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April 7th, 2007, 03:50 AM
The following is a dystopian scifi piece exploring the theme of overpopulation. Please comment, and I'd like to know if you think it's good enough to be 'submitable' to an online short story place/magazine etc. I don't think it is, so I'd like it if you could point out any errors etc.

Willa the Savior?

Willa Byrne had prayed that she would not have to deliver Mina Warren’s baby twins. She winced when she received the day’s schedule on her computer. The screen read:

1030 - Delivery Room 64A

Dual Delivery - Mina Warren

Willa flicked the glowing screen closed. She found a chair and sat. Mina had been a close friend of hers since her school days. Willa could not bear to think what she would feel like when the time came to perform the procedure. It was unavoidable. She was obliged to act in compliance with the Family Standardization Act of 2055. The act was a euphemism for a much older practice adopted in the twentieth century, the one-child policy.

Willa always felt sick when she had to euthanize unauthorized babies. She was entitled to lie to the patients under the Act. Most excuses were sufficient. Willa was required to diversify the range of conditions which supposedly afflicted the babies, to avoid arousing suspicion. None of her patients really knew what was going on, but if too many started congregating the secret might get out. There were preventative measures taken to cover up the euthanizing program, but precautions still had to be taken. All it took was one injection of any time-delayed agent, and the baby would be dead within a specified time.

As Willa walked into Delivery Room 64A at 1030, Mina lay there grunting in exertion. Willa assisted with the delivery, which was a remarkable success. The babies were a pair of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl named Dylan and Lucy. After the umbilical was cut and the babies were cleaned up, Willa put them into a scanning cubicle and sent the nurses out of the room.

‘My God!’ Mina cried out in surprise. ‘I didn’t even see you here, Willa!’

‘I do work in this hospital,’ she said, smiling with an effort.

Willa walked around the scanning cubicle as laser lights crossed over the two infants.

‘I’m just scanning them for any undetected conditions,’ Willa said. ‘They’re really beautiful, Mina. Where’s Rick?’

‘Out in the corridor I think.’

Suddenly the door burst open and a young man walked in. He was wearing a brown jacket and blue jeans.

‘Willa! What a surprise to see you here,’ he said.

‘Hi, Rick.’

Willa walked back around the scanner so that her back was facing the married couple. She felt like running away but there were cameras in this hospital. She would be caught and punished. It took a few seconds for her to formulate a convincing story. All she had to do was throw in a few technical words and it might as well have been the word of God.

Willa pretended to inhale in surprise. ‘Dylan’s pancreatic duct is blocked. His enzymes can’t reach the duodenum.’ Willa turned to face Mina and Rick with a look of grave concern on her face.

‘What’s that, Willa? Is something wrong?’ Rick asked.

Willa gulped. ‘Dylan can’t digest food properly unless his pancreatic duct is clear. He can’t eat.’

Mina went silent.

‘You can… unblock it, can’t you?’ Rick said shakily.

Willa smiled again. The muscles in her face didn’t want to budge. ‘It’s just a simple patch and the blocked duct should be cleared of plaque.’

Willa brought out a stamp-like ‘patch’. It had a small square on the bottom with tiny metal protrusions. These painlessly delivered the undetectable E5 poison, the most commonly used euthanizing agent, into the bloodstream. Willa’s hand hovered in the air with the patch. She felt a tear and quickly wiped it against her free arm. She looked down at Dylan. He was crying with his eyes screwed up. Willa silently cried with him. The other deaths had taken their toll on her, but euthanizing this baby, Mina’s baby, was like killing a part of herself. She felt anger at the guilt and pain she had to endure in performing her duty. Willa forced these thoughts out of her mind and in a moment of madness brought the patch down on Dylan’s chest. Tiny metallic barbs pierced his skin on the microscopic level, administering the E5.

Willa did not return to the hospital for a week. She stayed in her apartment and did not talk to anyone. She sat and gazed out across the claustrophobic, overcrowded city below. She had tried to convince herself that what she had done was right. She knew it had to be done, but she still felt sick to her stomach at what she had committed.

A soft voice penetrated the apartment: ‘Someone to see you, Willa. Visitors identified as…’ there was a brief pause as the computer system searched the census databank, ‘Mina Warren and Rick Warren.’

Willa did not dare move, in fear of alerting Mina and Rick to her presence. She continued to stare out the windows at the squalor below.

‘Willa? Are you in there? Open up!’ Rick called out through the door. ‘You haven’t been at the hospital for a week. We need to talk to you!’

Willa waited. She hoped Mina and Rick would leave.

‘Willa, we know you’re in there. Please let us in.’ This time Mina spoke. Her soft voice sounded innocent - unaware of the murder of her baby.

Reluctantly Willa spoke to the computer.

‘Allow the visitors to enter.’

The grey door slid upwards and Mina and Rick came in quickly. They walked around and stood in front of the white couch Willa was sitting on. Mina was cradling Lucy in her arms.

‘Willa, you can’t go on like this. I love you, and I loved Dylan, but we have to move on. You can’t play God, Willa. Sometimes things happen that are out of our control.’ Mina’s voice was calm, but Willa noticed how exhausted she looked.

‘Don’t agonize over Dylan, Willa. As soon as Lucy is old enough, we’ll tell her about how she had a brother once.’ As Rick spoke he patted Lucy on the head.

Willa could not stand this anymore. She had tried to suppress the guilt eating at her, but it was impossible. She collapsed on the couch. Tears streamed out of her eyes and she had to take deep sniffling breaths to keep her mucus from dripping out.

Mina looked concerned. She had accepted Dylan’s death fairly quickly. She could not understand why Willa was tormenting herself.

‘Willa - I don’t understand.’

She couldn’t stop herself. She wanted her guilt to be relieved. She didn’t deserve this horrible burden. ‘I did it, Mina. I killed Dylan.’ She was a writhing heap on the couch.

‘It wasn’t your fault! Pull yourself together!’ Mina yelled angrily. ‘We don’t sit around wallowing, and we were his parents!’

‘Mina, the injection I gave him was E5 poison. I poisoned him to death! I lied about the pancreatic duct!’

Mina took a few steps back and Rick stood behind her looking intently at Willa.

‘You killed my baby!’ Mina screamed, holding Lucy as if she were defending her from Willa.

‘Willa, what the hell are you talking about? What do you mean you poisoned him?’ Rick spoke meekly, disbelieving Willa’s confession.

Willa held nothing back. She didn’t want to. She needed to tell someone or the guilt would be unbearable.

‘The Family Standardization Act, you’re familiar with it?’

‘Yes, the one-child policy. What’s that got… oh my-’

‘They make us do it, Rick - I had no choice.’

‘Of course you had a choice, Willa! Don’t give me that.’

‘Look out the window, Rick. Look at the city. Look at the people, crawling over each other trying to survive. We can’t go on breeding like rabbits. Something had to be done. Someone had to do it.’

‘The Standardization Act didn’t authorize murder!’

‘Article 4 was withheld from the public. “If the FSA is breached necessary measures are to be taken enforce it.” What I did was required by law.’

‘But I’ve seen multiple-child families on the television and in the city, living normal lives! Why couldn’t we do the same?’

‘It’s fake, Rick. There is only one survivor in any multiple-child birth. If the truth got out, the consequences would be disastrous.’

Rick was silent for a moment. He stared directly into Willa’s eyes.

‘How many babies, Willa?’

‘I don’t-’


‘I don’t count! Fifty… maybe more. Listen to me: if I didn’t comply I would have been executed for treason.’

Mina wailed, ‘How could you, Willa? Fifty innocent babies’ blood is now on your hands!’

‘Not my hands, Mina, the government’s. I’m telling you this because I can’t take it. I needed someone to talk to. I am being eaten alive by the guilt, just because I’m serving my country.’

‘As well you should be! Willa, you are a murderer! I won’t let you blame this on anyone else. You had a choice and you chose to be a killer. Have you read about the Nurnberg Trials, Willa? Hitler’s subordinates pleaded that they were under his orders, but their defense was ruled invalid, exactly like yours. Don’t blame this on the government. How can you hold your head up? After what you’ve done…’

Willa was suddenly angry. She had confided in Mina and Rick because she had to. To kill those babies, and then even Mina’s baby, Dylan… she needed someone to talk to. They were hypocrites. Willa was the savior. And they couldn’t even allow her the relief of confessing to what she needed to do for the good of everyone. Her work was crucial. Willa stood up and felt Rick’s sharp breath.

‘You don’t see the bigger picture, do you?’ she screamed into Rick’s face. ‘You and Mina, you are the ones silently killing us. We cannot live like this,’ she said, gesturing towards the squalid city below, ‘and it’s the people like you who keep on breeding and don’t stop, no matter how many times you are warned, that make the poor live a little worse. The famished lose a little more food. You don’t give a damn about the consequences of your actions. You don’t give a damn about the people down in that city living in poverty - living in disease. You are starving this world, and your kind will bring about the downfall of humanity. You aren’t killing fifty, not even a hundred people. You are killing millions of people and I don’t care about your Dylan. There are people on this planet already alive that will never have enough to eat, and if I can get rid of just one mouth competing with them for food, I’ve done this world a service. I have helped save an innocent, deserving life.

‘Someone has to carry out the euthanasia, and I don’t want to do it, but I have to do it. I know it’s necessary, but I’m not a monster. I still feel horrible for doing what I’ve had to do. For you to have the nerve to tell me that I’m a murderer… I am like a soldier. I have to do horrible things, but my acts will eventually culminate in a better world. You will never understand that. And even when I try to confide in you, to relieve the burden of guilt which should be placed on your shoulders, not mine, you deny me this.’

Willa stopped speaking abruptly, and stared out the window. Mina was sobbing softly into Rick’s shoulder.

‘No, Willa,’ Rick said in a softer voice, ‘there are some things which are just not done. Not for the economy, not even in the face of poverty. To kill a child, to kill a baby, is a sin. I don’t need to punish you - no one needs to punish you, Willa. What you did to all those babies you will live with until your dying breath. And as much as you try to convince yourself that you are a savior, you will always know deep down that you are a fiend, a sick twisted fiend. You will never escape what you did. Your actions will haunt you and you won’t ever find release. The images will be trapped inside you, torturing you, punishing you for what you did to those babies… to Dylan.’

Rick embraced Mina and Lucy, and led them out of Willa’s apartment without looking back. When the door slid shut, Willa lay back on the couch. She stared up at the ceiling. She saw the squirming bodies struggling for breath, the tiny chests stop moving. She heard the cries… and she knew Rick was right.

April 7th, 2007, 04:47 PM
Really promising start!

One thing... it's Nuremberg Trials

As for the rest, I think the story is a good one. The beginning is great, but I feel the ending is a little too rushed and too on-the-nose. :p

The beginning could be developed more, letting the reader know more about what Willa is feeling, what would happen to her if she refused --- the inner struggle.

James Carmack
April 9th, 2007, 04:39 AM
Good premise but spotty execution. My biggest issue is how you go from 0 to 60 in 1.2 seconds. Think about it. You just lost your baby. Your best friend was the obstetrician on the job and it looks like she's blaming herself for what happened. You pay her a visit, you try to comfort her, and then she says she killed your baby. Not an accident she blames herself for, but deliberate, cold-blooded murder. Is the mention of "E5 poison" all it takes to make you believe it? I'd think a normal person would take a little more convincing. I'd advise you to save the "You killed my baby!" until after Willa's dug the hole deep enough.

Also, the dialog feels awfully stilted. It flat-out doesn't sound like people talking. There's a saying that goes something like this: "You can wite this stuff but no one can say it." Try reading the lines aloud. If it sounds awkward, try tweaking it around until it sounds like real people-talk.

To put it bluntly, you're not ready to submit this piece yet, but there's merit to it. If you can bust out the elbow grease, you might just have one for the anthologies.

And as a side note, I really doubt any professional would label a poison "poison." At least call it the E5 neurotoxin or something. That'd be a bit more believable.

One more thing... Mina and Lucy... Dracula fan, are we? (Nothing wrong with it if that's the case. Just curious as to whether it's a coincidence or not.)