Home > Better Words Than Mine, My Favorites > Day One Hundred and Forty-two: The Replacements

Day One Hundred and Forty-two: The Replacements

“We have no reason to suppose that we are the Creator’s last word.”
-George Bernard Shaw

In the middle of prime-time, right between a commercial for the newest rich-girl-poor-girl sitcom and an ad for oversized SUVs, a man unfolded himself from the fourth dimension and announced that he had been sent as my replacement.

I looked up at him from the sofa, my hand halfway between the bowl of chips on my stomach and my mouth. “You’re my what?”

He laughed and shook his head. “No wonder.” He looked like me – or rather, like the version of me that I carried around in my head. He didn’t have the softness at the waist, the thinning hair, and a zit at the end of his nose. He didn’t have uneven stubble and rings under his eyes. His skin was clear, but darker than mine. He had an olive complexion that I lacked and that I suspected probably tanned really well, the bastard. His jawline was strong, and his hair was the same gold-red as mine would be, if I took the time to treat it properly. He was wearing a simple grey suit that looked like it had been made for him, and probably cost more than all the t-shirts and jeans I had folded up in my closet.

“Say that again,” I said, struggling to sit up. “My replacement?”

He nodded while looking around the room. “Yeah,” he said. “You’re being phased out.” He stepped over to the crappy IKEA bookshelf in the corner. “You still read?”

I took the bowl off my stomach and levered myself off the sofa. “Listen,” I said, trying to put as much bass into my voice as I could. “I don’t know who you are or what you think you’re doing here, but you need to get right the hell out.” I pointed at the door. “Out,” I said again. “Now.” I was always slow to anger, so I had to admit that a lot at this point was an act, but still. A guy walks into my apartment from… well, from nowhere, and that made me confused. And upset. Angry wasn’t all that far off.

He put the book back and stared at me for a moment. “Oh,” he said in a small voice. “Oh, now that was just adorable.” He reached out and started patting me on my shoulder. “Maybe He’ll let me keep you.” He looked around again. “Is that seriously the toilet over there?” He turned and started walking.


“Hmmm, this might work for storage. Maybe a giant aquarium, I don’t know.”

“Hey!” The anger was starting to kick in, but it wasn’t the kind of righteous anger that the state of Texas lets you use to shoot intruders. It was a more panicky version of that. It was the kind of anger you would expect when someone talks to you like you’re a dog. In your own house. I grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him around, and he had the nerve to look surprised.

“Oh!” he said. “You’re still here.” He glanced into the bathroom, which I had to admit needed a lot of work. “You know, I’ve been wondering how you people deal with all that stuff coming out of you every day.” He lifted my hand off his shoulder and crossed his arms. “Does it bother you? It would bother me.” He looked at me for a moment, then turned and wandered off to the kitchen. “Maybe I’ll just have this whole place gutted and start again from scratch.”

I was baffled, and that’s what got me crying. I don’t like to cry, and usually I save it for really good movies or the occasional book or grievous injury. But if there was one thing that was guaranteed to get me going, it was something like this: utter helpless confusion. Not a common situation, I grant you, but it worked. My eyes started to run, and my nose followed soon after, and all I could get out through the hiccoughing breaths was “I.. I don’t underst – understand!!” I thumped back against the wall and slid to the floor, holding my head in my hands.

That got his attention. He poked his head around the corner and then the rest of him followed. “Hey,” he said gently, squatting down next to me. “Hey… Ryan? Is that your name?”

I nodded and snuffled.

“Hey, Ryan.” He put an arm around me and lifted me up. “Now I know it’s normal to feel a little confused right about now. Things are changing, and they’re a little scary, right?” Again, I nodded. Part of me was incredibly, massively offended at his condescending tone, but that part wasn’t ready to go just yet, so I sniffled along like the mess I was until he sat me down on the sofa.

“Now,” he said. “You guys were supposed to be notified about this, and if you weren’t, well, it’s not really my fault. So don’t go taking it out on me, okay?” I nodded again, but my eyes were starting to clear, and the smug look on his face was just beginning to register as punchable. “You people are being replaced,” he said. “By us.”

“And who – who are you?” I managed to ask.

He smiled, and I nearly recoiled from the beauty of it. “We’re you, only better,” he said. “Think of us as human 2.0 – all the benefits, none of the flaws.” He leaned back and put an arm around me. “We’re intelligent, creative, compassionate, interesting. And we don’t have all those nasty parts that He let evolution get away with. All the psychodrama and the tribalism and the ancient biomechanics.” He chuckled and poked my in my generous belly. “Why He let this nonsense go on for as long as it did, I’ll never know. I mean, it’s not like you people are still scraping food off the Serengeti, am I right?” The man didn’t let me respond, but just barreled on forward.

“We can see better, run faster, think faster, live longer than you old-model humans ever thought you could. We’ve got access to vastly wider ranges of senses, far more resistant to injury, have a much more flexible and thorough immune system and, just for fun, we get access to one more physical dimension.” He held out a hand and… something appeared in it. It looked like a tube that was connected to itself, with something that may have been liquid flowing across the inside and outside of the tube at the same time, but never actually falling away. It made me want to throw up.

“Neat, huh?” he said. He closed his hand and the horrible thing vanished. “Anyway, you guys had a good run, right? A few million?” He patted my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “You should be proud of yourselves. I bet He’s going to send you all to a nice farm upstate or something.”

We sat there on my sofa in silence for a few minutes, just me and this perfect version of me. He even smelled better than I did.

Finally, I turned to him and asked, “Who’s ‘He’?”


“You said ‘He’ a few times. Who is it?”

He looked at me like I just asked why water was wet, though to a guy like this, water being wet might not be something he’d really had to think about before. “It’s the Creator,” he said. “It’s God.”

I wanted to laugh. “But… but there is no God,” I said. “I mean, scientifically speaking you can’t really prove that -” I was cut off by an explosion of laughter. He rocked back and forth on the sofa, holding a hand to his eyes and just shrieking with laughs. He tried to speak, but only hoarse whispers came out, which turned into all new cackles. Finally he stood up, giggling, and looked at me again, which set off a whole new round. As that peaked, he flung out one hand, and another man stepped out of an invisible fold in spacetime.

“Hey -” The man made a noise that sounded like my name, if my name could somehow be opened up, filled with the entire truth of my being and then very carefully sewn shut again. The moment he said it, I thought I had died. “What’s so funny?” This second man looked suspiciously like my best friend Jaime, or at least like Jaime would like to think he looked.

“This guy,” the Me double said. The Jaime double looked over at me for a moment, and then started as though he hadn’t known I was really there. “He said -” He paused to catch his breath. “He said -” He was really trying to get it out, but each attempt made him laugh more, which made the Jaime laugh, which made me angry. “He said there is no God!” the Me finally got out.

“Seriously?” The Jaime looked astounded. “He really said that?” He started to laugh too, though with less abandon than the Me had. “Man, you people are just adorable,” he said, tousling my hair. “I hope we get to at least keep some of you.”

“I know!” the Me shrieked. “I said the same thing!” He wiped his eyes as a few last laughs bubbled up out of him. “Oh, I needed that,” he said. He sat back down on the sofa next to me. The Jaime was already wandering around my apartment, opening doors. “Look,” the Me said. “I’m sorry if He let you guys think otherwise, but believe me – there’s a God, He has a plan, and I hate to be the one to tell you, but y’all aren’t a part of it.” He stood up and joined the Jaime as they started remaking my apartment.

Walls melted away, appliances transmuted and transformed. Green leaves burst from the walls, unfurled, and released clouds of tiny golden butterflies. The whole apartment began to expand and inflate, becoming infinitely large without actually changing size. The view from the window burst into daylight, overlooking a vast rolling green field where I had been forced to look at the brick wall of the building next to mine. The Jaime and the Me were talking in words that unfolded into entire ideas, and I stood by myself in the midst of a new and terrifying world.

There was a little throat-clearing nose behind me, and I turned to see a small woman wearing a black suit. She was standing next to an open door that led into shadow and smiling warmly at me. “Come on,” she said. “Come on here and we’ll get you taken care of,” she said. She patted the doorframe. “Come on,” she said again.

I looked around at the trans-dimensional majesty that had once been my dingy one-room apartment. The Jaime was gone, but the Me was still there, rearranging great clouds of stars in the sky. I wasn’t sure if he was the size of a mountain and very far away, or the size of a human and right next to me. He had shed his suit, and his perfect body hurt to look at. I looked down at my stained sweatpants and faded ironic t-shirt.

The woman was still waiting for me, still smiling that kind, sad smile. I suppose I had no choice. The world was becoming a place that wouldn’t be right for people like me. Human Beings 1.0, or whatever we’d be called when the Me and the Jaime went to a museum someday. I turned to the door and the shadows, and the woman took my hand. There was no telling what was beyond the door, but I hoped it was something a little more mundane, a little more three-dimensional. A little more human than this.

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