I walked out of the washroom and headed back to my table… but that girl was sitting in my spot. Chatting up Peter.
“…What the heck?” I rushed over and, with a forced smile, looked at the girl. “Hello there. Might I ask what you’re doing?”
She raised an eyebrow, “I’m… talking to my boyfriend?”
“This is my boyfriend,” I say, forcefully. “Why are you talking to him?”
She looked at me all shifty eyed, her brow narrow. “I don’t know what happened to you in that washroom, but he’s mine.”
“Oh yeah?” I reached over to Peter’s pendant and read aloud. “Written in perfect Slavanish: ‘Property of Worker Merigold Jan Hirithmoth’.”
She slammed her hands on the table and rose from her seat. The impact drew the attention of a few other patrons. “Yeah! That’s my name! Worker Merigold Jan Hirithmoth! I wrote it.”
This bitch stole my name, now she’s trying to steal my boyfriend?! I wouldn’t let this stand. I couldn’t let this stand! A Slavani’s name is her most important feature, you can’t just let anybody use it as they please.
“Ah,” I said, “I get it. The truth of the matter is you couldn’t get a human boyfriend for Operation Honeypot so you decided to try and steal mine!”
“No I didn’t! You’re clearly trying to steal my boyfriend!”
Peter glanced between us, “operation… Honeypot?”
We waved him off and spoke in unison, “don’t worry about it.”
“As if I’d need to steal a boyfriend. HA!” The fake Merigold turned to Peter, trying to activate her most seductive voice, but failing and only revealing herself to be a skank. “Come on, you recognize me, right? We bought this dress together just today.”
I crossed my arms and rolled my eyes, “pfft! Like he’d mistake us. You’re way to fat.”
“They’re called ‘curves’ you worthless beanpole.” She slid her hands down her sides, “womanly curves, just as Master decided my batch should have when we were spawned.”
I grit my teeth as I couldn’t argue against her hips. I had to appeal to Peter’s sense of reason. “Come on, Peter, you know me, right? We started dating just last year!”
The fake Merigold’s ears flared, “his name isn’t Peter! It’s Tyler!”
Peter opened his mouth to speak, but we both shot our heads towards him. “Shut up!” We spat with venom. This was between her and me. I wouldn’t let her steal my boyfriend without a fight. I stood strong and bared my teeth at her, but her eyes were fierce and she wouldn’t avert her gaze.
But then… another man walked up. A tall man. Human. Furless. “Uhh, did one of you shout my name?”
The fake Merigold and I stopped our staring match and glanced to him. She walked closer and grabbed the pendant hanging from the new man’s neck.
“Property of Worker Merigold Jan Hirithmoth.” There were gasps from the Slavani patrons watching this play out. She dropped the pendant and let it fall back down to the man’s broad chest, then glanced to me. “S-so… you aren’t just some hoe trying to get between me and my boyfriend? W-we really do have the same name?”
I gulped, my mind raced at a million miles an hour. So, which one was my boyfriend? Which table were we sitting at? In all the excitement, I forgot. Did she make the mistake of sitting with my boyfriend or did I make the mistake and muscle in on her date?
“W-wEll!” My voice cracked as my confidence wavered, “apologies will need to be given out once we figure out who belongs to whom.” I put a hand on my chest. “My full name is Worker Merigold Jan Hirithmoth, First Daughter of Worker Virona Vet Yiroth and Worker Gettan Dirth Smirrrr, Born of the Orikai Spawn Pit on Disputed World Gedri.”
My doppelgänger snapped to attention. “And I am Worker Merigold Jan Hirithmoth, First Daughter of Worker Futhul Mana Zapri and Worker Quilioc Por Kuruva, Born of the Orikai Spawn Pit on Disputed World Gedri.”
We glanced between the two men, who seemed confused.
“So..?” I said, gesturing for them to speak.
“Who belongs to which?” Merigold continued.
The man on the left rose from the table and rubbed the back of his neck, while the man on the right narrowed his brow to study us.
“I don’t think you ever gave me your full name…” The right man said.
“Or if you did, I don’t remember it.” The left man said.
Hearing the left man say that, the Slavani in the audience booed and gave him a few thumbs downs.
That comment… kind of hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. It is a bit of a long name to remember, it has to be so each Slavani can have a fully unique name, and I know they’re still just humans that haven’t been converted yet, but still. Hearing that he doesn’t remember it, and the casual way he said so, like he doesn’t even care… it kind of hurt.
I looked over and saw that Merigold felt the same.
The man on the right rolled his eyes at the boos. “But hold up, you two may be wearing the same clothes and have the same face, but can you really not tell us apart?”
The man on the left raised an eyebrow as well.
“Uhh,” I said.
“Err,” Merigold rubbed her arm. “You aliens do look pretty similar, so, I mean, at a glance it’s hard to tell you apart. I didn’t think to look at your clothes.”
Then the man on the left recoiled as if she said something absurd. “Wha-? I’m black.”
“…” I looked to Merigold and she looked to me. I raised an eyebrow
She shrugged and shook her head.
To this day, I have no idea what that meant or why he felt the need to declare it so strongly.
I shook my head to focus on the issue at hand. “Never mind that. Come on, Peter, you know who I am! When the waitress came I ordered a cupcake, right?”
Merigold’s face crumpled in annoyance. “I-I ordered a cupcake too…”
“Oh. Strawberry flavor?”
She nodded. “But Tyler! This morning, I came over to your apartment to make you breakfast in bed, but I didn’t have a key so you had to get out of bed to let me in! Remember? We had a great laugh about it!”
My knees felt weak and I tipped over, Merigold caught me and braced myself against her.
“Merigold?” She said, worry in her voice.
“Th-then… did you make Tyler a breakfast sandwich?”
She gulped, “yes.”
“A hollowed-out biscuit? With meat, eggs and cheese?”
Her voice wobbled on the verge of tears, “yes.”
There were murmurs among the patrons. It’s like they were watching a horror show. They may have been safe as a simple viewer, but imagine what it was like for us who actually lived through the nightmare!
But then, the man on the right spoke up, “this is actually a simple fix.” He pointed to me, “you said Peter.” He pointed to Merigold, “she said Tyler.” He looked back to me, “that means you’re my Merigold and she’s with him. Problem solved.”
Energy coursed through every last bit of muscle and fur on my body. Merigold and I stomped our paws in unison, “this isn’t about you, idiot! Problem not solved!”
“You only know I’m your girlfriend because I said your name? Is the only unique aspect about me my relationship with someone else?”
Merigold continued, “there has to be some part of me that’s special, right?”
Merigold and I spun around each other, rapidly shifting directions and speeds such that nobody could accurately track who was who.
So I was on the right, Merigold was to my left, Peter was in front of me, Tyler was to my front left.
Merigold spoke first, “today, we went bowling this morning.”
“Gugh…” I recoiled. “So did we. I stomped my boyfriend flat in our game.”
The boys seemed somewhat bitter about what I said, so I knew Merigold beat Tyler as well.
“I got four strikes in total.” Merigold’s eyes pleaded with me, but I could offer her no comfort.
“B-but then,” I said, “we went to a food truck right after!”
Peter spoke up, “a taco truck, right?”
My face brightened, but then Tyler said “so did we.”
A wave of nausea overtook me. “O-okay…”
Merigold tapped her paw against the wood floor. “And… you guys were planning to go to the aquarium later?” Both Tyler and Peter nodded, which was a real sucker punch to the both of us. I was sent to my knees while Merigold had to brace against a table.
“This is a nightmare…”
“I just want to wake up…”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Peter and Tyler shift around a little. They probably didn’t like how all eyes were on the four of us, but what could they do? If they tried to console us, but chose the wrong girl, that’d make things even worse. You can’t wager someone’s self-esteem on the flip of a coin.
Tyler cleared his throat. “It’s not like we started dating just today. There’s months of buildup we went through, right?”
Yes! That’s true! What are the odds that our entire relationships were exactly the same?
I bounced up from the floor while Merigold sprung to life as well. Our confidence returned instantly!
“Let’s see, I was scoping out the scene downtown early this year ‘cause I was looking for people who could be converted to Master faith, handing out fliers and giving small sermons to any human that would listen. Then I saw some loner guy all by himself and I thought ‘hehhehheh, easy target!’ So I went over to chat him up, but he actually seemed like a pretty cool guy. Really, the only problem was that he wasn’t a Slavani, but that’s a problem that could be fixed easily, so I lathered on the charm and invited him out to a date, a play if I recall correctly.”
Now, who said that? Merigold or I?
We both did.
We spoke in unison.
Our voices were so perfectly synched that I didn’t even realize she was talking.
When I realized that fact, it was all I could do not to cry.
There were a few words of encouragement from the audience. One of the girls next to me put a hand on my shoulder and said “you’re only so similar because you’re following the advice of Operation Honeypot. But you’ve both lived lives before you met your boyfriends, so I’m sure you’re unique there.” She gave us a warm smile that lit a small flash of hope in our hearts.
A girl at the far corner of the room called out ‘what’s your favorite incarnation of Master?’
Merigold and I answered that your first incarnation was the best, but that’s not indicative of us being the same as your first incarnation is objectively the correct answer. That’s the version of you that made us, that’s the version you were born as, so many things about Slavani society can be traced back to your first incarnation. A warrior, a scholar, a builder, the finest wizard the world had ever seen.
A few Slavani got mad and rowdy at our choice, but the Soldier strains acting as security came by and sorted them out.
But it didn’t stop there. Our sisters shouted out questions and we responded in turn. We have the same taste in sweets, we like the same music, we played the same instruments in school, we got very similar grades, we had the same number of friends, we both wanted to be truck drivers before learning that the human lands of Disputed World Gedri refuse to give out licenses to Slavani, and it just went on and on.
Merigold and I were left in shambles. Each Slavani in attendance was on the edge of their seat as if they were watching some high stakes thriller. Our sisters were so gripped in fact that they kept ordering refreshments, and there was a long line outside the cafe as nobody would leave to open new seats.
I felt… empty. Dead inside. Like all my hopes and dreams of being special in Master’s eyes were destroyed, and all that remained was a shell of my younger, more innocent self. I had seen the truth of this life and grew numb to its horror.
I shuffled over to Peter. I knew they weren’t going to figure out who was who so there was no point in continuing the test. It was over. Merigold, same as me, fell into the arms of her boyfriend.
No tears, just a heavy sigh. “So this is it. I’m just a clone. A dime a dozen, mass produced drone without a hint of individuality or free thought. Dang…”
Peter put a hand around my waist. “C-come on, it’s not that bad. So she’s a little similar to you, I’m sure there’s loads of guys out there similar to me. And you didn’t recognize me instantly either.”
I looked up at him, my eyes dead and my voice monotone. “You have a unique face, you don’t have three hundred spawn-brothers that share it. My inability to recognize you at a glance speaks more about me than you. But how could you have told us apart? We look the same, we act the same, our lives have been exactly the same up until now. I knew in my heart there had to be Slavani out whom I shared some aspects with, but I couldn’t have known it would be to this extent, or that this fact would be shoved in my face so thoroughly… Let’s just go home.”
Peter caressed my head, scratching the spot between my horns that I (and probably Merigold) loved so much. “You don’t want to go to the ceremony tonight?”
I sighed again. “No. Let’s let that be unique, at least. I’ll go home while SHE-!” I turned my head and pointed at Merigold. “-Can go to the new years cere-“ my heart stopped. Merigold was pointing at me, expressing the exact same thought to Tyler. “…I want to die…” I buried my face against Peter’s chest.
Tyler rubbed the back of his head, trying to think of something to say. “…Isn’t this pretty unique though?”
“Hm?” I looked up at him, Merigold turned her head as well.
“You know. You, her, together like that?”
I raised an eyebrow as I wasn’t sure what that meant.
Peter snapped his fingers. “Yes! Right, I get it. He means… like, this whole scenario. How often are two Slavani so linked like this? Not just that your lives have been remarkably similar, but also that you two keep talking in unison, like your thoughts are connected. You may not be unique when compared to each other, but has there ever been a pair of Slavani so in-synch? That’s plenty unique! As a pair, you’re one of a kind! You write letters to your Master all the time, right? I’m sure she’d get a real laugh out if this.”
“…” It took a moment for his words to register.
“…” Merigold considered the idea as well.
Suddenly my ears perked up and light returned to my face. “You’re right! That’s true, this kind of thing doesn’t happen often. It’s unique how un-unique we are!”
Merigold smiled and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Yeah, our similarity is our defining feature! Tyler, Peter, thank you so much.” She wrapped her arms around Tyler’s waist with a relieved smile.
I couldn’t believe how the day turned out! I started the morning thinking I was just another face in your endless horde, doing everything I could to advance your ambitions, but then I realized just how unique I really am! Emotion welled within my chest, and I almost cried. I turned to Peter, my face beaming, and I gave him a big, warm hug. “Thank you. You don’t know how much it means to me.”
The Slavani in attendance went wild with their applause. Whistling, clapping and howling in cheers, the restaurant was a mess of raised glasses and excitement. It’s not every day you get to see such horrific tragedy followed up by such a happy ending.
The rest of the date went well, but I was far too excited to get home and write this letter, so the events kind of blurred together. It just goes to show that even though it sometimes seems like things are bad and you should give up hope, all one needs is to think hard enough and figure out how everything fits into Master’s divine, flawless plan.
Thank you, Master.
-A kindred spirit to Worker Merigold Jan Hirithmoth, First Daughter of Worker Futhul Mana Zapri and Worker Quilioc Por Kuruva, Born of the Orikai Spawn Pit on Disputed World Gedri:
Worker Merigold Jan Hirithmoth, First Daughter of Worker Virona Vet Yiroth and Worker Gettan Dirth Smirrrr, Born of the Orikai Spawn Pit on Disputed World Gedri.