Free Range

By Tom Mooney

The doctor took her glasses off so Jess knew there was going to be a change in tone. It had been friendly up until now; the doctor asking questions about her health and her habitat and going over the old routine about previous pregnoptics or missed pregnoptics. Trying to catch her out, Jess thought.

Dr Shivash was a slender woman, even at the hips. You would never have believed a woman that narrow had borne three chicklets of her own. Jess knew that was her number by the three pods she wore round her neck; three small metal tubes, each containing a slice of placenta from the births. How Jess had dreamed of wearing one of them herself, these past months. She regularly woke up and clutched for her throat, only to have her world collapse along with her heart when all she felt was naked flesh.

Dr Shivash put two bare elbows on the table (she was high enough up at the pregnoptics centre to not have to wear a white coat). “Miss Piper,” she said, “we need to know about your chicklet co-creator.”

“Wh… What about him?” Jess replied, annoyed at her lack of composure in stumbling over her words.

“Well, we haven’t met him. I mean, we would like to meet him. I thought you said he would be joining you today.”

“He was summoned to his job. He builds parts for the underground bomber trains. It’s a very important job. If they summon him he has to go. He can’t be expected to go to pregnoptics meetings. What would people say?”

“Ok, calm down Miss Piper. We just-“

“Calm down? CALM DOWN? I am calm. It’s you who’s getting pissy just because my co-creator couldn’t make one shitty meeting. He’s a bloody bomber engineer. He’s keeping this continent safe. Jesus.”

The doctor continued with the calm assurance of a co-creator of three hard-to-handle chicklets; however difficult work was, raising chicklets was harder. “Look, this is standard practice. Before we can sanction any new chicklets, we have to compare samples from the co-creators. You know this, we’ve explained it to you.”

“I know,” said Jess, who checked her wrist for the app, which told her that her heart-rate was slowing again.

“All right then. To run through it again, just so we are all clear. No new chicklets will be sanctioned until we are happy with the strain. We have to check your DNA for all sorts of markers and make sure it’s a match to your co-creator. I mean, just imagine if we let people co-create freely! The strain would be so weak, there’d be a population of millions. Billions, even!

“He’ll be here. Next time,” said Jess.

“Good,” said the doctor. “We are done for today. Don’t forget to go to the freezing room before you head out to deposit your eggs.”

Tom Mooney is a butcher, a writer and a compulsive reader.

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