The last of them should be gone by now, Ernesto, the custodian, thinks as he turns the key and locks the suburban library’s two giant glass doors. The hollow clicking sound of the door latch in the empty soundless building gives Ernesto solace. At 35, he is in good shape, with an above-average build and slightly extra padding around his midsection.
The modern library is a new addition to the ultra-wealthy New Canaan town. A well-known architect designed the ample building. Once you step inside his creation, you are immediately awestruck. The superstructure’s interior ceiling is 30 feet high. Three floors of balconies surround the open atrium. Each floor contains bookcases. The floors and the walls are made of blond bamboo. An earthy beige wooden staircase dramatically descends from the top floor into the grand room.
Ernesto runs his clumsy fingers through his thick black hair as he admires the skylights. His face is clean-shaven, and he has a tan complexion. His expressive brown eyes make him approachable to strangers. He feels he’s lucky that way and has rarely been rejected in his life so far.
That’s how I’ve been able to get away with it for so long, Ernesto chuckles.
He sits down at the long table in the center of the room and unfolds the comic book he carries in the back pocket of his jeans. He feels comforted by being surrounded by thousands of books. Ernesto sighs. It‘s daunting to be expected to clean the entire building by morning.
There were so many glass windows, skylights, and wooden floors to wash, vacuum, and clean. Ernesto would need to move the oversized furniture to do all the work in every space of the library.
He smiles slyly and snaps his fingers. In front of him, a smaller version of Ernesto materializes. He snaps his fingers again, and another smaller human Ernesto appears. Ernesto keeps snapping his fingers until he has ten clones of himself, only smaller, standing before him.
The small army of clones begins talking to each other in Spanish. Ernesto stands and announces over the chatter.
The diminutive Ernestos obey and stop talking. They look into their ruler, Ernesto’s once warm, now determined brown eyes.
“Begin your daily tasks.” He orders them, flicking his hand in the air.
The small men disperse, armed with yellow sponges that have grown from their hands and feet. They begin cleaning the room furiously.
A few clones slide down the banisters in their scrubber soles with soap suds trailing behind them. Others fly to the ceiling; they run and take off effortlessly into the air. They attack the glass skylights with window cleaner and rags. Still, others sit atop the vacuum cleaner and ride it around the library, singing Spanish tunes. Although the bustling activity surrounds him, Ernesto is absorbed in his comic book.
He doesn’t see the young woman who has emerged from the library’s coffee shop’s back room. She is about twenty-five, pretty, with her brown hair pulled back in a tight bun. She is wearing a light blue apron covered in flour.
Ernesto glances up and bolts upright when he sees her observing the clones’ merriment. He recognizes Michelle, the barista he has a crush on. Why isn’t she screaming, Ernesto wonders?
Michelle wipes her hands on the ends of her apron, smiles sweetly, and begins snapping her fingers. A miniature Michelle appears, then another, then another. Ernesto is startled to see the group of female clones gathering around Michelle. She sighs and says.
“Finally. Someone I can relate to.”