As many of you know, I've been toying with some different kinds of writing. Here is a short story that slips out of the comedic territory, and into the world of literary sci-fi. Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you.
by Tanya Eby
Amelia sat at her kitchen table with her tablet loaded on the North Quadrant Times. It didn’t matter which website or news address she clicked on, every headline was nearly identical, with the exception of a few small words: Birth Day Is Nigh! Birth Day Dawns! Beware of Birth Day!
Articles were the same too. All women aged 14-40 should prepare for oncoming labor. Do not go to the nearest hospital. If every woman went into labor at the same time (as expected) then hospitals would be overwhelmed and would not be able to help. No. The Birthing could be done at home. Hospitals should be reserved for emergencies only (and there was some hysteria with the thought that what if every birth turned out to be an emergency. What then?). They’d had nine months to prepare. Everyone else, from young children, to older adults, to all the men, should check their birthing kits, re-watch delivery webinars, and prepare for…
Well. The articles were vague on what (or who) exactly to prepare for. The nearest guess was to prepare for a child. A billion children, actually, all over the world in every location: villages in Africa, deserts in America, and in the tallest urban jungles in the world. Even two doctors stationed at the North Pole had conceived, and they were both women without any men around for thousands of miles. Doctors and mathematicians calculated that Conception Day occurred on April 17 at 2:11 EST. They had been crunching numbers since then to decide if the Conception or Birth Day had any astrological meaning. Their decision so far was…maybe.
Amelia was not worried. She ran her hands over her swollen abdomen and the child shifted within her. Fluttered, really. As if it had wings. And couldn’t it? Couldn’t her child have wings? Stranger things happened. Stranger things did happen like nearly nine months ago when every woman on the planet age 14-40 had conceived.
When the news started pouring in, when understanding started dawning, the news sites trumpeted the findings: Massive Simultaneous Teenage Pregnancy became All Women Above 14 Are Pregnant! Amelia held her breath, hoping against hope. And then the new headlines: No Women Over 40! Amelia had cried into her pillow that night. She had felt that she was different. She hoped finally, after all these years, that she could have a child of her own. It was not to be. All the incoming data, every news site, and every expert claimed to understand: All the women in the world between the ages of fourteen and forty were pregnant. There were no pregnancies before or after that age. Women who had been pregnant at the time of Conception Day, seemed to have reverted their pregnancies back to Conception Days. As if their pregnancies had simply restarted. No one over the age of forty had conceived. They were safe. Except…against all the data…Amelia.
Amelia. Pregnant. But that was impossible. She was 43. She’d had fertility treatments back when she was married. The doctors had said it was impossible for her to conceive and then, inconceivably, Patrick had left her and started a family with someone else. But now. Now, this. A gift. From her research, she discovered that she was the only 43 year old in the entire world who was also part of this experience, and because of this, she had sequestered herself. No one must know. No one must know that she was the one person who didn’t fit. She’d seen what scientists had done in the beginning to understand. Those women they’d tested, experimented on, tried to help with terminating the pregnancy, those women had never come home. Young girls terrified of what their parents might think had tried aborting their fetuses…and they ended up dying. Or worse. Weeks and weeks of agony while the cells within them shifted to create another fetus to replace the one they’d taken, only growing double and triple time and causing deep pain. Those girls, they were lost. Their spirits slipped away. After Birth Day, Amelia wondered if they would come back to the world, but she doubted it.
She felt for them, these girls and scared women who were too terrified of carrying a child. She pitied them their lack of faith. She understood what it was like to feel lost, because she had been lost too, but in a different way. How she had slipped through living day to day, with no love in her life, just work, and sex occasionally, and long nights spent on her own while Patrick…She did not finish the thought. She reminded herself that now, with her child almost with her, she would be found.
There was no astrological or spiritual rhyme or reason for the moment of conception; she knew that. It was simply a miracle. Simply a miracle. Yes. She believed that this miracle was simple. A fact. Perhaps it was a leap of evolution. Whatever it was, there was no changing it, no stopping it, and the entire world had been forced to accept it. Birth Day was coming. Birth Day was nigh.
Amelia knew, knew at her very core, that there was, however, a reason why of all the women in the world she was chosen to be the oldest. Her child would be special. Her child would be a leader of children. She was chosen because her wanting had been so great; her suffering for a child so prolonged. Birth Day would change the world, beginning with her own.
“Incoming call,” said the computerized (though entirely natural sounding) Voice. “It’s your sister.”
Amelia quickly stood and went to her kitchen counter. She smoothed her long red hair and pinched her cheeks, hoping to bring them some color. Though, actually, since becoming pregnant, she did seem to have an otherworldly glow. One of the many reasons she tried to stay inside. The hologram would dull her glow, but it could not dull the size of her stomach. If she stood behind the counter then her sister would not see her rounded belly on the vidscreen. Amelia only needed to keep her secret a bit longer. Birth Day was only hours away, and then she could tell the world of her purpose.
“Amelia!” Her sister Nina said. Her voice was high and tight, her face pale. Her image stood across from Amelia, so clear that it was almost as if they could share a cup of coffee together. She seemed to have aged another ten years in just these nine short months. Nina’s red hair was now streaked with white, and the color seemed to have tarnished to the color of rust. She had deep circles under her eyes and her skin was dry and creased with new wrinkles. “Why aren’t you over here? You’re supposed to bring your Birthing Kit! The orders say that family members must help other family members! It says! You agreed! We need you here!”
“I can’t come. I’m sorry,” Amelia said softly. She was sorry too. Sorry that her sister would have to deliver her grandchild on her own. Sorry for her niece who, at just shy of fifteen, was terrified of what was happening to her body.
Her sister began to cry. She tried to muffle her voice. “Please,” she pleaded, looking straight into Amelia’s eyes. “Amelia…you’re the only one who has any medical training. Ed is a complete moron. He’s out back preparing the old bomb shelter in case some kind of attack happens. The boys are no help. I can’t do this alone. Margie is only fourteen! She’s just a child!” The rest of her words were lost.
Amelia took a deep breath. “It’s going to be okay, Neener,” she said using her sister’s pet name. When Amelia was a baby, she called her sister Neener because she could not say Nina. “I’m telling you the Birth Day is going to go fine. Margie can do this. You can do this. All you need…” Amelia took a sharp breath as a contraction gripped her. “All you need to do is believe.”
Nina rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand, dragging a line of mascara across her face. “Believe what,” she said and her words were filled with utter loss. “There’s nothing left to believe in anymore. We don’t even have control over our own bodies.”
“Believe in miracles,” Amelia said. “I do.” She decided then that the time had come. She stepped away from the counter and walked to her sister’s image standing before her.
“Amelia…” her sister breathed, as if she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She reached out to touch Amelia’s stomach and then the connection was cut.
Amelia bent over as another contraction rippled through her body. The pain reminded her of surfing. How you rode the wave as long as you could until you tumbled, then, waiting in the water, you floated, until you could catch the next wave bringing you closer to shore. She would ride this out.
“Warning,” called the Voice. “Birth Day is imminent. Prepare your delivery stations. Please tune into Quadrant Four’s webcast delivery. Doctors are standing by to assist virtually. Remember: hospitals are not equipped to handle Birth Day. You must do this at home. Hospitals are on stand-by for emergencies, should any arise.”
It seemed that even the computerized voice was strained with fear and anticipation. This is what they had all been waiting for. The final answer was coming! What would happen next? Every time they’d tried to do a 3D imaging sequence, machines shut down. When a pregnant woman was in an accident and killed, they had tried to open her stomach to see what lurked within, but by the time they did that, the fetus had been absorbed. They’d tried ultrasounds and video feeds and even shamans to tell the world what kind of children women were growing. Would they be regular children? Gods? Demons?
Amelia knew the answer. She was growing Hope. Hope in the way that old advertisements claimed Hope For a New World and a Better Tomorrow!
The next contraction was fierce and Amelia leaned against a chair for support. She only needed to get to the next room where she had everything waiting. It was only a few more steps.
“Warning!” the Voice called. “The Children are coming!”
Amelia walked the few steps to her living room and lay down on the bed. She knew what was coming and that she only had to surrender to the experience and she would be okay. She breathed.
“Birth Day has begun!”
It happened incredibly fast. There was pain and tearing and she breathed through it. She was silent, in fact. All was silent. She no longer heard the Voice proclaiming warnings and advice for complications. She no longer heard the proclamations of the names of women who had successfully brought a child into the world, though she knew that there would be proclamations. She was aware that the world was in an orgiastic state of fear and anticipation. She knew that today people would take their own lives rather than learn of what was coming. She knew that what was coming was not, in fact, evil, but humanity’s next leap into a bold new future.
She breathed. She pushed. And then the child slipped from her in a rush. There was silence still. Amelia pushed herself up, scooped the child up, and looked into her daughter’s perfect silver eyes. Her eyes seemed to spark with electricity. In fact, staring into the child’s eyes, Amelia thought for a moment she saw the swirl of a tiny universe forming. The child seemed to consider her for a moment. Amelia brought her daughter’s gleaming metallic body to her breast, kissed the top of her cool head, and smiled as her baby nursed, seeming to know exactly what to do.
Everything would be different now. This was how transformation happened: quickly, without warning, and if you were brave enough to embrace it, it would take you to incredible places. Amelia and her daughter Hope would lead them all.
“Warning!” called the Voice. “The children! The children have arrived!”
All over the world people waited to hear the crying of the new children and were astounded when instead of sobs of a billion infants, they heard the tinkling laughter of what they could only understand as newborn stars.