– Originally written in Polish, in 2010, translated in 2017 –
The pungent scent of urine. The morbid atmosphere. The emptiness.
47 was sitting on a cold cement floor in a room he was sharing with two of his “brothers”. There was a sharp piece of hard wood in his hand. He found it a while back and was determined to keep it just in case. He didn’t know where the wooden piece came from but it was more than plausible that it was once a part of a chair, destroyed by one of the clones in mad fury.
A loud snore filled the space and 47 winced thinking 43 woke up. He didn’t want anyone seeing him with a sharp object. Guardians did not permit of such trinkets and he knew exactly why. Just a few days ago he himself was a witness of 7 tearing holes in 11’s belly using only a tiny screw. There were still no news as to whether or not the victim survived. Albeit it’s not like that information was hugely desired.
Listening to his brothers sleeping noises, 47 was pretending to draw on the light gray flooring. A symbol of some sorts. A one he felt as if he was connected to somehow. Maybe he’s seen it before? The back of his head was constantly stinging. Only a week has passed since a barcode was added to the numbers. A fresh tattoo, especially on a delicate piece of skin and a spot like this wasn’t healing as fast as he’d like. A sharp pain was clawing into not only his head but all of the clones’. Doctor Kovacs was claiming it will harden them. 47 didn’t believe him.
He believed none of the things guardians were telling them. He could not understand how other boys could trust and blindly follow each of their words. No. That’s not something he could ever do. He was proud of his individuality. He knew what he wanted. The only problem was actually achieving it. If not for 6…
47 hated 6. Always “the best”, “the strongest”. Full of self-confidence, everyone’s pupil. His brothers stood in lines to lick his very feet. How many times has 6 punched 47? How many bruises and broken bones he was responsible for? 47 wished everyone would finally see who 6 really is. Not some strong warrior who should be looked up to. He was a monster. A cold hearted monster.
47’s heart was filled with hatred for the boy. His fist hit the cement floor and he immediately felt cold sweat on his back realizing how much noise he’s just made. Especially since there was someone walking down the corridor. Three adult men, judging from the sounds of their footsteps. Yes, they always sent more than one. Predominantly to 47. He threw the piece of wood under the bed and hopped on top swiftly deciding he will attempt to fool them that he’s asleep.
The door opened with a creak. 47 heard guardians walking into the room but his back was turned towards them so there he could do nothing more than listen in. First they woke 43.
“Easy. It’s just a vaccine shot.” sounded Doctor Kovacs’ voice. 47 has heard it multiple times and could recognize it anywhere. 43 made no noise as the needle pierced his arm. He was calm, staring into Kovacs’ eyes with his own. Ice blue. The guardian forced a slight smile and patted the boy’s bald head. Now it was time for 47.
“Hmm…” Kovacs thought to himself. “Is he asleep? At least we won’t have to use much force.”
47 knew the men were coming closer. His heartbeat picked up. Thoughts were crossing his mind faster than he could catch them. In one unexpected motion, the boy jumped off the bed just as Kovacs tried to reach him.
43 was curiously observing the situation. His brother retreated to the corner of the room and he almost wanted to come up to comfort him but one of the guardians held his hand up to stop him. They knew what 47 is capable of. Kovacs still had no idea what the scientist sees in this boy. Otto Wolfgang Ort-Meyer and his strange ideas. Sure, 47 was doing better at some of the exercises and classes but there were clones stronger than him. Less coy. Less emotional.
“Just look at 10! Or 26!” he pointed out to the scientist one day. “How can you get your hopes so high up for a boy who cried whilst burying a rabbit? May I remind you that 47 is the single one who shows signs of any emotional connections. Why did you even let him keep that rabbit? You should have just killed him!”
“You’ll see, my friend.” Ort-Meyer replied. “I am never wrong.”
Doctor Kovacs was now seeing a mixture of fear, anger and determination in 47’s eyes. What was he planning? The guardian was trying to reap into the boy’s mind. He could usually foresee clones’ behavior. 47 was difficult to predict, though. He was asocial. Shut in his own little world. Objecting to everything.
“Little rebel.” Kovacs thought before saying aloud: “You don’t have to be scared. I won’t hurt you.”
47 could not be fooled. He knew these men too well for that. Most of all, Doctor Kovacs. He was sure he was going to remember him for the rest of his life.
“47, please. It’s just a quick shot. The faster we get to do this, the better.”
The boy shook his head. Did anyone ever heard him say something? Kovacs had no memory of even a single word spoken by this particular clone? And now, he was starting to get on his nerves.
Tired of playing nice, Kovacs made a discreet gesture with his hand. Two men accompanying him stepped closer and 47’s brain was now plowing through ideas. He took glimpse of something shiny. Kovacs was hiding a syringe behind his back. The boy felt twisting in his stomach. He hated needles.
Guardians came closer. Their plan was to grab him by his arms but 47 motions were quicker. Just as they leaned over to capture him, he ducked and crawled between their legs. In mere second he was over by the bed, reaching for the previously hidden piece of wood. The boy stood up, holding the sharp object in front by his chest in the same fashion he was taught to.
“Goddamn you! Can you not even keep an eye on one measly child?” Kovacs roared.
With all of the strength of his tiny body, 47 pushed the wooden piece into the guardian’s stomach. He was expecting it to pierce through the skin but was incorrect. Kovacs grabbed him by his clothes. The boy kicked him to no avail. Looking for a way out, he latched onto the doctor’s coat tearing one of the pockets. Empty syringes dropped on the floor with an array of sounds quickly echoing in the room.
“Get off!” Kovacs shrieked. 47 managed to seize one of the syringes. One still armed with a silver needle. Before anyone could react, the needle dug into Kovacs’ knee. The answer to that was a kick. 47 bent in half. Another guardian blocked the door. It would take ages to find the clone if he was to escape and hide somewhere.
With tears in his ice blue eyes, the boy slowly lifted his head and looked around. No… there’s no way… he can’t lose…
Kovacs took out the syringe out of his knee, grabbed the clone and applied, what he called, the vaccine. Just as he let him go, the boy jumped back on top of the bed and bundled up heads to toes under a dirty blanket. Doctor Kovacs felt as if anger was boiling inside of him. He left the room with both of the men accompanying him and door loudly closing behind him. A yell was heard in addition to the footsteps this time:
“Ort-Meyer, he’s done it again!”