by Paolo Bacigalupi
Readouts glow blue on driplines where they burrow into Maya Ong's spine. She lies on the
birthing table, her dark eyes focused on her husband while I sit on a stool between her legs and
wait for her baby.
There are two halves of Maya. Above the blue natal sheet, she holds her husband's hand and sips
water and smiles tiredly at his encouragement. Below it, hidden from view and hidden from
sensation by steady surges of Sifusoft, her body lies nude, her legs strapped into birthing stirrups.
Purnate hits her belly in rhythmic bursts, pressing the fetus down her birth canal, and toward my
I wonder if God forgives me for my part in her prenatal care. Forgives me for encouraging the
full course of treatment.
I touch my belt remote and thumb up another 50ml of Purnate. The readouts flicker and display
the new dose as it hisses into Maya's spine and works its way around to her womb. Maya inhales
sharply, then lies back and relaxes, breathing deeply as I muffle her pain response in swaddling
layers of Sifusoft. Ghostly data flickers and scrolls at the perimeter of my vision: heart rate,
blood pressure, oxygenation, fetal heart rate, all piped directly to my optic nerve by my
Maya cranes her neck around to see me. "Dr. Mendoza? Lily?" Her words slur under the drugs,
come out slow and dreamy.
"I can feel it kicking."
My neck prickles. I force a smile "They're natal phantasms. Illusions generated by the gestation
"No." Maya shakes her head, emphatic. "I feel it. It's kicking." She touches her belly. "I feel it
I come around the natal sheet and touch her hand. "It's all right, Maya. Let's just relax. I'll see
what we can do to keep you comfortable."