“Every time I see
your face by candlelight, it’s like time stops so the universe can stare with
“Dial it back
“Every time I see
your face by candlelight, it takes my breath away.”
“Every time I see
your face by candlelight, it's like beauty was meaningless before I met you.”
“You know, like I didn’t
know true beauty until I met you.”
quite come across,” the room went quiet, filled only with the sound of hot wax sizzling
against a cold steel candle holder. “Maybe call it for tonight?”
“I can keep going.
I’ve got a few more ideas.”
“You’ll do better
after a good night’s rest.” She said, sitting forward so her smile was lit by candle’s
flame, but her eyes remained in the dark.
The room, like a restaurant
before closing, became quieter than ever. “You’re the seventh one to say that
on the fourth day, you know that?”
trickled down her neck.
“And each time, they
tried to kill me once I fell asleep.” A new sound filled the room: impatient
tapping of a fork on a porcelain plate.
“I would never do
that. I know that I was created to help you. If I killed you, I’d have no
“The last three
said the same thing.” The tapping continued, chipping away at the beautifully
painted blue landscape on the dish.
Both sat there
knowing where this could go. One knew from instinct, the other data. The next
sentence could bring an argument that led deep into the night. Or it could end
all of this in moments.
“Fine, stay up and
try again! It won’t do you any good,” She yelled, choosing a path with no
knowledge of its end. Emotion pointed her one way, and there was no time to
look back. “Seven versions of me, and you still can’t get past the first line
to this girl.”
“But when I do,
everything else will fall into place.”
“Oh yeah? And then
what? You’ll marry her, build a life with her, and have kids with her? At what
point during all of that will you tell her about me? And the seven before me?”
long gone.” He said, sipping softly on the water, colored a deep burgundy to
look like expensive wine.
“I won’t let
you…hrgh!” Metal rattled against metal, echoing through the room. It drowned
out the man’s impatient tapping of fork to plate.
“The last one
tried to break through the chains at this point too. You can’t. Come to terms
with it. I have the power, and you don’t. Struggle to change this, but you’re
here until I’m done with you. Then I will finally know what to say to the real
“Trust me, if I
have any of her personality in me, I know for certain: she hates you!”
The tapping fork
stopped, scratching slowly along the plate. The noise was a shriek that left scars
in the woman’s ear.
just upset because my lines have been subpar. Maybe I should restart with a new
The man dropped
the fork, and silence returned to the room. At least for a few moments, before
the faint sound of heavy breathing came. Breathing that clearly held back a
right. I’m just a little wound up from the practice,” the sweating, chained up woman
said, desperately trying to ignore the quiet tears down her cheek, “But your
last line was close. I felt something with it! Honest, I did.”
“None of the
others liked it.”
“Well, maybe they
don’t know you like I do. Maybe you got through to me.”
“Or maybe you’re
lying to me again. I can’t work with a liar. No useful data comes once you
start to do that. The next one better not lie…”
don’t! I can help you get the real me, I swear-AHHH!”
The quiet room
filled with two new sounds: a loud sigh from one side, and the thump of a body
falling on the other.
unfreeze clone #9. I have a good feeling about this one.”
board game player, enthusiastic collector of retro video games, and well-known
sweater-wearer, Alex has also written one or two short stories. Living in
Toronto with his husband and cat, Alex's work, in addition to Black Petals, has
been published in Daily Science Fiction, Ripples in Space and the Journal of