Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Almost everyone thought the man and the boy were father and son. Their resemblance was strong, and even their mannerisms hinted at a parent-child relationship. They both cocked their heads the same way when listening, got the same faraway look in their eyes when they were thinking very hard. But Bant had the bearing and self-assurance that could only come from years of experience, while the boy was just that: a boy. His face was smooth and always ready with a smile, his eyes were brighter than Bant's, and he walked with that boyish swagger that hinted at energy barely held in reserve.

But Bant and the boy weren't father and son. Their DNA was identical down to the last chromosome. Or close enough that it didn't make much difference. The boy was Bant's twin brother, who bore the unfortunate name of Clone.

It wasn't that their parents were out of naming creativity when Clone was born; the decision had simply been out of their jurisdiction. It hadn't even been their decision to allow Clone to live. He simply... was. One day, he was just one of the multiple embryos frozen in a tube, and the next... he was a squalling baby in a lab. Of course, once his parents had discovered about the boy's existence, they had been outraged. But by the time that secret had come out, Clone was already eight, and the moniker had stuck. Oh, his parents had tried to give him a more appropriate name-- had tried several, in fact-- but it always came down to whether or not he would respond, and he simply wouldn't. Appropriate or not, his name was Clone.

Clone didn't hate his parents, but he didn't seem to really love them-- not the way Bant did. Then again, at ten years old, he hadn't had nearly as much time with them as Bant had at 25 years. The tension of Clone's relationship with their parents had finally been lifted when Bant graduated from college with a degree in architectural design, moved permanently out of his parents' house, and taken Clone to live with him instead.

They didn't really talk much; they didn't need to. Maybe it was their almost-identical genetic structure; twins often did have connections and understandings of that type, after all. Maybe they just didn't want to talk. Either way, they were both happy with the arrangement. They coexisted; it was enough for both.

The bus accident took them both by surprise.

It was nobody's fault, really. An unseasonable snowstorm had left a blanket of snow three inches deep on the ground, and the sky had spat down ice afterward, turning the normally-temperate Tennessee ground into a crust of white crispiness. In a city where snow only came once a year (or even once every three years) this was a big deal. And despite the city employees' valiant efforts to plow and salt the roads well, black ice still dotted the pavement, and it was a patch of that Bant and Clone's bus hit. It spun out of the driver's control, practically flew across a shallow ditch in the median, and tried to merge its front with the concrete sign of the hospital.

Everyone on the bus wound up either in the ICU or the morgue. The bus itself was totaled. The concrete sign came away unharmed.

Clone was in better shape than Bant was. He was awake when their parents showed up, fawning and gasping and nearly crying at the thought of the accident. Bant was still in the emergency room being poked and prodded and whatever else had to be done with him, so Clone was alone with his parents. One of the doctors asked to speak with the two adults outside the room, but that didn't stop Clone from getting out of the bed and limping in agony to the door to hear, dragging the machine attached to him behind him. Lucky for him it was on a cart with wheels. It took longer than he would have liked to get to the door, but at least he could hear out there.

"...severe damage to both his kidneys. I'm afraid the damage is irreparable. Unless we can get at least one transplanted, he'll have to be on dialysis indefinitely, and that is, in my personal opinion, no way to live. He's still so young..."

Mother stifled a sniff. "What do you suggest?"

"Well, the waiting list for organ donations is long, as I'm sure you've heard through the media. We do have a perfect match in his brother, but I would need permission to proceed down that path. And you're the ones with the power to make that decision."

Give his brother a kidney. Clone supposed he could do it, if it would save Bant's life. He wasn't really even supposed to be alive anyway. Why not take advantage of his existence and help Bant live? Whatever decision his parents wanted to make, Clone would make sure his own decision was the one that was followed. He limped his way back to the bed.

So when they came back in, seeing him lying just as they left him, awake and quiet but alert, he waited for them to bring up the subject. They had to, sooner or later.
Father wasn't one to beat around the bush. "We have to talk to you about the accident, and about treatment."

"I'll give it to him," Clone blurted, immediately turning red. So much for playing it cool and reasonable. Now they knew he had been listening. "How soon can we do it?"

His parents exchanged a significant look, but neither of their expressions showed even a bit of anger at his eavesdropping. Did Mother tear up more, though?

"It's not as simple as that, Clone," Father said finally. "You... can't give him a kidney. I'm not sure exactly how much you heard, but... well... you're the one who needs a kidney. And Bant is... well..."

Mother took a shaky breath. "Bant isn't coming home, Clone." Her smile was forced, intended to comfort a ten-year-old even though she needed the comfort more.

And Clone understood. He would be getting two kidneys, both perfect matches.

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