In a cold basement underneath a church on a busy inner city street, printers whirred and clanked turning simulated women into flesh and bones, into thoughts and desires – desires for unspeakable things, for acts drawn from the depths of worshippers’ minds. The worshippers would never remember these thoughts. They could not have possibly come from their heads. They were people of God after all, not deviants.
The congregation sat in wooden pews, waiting, not sure why they waited but knowing their patience would be rewarded. They sat, hands resting in laps, ankles crossed. Expectation buzzed, emanating from each body, warming the old stone building.
Below, the first woman emerged from the printers. She was tall and thin, oh-so-thin, with grey eyes and long silver hair and the logo of Benchmark Beer blazoned across her chest. The company had outbid rivals almost two-to-one for this year’s rights. More women lined up behind her, with identical eyes and hair and logos.
A second group stood against the far wall. These women were curvier with dark red hair and green eyes, fashioned from year-old whims. Their Jet-A-Lot logos had faded and were impossible to see but it didn’t matter. Jet-A-Lot profits were up 400% compared with last year. These women had served their purpose. Their hearts stopped beating, one by one, as each new silver woman appeared. The red women fell, crumpled on the floor, to be collected later by the Chaplain and fed back into machines. They would become amino acids and lipids and nucleotides, ready to print next year’s stock.
The Chaplain watched, palms pressed together under his chin. He made himself watch every year even though he wished he were deaf and blind and immune to the predatory look in these womens’ eyes and their heated murmurs in his ear. They were prey, these women, but they didn’t know it. He was prey too, in a way, but it was this or an empty church as the Governor loved to remind him.
When the last red woman fell and the silvers stood shining before him, he led them up into the church and set them free among the parishioners. Today was not the day for words, for sermons filled with right and wrong and love and hope. Today was about a different sort of fulfilment. The Chaplain forced himself to watch that too and to feel the excitement brewing inside him. He was a cog in the machine that created this mess and he didn’t have the right to ignore it.
The last worshipper left when light began creeping into the night sky. He wouldn’t remember the annual celebration but he would start drinking Benchmark Beer and wonder how he had lived so long without this delicious beverage that warmed his very soul.
The silver women filed into the rectory, exhausted but pleased with their work. They would shower and sleep and then they were free to roam the city until next year. That freedom made this okay, said the Governor and the corporate moguls. We are not exploiting these women. We are giving them the gift of life. And the profits give everlasting life to many more.
Beer cans filled the aisles of the empty church. The Chaplain bent down and picked up an unopened can that had rolled behind the pulpit. He cracked the lid and swigged the liquid, draining the can in one gulp. He emptied another and another and tried to tell himself it was worth it.
This story was written for a Wattpad competition. The prompt was the song ‘Corporate Cloning’ by Fear Factory: