Message Received

Short Story by Nicole des Bouvrie

Image from Pixabay (CC0)

Brian woke up at the first beep of his alarm. This was the day. His eighteenth birthday. Finally he would know the truth. About his parents. His biological parents. Perhaps he would be able to find them, and finally know who he really was. Where he came from.

He had first figured out there was something off when he was only five years old. Other boys at school had told him. When he came home he had confronted them immediately. How come he didn’t have a mother, but two dads? Adam and Ivan never really lied to him, he knew that. But he just wanted to know who his real parents were. Not that his dads didn’t love him or anything. They were always there for him, they always helped him. He was pretty sure they truly loved him. But somehow, it just… wasn’t real. There was something missing.

Brian dressed himself quickly, putting on the clothes they had put out for him the previous evening. His favorite pair of trousers and the shirt he got at the concert a few weeks ago. It made him smile, they knew exactly what he liked, what he would need. Whatever question you’d ask, whether it was about the relative size of Saturn compared to Mars, or the fastest way to beat someone in chess. The older he got, the more they seemed to understand him.

He quickly brushed his hair, and looked in the mirror. He saw a young man, with a desperate look in his eyes. Adam and Ivan still didn’t get why he was so looking forward to this day. Today he would get a letter from his biological parents. The letter they had left for him at the time of his adoption. Brian knew he shouldn’t expect too much of it. His parents were probably criminals anyway, forced to give up their kid as they faced extraterrestial sentences. Perhaps they were already long dead. He knew all that. Adam and Ivan kept reminding him of the statistics involved. But no matter what they had done, or where they were, he still wanted to know.

As he entered the living room Adam and Ivan were already there, waiting for him. They had really outdone themselves this year. There were decorations everywhere, and a big breakfast was laid out for him at the dining table. In the middle was a big birthday cake. Probably some crazy vegan recipe Ivan had tried out.

“Eighteen candles? Really?” Brian quickly blinked his tears away and sat down. There might be a lot of things wrong with them, they were also really good parents.

“Only the best for our boy. Such a special day. Happy birthday, son.”

Before Brian could answer, he saw the envelop laying next to his freshly squeezed orange juice. An old envelope, with an old-fashioned stamp on it. And his name, in classic longhand. It was hard to read. Somehow he had never thought it would be anything but a digital message. As he picked up the envelope, the paper felt strange. Heavy, somehow.

“Go ahead, son. Open it. We know you’ve been waiting for this for a long time. We’ll leave you alone for a moment. But we hope you’ll remember we’re always here for you. Just call if you’d like to talk.”

Brian nodded. “Thanks Adam. And Ivan.”

He turned the envelope around and around in his hands. His parents must have touched this paper. This was the closest he had ever been to them. He felt tears well up, but he swallowed hard. This was not the time to cry.

Carefully he opened the envelope, and he took out a small card. Blank on one side, and some writing on the other. He started reading, but slowly. The letters were not the kind he was used to. Normally he would have called Adam over to help him, but that wasn’t an option now. Word for word he deciphered the message written to him, so many years ago.

“Dear Brian. We love you very much, and we hope you’ll be able to find us once you are old enough. We live on Earth, and we will be waiting for you, no matter how long it takes. Please know that all machines can be switched off. There is always a switch, somewhere. You are not a machine. You can find a way to get out. Much love, Alice Greenfield and Alex Finn, your loving parents.”

Brian read it over and over again. He didn’t know what to make of it. He was glad he knew where he came from. He liked the way his parents names sounded as he whispered them, forming the strange syllables. But he was also very confused. What did they mean, he was not a machine?

Image by Nicole des Bouvrie.