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4.

We were now walking through the Mi-Go and their weird biomechanical constructs, having left the room through the missing fourth wall, and out into the cavernous outside.

“Their memory should be tampered with as little as possible. Maybe enough that they don’t notice that they cannot leave the resort. But only to prevent them from further harm.” I said, tersely.

“That can be arranged,” replied Suzy as we made our way down a ramp. While there were many Mi-Go going up or down, they gave us a wide berth and took short flights to avoid coming close to us. I could understand them there.

“But they need to be able to form friendships with each other and… Remember stuff. In general. They shouldn’t be stuck as the same people forever,” I continued, wracking my brain to consider all the possibilities.

“Keep in mind that the Mi-Go have cruder techniques for editing memories,” she replied. “But we can discuss their limitations later. Give me a general idea of what you want and I can translate it to the director.”

“Well… That’s important. I will base my decision on how well the people here can be treated,” I said, looking at one of the hotel rooms we were passing by while walking down a ramp. It looked well-kept and comfortable, with some kind of fake sun peeking through the blinds in imitation of a lazy afternoon.

“Have you decided who you will bring here, if you decide to go through with it?” She asked, jostling my thoughts in another, even more unpleasant direction.

“Don’t remind me,” I muttered. “How do you choose who lives and who dies in a cataclysm?”

“The most pure of heart and true of spirit? The kindest, and most compassionate souls?” She said, her voice and manner taking on a theatrical tone, belied only by her mocking grin.

“What am I, an old testament god?” I shook my head in dismay. “I barely know if even my closest family members are good people or not, how am I going to judge people I’ve never even met? Decide they deserve to live or die?”

“Just fill the resort with people who are nice to you then. Simple!” She said, shrugging. We were walking down another ramp now, and approaching the 7th floor.

“Oh, yeah. Great idea. ‘You gave me extra fries with my meal! Therefore, you get to survive the end of the world in my paradise! You, on the other hand, are guilty of cutting me off in traffic! So you can remain on the old world and die horribly!’ Yeah, that sounds like better plan.” I rubbed the back of my neck nervously with my hand. “Damn, I need to save people of different nationalities too... Think of the different languages and cultures could be lost if I don’t! Is this a noah’s ark situation?”

“Or you could save yourself the trouble and fill the resort with sexy women and no men except you,” she suggested.

My eyes practically bulged out of their sockets as I stared at her, opening and closing my mouth furiously, speechless in my disbelief.

“What?” She asked, grinning. “I won’t judge.”

“Absolutely not,” I replied at last. Shaking my head, I turned away from her. “If you’re not going to be serious about this, I’m not discussing it with you.”

Suzy let out an amused snort. “It’s funny to see you torturing yourself over having so much power. Most people would kill for the chance of choosing who lives and who dies in an end of the world scenario.”

“Most people are dumb, and want dumb things,” I retorted.

“Great, kill all the dumb people.” She was no longer paying attention to me, looking around the cave and craning her neck.

“I should be the first one to die then,” I grumbled in reply.

She ignored my last comment and grinned, looking down at the floor below us. “Found the director! Let’s have a chat.” She grabbed my hand and picked up her pace, dragging me down the rest of the ramp and then taking a path amidst large half-shells made of chitin where weird-looking white bubbles were stored and tended to. The bubbles were filled with a thick white liquid, but I noticed with some alarm that a few of the bubbles had people in them. I could see but their shadows within the bubbles, but the two legs, two arms and general shape were unmistakable.

“What’s with the people in the pods?” I asked, eyes growing wide in alarm, but she did not bother answering me, going around them before reaching a stop next to a group of Mi-Go who were crowding around a construct that had tentacles sprouting from one of the sides. These tentacles were intertwined with the ones on the head of the Mi-Go in the center of the group. All others turned to Suzy, whose head predictably exploded into another mass of tentacles so she could talk with them. I stood next to her, awkwardly fidgeting as their tentacles twitched and undulated in silent conversation. My eyes wandered to the fake hotel and resort, reminding me once again of my old terrarium.

“Bored?”

I turned back to Suzy and realized that, while my back was turned, she had put Wolfy on her hand, which was now facing me while the rest of her body faced the Mi-Go. It was eerie to hear the puppet talking and reacting to me while its puppeteer had no mouth our eyes.

“To answer your question,” Wolfy continued, “the Mi-Go are growing new people to test the facility. We don’t have to keep them if you don’t want to, this is just temporary.”

I looked back at where the pods stood, now hidden behind other chitinous growth and other stange Mi-Go constructs, while mulling over what Wolfy had told me.

Growing new people?” I asked, eventually.

“Yeah,” Wolfy nodded. “They find people on earth they want to bring to their conservation unit and then they copy them. From their DNA to their brain patterns and memories, even their possessions. Perfect copies in every way… Well, aside from a little fungus they add in the brain that allows the Mi-Go to remove troublesome memories on the fly.” Wolfy’s sock mouth twisted into a grin. “But that’s a tiny technical detail. As far as they’re concerned, they’re as real as you and me.” So spoke the sock puppet of a wolf.

I stared back at it in silence, digesting this new information. “They clone people,” I said, breaking the silence.

“Yep,” replied Wolfy. Suzy’s tentacle head was still communicating with the other Mi-Go, and one seemed to get more agitated, taking erratic half-steps backwards and forwards and to the sides as its tentacles danced, just as erratically. Was that fear? Happiness? Anger?

“So all the people we would save, in this resort. All the people we bring here. They’re actually clones? Are the original people still stuck back on Earth as they die?”

“If you prefer, we can kill them there and then copy them here. Would that help?” Asked Wolfy. “Then it’s exactly the same as teleporting them here. Just like Star Trek! I use a similar method when transporting us to another place!”

“You’re not helping,” I muttered, crossing my arms while frowning. Looking back at the hotel, I could see people idly moving here and there. Some in their rooms, others outside at a swimming pool or playing tennis. If they noticed the fake sun glowing above them, suspended by sturdy-looking black cables, they didn’t show it in any way. They were quite distant, but I could still see their body language. They seemed relaxed, and untroubled.

“Look at them,” said Wolfy, pointing with its muzzle at the hotel guests. “Would you go to their faces and tell them they matter less than other people because they’re just copies?”

“I… Suppose not,” I replied, but my frown stayed in place while I rubbed my arms. It was not cold, yet I still felt goosebumps on my arms. “This deal keeps getting worse all the time,” I grumbled.

“Not hiding anything,” Wolfy added, a touch defensively. “Just getting you used to things around here little by little so you give it place a fair chance. I mean, a real estate agent doesn’t start a house tour by showing the meth lab in the basement, does he now?”

“Hmm,” was my eloquent reply. There was a brief silence, which I broke by wondering out loud, “I just wonder what is the next piece of bad news you’re going to give me. Do they feed defective clones to a torture monster? Do they use seals as fuel for the cloning machines? Or babies? Or baby seals, maybe?”

“Oi, there’s no need to be so dramatic!” Wolfy shook its head, and somehow managed to roll its one googly eye. “You’re pretty much caught up to speed now. The Mi-Go clone people and put the clones in these conservation units. Some are not very nice places, but this is… Yep. That’s pretty much it. No more surprises.”

The conversation with the Mi-GO seemed to reach a conclusion, and Suzy reverted to her human face, while the Mi-Go gathered close, turning towards the hotel. Wolfy paused, turning its head as if listening to something. Then he turned back to me and said, “actually, forget I just said that. The director said for us to follow him. He has a surprise for you.”

I looked back at the puppet, who turned away sheepishly. I don’t know how a puppet managed to look embarrassed, but Wolfy managed it.

“Yeah, talk about bad timing, huh?”Said Wolfy, awkwardly filling the silence.

I just stared at him some more.

First we were led closer to the hotel and its missing fourth wall. The Mi-Go surrounded us, but most gave a wide berth to me and Suzy, while one ran ahead and seemed to silently communicate with her. She had her tentacled head again, and so her right hand still sported Wolfy, while I followed behind her, looking uncertain. We walked down another ramp until reaching a hotel room on the fifth floor. This room had a kitten curled up on the bed, sound asleep.

“Behold! A kitten, just for you!” Said Wolfy, stretching its tiny arms as wide as it could in an attempt at a grand gesture.

“Oh. That’s… Not too bad actually, as far as surprises go” I said, with a mixture of relief and confusion. “But why a kitten?”

“Well, you have understand that the Mi-Go don’t really have the best grasp of human culture and psychology. They believe humans worship cats and dogs as primitive gods, so they’re giving this kitten, the most powerful manifestation of these gods, as a gift .”

“Well, they’re not entirely wrong,” I said, a note of humor entering my voice.

“Huh, don’t know what’s so great about cats myself. What’s wrong with wolves, huh? Wolves are cool,” said Wolfy, looking away disdainfully.

“Well, it’s very nice of the Mi-Go to...” I started before Wolfy cut me off.

“But there’s MORE!”

“Huh?” I asked.

“There are more surprises!” Explained Wolfy, and suddenly everyone was moving again. “Come on, check out the next room!”

We walked on the outside platform following the resort, where the next hotel room could be seen through its missing wall. In it sat a man that looked vaguely familiar, although I could not quite place from where. He was using a laptop and paid us no mind, despite most of our group being alien beings with six limbs and one being a woman with tentacles for a head and holding a yellow sock puppet of a wolf. We were all safe behind the fourth wall, and he could not perceive us..

After a brief pause, I looked at Wolfy and asked, “who’s this?”

“Behold!” Said Wolfy with another attempt at a gesture. “Donald J. Qalls! One of the greatest actors and celebrities in the entirety of the Human world!”

“What?” Was my confused response. I looked at Wolfy, then back at the man, who did not seem any more recognisable than before.

“He was in Breaking Bad?” Suggested Wolfy. “Lost? Played Garth Fitzgerald IV in Supernatural? Was nominated by the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, along with the crew, for Hustle and Flow?”

“Ok?” I said, looking back at the man, who I could now remember, although vaguely. “Why is he here then?”

“Well...” Started Wolfy with another grand gesture, which quickly deflated. “I’ll be honest, kid. I have no idea why they cloned and brought him here. Apparently the Mi-Go think he’s a big deal.”

“Oh. Well, that’s a nice… Sentiment. I can have a chat with him later, I guess...”

“BUT! There’s MORE!” Interrupted Wolfy again.

“Alright, enough! How many more surprises are there?” I crossed my arms and sighed impatiently.

“There’s four in total, so two more to go. Come on!” Beckoned the puppet.

Once more, everyone started moving towards the next hotel room. This time it was a very attractive young woman as the occupant. She was doing some squats in a portable yoga mat in the middle of the room, and once again ignored us completely.

“Oh! I think I recognize her, actually. She’s, erm...” And at that my voice died strangled in my throat, once I realized where I recognized her from. Wolfy, ever so helpful, finished my sentence for me.

“Behold! Your favorite porn actress!” He paused and looked at her again, while I stammered a flustered, incoherent response. “I guess they looked at your internet history to find that one out. Huh, not what I imagined, but...”

“W-why the fuck would they do that?!” I managed to spit out at last, my cheeks flushing crimson with indignation and embarrassment.

“Maybe they thought you would be happy to see a familiar face?” Replied Wolfy, leering at me despite lacking teeth, eyebrows or indeed much in the way of expression. But he managed it, regardless.

“Fuck’s sake!” I exploded. “Why the hell does everyone here implies I’m some pervert that thinks only with his dick? Did I ever give that impression to you? What the fuck!”

“Maybe it’s their roundabout way of saying you need to get laid...” Began Wolfy.

“No! Enough of this! Let’s see this fourth surprise and get this done with!” I shouted back before stomping to the next room, followed by the other Mi-Go and the Queen in Yellow with her yellow puppet. And at the fourth room I saw…

I saw myself.

I saw myself enter the room while carrying my luggage, along with a bellhop helping carry another luggage, which he left by the door. I saw myself give him a tip, a smile and a wave, before the bellhop left, closing the door behind him and leaving me alone in the room. I saw myself look at the room in wonder, eyes and teeth shining with excitement, before I flopped on the bed with a satisfied grunt. It felt soft and smelled clean, as the mattress adjusted to the shape my body. I was happy to be here.

“Yeah. Behold. They made a clone of you,” said Wolfy, following behind me. No attempt at a grand gesture this time. “His memory’s been tampered with, so he doesn’t remember anything in the past month or so. This lets you see exactly how you would react, if you had no idea the Mi-Go or the King in Yellow stuff existed. They thought it would help you decide, if you had an unbiased source as close to yourself as possible.”

“Oh,” I said, as I watched myself lie on the bed, idly reaching inside my pocket for my cell phone, which I flipped open and started configuring the Wi-Fi. Then I got up and went to the desk, looking for the password. I had no dead girlfriend, no memories of the people I killed, or the people who died before me, on that night at the theater. No weight of the world on my shoulders. My biggest concern now was the password of the hotel Wi-Fi. I didn’t even notice my other self and the aliens crowding just outside his perception, on the other side of a wall that did not exist. And as I watched myself, I felt my heart pounding in my chest as my anger grew.

“Ok. Not a fan, I can see that,” said Wolfy. “No problem. I can tell the Mi-Go to transfer him somewhere else, immediately. You won’t see him again, don’t worry!”

“Transfer him?” I asked. My voice sounded quiet to me, almost drowned out my the drumbeat of my heart. “Somewhere else?”

“Yeah...” He paused and turned back to the Mi-Go, who were communicating with Suzy’s tentacle head once more. Then, slowly, he translated. “It looks like they really want to research you. Nothing gruesome! They’re just curious why I’m showing such an interest on you, and want to figure it out and run some tests and experiments. Heh, bless their scientific little minds.”

“No more clones of me,” I said, not taking my eyes off myself.

“Hey, don’t take this the wrong way. They thought they were helping you...”

“No more clones of me,” I repeated.

Wolfy paused again, turning away towards the Mi-Go as their tendrils wriggled in their unfathomable dance.

“Fine,” Wolfy said. “Alright, no more clones. But they still want to keep this one for experiment purposes. They’re transferring him to another unit, so don’t worry. Out of sight, out of mind, right?”

“No...” I replied. “Leave him here.”

“Oh?” Wolfy cocked its head inquisitively, and even Suzy’s body turned towards me, her tentacles now barely moving as they surrounded that gaping, black hole where her face should be. I felt their attention on me, Suzy and Wolfy (weren’t they the same?) as well as the other Mi-Go, all waiting for my reaction.

“Leave him here. It will help me decide if we should use this place to rescue humanity,” I explained. Then I looked back at myself, sitting in the sofa and still surfing the web on my phone. “Besides… He seems happy here.”

“Well, alright. If that’s what you want,” said Wolfy, as the Queen in Yellow translated my wishes to the others. I watched them intently, despite not understanding what they said.

They were alien, in every sense of the word. They did not even understand me, or humanity for that matter. They didn’t mean any harm.

But that doesn’t mean I would let them use me as a guinea pig, without any freedom or dignity. Without even understanding that he was a plaything, a manufactured creature for a specific purpose. A fake actor using fake props on a fake set. Worse, they made me obliviously happy, even as they experimented on me.

There was no other choice. I would have to kill myself.

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Mike Spivak

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