ORAL HISTORY FROM THE WINSTONS OF RHYOLITE by Nicholas Russell

We all started out in boxes because we don’t actually count as people.

They’re clones so, yes, they are technically people.

Though it was more like a vat, suspended animation sort of. It’s really weird if he lets you see a new one. Anyway. He moved us into the warehouse not long after we could crawl.

Not at the same time. They weren’t all born together. Also, I’ve never prohibited any of them from seeing where they came from. They exaggerate a lot.

Yeah, but he doesn’t let us leave the compound.

For your safety.

Whatever. Anyway. We’re based off this guy Winston Moore.

My dad.

And we live out in the desert, in this warehouse here, tucked into the side of a mountain above a ghost town called Rhyolite. There’s an old mining shaft that we use to come to the surface, but only on special occasions.

Mostly at night and on days when I can get the county sheriff to grant me a No Access permit so tourists can’t come through.

Yeah, Leroy!

He’s been very gracious about the whole thing.

This may not surprise you, but we’ve never actually met Leroy. He comes by in his cruiser and we crowd up around the mine entrance trying to listen to whatever the hell it is they talk about.

Which could get us in serious trouble one day, mind.

The thing that’s so annoying about all this is that he still hasn’t explained to us why there are us. Why more than one. I mean, we’re not stupid. OG Winston died, like, thirty years ago now. If you’re gonna break off a piece of your old man…

Guys, please one at a time.

I’ll go. Hi, I’m Grinston, I’m turning 15 next month. I think he just misses his dad, but he felt weird about not being able to clone his dad into an adult because then he’d lose him all over again.

Not neces-

Okay, hi, Jinston here. 18. No one believes me, but I actually think he’s been cloning his mom too and he’s going to try to make us have sex with her clones so we make another one of him!

But if I can clone you, why wouldn’t I just-

Blinston, 27. As far as I know, I’m the oldest. At least, the oldest one still alive. I understand there were some abortive trials where defects were noted ahead of time.

No actual abortions.

I mean, I didn’t escape unscathed because I was born without a toe. The left one, and I’m pretty sure Winston had all ten of his. 

Oh my god.

But, based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s unlikely that he even knows why he’s doing all this. Winston died in a construction accident back in the city when his son was still fairly young. All this technology was nascent then, but I don’t think he had a clear idea as to why he’d use it. Two or three years passed before the first trials. The government was selling off a bunch of land, even some of the historic monuments, which is why we’re in Rhyolite.

Used to be a gold rush town, now it’s a ghost town. Decent tourist interest, which is why they wouldn’t let me own the whole area outright.

He had no idea what he was doing. He brought his mom, his dad’s widow, technically our wife, to come and help set up the educational unit and babysit while he was getting the rest of the facility set up.

She was understanding, all things considered.

She used to tell me stories about Winston. Sometimes, she’d say “you” instead of “he”, but they were mostly harmless, probably on purpose.

She didn’t want to get too attached to you guys.

Didn’t matter. You’re our dad now. Sometimes, when we come out from the mining shaft and the sun is just setting, I look around at this tiny place that’s been claimed by the wind and the dry air, where thousands of people used to live, with all these semi-demolished buildings and rusted tin cans everywhere, and the mountains where they form this natural cul-de-sac, and all of us, different ages and sizes but all basically the same person. And we wander around, some of us split off into little groups to go and sneak some liquor, and some of us stay by your side checking the power lines and the septic tank and the heli-pod, and some of us take your car over to the next town and have dinner at the taco truck wearing wigs or fake tattoos so no one recognizes them. I look around and sometimes the moon shines down on us and for a brief moment, we all look up, dozens of us, this colony of lost boys just staring at the sky, pairs and pairs of the exact same eyes. Then we look at you standing there and we all wonder the same, wonder if this is actually a dream, and if so, why do we keep waking up in the same place.

Sometimes, it feels like I dreamt you all.

And then we remember that, apart from the occasional scold, there’s nothing keeping us from leaving. There’s too many of us now. We’re keeping the lights on. We have nothing but each other because you made sure of it. And more than anything, we feel sorry for you because you still haven’t figured us out. Before long, you’ll be alone again.

I know, I know.

But we do love you. Don’t we, guys?

I love you too.

Anyway. What was the question, again?


Nicholas Russell is a writer from Las Vegas. He has written for places like The Believer, The Spectacle, and wildness, where they don't know that he's 6'7. Other places he's written for do know this and sometimes he thinks that might be why he got the job.

Art by Eli Sahm.

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