Her brown curls heaped on the pillow,
the comforter sprawled below her breasts.
She fled into her magazine.
For a minute, motionless, he stood.
Starlings chattered in the walnut tree.
*………. * ……….*
In days they decided on a baby.
It was not the last “decision.”
* ……….* ……….*
As, like coils of hair, they each unraveled
in stories too intricate for pianos or flutes,
he strained to envision that tableau
(the floral bed spread they bought in Berkeley;
her lips almost closing, moving back apart
as she subvocalized; his own feet sunk
into the carpet)
in successive surrogates of that home:
their beach bungalow in Venice,
their box apartment in Japan …
She lingered in the garage, assembling
their grandson’s tricycle.
He’d be out of his wheelchair next month, or not.
They’d live to see the child’s graduation, or not.
Their years living apart
would come to seem natural—an exhalation—
or always hurtful and capricious.
He returned to his music stand.
For a week he’d been practicing
the first movement of this piece by Roussel.
He could be in high school again.
Focus, repetition. No expectations
save one note tilting toward the next.
Jesse Wolfe teaches English at California State University Stanislaus. His debut poetry chapbook, En Route, appeared in December 2020. He is the author of the scholarly monograph Bloomsbury, Modernism, and the Reinvention of Intimacy (Cambridge, 2011) and is completing a second scholarly book about intimacy in contemporary Anglo-American fiction.
You can read Mak’s poem “The Woman Who Wanted to Plant Turnips” in Volume 70 of Grub Street, out now. Click here to view Volume 70. You can also read Mak’s poem “The Days the Deer Died” on Grub Street‘s website here, and Mak’s nonfiction piece “List of Symptoms of Something I Cannot Name That I Have Taped to my Fridge” here.
Mak Sisson is a graduate student at the University of Montana, studying environmental science and natural resource journalism. She aspires to save the planet and write about the environment, however local or global it may be. Her nonfiction, which appears in volume 69 of Grub Street, received first place nationally in alternative story form from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. She currently works as a science writer for Modern Treatise.
I am writing to you not as an “angry Black woman” or as an angry person of color but as a young, scared Black woman and as a young, scared person of color. I am writing this letter with deep sorrow, pain, and disgust. I am writing this letter today regretting it, as it should have never come to this. But nevertheless, today I am writing this letter.
Dear white people,
……We don’t hate you. We are tired. We don’t despise you. We are tired. It is by luck, by chance; that you are white. Just remember, you too could have easily been in our situation. And my question to you is, would you be able to handle it? The emotional, physical, and mental torment. I ask again: Could you handle it? Could you handle the unjust fear? The unjust inequality? The unjust hate? Could you honestly tell me right now you would be able to handle not only what we are currently going through, but what we have gone through for centuries?
……Some of you have to be excused or warned about certain historical events in history before learning about them. Why is that? Is it because of the gruesome details and pictures? Is it because your heart goes out to our ancestors? Is it because you are tired of learning the same thing over and over and you can’t bear to sit through a forty-five-minute documentary on what our lives were like? We aren’t warned before we are gunned down. We weren’t warned before we were enslaved, and we will not be warned in the future. Could you handle that? If you couldn’t handle a mere history lesson of a snapshot of our lives, I think I can answer for you. No, you could not handle any of it. Nor do you wish to handle any of it. So why should we? So don’t dismiss, misplace, or excuse my lack of gratefulness when I voice my annoyance and blatant disgust when I hear a privileged white individual say, “I understand how you feel.”
Dear police officers,
……We do not hate you. We fear you. I question the system that provides us with people like you, people who vow to protect and serve. There have been too many times when you have gotten away with killing us.
……And the question is, why? Is it because you believe we are inferior? Is it because our existence threatens you? Do you feel like you are doing justice to your badge? Does it sound better when you internally justify it as doing your country justice? The question that cannot seem to escape my mind is: why are you all threatened by us? That question should not be answered through numerous unnecessary killings. That question is one for you and you alone to settle with your consciences.
……Allow me to elaborate on who I am referring to when I say, “all.” Although this letter is dedicated to police officers, I do not solely mean police officers, but the systems that employ them, the people who create systems to ensure Black people do not succeed. I am referring to our medical practices and our justice systems. I am, although it may seem out of place, also referring to our school systems.
……With that being said, I do wonder how you, our protectors and enforcers of “fair” law, go home and sleep at night knowing you killed innocent people and you went unpunished. How do you go home and kiss your kids goodnight when hours ago, in the blink of an eye, you took that opportunity away from someone else? How do you go home at night and hug your spouse, knowing someone will never get a hug again from their loved one because you decided, despite not having known a single thing about this Black individual, except the one or two things you interpreted as truth, that they didn’t deserve to see another day?
……I wonder: how do you all come to this conclusion in a fraction of a second? Do you get a little tickle in your left foot? Is it more of a gut feeling? Does your right eye twitch? Is the left knee quivering? It must be something special that is occurring, something so special that only police officers possess this knack for knowing, in such little time, the worth of one’s life. How do you go home at night and wake up the next morning and make a fresh pot of coffee knowing a man will never walk this earth again because you decided it was his time to leave? How do you go home at night knowing you took so many opportunities away from not only the person you murdered in cold blood but their family too? ? How do you even go home at night?
……One? sixty? One-hundred? Two hundred and fifty? How many. How many more children, brothers, fathers, mothers, cousins have to die before this ends? How many more names have to go down in history before this ends. How many more riots have to occur before this ends? How many more stories do we need to tell? Our bodies were not solely placed on this earth for people like you to fire off practice shots like you are at a range. We do not exist, nor should we exist, only to become a landmark in history. We are human just as you are, and our history needs to stop being written for us. “Justice will be served” in reality means justice will be served to certain people.
……I would not wish this life on anyone. Not the life of a Black person but the fear of living the life as a Black person in today’s society.
……When will it end.
May 25, 2020
Dear George Floyd,
……Your letter will be the shortest. Not because I lack the necessary sympathy or empathy. And It is not because I lack the format in which I hope the words will flow my mouth and transfer onto this paper. My reasoning for keeping your letter the shortest is rather simple. There are simply no words that yet exist that can express the whirlwind of emotions I feel while writing this. To say I’m saddened by your death would be the understatement of the year. To think that you will never return to your family simply because a man took it upon himself to take your life disgusts me. I am sorry that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am sorry that I am writing this letter. I am sorry that the system failed you. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry. The tears that fill my eyes for you and for your family will not bring you back. The tears we all cry for you. The screams we scream for you, the fires we start in your name. None of it will bring you back and that is the worst part. No matter what we do you will not be back. I am sorry. I am sorry your life ended prematurely before you could reach your aspirations. I am sorry your family is one man less. I am sorry you will be a topic of conversation for generations throughout your family for something so troubling and I’m sorry all I can do is apologize for something that never should have happened to you or anyone.
I do not wish to be white or any other race.I wish for something that should not ever be one’s wish…equality. To say I want you all to look at me and not see colour would be an unfair and rather illogical request of mine. I want you all to see the colour of my skin, just as I wish to see the colour of your skin. However, I do not want to be judged for the colour of my skin, my hair texture, or the size of my lips. When I look at you all, I want to see the different shades of us that help make up the world we live in today. I want us to appreciate what has become so taboo as a topic in today’s society. No, our skin tone or other physical features do not and should not be the basis of judgment, rather a mere observation as we continue to make what should be natural, fair judgements based off what exists in one’s mind, body, heart, and soul, versus the minor details of physical appearance that we notice on the pathway to judgement.
And to the public,
……Black lives matter. That seems to threaten and enrage many people. And what is heard in response is all lives matter. It needs to be understood that the Black Lives Matter movement is not one negating the struggles of others. It is making those aware of our struggle as well. To say all lives matter in response to that is, however, negating our struggle. To say you understand what we are going through and how we feel is false. You will NEVER understand the pain we live through for simply having darker skin. We need not negate the progression that has been made but we are nowhere close to the end nor should we be. If men and women are still to be taken from this earth because of their melanin…We should not even speak of the progression made thus far. We should be embarrassed to speak of progression in a positive manner.
……Violence is never the answer and I would never condone it, but hear me out when I say I understand it. I feel for those who choose violence. It has been years of fighting a fight that seems like a losing battle. It is not easy to fight for rights that everyone should have. It is not easy to see unjust things go without punishment. People get tired. People get angry. So one can’t be surprised when violence has become a means to an answer.
November 11, 2020
……A letter is not sufficient enough for this year. Who would have thought we would live through a pandemic, Trump (the epitome of a patriarchal society), and everything else that spiraled down after he became president, on top of everything else wrong occurring during 2020. What can I say? We made it through multiple phases of the world being shut down and we made it through Trump. We have a ways to go, but all I can stomach saying right now is we made it thus far and that must go for something. I refuse to say anything else, call me superstitious…but I won’t risk it.
……Two more months.
……And I somehow feel obligated to apologize for my blunt choice of words or topic. I feel this need to make it clear that my intentions, which are not to (never will be to) hurt anyone, gather pity from anyone especially an unknown audience, or provide any more unneeded hate.
……I wrote this letter not as an “angry Black woman” or as an angry person of colour, but as a young scared Black woman and a young, scared person of colour.
……I wrote this letter with deep sorrow, pain, and disgust. I wrote this letter today regretting it as it should have never come to this. But nevertheless, today I wrote this letter.
Olivia Mclean, an upcoming junior at Towson University, is working towards obtaining her degree in Exercise Science. She loves writing and finding creative ways to express what’s on her mind. She sees writing as a form of art, and one she can not imagine being apart from. She loves the idea that writing can express so many different emotions in various forms, and she hopes to continue exploring writing and learning from it.
The stork does not fly over my home.
It is empty and abandoned.
It is sticky and thick.
It is barren.
I’ve watched babies,
in their baskets,
slip from my body
into the fresh white bowl.
Pink water swirls away
in a hypnotizing whirlpool,
replaced by clear, clean water.
I press my ear to the baby blue walls,
listening to the creaking pipes
where my child swims.
Carried out like a corpse in a casket of blood.
With hands pressed to my stomach
The rest of the day
I listen for cries within pipes
wherever I go.
Elisabeth Blandford is studying English for Secondary Education at Towson University. Elisabeth’s passions include reading, writing, and teaching. When she’s not reading or writing she can be found running, rock climbing, hiking, or mountain biking.
You can view Naomi’s piece “For The Missing 545 (in honor of the lost children who were separated at the border due to the Trump administration’s immigration policy)” in Volume 70 of Grub Street, out now. Click here to view Volume 70.
Naomi Rogers is a Towson University student working toward a degree in gerontology and a minor in creative writing. She was recently published in Ligeia magazine and intends to continue to embark on creative projects while bettering the lives of older adults.
You can view Chelsea’s pieces “Don’t Wanna Wear” and “Undies and Lavender” in Volume 70 of Grub Street, out now. Click here to view Volume 70. You can also view Chelsea’s piece “Glasses” on Grub Street’s website here.
Chelsea Ayensu-Peters is a sophomore at Towson University. Her art centers on drawing and painting. She draws character designs, and whatever ideas come to mind, but she hasn’t developed any consistent themes in her art. She’s still improving her style, so anything can change in the future.
is made of clay and she keeps sweating, making the entire car smell like earth and salt and
change. She unwraps her shawl and reties it around her head to keep its domical shape, but
the fibers dig into the clay and leave an imprint. I try not to stare. I think it’s brave to go out
being so pliable and raw, so blatantly unfinished and proudly in progress. It does no good to
go into the kiln before you’re ready to be cremated. Dry clay dust is toxic and once inhaled
settles in your lungs in silty layers until the breath is choked out of you.
Angie Kang is an illustrator and writer living in Providence, Rhode Island. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Narrative, Porter House Review, Lunch Ticket, Hobart, and others. Find more of her work at www.angiekang.net, or on instagram @anqiekanq.
……My family consists of six girls, two boys, one father, and one mother. We were all forcefully compressed into a house in downtown Baltimore. I shared a room with one of my older sisters who believed it was her room. My two brothers slept in the bathroom, so whenever you had to use it, you had the beg them to leave and pray they actually did. My other sisters all shared rooms as well.
……I was a child who loved dolls. I carried a few dolls around with me well past my diaper days. Some dolls could talk, some could laugh, some had combs and some had hairpins. My favorite was a doll with red yarn for hair and a blue apron dress. I brought this doll everywhere with me. If I was eating dinner so was she. If I was playing hide and seek so was she. Being a girl attached to dolls wouldn’t go over well in any household, but especially not one with six girls and two boys.
……My brothers would laugh at me and find new ways find ways to torture my doll—and therefore me—every day. My sisters were either older than me and wouldn’t let me play with them or were younger than me and not fun to be around. My mother, a nurse, was understandably tired all the time and didn’t want too much bother from her kids. My father was my safety.
……My father had a voice like thunder and eyes like black marble. He was always good to me. I was his favorite. I looked just like him. My skin, my hair, my lips, my everything was reminiscent of my father.
……Every day when my father came home from work he would pick all six of his daughters up to receive a hug and a kiss. I waited every day for him to come home. I would hide under the bed until everyone had their turn and only then would I run out to my father for him to swing me around and kiss me on my forehead. One day my father came home, kneeled down, and took the hand which held my doll. My father said, “Look at Daddy’s hair.” I looked at his hair; it didn’t look any different than it had looked before. Was there supposed to be a difference? He continued, “Look at Daddy’s eyes” and as I looked at his eyes they too were also the same. They were brown circles so deep and dark they almost looked black and had burning red lines drowning in the whites. Finally, he said, “Look at Daddy’s skin” and his skin also looked the same as it has always been. Dark. Then he held up my doll, “Look at this doll’s skin.”
……The doll had skin that was the opposite of mine and my father’s. Light.“Your baby will never have skin like this. Your baby will never have hair like this. Feel Daddy’s hair.” I felt his hair. It was like cotton candy. “This is the hair your baby will have.” He then took my doll out of my hand. The doll who I played with more than my brothers and sisters. He took her and hid her behind his back. I never saw her again.
……I started panicking. Then out of his other hand, he gave me another doll. This doll was the opposite of the first doll. The first thing I noticed was her hair. It had coils, like mine. Her skin was deep and dark, like amidnight ocean. Her eyes were as black as space.
……The doll’s name was Savanna. Savanna became my new best friend. She sat at breakfast with me. She was beside me in the car when the shadows stretched and rolled across us at night in the backseat. She was everywhere I was.
……However, she began to tear. A small tear where her legs met her back. She bled white blood. I panicked. She was in pain. I took her to my mother. She took out her cold thin needle and began to sew. I waited intently, holding my breath so I didn’t disturb my mother as she worked. Each stitch seemed like it hurt me more than Savanna. Savanna was strong. She will be fine. My mother saved Savanna and I was thankful. Then it kept happening. The stitches kept coming out. She dropped her white blood all over the floors in our house. If I happened to find it, I picked it up immediately and collected it to give to my mother. The rip got worse. And worse. My brother snatched her from me and swung her by the leg. She bled more. I screamed more. I ran to my mother hoping she would help as she did so many times before. Instead, she screamed, “I am tired of stitching up this damn doll!” My mother walked over to the window, spun Savanna in her hand gaining momentum, and flung her onto our neighbor’s rooftop. She needed help and I couldn’t reach her.
……From on top of a stool in the bathroom window, I could still see her. Only Savana’s tiny hand was visible. It was stretched out over the side of the roof, asking for me.
……With each passing season, I still visited my Savanna from the stool in the bathroom. When winter came, I saw her fingers covered in snow. I needed to make sure she didn’t have frostbite. In the summer, I panicked knowing she had no water. When it rained, I watched as the cold drops pounded on my baby over and over and over again. The weather was killing my baby. I needed to protect her.I went to my father crying and told him what happened to Savanna. “Baby, you are too old for dolls” was his response. After three failed attempts to retrieve my baby from the rooftop, I unwillingly accepted her fate. She was exposed to the elements. The world was going to tear her apart. No one cared about her but me.
……As I grew, I no longer needed the help of the stool to view what was left of Savanna. After years, her hand still hung in a silent, sad call.
……She reached when I found “Dark and Lovely” to be oxymoronic.
……She still reached as I spread white paste in my hair and waited for the burn.
……When I realized perm couldn’t burn away my DNA, her little brown hand still stretched out to me. The scars of my blackened blood were invisible.
…..She is still there.
……But, I’m much too old for dolls now.
Kennidi Green is a nonfiction author from Maryland. Her writing draws from her own experiences as well from those around her. Kennidi is currently a graduate student at Notre Dame of Maryland University and will receive her master’s degree in Contemporary Communications in December.
…….Striding with purpose into his smallest but most carefully monitored laboratory, Adelmo picked a bit of microscopic lint off his pristine lab coat and flicked it away.
…….German by birth, Adelmo was fussy, demanding, and humorless. He was also a MacArthur Fellow, the recipient of a so-called “Genius Grant”, so his methods were rarely questioned. The lack of strict oversight or pushback from his leadership allowed Adelmo to take chances that other scientists couldn’t.
…….Under diffuse lighting, Adelmo checked each of the four chambers quietly burbling away. He was prone to checking in on his most cherished project at least twice a day. Observing the specimens and making verbal notes into the end of his pen, which contained a small micro-recorder, was like a meditation.
…….“Specimen One: progressing as expected. Specimen Two: temperature below optimal but not critical, faulty connector to be analyzed by Jorgensen later today. Specimen Three: growing faster than expected. We suspect genetics of the subject and will research the husbandry. Specimen Four: normal and on track.”
…….The spoken words fluttered up to the cloud where voice-to-text translated his words into a tidy lab journal app to be cleaned up late. He would review and clean them up later. But for now, he was awaiting a visit from a dignitary and everything had to be perfect. Over the past week, he’d driven all of his postdoctoral research assistants and his long-suffering administrative assistant crazy with meticulous preparations.
…….They muttered about him in the breakroom, not knowing that the building’s ventilation system carried their every sound to a certain place in Lab 2. There was a small X made of electrical tape on the floor to remind him where acoustics were the best.
…….Satisfied that the specimens were fine and the lab was spotless, Adelmo felt ready to receive guests. With that, it was to the “X marks the spot” in Lab 2 just down the hall where he headed next.
…….“I will be so glad when this day is over. Where are we going after?”
…….“Let’s do that Irish pub. The one over on Spruce.”
…….“That’s it. First round is on me.”
…….“Sweet, I’m going to need two, or ten, or—you know what, let’s just start with a round of Jameson. Doctor Frank has just about worn me down. Yesterday I actually drafted a letter of resignation. I was just so…done.”
…….Adelmo wrote a few notes on a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. He knew the acoustics worked both ways and avoided the recorder pen while standing on the X. They called him Doctor Frank–meaning Frankenstein–for the exploratory and cutting-edge genetics work he did.
…….His postdocs often questioned his work, though the institution never did. He knew how to push right up to that vague gray line between scientific progress and a violation of ethics. The postdocs who questioned him soon went away. Scott was the voice of the letter writer, and Adelmo made a note in ballpoint. He didn’t need naysayers, not today. Not any day.
…….“Doctor Fischer?” said Melissa, with her characteristic sharp tone meant to snap him out of a reverie. “The guard at Mulberry Gate called. They’ve just passed security and will be at the door in ten minutes.”
…….Adelmo nodded. “Good. Tell Emily and Jasper to meet me in the lab.”
…….Adelmo scratched his chin thoughtfully. “I saw an email from Receiving that the new spectrometer is here. Tell Scott to conduct a receiving inspection. If all looks good, have him coordinate with Logistics to have it installed. They’ll know where it goes.”
…….“Very good,” Melissa said, spinning on her heel to exit. He liked Melissa. When she started, she had been sloppy and undisciplined, but he’d molded her into the perfect assistant. She could predict his needs and knew how to aggressively block his calendar. He wished he could have two more just like her.
…….Three enormous black SUVs turned the corner and lumbered up the drive. Paper signs marked three reserved parking spots, and in well-coordinated fashion, the vehicles parked then men in dark suits poured from the flanking vehicles. Major Brody Jones, chief aide to the general, slid out of the center vehicle and smoothed the front of his uniform slacks. With aching joints and an air of fatigue, five-star General Max Emerson emerged from the vehicle, found his footing, and strode with purpose toward the building’s front door as security flanked in around him.
…….“You watching the time, Jones?”
…….“Expectations are low.”
…….“What’s the kook’s name?”
…….“Fischer, sir. Doctor Adelmo Fischer.”
…….The general grunted with a nod as Jones opened the door to allow him to enter. “Welcome, General Emerson. Right this way.” Melissa said as she badged them into three different doors down the long corridor, noticing that at each doorway, one or two of the security crew peeled off and stood to the side. She’d seen her fair share of dignitaries, and this level of security meant the General was somebody important. She’d done research and had been unable to find any information about him, not even a press release when the Army made him a five-star. She called in a few favors with trusted insiders and still came up with nothing. The General was a ghost with good security; she had a pretty good idea what that meant.
…….Adelmo delivered a brief discussion of his research in a dumbed-down way for laypersons. He gave the General the same talk he’d delivered to a visiting class of eighth-graders last week. He had about the same level of respect for the military that he did for eighth-graders. Well, that wasn’t quite true. Eighth graders could still turn into something useful. Army generals were beyond hope.
…….“What you are about to see is highly confidential. This work is groundbreaking, and we need to protect it at all costs. Is that understood?”
…….The General fixed Adelmo with a hard stare and pointed to the stars on his collar, saying, “You think I’m a security risk?”
…….“What about them?” he said, pointing to the others in the room.
…….The General turned to his staff. “Only Jones and me—the rest of you stay here.”
…….The black suits nodded and took a step back.
…….“Proceed,” said the General.
…….Adelmo led the two men into his inner sanctum. Other than his own team, no one had visited the special lab, not even the director of his own institution. He was both excited and nervous.
…….“General Emerson, I’d like to introduce you to two very talented scientists. Doctor Emily Jorgensen and Doctor Jasper Schultz. They have been integral to this work.”
…….The General shook hands, saying, “Let’s get to it. I’m on a tight schedule.”
…….“Absolutely,” Adelmo said, then led the way to the area with four chambers.
…….“Is that a lamb?” the General asked.
…….“Yes, chamber one is a lamb, chamber two is a piglet, three a calf, and four a fawn. We found these species to be the best test subjects.”
…….“What exactly am I seeing here?”
…….“In rough terms, what you see is an artificial uterus. This clear sac is made from a polycarbonate blend that is both soft and flexible. The envelope is filled with electrolytes that mimic amniotic fluid. The balance of minerals in the fluid varies slightly by species, but we’ve become very good at tuning that in. The umbilical cord is attached to this specially designed mechanism that provides nutrition. These monitors regulate the environment. Movement is normal and exactly as the fetus would do in the womb. You can see the calf is taking practice breaths of the amniotic fluid. We’ve grown twenty such animals, which are thriving and virtually indistinguishable from animals born from a mother’s wombs.”
…….“Fascinating. And what about humans?”
…….“We see no reason why this wouldn’t work with humans, but as you know, the governance for human trials is quite rigorous. Approval takes two years to attain, at a minimum.”
…….“What if you had both the money and approval to begin human trials immediately?”
…….“It would depend on the expectations of the research, but I would have no problem beginning right away.”
…….Emily and Jasper glanced at each other, then at Jones, then down at the floor.
…….“Jones, why don’t you take these two outside and discuss schedules?”
…….“Yes, General,” he said, leading Emily and Jasper from the room. Once the door closed, General Emerson fixed Adelmo with a rheumy-eyed stare.
…….“Here’s the truth: the Army needs soldiers. Kids are no longer signing up in the numbers they used to, but it’s more than that. The Army supports the Space Force in their long-term missions. We’ve found evidence of life-sustaining planets well outside our solar system, far enough away that using current flight technology, a twenty-year-old would be an elderly man by the time they arrive. I want to outfit our ship with several of your gizmos. Through a third party, we’ve quietly bought a bankrupt cryogenics facility and taken ownership of a large inventory of embryos. We have enough embryos to create a whole army many times over, but we need a way to grow them. The plan looks like this: we outfit our capsule with these chambers and a few people to run these things. We have a rolling plan of growing new soldiers to be trained by the older humans, and they in turn farm and train the next generation. By the time we arrive at our destination, we should have a wide range of soldiers of various ages and training to support any hostile conflicts. If the planet is populated, we take it by force. If the planet is uninhabited, we build a colony. Your science fosters exploration. What do you say?”
…….Adelmo thought about it. “There are logistics to work out.”
…….“Money is not an issue.”
…….“For you, perhaps.”
…….“Let me have a few moments to discuss figures with Jones, okay?”
…….“Why don’t you and Major Jones use the breakroom? Help yourselves to any food and beverages you find.”
…….“Most accommodating. Thanks.”
…….“Certainly. Right this way.”
…….Adelmo shooed away his postdocs and sent Melissa to her desk in reception. Alone, he stood on the X and listened, scribbling notes and formulating a plan.
…….“I was prepared to be disappointed, but this is good,” said the General. “We need to lock this down. What do we have in our war chest?”
…….“Our line item from Congress looks to be 82 million, sir. We carried over 25 million. If the President signs the budget, we’re just over a hundred. We operate on sixty or so and can allocate as much as forty for this, but I suggest offering ten and seeing where this goes. If we spend twenty it would still be a bargain.”
…….“Let me see what I can do.”
…….“Say, Addy, let’s go back to your lab. I want to look at those chambers again.”
…….“Of course, follow me.”
…….The General closed the door behind them and got straight to the point. “Man to man, I can use this. What do we need to get to work?”
…….“Before we talk numbers, I need to show you another part of my research. It’s over here.”
…….“I just want to lock this down,” said the General.
…….“You’ll want to see this. Not even my assistants know about it.”
…….Adelmo took a key out of his pocket, unlocked the cover over a number pad, punched in a sequence, then used another key from a chain around his neck to unlock the door.
…….The sealed room inhaled as the door swung open. Adelmo turned on a light switch, and the General followed him inside. As the General looked around his eyes went wide.
…….“Using a similar technology to the artificial uterus, I am able to tweak the amniotic fluid in a certain way to suspend life.”
…….Under his breath, the General muttered, “…six, eight, ten… You’ve got a dozen adult humans in here. Who are they?”
…….“General, I think this technology might fit your plan. Imagine training a twenty-year-old Special Forces soldier, suspending them in my chambers, and releasing them exactly when needed. We grow your army inflight and use these chambers to preserve the best of the best to lead the fresh troops.”
…….The General looked from chamber to chamber. “You can reanimate them? Fully? With no decrement to brain or physical power?”
…….“No loss of memory or physical ailments?”
…….“No. It’s as if they go back into the womb in a suspended state and are reborn intact. Just as needed.”
…….“I have one last thing to show you.”
…….“There can’t be more!”
…….“Through here, General.”
…….They entered a room located in the corner that was the size of a small closet. There, under a focused spotlight, was what looked like an ordinary 3D printer.
…….The General looked at Adelmo with a shrug. “I know what that is, son.”
…….“Of course, but I am a genetics and matter specialist. I have modified this 3D printer. It will create anything you want.”
…….“I fail to see how this–”
…….“No need to carry food or water or any provisions when it can be created on the printer. There would also be no need to carry spare parts as this easily creates duplicates. Any mineral. Any metal. Anything. Only minimal resources are needed to feed the printer. It will transform, replicate, duplicate, and expand simple matter. For a flight as long and critical as you describe, I suggest three units, two running fully operational and one backup. General, you can transport already trained forces, create new soldiers, and feed and outfit them all in a space the size of this small lab. That has to be worth something.”
…….The General stepped backward into the room with the human chambers and ran tallies in his head. He tapped his fingers, adding and subtracting numbers. It was perfect.
…….“What’s it going to take to close this deal?”
…….“It won’t be cheap.”
…….“No, I imagine not.”
…….“Money, of course. But I need assurances.”
…….“Money, freedom from liability of any sort,” he said, nodding to the bodies in chambers.
…….The General’s face remained passive.
…….“And a Nobel. I’ll write up in what; you make the award happen. This year.”
…….“A lot of money, indemnification, and a Nobel. That’s it.”
…….“Pending negotiation of the dollars, Doctor, you have a deal.”
…….The two men shook hands and the General left.
…….Adelmo smiled to himself. He had found the perfect application of his life’s work.
…….He walked over to Chamber 12, the newest subject, and looked at the male human inside while devices pumped life-sustaining fluid.
…….“And you see, Scott? That is why you never question my methods. I am always right.”
…….Adelmo opened the sealed door, turned off the light, and turned back over his shoulder to look into the room.
…….Born with the eye of a writer and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth writes work colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico and complemented by an evolving urban aesthetic. Now living in the San Francisco Bay Area, when she’s not writing, shooting photography, or painting, she works as a procurement manager for a research laboratory. Karen can be found online at karenfayeth.com