The Amazing Instant Infant
“Customize your child!” The man on the screen announced excitedly.
Dawna and Phil turned to the sound. They were a typical couple. She came from a Korean family. He was Nigerian, Phil Obasi was his full name. They’d been married for five years. They lived at 23 Cherry Tree, the street name and number of a tiny square of dirt, but, as Phil liked to say, it was all theirs and if you considered that their ring of land went straight through the earth, the sixteenth of an acre stretched into a thousand miles.
The commercial sputtered the entertainment wall to life. To be precise, it didn’t truly sputter. That was a verb for early TVs in the ’50s, and the Obasis lived over a hundred years later. The two of them gaped at the shining advertisement like sparrows trapped under the gaze of a cobra.
“With new technologies,” the man continued, “we build your bespoke baby in the facility and ship from our nearest warehouse. Delivery is within two business days, and let me tell you, it’s a much more painless process than before. From the moment you click submit to the doorbell ringing is no time at all.”
Dawna looked skeptical. “How can they be ready that fast?”
Phil would know the answer. He was a scientist and always read up about this type of thing.
“Developments in cellular replication applied to human genetics reduce the time to produce a fetus exponentially.”
“And faster cell growth doesn’t lead to more diseases?” Dawna asked.
As if in response to her question, the man on the screen said, “Don’t worry about getting a bad one—we have excellent quality control.”
“How many attempts do they discard before they get it right?” Dawna asked.
“They’re not human yet,” Phil said.
“And when do they start being human?”
“When you name them.”
“60 days to return, no questions asked!” the man said cheerfully.
The couple looked at each other. They were impulse buyers—just last year Phil had bought a new house, an easy-up model, shipped and assembled in twenty-four hours.
They both wanted a child, but a biological complication made it impossible. They both agreed with adoption in theory, but they’d never finished the discussion.
“Painful births are a thing of the past. You keep your body youthful longer and your husband doesn’t have to worry about the dangers of childbirth to his lovely wife,” the man continued.
“Okay, I’m not saying we’re doing this,” Phil began, and Dawna knew it was already happening, “but if we did...what ethnicity would we get?”
“I think a little brown baby would be cute,” Dawna smiled, imagining her very own child. “Should we do it?” She wondered aloud.
“We’re not getting any younger,” Phil said.
“Let’s just look,” Dawna picked up her tablet, and with the same forethought as choosing a toilet paper brand, began to select features on the baby.
Eyes: Blue, Brown, Green
“They only have three colors available in the standard one. I guess you pay more for rarer colors. Which one do you want?” Dawna asked.
“Trick question. I know you’ve always loved blue.”
“Blue it is,” she smiled, clicking the radio button.
They went through all the options until they had the baby they had always dreamed of.
“Ready?” She said, her finger hovering over the “submit” button.
Phil squeezed her hand. They were going to be parents. Tomorrow.
They stood at the door, waiting for the package to arrive.
The last twenty-four hours had been a flurry of activity, full of shopping and preparing. Dawna had watched so many unboxing videos online, her anticipation was at a peak.
Something darkened their window. Dawna wrenched the door open. She jumped at the postman and scribbled her signature fast enough to start a fire.
Being very careful, they lifted the perforated cardboard onto the table. They each took a flap and opened the box together.
A wonderful baby girl cooed gently.
“Dawna, you selected the right skin color?”
She already had the pale beauty in her arms.
“Guess I clicked the wrong thing.”
“That’s all right. It comes with a return label,” Phil said as he searched the box.
“What will they do with her?”
“I suppose they’ll give it to another family.”
“They’re going to give a tailor-made baby to another family?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they’ll destroy it. Or raise it to work. They do practical things with the discards.”
“Don’t call them that.”
“Don’t get mad at me for their word.”
“I don't believe they’re creating people for slave labor.”
“The alternative is us working. Come on, Dawna, we have to send it back.”
Rocking the baby gently, she watched as the precious eyelids closed in sleep. She turned strong, resolute, a true mother.
“Kyla is not going anywhere.”
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