Another morning in paradise for Wilder. The fluid cushioning him is warm, and he hasn’t got a damn thing to do if he doesn’t want. He reaches his hand out in front of his face and examines the back of it. It’s pruny from his long soak, the soothing spa session that he fears is coming to an end. Or so he’s heard, anyway. Exactly when is uncertain.
That makes it all the more terrifying.
The Outside People—his Mommy and his other Mommy—always say “soon, oh so soon” and make smooching sounds when they talk about his impending arrival. There is a man who comes round and coos at Wilder as if he’s adorable and tiny like his unfertilized neighbors. The man says things like, “Can you hear me, little one?” He acts like Wilder doesn’t understand the world, but he does, visitor man. He does. He knows that the world is shamelessly uncushioned, that it hurts when people fall down. He knows when the man is about to come over because the Mommies start to bicker. Quietly, lovingly, even, but bickering just the same.
“I don’t trust him, Jenn,” Sonya will whisper. Sonya is the one whose warm, soothing fluid Wilder resides in. The host of his all-inclusive resort. She thinks he can’t hear her if she lowers her voice.
“Alan deserves to know his child if he wants,” is what Jenn usually says.
“Our child,” is what Sonya usually counters, a bit snappy.
“Shhh, we don’t want the baby to overhear any animosity,” says Jenn. “There’s enough of it out here as it is.”
They say this all the time. That the Outside is this drab, almost never tranquil place, full of torrential people who can and do hurt each other. From what Wilder understands, he will join those people and become the hurter and the hurt. Never one or the other.
He once tried to draw a flowchart of all the Outside people he knows with his right big toe but he misfired and wound up kicking Mommy in the ribs. I am already a hurter, he thought, feeling quite down about it, but also strangely basking in the camaraderie of the Outside People. But then he heard cries of glee erupt from Mommy’s mouth (that is something he is a bit envious of—this noise-making skill, but alas, one can’t have it all.
He will gladly remain silent if it means never having to erupt out into the world a crying, screaming, bloody mess).
“He kicked! Wilder kicked! I felt it, I swear,” Sonya said. Wilder heard footsteps then Jenn’s soft musical voice. What’s a Wilder? He’d thought, the first time he heard his name.
“Oh my god. Oh. My. God.”
“Also, did you just name our son?” Jenn laughed.
“I guess I did.”
Wilder could detect her embarrassment through the many layers of viscous biology separating them.
Me, I guess I’m a Wilder, the fetus thought. He’s come to grips with the name by now, but it took a while. He’d heard of these things called wild animals, like bears and wolves, and he’d wondered if the Mommies thought he would become a killing machine too. The thought made him nervous, made him grab his toes and squeeze tightly.
All of that is to say, Wilder’s dream vacation is soon coming to an end. In the early days, he’d falsely believed that his amniotic sac was all there was to existence. Rad. The temperature’s always ideal, he’s always satiated if not absolutely stuffed by the tube’s glorious deliveries. No roommates, just some single-cell neighbors whose company he tends to enjoy when they’re not sending his sky (or uterus ceiling, if you will) crashing down with catastrophic news of his eventual departure. It was about three months ago when they gave him a little biology lesson.
“You know you’re gonna have to leave this place eventually, right?” the one egg had squeaked. She’s a bit of a know-it-all, but she means well.
“What are you talking about?” Wilder had asked, placing his hands behind his squishy head, as if he were lounging in a hammock.
“You’re only in here until you’re big enough to join the Outside People.”
The others had murmured in agreement, sending a shiver through his chunky legs.
“Well, uh—when is that exactly?”
Wilder hadn’t been convinced she was telling the truth. The eggs loved to gossip since life inside the ovaries could be a bit dull. And the notion of birth was simply too bizarre to comprehend. Who would leave such a cushy, luxurious environment? He figured that some people—those who had picked the short umbilical cord for sure—lived Outside while the more fortunate ones resided Inside.
The know-it-all had turned to the other eggs and they’d whispered amongst themselves while Wilder leaned against the walls of his sac, feigning casual indifference.
“We think your Birthday Ceremony is in 3 months and 1 week, give or take.”
“My what? Speak sensibly,” he’d said, mildly irritated.
“The day that you are pushed by some mysterious force out of your warm sac and into the Outside. We saw it done once before, long long ago, before the Mommies knew each other.”
“What was it like?”
She’d taken a deep breath and quivered. Wilder hadn’t liked how she looked at him, her eyes uneasy and apologetic. She was usually pragmatic and matter-of-fact, a strict but fair source of knowledge and kinship.
“He screamed like I’ve never heard anyone scream before. There was a lot of blood. I don’t think he survived.” She’d paused. “I hid from the cascading sperm, those handsome fucks, for a while after that. I feared what would come if I hooked up with one of them. I didn’t want the same fate.”
Wilder hadn’t known what to say. He’d looked around at his surroundings accusingly, as if the heated sauna he’d come to call home had now been replaced by a conniving, lying betrayer. He’d now become the hurted. The Outside was somehow capable of inflicting pain from the Inside. Normally he’d consider himself to be fairly eloquent but all he’d been able to muster that day was a simple, “fuck,” then a low, ominous whistle.
“You come out of that hole,” another egg had spoken up, gesturing towards an unbelievably small tunnel.
“There?” Wilder had asked, bewildered.
“Yes, I know it seems insane, but that’s exactly what the Outside People are.”
“That must be a joke. There’s no way my head is fitting through that tiny space.”
The egg had shrugged, as if to say, That’s all I know.
Wilder hadn’t asked for this. He hadn’t asked to enter a world he’d heard so many treacherous and terrifying things about.
Out there, people were killing each other over technology and the lack of technology and breakfast and green slips of paper and love and the lack of love and bad weather and bad hair and games and houses (without lovely fluid in them) and arbitrary borders and beliefs and betrayal.
I refuse to be betrayed, Wilder had thought. When the time came for his Birthing Ceremony, he would simply refuse to come out. It would be as easy as that. He would never be ready to quit that good good and he didn’t see why he should have to.
This morning, about three months after the life-changing discovery, the morning of Wilder’s would-be birth, Sonya goes into labor and nothing happens. Her water doesn’t break, there is no crowning, the contractions don’t accomplish shit. Jenn furiously searches Google for records of this having happened elsewhere. Nada. Just some discussion boards about possible alien insemination.
The doctors, upon further examination, conclude that the baby would prefer to stay where he is for the rest of his life. They deem Wilder the smartest human being to ever exist. Out front of the hospital, they erect a statue to commemorate him. News spreads, and no one is ever born again.
The Earth is very grateful. It blooms like you’ve never fucking seen before.