5 min read

Conned, Cloned, and Alone

The following short story was inspired by my notes on This Employee Does Not Exist and AI Will Create Your Next Selfie.

Why not me, thinks Dawn as she read another rejection email. This one particularly stung as Dawn parted ways with her dream job. If there was a silver lining, it was receiving a rejection letter at all.  

Dear Ms. Stephens, although we were quite impressed by your application, we have decided peruse candidates whose skillset better align with our goals. Thank you again for taking the time to apply with PBS Kids!

Another week of writing samples, cover letters and nitpicking her resume and portfolio to death, it took less than two days to be rejected. Again. She scrolled through LinkedIn obsessively, comparing each person to herself and each job to her own. How? She kept asking herself, how do they get these jobs?

Dawn was hardly a novice, having written two published children’s books and was published in several magazines over the past decade. When Dawn was in college, she thought publishing one book would launch her career into the sky. She wished she listened more to the bitter professors who told to keep her day job regardless of how many books she can publish. And despite the short-lived success of her first two books, she still found herself scrolling through LinkedIn, desperate for work and feeling the bitterness creep up her sleeves. This wasn’t supposed to happen, she thought.

Her office looked like a children’s book. The walls were baby blue with alternating yellow and navy diamonds stenciled around the moldings. She had a green bean bag office chair and a corner stacked floor to ceiling with stuffed cats and dogs sent to her from fans that looked similar enough to her characters.  She displayed pictures of moments she cherished the most from her career; her first book signing, a pile of children hugging her from all directions at the library, her illustrator Emily’s first draft of MeuMeu and Kunskis. It all felt like a dream that she suddenly woke up from, but the memories were already starting to slip.

As the scroll began to numb her brain and dry her sticky eyes, she couldn’t accept the rejection from PBS Kids and searched for the company on LinkedIn.

Congratulations! said the balloon with the toothy grin, digital confetti floating down from the top of the most recent post by PBS Kids. Underneath was a familiar name, Dawn Stevens.

“Are you kidding me?” she whined at the screen, “another Dawn Stevens?”

Dawn immediately clicked on her profile and gasped in her bean bag chair.

“That’s me,” she said, “that’s my picture! She scrolled down further, “That’s my resume! Thats my education! That’s MY book!”

But despite the almost identical profiles, a few differences did stand out, for instance, Dawn didn’t have a master’s degree in digital marketing like this profile suggested. She also noticed a link to TikTok. She never used TikTok.

The first video played an animation of a lanky tuxedo cat with crisscross eyes and a wiry red dog who, in this episode, had taken a tumble in the dryer, making his fur stick straight up with static and was covered in socks and one tiny pair of underwear over his left ear.

Dawn’s jaw was on the floor. These were her characters, that was her story. And it went on and on and on and on. She saw endless animations of her characters acting out her stories. MeuMeu on the bus to the doctor, Kunskis chasing down the neighborhood bully, both napping on the ripped in half “puffy pillow.” Dawn had written several short stories, including their ongoing fight over who it belonged to.




Dawn, feeling overwhelmed, was quick to act.  She went back to LinkedIn and messaged the imposter.

I know you stole my work, she wrote, take it down before I take legal action.

The imposter messaged back instantly.

It’s about time you found me. The moment you shared your stories on social media you lost your rights. Good luck claiming copyright infringement. Good luck contacting PBS. I’m living your dream and you can’t stop me.

Dawn paused. Copyright infringement? She googled copyright laws and felt the panic sink in. Even if she wanted to sue, it was difficult and too expensive with no guarantee she could win. She did post her stories on Instagram, but it was her own profile! Apparently that didn’t matter as much as her publishers claimed and, technically, this imposter didn’t exactly steal her stories and characters as much as they created their own interpretations and animations. She never made videos; she didn’t post to TikTok. Everything on the internet pointed in one direction – wasted time and money.

One thing any imposter could not replicate online was Dawn’s temper. Although most people would heartily insist she was a sweet and gentle woman with a giant heart, Dawn was not the type to let things go, especially not when she felt wronged or fooled. She was also not afraid to get into a fight, after all, she had been in enough drunken, and one sober, brawls in college. Dawn rarely started fights, but she definitely never stopped them.

Looking at her pictures on the imposter’s website and feeling the rage make its way up past her stomach and her heart and into her head, the idea lightbulb didn’t blink on, it light up so bright it shattered the bulb.

First thing she did was message the imposter.

Please, what can I do to make you stop? These are my stories and my life you are about to ruin. Please, what do you want from me?

I want you to continue writing stories for me. You get the benefit of seeing your work touch millions and I’ll pay you more than you’ve ever earned. But I want your name and identity.

Dawn put her fingers to the keyboard and took a deep breath. Of course, she was not trusting of the imposter, but she played along.

Please, she typed, I just want to write. Then she deleted her own LinkedIn profile and bought a plane ticket to Arlington, Virginia.

The imposter wrote to Dawn with no response. For two days, the imposter waited and waited with a growing, uneasy feeling deep down. The imposter checked TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, repeat. TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn repeat.

Ping! A new notification from LinkedIn. PBS Kids has tagged you in a new post.

PBS Kids is excited to welcome Dawn on her first day as our Chief Creative Officer. We look forward to the many adventures this new chapter will bring.

Under the heading was a picture of the real Dawn Stevens, sitting at a big desk, in front of big windows, with a big smile. Her books sat upright on the desk beside her and the post included a link to the imposter TikTok. Within seconds, ping! ping! ping! The TikTok account was gaining dozens of new followers.

The imposter had a message from Dawn on their Instagram. The imposter had no idea how she found their account. Their personal account.

The message read: Emily, first of all, fuck you. You were supposed to be my friend and my partner. But the good news is, PBS thought it was a great idea to switch from remote to fully in person now that I insisted on relocating. I cleared up all issues with my email and phone number with them and they are trilled to see more animations. I guess that makes you my assistant now ;) I know it’s a Friday, but I need three more animations for Monday, thanks!