Runner-up: Anstey Spraggen
A Truth, Universally Acknowledged
Everyone was relieved when science finally took over from love. It is true that my generation have been slow to match-up, reluctant to replicate, and completely physically unable to buy houses; even so, my mother’s enthusiasm was extreme.
Her hands trembled slightly as she held the letter. ‘My son-in-law.’ She practised saying it until her tongue hurt.
When both parties had accepted the Initial Proposal and our Deeper Gene Matrices showed that we would be best suited to two children, a boy followed by a girl, my mother was beside herself. ‘You should start the Gender Direction Supplements now,’ she said. She began knitting blue booties.
There were several couples meeting that afternoon. My parents were specks on the pavement, their excitement trembling up from eight storeys below. My husband was the tall man by the door.
You were standing behind him making that same face I was; doubting eyes, a careful smile. Yours was directed at a beautiful woman in a red dress.
I could smell your skin. You looked at me and my heart went tight in my chest.
Red dress girl took your hand.
You said just two words to me as we waited by the lift, betrothed couples with our matched genomes, our certificates, our futures.
‘You too,’ you whispered so quietly as you passed.
My life is wonderful. My husband is kind and good. My children are the perfect products of decades of research.
I miss two words. I miss them every day.
Winner: Van Demal
Nobody wants to say it out loud, the wash of dawn rendering us all confessional quiet. Knowledge fizzes inside us. We are points in a constellation, each submerged in the collective excitement of this new world. Our glances are eloquent. Our little smiles punctuate the sentences we cannot end.
You realise of course…
But can you imagine…
To think that we…
And now anything could…
‘I should go clean the lab,’ says Vladimir. We look at him, and then we laugh. What does it matter? But Vladimir remains serious. ‘Yes, we have done this,’ he says, ‘but still the lab must be cleaned.’
‘You’re right,’ Anjali says to him, then to all of us, ‘this is an end as much as it’s a beginning. Maybe we should all go, all help.’
‘No, no,’ says Vladimir, ‘to clean afterwards is my role. I will go.’
He stands on his dignity and we feel it move through the room, the understanding, the correctness of what he says. The sadness of it.
Our work is complete. What can we mean now? As the light rises, as the news spreads, it will define us. We will become he and she and you and I. We will become names oft spoken. We will never be like this again.
‘Yes,’ says Vladimir as he looks at his shoes.
Yet he remains. The eloquence remains, the glances, the smiles. In this penumbra we draw closer while the city emerges beneath us, blinking at the light, unknowing still.
Congratulations, Anstey and Van! And thanks to everyone who sent us stories. We love you.
See you next week!