Still washed

by | May 16, 2011 | Fiction, Flash fiction | 10 comments

Another week, another story. I hope you’ll let me know what you think.

Still Washed

By Laura McHale Holland

Sam and Sharon hustle down the boulevard in their electric car. He is driving, tapping his fingers on the wheel to the beat of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” playing on the oldies station. Sharon looks out the window at the median, its palms, poppies and daisies meticulously maintained. This she appreciates.

They stop at a red light. Sharon is soothed by this routine switch from green to yellow to red, even though there is no need for traffic control. Rarely do more than four cars zoom along the boulevard at any given time. She is bolstered by the lore about the elders, who put aside their differences, dismissed their PR firms and lobbyists and figured out how to maintain a semblance of normalcy back in 2020, when people were rioting throughout the world because no human baby had been born alive since 2015.

That was almost three decades ago. She and Sam were among the last born. They speed past sparkling high rises, once bustling with life, now empty, but still washed, lit up and manicured for a future everyone hopes will come. The hospital is four blocks away. Sharon’s pains are three minutes apart. The obstetrician awaits.

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  1. Jerry Kohut

    I feel sorry for the new born, nobody will be paying into his social secutity. Think we will need stop lights, we will be able to program our cars into the big computer.

  2. Deborah Taylor-French

    Shades of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Atwood? I like it. I wonder if after five years of zero successful live births, would any doctor specialize? Or if so, perhaps there would be a new medical license for pregnancy?

  3. admin

    Thanks for your comment, Deborah. It’s been more than five years; it’s been almost 30 years since a child was born alive in this story’s world. As I see this scenario, women have gotten pregnant and either miscarried or given birth to stillborn children. Couples continue to try to have children though. Obstetricians are among the group of people who are trying to solve the problem. I don’t know if, once Sharon and Sam’s child is born, whether it will follow the horrible pattern and not be able to take a breath, or whether it will break the mold. That’s something I’d have to find out were I to continue the tale.

  4. admin

    Ah, Jerry. Your sense of humor shines through again. :o) … I do see a lot of things in the world of this story being automated because the population is shrinking and aging, but they want to keep things functioning as normally as possible in this desperate situation.

  5. Deborah Taylor-French

    Oops! Missed the three decades, & subtracted 2015 from 2020, oh what lack of sleep can do.
    Yes, doctors, universities and governments would be searching for solutions. Having been through the doctoring route for infertility, I have much too personal experience of the “specialists” (they weren’t obstetricians). Also I remember the horrible “cures” still practiced. Friends having five miscarriages. I get the shivers just thinking of all couples go through to have a baby. And the price paid in dozens of ways, the health damage, still births, divorces, adoption struggles, year after year sorrow and disappointment…

  6. admin

    Deborah, all that you’ve mentioned is so striking and heartbreaking. I was focused more on how terrifying it would be to be in a world where people were dying but nobody was being born and what it would be like to be alive at a time when you might be one of the very last people to walk the earth. The collective heartbreak would be suffocating, but I see there is still the very personal level of pain and sorrow that goes along with not being able to have a child when you want to be a parent more than anything.

  7. Deborah Taylor-French

    Thank you Laura for your reply. I understand your POV as a writer. And as an educator and administrator in mental health I share your concern and more.

    A futurist worry is the alarming rise of autism. Now 1 in 100 born on the
    spectrum. I heard a NPR interview stating that there are no health or educational systems in place to help families, schools and society cope with the steep rise. I think before there are no more human live births, a wave of environmental damage has already hit, and rising.

  8. Lysle

    Puts a whole new slant on abortion…….a new world where every child is precious and desperately wanted no matter what…..price above rubies….Yes Novella here…

  9. admin

    Yes, indeed, it does. If I were to develop the story, I imagine some characters would have deep feelings to express about abortion.

  10. admin

    Deborah, that is indeed sad and troubling. I agree a wave of environmental damage has already hit and is rising, and the fact that we don’t know what we collectively have wrought is wearing on us all. Let’s hope it doesn’t, in fact, lead to a situation like the one in my story.

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