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Replica, Page 2

Lauren Oliver

  Today, in particular, she couldn’t think about the Suits, or the mysterious disappearance of number 72. The day after trash day was Monday, which meant Cog Testing, and Lazy Ass, and her last opportunity for a week.

  Lyra couldn’t remember when the idea of stealing from Admin had first come to her. It had started, in a way, with Dr. O’Donnell. Dr. O’Donnell had come to Haven six or seven years ago; it was before Lyra had her monthly bleeding. (“Your period,” Don’t-Even-Think-About-It had said gruffly, and, in a rare moment of generosity, shown Lyra how to scrub out her underwear with cold water. “Bleeding makes it sound like a gunshot wound.”) Dr. O’Donnell was—apart from Cassiopeia and numbers 7–10, her four genotypes, all of them genetically and physically identical—the prettiest person at Haven.

  Unlike the other nurses and doctors, Dr. O’Donnell didn’t seem to dislike the replicas. She hung around in the dorms even when she wasn’t assigned to monitor. She asked questions. She was the first person who’d ever asked Lyra a question and actually expected a reply—other than “Does it hurt when I touch you there?” or “How’s your appetite?”—and laughed easily, especially over the things the replicas believed, like that the rest of the world must be the size of five or six Havens or that in natural-born humans fathers served no purpose. She taught the replicas clapping games and sang to them in a high, clear voice.

  Dr. O’Donnell was shocked when she found out that Haven had no library—only medical textbooks occasionally used for reference moldering in an awkwardly shaped room no one quite knew the use for, and the Bible that Don’t-Even-Think-About-It carted around with her, and occasionally used to take a swipe at replicas that disobeyed her, or to whack the ones too idiotic and brain-scrambled to follow instructions at all.

  Whenever Dr. O’Donnell left the island, she returned with a few books in her bag. On Sunday afternoons, she sat in the dorms and read out loud. First it was only books with lots of pictures. Then longer books, with small type running across every page, so many letters it made Lyra dizzy to look. A few dozen replicas always gathered around to hear the stories, and afterward, after lights-out, repeated them in whispers for the other replicas, often making up or mixing up details, Jack and the Beanstalk that grew to Oz; the Lion, the Witch, and the Big Friendly Giant. It was a relief from the boredom, from the smallness of the world. Five wings, six counting the Box. Half the doors locked. All the world circumscribed by water. Half the replicas too dumb to talk, another quarter of them too sick, and still more too angry and violent.

  No escape. Never escape.

  But for Lyra, something deeper happened. She fell in love, although she didn’t know it and would never have thought in those terms, since she didn’t understand what love was and had only rarely heard the word. Under the influence of Dr. O’Donnell’s voice, and her long fingers (some of them scattered with tiny freckles) turning the pages, a long-buried part of her consciousness woke, stirred, and opened.

  Dr. O’Donnell was the one who had taught them the names for the various constellations—Hercules and Lyra, Cassiopeia and Venus, Ursa Major and Minor—and explained that stars were masses made of white-hot gas, hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of miles, farther than they could imagine.

  Lyra remembered sitting on her cot one Sunday afternoon, while Dr. O’Donnell read to them from one of Lyra’s favorite books, Goodnight Moon, and suddenly Cassiopeia—who was known only as 6 then—spoke up.

  “I want a name,” she’d said. “I want a name like the stars have.”

  And Lyra had felt profoundly embarrassed: she’d thought 6 was Cassiopeia’s name, just as 24 was hers.

  Dr. O’Donnell had gone around the room, assigning names. “Cassiopeia,” she said. “Ursa. Venus. Calliope.” Calliope, formerly 7 and the meanest of Cassiopeia’s genotypes, giggled. Dr. O’Donnell’s eyes clicked to Lyra’s. “Lyra,” she said, and Lyra felt a little electrical jolt, as if she’d just touched something too hot.

  Afterward she went through Haven naming things, marking them as familiar, as hers. Everyone called G-Wing the Box, but she named other places too, named the mess hall Stew Pot, and C-Wing, where the male replicas were kept, the Hidden Valley. The security cameras that tracked her everywhere were Glass Eyes, the blood pressure monitor wrapped around her upper arm Squeezeme. All the nurses got names, and the doctors too, at least the ones she saw regularly. She couldn’t name the researchers or the birthers because she hardly ever saw them, but the barracks where the birthers slept she named the Factory, since that’s where all the new human models came out, before they were transferred to Postnatal and then, if they survived, to the dorms, to be bounced and tickled and engaged at least two hours a day.

  She named Dr. Saperstein God, because he controlled everything.

  Lyra was always careful to sit next to Dr. O’Donnell when she read, with her head practically in Dr. O’Donnell’s lap, to try to make sense of the dizzying swarm of brushstroke symbols as Dr. O’Donnell read, to try to tack the sounds down to the letters. She concentrated so hard, it made the space behind her eyeballs ache.

  One day, it seemed to her that Dr. O’Donnell began reading more slowly—not so slowly that the others would notice, but just enough that Lyra could make better sense of the edges of the words and how they snagged on the edges of certain letters, before leaping over the little white spaces of the page. At first she thought it was her imagination. Then, when Dr. O’Donnell placed a finger on the page, and began tracing individual lines of text, tapping occasionally the mysterious dots and dashes, or pausing underneath a particularly entangled word, Lyra knew that it wasn’t.

  Dr. O’Donnell was trying to help Lyra to read.

  And slowly, slowly—like a microscope adjusted by degrees and degrees, ticking toward clearer resolution—words began to free themselves from the mysterious inky puddles on the page, to throw themselves suddenly at Lyra’s understanding. I. And. Went. Now.

  It couldn’t last. Lyra should have known, but of course she didn’t.

  She had just gotten a name. She’d been born, really, for the second time. She hardly knew anything.

  One Sunday afternoon, Dr. O’Donnell didn’t come. The girls waited for nearly an hour before Cassiopeia, growing bored, announced she was going to walk down to the beach behind A-Wing and try to collect seashells. Although it wasn’t strictly forbidden, Cassiopeia was one of the few replicas that ever ventured down to the water. Lyra had sometimes followed her, but was too scared to go on her own—frightened of the stories the nurses told, of man-eating sharks in Wahlee Sound, of alligators and poisonous snakes in the marshes.

  It was a pretty day, not too hot, and great big clouds puffed up with importance. But Lyra didn’t want to go outside. She didn’t want to do anything but sit on the floor next to Dr. O’Donnell, so close she could smell the mix of antiseptic and lemon lotion on her skin, and the fibers of the paper puffing into the air whenever Dr. O’Donnell turned the page.

  She had a terrible thought: Dr. O’Donnell must be sick. It was the only explanation. She had never missed a Sunday since the readings had begun, and Lyra refused to believe that Dr. O’Donnell had simply grown tired of their Sunday afternoons together. That she was tiring. That she was too damaged, too slow for Dr. O’Donnell.

  Forgetting that she hated the Box, that she held her breath whenever she came within fifty feet of its red-barred doors, Lyra began to run in that direction. She couldn’t explain the sudden terror that gripped her, a feeling like waking in the middle of the night, surrounded by darkness, and having no idea where she was.

  She’d nearly reached C-Wing when she heard the sudden rise of angry voices—one of them Dr. O’Donnell’s. She drew back, quickly, into an alcove. She could just make out Dr. O’Donnell and God, facing off in one of the empty testing rooms. The door was partially open, and their voices floated out into the hall.

  “I hired you,” God said, “to do your job, not to play at Mother goddamn Teresa.” He raised his hand, and Lyra tho
ught he might hit her. Then she saw that he was holding the old, weathered copy of The Little Prince Dr. O’Donnell had been reading.

  “Don’t you see?” Dr. O’Donnell’s face was flushed. Her freckles had disappeared. “What we’re doing . . . Christ. They deserve a little happiness, don’t they? Besides, you said yourself they do better when they get some affection.”

  “Stimulation and touch. Not weekly story time.” God slammed the book down on a table, and Lyra jumped. Then he sighed. “We’re not humanitarians. We’re scientists, Cat. And they’re subjects. End of story.”

  Dr. O’Donnell raised her chin. Her hair was starting to come loose from her ponytail. If Lyra had known the word love, if she’d really understood it, she would have known she loved Dr. O’Donnell in that moment.

  “That doesn’t mean we can’t treat them like regular people,” she said.

  God had already started for the door. Lyra caught a glimpse of his heavy black eyebrows, his close-trimmed beard, his eyes so sunken it looked like someone had pressed them back into his head. Now he stiffened and spun around. “Actually, it does,” he said. His voice was very cold, like the touch of the Steel Ear when it slipped beneath her shirt to listen to her heartbeat. “What’s next? Are you going to start teaching the rats to play chess?”

  Before she left Haven, Dr. O’Donnell gave Lyra her copy of The Little Prince. Then Lyra was pretty sure Dr. O’Donnell had been crying.

  “Be sure and keep it hidden,” she whispered, and briefly touched Lyra’s face.

  Afterward, Lyra lay down. And for the afternoon, Lyra’s pillow smelled like antiseptic and lemon lotion, like Dr. O’Donnell’s fingers.

  Turn the page to continue reading Lyra’s story. Click here to read Chapter 3 of Gemma’s story.


  COG TESTING TOOK PLACE IN a large, drafty room of D-Wing that had once been used to house cages full of rabbits and still smelled faintly of pellet food and animal urine. Lyra didn’t know what had happened to the rabbits. Haven was large, and many of its rooms were off-limits, so she assumed they had been moved. Or maybe they had failed to thrive, too, like so many of the replicas.

  Every week Cog Testing varied: the replicas might be asked to pick up small and slippery pins as quickly as possible, or attempt to assemble a three-dimensional puzzle, or to pick out visual patterns on a piece of paper. The female replicas, all nine hundred and sixty of them, were admitted by color in groups of forty over the course of the day. Lilac Springs was out of the Box and took the seat next to Lyra’s. Lilac Springs had named herself after a product she’d seen advertised on the nurses’ TV. Even after the nurses had laughed hysterically and explained to her—and everyone—what a feminine douche was and what it was for, she had refused to change her name, saying she liked the sound of it.

  “You don’t look so good” was the first thing Lilac Springs said to Lyra. Lilac Springs hardly ever said anything. She was one of the slower replicas. She still needed help getting dressed, and she had never learned her alphabet. “Are you sick?”

  Lyra shook her head, keeping her eyes on the table. She’d thrown up again in the middle of the night and was so dizzy afterward that she had to stay there, holding onto the toilet, for a good twenty minutes. Cassiopeia had caught her when she came in to pee. But she didn’t think Cassiopeia would tell. Cassiopeia was always getting in trouble—for not eating her dinner, for talking, for openly staring at the males and even for trying to talk to them, on the few occasions they wound up in the halls or the Box or the Stew Pot together.

  “I’m sick,” Lilac Springs said. She was speaking so loudly, Lyra instinctively looked up at the Glass Eyes, even though she knew they didn’t register sound. “They put me in the Box.”

  Lyra didn’t have friends at Haven. She didn’t know what a friend was. But she thought she would be unhappy if Lilac Springs died. Lyra had been five years old when Lilac Springs was made, and could still remember how after Lilac Springs had been birthed and transferred to Postnatal for observation she had kicked her small pink feet and waved her fists as if she was dancing.

  But it wasn’t looking good. Something was going around the Browns, and the doctors in the Box couldn’t stop it. In the past four months, five of them had died—four females, and number 312 from the males’ side. Two of them had died the same night. The nurses had suited up in heavy gloves and masks and bundled the bodies in a single plastic tarp before hauling them out for collection. And Lilac Springs’s skin was still shiny red and raw-looking, like the skin on top of a blister. Her hair, which was buzzed short like all the other replicas’, was patchy. Some of her scalp showed through.

  “It’s not so bad,” Lilac Springs said, even though Lyra still hadn’t responded. “Palmolive came.”

  Palmolive was also a Brown. She had started throwing up a few weeks ago and was found wandering the halls in the middle of the night. She had been transferred to the Box when she could hardly choke down a few sips of water without bringing it up again.

  “Do you think I’ll be dead soon?” Lilac Springs asked.

  Fortunately, the nurses came in before Lyra had to answer. Lazy Ass and Go Figure were administering. They almost always did. But earlier, Lyra had been afraid that it might be somebody else.

  Today there were three tests. Whenever Lyra’s heart beat faster, she imagined its four valves opening and closing like shutters, the flow of blood in one direction, an endless loop like all the interlocking wings of Haven. She had learned about hearts like she’d learned about the rest of the human body: because there was nothing else to learn, no truth at Haven except for the physical, nothing besides pain and response, symptom and treatment, breathe in and breathe out and skin stretched over muscle over bone.

  First, Nurse Go Figure called out a series of five letters and asked that the replicas memorize them. Then they had to rearrange colored slips of paper until they formed a progression, from green to yellow. Then they had to fit small wooden pieces in similarly shaped holes, a ridiculously easy test, although Lilac Springs seemed to be struggling with it—trying to fit the diamond shape into the triangular hole, and periodically dropping pieces so they landed, clatteringly, to the floor.

  For the last test, Go Figure distributed papers and pens—Lyra held the pen up to her tongue surreptitiously, enjoying the taste of the ink; she wanted another pen badly for her collection—and asked that the replicas write down the five letters they’d memorized, in order. Most of the replicas had learned their numbers to one hundred and the alphabet A through Z, both so they could identify their individual beds and for use in testing, and Lyra took great pleasure in drawing the curves and angles of each number in turn, imagining that numbers, too, were like a language. When she looked up, she saw that Lilac Springs’s paper was still completely blank. Lilac Springs was holding her pen clumsily, staring at it as though she’d never seen one. She hadn’t even remembered a single letter, although Lyra knew she knew her numbers and was very proud of it.

  Then Lazy Ass called time, and Nurse Go Figure collected the papers, and they sat in silence as the results were collected, tabulated, and marked in their files. Lyra’s palms began to sweat. Now.

  “I forgot the letters,” Lilac Springs said. “I couldn’t remember the letters.”

  “All right, that’s it.” Lazy Ass hauled herself out of her chair, wincing, as she always did after testing. The replicas stood, too. Only Lyra remained sitting, her heart clenching and unclenching in her chest.

  As always, as soon as Lazy Ass was on her feet, she started complaining: “Goddamn shoes. Goddamn weather. And now my lazy ass gotta go all the way to Admin. Take me twenty minutes just to get there and back. And those men coming today.” Lazy Ass normally worked the security desk and subbed in to help with testing when she had to. She was at least one hundred pounds overweight, and her ankles swelled in the heat until they were thick and round as the trunks of the palms that lined the garden courtyard.‎

  “Go figure,” said Go Figu
re, like she always did. She had burnished brown skin that always looked as if it had been recently oiled.

  Now. Most of the other replicas had left. Only Lilac Springs remained, still seated, staring at the table.

  “I’ll do it,” Lyra said. She felt breathless even though she hadn’t moved, and she wondered whether Lazy Ass would notice. But no. Of course she wouldn’t. Many of the nurses couldn’t even tell the replicas apart. When she was a kid, Lyra remembered staring at the nurses, willing them to stare back at her, to see her, to take her hand or pick her up or tell her she was pretty. She had once been moved to solitary for two days after she stole Nurse Em’s security badge, thinking that the nurse wouldn’t be able to leave at the end of the day, that she would have to stay. But Nurse Em had found a way to leave, of course, and soon afterward she had left Haven forever.

  Lyra had gotten used to it: to all the leaving, to being left. Now she was glad to be invisible. They were invisible to her, too, in a way. That was why she’d given them nicknames.

  Nurse Go Figure and Lazy Ass turned, staring. Lyra’s face was hot. Rosacea. She knew it all from a lifetime of listening to the doctors.

  “What’d it say?” Lazy Ass said, very slowly. She wasn’t talking to Lyra, but Lyra answered anyway.

  “It can do it,” Lyra said, forcing herself to stay very still. When she was little, she’d been confused about the difference between I and it and could never keep them straight. Sometimes when she was nervous, she still slipped up. She tried again. “I can bring the files to Admin for you.”

  Go Figure snorted. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” she said.

  But Lazy Ass kept staring, as though seeing Lyra for the first time. ‎“You know how to get to Admin?”

  Lyra nodded. She had always lived at Haven. She would always live at Haven. There were many rooms locked, forbidden, accessible only by key cards and codes—many places she couldn’t enter, many closed doors behind which people moved, helmeted, suited up in white. But she knew all the lengths of the hallways and the time it took in seconds to get from the toilet to the Stew Pot and back; knew the desks and break rooms, stairways and back ways, like she knew the knobs of her own hips or the feel of the bed, number 24, that had always been hers. Like she knew Omiron and latex, Invacare Snake Tubing and Red Caps and the Glass Eyes.