by Cira Davis
Gloria hadn’t intended to kill the ten-month-old child. She had been feeding it a prune purée when she took a break to use the bathroom, leaving the baby strapped in his high chair. Upon her return, the boy had turned blue, unable to breathe. Panicking, she grabbed the baby, trying to save it. She didn’t know what to do. The child appeared to be suffering from an allergic reaction, but the mother hadn’t forewarned her. There was no medicine to help.
Gloria was about to call 911 when she felt the baby go limp in her arms. She saw its mouth fall open as its intense little eyes decayed into a vacant, lifeless stare. She dropped its body onto the table and heaved herself onto the tile floor, shaking in horror.
She could not call the police nor the Maddens. They would arrest her; this was all her fault. On her résumé she had lied about being “highly experienced, fully trained in first-aid and CPR.” She had never imagined actually being in a situation where she needed such knowledge.
Gloria contemplated how to escape punishment. She couldn’t run away—the cops would find her. What else could she do? She had only two days until the Maddens returned. She called her sister.
“Maggie, help me,” she whispered, trembling.
“Oh, hi, Gloria. What now?” Maggie snapped.
“Maggie, shh… I know it’s a bad time, but something awful happened and I can’t discuss it over the phone,” Gloria muttered worriedly.
“Okay… where should we meet?” Maggie answered with suspicion.
“Er, how about in front of the school on Rosewood in 15 minutes.”
* * *
Maggie wasn’t clever or intelligent, but she knew a lot of people as she was a hopeful actress continually involved in community theater and improv festivals. Maggie’s red Bug pulled up in front of the school.
“Oh, thank God! Follow me, quickly,” Gloria said, grabbing her sister’s wrist, pulling her toward the Maddens’ house.
“What’s going on?!” Maggie asked in a heavy Brooklyn accent, stumbling in her heels as she tried to keep up.
“I… I was babysitting…” Gloria began quietly, not wanting to be overheard, “…the baby stopped breathing!”
“What?! You killed a baby?!” Maggie gasped. “You have no business taking care of a child!”
“Keep it down!” Gloria warned as they climbed the stairs to the front door. “Look, Maggie, I have to pay rent. And it’s not like I’ve never babysat before. The first time the kid made it through the night intact.”
“This is only your second time?!” Maggie shrieked as they walked into the living room. “God, you’re such a mess. Really. Where is the poor thing?”
The house felt still and sad. Maggie followed Gloria to the kitchen.
“I just left it on the table. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to go to jail!” Gloria screamed.
“Oh, Gloria,” Maggie wailed when she saw the lifeless baby on the table.
“Before the Maddens left, the mother told me how her kid was a miracle. She said she won’t be able to have any more and that she’s so grateful for her little boy,” Gloria sobbed. “I just wish I could go back in time and bring the baby back to life.”
“Wait… that’s not a bad idea,” Maggie said matter-of-factly.
“Shut up,” Gloria replied, irritated.
“No, really. When I was in ‘The Crucifixion of Panko Submarine’, remember the guy who played Krinkle?” Maggie asked hopefully.
“Was that one of your plays? I didn’t see it.”
“Oh. Well, the bizarre guy who played Krinkle told me how he paid someone to bring his cat back to life.”
“Yeah, right. Wouldn’t that be the type of groundbreaking story you’d see on the news?” Gloria smirked.
“Well, maybe I misunderstood. But I can call him,” Maggie suggested. She left the room and came back five minutes later looking vindicated. Gloria glared at her.
“I’m not crazy!” she said, “Apparently, the cat guy lives on 4th Street, just a mile from here.”
* * *
They pulled up to the dilapidated house cautiously. Maggie got out first, Gloria tracing her steps while holding the baby wrapped in a towel. Maggie knocked four times very slowly per her friend’s instructions. A gaunt, olive-skinned man wearing a sweatshirt answered the door. He looked normal upon first glance, but that impression quickly faded. His eyes were perpetually darting around, like he was scanning for attackers, and he hunched his back awkwardly.
“What do you want?” he hissed, barely audible.
“We want to, er… resurrect a baby,” Gloria answered stupidly.
“I don’t resurrect… but I can make copies,” he said bluntly, gesturing for them to enter. Inside, they could see countless computers and machinery of unimaginable complexity.
“I will ask no questions. Just know that what I am doing is illegal. I will clone the child,” he explained, “Of course, when a clone is complete, it emerges as a newborn. This child is older, I presume.”
“Ten months,” Gloria replied, stupefied.
“Then an age accelerator will be necessary. Be forewarned, I have never done this before with a baby. Only cats and dogs; once a chimp. Also, understand that this baby will be like a twin of the previous one. It will not have the exact same mind, only body.”
“Whatever. That’s fine,” Gloria agreed impatiently, “How much will it cost? We need it by Monday.”
“Hmmmm. Rush charges.”
The man wrote an astronomical figure on a Post-it. Gloria nearly passed out.
“This is your life here,” Maggie commented.
“Deal,” Gloria whispered, shaking his hand.
* * *
There was nobody Amber Madden loved more than her ten-month-old son, Thomas. She couldn’t believe his first birthday was just around the corner. After endless attempts to conceive a child, including two miscarriages and so much emotional pain and self-doubt, Amber knew she cherished these moments with her little boy more than other mothers did. She had just vacationed in Hawaii with her husband but had missed Thomas terribly the entire time. She was relieved to be home, lying on the bed and playing with him.
“Here comes Mr. Dino!” Amber cooed as she teased Thomas with his favorite stuffed animal. He remained quiet, just looking at her. She tickled him with its soft tail, but he didn’t giggle or even smile.
Amber found this odd. Thomas was a playful baby. He always reached eagerly for Mr. Dino and loved to be tickled. But today he wasn’t engaged at all. Amber dismissed it, kissed his forehead and put him into his crib for a nap.
* * *
It was time for Thomas’s lunch. Amber wanted to make up for her absence by giving him his favorite snack, homemade peach pudding. She strapped Thomas into his high chair and showed him the pudding. As she lifted a heaping spoon to his mouth, the child jerked his head away in disgust.
“Thomas, you love peach pudding! Open up!” His mouth wouldn’t budge.
“Do you feel okay?” Amber said out loud. She took his temperature, but there was no fever. She felt that Thomas had been acting strangely all day, and worried it was because she’d been gone on vacation.
* * *
That evening, much to her dismay, Amber’s friend Janice came over with her pit bull in tow. When Thomas was only six months old, Amber took him to a party where the host had two Rottweilers. Thomas crawled over to their bowls and stirred their kibble, angering one of the dogs. The subsequent bite on his ankle required twelve stitches. Since the incident he had been petrified of dogs.
Amber carried Thomas around protectively, keeping him away from the pit bull, even though he didn’t look frightened. Eventually Amber sat Thomas onto the couch. The pit bull came over to smell him. Amber was about to intervene when she noticed he was intrigued by the dog. Thomas reached out to pet the pit bull’s nose. This was very unlike him. She became alarmed, grabbed Thomas and rushed to the back of the house, laying him down on her bed.
“What is wrong with you?” she asked. How could her baby have changed so much during her brief vacation? She hurriedly lifted his right leg and removed the sock. She ran her hand along the back of his ankle. Where there once was a thick scar, Amber felt only smooth, uninterrupted skin.
Cira Davis is currently a junior in high school and a WriteGirl mentee. She regularly contributes articles and comics to her school newspaper, and is looking forward to becoming Editor In Chief in her senior year. Aside from writing, her interests include computer science, graphic design, drawing, and calligraphy.