none of woman born
The first child to be cut from artificial womb never lost the public’s eternal love. They loved her even in adulthood when she yawned with a cockeyed jaw, waved the stub of her missing arm, hobbled on clawed, useless feet. They loved her even when TV producers couldn’t find the source of egg or sperm. They loved her even when ten more of her emerged perfected, the mistakes scratched from old equations. They loved her even more when city workers scrubbed her stain from asphalt. Later, three of the ten sailed the same jump, but even then, everybody preferred the first.
Early womb thermostats malfunctioned. Though the bodies, constantly nourished, continued to grow, technicians were unaware the stillborn stewed with their own placenta until limbs tore apart during removal day.
What was added: spread-in-stirrup legs, a head with no face or hair, a mole, detachable, replaceable, will stick to anything, anywhere, a voice box submerged in the throat that hums Mozart and Aretha Franklin, simulates sneezes, bronchitis, carries on conversations and arguments with the technician and the predetermined script, a voice box that shouts, pants, and screams as the pelvic machine contracts and churns as the open-handed technician commands Push, projects, You’re doing great, or Keep going, it’s almost over, all for the benefit of the child who may or, most likely, may not be listening.
At six months incubation, technicians attach mechanical arms, made to apply pressure against the kicking fetus as the voice box supplies an owl-like hoot and, Do you want to feel? The technician then must feel and say, I’m so proud of you. But the voice box is not programed to reply. Sometimes the arm reaches, finds the technician’s hand, and squeezes.
Despite protestors, children are designed for those who cannot produce their own, couples with total testicular torsion and hysterectomies, hemophiliacs, and those with low pain tolerance, the nauseated who cannot bear to watch the hydraulic-blood and afterbirth waterfalling to the floor when the silicone vagina tears wide. The wife in the viewing room cannot find a trash bin and vomits celebratory wine into the corner. The husband, enamored, taps against glass, coos pet names: my oyster pearl, my guppy, ma puce.
What was added later: Toes. Arm hair and a face, a navel, a rising and falling chest plate, a standing temperature of 99.1, raised latex nipples, a battery-run heart with a resting rate of 67 bpm that sensors lower slightly when infants nestle into formula-storing breasts.
After one of the incubators miscarried, it pulled its own plug from the light socket. When turned back on, the cord out of reach, it dug through its chest, toward the heart, the voice box wheezing what technicians thought to be either mercy, or Marcy, or merci.
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