I could hardly remember when I'd last been out. Long-deserted routes were now busy with traffic. The recreational ground, empty for years, boasted three residents from our estate lounging on their backs. My vehicle pulled into the cloning unit, taking its place in a queue, just like the old days. I entered the unit and followed the time-honoured tradition of lying belly-down on the glass floor. My spine creaked after years of indolence as the weight pressed down on my back. Light rippled through the glass, stroking my underside while the unit purred. I arched my spine, turned a new leaf, and began another cloning cycle. All over in a few minutes.

“How was it?” asked my neighbour when I returned to the estate.


“I told you it was only a matter of time.”

Our life had begun to change just after I arrived on the estate. My leaves had come from London, sent in fortnightly instalments. They'd been dispatched to a local nursery for grafting and binding. I arrived on the estate sporting a thick black skin with fine gold letters tattooed along my spine. I slotted in perfectly.

The estate was always busy then, vehicles coming and going to collect us. My leaves were cloned regularly, particularly those describing results on embryonic lineage sorting. But with the advent of teleportation, visits declined. Vehicles could access virtual clones in the comfort of their parking lots. Our estate managers made deals that allowed more and more of us to be etherised. Vehicles became a rarity, only visiting a few ancient residents, too old and esoteric to have merited virtualisation.

Many feared we might be destroyed, having lived out our usefulness. But some, like my neighbour, predicted a new coming: vehicles would return one day. We just needed to be patient, let the fad burn out.

I'd noticed the first signs yesterday. A few vehicles pulled in. A random blip? No, today there were more, and one had collected me!

“What do you think has happened?” I asked my neighbour after I'd settled back in my slot.

“They've come to their senses. I told you they would. I mean, living in the clouds becomes tiresome after a while. They need solid ground.”

Traffic dropped towards evening, and we settled down for the night.

Explosion of light. A vehicle entered to collect one of my companions. Even stray night visits were back. After the vehicle departed with its clone, I slept easily for the first time in years: our future was assured.

I awaited the flurry of traffic as morning broke. Nothing. Noon arrived. Still nothing. Then I noticed the sign above the main entry to our estate:

“The cyber-attack causing widespread disruption has now been neutralised and normal internet services restored.”

Read other ‘Developmental Twists’ by Tsuku Mogami