Anne stuffed the last piece of clothing in the suitcase and zipped it around. “Finally,” she sighed. “Oh, thank you, God, finally.”
She looked around the room one last time, making sure that there was nothing critical left behind. When she handled one last task and walked out the door, there was no turning back. She left the bedroom pulling the carry-on behind her.
The photo on the mantel unnerved her. She picked it up, looked the image of her about-to-be-abandoned husband in the eye and turned it over. “If only it had been that easy to get out of your life.” But it hadn’t been. For months now, with the help of her sister and some sympathetic friends, she had slowly put together the pieces she needed to leave the abusive marriage. She was on her way to another town, another country, and she was not coming back.
Anne put the suitcase by the door and reached under the sofa for a large, life-size box. It slid out and she lifted the lid, reviewing the figure inside uneasily. Her friends advised against it. There were laws against these ‘imitation humans’. If Max ever figured this out …
On the other hand, she knew that if she simply left, he would be on her trail in the best bloodhound fashion. Twenty years as a lawyer specializing in defending criminals left him with resources no one could begin to fathom. He would find her — and Jacques — in no time. Anne was only too aware that the consequences would be severe. I won’t let him hurt Jacques. And I can’t let him to hurt me — not any more.
The clock chimed the quarter-hour and she started. I’m running out of time. This thing … it’s so lifelike. Well, of course it is! Anne chided herself. It wouldn’t do you much good if it wasn’t. She took a booklet out of the carton and began to read.
First, remove the restraining bolt from the back of the neck. Done. Next, press the switch under the left ear. She felt for it, a slightly raised area, and pushed until she felt a click. The figure in the box moved slightly and grey eyes stared into identical grey eyes.
Activate memory circuits. Anne took a remote control out of a small silver antistatic package and keyed in the code from the book. The figure’s eyes took on a more knowing, sentient look.
Activate motion circuits. It — Anne still couldn’t think of it as a person — sat up stiffly and moved its head back and forth, rhythmically, not smoothly, until repeated movement freed up the servos inside and it’s movement was more lifelike. It stood up and stepped out of the carton.
“Good. Perfect.” She read the final instruction. Activate voder circuit. One more code to enter. As she pressed the buttons, she didn’t notice that her double had walked around to stand behind her. One swing of the simulacrum’s arm and she was on the floor, blood soaking slowly into the carpet around her.
The double surveyed the still form. “I can’t believe you didn’t think this through. You made me just like you. Why would I want to stay here when you didn’t want to either?”
As Anne’s eyelids fluttered, it said “You can’t tell about me. Max won’t know — no one will. And that will solve all my problems. In the meantime –” It picked up Anne’s passport, wallet and ID from the table and opened the door. “In the meantime, Jacques will be waiting and I’ll get to enjoy the life you set up — for me, even though you didn’t realize.”
It wheeled the suitcase through the door and looked back. “Au revoir, mon amie. The show is over — say ‘goodbye’.”
The door slammed behind it, and the only sounds were of a car driving away and a woman weeping.