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The International Writers Magazine: World Without Children

Laura Anne Styles

When I was twenty five my boyfriend Harry had his drink spiked. To this day I have never seen someone so sick. At six foot three and thirteen stone I was terrified. He collapsed in the bathroom, his broad shoulders barring the door, my possibility of hope, behind us. I waited. I washed bowl after bowl, cloth after cloth of the acrid pink vomit from his beard and his chest. His beautiful face, the one I would spend the rest of my life admiring, was almost unrecognisable.

His eyes were like rolls of uncooked dough, his cheeks blanched of any colour, making his freckles stand out like perfect map markers on stark white parchment. His teeth were painted red from the bottle of Merlot we had shared, making them glow against his pale skin like a vampire’s. Moving him was impossible and I was only glad that he hadn’t fallen on his back as I doubted I could have prevented him from choking.

That night, in the effort of dragging him in to our home, I snapped the heel on my Prada shoes. It would be much later that I would learn that a higher price was to be paid.

Seven years later Harry and I married. Looking at his face as I tearfully choked ‘I do’ there were no marks to be seen of that horrendous night on the bathroom floor. He glowed with love and I found myself glad that I could prove my ability to care for someone so ill. As my mother-in-law told me at the time, ‘you will be an excellent mother.’

Harry and I wanted to make sure we had the perfect home before we began our family. I suppose that’s why I was a bride at thirty two when most of my friends were planning their second honeymoon. I had the joy of experiencing all of their wedding happiness before I planned my own, yet I had also been party to their woes. Carl, my best friend Hannah’s husband, called on the day of the wedding to say she couldn’t be my matron of honour. She’d had another miscarriage, her fifth in two years. The sadness marred the day as it was a grief shared by many we knew. Carl’s sister-in-law Amy had tried IVF for six years before accepting her belly and her bank account would remain barren.

Six months after the wedding Harry and I began trying for our child. Six months on and nothing. Each month the flowing red desperation came and washed another chance away. My barren friends and I still worked full time whilst the mothers met for coffee and baby yoga. I was told by the doctor to wait eighteen months before investigating. I felt myself swimming in so much life that I knew it must be me, my eggs were broken. I began to obsess: it was the joint I took at uni, the cigarettes I once smoked behind the bike shed, every carrot or pea I pushed round and round my plate as a child was to blame.

The day Harry was told he was infertile reminded me of the day on the bathroom floor. I found him sprawled across the cold damp linoleum crying until he wretched. But this was not the sweet rosy sick from before, this was putrid; this was death. The doctor confirmed he had been drugged with a combination of tranquilizer and hormonal blocker called inervamab, a drug supposedly still in laboratory trials. In a lethal quantity it killed his sperm within a matter of hours. He was made to recall that awful night that swung the scythe between us and our future children. Like many of our friends who chose not to report these incidents we were beside ourselves.

Three days later Hannah was told the same, then Amy. University friends, neighbours, childless couples on the train would stare into my blanched red eyes understanding, wrenching newspapers apart between desperate fingers. Headline one, in forty years from now the money for state pensions would have been exhausted. An aging population would end in poverty and deprivation if action wasn’t taken, was the next piece of evidence to hit the press. After eight years of constant denial from the government, a scientist broke free from their hold to tell the nation. Within twenty four hours of his confession he was shot, but it was too late.

His explanation was complicated, scientific, but the truth was there. He had been commissioned by four members of the cabinet to study the population and find common themes within the eugenics of those who contributed least to society and would then become a potential drain on resources. The uneducated, the criminal, the burdens carried along in life by those who were worthy. The Government had discovered this cultural acceptance of drink spiking, date rape being a crime commonly acknowledged. The police were persuaded to blame modern youth culture, those hired as Spikers were given a short period of work before they disappeared from the long arm of the law. Except that arm had replaced justice with a meat cleaver and sacrificed the innocent unborn for the sake of not having enough money for the ageing population. Who would notice a sprinkling of barren women, men with no swimming sperm, hey, they could always blame the mobile phone. (And did).

It was their haste that finally acted as the snare to the rabbit. Inervamab was leaked into the public through the very Spikers who were hired as henchmen and dispersed amongst the individuals who were traditional criminals. With no control over the widespread release of the drug they did what the corrupt do best, destroyed the evidence, flushed it away to never be discovered. Flushed in the water that flows through the very taps that provided the Government with refreshment. And the rest of the world.

Harry and I received a letter, most didn’t. We were identified as one of the mistakes from the period in time named the baby doom, what became the international grooming.

After all of this woe, we were one of the lucky ones. Harry and I have a nephew, just the one. It is his first year at school and he sits in a class of eight children. They are the future that the world waits anxiously to discover if our government’s error is over. The tests are non conclusive yet, but until they reach sexual maturity we shall wait with breath that is baited to discover if they are infertile too.

© Laura Anne Styles - November 2008

Laura is studying for her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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