Originally, I had not noticed anything missing the last time I was in an emergency room. But, somehow, I consented to be cloned.
I thought the papers they asked me to sign were merely those by which I promised not to sue the hospital in case it muffed something. The first inkling I had that something was amiss was when I heard from the IRS, which seemed to have a folder of identical Schall requests for tax rebates. With this information alone, I was not sure whether there were 10 or 20 extra Schalls or only one, that is, two — namely, me and my clone. The clones had evidently been produced in a lab in Paris and given my name. One of them was purchased by an elderly English couple on an experimental basis. They brought him up identical to myself, except that he spoke English funny.
It seems that this Englishman, this “Schall-Clone,” had managed to attend Oxford, something the original Schall never did, though I had visited the place once. Even though the two corpora looked remarkably alike, the one who went to Oxford had taken a course in natural law that was being given there one semester. At the end of the course, he began to wonder whether he had any “natural rights.” This question alone distinguished him from the naturally begotten Schall, who thinks “natural rights,” as we know them, were mostly invented by Hobbes, another Englishman.
What essentially concerned SchallClone was whether, like other non-cloned human beings, he had a “right” to two parents, a male and a female and, if so, where would he go about finding them? Though perhaps my parents could be called his “grandparents,” strictly speaking, he had no parents. But if he did have this right, ought he not be able to sue those biological fabricators who, in Paris, brought him into being in this odd way and thereby deprived him of his natural heritage? He thought, moreover, that he should take it upon himself to meet the original Schall to compare notes, as it were.
SchallClone managed to catch a flight to Washington. He arranged a meeting in my office. I told the man, whom, under the circumstances, I figured I would recognize the minute I saw him, to stop by the front desk. The secretary would call when he arrived. About 11 one morning, I received a tentative call from an astonished departmental secretary. How could I be on the phone with her and standing in front of her at the same time? I asked her what the name of the visitor was. “Schall,” she replied with a gasp in her voice. I instructed her to send him in.
SchallClone shook my hand, cased my office and asked how old I was. I told him that he was the same age as I. “Do you have a ‘birthday’?” I added out of curiosity. “We don't call them ‘birthdays,’” he informed me. “We call them, though somewhat awkwardly, ‘clonedays.’”
I wondered whether his cloneday coincided with my birthday, January 20. “No,” he replied. “My cloneday is July 4, a sort of ‘Yankee Doodle Cloneday,’ if I might make an American pun.” I did not smile. “Do they give you presents on your clone-day?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “but on each clone-day we are asked if we want Schall to continue into the next generation so that there will always be a Schall down through the ages.” I did not smile at this proposition.
“Are you the only person in England who looks exactly like Schall?” I inquired. “As far as I know,” he responded, “I am the only one in England. I have not yet requested to be in turn cloned, though I have a natural right to do so. But I hear that there are about a dozen more SchallClones in France.” “You mean there are French Schalls?” I inquired dubiously “Yes,” he replied. “We clones were a particularly successful batch in Paris when we were made to be Schall.”
At this point, I had to go to class. I said good-bye. When I got to my classroom, there were no students. Thinking this odd, I noticed that there was a sign on the door announcing that my class would be held at the same time in another room down the hall, but in French. The next day, I ran into one of my students. I asked him how the class was the day before. He showed no sign that it was not me who taught that class. He expressed some surprise at the excellence of my French and was equally astonished that I was urging the students to follow the doctrines of Rousseau about the institutional causes of all sin, about which I was distinctly unenthusiastic just a few days prior.
On a long shot, I asked the student when was his birthday. He told me he did not have any birthday, but he did have a “cloneday.” With that, I figured civilization had ended. I retired to my monastic cell, only to find it occupied by someone of the same name speaking English.
Jesuit Father James Schall teaches political science at Georgetown University.