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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

The Art of Reproduction

Meagan Noel Hart is a chocoholic, pet-loving, video-game-playing mom who currently lives in Baltimore with her two kids, five pets, and husband. She's been following her crazy imagination into stories as long as she can remember and has rarely regretted it. What compels her are stories that offer unusual insights into the everyday world, regardless of genre. Most of her writing features flash fiction and short stories, but there is the occasional poem or essay.

You can find some of her more recent work in Dread Naught But Time, Writings to Stem Your Existential Dread, Mothers Always Write, The Corvus Review, Unusual Pet Tales, East Jasmine Review, and 72 Hours of Insanity, Volume 3. Her three collections of fiction include Twisted Together, Whispers & Fangs, and A Short Stack of Silly Shorts for the Morally Sidetracked. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore and teaches English and Creative Writing at Stevenson University under her married name. Feel free to stalk her on twitter @mnhart.

Your legs lay on the table. One dark as soil. The other light as sand. They're both complete sets, feet still attached. A rarity, even if there are only eight toes. Two little piggies will need to be deleted from that nursery rhyme.
I lift your torso from the special delivery box. It's biologically male, but that's merely an aesthetic. It's second hand, like all your parts, but well cared for.
I hoist it to my hip. It's weighty, already preloaded with the needed organs, but not a burden.
A person's first torso should be small enough to carry, but not strong enough to support more than crawling. Newborns get into trouble if their bodies are capable of more than they understand. Our foreparents learned that the hard way. There's no skipping the dependent stages of childhood. Yet, sizing up is hard on young bodies, so these parts will need to last two years.
I squeeze your torso closer. Once my labor is over, you'll embrace me back, and I tingle with anticipation.
Next, the arms. The seller lived fifty minutes from the city, but the price was worth the drive. They're thin, and bruised, and the hands fell off ages ago, but that's normal. I got lucky with your feet, you see.
I found free hands anyway. Listed online. I bend each finger, testing the joints, all ten delicate fingers, perfect. The seller had handed them to me as though they'd break apart if let go too soon. I spied a box of toys at the end of the hall, but the house was silent. They dropped your hands into mine as if it hurt.
Their child wasn't sizing up.
Is it bad luck to use pieces from a child that fell apart? I kiss the tiny knuckles. I won't humor the thought further.
By my will alone, you will not come undone.
In a few short years, you'll have my old hands anyway. The ones I used to feed myself, to cling to my parents, to learn to draw, to create. I know it's selfish, keeping such a useful body part so long for sentiment alone, but it wasn't just for me. It was for you. So that you may have something of me. The only thing I ever had of my parents is the heart that beats in me now. When I'm done with this world, you'll have that as well.
What is eternity anyway, but an endless hospital stay?
I found you the most beautiful eyes. One still looks cloudy, typical. But the other? Green as springtime.
You'll only have one ear, but no one will notice with those eyes, and the hearing is still functional.
Overall it's a good head, a well put together face, the sloppy stitching around the nose aside.
Now, to put it all together.
Every stitch is careful, connecting the veins. The parts that will learn to speak to each other, but not to grow. Not to change.
My heart aches more now that you're nearly here, and I am reminded of the pain and loneliness our ancestors must have endured when they learned they could no longer grow children naturally. The millions who died thinking the world would be barren of a child's laugh.
My labor is long and lonely. I've no partner as recommended. We've learned there was a reason for the biological insistence of two. For living in families and communities. It makes things easier. Still, even with a single parent, you'll have no shortage of love.
The blood tank is warm, nearly ready. To think, the DNA within used to matter. The whole idea is absurd. Like growing an entire child in a womb. Eggs. Sperm. Fairy Tales that once were true.
I open the chest to check the heart, never trusting a packaged deal. It's strong.
Soon it will beat.
First, your brain. This I splurged on. Not for freshness, or perceived intelligence. Such claims are scams. You need a dead enough brain. One that hasn't deteriorated, but was left alone just enough to erase its previous life. This is the one thing you will have your entire life. It will contain you. Make you so.
And there will be no fragmented memories for you as there are for me.
A faulty brain is no good. A faulty brain can make memory feel like realtime. Can bring me back to sitting on my parents' operating table, I can even feel the metal cold against my thighs. I tell my Parent I don't need the epidural. "The nerves are dead in that leg, member?"
They won't oblige. The new nerves work, and reattachment hurts.
I force myself back to you.
Your brain fits snug. The more advanced, not yet necessary portions, are stored elsewhere. I'll add them once you have a bigger skull. A bigger one now would strain your neck.
I suture your scalp. Pump in your fluids.
It is time.
The machines whir to life, electricity sparking.
I've always criticized this next bit as ritual superstition, but now that you're put together before me, I'm unwilling to risk skipping it. So, I call, "Soul! Hear me. If you are recycled, may you be worthy, and welcome the security of being tethered again. If you are new, please find safe harbor here. I will guide you."
I apply the shock to your body once, twice, three times.
And wait.
Your lids open. The green eye first, then the second.
A moment of terror rushes me before you gasp, ragged and wet.
The first breath of air hurts, and you wail. I scoop you into my arms, and hold you, soothe you, love you. Love you more than I imagined I could love anything in this entire world.
You quiet, reach your small hand to my face. You're heavier put together. I can feel your newness. The weight of your trust. Your innocence. Your potential. Your love.
I know that this--
This is why we live on.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, April 5th, 2019

Author Comments

2018 was the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstien; or, The Modern Prometheus, and the world celebrated with Frankenreads events. In honor of this, I had assigned my students to write a story inspired my Shelley's masterpiece, and in turn, they challenged me to do the same. The question I asked myself was, "What if what Frankenstein did was normal? Not only normal, but what if it was necessary?" What would such a world look like? How would we reproduce? Often people speak of Frankenstein's creature as though he was a child abandoned, so it was an easy step to considering a parent-child relationship between creator and creature. However my husband and I often joke about how we "made" our kids as well. So, this is where the idea started, but as I wrote my narrator, it became clearer how, despite how unusual this birth was, it was still a birth. The parent would have just as much invested, if not more. In this sense, the driving force behind "The Art of Reproduction" shifted from its morose and unusual nature, to how tender and meaningful the act was. Or to put it another way, what fascinates me about this narrator's process is not how different it is, but how familiar.

- Meagan Noel Hart
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