The Buried Children's Club
by James Edward O'Brien
I crawl into the front cab to find my sunglasses melted on
the dashboard. I'd had the trailer A/C routed into the sleeper
all morning. I'd forgotten how ruthless high noon is out here. I
fry my hand trying to crank down the window.
I slide a mitten over my fingers. Pry open the passenger's
side door. The guardrail wavers behind the oven-hot air.
I could just as easily have bundled up and slept in back
with Maude, but the payload gives me the creeps. I collect the
unwanted children the second time around.
It was a bad idea hatched in a hoity-toity fertility clinic
that caters to artifacts that breed late in life--the nannied
class--who treat childrearing like some vanity project.
The Buried Children's Club dupes offspring shortly after
conception. They raise the duplicates in tandem with the genuine
article. An entire colony housed in a derelict tourist trap off
Vieques, a stone's throw from where the Navy tested bombs toward
the end of the twentieth century.
The dupes are stowed away for a rainy day. Premature death.
Abduction. Accident. Suicide. When death calls, we're a call away
with a carbon copy of your lost loved one. As they mature, dupes
have an all-access pass to the webcams, home movies, digital
diaries, and social media feeds of their host families to ensure
seamless replacement. God bless nanotechnology.
Dupes come out of the box right where the deceased left off,
not knowing any better: well-tanned, well-behaved golems. We
peddle in the world's most expensive security blankets. The catch
is that the end product is not who you've lost, but a facsimile.
An approximation that is fine for some and better than the real
thing for others.
I'm saddled with the unsatisfied lot. The returns-to-sender.
My job is part long-haul transport, part customer relations.