Content warning: self harm
The mirror is fogged from her shower. A shower that has washed her body clean but not her mind. She’s a new person, fresh from the pod but with memories of half a dozen deaths. It’s her job, her vocation, to die for her people. Killer, savior, murderer, peace keeper, slayer of sons and daughters… soldier. She is all these things and none.
The shape she sees through the fog is more her own than her actual refection. This isn’t her body. Her body doesn’t even exist anymore. G.I. Jane they call this body type. Strong, durable, fast like it was built for combat. It was built for combat. Designed, coded, and grown just for combat. Its features tweaked just enough to distinguish her from all the others. No one would fail to recognize her as a clone soldier though.
Her body is new. Clean. Fresh. Unscarred. So unlike her memories. She will fix that soon enough.
She considers the number on her shoulder, a seven. Tattooed on after her ‘birth’. It’s supposed to be an honor. Recognition of her value. Recognition that she was worth another body. To her it’s a brand. A way for them to remind she lives by their will. She cuts across one way than the other. Crosshatching it to oblivion.
There are many cuts she must make to remake this body into her own. She does the easy one first. Quick, in one motion, from her eyebrow back to the hairline. Blood flows down. It blinds her in one eye. She tastes it as it reaches her lips. This one is just a reminder of a fight that did not but should have killed her.
Now for the harder ones. She remembers. Her hand presses against the place in her that had once, one time, held life. This body would never, could never, do the same. She remembered the joy and the aches as it quickened within her. She remembered the first kicks and then the stillness. So, still. She had fretted for a day before her doctor had confirmed her fears and made arrangements. There were complications and explanations. In the end she understood there would be no next time. No second try.
She cried and raged against the pain in her heart. The emptiness that spread through her like cancer until she could no longer feel anything. And that hurt even more. She took a knife to her skin to ease the pain.
Randomly crisscrossing cutting deep in her skin. She cuts into and writes in pain and blood on half her inner arm from the wrist down . Pain and blood. So much pain that only blood could quiet the dulling roar of it. That night she had been in a frenzy before the blood had calmed her and the pain in her arm had overwhelmed the pain in her heart. She, now, cuts straight parallel lines beneath the mess below her wrist. Five lines and a half. She hadn’t needed the sixth. She had finished. She had beaten back the pain. It wasn’t the last time she had cut but it was the most visible. These were the cuts that had defined her, reminded her, grounded her in her body. Now they were on this body.
She makes just a few more cuts on the other wrist. Another reminder, this one of despair that did not kill her but should have. Finished now, she feels complete and whole.
Wiping the fog from the mirror, she sees a refection of herself carved in this body’s skin. She sees herself.
Author note: This one is a rewrite of an older story. The original was written before I had read Old Man’s War by John Scalzi or Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. Both novels deal with uploading people into different bodies. Old Man’s War specifically about cloned soldiers. So, I shelved the story idea. After a few years, I revisited the idea and wrote this short piece. I have some ideas for more story but I felt this piece could stand alone.