> Seth Underwood Stories: USRM-ISB Installment 6, Fran and the Blind Obelisk (est. read time 9 min.)

USRM-ISB Installment 6, Fran and the Blind Obelisk (est. read time 9 min.)

Location- Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

In a future time, the polar ice caps will melt as the result of prolonged global warming. It will change the shape of America, and a new global weather pattern will evolve making most of the U.S. a dry savanna. The economic stress of all this will push state budgets over the edge and many will turn to the legalization of drugs to help fund their failing budgets. In the meantime, humanity will choose a new sexual existence through the use of a surrogate birthing android.

My name is Fran. I’m an eukaryotic clone because I’m made up of DNA information from both of my mothers. I was gestated in and born from an A-4 Surrogate Android. I live in Strong City, Kansas. I used to live with my two mothers, Haha and Mom, in part of the reclaimed water front in Chicago along Lake Michigan. Haha was a young Japanese aristocrat; Mom was a white American business executive. They never talked about how they came to know each other, but there was a falling out between them and I ended up moving out to Kansas with Mom when I was ten. At fifteen I had to drop out of online high school to help support both of us due to Mom’s drug habits. I’m twenty-six now and have been stuck in this dead end town all this time with Mom. All I do is work and watch movies on the Social Media Net. My life is so boring, and the people here in Kansas hate clones so no one likes me. Everyone found out I was a clone when I was enrolled in online school here. I hated the online bullying. I’m glad I left school, but I still get called names as I walk to work by jerks in their self-driving cars.

I’ve lost track of Haha since moving to Kansas, and I recently buried Mom in the local cemetery. I’m working at the only place with any business, the local liquor and drug emporium on Cottonwood Street. Ever since the legalization of opium and heroin in Kansas, people don’t care anymore, but maybe this is just me. I know Mom didn’t care near the end of her life while being an addict.

But my life has turned for the better. I met Jon as a customer at my work. He didn’t buy anything, but he wasn’t rude like other drug heads who call me fake human. He’s thin, has black hair, and the oddest set of amber eyes I have ever seen. I’ve been hanging out with him after work. It’s not like we are dating or anything, but Jon can be so old fashioned. For instance, he will not let me pay for any of my food. It’s cute. He has his own self-driving car, and it’s one of those Japanese speaking four door sports models. Jon said he was in town for a few days on business. I asked what kind of business, and he said it had to do with transportation.

I don’t know why, but when I’m with Jon, I would tell him my entire uninteresting life story. Jon cared and listened. He helped me with the filing of Mom’s estate while he was here. He said he had to do it for his parents who both died in a tragic self-driving car accident in Massachusetts. Jon says he knew Haha before she had me while he worked in Chicago, but I don’t see how. We both appear to be the same age. Sometimes he makes little sense. I wonder if he’s doing drugs?

The other day Jon said he and Haha were members of the Church of the Ember Coalition. I never recall either of my mothers talking about a Church. Neither of them were religious. I recall hearing the arguments between them when I was ten, but I don’t recall what it was about. All I remember is one day, me and Mom left for Kansas. She said nothing about why we left Chicago and never while we lived in Kansas. She didn’t even have any pictures of Haha in the house. It was like Chicago never existed. She wouldn’t talk about it no matter how hard I asked.

Jon said Mom was just trying to protect me from part of the Church known as the Blind Obelisk. He said Mom was trying to hide me because the Blind Obelisk wants me dead. What Jon was saying sounded so stupid. I know Mom moved us to Strong City because it’s so out of the way. We have the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve here. Acres of nothing but dull grass everywhere, like most of Kansas. The Preserve is where weirdo botanists go and then they buy opium while they’re here. Maybe Mom thought Strong City was safer than Chicago.

One night I asked Jon why the Blind Obelisk would want me dead. Jon told me I was a special clone. He said it was because the main Church had engineered me to cross over into the “spirit biosphere” and this was against the Blind Obelisk’s goals. As a clone I know I’m engineered. Every clone knows they’ve had modifications done to them. For instance, I have blue eyes, and neither of my mothers had blue eyes. Haha was Japanese and I have no Japanese facial features. My parents programmed the surrogate android to make me look a certain way so someone would accept me. Jon tried to explain Haha used a special genetic program from the main Church so I could cross over where the dead go after this life. When he gets talking like this its sounds like he’s tripping.

During a recent weekend Jon was helping me pack up Mom’s stuff. He is so helpful unlike the clone hating drug heads around here. While helping me, he showed me this drug that looked like street heroin dip and dab. Jon said it was “medicine” that would activate my “spirit genes.” He said he got the medication from another part of the Church called the Black Earth Order. I told him I wasn’t interested in doing drugs. He seemed disappointed at my refusal, but Jon didn’t push the issue the rest of the weekend.

One day after work, Jon picked me up in his self-driving car like usual. But instead of going somewhere to eat or back to my apartment he had the car drive to the abandon Fox Creek School on Route 177. We got out, and I swung on the old swings. Jon showed me the so called “medicine” again. I told him I didn’t want to try street experiment heroin or whatever it was. That’s when he said it wasn’t anything like that. It was this special gene activation chemical. He called it Sumamunex or was it Summunex? I can’t remember. It sounded so strange. I was used to the store’s street names we labeled things like red chicken, schmack and Judas. Jon explained he had been at Strong City too long and he would leave soon. He wanted me to try the “medicine” before he left. I asked him to take me back to my apartment.

When we got to his car, that’s when he grabbed me and shoved me into the backseat. I thought he would rape me or kidnap me. Like all this nice stuff was just a show so I would try some new street drug. Then I heard what I thought was gunfire in the distance. Jon got into the driver’s seat and had the self-driving car speed down Route 177 and then he turned the car into the entrance of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. I looked behind us; there was this black Mini-SUV following us.
I demanded from Jon to tell me what the hell was going on, and he said the Blind Obelisk had found us. I couldn’t believe what was going on. I was in the back seat of an actual car chase, just like in the net movies. Everything that was taking place was so cool. Jon was right, there was this group after me.

That’s when I heard gunfire. It was a rapid firing high pitched sound. Not like the long guns people would shoot off into the air from time to time. I couldn’t believe it. I was in a car chase, and the other car was shooting at us. I couldn’t contain myself and kept screaming with excitement despite Jon yelling at me to shut up.

I know this sounds stupid, but during the car chase I did something I thought I wouldn’t do. When Jon shoved me into the back seat he had tossed the “medicine” in with me. In my excitement, I grabbed it and injected it into my thigh. I thought this drug would give me super clone powers, like in my favorite super hero net movie. Then I would bust out of Jon’s car and go ape shit on the bad guys chasing us. The next thing I remember was Jon yelling something at me; then there were all these colors and some racoon saying “not yet.” After that I must have blacked out because the next thing I knew I was lying in the grassy field of the Preserve with Jon smacking me awake.

My head was pounding and my cheeks were sore from Jon’s slaps. I sat up and Jon told me he lost the Blind Obelisk for now, but they could be back any moment. Jon questioned me on my experience with the “medicine.” It disappointed me I had no super powers, and I was feeling sick to my stomach. I’ve never done drugs before, and it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It was like I wasn’t even here. Like a part of me was somewhere else. And in that somewhere else was this racoon talking. It was so unreal; I hurled on Jon’s shoes.

Jon said he knew two other clones who had similar experiences with the “medicine,” but I had gone the furthest by being out the longest. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Since knowing Jon my previous life seems so flat in comparison. Maybe Mom was trying to shield me by moving out here to Kansas, but excitement still found me. What if I was more than just a clone clerk at a liquor and drug emporium? What if I’m the chosen one of some wacko Church group? Created to be the first human to travel to the land of the dead and come back?

Jon dropped me off at my apartment. I asked if he wanted to stay the night, but Jon said he had to go. The Black Obelisk had found him here in Strong City; and his presence would make things more dangerous. I asked if I could go with him, but he said it would be too complicated. Jon told me he was a seventy-five-year-old clone and was part of the same Church experiment. He didn’t look seventy-five. He looked like twenty-six. I wondered if he was a vampire like in those old horror net movies. Although he wasn’t afraid of sunlight. So maybe not. Jon said they altered his genes so that aging would stop in his mid-twenties. That’s so cool. I hope my genes are like that. To be twenty-six for the rest of my life would be so dope. Jon said it’s not as fun as it sounds. Well he’s not a girl, so I would love to stop aging right about now. What woman wants to be old? Jon you’re a dipstick!

So Jon left that night, and my boring life began again. Jon thought I would be safer if I stayed hidden in Strong City with a boring life than one of car chases and experimental drugs. Playing it safe is all I had been doing my entire life, and what did it get me? Losing Haha and burying Mom to drug addiction. I wanted excitement like in the net movies. Like what I had just experienced. How was I going to fulfill the wacko Church’s mission if I’m stuck in boring land Kansas? Jon explained before he left he had seen too many clones die at the hands of the Blind Obelisk, and me staying was just the better choice. Maybe he was right. I don’t want to die, but maybe the Church’s experiment would mean I could come back to life like an old school zombie? I could be like this undead clone that couldn’t be killed with limbs that could be hacked off and then reattached. That would be so dope.

The next morning, I went back to work at the liquor and drug emporium selling legalized heroin and opium to the clone hating addicts of Strong City, Kansas.

It would be on my way home that night as I was walking down the street that a black Mini-SUV pulled up, and a man jumped out with a gun. You know it’s a weird sensation being shot in the head. There’s this high pitched ping followed by a loud ringing sound. After that I felt this tight pressure above my eyes followed by the warmth of blood. That’s when everything got blurry followed by some flashes of light and darkness. Then there was the most incredible pain I had ever felt in the back of my head.

After that I remember seeing the talking racoon in the scrub grass of the Preserve. She said I had to go north. I asked if we were going to Chicago. The talking racoon said no, but we would see both my mothers soon. The racoon told me Haha had passed away five years ago. Wow, I didn’t even know this. The things you find out when you die.

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