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One of The Books of Adam
baby is an inestimable blessing and bother.
Nine months after I died, my daughter gave birth to
It was more than fifty years after my birth when I
first saw the recording of our umbilical cord being severed.
“May I hold him?”
I caught my breath. I hadn’t heard my mother’s
voice in so many years. Her gentle intonations conjured forgotten memories of an
old form of happiness, before shadows of loss and sadness began to dampen even
the best times.
I walked toward my mom’s holographic image, my
fingertips trying to touch the laser plasma that comprised her face. She looked
so much younger than the images in my mind. Her blond hair untouched by gray,
her smooth cheeks and chin unblemished by worry, her blue-gray eyes still
looking like those of a child delighting in an unexpected present.
Her name was Sarah. She was the daughter of the man I
was cloned from. And she had just become the mother of her father’s clone with
my birth. Or “Adam’s Rebirth,” as the home video was labeled. A video
discovered in one of my Grandma Lily’s storage boxes.
Lily is in the holotape as well, hovering nearby as
the nurse begins wiping off my small body. “Is Adam okay?”
I tense when I hear my great-grandfather’s voice
from behind. Lyle Gardener, the man who recorded the event. The man who made
human cloning possible. I turn to see the doctor and Lyle reviewing the medical
scans. “Everything’s in order,” Lyle says. “Fingers, toes, organs, and
“But is it really Adam? I mean, his soul?” Lily
asks. “Does he remember me?”
The nurse finishes my initial cleaning. Lily opens
her arms to receive me, but frowns as the nurse instead walks to Sarah’s side.
She eases my newborn body into my mother’s arms. My tiny head wobbles so that
my face looks up at hers. Naturally, on that night of March 11, 2034, I did not
yet realize that my mother within whose womb I’d spent the previous nine
months was the newborn daughter I had once cradled in my own arms.
“You have a beautiful soul,” my mom says, smiling
before kissing me on my forehead and nose. “I love you, Michael,” she
whispers, calling me by my middle name as she cradles me to her, not bothering
to wipe away her tears, breathing in the scent of her newborn who had moments
before been a part of her own body.
I notice my own tears as my fingertips again attempt
to somehow touch the 52-year-old images around me. Did I have a soul? If so,
part of it must have come from my mother. Sarah’s hologram closes her eyes as
she gently rocks me back and forth, humming a familiar lullaby. She seems to
have become oblivious to everything else. Oblivious to her mother and
grandfather, to the doctor and nurses. Even to the throngs of people who had
gathered outside the hospital in spite of a thunderstorm, the din of which I can
just hear in the background.
A couple of the bystanders were awed; awed at me,
awed at science, awed at the uncertain future my birth represented. The other
thousand-plus were protesting “The Blasphemous Birth,” the baby created not
by God, but by humans who believed they were gods. They saw the thunderstorm as
a sign from an angry deity proclaiming the end of the world. As did Gabrielle
Burns, the drenched woman standing quietly to the side, her calm face upturned
to the hospital room window – the woman who would eventually murder my mother.
Even if I had known all this, my reaction would have
been the same: the newborn image of me began to cry. A sure “sign” that the
first human clone was a healthy baby boy, soul or not.
A half-century later, and the end of the world
has yet to arrive. What did come to an end was my early fame. The widespread
furor over my existence occurred while I was still the only clone, too young to
realize what was going on, or to comfort my mother who bore the brunt of it.
Cloned births became commonplace while I was a young child, removing me from the
spotlight and affording me a mostly private life, if still not a peaceful one.
So why call renewed attention to myself by writing an
autobiography? In part, I’d like to honor the memories of those who have
touched me. I’d also like to set straight, or in many cases confirm, the
rumors attached to my life. But it’s much more than that. Since my earliest
memories, I’ve been told that I would be seen as the primary example of human
cloning, and that humanity’s acceptance or rejection of human cloning might
depend on how I was perceived. By writing this autobiography I hope to give
others some insight as to what it was like to be the first human clone. I hope
to help fellow clones deal with similar issues, and help convince non-clones
that we are all human beings. Whether we are conceived naturally by a mother and
father or, as in my case, manufactured in a laboratory from the cells of dead
ancestors, we are neither more nor less perfect than others.
Most importantly, I hope to convince myself of this.
My dead ancestor’s name was Adam Silva Elwell, after my birth referred to as Adam Elwell-1, and he was my grandpa. Or, as far as some people are concerned, he was I. Which is why, unlike most autobiographies, the story of my life begins some sixty years before I was born.