((Author’s Note: This is kinda dark and rather long. I apologize in advance. This story is coming to a close soon, and it was never intended to be a happy one. So please don’t throw anything sharp at me for it! ))
“Listen, Clio. I know we’ve fallen out of friendship,” Scylla had told her earlier that afternoon. “I don’t know what all is going on but… There’s something really wrong with Amon.”
The words haunted Clio, and the fact that they came from Scylla was enough to make her take action. She knew hints of the direction Amon been going before this, and for other people to start to notice did not bode well.
The day that Clio walked out of the lab — the day of their last argument — she had never meant for that to be the end of things for good. But one thing or another seemed to pile up against them, and their relationship had fallen into extreme disrepair over the past six moons.
At first, she just needed some time and space to think about it. Mostly, how to handle Amon. She loved him dearly — he had been her best friend for over ten years. Maybe that’s why this hurt so much.
It wasn’t just their disagreement. There were so many other things that worried her.
His lies – she knew very well he was still lying to her. And if he lied about one thing, what other things did he hide? His behavior had grown more and more erratic over time. So when he displayed aggression that she’d never seen before during their last debate, even if he didn’t directly target her, she was shaken to the point of withdraw.
Amon gave her a few days of solitude after their disagreement before frantically trying to get in touch with her again. She’d avoided responding at first because she still hadn’t figured out the best way to approach the situation.
Then, she began to feel guilty. After all, because of her, everything that Amon had been working on in his professional life had come to a grinding stop. Had she ruined it all for him?
And then, she’d fallen ill.
Clio had lived with sickness her whole life. It was well known that her body was rebelling every bit of health that it could. Fighting itself. Consuming itself. But this was the first time she was so sick for this long, to the point that her family considered her close to her deathbed.
How she survived was a miracle. It was something she didn’t want to think about. Her family was well-to-do, so chances are they performed… something… on her. Even if it were against her will for them to do so.
During those many moons of illness, they’d kept her cloistered away in a sterile environment with very little contact from the outside. She knew from other people that Amon had desperately tried to come see her, but had been denied repeatedly.
Then, one day, he simply stopped coming.
It took time for her to regain the strength it required to move about on her own again. This was the first time she’d returned to the Academy grounds. This was the first time she’d met with old peers. And nowhere did she see Amon.
But she knew where she’d find him. He’d never abandon their lab.
When Clio arrived, she hesitated. It might have been her own nerves playing tricks on her, but something about the whole place felt wrong. A foreboding darkness cast over the windows, as if they’d been covered from the inside. The plants on the steps were withered and left to languish without her care.
She placed her key card against the panel, and to her relief, the door still opened to her. It took her a moment to gather her courage to go inside and she didn’t know why. Wasn’t this a place of fond memories and many wonderful discoveries?
Why was it then that everything within her was telling her to leave?
It was just as dark inside as it was from the outside. The first thing that hit her was the smell – a very strong scent of chemicals and cryto-liquid. She covered her nose and mouth with her good hand, struggling to make her way deeper as a horror show unfolded before her.
Everywhere she looked, there were specimens. Things in jars. Parts of things in jars. All neatly labeled in Amon’s handwriting. What used to be their kitchen was now racks and racks of grotesque visages, frozen in death and embalmed for who knows what purpose.
One area in the back – it had once been their sitting area – was now completely curtained off. A strange light peeked from between the folds of stained cloth and sheets that had been thrown haphazardly to form a barrier to her eyes.
There were vials of liquid in many stages of examination. And one particular container that caught her eye as its contents seemed to pulse and flicker with a living phosphorescence.
Clio felt her heart starting to beat faster and faster as she struggled to take it all in. How… how in just the matter of half a year… had something like this…
In the middle of it all, slumped over one of the examination tables, was Amon. Books of all kinds were scattered over the stained surface, and he appeared to have fallen asleep in the middle of whatever research he was currently conducting.
As she drew closer, she felt something in her chest tighten. Next to him was some kind of injection device. It was still hooked up to him, still embedded deep in a vein in his arm. Inside the container was residue of that phosphorescent liquid she’d seen before.
“Amon…!” her dismay came out in a hoarse whisper. “What have you done to yourself?”
His face twitched – she’d forgotten that he had very good hearing – and in a strange, unnatural way, his eyes flicked open. Instantly focused in a frightening intensity, they caught the light and reflected in a way that almost appeared to glow.
Clio drew back with a gasp. A dread filled her and for the first time ever, she fought to stand her ground before her childhood friend.
Amon’s voice rasped from between dry lips, as if he hadn’t spoken to another person in a very long time. “Clio… is it you? You are here… you are well?”
She fought back the tears that threatened to well up, trying to keep her calm. “I’m well. But you…”
Shame trickled across Amon’s face. He couldn’t look at her. It was as if he didn’t want her to look at him, either.
“What is all this?” Clio summoned up her courage again, mingling it with concern.
He still didn’t answer.
He reached down and jerked the tube from the transfusion device out of his arm without even a flinch. She winced for him, knowing something like that would have hurt.
Finally, he shook his head. “They said you almost died.”
Clio sucked on her bottom lip.
“I couldn’t… I can’t…” Amon choked on the words, running his fingers through his hair. He still didn’t look at her. “I’m sorry… I know how you feel about…”
“About?” she prompted, trying to get more out of him.
“I couldn’t…” He just repeated, like a muddled, broken recording.
Clio’s chest tightened even more. The dread kept growing, filling her to the point of impossibility. She knew she was crossing lines and pushing her luck. She didn’t know what state of mind Amon was in at this point… but for his sake, she needed to find out.
“What are you working on back here?” She changed the topic.
He usually liked to talk about his work. That was always something pleasant to him. So, maybe if she tried to engage on a positive topic, he’d respond.
Instead, his face grew more conflicted, the color draining from his cheeks. “No.”
“No?” She echoed his response, puzzled.
“’Tis not for you to see,” Amon bared his teeth, one palm planted on the table as he pushed himself to his feet. It might have been a trick of the shadows, or her own her own unease playing with her vision, but he seemed larger than she remembered.
Clio took a step back, in the direction of the curtain.
Something almost feral crossed his face, something that filled her with cold fear. She had never seen him act this way before.
Yet, he didn’t make a move towards her. Whatever was clouding his senses, he still had enough self-control to know who she was and did not lash out at her.
She took advantage of that. Her hand reached up to yank the curtain away. Then she staggered back, covering her mouth.
It was a conglomeration of her own designs – machines that she built over the years. Mockups that they’d never actually built but discussed. The wall was a mass of machines that circled the large glass pod in the middle.
Inside, she saw herself.
This version of her was perfect. Wrapped in a modest white suit, there wasn’t a blemish on the form. Her legs were straight. Her body unbent by the rigors of life-long illness. Though her eyes were also clear and perfect, they stared lifelessly back at her from within the glass.
She knew what this was.
Amon had cloned her.
“No…” the word squeaked out of her. Revulsion fought with horror and anger.
How could he do this? How could he…
She felt his presence behind her, now large and dark. His words came as if spoken from the end of a very long tunnel. “Clio… I can fix you…”
She heard the sincerity there. The love. The longing. She knew why. She really did know. She knew he had every good intention to make right what he saw as broken.
But this… this was inexcusable.
“No, Amon. This is wrong,” Clio didn’t look at him. Her voice began to lift an octave at a time as her anger rose. “You had no right to use my designs… my technology… Did you secretly take bio-samples from me?”
“I know you don’t understand,” he tried to reason. “But I can make it all better. And then you won’t even remember…”
That terrified her even more. She jerked away, responding in panic, and did the only thing she knew to do in that moment.
Clio grabbed the heaviest, most solid object she could find – one of the poles holding the curtain – and swung. Even if she was disgusted by the thing that mocked her in the tube, she couldn’t bring herself to directly hurt it.
Instead, she brought the pole down on the machinery around it, her own designs. Her own devices. Over and over again, until metal flew and sparks ran across the wall.
Distantly, she hear Amon’s anguished cry as the strange form-that-was-not-her in the tube began to shimmer and flake away. With the machines that supported its form gone, it began to dissolve back into the aether it was made of.
He slammed both palms against the glass as if he could stop the process from happening. The force spiderwebbed cracks across the tube, leaking the fluid from within like tears.
Amon was sobbing, too. Hunched over, he slumped to the ground as everything folded around him.
Clio stood, trying to keep her balance, and let the pole drop from her hand. She shook all over, watching the dearest person in her life falling apart. There was nothing she could do. She had caused it.
And now, as unstable as he was, she didn’t know what he’d do to her in return.
After a short time of sobbing deeply, his voice rumbled from the darkness, embodying anger and bitterness. “Get out.”
She froze, struggling to make sense of what she heard.
Amon repeated, this time louder and more forceful, “GET OUT!”
Clio swallowed sharply and began to move towards the door. The last she saw of him, Amon was crumpled on the floor, pieces of his dreams lying in smoking ruin around him.