This story is by Kayla Aldan and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Today is June 30, 2017. If you’re reading this electronic post, this is the first message I’ve managed to get out in thirty years, five months, and twenty-three days. My name is Dr. Arnold Ryan Stevens, and I was a genetics professor at Stanford University in the 1980s. I received my Bachelors and Masters from Johns Hopkins University and then earned my Doctorate from Harvard. By 1986, I had successfully cloned mice, a cat, a pig, and a horse. I was internationally recognized for making pioneering advancements in genetics and cloning before I was kidnapped.
At this point, it’s probable you’re asking yourself how you’ve never heard of me. An internationally recognized professor at the top of his field goes missing, and you don’t remember hearing about it, right? You’d tell me that you remember hearing about Dolly, the sheep, being cloned in the 90s because cloning her was the biggest advancement in the field. Wrong.
I was kidnapped by the United States government, and every trace of my existence was erased from history because they “needed” me for one of their classified research projects. Don’t ask me how they did it–one day everyone knows who I am, then the next my own mother doesn’t even remember giving birth to me, nor does she have any proof that I ever existed.
So, let me tell you about the classified research for which I’ve been exploited. I expect that, even though I’ve written this and sent it out into the world, no one will ever know because all traces of it will be eliminated before anyone can read it. But, if by some chance, you do read this, share this story with everyone you can. I was tasked with making a clone of every deceased US president.
Before I continue, you need to know that cloning does not work the way you think it does. I cannot take a strand of your hair and magically create an exact copy of you so you can be in two places at once. With a strand of your hair, I would extract your DNA and inject it into an egg from which the genetic material has already been removed. If the cells divide normally, the egg would be transferred into the uterus of a surrogate mother. Your clone would gestate for nine months before being expelled into the world the same way your were, and it would be x number of years younger than you. So if you’re fifty years old when you donate your DNA to create a clone and everything is successful, nine months later there would be a screaming infant who is genetically identical to you, but that baby would not be you. Here’s an example with which you’re likely familiar–identical twins share the same DNA, but they are not the same person. Each twin has thoughts, emotions, experiences and such separate from the other. Your clone is your identical twin, a genetic copy, but he or she is not you. Try explaining this to the government.
No matter what you do, George Washington’s clone will never be one of our founding fathers nor our first president. His clone has grown up in a day when things are drastically different, and he has never left the underground maze that is the lab and our living quarters. He was born in 1990 along with thirty-four other presidents. We’re celebrating a lot of twenty-seventh birthdays this year. Also, Richard Nixon will be turning twenty-two, Ronald Reagan will be twelve, and Gerald Ford will be ten.
Now I imagine you’re wondering why the US government would want to clone its deceased presidents, and I can tell you that that information is classified–not even I have clearance to know the motivations of those in charge. What I can tell you is my best guess–they want to interview the clones about about the lives of the men from whom they’re descended, which if (unlike the government) you have listened to me, you know that it doesn’t work like that.
These young men are not our former presidents. The presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were father and son; their clones were born on the same day, and clone John Quincy Adams is four hours older. These two are also three days older than clone George Washington. Clones Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, and Grover Cleveland were premature.
Clone Thomas Jefferson has been passionate about scribbling profanities on every wall he can since he was thirteen, with his most notable having been carved into the longest wall. When they were fifteen, clones Millard Fillamore and Franklin Pierce managed to convince the others to choose sides in order to start a war that escalated fast enough to require military intervention. Clone Andrew Jackson has been caught 173 times trying to escape–he once made it as far as the building lobby before anyone caught him. After he was brought back to the lab, he started a movement to get the others to band together in pursuit of freedom. That was five years ago.
There have been eleven organized escape attempts since the day Jackson saw live birds through the lobby’s glass doors, with each attempt ending with the clones being tranquilized and returned to the lab. These men know the history of the United States of America in elaborate detail, and they know that this country was founded on freedom. I’m in my late sixties and have spent the second half of my life underground watching thirty-eight young men grow up. I’m tired. These young men have spent their entire lives in a spacious underground prison, and they are fighting for their freedom–to pursue their dreams, to breathe fresh air, to feel sand between their toes, to experience what they’ve never known because they know there’s so much more outside of this laboratory’s walls. I know I will die here, but I hope they get their freedom.