Written for the Speakeasy.
Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold. Snow still fell in April. Heedless of the slick surface, Janice Patton still exceeded the speed limit down the winding Pennsylvania road to work as she would all year round. Idly, she wondered why she took the risk. Was it because she believed she owned the skill to handle the treacherous road? Was it related to the nightmares that still plagued her, the dreams where she was tossed into a stinking dumpster, laying like a broken, unwanted doll?
As she came to skidding stop at Research Boulevard, she almost slid into the intersection. She mused idly that perhaps she still didn’t give a damn about herself. Her doctor had told her she could never conceive a child. She had a perfectly good womb, but nothing to put in it. In moments, her sense of self worth…died.
Yet, out of her black despair, she’d arisen like a phoenix. Driven by the nightmare of her condition, she pioneered a radical technique for conceiving children from DNA alone. At first, the press incorrectly called it cloning, but it wasn’t at all. Her process randomly combined the DNA of two people. Growing in their artificial wombs, the emerging children were cleansed of genetic diseases and abnormalities more easily than they could be in natural childbirth. Suddenly, couples who couldn’t have children, could have better, more attractive, children than anyone else. Though her professional star was rising, her nightmares persisted. She was so obsessed with finding a solution, somewhere along the way she forgot herself. Though she could’ve been her own first client, the thought never occurred to her.
Perhaps it was the members of Westbaum Baptist Church that distracted her too much. As she raced through the falling snow obscuring the last stoplight before her new company, she expected the religious fanatics to be picketing the gate as they did every day. As she slowed to turn in the drive, she noted they were suspiciously absent. No signs with religious quotes, no screaming, wide-eyed true believers harangued her as she drove through the gate. Idly, Janice wondered what was wrong with them.
Janice got out of her truck wearing weathered jeans, flannel shirt, no makeup, and her unruly hair in a ponytail. Since learning of her condition, sex no longer entered her mind. Her ambition to help others had taken it’s place. What was the point of sex if she couldn’t bear the fruit of it anyway? Though harshly self-critical, in her deepest heart, she didn’t feel female, not a true woman, and her appearance reflected that belief.
As she approached the entrance, she noted the door was broken, hanging off it’s hinges. Alarmed, she rushed inside.
She found the security guard laying in a pool of blood. He’d been shot in the arm, belly, chest, and finally in the head. At least 20 shell casings littered the floor. The attackers were terrible shots, she noted in her shock. She found her lab assistant, Sammy, down the hall with brochures still in his hand. They’d shot him many times, finally in the head from close range. They’d executed him while he was armed only with knowledge. She cried over his cold corpse for a time, and then she realized the true target of this murderous rampage.
In the lab, she found the twelve artificial wombs had been smashed, the growing lives inexpertly snuffed out with a crowbar. After careful inspection, womb #8 seemed largely intact, merely cracked. Quickly, she checked the status monitors. As Janice suspected, the wombs showed malfunctions, all except #8. As she watched artificial amniotic fluid oozing out, she realized the life inside wouldn’t stay that way for long. Her new business had no backup wombs to save that one last life. That one child was doomed…except…unless. She snatched a large syringe. There was little time before it was too late.
The country outside Greensboro was beautiful as Janice drove to her father’s ranch 40 miles outside the city. Cars passed her often as she drove 5 mph below the speed limit in the slow lane. She felt tired from the long drive, and decided to stop at a diner. It was risky to keep driving when fatigued. She parked and watched herself in the vanity mirror as she brushed out her hair and arranged it across her shoulders.
She stepped out of the truck, holding her swelling belly. As a warm spring breeze blew caressed her, she noted she finally felt female, and she smiled.
Each week, The Speakeasy, offers up a writing challenge for up to 750 words of flash fiction. This week, the sentence, “Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold,” must begin the story. The media prompt below is must also be referenced in some way. I think I covered that. 😉 This week’s prompt may be found here: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/fiction-challenge-157-open/