by Julie Wornan
“Darling, do be careful!” he exclaimed, watching his wife settle her corpulent body over their eggs.
The eggs, their first, were two in number. The pale blue one contained their baby son, and the pink, their daughter. The eggs were three weeks old and already the size of small watermelons. The tough, elastic shells would permit them to triple in size by hatching time, eighteen months hence. The children would come out vigorous and well developed, ready to scamper about like young gazelles.
Some couples still used the old live-birth method, but technology, in its inexorable march, had produced an undeniable improvement. Swollen bellies and morning sickness were totally unnecessary now. After the wife laid the eggs — easily, as they were smooth and no larger than grapefruits — pre-birth nurturing tasks could be divided equally between the two parents. Either one could sit on the eggs and keep them warm. Couples usually took turns.
“Daryl, you know I'm always careful with our children,” Dana murmured. “Now won't you just pass me that duvet, that's a dear, I'll wrap it round us all and we'll be perfectly cosy. You can do the shopping; take your time, I don't need to leave for my night shift till six.”
“Are you sure you'll be comfortable for three hours? You could, you know, use the incubator.” Daryl knew the eggs were less fragile than they looked, but something worried him, like a premonition.
Dana smiled. “I like to be close to them. You know what? I bet they'll be talking when they hatch.” It had been known to happen. Well sat-on eggs actually received some echo of their parents' thoughts. Nobody knew how to explain this, but, like ESP, it was statistically undeniable, and was most frequent when the two parents were equally and deeply involved.
Dana and Daryl decorated the nursery in pink and blue, with lots of pictures of baby animals. The waiting time passed pleasantly. The world was good to them. They both had jobs and few debts, and the evening news was always of ball games and celebrations; if catastrophes occurred anywhere in the world, it was easy not to know it.
Yet, Daryl seemed nervous. A clandestine sect called the Eggovores had been known to steal human eggs and feast on giant omelettes under the full moon. The crime of Prenatal Cannibalism was punishable by up to seven consecutive and four concurrent life sentences at hard torture — as well it should be, Dana thought with a shudder; yet this somehow did not discourage the adepts of this nihilistic sect. Fortunately, they were few.
Once, Daryl returned home from work to find Dana already gone. The two eggs were safely in their place in the incubator, but an upstairs window was smashed. Whoever broke in had not taken anything.
Later, Daryl admonished Dana to never, ever, leave the house if he was not at home. She promised. (“What a fusspot he is! But what a dear,” she thought.).
Another day, Daryl seemed worried; he mumbled something about a “new mutation” but when pressed, changed the subject and wouldn't say more. Well, thought Dana, that's nothing new. The world had seen many mutations lately. Tigers, to avoid extinction, had become as small as house cats, so that people took them into their homes and pampered them now. To everyone's surprise, these ”tigrecitos” got along very well with pussycats! Pony-sized elephants were coming into fashion; keenly intelligent, they willingly did small tasks around the house and garden, kept the weeds in check by eating them for lunch, and picked up the children to bring them home from school.
Daryl and Dana massaged the porous shells daily with a nutritious substance, as prescribed, and were delighted to see how the eggs grew, particularly the blue. “We'll have a great strapping son,” exclaimed Dana. They arranged for their maternity and paternity leaves.
On Hatching Day, Daryl bought champagne and Dana baked a cake to celebrate. They had chosen to be alone together at the splendid moment. The pink egg began to shimmer first. It became transparent and melted like jelly to reveal a perfect little girl already standing on her two feet. “Ma-ma,” she said, and then “Da-da,” as she ran to the outstretched arms of her parents. They held her between them, transfixed with wonder and joy. It was a moment of perfect bliss. It was the last they would know.
The blue egg, momentarily forgotten, now drew their attention by emitting a harsh cracking sound. Its shell, unlike that of the pink egg, seemed to be hard. But it was giving way to shattering thrusts from within. A large beak emerged.
“The Cuckoo mutation!” cried Daryl... which was all any of them had time to say before the agile, voracious bird threw itself upon them.
Copyright © 2009 by Julie Wornan