Looks like me, talks like me, walks like me . . . is it a duck?

Dusty Emulation
by Samantha Eden ©2015

At sixteen, when I should have been growing into my body--getting new boobs and cute round hips, I realized that it wasn't happening to me, but to every other girl in school. Any normal girl with average means would have had their parents get them these things from a surgeon. Since I had a rich father, I decided to ask him for something else, something a little more special, a little more dire. A new life. Someone else's life.

We interviewed a number of women, and some men, looking for the faultless new body, the ideal new life. I found it: a voluptuous woman of twenty-three, who was finishing college to become a lawyer. "Dad," I said so long ago when my first insecurities began to rack my entire being, "she is the one I want to be."

Weeks passed as he tried to get things set up, and all the while, at any opportunity he had, he would ask if that was what I really wanted. Yes, I said, it was exactly what I wanted, because I certainly did not want to be the only girl without a body. As my friends had dates and new clothes, I sat alone in school, feeling like an outcast as they laughed about how I still couldn't fill my bra. The magazines we used to look at were taunting. The women we used to idolize criticized me from their pages. I was not beautiful or normal, and I could never expect to feel like I belonged because I didn't look the way I should. An entirely new body would make me real, and it would make me better than any of the other girls, especially the ones who did something as low and cheap as plastic surgery or the girls who allowed themselves to be ridiculed for being naturally ugly.

Two months after I had chosen that woman, my dad told me she did not agree to switching lives. "She doesn't believe anyone should be anything but themselves," he said. Conservatives were like that. They didn't realize the world was changing and being yourself wasn't good enough anymore. I refused to let her take my dream away. I asked him to take her life and give it to me. That was a line he wouldn't cross, which forced me to beg my uncle.

It was my seventeenth birthday when my uncle pulled me aside and told me that he had secured the woman I wanted. In just a few days time, he would be able to do the switch. "Are you sure you want to be her?" he asked. Of course I was sure, I told him. He nodded and in a few days he took me away, without a word to my dad, and brought me to a switching doctor. Since the woman was not willing, the experience would be less than smooth, the doctor told me before hand. "You need to fight her with all your will, tell her soul that her body is your new body and that your body is hers. Be forceful."

I was ready. That body was mine. I was going to be the best looking girl in school and I would be a better woman than any of them.

The switching doctor ripped my soul out of me that day. A terrible earthquake of pain fell over my entire body as he tugged at it. My spine felt as if a volcano had just erupted, and blasts of pain stomped on each individual bone in my body. I arched my back as my soul struggled to be free, and my arms twitched as each new twinge of pain released into my body. "Will yourself away," he repeated as he struggled with my soul. I closed my eyes, which was hard with the feeling of needles pinching my skin. Get out, get out, I told myself, my soul.

I fell out, flopped onto the floor. Sloppy and formless, I oozed there, waiting for the other body to open up. She was glowing...her essence was glowing. When that light faded, I needed to force myself at the motionless body and make love to it, become a whole being. He battled her spirit for an hour before my moment came. She toppled to the floor and I forced my goopy mush of a self into the vacant body. But then I felt a sudden push.

She was attacking me!

I wasn't about to take that, so I shoved her right back. We fought on top of her lifeless body. I held her down with my gooey spirit as she strangled me, sending energy into me. Shivers crept around my formlessness, though slowly, as if slowed by the mush I was made of. Projecting images of money, the money that would be hers if she became me. I hoped to at least stagger her, but she showed me something too. A pink cavern, a dark cavern, where there sat an ugly alien suspended in fluid. What the hell was that supposed to prove to me?

With that one moment of confusion, she had found her chance to get back into her own body. I was still being choked by her, so she pulled me right in with her. Immediately, I felt the presence of a third soul with us. I laughed, a gurgle, but nonetheless amused. Quickly I sent an ultimatum message: me shoving herself or her child's spirit out of the body. I would not leave. It was her decision. Firing back, she showed that if I pushed the child out she would abort me.

I knew conservatives weren't like that and the baby was an easier target than she was.

I made my move.

Suddenly I was suspended in darkness, floating, feeling peaceful and sleepy. She was angry, I could feel her soul squirming around me. But I knew I would be beautiful. Just like her.

***

I stared out the window at the green, waiting for my mom to speak. Great bounds of emotional fog filled the room. "My baby is a model," she said, rain clouds forming behind her green eyes. "And successful."

Snatching the magazine from the table, I stared at the cover icily. One year more of waiting and I could have had the body I had wanted. Five years more than that and I could have been famous, but now I was six years old, living with a horrible woman who resents me and whom I wish would shut up.

"My beautiful baby," my mother murmured.

"Oh shut up! She isn't yours. She hasn't been yours. I am yours. Maybe if you paid attention to me more, I'd be your precious angel all grown up too."

"And maybe if some girls weren't so selfish--"

"Be quiet. Go do something useful instead of sitting around berating me and crying about a woman who is not your child." I stood up and tossed the magazine at her, turned, pushing my hair over my shoulder, and walked out of the room.

As I entered my bedroom, the TV turned on. "Channel: News," I said to the air. The TV clicked and I saw the national news anchors sitting neatly at their desks.

"The first ever genetically modified baby was born today. Doctors say that all the baby's organs are well developed, and the baby's brain is better than expected. Top geneticist Albert Branson is pleased to say that he will be monitoring the genetically enhanced brain to make sure no abnormalities arise. This is certainly the next step for mankind. What do you think, Dan? Would you get a genetically altered baby?" They chuckled, rearranging their papers.

"The price is a small one for a better kid," the only male anchor replied with a huge smile.

"Conservatives are marching the capital's streets after the news reached their ears. They are demanding a ban on genetic modification. Party leaders are saying that all the side effects have yet to be measured and testing on humans is an unethical act. Dr. Branson has assured that testing is safe and no one should be scared of the technological advances."

"Off," I muttered and fell onto my bed. News stories had a habit of upsetting me. A week before genetic modification came into the reports, my old self was flashing at me from every television, billboard, and magazine. In interviews, she would sit looking statuesque and wonderful, but then she opened her mouth and babbled like a child. I used the babbling as a reason not to be upset that I wasn't in that body. Somewhere inside me, however, I knew that I wouldn't have been babbling like her.

I am not perfect but I am only six. I fear that I can't say that I will look like my disastrous, though gorgeous, mother. Already, my nose is big. A six year old with a fat honker is bound to get insulted and teased. I am likened to an aardvark. One kid even brought his into show-and-tell just to point out the size of its smelling appendage. As I grow, I will grow into that nose, I tell myself. The fact of the matter is, at least I could get surgery if it turned out that bad. Or, if it came down to it again, I could switch with a woman who didn't have a baby inside her or even be a baby all over again, but genetically modified to be perfect. Genetic tinkering seemed more fail-safe to me than switching bodies.

Flawlessness was happiness, and being flawed made me unhappy. Though I was younger than I should have been (something other women would certainly envy), I was older than I should have been, in my thoughts. I understood better than any other six-year-old that my looks needed to be perfected sooner rather than later, else I would live a life of complete sorrow. No one would take a flawed woman seriously, and no one would ever love someone so flawed, certainly. If my nose didn't get smaller as I got bigger, I would have to resort to a change once more. My mother would not be happy. She can't seem to grasp that imperfection is a disease. "Beauty is about being yourself," she had chanted numerous times, but I was going to be the best I can possibly secure for myself, to be loved and envied. Most of all, I was going to be happy.

***

A few years passed before I saw Dr. Branson's eager face. A thirteen-year-old asking to be reborn might have made other people's eyebrows raise, but he didn't much care for my reasons of being there and was ready and willing to modify an egg and a sperm in such a way as to make a beautiful and smart baby. Of course, I would be switching bodies once more, but at least I knew what I might receive as I grew older. He told me that I would need to contact a switching doctor, since they were rare and he knew none personally. Eight months were needed, he told me, to set up an egg and sperm, and then a surrogate mother to carry me.

The full details of the operation were over my head. He talked for hours about proteins and being careful to select the correct combinations in order to create my desired outcome. Computers, he told me, did much of the work for him--arranging and rearranging traits accordingly.

I needed to prepare for a conversation with my mom. She wouldn't know any switching doctors, nor could she explain the complexities of genetics to me, but she would want to know the next trick up my sleeve. Taking myself off of her hands would make her happy since she despised me for being her child and taking her "real" child away from her.

At the house, I found my mom sitting in the kitchen, at the table, reading a law magazine. I always found it humorous that she didn't try to sue the switching doctor or even me for supposedly ruining her life. She probably felt too kind to do something like that. It did not matter to me either way. Nearing forty, she still looked as stunning as the day I first set eyes on her. It was a shame she didn't just step aside and let me be her; then she would have been the one who was a model and famous.

Resentment rose inside me, rimming my heart. This stupid woman was the reason I couldn't be happy. I tapped my foot, waiting. "Where have you been all day?" she asked, flipping the page of her magazine.

"Like you really care," I said. I felt like a snake, boiling with venom as I looked at her: my mother, the one who stole all my dreams away.

"I do. Where were you?"

"Talking to a doctor, what do you think? I've been talking about it all week."

She dropped her magazine lightly to the table and looked up at me, finally. "A doctor?"

"Um, yeah, a doctor, Mom. You may have noticed this enormous nose I have." May have noticed, ha! It was more than noticeable.

"You have a very nice nose," she said. Over the past few years she had lost her fight. She no longer seemed able to glare at me or hate me. It annoyed me.

"Yeah, right. I went to see a doctor about getting all of me fixed."

"A surgeon?" Her eyes fluttered to the window.

"No. Dr. Branson, the geneticist." I waited, knowing she would have questions, but also knowing that she would probably be very happy after I was gone.

She sat silent, touching the magazine's cover aimlessly, staring out the window. Her face rose in color from a milky white-pink to a bright red.

"Do you try..." She stopped, turning to glare at me. "Do you try to make me hate you? Do you try to push away my love?"

I wanted to laugh.

I did.

I looked at her pathetic, glaring eyes and laughed harder than I'd ever laughed in her house or in her presence. "Are you serious?" I asked breathlessly, beginning another fit of laughter.

She reached her hands out toward me, holding them out in mock embrace, "You are my daughter!"

"In flesh, not in mind, Mom."

"No! You are my daughter regardless of how you came to be inside me."

"Your point?"

"I'm not going to lose you to your stupid ideas of yourself! You are not ugly. You aren't incapable of happiness and success. Your silly ventures to capture happiness are completely blind!" She stood up, grabbing the magazine and clutching it in her hand. Breathing intensely, she looked at me with watery eyes.

"Just because I am not a conservative like you, mother, does not mean that you have the right to call my ideals stupid. It's not my fault that I have a really hideous nose."

"It is! It is your damn fault. You decided to escape your real body; the body, I might add, that made that baby famous eventually. It is your fault that you can't take this entirely new life, and make it into something precious. Your fault that you can't accept that maybe people can accept you regardless of your nose size or your chest size or whatever other damn thing you seem to find impossible to love. Your body isn't what destroys your happiness!"

The magazine dropped to the floor with a flutter and I glanced at it for a moment before looking at her again. I said nothing. She just stood breathing heavily and glaring intensely at me. That fog filled the room again, the thick, emotional type that was typical when we were younger.

I didn't want to look at her. And I did not want to hear her speak and patronize me. I wasn't her daughter. She wanted me gone, no matter what she said to try and make me feel otherwise. It wasn't my fault that I was ugly and that I wasn't famous; just a run of bad luck. My heart pattered uncomfortably. Nothing was worth crying about. Nothing. I was ugly.

Sleep was heaven that night as I dreamed of my perfect body, the perfect hair color, the perfect eyes, legs, everything. In the morning, I would scour the city books for a switching doctor willing to put me into a peaceful, sleeping fetus.

Yes, I would be infectious.

***

The rain gently tapped on the window; a kind interruption to the silence of my mind. Six years old and perfect. Ready for kindergarten. My new mother braided my hair and looked at me in the mirror, smiling. "Your teachers will love you," she said into my ear. I gleamed, unaware that genetically changed children were no longer viewed in high light, unaware that parents stopped using the operation. News didn't seem important to me anymore; not with my new nose and face. The world had simply melted away.

I made friends fast the first week and the teachers enjoyed having such an intelligent and wise kindergartener. But as the weeks wore on, the whispers began to increase all around me. My classmates looked at me suspiciously, and even my teachers glared at little when I rose my hand in the air.

"Mom." Tears filled my blue eyes as I stood in the living room before her.

"What's wrong, baby?" Concern marred her face as she stood up from the couch to embrace me.

"People hate me."

Everything declined from there. I had no friends, and soon, my mother became upset too. At night I would hide in my room, with the door locked, as she got angry with drink.

At school I sat alone on the playground as my classmates ran around pretending they were taking a vacation to Mars. I watched them with growing anger and frustration. I was better than all of them. The dirt became my paper as I scribbled math problems far above what ordinary kindergartners were capable of.

My classmate's laughter soon became the bane of my universe, and I seethed as I watched them both in and out of the classroom. Worthless. They were all useless and deficient. One afternoon, I did the only sensible thing I could do, show them what I was worth. I answered every problem posed by the teachers, even when they did not call on me. The rising mutiny was apparent by the teachers' glares and sighs. To top the day off, I stood atop a chair and calmly said with venom, "I am perfect! Each of you are just jealous."

Soon after I stopped going to school. Instead, I stared at myself in the mirror all day, ignoring the nagging thoughts about the past. My mom didn't speak to me. She wasn't home much anymore. It annoyed me because she was my mother and she wasn't supporting me in my time of failed triumph.

No, it wasn't failed.

I had succeeded because I was perfect. People needed to understand that, and I felt that they would. My classmates were too young to really appreciate what I had achieved. As they grew older, they could never deny the truth behind my gorgeous face, and the intelligent mind that lay within.

***

The past would flutter about me in such a taunting way that I tried my hardest to focus on the beauty that I had finally achieved this time around. My real body hunted me in my dreams, stalking after me, mocking me with her baby babble, and my real father would whisper from the recesses of my brain, asking why I didn't want him as a father. The mother I had just left would show up in shadow, tears dripping down her face and from her chest.

"You are my daughter!" echoed in my room every night and soon, I could no longer sleep. I would curl up on one side of my bed, and cover my head in sheets. The voices were not dampened by the cotton. Is this what you really want? Yes! God damn it, yes it is. From the closet, I could hear the prattle of my original body's new host and I got up and threw my lamp at the door. "Shut up!"

The broken lamp thudded to the floor and I stared at it. It was surprising how fast something could break, how fast it could suddenly be ruined. I had reached the peek of faultlessness, something that everyone tried to achieve with surgeries and genetic playfulness. Yet, no one except me cherished the newfound excellence. I looked around at my dark room.

"Do you try to push away my love?" my mother's voice muttered from another corner, followed by a wailing. I turned to face the corner, the shadows snaked around in the darkness.

"How can you love someone who is flawed?" I screamed at the wailing air.

Did they love me? For all it was worth, the woman who's fetus I stole should have hated me. My last few years with her were filled with less fight and she tried hard to be a good mother to me. My biological father and uncle asked if changing bodies was what I truly wanted. What did any of it mean?

Thoughts were swirling way too fast inside my head for me to keep up with. The wailing grew louder, and I became aware that it was inside my head instead of inside my room. The swirling rushed faster, and I felt myself plummet onto the floor, crying. None of this was right.

Who the hell was I?

x x x

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