Here is the first of the Hieroglyphics Teacher stories.
Ben, the resident hieroglyphics teacher for the Costa Meh archipelago, was not adverse to work. However, when he was given the option not to work, he took it. It came the night he created a simulacrum called Ben Two that looked and sounded so much like him that no one noticed when it went in and taught a class for him. Soon it was teaching all his classes for him.
It was about two months later that Ben discovered a very small detail: Ben Two did not know hieroglyphics. Ben discovered this when he was looking through his briefcase and came across a worksheet.
“Hey, these sentences don’t make any sense at all,” he said.
“Yeah, I know,” Ben Two said. “I just make stuff up and tell the kids that it’s right.”
“You can’t do that!”
“No, it’s okay,” Ben Two said. “They totally believe me. It’s not a problem.”
For the first time, Ben began to feel twinges of guilt. These combined with the creeping realizations that his life wasn’t as good as it had been and created the seeds of some Grade-A remorse. He had created Ben Two so that he wouldn’t have to stay after school and could work on his alchemy experiments. But now Ben Two was teaching his classes (and teaching them gibberish) and Ben was just playing computer games and eating Pizza Pockets. Ben Two had also somehow gotten a girlfriend (something Ben had failed to do in several years) and seemed to be taking over.
“I think maybe I should start teaching my classes again,” Ben said. “I can’t have you teaching them nonsense.”
“You can’t yet,” Ben Two said. “You’re about 20 pounds heavier than me by now. People will wonder how you gained all that weight overnight.” He sat down in front of the TV and lit a cigarette.
“You smoke now? How can you smoke? You’re a simulacrum.”
“Well then, I’m the only one who can do it safely,” Ben Two said. “At least I’ll never get cancer.”
“But you can’t even enjoy it.”
“It makes me look cool.”
“But no one’s here to see you.”
“You are. Don’t I look cool?”
“No. Can I at least look at the package that came today?”
Ben Two blew a cloud of smoke into the air. “I’d rather you didn’t. I have my fingers in a lot of pies right now.” He pulled out a stack of bills in a plastic bag and threw them to Ben. “Here. Go buy yourself something nice tomorrow.”
Ben went to his room. There was $500 in the bag. He didn’t know where it came from, but that nagging feeling that things weren’t right kept increasing.
Ben Two did not have to sleep, but he did get restless and usually went out for a swim around 3am. As soon as he was gone, Ben got up and opened the package that was sitting in the hallway. It was full of alchemy equipment and supplies—very much like something he would buy himself. But why would Ben Two want it? As he was looking through it, he realized that these were supplies for making more simulacra; it even included a bottle of the Elixir of Life.
Also, there were guns in the bottom of the package; big guns that looked designed to fit inside a body cavity. Ben took the Elixir of Life and hid it in the safest place he could think of: the fridge.
The next morning, when he came out for breakfast, Ben Two was waiting for him at the kitchen table. He was smoking five cigarettes at once and the air was hazy and thick.
“You opened my package,” he said.
“So what? This is my house, after all, and you bought it with my money.”
“Actually, since I’m the one working now, it’s my money. Where’s the Elixir of Life?”
“I dumped it down the sink,” Ben said, knowing this was an obvious lie. A liquid that turned inanimate objects into living creatures was not something you wanted to put into your average sewer system. “What were you planning to make?”
“I thought I would switch some of the principals at the schools with copies,” Ben Two said. “They’re always making me do things I don’t want to do, like teach. It’d help if they were on my side.”
“And give them guns?”
“Why not? It seems like an obvious upgrade. I’m surprised you didn’t give me guns that could shoot out of my fingertips or something.”
“But how are you going to build them? You don’t know anything about alchemy?”
“Sure I do. I know everything you do.”
“Yeah, except that. I guess that was a glitch in the process.”
“I’m going to try to stop you, you know.”
“Okay, have fun with that.” Ben Two took the five cigarette butts and threw them into the sink. “Well, I’m off to work. I guess if you don’t give me back the Elixir of Life, I’ll have to order some more. Luckily, I know a guy who can get it to me fast.” He picked up the package and walked out the door.
(to be continued…)