The Multiplicity Factor
by Steve Carr
When The Multiplier 9001 was delivered in its large fabriform crate by two replicants of The Multiplier 8998, known as Carl Trubergs, and set on end, readied for him to open it, it was one of Derrick’s happiest moments in his twenty-six years of life.
As soon as the delivery guys left his apartment, Derrick ripped apart the crate, and tossed the fabriform pieces into the garbage disposal unit. He pushed The Multiplier 9001 against the wall, and stood staring at it admiringly for several minutes. It was the size of a refrigerator, metallic, a shade of light blue, and had a brass handle on one side of the door and a red light at dead center in the door.
He then walked into his bedroom while reading the instruction manual. The instructions seemed simple enough. He laid the manual on his bed, removed his clothes, and stood in front of the floor- length mirror saying a giddy goodbye to his body that he had always been unhappy with, finding more to dislike about it with each year of his life. The injections and medications helped him develop some muscles and get rid of excess fat but like the constant dieting and working out, it didn’t change his overall build. The genetic reconstruction treatments that altered some aspects of his original body, like his skin pigmentation, eye color, and hair color did nothing to disguise that he was the same Derrick Willerson who managed an End of Life Party Center. He turned away from the mirror, and as instructed by the manual, went into the bathroom, took a long hot-air shower, relieved his bladder, and used a purging unit to thoroughly clean out his bowels.
Just as he stepped back into his bedroom, the view-phones affixed to the walls in his bedroom, living room, and kitchen sounded with a melodic chime and lit up. The name Rose appeared on the screen. It was his mother. He put on a robe, and tapped the receive call button on the wall beneath the view-phone, simultaneously turning it on along with the others in his apartment. Her face suddenly appeared. She had been replicated from the supermodel Rose Hammer when the first Multiplier, series 8500, came out five years before. He hadn’t seen or talked to his mother in over three years. She still had the original Rose Hammer’s gaunt appearance and haughty facial expression, and had lost none of the luster to her hair, the pouty fullness of her lips or the blemish and wrinkle-free smoothness of her skin.
“How are you, Mother?” he asked.
Although a doting and loving mother, she had never been an emotionally effusive woman but since her replication as a Rose, she had become cold and distant. “I’m fine,” she answered coolly.
He could see her eyes scan his bedroom, seeing him and everything in it, just as she would be able to do with the view-phones on in the other rooms. It was her shrill scream upon laying her eyes on The Multiplier 9001 that surprised and alarmed him.
“What’s the matter?”
“That thing. That machine. You have to get rid of it,” she said, as if straining to project the fear that shone in her eyes.
“It’s the newest model,” he answered. “I’m looking forward to being replicated as Hazer Donovan.”
“There are thousands, millions, of Hazer Donovans and Jill Parsons, Carl Trubergs, Rose Hammers, and dozens of others that we are all becoming,” she said, the pitch of her voice rising with every name she mentioned. “They’re out to take over the world, to take away who we are.”
“Who are they?”
“They give you the looks, the body you’ve always wanted but remove your ability to love.”
“Mother, what are you talking about? Who are they?”
“They will kill you instantly if you even mention them.”
“Why do you keep saying they? Who are they?”
“The . . .” she started, and then the view-phones went blank. He tapped on the phone’s keypad receive button several times but was unable to reconnect with her. He shrugged and went into the living room, removed his robe, and opened the Multiplier 9001. The inside, nothing but smooth pale pink walls and a seat, softly glowed. He stepped inside, sat down, and pulled the door closed. The red light on the inside of the door in the same place as the outside turned bright red.
There was a slight hum, as gentle as the flapping wings of a hummingbird, and then a voice, monotone and not recognizable as either male or female, came out of nowhere but was as diffuse as the light. “From this moment on until the end of your pitiful little life, human, you may think the body you have chosen is yours, free of any costs other than what you paid for this Multiplier but you belong to us, Earthling, and whatever emotions you have or choices you make will be dictated by what we, from the planet Langolon, allow you to have or command you to make. Defy us or speak of us, and you will be immediately vaporized into the multiplicity of particles that make up your atmosphere.”
Unable to move, held in the seat like a magnet, unable to speak or scream out as he wanted to do, Derrick was quickly constructed into a replicant of Hazer Donovan.
Steve Carr, from Richmond, Virginia, has had over 400 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, reviews, and anthologies since June, 2016. He has had seven collections of his short stories published: Sand, Rain, Heat, The Tales of Talker Knock, 50 Short Stories: The Very Best of Steve Carr, LGBTQ: 33 Stories, and The Theory of Existence: 50 Short Stories. His paranormal/horror novel Redbird was released in November, 2019. His plays have been produced in several states in the U.S. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice.