Apr/May 2008  •   Fiction  •   Special Feature


by Alex Keegan

Photo-art by Steve Wing

Photo-art by Steve Wing

Before the end, they chatted with friends over a glass of red wine. Red, the colour of blood and roses. They had eaten their meals of choice. She had asked for baked Turbot, fleshy-white. He had requested an Aberdeen Angus fillet steak, medium rare, again, blood flowed. Then at a quarter to midnight, the friends left.

My parents, 25 years ago.

Back then the injections were less certain; a mixture of muscle relaxants, barbiturates and other stuff. The official word of course, was lethal injections were painless. It was true they could be, but not every one went that well. Nevertheless, Tom and Betty chose to let me live. That was the choice most made. About two per cent said no, and they lived instead. They were not chastised. For some there was uncertainty of parentage. For some there had been an irreconcilable difference with one or more child. The problems were when parents were split-vote.

Twenty-five years. Now we are far more stable. The culling was harsher then. Now it is a low-risk lottery, this year just six in a hundred get the letter. Next year the adjustment is estimated at two per cent.

Jenny and I have two sons and a daughter. Sarah is exempt as she works for Gene Counselling Inc, so it's just the boys, Hank and Steve. And anyway, the odds are pretty good.

The socio-biologists turned out to be right. Calculate the genetic weight and it predicts how people choose. The older the chosen, the more likely they acquiesce. The more children to save, ditto. My trouble is I'm just 55 and vigorous and Hank was born about nine months after I'd been overseas a while. He does look like me. Steve doesn't speak to us. And Sarah is exempt.

Last night was cold. Now the dawn breaks in a thin silver line over the sea, then the sun flashes. I log on and my official mailbox flashes.

I have one mail but it asks me for my password. These days that happens for one reason and one reason only. Before I type in my key and read the note I sit and think.

But then Jenny appears at the door. She has already opened her mail. She is smiling. The women are always more sure.