The first thing you notice is a red leather bag, propped casually against a steel frame chair. The bag is creased and worn, and large enough to hold a basketball.
You take a moment to survey the walls, but nothing is as interesting as the empty, red, leather bag. A one way window covers most of one wall, a dusty chalkboard takes up most of another. There are two steel chairs, facing each other in the middle of the room: both spartan, both unoccupied, both uninteresting. It’s when you begin to think about pounding on the big, one-way mirror, that the bag moves.
It’s a subtle movement, all too easily dismissed as imagined, except the red leather bag moves again, and you get the distinct impression that it’s scooting around to face you. Red leather bags don’t have faces, you remind yourself, even ones as care worn as this. You’re wondering exactly how old the red leather bag is, when it moves again, this time hoping to a rest directly at your feet. And because you’re more bored than you are scared, you bend down to pick it up. You turn it over and over in your hands, give it a good shake. You’re not afraid of any dumb bag.
The bag is light, which surprises you, because it looks heavy. The fittings have the appearance of dense metal, and the clasps seem to be made of large fragments of bone. The true distinguishing mark is a cross stitched eye, stuffed with three corneas, each a different color, sewn lovingly onto the front flap. These details run from your mind, when the bag flips itself open.
There’s nothing inside of course; only thin air could be so light. Dark, the inside of the bag is impenetrable to sight, so you cram an arm in, rummaging around for you’re not sure what. You find nothing. You wonder why you were so interested in it in the first place. You look up.
You see yourself, sitting in one of the spartan steel chairs, the red leather bag clutched protectively on your lap. There are new creases around your mouth, signs of tension across your forehead, but there’s no denying that you’re sitting across from you. You raise a hand, to wave, to offer a handshake, to see if you still can. You can’t. You look down and realize you no longer have a body. This should terrify you. It doesn’t. You feel as if you’re seeing the whole scene from behind a one way mirror. You stand up.
Or your body does, across from you. You see your body stand, you see your body lay down the red leather bag. You see your body scream. There’s no sound, but you know your body is screaming. Then it collapses, a dead insect, arms and legs twisting at obscene angles. The red leather bag lies still where it was discarded. Behind the one way mirror, the digital projections of men and women wait. And watch.
“It happens like this, sometimes,” they say. “It will self-right in the next iteration.” The process starts again.
The first thing you notice is a red leather bag, propped casually against a steel frame chair. The bag is creased and worn, and large enough to hold a human head. This iteration does not go well.
“Three is it,” they say. “This time for sure.” But they are not sure.
The first thing you notice is a red leather bag, propped intentionally against a steel frame chair. The bag is creased and worn, and large enough to fit the universe.
I should try and find a way out of here, you think, but the bag is already in your hands. You’re sitting in one of the spartan, steel chairs. You look up.
And there you are. Or there your body is, sitting across from you. Your hands are on your lap, crossed impatiently. You’re frowning at you, or through you, or in you. You forget how to properly use prepositions, as well as other things. Something is worse. Something is terribly worse.
“I know you,” your body says, and this time you hear it. Your voice is off, far too tinny, far too far away sounding.
“I know this place too,” your body continues. “This is the birth canal. I’ve read about it on tombstones.” You don’t know what you’re saying, but you very badly wish you would shut up.
“Which means it must be your virthday. Which means this is our present. See?”
You look down, and there’s the red leather bag, staring up at you with it’s tri-part eye. But more than that: you look down and see a body, you look down, and realize you have substance again. You look up.
“Our virthday comes for me and you, now we know just what to do,” your doppelganger, still sitting across from you, still holding it’s own red leather bag, now singing and singing, never stopping. “So hold it out, believe, don’t shout, and know the worst is through.”
This is a lie, the worst is not over. You look to the side, raise a hand and wipe the remnants of chalk from the chalkboard. You feel eyes on your back, observers drilling into your skull. The chalk dust was white on the board, but the residue on your hand is tar black. It wipes off against the bag, a boiling smear.
“One more time,” the people behind the mirror say.
“And now we know just what to do,” you and your doppleganger finish singing. It’s a beautiful song, tears splash down your cheeks.
“I love you,” you say. “I love you,” you say, at the same time. Timing is your specialty.
You raise up your red, leather, bag, then set it carefully on the floor. You stand up, discarding your own red, leather, bag, and cross to that of your doppleganger. Your mirror image. Your clone. Your new you. You step into your bag as you step into yours. For a moment, the two of you are suspended there, standing aimlessly.
Then it happens. Then you’re born.
“A splitting procedure is always fraught with potential dangers; from dual brain inversions, to total psychosomatic disassociation; with an organ as complex as the brain, there are always terrible things that can happen. If the Demons hadn’t arrived, who knows if humanity would have had the stomach to push through, to perfect the technology and forge our most potent weapon. Thank God for the Demons.”