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I Am David's

Damara Dianne currently lives in South Carolina and works on a local dairy farm. When she's not busy wrangling animals, she's generally busy wrangling her children. On the occasions when she finds herself free of both, she likes nothing more than locking herself away in her room to write, paint, sculpt, or simply soak up the silence. Oh that elusive, glorious silence.

***Warning. Adult Story. Please only Read if 18+ and Prepared***
I am David's. This is lesson one.
I know it as I float within the jelly womb. I know it before all else.
I am Gwen. This is lesson two.
I know it as I gulp the fluid down my throat, as I absorb each of her memories making them my own. When I've absorbed the last of who she is, I probe the smooth uterine wall, my fingers searching for a weak spot. For a moment, I am pushing through, almost born, only to be sucked back in again. The womb is wet and slick beneath my writhing torso. I stretch my arms further this time, until my fingers grasp the lip at the edge of a metal table. The womb's synthetic flesh peels back from what is real. What is me. I blink once, twice, and turn my head, coughing. Warm liquid rises into my throat. It streams the color of honey down my lips and chin.
My eyes are slow to focus on a wheelchair just beyond my reach, where someone who is not David rocks back and forth. I know this woman from the memories. She is Gwen, and I am her.
Gwen hates me. This is lesson three.
Three hours pass before my legs are strong enough to support my weight. I slip cautiously off the side of the table, holding tightly to the edge. I'm startled by how cold the tile is beneath the sensitive pads of my feet, but it's nothing compared to the ice in Gwen's gaze.
Gwen does not walk.
I recall a vague memory of a shattered window above her. Shards of broken glass bite into her shoulders and arms. She tries to stand up, but the more she squirms, the deeper the pieces embed themselves. She reaches down, pinches the fatty part of her thighs. Her legs are there, and yet lost to her all the same. I push the memory away.
I've barely taken a step when my knee buckles beneath me, sending me sprawling to the floor. Gwen hums a short sound that is something between disapproval and amusement.
I try again, this time gripping the edge of the table with one hand and holding the other out to my side for balance, shoulders pushed proudly back. Gwen's eyes remain trained on mine as I inch closer. Her stringy black hair is tucked behind her ears, the bulk of it hanging limply against her broken spine. Her eyes are dull, and her skin puffy from lack of sleep and advanced age. Once she was beautiful, like me, but those years have long since passed. She envies me. Of course, she does. I am David's. And I am here to replace her.
I hate Gwen. This is lesson four.
An empty tub waits for me in the sterile washroom. Gwen motions for me to sit across from her on a small marble bench with a sharp flick of her wrist.
"You are aware David insists on very strict hygiene. To keep your body properly maintained you will perform this task once weekly between your daily showers. Understood?"
Up until now, Gwen has never smiled at me. I don't like it. She holds a wide strip of fabric pinched between those wiry, snatching fingers. One side of the fabric is covered in gel.
"This," she says, pulling the swathe taut, "is to be used for hair removal." She smoothes the fabric across my calf, that unnatural smile frozen in place. In one painful jerk my leg hair is uprooted. There are nine more strips to go.
I've been in the washroom for two hours and still have not washed. My arms, legs, back, various areas of my face, and the delicate regions hidden beneath my undergarments have been stripped of hair. Gwen removed the top two layers of skin with a gritty loam and scrub brush. I am more naked now than I was the day I was born, stripped of something more vital than hair and skin. I stand before Gwen shivering and vulnerable.
This is the first time I've felt pain. My first taste of humiliation. It will not be the last. That is lesson five.
"This should come naturally," says Gwen. My smile falters again. She is wrong. The smile she insists David will want is anything but natural. It is shy and timid. I am neither.
The muscles in my jaw and cheeks push against each other and I force my lips into what I hope is the correct alignment. It is not. Gwen's knuckles turn white against the arms of the wheelchair. "You know it's not right," she says. "Do it again. Do it until you get it right."
"Not right," I say to the mirror. "Do it again. Do it again until it's right." My voice is a little shrill, but almost a perfect match to Gwen's. I part my lips once more, this time focusing on the weak spot in my left cheek. The muscles collapse into a dimple. I stare at my reflection and imagine my lips sinking into that shallow pit. My smile shifts off centered beneath my nose. My eyes squint, one slightly more than the other, and I drop my chin towards my left shoulder. Gwen says David will be pleased.
She says, "David will be pleased, even when you are not." This is lesson six.
It is a month after my birth when I am finally ready to be David's. A soft white tunic covers me from my knees to my neck. My shoulders are kept bare with my hair twisted into a loose braid, and a simple silver locket hangs around my neck. Inside it is a picture of David. He does not smile, and Gwen says I should get used to that. But what does she know? How many years has David been stuck caring for this creature who can offer nothing in return?
"Do not look directly at him," Gwen says, her words are fast and lack the usual bite. "Your eyes are never to rise anywhere above his chest."
I nod my understanding, but this will be difficult for me because I'm so giddy with anticipation. David is why I was born. I live only to love and serve him. There is nothing else.
I follow Gwen through a wing of the house that I've never seen in her memories. We enter a small, dim room with concrete walls. The air is damp and stale, and makes me wish I'd worn a sweater over my tunic. Gwen directs me to two black wooden benches sitting perpendicular to each other. She painstakingly arranges my body position, pulling my hands forward and clasping them loosely in front of me. Her hands are clammy against mine, and she squeezes my fingers lightly before she moves on, shifting my feet closer to each other. She tucks the heel of one slightly into the curve of the other. "Now, look at me as if I'm David," she says. And then, "Yes, that should do."
She gives me a weak smile that seems genuinely sad. "You are David's now," she says, "but it can't last forever."
This is lesson seven.
I've not seen David in three days. This is unusual. And it is a blessing. The bruises are lighter, more yellow-green than purple, but my ribs are tender still, and it's physically impossible to stand up. When I shift positions, the looseness in my hip suggests it is broken.
Gwen has checked on me daily in David's absence. Today her features are more drawn than usual. "It'll be over soon," she whispers. "He's kept you much longer this time, but the reset chamber is almost ready."
"I don't understand," I say, but I know it's a lie before the words even leave my mouth. Maybe I've known all along. Somewhere deep in the circuitry that's been erased and written over time and time again with young Gwen's memories. The early years, before he went too far. When he was all Gwen lived for. But Gwen is only human, after all. Once she is broken, she cannot be repaired.
I am not Gwen. And I get stronger each time.
This is lesson eight.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, July 7th, 2017

Author Comments

"If I only knew then what I know now."

My guess is that if I had the opportunity to hang out with and enlighten young me, the now me would find young me to be unbearably naive. And, of course, young me would consider now me too cynical and rigid.

This story was written with that idea in mind. And a sadistic scientist for good measure.

- Damara Dianne
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