Jane’s Baby

Feb 28 2013

the ultrasound technician appeared to be highly alarmed. he kept looking from the screen to her face and back again. “whats wrong?” she repeated.

“I don’t think this is a baby,” he said. Jane had prepared herself to be patient with him. “i already told you it isnt human” she said, “if thats what you mean by baby”.

“It could be cancer,” he said. “I think it’s a giant tumor.” Jane realised he had lost himself.

they did more tests on Jane – amniocentesis and other imaging and anything else they could think of. she was prodded by a panel of obstetricians, and was mildly taken aback when one of them asked if she knew who the father was. “there is no father”, said Jane, “i conceived it myself”. the doctors exchanged glances. then one of them told her they wanted to remove it. “i wont let you do that” she serenly intoned. after a pause another of them supported her, affirming “it seems to be attached to the placenta rather than the uterus and does not appear to be interfering in any otherwise normal processes of pregnancy.”

the following months were a happy time for Jane. she felt good and right about what she was bringing into the world. she found herself staring into space and gently dreaming. it seemed to her that all of her life and everything that she had been and done no matter how complicated was coming to cohesion within.

the inner structures of her creation were so flexible that she had little difficulty in labour. there was silence in the room as they handed it to her. it was beautiful and perfect beyond what she had hoped for. it did not seem that anyone else present thought so, but she had not expected that they would.

when she took it home she realised that she was not sure what to do with it. she had made plans for its future that did not include herself but now apprehending its fragility she felt afraid for it and she just wanted to keep it with her. it vibrated in her arms and hummed softly. she spoke and sang to it. when she was not holding it she laid it in a cardboard box with an electric blanket to keep it warm.

after a few days it began to behave as though by inclinations of its own. it wriggled free from Jane and moved about the house. it drank water that dripped from the taps until she put down a bowl for it on the kitchen floor. it was not interested in food or any other nourishment but only water. it waited by the door until Jane finally let it out into the backyard where it made its way around and then settled in the sun for some time. it interacted with its environment in basic ways and demonstrated an intelligence not unlike that of a household pet. she bought it a doggy bed.

the young children of a neighbour took an interest in it. their father came one day to find them playing with it in the backyard and Jane made him a cup of tea. they sat on the verandah and watched the game. “What is it?” asked the childrens father. Jane did not feel like explaining so she pretended not to have heard. “you have lovely children” she said.

when it got a little older it surprised Jane by beginning to produce smaller copies of itself. they appeared in numbers not unlike a litter of baby animals, but very regularly. however it did not seem interested in them; and they, unlike their original, showed few signs of sentience. they existed quietly for a few days, shivering and humming, until they stopped moving, and broke down into fluid. this produced a dilemma for Jane, because she did not want to interfere with them, but she felt uncomfortable treading in puddles in the middle of the night and knowing what they had been. finally she grew beds of moss in potplants and would place the little ones there whenever they appeared, where they would peaceably dissipate.

as time went by Jane herself grew older and became preoccupied by concerns relating to her mortality. while her own poor body became tired, her creation remained unchanged. it seemed as young and beautiful as it had always been. it was just as active as she could ever remember, proceeding with its daily activities depending on the weather, or any other variations in its routine.

one night before she had decided what to do, very late when she was in bed asleep, Jane had a massive stroke and died without pain or awareness. she had been dreaming of a summer beach where she sat under shady trees and stared at the horizon and drank a cool drink and thought of nothing.

Janes creation was purchased from her estate by a national gallery where it was assigned its own permanent room. a few words were painted on the wall describing her life and work. the exhibit became a great and enduring favourite of all visitors generally, but perhaps especially of children, who loved to take home the small copies it produced and cuddle them in bed where they would turn into water. if Jane had been alive, she could never have been happier.

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