CONTENT WARNING: References to domestic violence
By Alexander Funk
Sally was staring at a bright green wall full of motivational quotes. Or were they company slogans? She was not quite sure. The place did not feel like the medical clinics she had been to before. The decorations were certainly top notch, and the waiting room oozed calmness and comfort. Bright colors, round corners.
Somehow, the cheery feel put Sally even more on edge. She went through some of the magazines on the coffee table, but nothing caught her eye, so she further contemplated the solitude in the room. Sally was alone, for the first time in ages actually, she realised. Hector had not left her side over the last few months. He had turned even more protective than usual. When they had found out initially, he became quite active. Improving their house, securing some of the loose electrical cables that came out of the ceiling, he even bought some plastic caps to soften the corners on some of the furniture. Nothing that was needed immediately for the arrival of an infant, but Sally didn’t complain.
However, after a few months, he turned more extreme. He replaced the locks, as well as placed additional deadbolts. Shortly after that, he bought the gun. Sally’s shock must have been apparent in the argument that followed. However, the gun stayed. It was necessary to protect them, and her, he said.
Protect them? How ironic.
The emotions from the last few days came back quickly, Sally felt dampness in her eyes. She quickly wiped away any wetness before tears could form and focused again on the bright green wall ahead of her. Not the right time. She was here for a purpose.
Sally started to notice a few mismatched lines on the green wallpaper. Even the slogans were slightly off. Odd letters stood at different angles or were simply placed too high or low. Just by a tiny margin, but still visible from where she was sitting. Share Your World was written in big white bold letters on the wall. Unlock Your Combined Potential. Must be somebody with German heritage in charge of the marketing department here. The capitalization was killing her.
Actually, what was killing her was these fancy modern chairs. The chair was nothing but swung curves. She still had not figured out what part held her up exactly. They provided absolutely no support for her back. Her back was already giving her trouble as it was, and now she had to keep herself up straight. At 6 months, that was a difficult feat at any time. This company’s sole customers were pregnant women, why did they choose these chairs? The edge of the seat were probably the only sharp edges in the entire room, and, of course, were pushing in exactly the spots that hurt the most. Maybe not entirely the chairs fault though.
“Mrs Clearwater?” a quiet voice came from the corner. “I’m Mrs Powell. We are ready for you now.” Sally had not noticed the woman in a tight business suit appearing out of the door to her left. Sally lifted herself slowly out of the chair, her knees popping in the process. Her body immediately took revenge on her poor choice of seating, a shooting pain went through her lower back. Halfway across the room, she had to pause and was leaning against one of the columns next to her for support. Mrs Powell watched with a knowing look on her face, but remained silent.
“You should really get more comfortable chairs around here,” Sally said.
Mrs Powell returned a half-fast smile that clearly indicated she had heard that complaint at least dozen times before. She only turned around and held the door open for Sally.
“It is the last door on the left,” Mrs Powell said and pointed into the corridor. There were small offices on each side, big glass windows taking away any privacy. But all the rooms were empty anyway. At the end of the corridor was a big metal door with an even bigger sign.
Medical Personnel Only
Sally reached the office and let out an audible sigh of relief, once she spotted the beautiful armchairs in the office. She quickly slumped down. Now determined not to get up again under any circumstances. Mrs Powell sat behind a big desk in a chair that looked eerily similar to the waiting room chairs. No wonder she was so uptight, Sally thought, it indeed would be a horribly miserable life spending all day in those monstrous chairs.
“Mrs Clearwater,” Mrs Powell started again. “You have already signed all the necessary documents. But before we can start with the procedure, we need to go through it one more time. It is important that you are fully aware of the effects the procedure will have on you and your fetus.” Mrs Powell paused and waved somewhat indifferent towards the direction of Sally’s bump without looking up from her computer screen.
Sally was a bit taken back by the choice of words. Fetus? That felt very impersonal. Sure, technically, that was the correct terminology at this stage, but in Sally’s thoughts, it was, and has always been, Emma. Mrs Powell, of course, did not notice or did not care about the stare she was receiving from Sally.
Mrs Powell continued, “I have a checklist here.” She tapped on a piece of paper that was laying on the desk, again without looking up.
“After we have gone through the paperwork, you need to sign it and then we start the procedure. We need to keep you in observation afterwards, but not for long.” The left side of Mrs Powell’s mouth lifted gently upwards, she even looked up from her screen and made eye contact. End of speech apparently. Sally would not describe the whole experience here as pleasant so far, but she had made up her mind a long time ago. She had no option, she had to do it.
“Sure. Let’s do it,” Sally said as enthusiastically as she could, which was not much at all.
“Could you, in your own words and to your own understanding, describe the procedure.” said Mrs Powell with equal enthusiasm.
“This place,” she paused and tried to think ahead. “Developed a procedure that allows to transfer the memory, emotions and most of the personality of the mother to the unborn child. You call it Genetic Memory. I believe you extracted this specific ability from some sort of roundworm. Sadly, that is the extent of information you provide in your scientific publications. The rest was behind the patent paywall.”
Mrs Powell looked up and raised, magnificently, just a single eyebrow. That did it. It can be stumped. Sally had to stop herself from smirking.
“I digress. I’m not here to judge your business practices,” Sally said, allowing the smirk to come through now. “Your papers describe this Genetic Memory as the generational knowledge of the mother. Her emotional attachments, memories and knowledge passed on to the child. My baby will have full access to me, and will, in part, be me.
“Naturally, a newborn does not have the capabilities to process all this information, but just around her first birthday she will be able to fully understand all the thoughts, memories and emotions that already are in her brain. She will understand me.
“None of the papers I read were very clear on what happens next. Does the child then possess the ability to give their Genetic Memory to his or her children, my future grandchildren?“
“Correct. We call these children Activated. Once it undergoes the procedure in-utero, it remains Activated its whole life and, hence, can pass on its Genetic Memory to their potential children. Even without having undergone the procedure. This way we can also reach both sexes. In a few generations of course.”
“So you will be out of business in a few years?”
“We have a few other business ventures.” Mrs Powell actually smiled this time. “However, it starts here and now but it starts with expectant mothers, like yourself, that volunteer here in the beginning.” Sally was impressed at the smile, it almost did not look like a grimace.
“Volunteering is good, I am paying for this.”
Behind her desk, Mrs Powell lost interest quickly, nodded silently and went back to looking at the screen in front of her. She was all business again.
“I assume you understand the concept of personality override, but I still need you to explain it.”
Sally let out a long sigh before she started, “Since the child, at the moment of birth, already has the knowledge and emotional understanding of the mother, she will experience life differently than any other children. She will have certain emotional attachments and personality constructs. For example, it could already like or dislike certain foods. Or she could already be a racist.”
Mrs Powell, again, smirked at the example.
Sally continued. “As I already mentioned, it takes a full year for the baby’s neurons to catch up. She still takes about a year before she will be able to speak, but she will have a much bigger vocabulary already. However, she will have the emotional maturity of an adult, even at such a young age, as well as an advanced intellect, some research has shown.”
Mrs Powell shuffled her papers and pushed them, along with a pen, silently over the desk to Sally. She simply pointed at a signature line.
“We do have one optional question.” Mrs Powell said, raising both her eyebrows this time. Sally signed the paperwork and indicated she would be interested to answer by simply nodding.
“Why do you want to do the procedure?”
Sally put her hands on her legs, where the chairs had dug in earlier, where the bruises were. The bruises, carefully hidden, never in plain sight. Hector learned fast that visible bruises and black eyes drew the kind of attention he needed to avoid. Her back had a series of nasty cuts that never healed before the next time he took to the belt again. Luckily, he knew to avoid her bump, but that just meant more cuts and bruises on her legs and back. Emma will need to know Sally’s path. What she had to do. What she had to go through to get to this point.
“I want,” Sally choked up, closed her eyes to get her composure back. After a few breaths of some useful breathing exercises she had learned recently, she managed to calm herself. “I do not want to answer that question.”
Mrs Powell after looking through the documents one more time, got up and guided her without any further ado directly, through the big metal doors.
Sally was surprised at the speed of the procedure. It was just a little injection, much like getting a shot. They kept her in another room for one hour for observation, but that was it, Genetic Memory achieved apparently. She certainly did not feel any different than before, other than happy. Even Emma only gave some gentle kicks for a change. Sally put her hand on her bump, and felt, to her surprise, a little push back. Was Emma aware now? Of Sally?
Sally was standing at the exit of the facility, waiting for the elevator to the parking garage when she heard a few people coming up behind her. She felt a tingle on her neck. The elevator doors opened and she stepped inside quickly, as she turned around she noticed that there were two uniformed police officers standing right where she was. The strength left her knees and she had to steady herself on the railing. One of the police officers put his foot in the elevator door as it was closing. It opened up again slowly.
“You are under arrest for the murder of Hector Clearwater. You have the right to remain-”
Sally tuned the rest out. Her thoughts circling around Emma. She managed to do it just in time. They will take Emma away, but Emma would always know who her mother was. Sally would be a part of Emma’s life forever. Emma would remember her and most importantly, Emma would know why.
About the Author:
Alexander Funk is a native German, who spent the last decade living across 3 different countries and two continents, but always in a city starting with the letter ‘D’. Now, he is living back in Germany, not too far from where he started off actually. However, he obtained a couple of degrees, a wife, a cat and a child along the way. His publication record, so far, only consists of scientific papers, mostly about working with enormous magnets. No, not the fun kind.