Friday, November 26, 2010

Fiction: A Plea from the Cradle By George Wilhite

Darkness falls and I am alone.

This metal tray not much longer than my body, and only a few inches deep, is the only home I know. There is a hole in the bottom where the fluids drain.

I am used to the dark and prefer it to the blinding light, and there has never been anything in-between here.

It must be hot “out there” because cold air is being pumped through the central air system. I am never comfortable here, in my metal cradle, it is always too hot or too cold. I shift about but my body cries out in pain.

I do not really communicate with my fathers. I have not acquired the necessary skills of speech, since I am all alone here most of the time, but my mind intuits much.

Most of what I intuit comes from listening to my fathers and those that visit them. I love my fathers, for they created me, but I intuit that most created ones have more rights.

The blinding light comes and I am with my father’s again.

Suddenly, many machines surround me and then I hear the familiar cacophony of all the blips and beeps of the equipment. When my father’s come, it is all light, noise and pain. The snake-like arms slither down from above, and the needles enter me again, filling me with all the fluids.

I intuit some of the fluids are what keep me alive, but I am not sure of the reason for the others. They often burn as they travel through my body and make me feel very sick.

I often scream when I am with my father’s because I do not know how to use their big words. I heard them telling one of their little people one day to use big words and I watched in envy as the little man made the father understand why he was screaming. I long for this, but all I can do is cry and scream.

Sometimes one or more of the fathers loses his “patience,” with me and will scream back at me, very angry. Patience is a word I do not intuit yet but I am working on it. I want to make them like me and not be mad. Then, maybe someday, I can leave the metal cradle.

Today I did not scream or squirm. I was good and the fathers smiled a lot.

Darkness falls and I am alone again.

Lying here, trying to sleep, I think of the little people again. The fathers let the little people run around freely and never stick them with needles or make them lie down in the metal cradle.

What have these little people done to earn the favour of the fathers? The only thing I can intuit is that perhaps speech makes them get along better. If I could learn to speak, to express all these thoughts in my head, maybe they would treat me like the little ones.

Another difference I have long ago intuited between me and the little ones is more basic—I don’t remember ever being little. I have only seen my own body a couple times in the glass, but I seem to be the size of the fathers, and I don’t remember ever being any smaller. This is hard to intuit.

The other day I heard one of them speak a word I had never heard before: “mother.”

The blinding light comes and I am with my father’s again.

Today does not go well at all. They do something to me for the first time and it is very painful and, though I know they will be displeased, I cannot control my response and I scream and scream. They become angry. It does not take long at all and they leave me much sooner than normal and then darkness falls.

And in that darkness, while I try to sleep, I remember the other day how another mystery of the little people arose, and I have still yet to intuit its meaning. This time, one of the little ones called a “girl” was in the room with us. She was running all over the place, having fun, screaming, but not that way I scream, in a way that I intuited as pleasurable since her screaming made the fathers smile and laugh.

The little ones, like the fathers and unlike me, wear clothes. On this particular day, the little girl lifted up her shirt and showed her naked stomach. “Look at my belly button!” she yelled at on the fathers, and then she called him a name I never heard before: “Daddy.”

“Yes, that’s your navel, honey.”

More new words. Navel. Daddy.

“That’s how your mother fed you before you were born.”

There is much to intuit here. All three new words somehow seem associated. Mother, Daddy, navel, also called belly button by the little one. Though I still do not intuit, I do know one thing. When the girl was so excited about the navel under her shirt, I looked down at my own belly and learned a truth about myself, another difference between me and the privileged little people. I have no navel.

Speech, a navel, a mother, and the meaning of Daddy are the keys.

The next day, the blinding light returns with the fathers, but only two of them this morning.

I have decided to use all my strength to try and attempt the big words today. I want to leave the steel cradle and be one of the little people, but I know I must first have a navel and intuit the words Mother and Daddy.

Mustering all my might and intuition, knowing it may be nothing more than screams and cries to the ears of the fathers, I make a desperate attempt to cross the boundary from screams to words.

The horror of it doesn’t strike me all at once, but very gradually, as I try again and again, each time more intently, until, by degrees, I intuit the latest in the long line of differences between me and the blessed little ones—I am mute.

In my mind, I scream at them all I want to say but cannot. How can you take this away? If I do not learn to speak I will never have a naval, never understand “Daddy,” never make you favour me as you do them! I cannot intuit this latest cruelty! Why have you done this?

I hear the two fathers speaking, though their words are far beyond anything I can intuit, especially in my current state of terror and hopelessness.

“Obviously, the procedure is a success, but it’s not going to help matters if he struggles like this.”

“I tried to tell all of you. It isn’t going to help to just sever the vocal cords. It’s not just that he’s screaming from some primal response to pain. There is something behind this struggling.”

“I know. I know. You’re right, of course. Have been all along. They told us the Deltas would be different, but they were wrong. They still haven’t figured out how to create vegetables instead of humans. No matter what we do, the damn things develop a consciousness.”

Darkness falls again and I am alone.

I have no navel.

I need to speak, or at least to scream, but I am mute.

I will never be one of the little blessed ones.

All I want is to speak one time and tell the fathers to please, please I beg you, make this steel cradle a coffin instead. Please make the next blinding light my last.

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