Author: Jessie Atkin

The pairs line up at the life tubes. They wait patiently. It has been nine months; a few extra moments will not break them. When the white light begins to flash everyone stands a little straighter. The first pairs in each queue step toward the receiving trays. There are four receptacles, each matched to a color: red, yellow, blue, and green.

An alarm begins to ring in rhythm with the flashing light. The whoosh of air sounds through the pneumatic tubes. The first row of couples leans forward to retrieve their offspring. Each life form, at its beginning, looks the same. Only the identity labels on the outer surface of each pod differentiate them. Each pod is printed with the four identity factors on which society is built: Color, Belief, Home, and Style.

The Reds, of course, retrieve a red offspring, who comes into the world labeled with Neo-Messianism, Great White North, and Eastern. They move toward the well-marked exit.

The Yellows beside them retrieve a pod labeled: Yellow, Paleo-Messianism, Southern White and Blue Sky, Pale.

The Greens retrieve a pod labeled: Green, Atheistic, Old World, Native.

And the Blues pick up their pod, with an identity label reading: Blue, Poly-Eternalism, Subcontinent, Pacific.

The exit to the life center is not as well manned as the entrance. Protesters have to be allowed somewhere within view of the premises, the world is a democracy after all, and it is thought that a pair of happy parents are less susceptible to the bile being spilled than a couple nervously approaching the possibility of family.

The digital display boards raised above shouting faces bare the same generic messages seen beside life centers the world over. Labels = Lies. We Live Life While You Write Fiction. And, My Body My Choice.

The yellow couple tries to make eye contact with the red parents beside them, likely to shake their heads at the stupidity, the ignorant display across the street; but the red couple refuses to acknowledge their presence. The varied belief designations on their newly procured capsules is likely to blame.

Trying to look at the new red family means that the yellow couple knocks the shoulder of the green pair exiting on their left. There is no apology, no laugh, no congratulations, despite the shared joy they all just left behind. Instead, the green male shakes a fist in the air. “Already lax with your attentions?” he shouts. “Shocking they still hand offspring to the likes of you. You must have staggered out of the southern hemisphere.”

“Countries are a myth!” a protester shouts.

“Borders went away with the Third World War!”

The green couple huff, and hug their pod tighter, moving closer to the protesters and farther from the yellow designated family.

“Only one style! The human style!” the protesters chant.

The blue couple look at one another, their mouths turned down in sadness rather than fear. How must their parents’ feel? For once, a long time ago, those in the shouting mob had parents too. What must it feel like, the couple think, to lose the precious gift, once exactly like the one in their arms, to a cruel and rudderless existence? To see a child stumble out into a nameless horde, of all colors, and none at all. These people once had parents, and beliefs, homes, and styles too. Then they just threw them away, as if they were meaningless. As if they were wicked. As if they were just made up.