International Writers Magazine: World Without Children
Laura Anne Styles
I was twenty five my boyfriend Harry had his drink spiked. To this
day I have never seen someone so sick. At six foot three and thirteen
stone I was terrified. He collapsed in the bathroom, his broad shoulders
barring the door, my possibility of hope, behind us. I waited. I
washed bowl after bowl, cloth after cloth of the acrid pink vomit
from his beard and his chest. His beautiful face, the one I would
spend the rest of my life admiring, was almost unrecognisable.
His eyes were like
rolls of uncooked dough, his cheeks blanched of any colour, making his
freckles stand out like perfect map markers on stark white parchment.
His teeth were painted red from the bottle of Merlot we had shared,
making them glow against his pale skin like a vampires. Moving
him was impossible and I was only glad that he hadnt fallen on
his back as I doubted I could have prevented him from choking.
That night, in the effort of dragging him in to our home, I snapped
the heel on my Prada shoes. It would be much later that I would learn
that a higher price was to be paid.
Seven years later Harry and I married. Looking at his face as I tearfully
choked I do there were no marks to be seen of that horrendous
night on the bathroom floor. He glowed with love and I found myself
glad that I could prove my ability to care for someone so ill. As my
mother-in-law told me at the time, you will be an excellent mother.
Harry and I wanted to make sure we had the perfect home before we began
our family. I suppose thats why I was a bride at thirty two when
most of my friends were planning their second honeymoon. I had the joy
of experiencing all of their wedding happiness before I planned my own,
yet I had also been party to their woes. Carl, my best friend Hannahs
husband, called on the day of the wedding to say she couldnt be
my matron of honour. Shed had another miscarriage, her fifth in
two years. The sadness marred the day as it was a grief shared by many
we knew. Carls sister-in-law Amy had tried IVF for six years before
accepting her belly and her bank account would remain barren.
Six months after the wedding Harry and I began trying for our child.
Six months on and nothing. Each month the flowing red desperation came
and washed another chance away. My barren friends and I still worked
full time whilst the mothers met for coffee and baby yoga. I was told
by the doctor to wait eighteen months before investigating. I felt myself
swimming in so much life that I knew it must be me, my eggs were broken.
I began to obsess: it was the joint I took at uni, the cigarettes I
once smoked behind the bike shed, every carrot or pea I pushed round
and round my plate as a child was to blame.
The day Harry was told he was infertile reminded me of the day on the
bathroom floor. I found him sprawled across the cold damp linoleum crying
until he wretched. But this was not the sweet rosy sick from before,
this was putrid; this was death. The doctor confirmed he had been drugged
with a combination of tranquilizer and hormonal blocker called inervamab,
a drug supposedly still in laboratory trials. In a lethal quantity it
killed his sperm within a matter of hours. He was made to recall that
awful night that swung the scythe between us and our future children.
Like many of our friends who chose not to report these incidents we
were beside ourselves.
Three days later Hannah was told the same, then Amy. University friends,
neighbours, childless couples on the train would stare into my blanched
red eyes understanding, wrenching newspapers apart between desperate
fingers. Headline one, in forty years from now the money for state pensions
would have been exhausted. An aging population would end in poverty
and deprivation if action wasnt taken, was the next piece of evidence
to hit the press. After eight years of constant denial from the government,
a scientist broke free from their hold to tell the nation. Within twenty
four hours of his confession he was shot, but it was too late.
His explanation was complicated, scientific, but the truth was there.
He had been commissioned by four members of the cabinet to study the
population and find common themes within the eugenics of those who contributed
least to society and would then become a potential drain on resources.
The uneducated, the criminal, the burdens carried along in life by those
who were worthy. The Government had discovered this cultural acceptance
of drink spiking, date rape being a crime commonly acknowledged. The
police were persuaded to blame modern youth culture, those hired as
Spikers were given a short period of work before they disappeared from
the long arm of the law. Except that arm had replaced justice with a
meat cleaver and sacrificed the innocent unborn for the sake of not
having enough money for the ageing population. Who would notice a sprinkling
of barren women, men with no swimming sperm, hey, they could always
blame the mobile phone. (And did).
It was their haste that finally acted as the snare to the rabbit. Inervamab
was leaked into the public through the very Spikers who were hired as
henchmen and dispersed amongst the individuals who were traditional
criminals. With no control over the widespread release of the drug they
did what the corrupt do best, destroyed the evidence, flushed it away
to never be discovered. Flushed in the water that flows through the
very taps that provided the Government with refreshment. And the rest
of the world.
Harry and I received a letter, most didnt. We were identified
as one of the mistakes from the period in time named the baby doom,
what became the international grooming.
After all of this woe, we were one of the lucky ones. Harry and I have
a nephew, just the one. It is his first year at school and he sits in
a class of eight children. They are the future that the world waits
anxiously to discover if our governments error is over. The tests
are non conclusive yet, but until they reach sexual maturity we shall
wait with breath that is baited to discover if they are infertile too.
Anne Styles - November 2008
Laura is studying for her Masters in Creative Writing at the University
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