The Ectype

18 Nov

I go by the name of Derek Tei, but I am nothing but an ectype of Dirk Tei.

My life and its history are only a copy of an original prototype, the other person who has priority as a human being. As everyone in our society knows, every individual has a duplicate, another person modeled upon him or her, or upon whom he or she is modeled.

The exact physical replica of the original must stay away from and separate from the archtype, the one who came first.

According to law, any particular person who is a prototype can have one and only one ectype. The latter, a copy, must by law live at a distance and never meet or associate with the primary one.

So, the pair have to live and work apart. They are not allowed to become acquainted with each other under any circumstances.

Yet from my earliest years I was overwhelmed by burning curiosity about my own prototype. Day and night, this binary of mine was my constant obsession.

At last, though, I decided to take action and find the person whom I resembled to perfection.

Here is the story of my encounter with the man I was a duplicate of.

My profession is that of a bioengineer in nerve system construction. I have worked for fifteen years in a replication plant that turns out ectypal brains. My own specialty is in the area of neural hormones. Since these control substances must serve in a particular body of an ectype, I have to keep in contact with what is going on in the physical modeling operations in other factories. From time to time, my job entails trips to other facilities.

This has provided me opportunities to hunt around and explore on my own.

I took advantage of one such excursion to a body creation plant to look through the secret file of names and addresses of assigned ectypes. Since I somehow remembered that I myself was based and modeled upon a prototype named Dirk, that is what I searched for in the mechanized memory devices.

And I succeeded in coming up with a street and building where the original I was projected from now lived.

That evening, I went there to uncover that Dirk Tei, but learned by asking questions that he had moved away. Fortunately, a neighbor gave me his forwarding address. The person I talked to had never met my prototype in person, so therefore could not conclude that we two were duplicates who possessed identical features.

After work the next day, I watched the entrance to the indicated apartment building where I now believed my original had moved. In time, I spied my precise duplicate entering. Here was my chance to establish contact, though it would be completely illegal and punishable. My excitement rose very high. I was on the cusp of a prohibited but extraordinary adventure.

Hurrying into the front vestibule, I scanned the wall directory for the name of my archtype. There it was, near the top storey of the multi-floor structure.

I rang his flat and spoke into the announcer phone.

“Special delivery for Mr. Dirk Tei,” I lied.

The interior door’s buzzer sounded and I rushed to open it and get myself inside.

A climb up a steel stairwell took me to the right level, tired and panting for breath. I stood before his door and pressed the bell button.

In a flash, the door opened and I immediately felt as if I were gazing into a mirror.

The same head and face, the same eyes and hair. Everything looked like me.

My prototype looked me up and down with mouth agape.

“You are…” he started to say without completing the sentence. I must have been thinking the same as he was.

“Your ectype named Derek Tei,” I told him in nearly a whisper. “May I come in and talk with you?”

He made way for me to enter, then closed the door. By myself, I occupied a chair.

Dirk slowly moved nearer, sitting down across from me. As his startlement declined, it was replaced by a cold disdain and suspicion.

“What in the universe do you want from me?” he bluntly asked.

“Let me explain what brings me to you. It was a hard task to locate where you live. I had to be patient and persistent in order to make this illegal contact. But there is a definite logic to all I am doing.

“I wish to take over your life and your place.”

“What for?” countered the astonished Dirk. “What could be your purpose in wanting to become me?”

I leaned forward and explained it to him.

“I am bored stiff. My life has become flat and meaningless. Every day, it worsens in quality. My job and its work mean nothing to me. My suffering is something that needs alleviation, and that can only occur if I can exchange places with you.”

For a little while. my archtype was too confused and perplexed to say anything. As Derek studied my face, a rising redness expressed the emotion of anger that was impossible for him to conceal.

“Nothing you say to me makes sense,” said Dirk with a bitter sneer. “Are you crazy? If you feel such great frustration, why not try to change your job or profession? What you propose sounds like the most extreme silliness I have ever heard. I feel like I’m hearing the ravings of a madman.”

My mind was now spinning like a gyroscope, faster and faster. How could I convince my double to make such a complete change of role and position? What could I use to appeal and make him change his stubborn resistance?

“We must not do anything irreversible tonight,” I soothingly told him. “It is best that both of us take our time. Will it be possible for me to visit you here tomorrow after work?”

Dirk, with evident reluctance, nodded yes.

I excused myself and found my way out of the flat while he continued sitting there.

My strong conviction was that time was on my side, not his.

All the following day, while at work, I thought of only one question. What would my prototype’s final answer be? Was he going to be willing to allow me to play his part in the drama called life?

That evening, I discovered that his attitude toward me was completely transformed.

Is this the same Dirk Tei I talked with before? I wondered.

There was no anger in him now. Our quarreling appeared over.

“I have had second thoughts,” he beamed at me. “Boredom with the routine of daily life affects me as well. I had to confess that truth as I thought and thought over what you said to me last night. I began to see your proposal in a totally new way.”

I was floored by this revision. “You will let me take your identity, then? And take mine in turn?”

His answer was a single nod of the head.

I proceeded to give Dirk my own address. “We must begin immediately,” I said to him with new determination. “You may travel to my place whenever it is convenient.”

“I shall go there tomorrow morning,” decided my prototype.

“And I can remain here with you overnight,” I said triumphantly, not foreseeing what was soon to happen.

I took over the position and identity of my archtype, but the results of our exchange turned out to be wholly different from what I foresaw or anticipated.

As Dirk Tei, my job as a physical modeller proved unsatisfying. I was thoroughly inept at it. Instead of fulfillment, my reward was pain. The station soon became terrible for me.

The supervisor of my creational unit blamed me for slowing down the productive process.

“What has happened to you, Tei?” he admonished me. “You have never before made such stupid mistakes. What is bothering and hindering you?”

A week of sloppiness resulted in demotion as my punishment for rising inefficiency.

I found myself taken away from the organ tanks and given a lower-ranking job in the measurement recording office of the plant.

I sank quickly into a swamp of failure. My dissatisfaction with the exchange that I myself had conceived grew ever greater.

It was a surprise to me that Dirk had been a friendless recluse, whereas I had been socially gregarious. A whole new structure of affiliations would have to be made by me.

My unhappiness deepened, promising a future of misery that could only grow larger.

At last, I decided to seek out my prototype and try to work out some kind of solution.

I surprised the new Derek at my old apartment and poured out my grief, my failures and troubles in the new role I had blindly assumed.

He surprised me with the way he reacted to this confession of mine.

“I, too have experienced defeat after defeat,” he told me with tears flowing out of his eyes.

Frustrations equal to my own were described to me.

My old brain modeling did not agree with him. He proved too clumsy for the delicate motions required.

He was too much an introvert for my complex of social contacts.

So it was my prototype who verbalized what I myself had unconsciously concluded.

“We must rearrange our lives and return to our previous positions and roles,” he pleaded with me.

Naturally, I accepted his plan with alacrity and satisfaction.

“Yes, that would benefit both of us,” I said with a wide smile. “We have both made a horrible mistake.”

“I have learned my lesson,” muttered the former and now restored Dirk.

“So have I,” said the one who had begun as an ectype and was now happy to become one again.


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