Author : J.D. Rice

My hand shakes as I desperately try to keep myself from pulling the trigger. I stare at the man who wears my husband’s face, my eyes filled with tears. He looks hurt. Concerned. Maybe even betrayed. So convincing.

“Sarah, put the gun down. Please, baby, you know it’s me.”

The stranger’s eyes are welling up, tears forming to match my own. We cried so many times in this apartment, my husband and I. We cried when my mother died, when his cousin was diagnosed with cancer, when we found out he was being shipped out.

“Baby, please, put it down.”

The man approaches me again, and I feel the pressure in my chest deepen.

“Stay back! I’m warning you!”

My husband is dead. This man is not him.

“Sarah. . .”

My finger finds the trigger, but I do not pull it.

Does he deserve to live, this creature who calls himself my husband? He seems so real, so sad. Even if he isn’t the same man who left six months ago, doesn’t he have a right to live as much as anyone?

“Sarah, this isn’t you. . .”

I point the gun back in his face, hating him for remembering how foolish my past self would find me now. I was heartbroken when my husband left, but only because I feared he would die in some war-torn planet half a galaxy away. I never concerned myself with the superstitions surrounding HOW he would get there; I only cared that he came back.

But he’d never come back. This crying stranger is not my husband. He is a copy, a soulless shell built from the atoms leftover after the transporter picked my husband to pieces. This man speaks the same, carries himself the same, and remembers even the faintest details of my husband’s life. But he is not my husband – just a soulless replacement. Dead inside.

My finger twitches, my resolve strengthening. I take a deep breath and wipe the tears from my face with my free hand. The stranger does not move closer.

“Do you want to live?” I ask.

For the briefest of moments, I wait for the man to keep pleading, to keep begging me to put the gun down and embrace him, to recognize him as my lover. Part of me wishes for that future. But instead, the stranger only nods.

“Then leave,” I say, fighting tears again, “and never come back.”

I keep the gun on him as he gathers a few belongings – not letting him take anything my husband really cared for. This creature already took his face. He would have no more. When at last he is gone, I collapse into a heap in the center of the apartment, the floodgate of tears opening fully. The gun clatters to the floor as I accept the truth. My husband is dead, replaced by a soulless replica. And there are more of them out there. A hundred thousand replicas walking the streets, empty husks of those murdered in the name of convenience.