In My Image

Richard Wren

Wyld FLASH – 30 October 2020

Grampa Leg heaved his large, square frame from his favourite resting spot and trundled across the family room to where the youngster sat. Deep in concerned thought, the child twiddled his long fingers, picking at the rubbery fingertips. Ma watched from the corner of her eye while doing her chores. She had almost completed another head. Its blue-tinted eyes looked up, already curious and blinking.

 “You feeling okay, Boy?” Grampa sat next to the worried youngster, their bodies identical in almost every way.

 “I guess so, Grampa. It just feels funny, yknow?”

Grampa knew. He had given birth more often than anyone here. “It may feel strange the first time, Son, but its nature’s way. It will just happen and afterwards you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.”

He draped his long, flexible arm around the first-timer. “And then I’ll have to stop calling you ‘Son’.”

It was true. After the first time he would have a name, just like Grampa Leg or Aunt Carapace. Ma was different, of course. Ma was special. He looked across to her for reassurance.

She had just connected the new head to some internal body parts and was now fastening on some casing plates. Her creation had to be held firmly to stop it wriggling as bits were added. It was always good to watch Ma at work – homely and comforting.

The sudden feeling in his belly brought his thoughts back to immediate issues. “It’s started” he whispered.

Grampa Leg leant closer to listen. There was a faint hum and sound of sprayed liquids from deep in the guts. “Yep, it’s started. It shouldn’t take long now, Boy.”

From all around the family room, the others waved or nodded their good wishes but no-one came closer. This was a personal experience and one companion would be enough.

Ma had nearly finished her new youngster and looked around for any more components.

Grampa continued listening. Now the sounds were a series of clicks and whirrs. Without warning, the rhythmic noises stopped. “I think you’re done. Just to let you know, Son, the next bit is going to feel a little strange. But don’t worry.”

As if the warning had been a trigger, there was a sensation that the youngster had never felt before. It was like the front of his abdomen was going to split in half. Then it did. A section of his front carapace lifted and slid to the side revealing a deep cavity. Warmth and strange smells drifted out of the unexpected and obscene hole.

“Oh God, this is too weird!”

“Calm down, Lad. It’s all over.” Without a fuss, Grampa reached into the damp hollow and removed its contents. He held it, still moist for the boy to see.

“Congratulations Son. Or should I call you ‘Brains’?”

Taking the newly created memory unit from Grampa Leg, Brains used his other hand to close his newly discovered door. It still felt strange as it clicked back into place. “Thanks, Grampa. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Of course you could. But it is easier with two. Now go on – show it to Ma.”

Feeling happy and relaxed, Brains accepted the congratulations of the family as he crossed the room to present his firstborn to Ma. She took it with her own personal nod of congratulations, her own body identical to his and to every other in the family. Only her function was different.

In a haze of pride, Brains watched as Ma started on a new body to hold his memory unit. His square body, manipulator arms and short wheeled legs seemed to shine with happiness in the lights of the family room, as did a small plastic label on his back that evolution had not bothered to remove or change in a thousand years. “Industrial 3D printer, Intelliprint Corporation 2025.”

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Author Bio: Richard Wren has taught science (literally everything from Astronomy to Zoology) for thirty years including running an Environmental Field Centre for eighteen. In recent years he has had thirteen short stories published in various online and printed magazines including Perihelion Science Fiction, Neo-Opsis and Planet Scumm. His first novel “Methuselau’s Memoirs” was published last year with Alban Lake.

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