Adam sat in front of the television on the concrete floor. He tried to change the channel, but the same program was on every one. I stood behind him, leaning against the dark wall. My arms were folded across my chest and one of my legs was bent.
"...first actual baby born in four months," the broadcaster was saying. His teeth were white and huge. He smiled like his mouth was trying to get out of his skull.
As usual there were images of the bloody labor, the sweat drenched heaving mother, and crying doctors and nurses. The kid itself was a disgusting mess, covered in slimy goo from the vagina it just popped out of. Until the next one was born, this one would be worshiped and heralded as a savior. Its eyes were closed and it was screaming, which I might do too if the first sensation I knew in my existence had been dozens of cameras being pointed directly at me.
I had seen hundreds of these birthday celebration programs. They cancelled everything else, forcing us to watch the miracle of life whenever it happened. What followed on the television would be interviews with the friends, family, and anyone in that town who they could get. The president would give a speech about how we were turning around as a species, making a comeback, stronger than ever before, and the citizens would sing patriotic songs and believe that things could be better. The media would illuminate a hope, buried deep in many human beings, that maybe they could take back their planet and incite a new utopia of beauty and peaceful rule.
"This is crap," Adam said.
I put the bottom of my braid in my mouth and sighed. "It's gonna be on all day," I mumbled. "Just turn it off."
My quiet voice was almost swallowed by the sounds of chanting and singing from beyond our walls. Outside any actuals in town were drinking and celebrating. We stayed inside because the last time an actual baby was born, there were a plethora of exterminations of our kind. It wasn't called "killing" when an actual destroyed one of us. It was more like removing unwanted pests and problems. Sometimes it was like hunting. In some towns, it was hunting.
They were never even investigated or reported as murders; we weren't afforded any such rights to life. The actuals were ecstatically high on the energy from the birth, and I wanted to be happy for them but it's hard when they hate me with such uninhibited and inexplicable passion. I want to love them, but as the expression goes, I am only inhuman. They call me names at the grocery store and pull my hair as I walk to the factory for work. They grabbed at my meek brown burlap dresses that enveloped an athletic designed body. They call me soulless.
Adam turned the TV off and pulled out his book from the government issued desk drawer and handed it to me. "Read to me, please?"
I took the book from him, holding it's weathered spine in my hands. "Why don't you read?"
He shook his head, locks of perfect hair falling over his face. "Too hard."
"You have to keep practicing," I said. "Here, at home. Don't do anything like reading or drawing or writing in public ever."
We weren't supposed to have any emotions, so writing, reading, drawing, and any hobby for leisure or creative release was considered incongruous with our functions and therefore disturbing to anyone who saw. Even when other clones saw me reading they became upset by the image. Us displaying emotions is unsettling, like seeing a small child holding a gleaming sharp knife.
I watched Adam furrow his perfect brow and fumblingly flip pages in his book. His lips moved as his eyes squinted. All I wanted for him was a better life than mine.
We both jumped as there was a furtive rapid pounding on our door. I walked across the tiny dark room and placed my head against the doorway to listen. We weren't allowed windows in our apartments.
"Don't open it," Adam whispered. He had quietly crept up behind me. The lamp light fell on his perfectly constructed cheekbones.
"I don't hear anything," I whispered back, with my cheek against the wood. "I'm sure it's not an angry mob. They'd be a teensy bit louder."
"Could be a silent mob."
"What's that?" I asked
"Humans doing some sort of deceptive ruse."
"I have never heard an angry mob be this reserved and contained."
"How many angry mobs have you heard?"
"Um, five, I believe."
"I don't want you to open it."
"Just put your book away..."
"Because it is an angry mob, isn't it?"
"No. I don't know. Just in case."
Adam, the closest thing one of us could have to a brother, assumed a blank expression and a still spiritless pose. I put my hand on the doorknob, curled my fingers around the brass and turned.