Our challenge this week was to write about spring, as a time of loss, not joy. And to choose one of six songs as inspiration. Mine was It's a Beautiful Morning, by the Rascals. I revisited a scenario I've been working on, to explore it some more. This will eventually lead to a novel I think, or a series. In the meantime, here's my little story. It's 980 words.
The Sadness of Spring
It was a beautiful morning, yet Maggie sighed as she gazed out at her tiny spring garden.
"What’s up, hun?" said Ken.
She hugged her boyfriend. "I guess I’m just jealous. Winter is over, and there’s all that new life out there, in spite of all the pollution. But, none in the books for us. Life sucks."
That same air pollution, full of heavy metals, had drastically reduced fertility in almost all men and women, including the ability to carry a child to term. Advances in technology had improved both selection of the few viable eggs and sperm, and implantation in artificial wombs. However, even in 2150 this was not part of the global health care program. The wealthy, and politically powerful—often the same—had the easiest access. For the rest of the populace, governments used these opportunities as tools to encourage compliance of the population. Not everyone could even get into the lottery for baby permits. The human race had been saved from extinction, but at the cost of most of the previous advances in equality. The family unit was disappearing, the population of third world countries was shrinking, and procreation was now a tool of the government.
"Maybe they’ll respond to the latest protests and change the laws," he said. "Make having a family a universal right, not just for those with money and influence."
Ken was sweet, but sometimes a little naïve. "No, the protests have escalated too much now," she said. "Change here would be seen as a weakness by other countries in an already shaky world government."
The daily protests in their city, while upsetting, were mild compared to the coverage from overseas. The few raw data feeds she’d managed to find on the dark web scared her in the savagery of both protesters and police.
"We could still have a baby," he said. "We both know we are among the lucky ones, as far as fertility goes. We’ve seen the lab results. With my new job in the administration I can trade some favours and get us into the official program."
"I know," she said. "But I want a real pregnancy, like my mother and her mother. Picking up a baby in a lab doesn’t really seem like carrying on my bloodline."
He frowned. "But I’ve seen the literature on how terrible pregnancy was. All those months of sickness and pain, the risks of illness or defects or worse, and then the actual birth." He shuddered. "Are you sure you want to do it the old way?"
"I do," she said. "It’s that way or nothing. I’m certainly fit enough for it as a tri-athelete. And I’ve talked to my mother; she said her pregnancy with me was a breeze. I’ve read other literature that contradicts the government official information, too. Look, just give me access to your office system and I’ll tweak our birth control implants."
She’d persisted and finally got Ken to agree. Hacking the system had been easy, and, as she she’d hoped, one month later she had some good news.
When she showed Ken the test strip he grinned. "Awesome news, sweetie. Ah, can I hug you?"
"Of course, silly," she said. "It’s only been a few weeks. I won’t even start to show for several months. By then I’ll be overseas to visit my gran."
Her grandmother, past retirement age, still worked in a medical clinic in a third world country. She would help Maggie through her pregnancy and then arrange the paperwork to show her child as from a surrogate mother. Immigration should be easy to clear, with the appropriate bribes of course.
“Until you leave, be careful,” he said. “Not a word to anyone, even your best friend. If we get caught we’d lose everything, including my new job.”
Unfortunately, on her outbound trip, airport security pulled her aside for a random body scan.
"Step this way please, ma’am," said the inspector. They were soon able to confirm that she was in fact pregnant, and that she did not have a permit bar-code tattooed on her abdomen. Within six hours she had been given an abortion, a restart of her birth control drug, and a date for a court appearance.
Maggie was devastated. Ken was annoyed.
"You should have hunched over more," he said. "No wonder they picked on you. Do you even really want a child?"
They had fought all the way back to the apartment, and all the time she took to pack a bag and call her mother to come and pick her up. Two weeks later Maggie was in court, listening to a judge.
"You will be fined 10,000 credits, undergo a forced sterilization, and be sent to a work camp. You have two days to wrap up your affairs before reporting for the procedure."
Her mother not only paid the fine, but pulled some strings. "Sterilization is just wrong," she said, "and work camps can be for decades. I’ll miss you hun, but there is another option,"
Maggie sat back and folded her arms. "Surrogate slave to someone? No thanks."
Her mother patted her arm. "No hun, that’s no choice. The option I meant is on a prison ship. To the stars. They call it a voluntary expedition to colonize, but there will be a lot of minor criminals like you – nothing too severe."
"Out to where," said Maggie. "The colony on Ios?"
"No, much farther. You’d go in deep sleep, for decades. But it’s a chance to explore a new planet and be away from these stupid pregnancy laws. And hopefully enough of these ships will be successful that everyone can start to emigrate. I’ve even read that a pollution free world might reverse these fertility problems."
It was a hard choice, but a chance at a new life. Maggie nodded. "I hate to leave you mom, but I’m in."