Story: Almost You

Jacob was decanted today. Four hours, waiting in the clinic for him to get out of the tank. God knows rebirth is never easy but we’ve done it often enough that I don’t see why there needs to be such a fuss made. The important thing is that we make sure the shuttle company pays the compensation. The claim investigators aren’t certain what went wrong yet but it looks like the explosion was caused by a freak micrometeorite strike rupturing a fuel line. The shuttles are supposed to be protected against this stuff, but this is typical of the Luna shuttle companies. More money spent on making sure your ride is comfortable and your glass is always full than on making sure the thing is actually safe.

And if I’m honest, there’s something just not right about waiting for my husband to walk out of the tank as a twenty year old, while I’m stuck in this old woman’s body. I don’t know if I’m simply jealous of his new youth or whether I’m ashamed of looking so much older than him. Whatever it is, the apparent age difference is uncomfortable. And of course there’s the knowledge that along with his new body come all the appetites of youth. I can’t complain though – last time it was me that decanted and I certainly indulged myself.

It’s so irrational that suicide isn’t covered in the terms of the clone storage banks. We pay enough! Why shouldn’t we both return together, the same age?

When Jacob finally did decant, he was so groggy and disoriented that there was no point in me being there. He was looking around as though he didn’t recognise any of us, didn’t know where he was, or even who he was. I had to say his name three times before he realised I was talking to him!

Next time, I’m not going. One of his assistants can bring him home. If it’s me decanting, I can get one of mine to bring me home. I won’t need Jacob there. Better that he concentrates on the business. We’ll probably still be mired in Chinese red tape when I next decant!


30 January 

We’ve received more death threats. Some new hard line eco-preservationist group objects to the harvesting operations on the gas giants, and the Chinese problem hasn’t gone away either.

Angelus assures me we’re safe, that his security teams are more than capable of dealing with these ecoteurs, but I’ve hired more people to watch the children anyway. It’s doubtful they’re in any danger out in the orbital colonies, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Though part of me wonders why we bother with security at all. Decanting only takes a few days, after all. If some crazy person objecting to the NewSea Project shoots me, what do I lose? A week, at most. And it’s not like the project will stop just because I’m ‘dead’. Jacob would just carry on. And if we were both killed? The project would still go ahead. The only way of properly killing us would be to destroy the clone banks.

Jacob still isn’t himself yet. He’s handling business stuff fine (although irritatingly he’s left this NewSea problem for me to deal with) but he’s very vague about personal things. Sometimes he looks at me as though he doesn’t recognise me, and yesterday he was very rude about the proposal I put together to buy a controlling share in Anthem Developments. In front of the board! We’ve disagreed about things before, but we always show a united front to the board. I’d better talk to him, if I can pry him away from Susannah. She’s more than just his assistant, I’m sure of it.


03 March

Last night I dreamed about being back in the city where Jacob and I first lived together. In those four tiny rooms. I haven’t thought about that in decades. Now I can’t stop. I’ve been reminiscing all day, remembering all sorts of little details. Like how the windows were so small they hardly let any natural light in, and we ate noodles and rice for months while we saved to get a window viewscreen. When we’d bought it, we could only afford to run it for an hour a day!

What a difference the viewscreen made though! We ate breakfast looking out over the sea as the tide came in, and sat watching the sunset, pretending our water was wine. I wish I could remember which forest we chose on the viewscreen in the evenings, but it was too long ago to recall. Time obscures memory, and two centuries is a long long time. It was probably a fake one anyway. Those viewscreen companies were notorious for inventing scenes and passing them off as the real thing.

And then six months later, SmallStart suddenly took off, and we bought our first house. It’s funny, I can barely remember a thing about that house, but today the apartment is as fresh in my memory as Susannah’s smirk when I caught her in bed with Jacob last night.

She’s going to be in for a rude awakening when Jacob gets the rush of youth out of his system and starts behaving normally again.


14 March

It’s not him! Not Jacob! I don’t know who’s behind it, but somehow they’ve replaced my husband with an impostor. No wonder he wasn’t acting like himself. He wasn’t himself!

Oh, he looks like Jacob. Walks like him, talks like him, sounds like him. But he isn’t Jacob. He’s an almost-Jacob.

I’ve really lost him. Jacob is really gone. I’m alone!

All I feel right now is grief. It’s like the first time he died all over again, but now it’s permanent!

If this impostor has taken his place, how will I ever get Jacob back again?

Is it the Chinese? Those psychopaths from Natural Earth? Some new eco-terrorist group who have a problem with one of our developments? I don’t know!

All I know is that the man living in Jacob’s body is an impostor. An abomination.

The more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes. The freak shuttle accident wasn’t an accident at all. It was murder so that the impostor could take Jacob’s place! The grogginess was a cover while the almost-Jacob got his impersonation perfected. The way he didn’t recognise me at first, and didn’t register his own name! It’s so clear now. And the infatuation with Susannah. She must be part of whatever this is.

I don’t know what to do. How do you prove your husband has been replaced with an impostor? Who’s going to believe me? Who on earth can I tell that the man I’m married to isn’t the man I fell in love with? God, even reading that back sounds false. If I say that, I’ll get ‘of course not, Rebecca. People change. You’re not the person Jacob fell in love with any more either’ and that sort of useless platitude.

I need to think straight. I can’t let on that I know. I’ll talk to Angelus. He’ll have some idea what to do.


15 March

Feeling calmer today. Numb. But it helps me think. I needed to be sure.

I asked him questions, to test him. Subtle ones. I told him about the dreams I’ve been having. About the old days. He wasn’t interested. I asked him about the forest on the viewscreen. He didn’t even answer. Just shrugged and said it didn’t matter. That we had work to do. I pressed more, told him it was important to me. I asked him about SmallStart. About whether he thought it was still helping to bring people together.

“I don’t care, Rebecca,” he said. “We’ve got bigger concerns right now. The Jovian separatists blew up another one of the harvesters last week, remember? If you think the damned thing is failing, get rid of it. It’s been costing us money for decades anyway.”

That’s when I knew for certain he was an impostor. Jacob would never want to get rid of SmallStart. It’s where everything we’ve ever done began!

I still can’t believe this is happening. It must be a nightmare. It can’t be real. In a moment I’ll wake up. Jacob will be next to me, ready to comfort me.


19 March

Angelus doesn’t believe me, I can tell. But at least he’s not discounted the possibility out of hand. He’s a good man, and a good friend. My only friend, I think. Where did my friends go? Somehow, down the long years, I shed them, and now Jacob’s gone I have no-one to talk to. No-one to confide in except my head of security. An employee!

Angelus got hold of the clinic’s records of the whole process. Cloning, consciousness reinstatement, decanting, everything. They do so many checks! And the impostor passed them all. No problems indicated anywhere in the process.

I suppose that makes sense though. As Angelus pointed out, for this impostor to have been created, someone at the clinic must be involved. And that would make falsifying the checks possible.

Angelus and I have a plan. A deep scan of the impostor will reveal the truth, but we need a pretext. So Angelus will fabricate a plot to poison the almost-Jacob and I with a neurotoxin. We’ll both be scanned to make sure we haven’t been ‘contaminated’.


23 March

I am completely alone.

The almost-Jacob and I had our scans. His came back clear. Mine, however, did not. It showed ‘slight abnormal neurological activity’, according to the doctor. Not a neurotoxin, he was quick to assure me. But something out of place. Nothing to worry about long-term, but something that might get worse before I decant next.

Angelus thinks that’s why I’m saying the impostor isn’t Jacob. Very convenient, that as soon as I talk to Angelus about this, he thinks of a plan that discredits me.

I talked to the children. Told them the truth. They’re on their way back to Terra, but they don’t believe me either. They want me to see a psychiatrist. I haven’t decided yet whether I will. It would prove to them that I’m not crazy, but if Angelus is involved, as I now see he must be, he can easily find a way to get to whichever psychiatrist I see.

But maybe I should. Go along with them for now, until I figure out what to do. It will make them relax.

Oh, how I miss Jacob! I’d trade all our wealth and privelege for one more day with him. In the apartment where we started out. That’s where we were happiest, just the two of us.


22 April

I’ve been seeing the psychiatrist. I told her what was happening. I resisted for the first few sessions, but I’m so lonely. I need someone to talk to! And she is so sympathetic. Perhaps she isn’t involved, I thought.

Now I know better.

She says I have something called the Capgrass Delusion. Or ‘impostor syndrome’. It’s well named: the sufferer becomes convinced that people and objects around them have been replaced with identical impostors. They can treat it with surgery, or drugs, she says. Or we can wait until I decant next, and continue the sessions with her. I chose the sessions because that way my mind will stay clear while I decide what to do next.

It seems so plausible! I checked psychiatric texts myself, and it is a real condition. But it’s unknown these days, with the clones and the genomic treatments we all get. So which is the more likely scenario, I ask myself: that my husband has been replaced by an impostor for some unknown reason, by an unknown party, who has corrupted my head of security, my husband’s trollop assistant and our clinic? Or that I’m suffering from a condition no-one in the world has had in over three hundred years?

But then I look at the almost-Jacob and I know. I know.

It. Is. Not. Jacob.


07 June

Rebecca, if all went to plan, you’re reading this on the seventh of June, and you don’t remember any of the last six months. You’re – I’m – writing this on the twenty-fifth of May with a publish delay. Writing to my future self who has no memory of this is making my headache worse!

I came up with the perfect way to get Jacob back.

I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before! I was trying to hire an assassin to kill the almost-Jacob, when it struck me. If Jacob was replaced by an impostor when he died, then that means the whole clone bank is useless. The consciousness backups will be corrupted because they’re done daily, so if he was killed, he’d come back as the impostor anyway.

But then I remembered the failsafe that Angelus insisted we set up when the first death threats started coming in. We did it to humour him, then forgot all about it.

I guess that will be last week for you! For me, writing this now, it’s six months ago. And it hasn’t been updated since it was brought online! So if I can activate that, Jacob will be back! And I’ll be decanted as you. No memory of the last six months, but the same age as Jacob! And if it does somehow turn out that I’ve got this Capgrass thing, it won’t matter anyway, because my backup consciousness – your consciousness – will be free of it.

It’s the perfect solution.

But to achieve it, I need to destroy the clone banks and the consciousness storage. Both on-site and remote copies.

My head hurts so much.

I’ve had my brain implanted with a virus that will upload tonight when my automatic backup takes place. It will erase all the consciousnesses the clinic stores. It’s lucky, I suppose, that Jacob and we are the only clients.

I’ve also had my bones laced with explosives. It cost a pretty penny, but it’ll be worth it. Tomorrow we go to the clinic for a checkup, the impostor and I. When we get there, I’ll detonate and take the whole place out.

And that will lead to you being decanted, I hope.

Fire Susannah and Angelus. Give the children control of the business.

Take SmallStart and make it great again.

Get back to what you had with Jacob all those years ago, in that small, beautiful apartment.

I cannot wait to be you.

Good luck.

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