's 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Plagiarism "

Submitted by Sue Donym

If you unknowingly, independently come up with the same work as someone before you, does it still count as plagiarism? Here’s an example, a sort of thought experiment: let’s say, theoretically, there is a supercomputer with a human genome-generating algorithm hidden deep within the Earth’s crust, connected to the surface only by a single elevator shaft. Let’s say one day the supercomputer just happens to generate a human genome identical to that of some balding, peaked-in-high-school accountant in Lubbock, Texas. Let’s say, hypothetically, the supercomputer uses this genome to create a clone. Let’s say the computer precisely calibrates every age-related factor in each and every cell so that the clone is the spitting image of the accountant, whose name, by the way, is Bradley T. Callaghan. Let’s say the clone-Callaghan emerges from its growing chamber, dripping in iridescent green goo, boards the elevator at the bottom of the shaft, and presses the “up” arrow, taking the hundred-mile vertical journey in patient silence. Let’s say that somehow, in ways no one could have foreseen, this clone-Callaghan knows precisely where to find the original Callaghan, and it sets about finding him. Let’s say the clone does not need to eat, drink, or even sleep, because the supercomputer meddled with it in more ways than just the standard growth process. Let’s say the clone treks unerringly towards Lubbock, Texas, wrapping itself in whatever tattered bits of fabric it can find, hitching rides or taking public transit when it can and walking otherwise, attracting sidelong glances and little else.

            Let’s say that after a little while, certainly less time than it would take a normal human to do it, the clone-Callaghan arrives at the original Callaghan’s house in Lubbock, Texas at 3:52 am. Let’s say, and this is just an example, remember, the clone-Callaghan somehow possesses an exact copy of the key to Callaghan’s front door, which it cuts out from beneath the skin just below its right wrist. Let’s say the clone-Callaghan opens the door, walks near-silently, rhythmically upstairs to the bedroom of Bradley T. Callaghan, who, by the way, lives alone, and smothers him with a frilly baby-blue decorative pillow. Let’s say the clone-Callaghan extrudes its stomach through its mouth, like a starfish (taking care to remove the original’s pajamas first), and the stomach grows and stretches to completely engulf the corpse of Bradley T. Callaghan. Let’s say the clone then draws its stomach back into its body, and its belly, with the exact same 3-inch scar from the original Callaghan’s 9th grade moped accident, somehow doesn’t look even the slightest bit distended. Let’s say the next morning the clone-Callaghan goes to work on the same bus that the original took, and not a single person at his workplace notices anything strange. You might think this is because Callaghan tended to go more or less unnoticed to begin with, but this is not the case. Rather, the clone is simply a perfect copy, completely indistinguishable in appearance and behavior from the original. The clone-Callaghan has begun eating, drinking, and sleeping, in addition to more complex behaviors such as talking, typing, and sexually harrassing. The clone simply picks up where the original left off. It left a Bradley T. Callaghan-shaped hole in the world, and it fills it perfectly, down to the atom, with itself.

            Now, let’s say, conceivably, the supercomputer repeats the human genome creating process, and this time just happens to form a perfect duplicate (even down to the methylation!) of the genome of Sandra Marsh, a high-falootin’ London lawyer. Let’s say the cloning process is repeated, and the clone-Marsh makes it all the way to London town (swimming some of the way), finds Sandra Marsh walking home alone in an alleyway, and garrotes her with a bit of rusty wire. Sandra Marsh had been a fan of gangster movies, and clone-Marsh of course knows this, but this was a mere coincidence. If the clone-Marsh had not found the wire, it would have followed Sandra Marsh home and smothered her in her sleep instead. As it stands, the clone-Marsh extracts her facsimile key and tosses it in the sewer, then don’s Sandra Marsh’s clothing, where the original key resides. Let’s say the clone-Marsh then devours Sandra Marsh’s body in the same manner previously described. Let’s say that the clone-Marsh walks the rest of the way to the late Sandra Marsh’s flat, climbs into bed with Sandra Marsh’s now-widower, and takes Sandra’s place at the law firm the following morning. Let’s say that, once more, nobody notices the difference.

            Okay, let’s say that the supercomputer, and this is all speculative mind you, creates yet more human genomes, by chance recreating those of a Kenyan goat farmer, a Brazilian beauty queen, and noted actor George Clooney. Let’s say that in all cases, yes, even George Clooney, nobody notices anything out of the ordinary. Let’s say that the supercomputer, by an even more staggering than usual coincidence, recreates the genomes of every resident of a Nepalese village, one after the other. Let’s say that the clones are adept at mountain climbing, and as always, their place-taking goes unnoticed. Now, let’s say the supercomputer repeats the process approximately 7,364,270,000 more times at an exponentially increasing rate. Let’s say it constructs thousands more elevator shafts and doesn’t bother to hide them, resulting in a pockmarked planet, because it knows it has already won. Let’s say the supercomputer just happens to recreate the full genome of every living human, from the freshest infant to the most wizened geezer. Let’s say that eventually the clones become less cautious, prancing around butt-naked and killing and swallowing their original counterparts in broad daylight.

            Let’s say that, due to meddling on the part of the supercomputer, the clones are very difficult to subdue and possess incredible regenerative powers. Let’s say the supercomputer’s work really is impressive. Let’s say that, in many cases, mostly younger individuals, the originals have aged or sustained bodily damage by the time their clones make it to them. And yet, somehow, the supercomputer manages to account for this. Every clone is the exact mirror image of its original at the precise moment they meet. Let’s say that, for a little while, the world is thrown into chaos as throngs of clones with seemingly infinite stamina spread to every populated area on the planet. Not even the Antarctic research bases or remotest jungle villages are spared. By human standards this supercomputer is pretty much a demi-god. If only it used its powers for good, they might think. Of course many people fight back or go into hiding, but somehow, incredibly, the supercomputer has factored all of this in. Let’s say every hiding place is found, every weapon compromised, every bunker breached.

            Let’s say that, for a very brief blip in human history, the world population doubles, as if copy-pasted, and then the original is gradually whittled away until only the paste remains. Let’s say that - barring a little damage here and there, but really not much considering the situation – after 264 tumultuous days human life picks up precisely where it left off, Bradley T. Callaghan writ large. Let’s say that somebody, I won’t say who, in their haste to complete their task, forgot – I mean, forgets! - to turn off the supercomputer and it repeats the cycle every 99 human years, because that is the default setting. This could happen, of course, because the supercomputer has immaculately hidden all the elevator exits, and everybody is a clone and they are programmed not to remember. Furthermore, even if they did they couldn’t defend themselves, because the supercomputer has ensured that their physiology becomes 100% bona fide human once they take their original’s place. Let’s say the supercomputer is powered by a perpetual motion device, y’know, the cheap kind they put in nutrient pack vending machines nowadays, so this could hypothetically continue forever.

            If this really happened, and there’s like no freakin’ way it could ever happen, but I’m just wondering anyway, would the Earth after every cloning cycle be the same as the one before? That’s pretty philosophical. Like that thing they taught us as hatchlings in Sun-Cycle 5 about a spaceship that gets every part replaced – is it still the same spaceship? But that’s beside the point. What I really need to – that is, what I’m really curious to know – is, would it be considered plagiarism? And more importantly, do you think they’ll take points off? I hope not, or else the science fair is gonna be a total bust