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In the stark examination room, I cradled Maxine. When I kissed her forehead, her bitty fingers grabbed my nose, and she giggled. My six-month-old miracle baby.
“There are worse things,” the doctor said.
I kissed her again. “I don’t think so.”
Penner Disease had come for my daughter. It was named for the scientist who’d found microbial evidence of the virus in Arctic glaciers. Cell by cell, it would destroy her, until she slipped away like the melting ice shelves that unearthed the pathogen in the first place.
But not before I loved her for 1,269 more days.
I spooned pureed vegetables into my almost four-year old’s mouth. “Swallow,” I said, wiping away the food that dripped from Maxine’s paralytic lips.
I changed her diapers.
“And I’m one of the lucky ones,” I murmured, repeating the empty words spoken to me at this month’s compulsory insemination. “Humanity’s hope.”
I rubbed ointment onto the lesions that bubbled on Maxine’s waist. She groaned, her face red, pained. I replaced her bandages.
Only eight percent of women on Earth can conceive. I was one of them.
I sipped the secret herbal potion that rendered me infertile, by choice.
My life. My choice. Humanity be damned.
With Maxine fed and cleaned, we went outside. Slumped sideways in her wheelchair, her eyes lit up as she watched the birds.
I lifted her frail hand to point at them. “Spread your wings, little darlings. Be free.”
Maxine’s icy hand nestled in mine remained motionless. Despite a cloudless sky, warm wet drops moistened our skin. It wouldn’t be long now. A mother knows.
This story previously appeared in 365 Tomorrows, 2020.
Edited by Marie Ginga
Andrea Goyan is a writer, painter, performer, and Pilates teacher. Winner of the 2021 Roswell Award for Science Fiction, some of Andrea's recent stories can be found in The Molotov Cocktail, Dear Leader Tales, Luna Station Quarterly (issue 043), 365 tomorrows, and The Dark Sire. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, a dog, and two cats. Follow her on Facebook @Andrea Goyan Storyteller or on Twitter at @AndreaGoyan or check out her Amazon author page