Friday, August 23, 2013
Fiction Friday: Methuselah, Chapter 1, Part 2
The Reproductive Request notification icon grew to fill the screen and then was replaced by the figure of a fine-boned brunette.
"Hello. Please scan your finger for confirmation of identity," the brunette asked. Agnes scanned her finger.
"Congratulations, Agnes! You're going to be a mother! My name is Marta, and I am absolutely delighted to be your Reproductive Liaison."
The word "mother" brought tears to Agnes' eyes. Glen gripped her hand. They were giddy, almost vibrating!
"That was fast! I wasn't expecting to hear back from you so soon," Agnes said, barely able to keep her grin under control.
"It was," Marta agreed. "Sometimes that's how it works -- not often, but sometimes. First try, immediate confirmation. It all depends on timing -- and your genotype, of course. Sometimes it takes years or even never happens!" Her voice was surprisingly matter of fact.
"Oh! But Glen hasn't heard back yet. Have you?" Agnes turned to Glen. How could they have forgotten that he was still waiting for his answer?
"I may be able to help with that," Marta offered. "If that is Glen with you, he can scan his finger and give me access to his file."
Marta frowned very slightly after Glen sent his scan, her lips forming an almost indiscernible pout. She winked at something to her left.
"Glen, I do have your file here, but it shows no sign of your having sent a reproduction request," Marta said. "Your last entry is a genetic update at the time of your renewal last year."
Agnes' heart was in her throat. Glen gestured for her to give him the chair.
"Are you kidding me?" he asked. "I sent it last night."
"Well, it may be on hold somewhere, but for now, it is not showing in the system." Marta's eyes moved as if she were reading something. "That happens sometimes, so I wouldn't be too fraught about it," Marta tried to reassure them.
Glen was fraught. Agnes was fraught. Fraught was the perfect word to describe the combination of panic and anger and anxiety that they each felt.
"What I suggest, before we go any further today, is that you each schedule an appointment with your respective Genetic Counsellor. You will need to do that in any case, and it can take several months to get an appointment, so you might as well get on the list," Again, Marta winked at something to her upper left, multi-tasking, evidently, like a distracted bureaucrat. "In the meantime, you have a couple of options, Agnes." She ignored Glen now, focusing on Agnes.
Marta outlined Agnes' options. She could proceed with her renewal, recuperation, and retirement as planned, followed by her reproductive procedures, in hopes that Glen's request would be found - and approved - before her fertility expired. But if she went that route, and Glen was not approved, she was obliged to conceive with an alternative partner who had been approved for reproduction.
"But you must understand that the reproduction permit entails a committed monogamous relationship to raise the child to adulthood," Marta advised. "Current policy does not permit you to raise a child with anyone other than the biological father."
Or Agnes could put her reproductive request on hold and proceed with a temporary career option, and wait for Glen's permit. The hold was good for up to five years, after which she would have to submit a brand new Reproduction Request and go back in the Lottery with everyone else. She was permitted one such hold in her lifetime.
"You don't have to answer right away," Marta reassured her (again with her eyes focused on Agnes, as if Glen were not even sitting in front of her; Glen was becoming increasingly irritated). "This is a momentous decision. Only one in 547,000 applicants were granted Reproduction Permits this quarter, so I know you will understand that this is an exceptional privilege."
"Yes, of course," Agnes answered, but the elation of mere minutes ago had soured.
Marta closed their conversation.
"Honey," Agnes turned to Glen, but before she could finish her sentence, he grabbed the monitor and threw it against the wall, the glass shattering into countless diamonds scintillating in the sun that poured through the window, heedless of the drama in the room.
Agnes had never seen him do anything like this. She grabbed her bag and ran out of the apartment.