Louise Phillips

One: In the beginning, their mistress crouched down and smacked her palms against her knees. Her lips would part slightly, and she'd place the tip of her tongue just behind her front teeth, with the sides touching the roof of her mouth and the edges of her premolars to create a passage for air to form the sound of an 'S'. A hiss would escape before she'd catch herself and summon the dogs: Miss Scarlett, Miss Violet, and Miss Fanny.
The name she'd stopped herself from calling out was Samantha.

Two: 'When I was pregnant,' she said, 'At least the last four months, I was a woman. No deadlines or curtains to meet.'
Their mistress had learned of her pregnancy in London. In Harrods, she bought skeins of wool to knit a blanket the colour of pink carnations and Burgundy wine. She told the Ladies Home Journal she was considering 'Jason' for a boy and 'Samantha' for a girl, because it can be modified to suit personalities. 'Emmie' for sweet and serious, 'Sam' for kooky and adorable. For an exotic child they would use the name in its entirety: Samantha.
Their mistress had given birth to a boy.

Three: The Coton de Tulear is a small breed, named after a city in Madagascar. It has been suggested the Cotons travelled to the island off the southeast coast of Africa as sea voyage companions for ladies or ratters on pirate ships. One legend has the Cotons literally cast ashore, the sole survivors of a shipwreck. Covered in seaweed and clutching pieces of driftwood between their teeth like bones. The plucky, adorable dogs established themselves as pets of the royal court. Born survivors.

Four: Their mistress breathed such rarefied air that a trip to the supermarket to see the new types of cream cheeses was a treat. An unfamiliar face occasionally breached her hermetically sealed environment. A new man arrived to drive the dogs, their mistress and her assistant to the airport. Drivers live discreet lives of tinted partitions and speaking when spoken to, but the chauffeur gaped openly at his passengers in the rear-view mirror.
The dogs enveloped their mistress. It was an adjustment, traveling with three.
'Cute dogs,' the driver said. 'What type of breed is that? A Maltese?'
The mistress shook her head and gazed out of the window at the Pacific coastline. California State Route 1 was a National Scenic Byway, vulnerable to landslides and other acts of God. If the Big One ever unzipped the San Andreas it would coil up like a king cobra and toss the cars and trucks into the sea.
'Coton de Tulear,' the assistant replied.
The driver scrutinized the backseat. He squinted, as though trying to remember something he just couldn't quite get his finger on--
'Ah-ha!' he said, delighted. 'Those are the clones! I read about that. I always thought it would be neat to clone myself. What better friend? We could all have our own little clone. Make them wear a beanie hat with a propeller on top so people could tell you apart.'
The mistress remembered the earthquake of 1994. She'd lost three chimneys, a Tiffany vase and a clock. All she'd thought about on that awful morning was her puppy, a tear-stained Bichon Frise. She'd found him in the kitchen, perfectly calm. That was Sammy--Samantha's predecessor. A few weeks after the quake she'd heard a shop in Hollywood was selling plastic bags of rubble they'd collected from her trash.
'But they would be younger,' the mistress addressed the chauffeur from the backseat. 'Your clone: it would be a little newborn baby. You would be mothering yourself.'

Five: How do parents stop themselves from mixing up identical twins? Different haircuts and coloured clothes: blue onesies for one and green for the other. Painting a single nail on the fingers or toes.
Their mistress used outfits. Nothing too froufrou. Miss Scarlett wore a red bandana tied around her neck, Miss Violet's was purple. That's how she got the idea for their names.
'They have different personalities,' their mistress said. 'I'm waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have her brown eyes and seriousness.'
The seriousness and brown eyes of Samantha.

Six: In the book of Genesis the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Their mistress has pointed out that God created Adam and then split him in two. Each side had masculine and feminine qualities. Different but equal. She did not believe God was a chauvinist.
What does it feel like to have the powers of a god? When Robert Oppenheimer witnessed the first nuclear test in the desert he said it brought to mind a line of Hindu scripture: 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' Oppenheimer's brother Frank says he actually said: 'It worked.'

Seven: Viagen serves pet parents worldwide: 'A beloved pet is much like a family member. The unique life-enriching bond, the love and companionship - a truly special pet provides us a unique sense of comfort and life-enriching fulfillment which is nearly impossible to extend beyond your pet's natural lifespan... until now.'

Eight: Their mistress had always had a dog in her life. There had been Sammy the Bichon Frise. Two German Shepherds and a Doberman pinscher named Big Red, bought for protection. 'The scariest dog in captivity,' a neighbour recalled in his autobiography. 'This Doberman was always pissed off.' But there had never been a dog quite like Samantha. Her Sammie was special.

Nine: Rituals and traditions have evolved in the face of the cataclysmic fissure ripped open by grief. Victorians hired professional mourners and posed for daguerreotypes with the deceased. The ancient Egyptians sent their pharaohs to the Land of Two Fields in tombs packed with gold daggers, face masks, trumpets, thrones, and archery bows. But after all the ceremonies and distractions, the only thing that remained was facing the chasm... until now.

Ten: 'Instead of just storing my things in the basement,' their mistress told Harper's Bazar, 'I can make a street of shops and display them.' The basement floor was lined with wide clay tiles. The Cotons could get moving at a pretty good clip: ears and coats flapping from air resistance and their feet slipping out to the sides like flappers dancing the Charleston. Occasionally they lost control, slamming into the door of Bee's Dolls, or the case in the dress shop displaying the velvet cape their mistress had worn to meet the Queen of England.

Eleven: Long-haired dogs require constant grooming. The Cotons' fluffy coats were brushed daily with a poodle comb and a pinhead brush. Most Cotons have straight hair, but Sammie's had been curly, which was why their mistress' husband had chosen her as a present for his wife. Sammie was the odd one, different-- just as their mistress had felt as a little girl. She had always felt a gaping hole. Something missing. At night, she used to lie awake imagining she was from Mars. She could feel people's minds. She could see the truth.

Twelve: One of the reasons their mistress had chosen cloning was because she couldn't find another Coton with curly hair.

Thirteen: Their mistress was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home. She wasn't allowed to cross her fingers or say 'Christmas,' so when she was alone she would close her eyes, cross her fingers and chant, 'Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.'
She believed in God. Science wasn't everything--no one would ever come up with a scientific reason for dying. Organized religion was something she couldn't subscribe to, but it was important to have a sense of God, a sense of mystery.

Fourteen: Clones have identical genes. Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett lead identical lives, quite similar to the life of their progenitor Samantha. Yet their experience was diametrically opposed because they were two. Ying and Yang. Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Fifteen: Their mistress was fascinated by cooking. It was like math, which she loved because it was based on logic. Not like life. She liked tangible things. Carefully follow the recipe for baking a cake and it will come out right. That's terrific.

Sixteen: Old dogs are an accelerating metronome of excruciating incidents. Jaws pried open and pills dropped down throats. The dread of hearing that terrible phrase: Put to sleep.
On Mother's Day their mistress' son took a picture of his mother cuddling Samantha. Sammie's sweet face was nestled against her arm. Their mistress contacted America's pet cloning and genetic preservation experts.

Seventeen: A veterinarian scraped cells from the skin on Samantha's stomach and the inside of her cheek. Sammie's cellular DNA was cyropreserved in ice-free antiseptic cooling units. A frisson of excitement when the vials arrived in Texas. Cells from her dog. Their mistress was peerless. The greatest there ever was.
A dozen eggs were harvested from dogs in heat. Worker drones, whose tails smacked the doors of their cages when the janitor pushed a mop down the aisle. DNA was extracted from the donor eggs and replaced with a chain of nucleotides carrying Samantha's genetic instructions. Her immortal life. The eggs were implanted in a surrogate. A short wait to see if the pregnancies stuck. Their mistress' phone rang: Viagen.
A pause, while their mistress listened and her assistant wondered what was being said on the other end.
'That's terrific.'
She turned to her assistant:
'It worked.'

Eighteen: New souls bloom on the Tree of Life then fall off into the Guf, which means 'body,' in Hebrew. It is written that the Messiah will not arrive until the Guf is emptied.
'You can clone the look of a dog,' their mistress said. 'But you can't clone the soul. Still, every time I look at their faces, I think of my Samantha... and smile.'
Humans are next. The eternal life promised to pious Victorians and the hoarders of ancient Egypt. A billionaire who hates what he sees when he looks in the mirror will spawn himself. See if things are any different the second time around.

Nineteen: Public adoration was strange. A crazy kind of love. The love of a voice, of a star. Their mistress had been the cause of riots: palms smacking against the windows of her limousine, police officers holding back crowds with batons, security fences knocked over and doors kicked in.
With the decades she had become slightly less well-known. Fans lined up patiently at the T-Mobile Arena with their glossy concert programs rolled into tubes while Samantha napped in her dressing room.
Their mistress had grown adept at blending in. She stood in line at the deli counter, incognito. No makeup, straw hat. Enrique Iglesias' Hero coming out of the speakers over the organic boneless skinless chicken breast and grass-fed ground beef. A woman tapped their mistress on the shoulder and asked if she was in line.
'I am,' their mistress smiled. 'I line-up this way because I've noticed when people stand facing the other direction it juts into the aisle and people get stuck with their shopping carts!'
The woman said: 'Well when you're in charge of the world, you can tell all of us what to do.'

Twenty: 'With someone like that woman at the supermarket,' her therapist said. 'It's not about you at all. It's about them. That's their stuff.'
'I was being helpful and friendly!' their mistress insisted. 'What could have happened in her life and childhood that would cause this reaction?'

Twenty-one: People say: It's just a dog.

Louise Phillips lives in London. Her work has most recently appeared in Columbia Journal, failbetter, Litro, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, New World Writing, Blizzard, and The Independent. For more from Louise Phillips, visit The Intermediate.