Yay! We made it to the final week of Writer In Motion, and I didn't give up. Between virtual school starting in Georgia, me giving up on my current novel work in progress and starting a new story, and several CP responsibilities, I had several moments where I thought I might not be able to give this project my attention.
But here we are at the end, two rounds of CP edits, and I have a finished story. I really like it, love the questions it raises, and enjoy how it evolved over the two rounds of edits. More importantly, this project hit me at the perfect time to revive my creative mind, to remind me that I can, in fact, create a story out of nothing, and to reset my expectations about how to write a story.
Typically, I'm a plotter. I write my books by outlining the hell out of them, writing a little, reworking my outline, writing more, and so forth until I have a completed story. This project, though, I approached in a completely different way. Diving into it without a plan, with only an idea, a possible character, and a sense of feeling, I am surprised but proud to have created something with a complex world, strong characters, and a twist that challenges all that I set before.
I am so thankful to my CPs, Thuy and Ari in the first round, and Dan and Jeffrey in the second round. Though I didn't take all of their suggestions (sometimes the changes were too big for the time I had available, other times I disagreed with the change), I am grateful for the ways they made this story stronger. They challenged me to approach Maren and Giana in new ways, helped me expand their story and make things clearer, and they supported me in this brilliant challenge.
Thanks for including me in this great experiment and experience. I'm so glad I got to be a part of it.
Maren wiped the sweat from her brow, leaving a smear of wet earth in its place. The soil had been soft beneath the spread of ferns and wildflowers, making it easy to dig a hole big enough for Giana. The work was easy, methodical, almost meditative. The hard part had been replacing the plants, arranging them over the telltale grave, wrestling the large root systems of the ferns back in place over Giana's body. Now they were both covered in mud.
Exactly as Giana wanted it.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Returned to the earth from whence we all came.
"There is a natural order to these things," she had said, "even if the world refuses to see it."
A glow settled in beyond the mountains, though the sun had set some time ago. Maren imagined she could climb over the edge of the world, crest over the top of the peaks, follow the sunset just a few minutes more. Cling to the last vestiges of day before night settled in.
She took a deep breath. She had time for that, at last.
Work still lay ahead, but this was a moment for rest. Giana had scheduled it that way. Giana had always had a plan. From the moment the law passed, she knew what had to happen.
"Over my dead body!" Giana had declared over the remains of breakfast that morning.
Maren chuckled as she picked up the syrup-sticky plates. "Sweetie, that's the whole point."
"I won't participate. My body won't be used as some undead baby-maker, even if I am done with it. I don't care how desperate some rich lady is to have her designer baby. I don't want to be a part of it."
"Technically, it won't be your body," Maren said, pouring a fresh cup of Brazilian coffee into her wife's favorite mug. "Emily at the clinic says they'll just clone you, and use that. Your body will be cremated or buried or whatever you want."
"Buried," Giana insisted, accepting the mug. "I want my body to go back to the earth where it belongs." She sipped at her coffee, still steaming. "Why can't they just use artificial wombs or some such? Why zombie moms?"
Maren rolled her eyes. "They're not zombie moms. The bodies never become conscious. Think of it as organ donation. You aren't using your DNA anymore, and Dr. Levinson says the clones work when artificial wombs just don't. Plus, it solves the egg problem. We need viable eggs from fertile female bodies." She smiled and sat up, pushing her own coffee away. "Speaking of, our viability results should come back today. You ready to become a mom, Gi? A living one?"
Giana reached past the syrup bottle and butter dish and squeezed Maren's hand. "With you? Absolutely." She smiled. "But, that's my choice. I don't care how bad things get, no one can make that sort of decision for me. Or for my body." She stood up and took away the empty coffee mugs. "I want to be a mom, not an incubator."
She didn't get a choice.
The Emergency Fertility Project suffered from low participation, so it became mandatory. The lawsuits that followed were all rejected. The courts reasoned since the plaintiffs weren't yet dead and would lose claim to all property, including their bodies, in the event of their deaths, claims of injury were moot.
In the end, the dead have no rights.
Giana swore to fight it, but she didn't have time.
The lingering light of the sunset finally faded as Maren pushed open the heavy wooden door of their isolated mountain cabin. The light flicked on, and the heavy orange glow warmed her.
She had work to do.
She started with the beds. There was hers: soft mattress, downy blanket, firm pillows. Then there was Giana's.
Maren didn't bother washing the loam and dirt away. Seized with a need to move forward, to move on, she ripped the oxygen tubes away from the wall, the tray of sterile needles, the plastic-lined bed pads from the shelves. Sponges for her chapped lips. Straws that bent to feed her soup in bed. Gauze for the incision along her right breast that didn't take enough of the cancer.
The wound that never healed because there wasn't time.
All onto the mechanized bed. Sheets, flung over the top. Then with a huff, Maren got around behind the bed, unplugged it, and began pushing it out the door.
She wanted to push it all the way to the edge of the mountain. Send it flying over the edge. As if that would erase the crimes she and Giana had committed.
It was enough to get it out of the house.
Maren slammed the door behind her and leaned against it, winded and wanting nothing more than to curl up and take a nap on her own bed. But she had more to do.
She packed her bag. The morphine, left over and unused. The hormones. Clothes. She'd leave in the morning.
Five months, now, since she'd begged the clinic for one favor. Seven months since Giana had received her final prognosis after her mastectomy failed, and the chemo left her barren. That was when they had made their plan.
"I still want to be a mom."
"I thought it only counted if you were there to see it."
"No. It only counts if it's my choice."
Maren gasped as she felt a kick. All the activity must have woken her. She reached down and rubbed her tummy.
"It's okay, Gigi. I won't let them take you."
All the previous rounds of IVF had failed. This one, though? Maren had had doubts, but Giana had always known it would work. It had to.
Giana had joined the mandatory fertility program, after all. This, though, was all on her own terms.
And Maren would see the plan through. Together, they would end this horror.
As mother and daughter.