“I told you,” the man said. “You’re as real as they come.”
She put the scapel down next to the gauze in her lap.
“Then why am I not bleeding?”
She shook her head. Of course he had no response to that. She held up a hand mirror close to her face and examined the laceration.
“It feels real,” she said. With her thumb and forefinger she peeled up the skin, looking underneath. “And looks real.”
“It is real,” the man insisted.
Her belly moved and she could feel her insides shifting. She knew joy was there, but she only felt the chemical reaction. Dopamine, seratonin, oxytocin. All perfectly mixed together so that she would feel.
The train mumbled to itself underneath them. Somewhere, someone switched off their overhead reading light, and now long shadows stretch across their faces from the passing lights outside. She looked at the them, the buildings, the blur of people, and knew she would never get to touch them.
“It’s moving,” she said. “I can feel it.”
The man pulled a briefcase onto his lap and began to open it.
“Good. That means it’s growing.”
She wasn’t listening. Her body was tired and heavy and she felt full.
“How long until it’s…”
“Until it’s what?”
She shifted in her seat as she remembered what she tried to forget.
“How long until it’s fully gestated?”
The man took out a paper from the briefcase.
“Constructed,” he said. “We prefer the term constructed.”
She shifted in her seat again. “Well how long until it’s out of me?”
He handed her the paper, closed the briefcase, and folded his hands on top of it.
“Let’s be clear about your role, here,” he said. “Your body has been synthetically restarted. You were killed in a car accident, remember?”
She was quiet.
“Try not to worry about what happens after construction. If we successfully extract the machine, then we can discuss the possibility of a future for you. Right now, you should be thankful that we’ve allowed you to live beyond your intended expiration date.”
Construction. Machine. Intended expiration. His words were just as sharp as the scalpel. She didn’t believe him when he told her that she was alive again, and before that, she didn’t believe him when he told her that there was a machine inside her. A protein-based artificial humanoid, he had called it. It was the first of its kind, and if everything went according to plan, she will be the first person to have ever grown an artificial life form inside her.
But plans are nothing more than reminders of what should have been. She knew that now. She had planned to meet her husband for lunch, to break the news of their ninth failed attempt at starting a family, but she never made it. The universe planned for her to die, but there she was. And now this man or whoever he worked for planned to grow a machine inside her and then take it away. She could not feel, he had told her, but she was real and that’s all they needed.
Yes, she planned to grow it — but not for them. This thing inside her was not a thing at all. She could feel it. She could not feel, but she could feel it. Not a machine, not an artificial life form.
It was her baby, and she was not going to let them take it away.
Not this time.
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