Cloning humans is illegal—that is until family man Adam Gibson comes home from work one day to find a clone has replaced him. Taken from his family and plunged into a sinister world he doesn't understand, Gibson must not only save himself from the assassins who must now destroy him to protect their secret, but uncover who and what is behind the horrible things happening to him ... in Terry Bisson's thrilling The Sixth Day.
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|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|File size:||330 KB|
About the Author
Terry Bisson is an American science fiction and fantasy author, born on February 12, 1942, in Owensboro, Kentucky. His many novels include Talking Man (1986), Fire on the Mountain (1988), Voyage to the Red Planet (1990), Pirates of the Universe (1996), and The Pickup Artist (2001). His 1990 short story “Bears Discover Fire” won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, and his all-dialogue story “They're Made Out of Meat” is one of the most widely-reprinted SF stories of the last several decades. He has published several volumes of short fiction, including Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories (1993), In the Upper Room and Other Likely Stories (2000), and Greetings (2005).
Read an Excerpt
The 6th Day
By Terry Bisson, James Frenkel
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2000 Phoenix Pictures
All rights reserved.
The sky was dark as velvet, pierced by stars.
Stars no one, on this planet anyway, was watching.
All eyes were on the grass, which was that bright, electric, astro-green seen only in football stadiums, on network television, with the contrast set on HIGH.
The crowd surrounding the football field was agitated, excited, but murmuring rather than screaming. Taking a deep breath, as it were, between plays.
While the two opposing teams huddled on the field, a sparkling Chrysler 300 sedan, two and a half times normal size, slowly spun in the air over the fifty-yard line — a holographic display, visible not only on TV, but from every one of the twenty-two thousand seats in the stadium as well.
Football was big time; advertising was big business.
The announcer's voice reached twelve million (12.1765 million, to be precise) sets of ears via TV consoles, headsets, car radios, and stadium speakers.
"Big third down for the expansion Road Runners! Their playoff hopes could hinge on this play. A lot of pressure for quarterback Johnny Phoenix!"
The subject of the eulogy (or was it a premature elegy?) confirmed the play, nodded to his receivers, and dismissed the huddle.
"As if being the first player to break three hundred million isn't enough pressure!" another announcer added as the teams faced off on the line of scrimmage.
The burly center leaned over the ball.
The quarterback, Johnny Phoenix, cupped his hands and spat on his fingers; looked left, looked right. His linemen were poised like hammers, ready to strike. His receivers were coiled like steel springs, ready to dart into action.
With a flick of his eyes, Johnny Phoenix checked the head-up display inside his helmet: "6-4 flex. Danger: Possible blitz."
What else is new? he thought wryly.
The crowd fell almost silent as the quarterback called the numbers in a tense monotone:
"Red 26, red 26 hut! Hut! Hut!"
The ball was in his hands ... and Johnny Phoenix's hands knew just what to do.
His feet knew just what to do.
He danced back from the line of scrimmage as the two teams collided — tons of groaning, grunting, grinding flesh, canvas and plastic.
Wham! Crack! Ungh!
There's the receiver, right where he oughta be!
All of Johnny Phoenix's dreams, skills and ambitions — all his years of training and practice and work — narrowed to a blinding point of light as he pulled back for the throw that was going to win the game ...
Then everything went dark as he was blindsided by a 271 pound tackle who had sashayed and twisted his way between two defenders.
Sacked! was his last grim thought as he fell.
And fell and fell ...
Down into a darkness that was silent and still.
Too silent. Too still.
Why doesn't it hurt? Johnny wondered as the darkness lapped over his mind, like waves erasing a sand castle.
There was not enough pain. Not nearly enough pain.
* * *
The gurney was pushed down the corridor on whispering wheels. The man on it lay perfectly, eerily still.
An electronic display on one side of the gurney showed heartbeat, respiration, all the vital signs.
All of them were within range, but barely.
The respirator over Johnny Phoenix's mouth and nose expanded and contracted as he breathed.
In. Out. In. Out.
The yin and yang of life itself, thought the team doctor pushing the gurney. He watched the young man's face, then the monitor. He was breathing, but that was about all. He wouldn't even be breathing without the respirator.
The man walking on the other side of the gurney looked worried. Marshall was with the team's front office. What he had to tell the doctor, the doctor already knew.
"The owner wants Johnny to get the best of care."
"He's going to need it," the doctor said. "His sixth cervical vertebra is crushed."
The doctor touched a button and the electronic monitor on the gurney printed out a damage scan.
He handed it to Marshall, who took it without a word.
"With proper care and animatronics," said the doctor, "he'll eventually walk again."
Marshall wadded up the scan and stuck it deep into the inside pocket of his $2200 Milano suit. "We'll be getting a second opinion," he said. "Perhaps it's not as bad as you think."
The doctor shrugged, and turned the gurney over to two ambulance attendants at the end of the corridor. Quickly, in one practiced move, they collapsed the legs and shoved the assembly — electronic monitors and all — into the rear of a waiting ambulance.
Marshall jumped into the back with the injured player.
The team doctor started to join him.
Marshall slammed the door in his face.
* * *
Sirens blaring, the ambulance raced through the night.
Inside, Johnny Phoenix lay breathing in and out. The respirator hissed:
Marshall sat at Johnny's head, speaking into a cell phone. He didn't bother to lower his voice. Johnny Phoenix was out cold. But even if he were wide awake, and listening, and understanding — what did it matter?
"The status?" Marshall spat into the phone. "We have a lifetime contract with a guy with a broken back!"
Marshall leaned over and flicked Johnny's ear. No response.
"Maybe we could trade him to LA ..." Marshall joked into the phone. "Sure, I'll get right on it."
He clicked the phone shut and put it away in the pocket of his suit.
Then he reached for the electronic monitor on the gurney and found the button marked RESPIRATOR.
"Sorry, Johnny," he said in a soft, matter-of-fact voice. "You gotta take one for the team."
He hit the button and turned off the respirator. The hissing stopped.
The yin, the yang ... no more.
Marshall looked toward the front of the ambulance. The two attendants were watching the road. They couldn't hear what was going on in the back anyway.
Marshall watched as the heart display on the monitor fluctuated wildly, peaked ... beep beep beep ... and flat-lined.
Then he looked away, already thinking about something else.CHAPTER 2
Adam Gibson wiped the fog off the bathroom mirror.
He studied his face. He looked ordinary, he thought — though some might have said handsome. In need of a shave.
Determined — though some might have said stubborn. He looked like what he was: a man at peace with himself and his life.
But not this morning. Anxiety and vanity overtake even the most sensible, the most resourceful, the most contented men at least once a year, and Adam was worriedly looking for signs of the great destroyer, age.
"Do I look different to you?" he called out.
No one answered.
He poked his head around the door and looked into the bedroom. His wife was just stirring on the big double bed.
As usual, Adam felt overwhelmed by Natalie's beauty. His aesthetic senses were amplified by the fact that her quilt had fallen off her sleeping form, and her curves — even at forty — were lush and full.
"Huh?" Natalie yawned sleepily, covering herself with the quilt. She studied her husband. "You shaved your mustache?"
Adam shook his head ruefully. "I never had a mustache."
Adam gave up. He pushed the defogger below the bathroom mirror, and the whoosh of air quickly cleared the glass.
He resumed the study of himself in the mirror. "I don't feel any different."
In the other room, Natalie sat up in the bed. "Is Clara up?"
"She's watching TV with Oliver," said Adam.
Natalie let the quilt fall from her shoulders. "Are you going to spend the day looking for new wrinkles? Or are you going to come on in and give me a kiss?"
"Oh, well," said Adam, heading into the bedroom. "I suppose I have to."
Whack! He was hit on the side of the head with a pillow.
Before she could launch another pillow, Natalie was toppled over onto the bed by Adam. He held her down with both hands while he nailed her with a kiss.
"You don't look any different," he said. "You look exactly ... no, you look better than the day I met you."
Natalie dropped the second pillow and looked at her husband with slightly misty, laughing eyes. "If you're trying to get your present early — it worked."
She reached behind her and pulled a wrapped package from the drawer of the bedside table.
"Happy birthday, honey."
Adam sat up and smiled, surprised, then delighted. He unwrapped the package quickly, greedily — more like a kid than a middle-aged man.
His face lit up with delight when he saw what it was: A cigar butt and a Zippo lighter.
He smelled the cigar tenderly, reverently, passing it slowly under his rather large nose.
"You like it?" Natalie asked.
Adam was speechless. Like it? He smelled it again. "How'd you get it?"
"I found it a couple of months ago when I cleaned out the attic. Must be ancient. Might be a little stale."
Adam put the cigar in his mouth and rolled it from side to side raffishly.
"We could get arrested for this," he said.
"I know," said Natalie.
She snatched the cigar from his mouth, put it back into the box, and replaced the box in the drawer. "You can smoke it tonight. In the garage. After Clara goes to bed."
Adam grabbed Natalie and pulled her to him. "You know how cigars make me feel ..."
She lay down and surrendered to his kiss.
Adam's hands were just beginning to explore the familiar and yet always interesting curves of Natalie's body, when she sat up suddenly.
"What about Clara?"
To silence her, Adam pushed her back down on the bed.
Natalie pushed him away playfully. "Lock the door."
Adam tiptoed across the bedroom. He was just about to shut and lock the door when it burst open, nailing him painfully in the groin.
"Happy birthday!" yelled Clara, his eight-year-old daughter, as she ran into the room.
Adam was doubled over with pain, which made it easier for Clara to throw herself up onto his back.
"Honey, get down," said Natalie. "You're too old for that."
Clara pouted. "I am not!"
"I meant your father," said Natalie.
"Very funny," said Adam as he set Clara down. "Honey, isn't your show on?"
But it was already too late. Behind him he saw Natalie, putting on her robe.
"That show's for little kids, dad," said Clara, taking the tone of a precocious child who is amazed at the obtuseness of grown-ups. She tugged at her father's hand. "Come on! I made you breakfast."
Uh oh, thought Adam. He looked to Natalie for help, but Clara was leading the way toward the kitchen.
* * *
"I'm right here, Daddy!"
Adam and Clara were playing their favorite game, a sort of gymnastic version of hide-and-seek.
Usually, Oliver liked to play. Usually he didn't like to watch TV. Oliver was a dog, after all.
But today he wasn't feeling so great. And guess what was on the TV? Dogs.
The television screen was filled with dogs of all sizes, shapes, and colors. While Adam and Clara were in the kitchen making noise and playing, Oliver lay on the couch in the living room, watching the dogs bark and run and look up adoringly at their owners.
It was almost as if Oliver knew, somehow, that the commercial on the screen was about his life.
"They're playmates. Best friends," said the announcer in his smooth, caring voice. "They keep our secrets and give us unconditional love. But because of their shorter life spans, these family members can't help but break our hearts."
"Rrgrgrgrrr," said Oliver. The shapes were vague, but familiar. Was this why humans watched TV? To see dogs?
"Until now!" the announcer continued. "Should accident, illness, or age end your pet's natural life, our proven genetic technology can have him back the same day, in perfect health, with zero defects, guaranteed. Your pet doesn't want to break your heart — and thanks to RePet, he never has to."
Adam walked through the room, carrying Clara upside down on his back.
"Where's Clara?" he asked.
"Daddy, I'm here! I'm here!"
Adam whipped around, pretending not to notice that his daughter was dangling from his shoulders.
"Where are you? Oliver ..."
"Rrgrgrgrrr?" The big old dog looked up from where he lay on the couch.
"Oliver, have you seen Clara?"
Adam headed for the kitchen, with the giggling girl still dangling from his back.
Oliver put his head down on his paws and went back to watching, or sort of watching, the TV.
* * *
"Mmmmm!!" said Adam, as he shoveled another disgusting spoonful of Happy-Ohs! into his mouth. "What a good breakfast."
Clara grabbed two bananas off the table and held them up for her dad.
One was yellow. The other was bright orange.
"You want nacho flavored or regular?"
"Banana flavored, thanks," said Adam, as he took the regular — yellow — banana.
"Dad?" His daughter eyed him shrewdly as he peeled the banana.
His eyes met hers.
"Can I have a Sim-Pal for your birthday?"
Adam looked shocked. "You want a present on my birthday?"
"That way you won't feel guilty that you're the only one getting something," Clara explained, with elaborate reasonableness.
Hmmm. Adam mulled over this interesting way of thinking. Then he asked, "What's a Sim-Pal?"
"A life-size doll," said Clara. "A simulated friend that grows real hair and can do lots of stuff."
"Can't your real friends grow real hair and do lots of stuff?" Adam asked.
"Yeah. But they all have Sim-Pals."
"Ask your mother," said Adam.
Clara hugged him, the battle won. "You're the greatest, Dad!"
She ran out of the kitchen before he could change his mind. As soon as she was gone, Adam got up and went to dump the rest of the super-sweet Happy-Ohs! down the garbage disposal.
Ooops! Clara ran back into the kitchen, breathless with excitement.
Adam took another spoonful of cereal, as if to say, "It's even better standing up."
But Clara didn't notice. She eyed her father shrewdly. "You're going to my recital, right?"
"Is that today?"
"No, Daddy! Tomorrow." She pointed to the refrigerator. An LCD display on the door gave TIME and WEATHER, and SCHEDULE.
Under SCHEDULE it read:
CLARA'S RECITAL, 5:30 PM @ SCHOOL
"Of course," Adam said. "I'll be there."
Clara hugged him and ran out the door.
Adam waited until he was sure she was gone before dumnping the rest of the cereal. The bowl looked tiny in his huge hands as he put it into the dishwasher.
Then he put away the milk. As he closed the refrigerator door, the LCD display shifted and read:
FOUR OUNCES LOW FAT MILK REMAINING.
As Adam was pressing YES, he heard Clara's scream.
"Mom! Dad! Come quick!"
Every muscle tensed as Adam ran into the living room — and then relaxed as he saw his daughter safe, standing by the couch.
The dog, Oliver, lay listlessly on the sofa. A pool of vomit ran from his jaw, down the couch to the floor.
"Oliver barfed on the couch," said Clara.
"It's okay," said Adam. "We'll just never sit there again."
Clara wasn't ready to treat it as a joke. "Is he okay?"
Adam knelt and petted the dog as Natalie came running into the room. She also looked worried — then relieved as she saw the scene.
"He probably just ate something that didn't agree with him," Adam said to Clara. "Probably something nacho-flavored."
He sent Clara into the kitchen for paper towels, then turned to Natalie:
"I think he's really sick! I'll take him to the vet."
"You've got that new client," Natalie said. "I'll take him. Come here, poor boy."
"Don't you have to take Clara?" Adam asked.
"She's carpooling today. And so are you, don't forget."
Adam got up, ruffling the dog's fur one last time. "Try not to barf in the van, big guy."
Oliver looked up miserably. Natalie took him by the collar and pulled him to his feet as Clara watched from the kitchen doorway, horrified.
"Don't worry, honey," Adam said. "He'll be fine. Come on, help Daddy shave. Fireman?"
Clara brightened and leaped into his arms. "Fireman!"
Adam hoisted his daughter over his shoulder, backward, in the "fireman's carry" he'd learned doing Search & Rescue in the Navy.
With his precious cargo safely secured, he headed for the bathroom to shave.
Excerpted from The 6th Day by Terry Bisson, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2000 Phoenix Pictures. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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