Charles’s Job IV

Charles watched his screens, observed his computers, interrogating their square faces, watching for ticks and twitches that would hint at a hidden truth his instruments could be hiding from him. Finally satisfied that the world was still fucked up beyond his stone chambers, he turned and walked to the nursery. As he walked in, he looked up to track the simulated sun as it passed across the ceiling. The ceiling, actually a giant screen, ran a program that simulated the passing of day and night and it was seasonally sensitive. During winter, the photoperiod was shorter, the night longer, and the ambient temperature of the room dropped a few degrees. Even though it wasn’t in the original programming, Charles eventually rewrote the program to include clouds, snow, rain, all with a simulated appearance on the man-made sky. He would spend hours in there, watching as the clouds floated across the ceiling, looking for shapes, trying to ignore the fact that it was on a loop and every twenty minutes, the same shapes would crawl above him. Although he could program the ceiling to simulate storm clouds, to make it seem as though he was looking up into a pouring sky, and even as the recording of rain drops throwing themselves into the soil played over the speakers, his face still remained dry and he didn’t feel the tiny liquid bombs exploding on his forehead, on his closed eyelids, the flowers of H20 blooming from their tear shaped buds across his cheeks and the shrapnel and spent petals rolling down his face finally leaping from his chin towards the soil. Nothing touched him, though the phantom memory of rain did brush his skin, phantom spray from a childhood sprinkler. Despite the absence of rain, his cheeks were still wet when he opened his eyes.

Charles continued through to the second chamber of the nursery, partitioned off by one revolving door immediately followed by another. As Charles passed into the gene nursery he stood and waited for his eyes to adjust. In the previous room the light was changing constantly but here it was a consistent low, red glow bathing everything in an ominous light. The sound was just as different. Where as the patternless, chaotic patter of rain filled the previous room, this one was filled with a deep throbbing. When Charles closed his eyes he always felt as though he was inside a giant bass drum. He opened the cabinet in the corner, donning gown and mask and gloves. Charles stood for a moment and gazed down the gene nursery, more like a wide corridor than a room. On each side of the room were vats, the size of trash cans, filled with a clear liquid. The vats nearest the door appeared to be empty but as he walked down the room the contents changed. A small dot, or speck for the first few vats, then larger and larger objects. As he progressed down the room, each vat was filled with a more recognizable shape. A fetal curl, the neck, bent as though in prayer, a thoughtless lump asking forgiveness for sins not yet enacted. Moving down the aisle, toes became distinct, ears, a nose, after a certain size umbilical cords tethered the fetuses to nourishment, which was precisely regulated. After passing to the rear of the chamber, he turned to the last vat. A fully formed human male, his DNA donated by healthy Government employees that had passed the genetic screening. He had Charles’s nose. And Dr. Daniel’s mouth.

Charles wheeled over a stool, locking it in place so that it wouldn’t skitter out from under him as he brought his fragile son into the world. Charles unclasped the grips holding the glass womb in place and manipulated the hinges attaching it vertically to the wall, extending its support arm like a boom, bringing the second to last human he knew for sure was alive to a rest, a few degree from horizontal. Opening a vent in the base of the container, the amniotic fluid began to flow into the drain in the floor, a torrential flood of viscous goo. As the last of the fluid drained out Charles gave the base a sharp twist, unlocking it with a wet click, letting it fall clattering to the floor. Instead of reaching in to grab the new-born, he simply let it slide slowly out of the tube that had been its home for the last nine months, the amniotic fluid turning the beaker into a slide. As the child’s weight settled into his hands, he pulled a rubber ear cleaner out of the cradle, squirting two quick burst of air at each nostril, and immediately this bundle of cells, this wet bag of miniature organs, tiny bones, and enormous potential, began to wail. Charles wrapped him in a blanket, and held him close. Leaning in to the baby’s ear, Charles chose his words very carefully.

“Hello Kael, my name is Charles. I’ve waited a long time to meet you. Welcome to the New Earth.”

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One Response to “Charles’s Job IV”

  1. Damn. That was an excellent ending to an excellent story. Well done sir.

    I especially like how you put so much significance on the things we take for granted all too often. Like the rain that he had to live without.

    One of the best short stories I’ve read in a long time.

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