Children of Earth – Alex
Walking through the containment units, Xilam was struck by the the small stature of the children. She did not have much experience with children, though she had seen them in avatar forms and on old screens. Up close and personal, the effect was striking. She felt as if she were looming over them. “They are very small,” she said, seeing Balam was already acknowleding the thought.
“Perhaps they will be afraid of my size,” he said.
Raising a brow, she glanced at him expecting more. “Not that it matters,” he continued, self-conscious now. “We want them to be comfortable. I’m thinking about the project.”
The children slept. Each had his or her own containment unit and would remain inside until their journey was over and taken into their new home and school. Xilam lingered in front of Alex’s containment unit for a time before she felt Balam behind her.
“Why such interest in this one?”
She shot a glance back at him, softened her smile. “I think he will be number one Balam. Did you see his neural recordings?” She nodded, looking back at the boy. “He has responded well to your therapy and I think he will adapt quickly.”
“I did not see the recordings. I’ll look at them.” She felt his hand on her lower back. He bent over toward her, “You have three peks and we will be home. Get yourself ready to play mother.” That last part sounded as if he had just thrown it in, with a hint of resentment.
He had begun to turn away, but she grabbed his hand. “Balam,” he meant to pull away, but she continued to hold on. “Balam please. I am sorry. You know how I feel.”
He stopped and turned back to her, shoulders slumped, looking at the floor. She let go of his hand, but stepped closer to him. “You know how I feel!” she hissed.
Glancing up briefly at her, eyes wide, she knew he felt lost on this issue. He wanted a child. She did not. They were best companions for two katuns. They knew each other, better than any other. But this was a problem that felt insurmountable.
The lottery was held once every Katun and they could apply to have a child and knew they would win, because it was so rare anyone wanted to anymore. Their genetic structures would be combined and a child would be created sharing both of their traits. But Balam wanted her to bear the child. The old way. To destroy her body and allow a parasitic relationship to develop.
She understood some people felt this was a natural process, and would wax sentimental about it, but it did not look or feel natural to her. She did not want another creature feeding from her body and the idea that Balam would want this caused her some distress.
She softened. “Balam, dear. Please, give me more time. I know we can come to a compromise. An understanding.” She stepped back, took hold of his large hand with both of hers and held it to her lips. “Oh Balam, I would not know what to do without you. We have become part of one another.”
He moved closer to her, “Yes, you are part of me. We need to come to an understanding soon Xilam. I do not want to live without you. I think this is something you see.”
She could see it, but she also knew that if she held out for too long without coming to some kind of a compromise, he would find another mate and she would be forced to find a new one that she had to get to know all over again.
She nodded. “You have my true self Balam. We will talk more about this soon.”
Satisfied, he put his forehead to hers for a moment and then turned away. “You do not have long, before we are at the gate. I will check on you when we get through it.”
When Balam had left, she returned her attention to Alex, attempting to access his neural oscillations with her own. She put her hand on the front of the containment unit, soon she had her forehead up against the transglass, moving herself into him. Slowly, slowly, she could feel the connection.
Even at the young age of six, Alex questioned why humans were grounded to the terrestrial sphere. Someone told him he could not go into space and the questions and answers that followed the initial statement convinced the child there was an inherent flaw in humans causing these limitations.
After realizing humans had been in space, but had not set up outposts on neighboring planets, or sent an expedition to explore the outer limits of the galaxy, he became further convinced that this was evidence of an inherent human flaw.
Unlike other boys his age, he had only one friend and worried his parents incessantly with his growing obsession for answers on the state of humanity. In the healthy world of modern-day America such questions from a child only raised eyebrows and caused concern. His parents took him to a local physician and when his physical condition was pronounced normal, they took him to a psychologist.
“We can’t have you talking like this,” explained his mother. “Not at this age.”
At what age it was okay to talk like this was never really established. There wasn’t a line drawn in the sand that told him when it was time to start thinking seriously about the state of humanity. Even most adults didn’t talk about such things. According to his mother, it wasn’t pleasant conversation and made one think too much. That’s why humans had gods to pray to.
Despite their concern for him, parents and professionals missed an important element that drove Alex. He constantly thought about how time spun incessantly toward the destruction of all things in the universe. He saw evidence of it everywhere and did his best to conserve whatever time he could, going so far as to make up lost time.
He hid his fixation by becoming an efficiency expert: timing chores, attempting to do whatever task assigned to him as quickly as possible, sometimes squeezing two tasks into one. Whenever he took his washables to the laundry room, he also grabbed the small, plastic garbage bag from his bedroom waste basket, dropping it in the kitchen garbage on the way, shaving two minutes of wasted time from his day. Tennis shoes previously tied, became Velcro-fastened sneakers and saved him one minute and forty-five seconds.
Xilam broke the connection, shoving herself away from the unit. She felt herself go out to the small figure, wanting to offer herself, her comfort, to let him know he was going to be alright. She grabbed the side of another containment unit in an effort to steady herself and realized that she had been sobbing.
She sat on the floor, holding the pain of the child into herself.
What seemed like moments later, Xilam was lifted from the floor. Balam whispered to her, “It’s okay. You should not have made the connection yet. You should have waited for me.”
She grabbed hold of him, “Oh Balam, please look at him. Please go read him and you’ll know. The pain is terrible…”
Balam carried her, whispering. “Yes. Later. Right now, you need to rest. You need to be away.”