Alter

By: Juliana Rivera

“He’s beautiful, Laura.”

“Can I hold him?”

“Not yet, Laur. Remember, the doctors have to run the tests.”

“Oh. Yes.”

Laura was laying flat on her back in her hospital gown staring at the blue fluorescent lights that lined the ceiling. Her husband, Isaac, stood by her side with his hand resting on hers trying to look hopeful as a nurse dressed in black scrubs walked away with his newborn. He had tired eyes that had shadows beneath them. His weak smile couldn’t hide his fear of another failure. Laura didn’t move. Her black hair was perfectly brushed and she was calm. Her labor was painless just like it always had been. She sat up quickly as the nurse in black scrubs returned. She was empty handed.

The nurse walked over to the side of Laura’s bed across from Isaac.She outlined a square in the air with her pointer finger and a transparent screen appeared.

“This is your twelfth delivery, correct?”

“Yes.” says Laura.

“Okay,” the nurse says. She runs her fingers across the floating screen.“How many times have you been successful?”

“Once.”

“And that child’s identification number?”

“LS00867.” says Isaac.

“Alright,”the nurse taps the screen again, “Nine years old. Successful alterations. Born on February 12th. Alice?”

“Yes, that’s her.” says Isaac.

“Okay. Laura you haven’t had a successful childbirth in years. We’re unsure what the issue is.Your newborn, LF03855, was a failure. Alterations were successful but his brain is underdeveloped.”

Laura’s yellow eyes fall to her lap. Isaac tries to comfort her.

“You’ll be given recovery vaccines in a moment and you can be released in a few hours. If you’d like we can send LS00867 in, aswell. We’re sorry.” The nurse wipes her hand over the floating screen and it disappears. She leaves the room.

Laura doesn’t move. Isaac rubs her back.  

“I don’t understand.” Laura whispers.

“Honey…I’m sorry,” Isaac says, “This happens to everyone. It’s difficult, I know, but most deliveries are unsuccessful.”

“No, Issac. They say one out of five deliveries are successful. I’ve had twelve. This isnt normal. There’s something wrong with me.”

“No,no. You’re fine.”

“I’m not! There were no alterations this time- no height request, no skin shade request, no hair change. I didn’t even ask for purple eyes this time.”

“It’s more complicated than that, Laur. They still have to alter things where you ask for them or not; Like the lungs and the skin cells. They’ll die without these changes. The world isn’t as pure as it used to be.”   

“Just because it’s not how it used to be, doesn’t mean that this is how it’s supposed to be.” says Laura.

The next moments were blurry for Laura.

Laura fell into a deep depression. She sat in her room for days at a time. She stopped leaving her house. After two months Laura’s sadness turned into ambition. And that ambition turned into rebellion.

It was a dark foggy night as usual.

Laura stares up at her glass ceiling to look at the moonless sky. Isaac lays beside her looking up a small floating screens with words dancing across it.

“I wish I knew what stars looked like.”Laura says.

Isaac gave a “hmph” as a response. He reached over to his night table, still looking at his screen, and pressed a button that made a small beep. The glass ceiling immediately was covered in tiny yellow lights.

“No, I mean real stars.”

“What about these?” Isaac pressed another button and the lights turned purple.

“Those look just like Alice’s eyes.” Laura says.

Isaac finally looks away from his screen, “Hmm. Yeah they do, actually.” He says.

“What do you think she’d look like if we didn’t alter her?” Laura asks.

“Well..she’d probably have brown eyes. Like your father”

“What if we didn’t alter anything, though?”

“Honey that’s not-”

“What if we didn’t change anything and we just let children be born. What if we left it all up to nature and what not?”

Isaac sits up and the floating screen disappears, “Laura, it wouldn’t work. You can’t keep beating yourself up over all of this.I know it’s hard hun, but i think we just accept that we’re not meant to have another kid.”

“No. I want to try one last time.”

“Laur-”

“Please, Issac, ” Laura sits up, “just this one last time and then I promise I’ll be finished. Please.”

“I don’t want you to have to go through that again.” Isaac says.

“I can take it. Please. Last time and then no more.”

Isaac lays back down. “Okay.”

A few months later things were looking brighter for Laura and Isaac. Her pregnancy was going well.  However, Laura didn’t schedule any doctors appointments. She never went for checkups or follow ups. She stayed home most days. For all she knew, her daughter and Isaac were the only people who knew of her pregnancy.

“How was the ultrasound today?” Isaac asks one night.

“It was good,” Laura lies, “our baby is doing great.”

“I think this will be a success.”

“Me too.”

Laura had no idea how her fetus was doing. She didn’t know if it was healthy. She didn’t know anything. She had been doing her best to hide her consisting from the rest of the world. She had a plan that no one could know about; not even Isaac.

The ninth month had arrived and Laura knew that time was running out for her to execute her plans.

On the 48th night of the year, it was time. Laura, petite and plump, slipped away from her husband and her bed. She drove 36 miles south and went to the institution she had been communicating with for the last 8 months. It was in the middle of an untouched field. In the middle of the field was a wooden cabin that’s as unlike any of the buildings that existed elsewhere.

Laura limps into the cabin. It was dark and quiet. Laura think about leaving but suddenly she heard a click and saw a flash. The cabin is lit with yellowish bulbs of light. And a woman emerges from the corner of the the one room cabin. The woman was older and almost a bit dirty. Her hair was frizzy and wavy. Her eyes were dark brown. Her skin didn’t glow as much as Laura’s. She had a roughness about her that was shocking but beautiful.   

“You’re right on time” The woman says,

“Hello.” says Laura.

“How are you feeling?”

“I think I’m ready.” Laura says over a groan of pain.

“Here, lay down. This is going to be painful.” The woman leads Laura to a bed in the back of the cabin where the light is more aggressive and a young girl is sitting. She was brown eyed and tan. It was clear that she no alterations done.

“Is she…?”  Laura begins the ask as she gets on the bed.

“Yes. She’s a natural born,” The older woman says, “And so am I.”

“I knew it was possible.” Laura says through another groan.

“Yes. It is.” The woman begins tying Laura’s wrist to the sides of the bed. The young girl stands up and gives a kind smile.

“How bad will this be?” Laura asks.

“Unlike any pain your kind has ever felt.” The woman says.

Hours and hours pass. Laura’s screams pierce through the walls off the cabin and echo into the night. But finally they stop.

A knock is heard on the cabin door.

Isaac enters.

He looks around the dim cabin and sees nothing but a bright lamp and a bed in the back of the room. He walks over searching for any sign of life. He immediately stops when he sees the dark red liquid covering the floor. His curiosity pushes him forward and he come across a familiar face.

“Laura.”

He becomes still.

“Laura…..no.”

He finally comes close enough to touch her cold pale face. Her yellow eyes are wide open staring blankly towards the sky.

“No.” Isaac becomes weak and falls the side of the bed.  “I told you, Laura! I told you! Why?”

He sobs clutching her small cold body. He cries for a while until he hears a whimper from the other corner of the cabin. He falls silent. He hears it again and the sound of someone saying “shhh.”

Isaac gets up and follows the sound to a closet door. His shaking hand reaches for the doorknob and it creaks open. The older woman and the young girl are crouched on the floor. In the woman’s arms is a bundled blanket with spots of blood on it. They are all speechless except for the whimpering fetus.  

“Who are you?” Isaac asks.

The woman and the young girl reman silent.

“Is that…” Isaac stars at the baby, “give it to me.” The woman and girl still stay quiet. “Give it to me!” he yells viciously.

The woman finally gives up the baby and shields the younger girl from Isaac. Isaac holds the fetus and stares at it as if it is some kind of abomination. He looks back at his wife’s corpse and clenches his jaw. He starts away towards the doorway.

“What will you do with the child?” The woman calls to him.

“I’m turning it in” He replies.

“But your wife- that’s all she wanted. He’s vital, he’s alive. He’ll will survive in our environment. He’s your son.”

“She’s dead,” snaps back, “My wife is dead.”

“But-”

“Say anything else and I’ll turn you in, too. That girl of yours will be locked away for good. Like the rest of those messed up kids.”

Isaac walks out before anything else can be said.

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