My sister Chiru has beautiful, rich, warm brown skin. Mine is like onionskin paper, yellowed and dry and fragile. The few wisps of hair that grow on my scarred scalp mock the thick, black waves that fall past her shoulders and would grow to her waist if she let it. She is poised and correct in her posture, where I am bowed and curled like a crescent.
She is perfect and I am flawed, and she hates me.
My sister Chiru is brilliant, and speaks to computers. I mean this literally; she is a technopath. If it has wires and electricity for blood, it will bend to her will. She is rich, richer than I could ever be, simply by doing what comes naturally and disguising it under a title: network consultant.
She speaks the language of the machine so well and relates to the living so poorly. I am alive, and she must take care of me.
My sister Chiru is a hero who walked bravely into the jaws of death and pulled me from them. That is to say: she threaded the maze of white corridors to return to the facility where we were created and free our siblings from locked rooms and computer-run incubators.
When Chiru is angry or afraid, machines explode. (Perhaps now you see why she could escape where none of the rest of us could begin to wake up from a druggy haze.)
Chiru was very angry that day.
In the end, she couldn’t retrieve anyone but me; hundreds or thousands of fertilized eggs, clones in various stages of development, a few newly dissected in the name of Science. All died while I lived.
I didn’t know what I was doing. My first memory is orange and yellow and thick, dark smoke, the smell of meat, the roar and crackle, the white-hot bubbling of my skin. Instinct bent the lines of energy away from me, shielding me from the blaze while everyone else burned.
She called me Coda because I am the last one.
She hates me because I survived where all the rest died. I whisper this to myself every day as penance.
My beautiful, brilliant sister Chiru has no gift for people.
That gift is mine.
I can perceive the thin strands that make connections between people: family, friends, lovers, coworkers are all connected by threads of energy. Across distance, across time, we are connected in a great and tangled web.
I can see the threads, and I can follow them. Manipulate them.
But we are all connected. Tug one thread, and another part of the tapestry unravels. There is a price to pay for every twitch of the lines. Saving myself — even though I didn’t know what I was doing when I did it — wrecked a hundred other lives. I made a wall from bits of lives and wrapped it around myself as I burned. As we all burned.
Those lives I used left blank lines in the web, weak spots that will surely fail, and the more I try to fix things, the worse things get. It spirals out exponentially, great patches of darkness in the glittering universe I can see between people.
Chiru has to order pizza online because she hates talking to the delivery boy.
I am the one they wanted, and she hates me.
I am the successful experiment, and they hunt us.
She runs, she carries me, she tends my empty body while my mind travels, she spoons broth into my cracked lips. Nowhere is safe for long, so she hauls me from one hiding hole to another, whispering to the cash machines and airport ticket computers to change our names and hide our tracks.
They would perhaps leave her alone if she left me behind.
But she won’t. I am all she has, the only person in the world she could possibly relate to, and she runs and carries and hates me.
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