MATRYOSHKA SYNDROME

“You know, like those little Russian dolls.”

“The kind where you break them open, and there’s a smaller one inside?”

“Yeah. One of these days I’m going to split in two, and a smaller, bloodier version of me is going to crawl out of my midsection. That’s what I have to look forward to in life.”

“Christ.” He cocked his head slightly. “Do you know when that’s going to happen?”

“There’s no way for me to know for sure, but most splits don’t actually happen until around the age of thirty, so I probably have a few years left.” She pursed her lips. “Can’t be too many more ahead, though. I can already feel her skull floating around from time to time.”

“And that’s how you were born, too?”

“I suppose you could say that,” she shrugged. “I don’t really feel like I was ever born, though. I was never actually a baby- I was smaller, sure, but the proportions have always been the same. I look exactly like I did the day I crawled out, and exactly like the person I replaced.”

“And she looked just like the person she replaced?”

“And so on and so forth.” She nodded. “It’s a rare condition involving mitochondrial DNA. Everyone who contracts it looks just like me, and every copy looks identical to the original. There are no exceptions- we’re part of an unbroken chain to the first of the afflicted.”

“Could you have her taken out like a tumor, or a parasitic twin?”

“It’s not really that easy. The next me is already forming around parts of who I am now. She’ll have a section of my digestive tract, half of my liver, but most importantly, she’ll have my heart in its entirety. Our lives are inseparable- to do anything to her requires doing the same to myself.”

“So, that’s why you don’t drink?”

“Yeah. I could mess up the next generation that way.”

“But why do you care? She’s just going to kill you and take your place.”

“Well, there’s an unspoken rule among our kind,” she looked down at herself. “On some level, we care about each other, because we all know how short our lives are, and how ugly the end is that’s waiting for us. I know that the one who came before me cared, because she didn’t do anything to harm me, and I can’t help but find that comforting. When I think about the one who’s going to kill me, I just feel bad for her, because I know that she’ll have to go through all of it, too- and I hope that she’ll come to understand what I have. The disease may be eternal, but so are we, and that's one of the things that keeps me going.”


Recursion is common in nature, as evidenced by feedback cherries.

Matryoshka syndrome is represented in the Genetic Tarot as the Queen of Teeth atop the Queen of Bones.


THE DREAMS OF ANTS

A CHEAP DINER IN WEST TEXAS