Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thought Crime

Here's a story I wrote - rough draft.

Peter stared in horror at the paper in front of him. The doctor stood watching him, waiting for a reaction of any type. Peter finally looked up and said, "It was a one-night stand! We only did it once! How could this happen?"

"It only ever takes once," said the doctor, trying to be kind.

Peter shook his head. "No, no," he said. "I thought it took lots of tries. I hear about it from my married friends."

"No, it doesn't always happen on the first try, but sometimes it does," the doctor said.

"What does this mean for me?" Peter said, looking up in despair.

"Well, the law says you have to carry the fetus for at least half the pregnancy," the doctor said. "That's 20 weeks. It's between you and the mother which weeks you take. I advise you to take all your weeks in a single block, however, since the operation to transfer the device to you takes a few hours and can be painful."

"Why can't she just carry it the whole time?" Peter said, angrily. "Why do I have to carry it?"

"Because you are the father."

"But women used to carry the baby the whole time! Why does the law make me carry it?"

"Because you are the father, and it's only fair. That's the law." The doctor was beginning to look impatient instead of sympathetic. "If you didn't want a baby, you shouldn't have had unprotected sex."

"But I didn't know it only took one time!" Peter wailed. "This doesn't make any sense!"

The doctor looked at Peter without further pity. "But you would condemn her to carrying the baby for the entire time?" the doctor asked.

"She's the mother! She created it!"

"It takes two to make a child," the doctor said. "Since technology made it possible for men to 'carry' a fetus through the pregnancy, it's been law that the father carries the child half the time. You knew about the law, but you took the gamble. Well, you lost. Man up and take it."

Peter looked up through red eyes, barely holding back tears.

"I'll lose my job," he said. "I'm not married, they'll judge me."

"You should have thought of that before you had sex," the doctor said.

"What about...." Peter paused. He knew he could get into more trouble if he said what he was thinking, but he couldn't stop himself. "What about abortion?"

The doctor looked grim. "Abortion was outlawed 30 years ago," he said. "All fetuses are to be carried to term. That's the law. If you mention it again, I'll have to report you."

Peter looked down at the floor. "I'm sorry," he said. "Please give me some time to take this in."

The doctor left without another word. Peter looked at the paper again. The DNA test had positively confirmed him as the father. Another note said the mother claimed she had only had sex once in the window that could have caused this pregnancy. She was opting for the 'device' to be used, which would remove the fetus from her womb. The fetus still needed a host - either the mother or the father - and the device would be surgically attached to one or the other while the baby inside developed and grew.

The technology, perfected some 20 years ago, provided a much safer environment for the fetus than a mother's womb, and allowed the mother some freedom. Peter himself had developed inside one. But now he was going to have to carry one.

Most married couples made the decision to have the mother carry the fetus through the first part, then the father would take over to reach the finish line. He had a couple of friends who were just starting the process and had been excited about it. Peter wasn't ready for a child.

He sat in the doctor's office for several minutes before deciding that he needed to talk to the mother. Maybe she would listen to reason and carry the baby herself...

The next day Peter visited a lawyer in the hopes that he could get out of his duty. He had spoken with the mother - the woman he had a one-night stand with not so long ago. She was still gorgeous, but she had been sad and a bit angry. Confused, like him, about having bucked the odds so completely. Angry at him for not using protection. Angry at herself, as well. She had shot him down about getting out of carrying the baby.

"I'm not carrying this thing alone," she said. "You helped make it, you can carry it."

He'd argued it was unnatural for him to carry a baby. She'd just laughed. Then he'd suggested, as sideways as he could, that an accident might happen to the device. She'd just looked at him, coldly.

"If you want jail time, you try it," she said.

He refused to argue further, and had refused to discuss arrangements for when he'd carry the baby. Instead, he'd dramatically said, "I'll see you in court!" and tried to leave gracefully. Unfortunately, she'd laughed again, and the nurse had been choking back her own laugh. Peter had gathered the remains of his dignity and gone.

The lawyer was no help. He explained the law to Peter, laying out his limited options. In short, Peter was going to carry the baby whether he wanted to or not.

"What if I just refuse to show up for the operation?" Peter had asked.

"Well, depending on why you refuse, you could end up in jail - after the operation is performed - or you might just be allowed to have the operation and get on with your life," the lawyer responded.

"I'm going to get fired for this," Peter said. "My boss will not let me have time off for the operation and he definitely won't accept me carrying a baby!"

"That's a problem, yes, but the courts have consistently ruled in favor of employers," the lawyer said. "Just because you didn't want to use protection doesn't mean you are free from the consequences."

"But I don't want a baby!" Peter said.

"You won't have to keep the child," the lawyer said. "The baby can be given up for adoption, if the mother agrees. Even if she doesn't, you won't have to raise it. You'll just have to pay your fair share."

"It's not right!" Peter had yelled, standing up. The lawyer had glared at him, not saying anything. Peter's rant had died on his lips and he'd sat back down.

"You don't have many options," the lawyer said. "I won't try to get you out of this, and you'd be lucky to find any lawyer that would."

Peter left without another word. He wandered the city streets, half-hoping to get mugged or killed. His options - such a strange word - were more than limited. He pulled himself out of his funk enough to get to work on time. He didn't talk to his boss, although he felt like he ought to. He realized that night that he was still hoping to find a way out.

He put off talking about it for nearly a week before the persistent calls from the hospital got threatening. He showed up before they called police, and sat down with a counselor. The man wasn't particularly consoling, Peter thought. As it was, Peter was told the mother had made the choice of carrying times alone, since Peter refused to respond to requests. She would carry the baby for the first half. Peter complained loudly, but was ignored. The mother had also opted for adoption, which Peter had to sign off on. He had asked for the papers immediately, since the only other option was for him to raise the baby himself with support money from the mother.

The counselor told him the pregnancy was nearly in the fourth week, when the transfer could take place. That gave Peter 16 weeks to get his affairs in order and be ready for the operation. Peter protested again, but no one paid attention. He left the hospital dejected, and slightly late for work.

It took him several days to muster the courage to talk to his boss. Instead of trying to explain the situation, Peter handed his boss the paper that Peter himself had learned the bad news from. His boss read the note, looked up at Peter, and burst out laughing. Of all the responses he'd expected, that was not on the list.

"Oh, you got yourself into a little trouble," his boss chortled.

"I don't see what's funny," Peter said.

"Eh, you aren't old enough to remember the old days." His boss walked over to the calendar. "When's your shift with the baby?"

Peter stood speechless for a moment, then gave the dates. His boss chuckled again. "Are you and the lady keeping the sprout, or what?"

"Adoption," Peter stammered.

"Good on you both," his boss said. "My kid is adopted. Wife couldn't have her own. Ok, we'll give you desk duty for the first 15 weeks, then go week-by-week after that. I'll get Sammy to train you on inventories for an hour every day. Congrats, boy. Your stupidity has managed to get you a promotion."