The Space Cadet Science Fiction Review, Spring 2022 (issue #1)

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Pg. 34

Flash Fiction by Hunter Liguore

The Whole World in My Hands

The doctor’s face grew worried. The mother glanced up between pushes, doubting her decision for a natural birth. The process was longer. More risks. The child might be deformed. If she’d gone with the auto-byrthing, she’d know by now.

One cut, one stitch, one minute.

The jingle for Insta-Baby-Byrthing ran through her head, as she pushed and sweated the baby out. Two mechanic hands grabbed the baby’s head and guided it from the womb.

When the baby cried, the mother held her breath. “Tell me, doctor, is my baby normal?” The mother clasped her own deformed hand, inherited and imperfect without the built-in, mechanical Palm-Pilot, entwined from birth with bones and tendons.

The doctor frowned. “I’d hoped for a better outcome.” He handed the baby girl to the mother.

The mother squeezed the baby’s two plump, fleshy hands and cried. “It’s all my fault. I should’ve done more tests. I should’ve known she’d come out like this.”

The doctor held up the baby’s left hand. “It’s sturdy. We could try an implant. It wouldn’t function as good as a natural-born Pilot, but it’ll allow her to function in society.”

“Unlike me,” the mother said. “I suffered ridicule and persecution for my deformity. I wanted to die when I figured out I was different than the other children and would miss out on all the games—the communications. Without the Pilot, my baby will suffer like I did.”

The doctor offered the mother a Pilot implant brochure. “The Pilot-0900 is a top of the line implant. It’s almost like the real thing.”

“Are there risks?” asked the mother. “I’d tried an implant once that malfunctioned and shut down the left side of my brain for almost a year, until doctors found a way to disconnect the circuitry and rewire my corpus callosum.” Her voice grew quieter. “I lost my mother the same way.”

“I see.” The doctor nodded. “Maybe you’re child isn’t a candidate after all.”

She squeezed the baby, lovingly. “You’ve no clue how hard her life will be. She won’t have a normal life. She’ll be isolated, forced to communicate only verbally. No Pilot Socials. She won’t find work, since every opportunity is wired to the Pilot. She’ll never get off this planet, since the Pilot is her passport, and only mode to speak with other life-forms. She’ll be forced to live at home and resent me for having her—worst of all, wherever she goes, she’ll be taunted as a Flesh-Hand.”

“There are two options.”

“Doctor, there are no options for a Pilotless baby!”

“Be that as it may, you can try adoption,” said the doctor. “Give your baby to a family financially able to accommodate her handicap.” He weighed the mother’s interest. “There are schools now for the Pilotless that actually have Flesh-Teachers who work with students one-on-one—IN PERSON! But it’s costly.”

The mother showed surprised. “I didn’t know.”

“The other option,” the doctor began, “is to send her to a private commune for special children.”

The mother gasped. “No!”

“Just hear me out. It’s not like you’d be giving her up. She’d be with other children like her, and learn to cope with her handicap.”

“Handicap. I hate that word. Why hold back? Just call us techno-cripple for god’s sake!”

“Look. I’m only trying to help. Once the birth certificate is reported with a deformity to the Government-Byrthing-Agency, she’ll be tagged as a hazard to society. It’s really your only option.” The doctor raised his Pilot to finalize the baby’s future.

“No implants, no donor-pilots,” said the mother. “No adoptive families. No communal, or disposal, which you didn’t mention—those black-social-sites that’ll do it in 24-hours.” She took a moment. “There’s always hope. You said yourself there’s a school she could go to with a Pilotless teacher. She’d learn like my great-great-great grandmother. If it’s costly, I’ll find a way to get the money. So long as she has a loving mother, who understands her, that’s all that matters.”

The doctor finalized the baby’s chart. Baby’s hand—deformed. Parent denied customized methods of treatment.

Seconds later, the Government-Byrthing-Agency issued the baby a routing number, one that would keep her from entering the normal functions of society.

The mother watched as the number was pressed into her baby’s hand, the red brand stinging her skin, causing her to cry.

“It’ll be all right.” The mother soothed. She didn’t worry about the number. In time it would fade. Hers had faded years ago.

Hunter Liguore

Hunter Liguore (she/her) teaches writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Her work has appeared in Science Fiction Writers of AmericaStrange HorizonsBritish Science Fiction and Fantasy Assoc., Uncanny ValleyAtlantis RisingFate MagazineUnthinkable: A Queer Gothic AnthologyJames Gunn Ad AstraSea LettersIrish PagesWriters ChronicleWriter’s DigestThe Culture CrushOrion Magazine, and more. YeeHoo Press has published The Whole World in Nan’s Soup, in August 2021.