Young Stacy Lynn sat in the backseat of a black SUV among state policemen in flat brimmed hats and dark sunglasses. Thousands of people surrounded the television studio they were approaching in a colorful display of poster board signs and rally t-shirts. Stacy put her face as close to the windows as the nice officers would let her to observe the immense sea of humans and their messages to her. To the right: The Devil Inside!, Protect Our Children!; to the left: A New Frontier!, End Probing Once And For All! Police barricades were positioned on each side of the iron studio gates to deter protestors and spectacle-participants that had gathered for the occasion. This had been wishful thinking as the barricades were now bursting to the brim. The tinted windows of the vehicle acted as a target for the incoming barrage of vegetables, raw meats, aluminum cans, and other various items from the crowd, some of it meant for her, some of it meant for the people on the opposite side of the barricade. She could hear voices screaming at her through the bulletproof glass. Muffled screams, barely recognizable. But, she knew they were for her. Hateful, spiteful, afraid. She was afraid too. She looked down at her protruding stomach and held it between her arms.
Once through the studio gates, they parked as close to the building as possible, Stacy still surrounded by the troopers upon exiting the vehicle. A man with a headset ushered them behind steel doors. The troopers disbanded their orbit around her and stood at attention in single file, arms stiff against their sides and chins tilted toward the ceiling. The man with the headset approached her.
“Hello Ms. Lynn, my name’s Randy, right this way,” he said.
They followed a concrete hallway around a bend to a black door with a gold plaque Employees and Authorized Personnel Only, Please.
“Well, this certainly is a strange day for both of us,” Randy said.
“It’s been a strange few months for me,” Stacy said.
Randy kneeled down next to her stomach.
“May I?” he asked.
“Um, sure that should be fine, I think,” Stacy said.
This type of behavior was not new and uncomfortable to her anymore. The amount of people in recent months to have manhandled her mid section was more than she would ever admit to remember. He placed his hand on her with childlike fascination. The skin of her stomach stretched, and Randy felt a small hand make contact with his. He withdrew himself, mouth agape, and wiped away the moisture forming at the edges of his face.
“Th-This way,” he said, his voice now sporting a slight vibrato.
The makeup room was a swirl of powders and perfumes. Stacy hacked wildly while the team of technicians applied a thick coating to any part of her that might be seen by the adoring prime time public. After, they ushered her to a place they called the green room to await further instructions. It was an enormous room with a number of big screen televisions playing whatever was currently on the network.
She was relieved to be greeted by familiar faces upon entering. Herbert Oak, a biochemist from the university in Knoxville and his two assistants stood at the appetizer table. All three wore thick-rimmed glasses and flannel shirts, each a different color.
“Excellent to see you again, Stacy,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
“It’s good to see you guys too,” Stacy said.
“Where’s your mother?” Herbert asked.
“She’s back home with some friends from her congregation, probably praying for our souls,” Stacy said.
“That’s understandable. It’s a very common practice for those with strong religious convictions to participate in ritualistic behaviors as a coping mechanism during times of stress,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
“I guess, but it would be nice if she were here,” Stacy said and placed her hands on her stomach.
“You might want to eat something before we go on, settle the stomach. But, I will warn you that my colleagues and I, after extensive deliberation, believe some of the food to be suspect,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
“I’m okay for now, but thank you Professor,” Stacy said.
Herbert and his assistants resumed deliberating over a plate of asparagus wrapped in ham. She sat down on the couch and reviewed the magazines on the table before her. It was still strange to see her name in print, and each publication put its own spin on her story. National Geographic and Time had each released special editions, thicker than some novels. There were interviews with anyone and everyone including the world’s leading experts in biology and even some celebrities. Snoop Dogg in Space: A Trip through the Cosmos read one headline with a picture of the doggfather sitting on a lawn chair looking at the stars, sunglasses on and a blunt between his fingers. She examined a copy of Cosmopolitan. There was a small headline in the bottom left corner of the glossy page about her, but it was dwarfed by an actress covering the nipples of her exposed breasts with electrical tape, and a promise that inside was a comprehensive list of 106 ways to Blow Him away.
Randy and his headset took a seat next to her on the couch and tried to muster a reassuring smile.
“We’re live in ten, you ready?” Randy asked.
“Not really,” Stacy said.
The television in front of them flashed red with excitement. CNN Exclusive Interview: Coming Up Next. The screen then changed to a commercial for a new pill to treat depression. Randy pulled out a notepad from his back pocket and copied down the information on the screen.
“All right, let’s get you guys out there,” he said.
He held his hand out to help her off the couch, but she hesitated.
“I’m really scared, I don’t know if this is right,” Stacy said.
“There are a lot of people doing a lot more fucked up things than you. Ya know, like murder and incest and stuff. A silly little news interview is not going to be the end of the world,” Randy said.
He lightly patted her back, and handed her a tissue from the coffee table near them.
“Thanks,” she said.
A man with bronze skin, shiny black hair, and a patriotic tie sat behind a semi-circle desk, Stacy and the scientists opposite of him. Five or six cameras were positioned strategically around the set, each operated by chubby and awkward looking men in backwards baseballs caps, some with doughnut crumbs on their scraggly neck beards. Behind the cameras was an enclosed room filled with a multitude of television monitors. A group of serious looking men and women stared at them with headsets, clipboards, and crossed arms, occasionally whispering into one another’s ear.
“Ready on the set!”
The anchor looked into the camera directly in front of him, and the studio lights brightened. She felt millions of eyes penetrating through the camera’s lens.
“Welcome, Nation. Coyote O’Malley here with a very special interview tonight.”
His personality was as sparkling as his teeth. Stacy fidgeted in the cushioned office chair, trying to find a comfortable angle to sit in her display case.
“I am ecstatic to welcome Stacy Lynn to our show, the hottest topic on planet Earth right now,” Coyote said.
They shook hands and she offered a customary thank you.
“Let’s get right to the point Ms. Lynn. How did this happen?” he asked.
She took a deep breath and paused. The studio lights were blinding and warm. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead and the palms of her hands.
“The last thing I remember was sitting on the hood of my boyfriend’s truck. We were looking at the stars in some field outside of town. We weren’t doing anything bad, just talking about stuff. I don’t remember what we were talking about. But, I remember the breeze felt nice. And, there was a full moon. But, then, a really bright light came out of nowhere and we couldn’t see. I also remember a loud ringing noise in my ears. Then, nothing I guess, only darkness,” Stacy said.
She sighed. Just as she had told a million other people a million other times.
“Please continue, what happened next?” Coyote asked
“Well, I woke up in his bed, and my clothes were scattered across the floor of the apartment, but he wasn’t there and neither was his truck. I also had bruises on my arms and thighs. That’s pretty much it,” Stacy said.
“Holy shit!” Coyote blurted out. He seemed to be tapping into the collective thoughts of everyone that was currently watching the broadcast.
“What a truly horrific event you have endured,” he said.
He cupped her hands with his and even wiped at the corner of his eye, which Stacy found interesting, as his eyes seemed just as dry as when they had started the interview.
“And, if you don’t mind me asking, what has become of the boyfriend?” Coyote asked in a soft voice.
Stacy shook her head, and looked at her feet. Coyote put a finger to his earpiece.
“I apologize, folks, my team is informing me that to avoid a massive lawsuit we must move on,” he said.
Stacy felt it moving around within her stomach. It was restless, and its movements caused sharp pains in her abdomen. She caressed it with her hands casually as to not bring about any additional attention, and it calmed feeling her touch.
“Now, let’s bring in our other guests to help shed some more light on this unique situation. Let’s welcome biochemist Herbert Oak and his two assistants from the University of Tennessee,” Coyote said and shook each one of their hands.
“So, Professor, what has led you and your team to hypothesize something of this magnitude?” Coyote asked.
“Well, we were contacted by the hospital in Knoxville about some irregularities with one of their maternity patients. They were quite perplexed about what they were seeing and reached out to us as an outside perspective. We proceeded to obtain biological samples from Miss Lynn and, more specifically, from her womb to conduct tests on in our lab,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
“And then, what?” Coyote was sitting on the edge of his seat leaning over the table, almost nose to nose with Herbert. Stacy assumed the rest of the world was in a similar position in front of their television sets. Herbert scooted his chair back.
“The tests revealed inhuman genetic material that we could not attribute to any known living mammal, or organism, on the planet. And, we even contacted colleagues from multiple international universities to confirm our findings,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
“So... you mean... aliens?” Coyote, and the world, asked.
Stacy cringed. She hated that word. Just another way to put people down.
“Well, I think it would be silly to automatically assume something extraterrestrial, but at this point we are keeping all possibilities open,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
Coyote sat back in his seat scratching his head. The men and women in the back of the studio were high fiving and hugging.
“So what is the plan going forward now?” Coyote asked. He directed this question back at Stacy.
“We are discussing multiple options at this point,” Herbert interjected before she could answer. His assistants nodded in agreement.
Herbert and Coyote continued with small talk for the next few minutes about global implications and other political matters and Stacy tried to contribute when called upon but she really wasn’t sure what any of it meant. All she could think about was returning home to curl up in a ball somewhere dark and quiet where no one could see her.
Coyote thanked them for appearing on his show and directed his audience to tune in next time to see a riveting piece on the possible dangers of breastfeeding in public. The studio lights dimmed and cheers erupted around the studio. Coyote walked around the desk and hugged each one of his guests and howled in excitement. He came to Stacy last and almost attempted to pick her up in his arms before remembering her current physical state and instead settled for an enthusiastic hug and kiss to the cheek.
“Biggest story ever! Our ratings will be through the roof. Actually, fuck that, they’ll be to outer space! Oh, sorry, no offense,” Coyote said and then hurried away to continue the celebration with the rest of the news team.
Randy and his headset reappeared, although Stacy noticed he wasn’t as chipper as everyone else, and he ushered them back to the green room.
Every inch of the room had been covered in plastic sheeting and the furniture moved from the middle since they had been in there. Tables were set up with champagne bottles in ice buckets and assistants were passing out ski goggles and t-shirts at the door; CNN: World News Champs! News anchors, camera operators, producers, and other staff members donned the apparel and rushed toward the center of the room grabbing for the champagne bottles. Stacy maneuvered through the crowd to the back wall, trying to avoid all of it. Coyote stood up on a chair, bottle in hand, and howled. He then began chanting, the rest of the room joining in.
“Fuck You, Fox News! Fuck You, Fox News! Fuck You, Fox News!”
“Eat Shit, NBC! Eat Shit, NBC! Eat Shit, NBC!”
Coyote shook the bottle as hard as he could, and the cork exploded across the room, champagne spraying the jubilant participants below him. The others followed suit, and the room soon became filled with the stench of alcohol, sweat, and electronic dance music. Randy and his headset found Stacy leaning against a wall with the scientists, who were discussing the behaviors of the news team and writing notes in a journal.
“Pretty cool party, eh?” Randy said.
“Can I go home now?” Stacy asked.
Randy sighed and motioned for her to follow him.
Stacy and her mother sat in the quaint living room of their government sponsored housing on a military compound near the edge of town. Government agents in dark sunglasses roamed the grounds as a protective shield against unwanted visitors. They drank from large thermoses, automatic weapons across their backs, making small talk until the next agents arrived for their shift.
“Are you an ass or a tits kind of man, Johnson?”
“That’s like asking me which one of my kids I love more. You’re a sick man, Ramirez.”
Stacy sat on a floral patterned couch caressing her stomach and humming a song her parents used to sing at bedtime when she was younger. She noticed the creature inside her, whatever it was, frequently made contact with her hands when she sang to it. The walls of the living room were decorated with crucifixes of varying sizes and plaques reminding them to live, laugh, and pray. A portrait of them with her late father hung next to the doorway. Her muscles ached, and her feet were swollen. Her mother came from the kitchen with a tray of fresh biscuits and a teakettle.
“Are you sure you feel all right darlin?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m just tired,” Stacy said.
She was afraid to tell her mother the truth. Morning sickness was supposed to be a normal thing, she was told. But, she was also told it would end after the first few weeks. Her morning routine had consisted of vomiting and nausea nonstop for months now. She was also worried because her vomit was the color and consistency of pistachio pudding. Long coughing fits would follow, sometimes droplets of blood projected from her throat. She used voluminous amounts of cover-up in the mornings to hide her pale complexion.
“I wish dad was still here,” Stacy said.
“Me too, honey,” her mother said.
“He would have known what to do,” Stacy said.
“We just have to keep believing everything that has happened was for a reason, part of a greater plan. Your father was always so good at keeping a level head,” her mother said.
Stacy prayed every day for some kind of guidance, but was becoming more disillusioned as her body slowly deteriorated. This so called “God” had taken away her father at a young age, drove away the only boy she ever truly loved, and poisoned her body. Her mother handed her a biscuit slathered in strawberry jelly, but the sight of the gelatinous goop made her queasy.
“You need to eat, Stacy. You’re tired all the time now, and I don’t want to idly watch while that, whatever it is, drains you of everything,” her mother said.
“I promise I’m fine, I’ve just been extra stressed lately because of that stupid interview,” Stacy said.
Her mother sat close to her on the couch and kissed her forehead.
“I think it’s time we visit Pastor Dan, he always has great advice,” her mother said.
Diamond cuff links shimmered on the sleeves of his jet-black designer suit. Hair styled with enough gel to grease a train engine. His church was more luxurious than a house in Beverly Hills and he claimed it was erected upon the holy ground God had proclaimed to him.
“I am sorrowed by the pain your family has endured. The Lord works in mysterious ways for sure, but I know God will lead you through this tragedy to the path of righteousness,” Pastor Dan said.
The inside of the church was like a sports arena. It had thousands of seats, including a nosebleed section near the ceiling. A full concert stage was set up at one end with a twenty-foot tall jumbotron screen above it so all could hear the words of God coming through Pastor Dan’s larynx. Television cameras were set up on the balconies of the upper section so Pastor Dan’s message could reach the screens of believers across the country at a very reasonable price.
“Thank you so much for seeing us, Pastor Dan. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule,” Stacy’s mother said.
“No, thank you Debra. I always have time to help a fellow Christian in need, and I’ve been meaning to see Stacy for some time now,” Pastor Dan said.
He led them through an immaculate hallway, decorated in gold-framed biblical paintings and glass chandeliers.
“If you don’t mind, Debra, I’d like to see Stacy alone. I have found over the years that it is best to counsel one on one,” Pastor Dan said, opening the door to his office.
“I understand,” Stacy’s mother said.
She sat down on a couch near the office and picked up a People magazine from the coffee table that had been sitting next to various copies of the Bible. Stacy entered his office, and Pastor Dan followed, locking the door behind him. An immense wooden desk stood in the center of the room. It held a scaled down model of Jesus’ crucifixion in horrifying bloody detail on its smooth stained surface. Portraits that depicted the Pastor during his sermons adorned the walls. He sat down behind the desk on a red velvet chair eyeing her stomach for a prolonged period before speaking.
“This is an extraordinary situation you find yourself in, my child,” Pastor Dan said.
“Yes, I know. I’m honestly really scared and confused why this had to happen to me,” Stacy said.
“God is not always so clear in His path for us. Some people are meant to overcome more than others, but it’s often the hardest choices that can be the most fulfilling,” he said.
He reached over the desk and held his hands around hers.
“Let us pray for a moment,” he said.
They bowed their heads. For the next few moments the voice inside her head screamed into the abyss for some kind of guidance, anything she could take as a sign. The only response was the echoing of her inner turmoil bouncing off the walls of her head. She opened her eyes and noticed Pastor Dan again staring down at her stomach. He quickly pulled his hands away and sat back in his seat.
“Now, tell me, what is to become of you?” Pastor Dan asked.
“Well, I’m not really supposed to say anything about it,” Stacy said.
“It’s all right, child, this session is confidential. No one outside of this room, except God’s ears, will hear of this,” he said.
He grabbed the cross around his neck and kissed it. His warm smile soothed her and she believed him.
“Well, when it’s time we are going to travel to Washington D.C. to a place they’ve set up for me to have the procedure done. They said it would be safer and less stressful to be somewhere away from everyone, all the craziness,” Stacy said.
Pastor Dan’s body seemed to tense up and he gripped his necklace a little tighter.
“And then, what?” he asked.
“To be honest, I’m not really sure. They haven’t really let me in on a lot of stuff,” she said.
“What are they going to do about that, thing?” he asked and pointed to her stomach.
“I don’t know,” she said.
Pastor Dan stood up and walked to the window that overlooked the large cross standing in front of the church. He sighed, hands clasped behind his back.
“I believe you are in grave danger, Stacy,” he said, still facing outside.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
He turned around, his face more serious now.
“There is no doubt in my mind that whatever is inside of you is of a demonic nature, a cruel trick by the devil. All of us are at risk now because of you. It needs to be vanquished,” he said.
Stacy looked down at her stomach and a part of her knew he was right; everyone was possibly in danger because of her. But, this creature, this child, depended on her. The thought of killing something so young and innocent did not sit well with her.
“Isn’t abortion wrong? Doesn’t God love all of his creations?” she asked.
His face cringed and he seemed conflicted by the question, but was quick to offer a rebuttal, like he had rehearsed this scenario by himself beforehand.
“That is no creation of God, Miss Lynn. That is a spawn of Hell!” he said and slammed his fist on the desk.
The commotion had caused the child to become restless, and Stacy felt it kicking and scratching at the walls of her stomach. She rubbed her hands in circular motions to calm it. Pastor Dan stared in silence, a look of horror and disgust plastered on his face.
“It hasn’t even had a chance yet,” she pleaded.
“Look at you, look how it’s poisoned your mind. I may have been wrong, it may be too late,” he said.
Tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. She needed to get away from this place, somewhere quiet and without judgment. Pastor Dan fixed his tie and smoothed his hair back into place.
“I think it’s time you left,” he said.
He ushered her through the door and waved to her mother.
“So long Debra, have a blessed day,” he said with a handsome smile and then closed himself in the office.
Stacy’s mother stashed the magazine she had been reading in her purse and greeted her daughter.
“What a blessing that man is,” Stacy’s mother said.
Stacy wiped away the tears from her face, but was unable to extinguish the redness in her eyes.
“What’s wrong, darlin? Did something happen in there?” her mother asked.
“No, momma, I’m fine. We talked about a lot of stuff, and I’m just emotional about it all,” Stacy said.
Her mother kissed her on the forehead, and they proceeded outside to the car where the agents in sunglasses were waiting to take them home. She was quiet during the ride, unable to articulate anything to her mother. The skies were grey, full of the coming precipitation. A haze lingered over the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance.
Stacy swore she saw a tall figure with a black cloak in her room every morning when she woke up. It sat on the rocking chair reading a tabloid, occasionally checking the watch on its bony wrist and sighing with displeasure when she was able to rise from bed. Her fits of vomiting and nausea had not ceased, and were not isolated to only mornings. Any moment of the day was now subject. The bright green substance discharged from her throat was now yellowish, and even more blood appeared than before from her coughing sessions.
On this morning, the toilet bowl contained what looked like a generous portion of split pea soup, and the toilet seat was splattered red. She made sure the bathroom fan was on to dampen the noise so her mother would not be concerned. The edge of the bathtub acted as a temporary pillow while she regained her energy to clean the mess before exiting. Some days she was unsure whether or not she could stand up from the floor of the bathroom at all. Her reflection in the mirror had been shocking at first, but now it seemed fitting. She grabbed her makeup from the counter and prepared for another checkup with Herbert and her gynecologist. It had only been a few months since all of it began, but it had felt like an eternity.
“Ready to go?” her mother asked as she entered the living room.
Stacy nodded weakly. Her mother helped her put a coat on and assisted her out to the car where their government escort awaited them. Solar radiation penetrated her eyes; the sky was a radiant blue, and only a few wisps of clouds floated through the sky on an early morning cruise. They drove toward the University where Herbert and his assistants had assembled a makeshift lab for their meetings with borrowed supplies from the medical department. It was a more secluded place to meet than the hospital. Most of the University’s horny co-ed population was mostly concerned with alcohol, drugs, and genitals. Couples exchanged oral fluids on the quad, and singles diagramed blueprints for optimal scoring success in their dormitories between study sessions.
“Are you sure this is gonna work, Chad?”
“Of course, bro. We’re destined for Pound Town tonight. Grab me another brewski from the mini fridge.”
White boards with numbers and symbols she had never seen before were scattered around the lab along with microscopes, test tubes, and a clutter of printed lab reports and scientific journals. Herbert and his assistants and Stacy’s gynecologist were sharing a laugh when they arrived.
“The cop asks Heisenberg: Do you know how fast you were going? And, Heisenberg replies: No, but I know where I am!” Herbert slapped his knee laughing. His assistants slapped their knees in agreement.
“That’s a good one, Herbert,” the gynecologist said and patted him on the shoulder before turning to greet Stacy.
Doctor Cooper hugged Stacy and her mother. They were grateful for everything she had done to help them, sometimes having to use vacation hours to make appointments. She had beautiful light brown chestnut skin, and Stacy often found herself envious of the doctor’s naturally curly hair, something Stacy always wished she had been blessed with.
“How are you feeling today?” Doctor Cooper asked.
“I’m fine,” Stacy said.
“Hopefully we can answer some more questions today,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
They hooked her up to a multitude of machines tracking brain wave activity, and vitals. Wires dangled from her body like she was some kind of robot. Various sizes of needles were stabbed into her body at various locations, extracting the dark red liquid within her veins. This kind of pain was no longer a burden to her. The scientists and doctor worked furiously during these sessions, scribbling copious notes on clipboards and in notebooks. Her mother sat next to her, focused on the screen of her cell phone, switching her focus between celebrity gossip and games with cute creatures and catchy theme songs.
“You’re doing great, Stacy. Everything looks norm—uh nothing has changed drastically from last time,” Doctor Cooper said.
“We are nearly finished, and then we shall discuss,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement from across the room.
They released her from the grasp of the machinery, a freeing feeling. Doctor Cooper rolled the sonogram equipment over to Stacy, but kept the screen turned away from her. She shivered when they applied the blue jelly substance on her stomach. The baby must have noticed it too as she could feel it moving around inside her. She rubbed her stomach and hummed, and it responded to her nurturing. Herbert and Doctor Cooper examined the screen, trying to decipher what they saw. Herbert hit the side of the screen, obviously frustrated with its contents.
“Seems as though it’s being stubborn on us again. I can never get a clear picture, always some sort of static disturbance,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
“From what I could tell, Professor, it definitely has grown in size,” Doctor Cooper said.
“I do believe the womb is probably near capacity now,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
“What does that mean?” Stacy asked.
“I will need to call our contact in Washington and wait for instructions. But, before I call we need to talk about whether you want to have it euthanized upon birth or not,” Herbert said. His assistants looked away feeling uncomfortable with the subject.
“Euthanize?” Stacy asked.
“It means to kill,” Herbert said.
“Oh,” Stacy said.
“That’s against what we believe, Professor,” her mother said.
“The only reason I bring it up is because there are unforeseen risks with both options. We can keep it alive, but that could be risky because we have no idea of its capabilities. Killing it still might be dangerous because we are uncertain of any biological defenses that might be triggered. The team in Washington thought Stacy should decide because she is the mother,” Herbert said.
“What will happen to it if I keep it alive?” Stacy asked.
“It will be put in an environment where we can safely observe and better understand it,” Herbert said.
“It’s just going to be treated like some kind of monster? But, that’s my child...” Stacy said.
“We want to try to educate ourselves as much as possible. These are very murky waters we are wading into,” Herbert said.
She felt the baby become restless inside her again, possibly reacting to her change in emotion. Her hands caressed it, forming a protective shield. Doctor Cooper kneeled down next to Stacy and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Whatever you decide, Stacy, we support. I’ll make sure to be by your side during the entire procedure either way,” Doctor Cooper said.
“There’s no way I could ever kill my child, no matter what it is,” Stacy said.
“I think you are making the right decision. We have so much to learn yet,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
Herbert and his assistants left to his office to make the phone call. Doctor Cooper gave Stacy and her mother a hug before exiting to return to the hospital. Alone, they sat in silence for a few moments. The hum of overworked computers and a few sporadic beeps mingled with their thoughts. Stacy looked over at her mother’s troubled expression. Their eyes met and her mother smiled, but it wasn’t like usual. Stacy recognized that smile. It was like the one she had often displayed during her father’s final days, pessimistic and uncomfortable. She stood up and reached out her hand for Stacy to grab.
“Everything is going to be all right. Let’s go find Professor Oak, and see what the plan is,” her mother said.
They boarded a private jet at a private military hangar outside of town. It had a sleek white body, shiny and expensive. As Stacy walked into the cabin, she noticed a familiar face in the cockpit.
“Randy??? What are you doing here?” Stacy asked.
Randy, the man with the headset from the television station, now with a much nicer headset, looked up from the flight instruments at her.
“Oh, it’s you. I had no idea that’s who we were picking up. I moonlight on the weekends. Gotta pay the bills and shit, ya know?” Randy said and sighed.
He pulled a pill bottle from his coat pocket, and tossed a couple blue ovals into his mouth.
“Buckle up,” he said.
The interior of the plane was lavish. All the seats were leather with drink holders and plug-ins for electronics. Herbert and his assistants planted themselves in front of the flat screen television, which was now playing the Discovery Channel. All three of them sat entranced by the antics of the MythBusters team, who were attempting to bust the myth of the death of a famous rock star from Seattle. Doctor Cooper and Stacy’s mother sat next to each other, and exchanged familial histories. A man in a tuxedo approached Stacy.
“I will be your flight attendant today, let me know if there is anything you need,” he said.
“Could I have some water, please?” Stacy asked.
“As you wish,” he said and glided to the bar in the back of the plane.
Once in the air, the drone of the plane’s engine guided Stacy to sleep. They landed a couple hours later, and upon awakening Stacy felt energy in her body that had been absent for months. She waddled down the steps of the plane. Randy without his headset had already exited before them and was smoking a cigarette by the front wheel of the plane.
“Have a good trip,” he said and waved goodbye.
They were escorted to a secure facility by a cavalry of black SUVs and police cars. It was a large concrete building and upon arrival she spotted men with large guns perched atop the roof. The operation room inside resembled Herbert’s lab at the university, except the equipment seemed more advanced, maybe even self-aware. A swarm of men and women in white lab coats scrambled around the room preparing for the biggest day in their careers. Herbert and his assistants consulted with the other scientists and Doctor Cooper consulted with the other doctors. Stacy’s mother watched behind a thick glass window while Stacy lay on a padded operating table, waiting. Her baby was more agitated and uneasy inside her than usual. She massaged her stomach and took deep breaths, but nothing calmed it. Herbert and his assistants approached her, trying to contain their excitement.
“All right, Stacy, we are almost ready. Now, we are going to use a general anesthetic to put you to sleep during the procedure. This will minimize the physical stress on your body,” Herbert said. His assistants nodded in agreement.
The operating table was rolled into position. Herbert placed a mask over her face and asked her to count backwards from one hundred.
“100...99...98...” then, nothing, only black.
The room was quiet when she awoke. She felt her stomach, which was now held together with large stitches. Upon sitting up she noticed most of the medical instruments were tipped on their sides. Some of the lights above were dangling from their fixtures, and what looked like blood was smeared and splattered across every wall and even the ceiling. A pair of broken glasses on the floor below her. Heaps of lifeless white lab coats around the room. The window where her mother had been watching from was missing, only jagged edges remaining. Stacy clasped her hands over her mouth.
“Momma! Momma, where are you?” she yelled.
Something nudged her elbow. She had never seen anything like it before. Skin smooth like metal. Black and dark blue tones reflected off its body. Claws yellow like sunflowers in the Tennessee summer. It climbed on to the operating table. Stacy was too enthralled to move while it approached her with caution. It nuzzled its head against her torso and curled up next to her leg making a sound similar to a cat’s purring. She looked into its eyes. They were hazel, like hers.
Eric Toennis is a Montana born writer that fled the Big Sky for the West Coast. He currently resides in Eugene, OR enjoying greener pastures. Eric spends his days writing fiction, essays, poetry, and contemplating the vast expanse of stars, planets, and galaxies above his head. He thinks sports are pretty neat too.
Cover art by Sydney Tuss