Bald Lie

“Please wait with the others,” the civilian aide said. She ushered Claude into a small, darkened room. The far wall in the room was a clear glass pane that Claude imagined is where the line-ups took place. In the room were nine other versions of him. His gathered doppelgangers were all varying ages; it made him feel like he was looking at his past and future all at once. The youngest looked like 18-year-old Claude with a fresh face and bright green eyes. His chestnut brown hair was cut short and he was all muscle. Claude wanted to be an athlete for most of highschool; he never made it but it looked like at least one of him did.

The oldest was a grizzled, wrinkled man with silver wispy hair pulled back in a ponytail. The rest of them, including Claude, were somewhere in between the two extremes. He never gave much thought to meeting his other-verse selves, but now he grew curious.

“So…,” Nine versions of himself looked at him expectantly; he found it a bit unsettling. He got the impression they were waiting for him to say something. “… one of us is a really good at crime I guess,” he said. He was pleased to see they all shared a sense of humor when the room erupted in laughter. More than seemed appropriate for the off-hand comment.

“Nine in a row!” the youngest one shouted while laughing. The oldest one was doubled over while holding his stomach trying to contain his wheezing laughter. Teenage Claude hopped to his feet and approached Claude with a smile. “I was the first one here. I had that same thought. Then these guys walk in,” he gestured at the group of Claudes. “They all said it and now you did too.” He lightly punched Claude in the shoulder. “You’re definitely one of us!”

“I’m Claude. Are we all Claude?”

“Claude.” six of them, including the youngest and oldest, raised their hands.

“Claudio,” one said. He had a dark brown pencil-thin mustache and wore a black and white leisure suit.

“Cloud,” a meek version with thick glasses said. He looked to be about the same age as Claude. Cloud wore blue jeans and a white t-shirt.

“Clark,” the last one introduced himself with a raised hand. He seemed more reserved than the rest and sat somewhat distant from the group. He wore an elegant black tuxedo. Moments after Clark’s introduction the door opened again and a heavyset bald man in a red suit walked in.

“Gentlemen, thank you for coming. You can call me Bald Lenny,” he smiled at the group. “Some of you have been waiting for a bit so I’ll get right to the point. We lied to get you here.” The room was filled with groans and complaints from the gathered Claudes. Bald Lenny held his hands up silently to wait for their outrage to die down. “There is no criminal mastermind, but we do want you to stop a version of yourselves.”

“Stop him from what?” Cloud asked. Bald Lenny smiled and shook his head.

“I run a multi-verse reality show-,” Grumbles filled the room as the group moved toward the door. Bald Lenny was not deterred. “The grand prize is becoming a Unique Soul!” he said. Clark, Claudio, Cloud, and the youngest Claude all stayed behind while the rest filed out through the door. Bald Lenny faced the remaining four. “You guys know what a Unique Soul is?” he asked. They all nodded.

“Perfect. The person in the lead is a version of you that I don’t trust with that kind of power. I want to bring you…,” he looked at all of them. “…into the show for a surprise twist to give you a chance at the prize.” The four of them looked at each other and passed nods between them.

“We’re in,” Claude said. “We’ll take him down.”

Her,” Bald Lenny corrected. “I’m going to need you to work together to take down Claudia.”

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