Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

‘The Companion’: chapter 54

Katya and Liliya have found the man who killed Rosalind, on I-13.  I have signalled to them to put him in a crate and bring him home, alive, with all speed.   I need to ask Kelvin if he can get me some acid – about two hundred litres.

Horace will be born soon.  Kelvin is being supportive.  This may be his way of shielding himself from aspects of public life that he now finds unpleasant, but I don’t mind.  He seems to be with us in mind as well as body.  We have nearly finished building a proper house, above ground.  I don’t want my baby to be born in a bunker.  Kelvin has even painted the baby’s room, with paint manufactured by a new concern that he and James Holt have started.   I asked him if it was non-toxic but he just rolled his eyes heavenward.  The colour scheme is in lots of stripes because Kelvin wanted to try out every colour they had come up with.  It looks insane but I am sure the baby will find it interesting.  He is now working on a wooden mobile, with stars, planets, comets, space rockets and aliens.  One of the aliens’ faces reminds me of Prude.


Violet will soon give birth to our baby, who is still known as Horace.  Violet refuses to tell me what sex the child is, and I have not pressed her about this.  She assured me that the baby is healthy and, as she puts it, ‘doesn’t have two heads or eleven fingers’.   I wonder if Horace will be the first creature ever to be conceived in one solar system and born in another.  He (I call him ‘he’ for convenience) must surely be the first human child born of an android mother. 

I hope Violet got the DNA right.  I don’t care what he looks like, or how he grows up, but he’ll be such a disappointment to Violet if he is weak, ugly or stupid.  Perhaps weakness or ugliness she could tolerate, but not stupidity. 

We have had something of a disagreement about the birth.  She said that she wanted me to see the baby as soon immediately after he has been born, but she did not want me at the birth itself. 

‘Can’t I help?’ I asked.

‘I won’t need any help. You can help by doing as I tell you.’

‘I thought labour was very traumatic and sometimes dangerous.’

‘Labour.  It’s redundant.  There won’t be any labour: just parturition and delivery, which I will oversee myself.’

‘Don’t you think my being present at the birth will help to make the three of us feel closer together?’

‘Why the hell do you have to go all gooey every time I am trying to do something practical and scientific?  This is the conclusion of a ground-breaking research project: one which is, by the way, arguably one of the most significant events in modern human history, and I want to manage my experiment in my own way.  Can’t you understand that?  Or is it now too long since you did any proper science for you to remember how it is done?’

‘In the first place, fuck you, and, in the second, I refuse to have my child referred to as merely the product of a scientific experiment.’

‘Well it is the product of a scientific experiment.  “I Married An Android” – remember?’

‘No, you’re not an android.’

‘Yes, I am an android.’

‘You’re a fucking android when it bloody well suits you.’

‘Yes, Kelvin, and so are you.’

And then we both started crying.  She looked at me with the strangest mixture of venom and longing that I have ever seen.  I may be making this up, but I thought at that moment that I knew what she was silently trying to convey: remember that if it weren’t for my own efforts, we would not be here together, and so I held my peace.  The tacit agreement is that I will be outside the room when the baby comes into the world, but I will be able to hear it cry and to see it and hold it immediately afterwards.  And I won’t be able to sleep with Violet or see her naked until after she has repaired herself. 


I know that I swore I never would, but I have reluctantly decided to publish another edition of Royal Flush.  It would be silly not to:  people are clamouring for news about the royal baby.  It’s a he, and he weighs ten pounds – what a pork-ball.  That’s not a baby: it’s an oven-ready turkey.  His name is an absolute hoot: Edgar Pascal Democritus Stark.  I can hardly get it out without cracking up. 

I have to admit that the photo shoots (plural) have been a triumph.  The royal couple have been disgustingly good about the publicity.  And the baby is without doubt a little celeb in the making.  He chuckles and smiles in all the right places.  He does look adorable (as much as one with no teeth and who suffers from the combined effects of baldness, obesity and double-incontinence can do).  And, just as things are getting a bit boring and predictable, he pukes up, right in front of camera.  Marvellous.  I could not have trained him better myself.  There is nothing like a bit of well-aimed projectile vomiting to get people’s attention.  I just hope he can sustain this for the next twenty-five years or so.  I hope the little chap isn’t taking too much out of himself.

I wonder what age he will hit puberty.

The special issue is four shillings, by the way.  Yes, I know that is twice the cover price of the previous print-run, but this is a collector’s edition.  I’d prefer it in silver, if you don’t mind.  My girls will end up with shoulders like rugby league players if they have to carry all that copper around in their satchels.


I keep volunteering for geological expeditions to more and more remote parts of the planet, but still I can’t help hearing news about Kelvin.  I just want to shut it all out, but even on this sparsely-populated world, there are still satellites and radios.  It is difficult to work in a professional manner and still escape the flow of information. 

I hear that he has had a child.  I’m not much of a biologist – or an expert on androids – and so I still don’t really grasp how this was possible.  How can it possibly be in the interests of the child to have a machine for a mother?  Is there any way back from this?  I can’t see one.  Even if Kelvin came to his senses now, and annulled his so-called marriage to this thing he calls “Violet”, what future would there be for us?  Would he expect me to look after the baby?  Would I be able to face the baby?  Even if I could, how would I feel about it later after we had had a child of our own: a proper child, with a human mother. 

One of the articles I read said that she is going to breast-feed.  I suppose that just goes to show that you should not believe everything you read.  Is that possible?  How does it work?  What would it taste like?  Would it be like UHT?



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