12 December 2008


By Curtis C. Chen

Edwin had never dreamed until his wife died. The night after Angie's funeral, he fell asleep, still dressed in his dark suit and necktie, and imagined that he was floating in an indoor pool.

The smell of chlorine wrinkled his nose. A vast rush of noise swirled around him--shouting, whistles, echoes. He was up to his neck in lukewarm water, and his feet couldn't touch the bottom. He'd never been any good at swimming. He started panicking and splashing. Nobody seemed to notice.

He woke up before he drowned. The last thing he remembered seeing while he sank was a lone infant, who seemed too young to be swimming unsupervised in a public pool, floating just below the surface of the water.

One week later, Edwin was back at the clinic.

"All the eggs are still viable," Doctor Plume said, adjusting his eyeglasses. "Now, your--situation has changed, but there's no reason we can't continue with the fertilization procedure."

Edwin nodded.

"Since your wife has--passed on, we will need to find a surrogate. I know this is awkward, but have you talked to your family about this? Your siblings, or maybe your in-laws?"

"I'll do it," Edwin said. "I'll carry the fetus."


"I researched male pregnancy. They've done it successfully in Singapore. Implant the embryo in my abdominal cavity, then give me the right hormones--"

Plume held up a hand. "Okay, Ed, stop. Yes, it's possible, but it's incredibly dangerous. Even with healthy women, ectopic pregnancies tend to kill the mother. And you don't have a birth canal--we'd have to do surgery to get the baby out. You'd never survive in your condition, and the baby's chances wouldn't be good, either."

"I've been dreaming," Edwin said, and described his dream. He'd been having the same one every night, about the baby in the swimming pool. Sometimes he could almost touch the baby. Sometimes the baby swam away. It always had Angie's eyes, and it never blinked.

"Look," Plume said, "we're both scientists. You know this is just your subconscious going on a joyride. It's not a message from beyond or some kind of holy vision. You're still very fragile, emotionally, and you need time to consider a decision like this."

Edwin nodded. "How much time do I have? Eighteen months? I can die from my next relapse, or I can die giving birth to my child, aren't those my choices? Weren't those Angie's choices?"

"You wouldn't be able to continue the gene therapy," Plume said. "There's no guarantee you'd survive a whole nine months with the disease and with, frankly, a parasite growing inside you. It'll probably kill both of you."

"There's a chance it might not."

"As your doctor, I can't even think about recommending it."

"Fine," Edwin said. "But will you help me? As my friend?"

Plume stared at Edwin, then removed his glasses and sighed. "This is going to be the most convoluted euthanasia I've ever performed."

Edwin smiled. He would look forward to dreaming for the rest of his life.


Audio: "Perchance"


Music: "dreamer..." by cdk, licensed under Creative Commons from ccMixter.

Not much to say about this one. I probably should have picked a different name for the doctor, since I popped a couple of his P's pretty hard. And I didn't really mean for Edwin to sound like Hugo the Abominable Snowman. Sometimes these things just happen, y'know?



Yes, the dream sequence which feels totally out of place and does nothing to advance the plot is the hallmark of amateur and amateurish writers everywhere. But combine said dream sequence with an oblique Shakespeare reference and add a sprinkle of medical jargon, and (as the band kids say) voila!

Well, actually, it's still not very good, but at least it's finished.

In high school, I read a short story by Robert Bloch (I think) that totally freaked me out. It was written in the first person by a witch who cursed a man by putting a baby inside him. The implication was not that it would kill him, but that he would suffer horribly because his body was not designed to support the growing fetus or, eventually, give birth to it. Eww.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's the 1994 movie Junior, arguably notable only for the fact that it stars both The Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elinor Dashwood Emma Thompson.