your feedback!
Wow, 100 stories! So I am chatting with a best seller writer in waiting. I will try to read all your stories, but not in one go.