Bargaining

Story #2: The Fixers Series

I look over at Gus. He’s a mess. His hair, the little bit of it that he has, is dishevelled and his eyes are red and swollen. His tie hangs loose around his neck, and his white lab coat is on inside out.

“What time did you leave last night?” I ask him, trying not to sound judgemental.

“Huh?” I startle him out of his disorganized thoughts and he jumps a little. “Oh, uh, I’m not sure. Two or so, I guess.”

I nod slowly calculating my next move. He should go home, but the suggestion will offend him.

“Do you want me to take over the Dylan file? I’m done with mine.” It’s the least I can do; I had created the back log by wiping the history from our time mover – a secret I am still keeping.

Gus looks up from the his computer screen and eyes me suspiciously. But then a relief showers over him and I smile gently as he steps away from the desk.

“Coffee?” He offers.

I smile and nod. I consider telling him to fix his coat, but I let it be. By 8:30, Gus is passed out in the lounge – I never did get my coffee.

At 9:05 the front doors swing open, violently thrashing through the air. A woman storms up to the desk, waving a gun. Behind her, I can see Ed, our security guard, lying flat on the pavement outside. I try to decide what the smart move is, but then I realize I’m only telling myself to think; I’m not thinking. I’m panicking.

“You! You in charge?”

I try to tell her that I’m not but no sound is released when I open my mouth. I’m still staring at Ed.

“Hey! You!” she hollers again, this time the gun is pointed right at me. “Are you a fixer?”

“Yes,” I manage, forcing myself to look into her eyes now.

She’s tall and lean, with long brown hair, some of which is tucked into a wide brimmed black hat. She’s hiding behind dark sunglasses, leather gloves, a trench coat and high heels. I try to take a mental photo of her, for Ed.

“What’s your name?” she asks, leaning in to intimidate me further. It’s unnecessary; I’m terrified.

“S-Sasha. Sasha Green.” My voice is barely more than a whimper, and my heart is speeding up. In her glasses I see my own reflection, and I’m humiliated by the small warped image of myself I see.

“Well, Sasha Green. I have a job for you. An urgent one.”

She slams a medical ID bracelet down on my desk. “Fix it.”

“I can’t do that. It’s – we – there’s a system and laws and -”

“Fix it.”

Realizing there’s nothing I can do to reason with this woman, I pick up the bracelet and scan the barcode into my computer. June O’Donnell: 37 years old, Chief Financial Officer at Cane Inc., Recovered: Extensive brain damage (chipped).

Recovered? Fixers have already taken care of this. I scroll down to see the photo. It’s the woman in front of me, holding me at gun point.

I look up at her, unsure of what to say. She must read my confusion immediately, and removes her sunglasses. Her eyes are watering, welling up with tears, and sparking. A mechanical reaction to water. She’s been chipped alright, made cyborg too. It’s a relatively new technology: to recover lost or irreversible bodily damage metal parts are melded into the patient’s fibres. For damage to the brain that extensive, a chip can be used to replace any of the broken functions. Most often, it’s memory loss. The chip will store new memories for you, and false old memories can be implanted at the patient’s request. It changes who you are, but at least it fills the holes. The holes can drive some people mad. But this woman, June, seems to have gone mad just the same.

I’m watching her, trying to assess her state of mind, and what it is she wants from me, when she lashes out. She slams her hand down on my desk with as much force as she can, and it’s a lot. The gloved hand must be cyborg too. I leap back, and a scramble comes from down the hall.

No. Gus.

“Who’s here?!” She hollers out towards the noise, and Gus exposes himself. June cries out and shoots a bullet in the wall behind me. For a second, I think it hits me, and I’m paralyzed. But when the sting doesn’t come, I exhale.

“I’ve called for help so you’d better get moving!” he yells out confidently. I admire it, but it also worries me. I have no idea what she is capable of when threatened. And cyborg’s are not exactly frangible.

“Help?! You want help? I want help.” She doubles over, and more sparks fly from her face. “Fix me, please.”

“You’ve been recovered, it says so right here,” I say, still completely confused.

“You call this fixed?” she tears off a glove to reveal a cold metal hand. “This is not fixed. It’s broken. I was meant to die on that table and Cane Inc. paid you to bring me back! Against my will!”

My heart stops. I look over at Gus and a veil of embarrassment washes over him. Could he have really cut a deal like that? His expression tells me yes. I’m mortified. I guess I’m not the only one who makes mistakes around here.

“The chip,” he whispers finally, “it’s a new technology. It needed to be tested and”

“And,” she moans, imploring him to admit his mistake.

“And we were told…” he stops, drops his head.

June looks back at me, more sympathetic than violent now.

“Fix it,” she whispers.

I nod slowly, and glance at Gus. He’s on the floor now, crumbled by guilt.

I grab her file, and walk over to the machine.

“September 1st,” she says.

I nod again, and set the date. I don’t know exactly how I plan to stop this from happening, but I will. I’m a fixer, and I fix things.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Click here to read Story #1: An Easy Fix

An Easy Fix

Story #1: The Fixers Series

I curse under my breath and sneak a peek at next week’s schedule. Most of the fixers will be on vacation, which is a huge relief. It means if I do get caught, they’ll need me so much that there’s a fairly slim chance that I’ll face any extreme consequences. Knowing that makes me feel a whole lot better about what I’m about to do, but my stomach is still in knots.

I know it’s wrong to set up an unsanctioned mission, but I also know that if Gus knew the circumstances he’d approve it. Of course, then I have to ask myself why I don’t just explain the situation to Gus – then I recall my aversion to failure. I don’t want to admit that I messed up. I’m a fixer; it’s what I do. I can fix this.

I wait until the very last night-hawk has retired from her desk, looking overworked but gleaming with pride.

“Have a good night Sash,” she yells behind her as she drags herself across the lab.

“I will,” I reply, trying to sound as natural as possible. It’s not uncommon for me to be the last to leave, so I know the encounter is nothing to worry about.

Once I triple-check the building for witnesses, I pull up the file on my desktop. Ty Simpson: 22 years old, student, deceased, C.O.D. heart failure. Yes, that’s him. I have to catch my breath because although I know the file has auto-updated by now, it’s still jarring to see the word. Deceased. I was supposed to save him, but I grabbed the wrong file, ended up in the wrong hospital. There was an Andy Simpson two states over in similar condition. That’s the location I set the machine to. I had recognized my mistake as soon as I saw him. Ty’s photo had stood out to me; he had these incredibly kind eyes.

The condition he had was perfectly treatable, of course, the misdiagnosis made that pretty difficult. The mistake was obvious within just a few days. It was an easy fix, but I messed it up.

I take a deep breath and hurry over to the machine. I bring Ty’s file with me and carefully enter the location, and the date: Monday. I just have to get back to Monday. I spin around, giving the lab one more glance to verify its emptiness. It’s sterile, quiet, and dark except for the light shining from my station. Perfect. Passer-bys should think I’m here.

Stepping into the machine I feel the rays of electric heat wrap around my body. I seal the door and enter my pass code. I’ll have to remember to swipe the memory drive when I return. That will be a major violation and will not go unnoticed. But as long as the whole week’s memory is gone, it might pass for a technical blip.

My heart pounding, I check my pockets for the meds, and read over the location one last time. Correct. I hit the LAUNCH button and brace for impact. The vibrations kick in and I feel my body undulate in the chaos.

‘It’s OK Sasha. You’re gunna fix this,’ I think to myself.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Click here to read Story #2: Bargaining

The Way Out

I stood in the middle of the room, gripping the envelope until my fingertips drained of all color. A grave silence filled the surrounding space, from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. It was evening now, and the other household occupants had all headed off to the market to beg and barter for a meal. I had rushed home from work, too eager to put off this moment. And now, finally in it, I felt frozen in time; unable to move forward.

I had been one of the first people to apply for Migration. I did it before the drafting began; there had been more of those than we had expected. As the drafts came in my anticipation built, but the waiting period for applicants was much longer. Many of us had criminal histories and other ‘unsavory’ characteristics, so the Treaty Directors were being extra-thorough. If you were drafted, you had already passed the test.

I set down the envelope to compose myself. For weeks I had been imagining life on another planet; somewhere where I could have freedoms, rights, children. The planet had been being prepped for decades, made to emulate Earth as much as it could. It would be different, there was no doubt about that, but it would be something that we could all recognize. The system was going to be heavily dependent on the social contract, and life was going to be laborious. To me, that meant fulfilling.

And if I had been denied…

I looked at the clock. Josh would be home soon. It would be better to know by then; to practice my expression. If we had made the cut, I’d have to play down my excitement. Josh had always been opposed to leaving. He was convinced it meant giving up on the human race.There were a lot of anti-colonization groups that had been protesting the Migration Project since its conception, but Josh wasn’t like them. The issue was far more superficial for him. He was afraid; afraid to try something so new, so foreign. His white privilege had kept us afloat for a long time down here. We both knew it. Up there, things could be different. We’d both be the Other, and so would our potential children. It didn’t really bother me, though, it was the story of my life.

My mother had been a migrant worker when I was born. She had left Colombia as soon as she found out she was pregnant; afraid that if she put it off we’d be separated, and I’d be killed. At the time, the prospect of colonizing a new planet was real, but the details were still under wraps. Overpopulation was at its worst in Latin America and Asia at that point. North America was catching up, but many people had still been in denial about the inevitability. The American Dream still had a seductive ring to it, and in spite of everything, it still did for a lot of people – but not for me.

My stomach lurched, curling around itself, tugging at my nerves. Snakes. It felt like a hundred snakes wriggling about inside of me, trying to find a comfortable place to coil themselves. But there was no such place. There was just me, and the envelope.

I tore it open on a whim. Quick, like a Band-Aid.

My name, my age, my marital status, my partner’s name…

ACCEPTED.

I stared at the paper. It was real. It even provided a date for us to go in and have our infertility chips removed. It was real.

I read it again, and again.

ACCEPTED.

The door creaked open, snapping me back to life. I blinked, and noticed the tears streaming down my face. Josh entered, lugging a small sack of potatoes from the market. Normally I’d ask what he had bartered, always concerned I’d lose something precious. But not today. Today, I gained something precious.

Josh tried to smile. I tried not to. The silence lingered.

We finally had a way out.

A glint of hope flashed in his eyes.

Our lips met, unsure of what else to do.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Testing Day

The room is white. The room is cold. The room promises anxiety. I scrape away at my cuticles (a disgusting habit I’ve always had under pressure) and try not to shift around on the table. The paper gown against the paper on which I sit makes a sound that reminds me of where I am. I wish there was a window, or at least that the doctor would hurry back. When I finally notice the blood smeared across most of my nails I lick it all away, ashamed, and focus my attention on the pamphlets taped to the walls.

Getting Tested is the First Day of Your New Life.

Stay Healthy, Stay Happy.

The World Needs You. Get Tested Today.

Finally, the door swings open. My heart seems to quiver and I sit up straight as if concerned that my poor posture will annoy the doctor and she’ll leave again. But she doesn’t even look at me. She stares at her clipboard and makes checks and exes here and there. I try not to make a sound, try not to disturb her concentration. Mostly I just want us both to forget I’m here; to simply disappear. She is short, with thick round glasses and straight smoky grey hair. When her head springs up her chubby cheeks swing back, loose with age.

“Fertile.”

That’s all she says. Then her head bows again as she sticks her pen back in her jacket pocket, clears her throat and walks out of the room. I will never see her again. Her only job is to test the fertility of every 18 year old boy and girl in the sector, and then she disappears forever.

I slowly reach for my clothes and become suddenly aware of how drab they are. Beige pants and a grey button down shirt with my identification number plastered to the left breast pocket. That number is more important than my name; authorities know me not as Gen, but as 504576. Today, though, I will become known to them only as fertile. I am hope.

Once a young woman is determined to be fertile a sigh of relief sweeps the nation like a cool, crisp, awakening breeze. They can match me with a fertile young man now, and assign us our national duties which will include jobs based on our levels of skills and intelligence, and on the nation’s needs. As a fertile couple, we will be given five years before we must clock in to work. These five years are to be allotted to childbearing and child rearing. We will be given a house, because we are the pride and joy of the nation. We are hope. Our sector will survive because of the few who are fertile. The many who are not will work harder and longer to provide for those of us who are. They are just as important to the new system. And who am I to shame the new system? After all, things used to be worse – but somehow, that doesn’t make me feel any better.

I dress, unsteadily, one foot at a time. The buttons take forever because my fingers fumble with them through the tremors. I feel a burning sensation rising from my chest and radiating into my sinuses. To fight this from exploding into tears I hold my breath. I do this for so long that by the time I walk into the bright daylight I am dizzy. I quickly glance to the left and then right, and when I’m sure my mother is not here yet I exhale so fast and hard I cannot even recognize the sound that comes out of me. How could this happen to me? What are the odds? I haven’t taken any precautions to ensure fertility. I even live in the most toxic end of the sector. Ironically, discovering that I have been virtually unaffected by these toxins is the first thing that makes me feel as though I am truly suffocating.

Just as I prepare to embrace my sadness a car pulls up and I see my mother’s stern yet forcibly bright face in the driver’s seat. At this, I immediately pull myself together. I stand up straight and sigh, taking on again my typical expression of impassivity. She jumps out of the car with such specious excitement the car itself might still be in motion. She runs around the back of it to reach me as quickly as she can. Arms wide, she yells “So?!”

“Fertile.”

I say it and that’s when I know it’s real and has to be accepted. My mother squeezes me tight, a rare show of affection. “It’s going to be fine, Genesis,” she whispers unconvincingly. “Everything’s going to be fine.” A bromide for people who are either too afraid, or too weak to tell the truth.

I nod and shrug. Maybe it will be fine.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Chimera

“Do you know where you are?”

The voice was distant, yet penetrative. At the sound, Troy winced, afraid the cadence might haul him away, or burrow itself inside of his brain. It was always like that; attempting to separate one reality from another was like trying to tear himself in two. The act itself seemed violently meddlesome – profane, even. Most of the time, Troy accepted that he was in two places at once, and that both were equally verifiable (as long as he didn’t force himself to verify them).

No.

Troy was compelled to reply to the voice, but could only form the words in his head. He thought he remembered writing at one time or another to keep track of where he was and who he was interacting with. But one day, he reviewed his journal and found it to be evidence only of his own delirium. It was a book of amphigory; smug in its ability to mock its author’s complex mind. The problem, he decided, was that he was in two places at once. That was always the problem. The solution was unclear, the problem was not.

“Can you tell us what happened to Peter? Can you tell us what you remember?”

The voice sounded more agitated now. Closer, too. It echoed a buzz from Troy’s right ear to his left. He tilted his head towards the direction he thought it was coming from. He only saw chaos: blackness, orbs of light, shadows of faces he knew from one reality or another. He squeezed his lids shut.

No.

Peter was dead. A version of Troy was sure of that. A throbbing penitence in his chest threatened to crack him open and stick needles in his mind’s eye; poking the most sensitive spots. Some of the other gamers he had met had called that ghost pain, but Troy knew better. It was pain being bestowed upon him in one place, but not in the other. Their insatiable thirst for truth turned them into monsters. But Troy couldn’t give them truth because it didn’t exist – not in the isolated way they expected it to. In fact, there were a couple truths. Just as there were a couple Troys. One Troy, he was beginning to think, had done something very, very bad.

“Why did you hurt Peter, Troy? Was it part of the game?”

Yes.

But it was just a game. It was just one version of Troy, in one version of reality. Two places. Two truths. Hadn’t that been the point of the game? To live out fantasies and scenarios in one reality that might not be acceptable in another? The developers, the marketers, the goddamned ads; they all said that.

Unleash Your Darkest Fantasies.

That’s what the ads said. One reality was for fools, but trying to balance two at once – that was shredding Troy up from the inside.

“Troy? Troy, you have to stay with us.”

No.

He could feel himself being pulled away. He needed to get himself, his whole self, out of the two places and into just one. Not this one. This one was full of contradiction and amercement. This one told Troy to indulge, and whipped him when he did so. This one was cruel.

Troy’s heartbeat amplified, his temperature rose, and his brain continued to pulsate against his skull. He hissed, and cried, and tried to scream.

Two realities, and to neither could his contentment belong.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Perception

“My planet doesn’t actually look like yours. The human mind is quite limited; usually it can only perceive the familiar, so when something is not familiar, it makes it so.”

“I’m not sure I’d describe what I’m seeing as familiar.”

Sybil looked up and let herself be taken aback by the mountainous trees, adorned with branches that seemed to touch the clouds. She wished Ongue would give her a moment to let the mesmerizing view settle, but in the little amount of time she had known it, she had learned that was not its style. It immediately spoke again.

“Yes, well, it’s difficult to know what a human will see exactly. But it should most definitely be something your memories of Earth can relate to.” It gestured for her to pick up her pace, “Come, now. This way.”

Ongue was a tiny being. It stood only three feet or so off the ground (or whatever it was that Sybil understood as “ground”), and had slender limbs and fingers. Its webbed feet were the size of Sybil’s palms and, if a comparison had to be made, its faintly grey skin was akin to that of a sickly elephant’s. It spoke in a hearty tone, that seemed to boom from its tiny body. The voice sounded definitively male to Sybil, but it had been explained to her that Ongue was genderless, and that it was only her restrictive mind making that connection. Back on Earth, Sybil had had a few friends in the trans community, so she knew it was important to be respectful of Ongue’s neutrality. Still, it did make her uncomfortable to refer to an intelligent being as an “it.”

Sybil herself was quite feminine in appearance. She had long dark hair, full eyelashes, a slender jawline, and heart-shaped lips. Her olive skin tone seemed fluid, darkening in the summer months, but paling completely in the winter ones. It had always made her feel like a chameleon.

“You’re the last to arrive. The others are just in here,” Ongue informed Sybil as it held a heavy steel door open to her.

The door was attached to a very small hut, so that Sybil had to bend herself to fit through the opening. Once she entered, though, she was standing in the lavish entryway of a grandiose manor with ceilings nearly thirty feet high. Others who looked just like Ongue were busying about this way and that, not even noticing her presence.

“This way, this way,” Ongue insisted, scurrying off down the hall.

Once Sybil had been seated in the amphitheater with the hundreds of other men and women, the formal address began.

Ongue took the podium and welcomed the group to its planet. It thanked each and every one of the brave souls for summoning within themselves the courage to venture outside of their world, and into this new one. Although, as Ongue explained, this world was not new, but millions of years Earth’s senior.

“The Intergalactic Treaty that has brought us all together has been a dream of ours for millennia. Earth, although still in its infancy, has become worn and tired. The humans who refuse to acknowledge this undeniable truth will have to live through witnessing its fall, but you are all here because you have chosen to move forward. We thank you for your open-mindedness. You are wise and beautiful beings of vast natural differences. This world will be an opportunity to embrace such difference, and change.”

Ongue paused momentarily, satisfied by our nervous smiles, then continued, “time, of course, moves differently here, as well. Over the next few hundred years, you will learn to see our world as we see it. The process will be slow, but eventually, this will become your home. As you adjust, the Earthly landscape you see before you will morph into something all together new, as will your understanding of it. Rest assured, the concept of home itself will become less dichotomous, and more malleable.”

Another, shorter, pause.

“Earth, however, will always be where you came from.” Ongue stepped out from behind the podium and spoke to the audience more directly. “It was an empire,” it said, “and we are all sad to see it go. Let us take a moment of silence, as is the custom for many of you in times of grief, and say goodbye.”

Mimicking the crowd (and without hesitance), Sybil bowed her head. She had been raised by devout theists and Nationalists; false solemnness was a practice she had always been familiar with.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Speechless

Eve’s eyes spring open. She has had the dream again; the one in which she falls endlessly down a tunnel of bright lights, always expecting her back to hit hard against a ground it never reaches.

The heavy pull of gravity is almost more than she can take, so she opens her mouth to scream for help – and she does. In its own rebellion, her voice lifts out of her and shoots upright against the gravity that retains its grip on her body. But as she dispels the sound of her struggle, the fear fades away behind it. The sound is bigger than the gravity, and her ability to produce it magnifies her own power. It’s not just something she can hear; it’s something she can feel and something she can see.

The scream vibrates against her diaphragm, compressing the air inside of her. Her rib cage squeezes inwards, her chest tightens, her spine stiffens. The sound crawls through every nook of her bodily tissue, escaping from depths of her she had never before known to exist. The oxygen she relies upon expels through the gaping orifice she barely recognizes as her own mouth, and even though she knows she’ll run out soon, it feels good. The violence of the gravity she’s been fighting suddenly feels less like its pulling her, and more like its carrying her back to Earth; back home. Not that any of that matters anymore: she is now infatuated with the sensation of the scream exploding inside of her. And when it does, its incoherently beautiful.

The scream corrugates the air around her, and fills the tunnel. What was once a space of absence – white, cold, and infinite – becomes a storm of dancing colors. Reds wind themselves around yellows, which wind themselves around greens, until all the colors coexist. Even the white bodysuit that covers every inch of her own body absorbs the scream until its bursting with vibrancy. The falling suddenly becomes floating as the scream wraps itself around her, swaddling her like a mother’s hug. She reaches out an uncertain hand, hoping to steal a piece of the liveliness and keep it with her forever. But instead, for the first time, the insidious impact that she forgets to brace for comes.

Her lungs and heart thud against her chest expecting to break free and a final gush of air releases. This time, though, there is no sound because Eve is back in her sleep dome, wide-eyed. Ripped back to reality, the floating has returned – because in her reality, there is no gravity, no measurable oxygen, and no beautiful sound. Residual memories, she supposes.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Rhapsody Lament

Boyd had never been a penitent person. Never impressionable. Never reserved. Never burdened by an arbitrary sense of right and wrong; white and black. He had always lingered between the dichotomies. Even now, as he scrambled to wash the dried blood from his hands, he felt no remorse and no thrill. The snowball between his hands crumbled, rather than melted. He squatted in the street, scrubbing away, until his hands were more numb than clean. Since the running water had stopped four months ago, this was the closest Boyd ever came to a bath. The scruff of his chin was concealed by a scarf tied tight around his neck. He wore two jackets, neither one sufficient on its own. He imagined his skin was quite dry by now, but removing his clothes to find out would be a waste of time and energy. The wind was just starting to pick up when Boyd rose. He was unsteady on his feet, the result of having traded food for companionship. Food and sex; they were the only currencies left. Boyd looked around. It was dark now and the streets were lit only by the colors people chose to wear. A crowd of women were headed straight towards him, not one bothering to side step. The collision was inevitable. In fact, Boyd kind of enjoyed slamming into the petite woman who had been too absorbed in her inconsequential small talk to look up – to see him. No one ever saw him. It was a blessing and a curse.

Gale felt an impact against her chest, and then her back. She swung upwards just in time to see the broad shouldered man shuffle through her crowd of friends and disappear. She rolled her eyes, wondering why she bothered to expect more from people these days. She had smacked hard against the wet ground. She let herself sit there for a moment as the frost snuck its way up her back and buried itself in her spine. The cement had torn right through her jacket, but that was of little consequence since the thin material it had been made of was never meant to hold up against the temperamental elements. Her friends gasped and cackled. Gale assured them she was fine. She didn’t even notice the blood that was now smeared across her back until the man who bought her for the evening demanded his bread back; as if it was the unidentified blood that was the most disgusting aspect of tonight’s scenario. Gale chomped down on the bread and ripped her chipped teeth through its stiffness. The man yelled inarticulately (everyone did, these days) and she threw the rest of the bun at him. She watched with pleasure as it bounced of his chest and landed in the snow. She had always enjoyed the sight of a man bending over, his pride tumbling before him.

Everett snatched up his fallen bun with virtue. He had worked hard for it all day and was disheartened by his own eagerness to give it up for a few minutes of potential amity. He shivered under the darkening sky and tucked the coveted bread into his sweater. The snow would make it soggy and Everett did not kill for soggy bread. He preferred the fruits of his labor to maintain a robustness in his own likeness. The insert in his forearm began buzzing just as he had come upon a shelter: a single dwelling tent. Inside it smelled of rot and old death. There was no body, but he would have spent the night even if there was. A good tent was difficult to come by, and his own house had been dismantled in the last explosion. In that instant, the streets became safer than his useless cowering. The attacks were usually targeted at houses; the price of being comfortable was an exhaustive threat against your life. All of the free states were like that. Everett had seen a few, but the differences between them were not worth mentioning. Tonight, he had his bread and a tent, and that was all a man could ask for out here. He chose to ignore the buzzing in his arm. There were plenty others in need of a job. Tonight, he had seen enough blood.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Creating Genesis

“The implantation process was simple. I’m just not sure it’s going to take. She’s heavily sedated.”

Lewis nodded to acknowledge his colleague’s concerns, then entered the adjoining room. The two-way mirror that now separated the two doctors served only to represent the dissolving border between theoretical science, and the monstrosity of creation.

“What’s Lewis doing in there?”

Sierra looked up at Charlie, who seemed to materialize from thin air. Since he had launched the Genesis project he had lost several pounds, become irritable and, at times, unresponsive. He was approaching his 50th year now, and the result of his stress was sunken cheeks and drooping eyes, which only served to age him quicker. Together, he and Sierra watched Lewis curiously lean over their test subject. She seemed not to notice he was there, even when he stroked her hair, and then her stomach. It was only starting to protrude. Sweat rolled down her forehead, and shoulders. Her chest heaved, and her limbs twitched. The doctors had resorted to sedation when they caught her trying to escape. Now, she was only a shell of a person – no will; no desire.

“He’s pleading with her, I suppose,” Sierra whispered.

Charlie grunted his approval. All three of them knew this was their last shot. No other test subject had ever carried to term, but Marcy had come the furthest. This fourth try might very well be all her body would take. The anticipation filled the lab like a thick fog of impending doom.

“Fourteen more weeks to go,” Charlie sighed. With that, he disappeared into the back room.

*****

“How are you feeling today, Marcy?”

Marcy heard the voice, but it seemed so distant she feared her reply would not reach it. She mumbled incoherently and tried to raise her arms. She could not.

“We had to tie you down, I’m afraid. You got a little out of control, but you’re going to be fine.”

The voice was calm, and although she identified it as male, there was something inherently feminine about it. Marcy pulled her head up as high as she could, hoping to catch a glimpse of her surroundings. All she saw was her own belly, high and mountainous. Her cries were muffled by her own lack of energy, but Lewis could see the fear in her eyes.

“Shh, it’s okay,” he speciously reassured her. “You’re going to have a daughter, Marcy. I really believe so. If you can just hold on a little longer.” He smiled, nodding frantically – his nerves having finally got the best of him. His eyes were beginning to flood. “She’ll be our little Genesis.”

Lewis stroked Marcy’s head paternally as she struggled to remove herself from his touch. The air smelled repugnant to her, and she associated it with the mysterious man who had strapped her down and put a person inside of her without her permission. Quickly, Marcy surveyed her memories to assess her whereabouts, and the date. Most of it came back in flashes:

There had been a raid in her sector.

All the women wearing numbers were identified as fertile and taken away.

She had kicked and screamed.

She saw men in riot gear beat her father when he tried to pull them off of her.

She had been so hot, secluded in a bare, metal, space.

There had been blood tests; they had taken blood. But they had also injected something… what was it?

A cage.

Women caged.

Women bleeding.

Women losing consciousness while having monsters ripped from their bodies.

Herself in pain. So much pain she could not think, swallow, or fight.

There had been so many needles.

The doctors all had fire in their eyes.

As the flashes converged, Marcy tried to process what had happened to her body. Her thoughts still lacked linearity, and the more she forced it, the weaker she became. Eventually, Lewis’ sobbing faded to black with the rest of it.

*****

“They’ve discontinued the research on cloning in Sector 8,” Sierra offered as small talk as she and Lewis prepped for surgery.

“I know,” he replied solemnly.

“It’s a good thing. It means there’s more funding for us. More faith.”

“Faith? We’re creating monsters, here.”

Sierra’s glare manifested a gravitational pull that kept Lewis’ eyes glued to hers. “We’re creating people. A population,” she exacted. “There are no monsters in science.”

Lewis frowned, not knowing what he believed anymore. It had been eleven years since he had agreed to Genesis, motivated by a sense of supremacy. It had been naïve to think three scientists could save the world. The world had been relinquished long ago. Still, he couldn’t let go of the feeling that something big was going to happen; that Marcy was the key. It would be foolish to give up just yet.

*****

Screeching; whimpering; gurgling.

The sounds were nearly incomprehensible.

They were certainly undecipherable.

Marcy coerced her eyes open, unsure that she even wanted to see anything. The room was in utter commotion. Everyone seemed to be in hysterics. Finally, Marcy saw what all the fuss was about: a baby lie sprawled on a metal table beside her own. It was swaddled only in wires and tubes; liquids pumped in and out of her tiny body. It was a grotesque and morbid picture. And yet, all Marcy could think was that she had somehow done it.

An easy wave of calm fell over her. Yes, she had done it. Tomorrow, she might awaken to a whole new world. That is, if she were to awaken at all.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©