Womb With A View
By: Adele Evershed

Hana wondered if Dai had reported their night together to the authorities. Emi had informed her he left in the early hours of the morning and had said, "Tell Hana thank you I had a satisfactory time." When Hana heard that, she said, "What a wanker" and Emi agreed with a giggle. Hana knew she had programmed Emi to respond in that fashion, but it did make her feel somewhat better. Hana said, "Emi please remind me next time I've been doing Satellite Shots I'm not to bring a man home." Emi replied, "I did last night. I told you they are called Satellite Shots because they are so strong they send you to outer space. And you said maybe you wanted to be off planet for a while". Emi giggled again and then asked, "Shall I order a pregnancy test?" Hana sighed and replied, "Absolutely not."

Hana had stopped believing she could get pregnant now that she was in her mid-thirties. All the literature suggested that given declining egg quality, women over thirty were only likely to get pregnant with medical intervention. And when the Natural Birth Law passed, banning Clomiphene and IVF, Hana resigned herself to remaining childless.

Now she was thankful that since the recent development in the Water Wars, the Government had suspended the compulsory 'Sexual Health' meetings that they required women to attend after any out-of-marriage sexual encounter. Hana had attended quite a few over the years. However, she thought of them as 'blame and shame' meetings because instead of teaching anything about health, they just provided the opportunity for a Sexual Deviance Councillor to read out a litany of the attendees' partners. If Dai had informed the Office of Sexual Coupling, she would only be a data point on a computer. She would not be fined as long as no other reports were made in the next six months. Hana said, "Maybe I should have offered him a sheet of moon ice and asked him to keep our night to himself." Emi replied, "Hana, you know that is against the law." Hana rolled her eyes and muttered, "It was a joke." But of course, it wasn't.

The first morning Hana felt nausea after brushing her teeth, she looked in the mirror; her face was even paler than usual, and she had dark smudges under her dark eyes. Hana tried to write it off to working half the night and taking energy shots to help her keep going but deep down, she knew she was pregnant. When she sat at the kitchen counter, Emi greeted her with the usual, "Good morning Hana. Hope you are well-rested?" Hana was waiting for her latte coffee and didn't reply, she had a splitting headache, and her stomach gurgled like her state-of-the-art coffee machine. Emi continued, "You have not used your supply of tampons this month. Do you want me to order a pregnancy test?" As an answer, Hana shut Emi down and threw up.

Hana hadn't left her home or restarted Emi since that first morning. She could work from home, and drone deliveries dropped most things she needed outside her door as long as she remembered to order. That took time to get used to, as Hana had always relied on Emi to reorder items automatically. She had never felt so lonely. Usually, she would confide in Emi, safe in the knowledge that anything she said would go no further, but she knew as soon as Emi became aware that Hana was pregnant, she would make a doctor's appointment. Any other response was against the law. Still, she wasn't ready to give up her old life just yet. Hana had worked hard to get where she was on the corporate ladder, which had come with some sacrifice. She hadn't married or had children so she could keep her job. In fact, the nearest she got to any intimacy was her relationship with Emi, her Ubiquitous Voice Assistant (UVA). Hana knew she was fortunate to have been born so long ago that she could make her own choices before arranged marriages and the job lottery allocation that now took place as soon as a woman was sixteen.

Even though Hana knew Emi was a UVA, she couldn't help thinking of her as a friend. As well as listening uncritically to Hana complain about her job, her sex life, and her first grey hairs, unlike Hana's other friends, Emi did something about her grumbles. She applied root touch-ups to hide Hana's grey, and she regularly updated Hana's CV to send new job applications on Hana's behalf. In addition, before it became illegal, Emi ordered the latest rabbit vibrator every time it was released. Of course, when the Government declared sex toys needed to be handed in, Emi found Hana's and sent them off.

Corporate was always telling Hana that she should replace Emi with the new model of UVA; they were more efficient and had a covering that resembled human skin. But Hana had heard rumors that they were programmed to spy on their humans, and she didn't want her employer to be able to monitor her home life. Hana knew it wasn't just the idea of her boss, Shinto being able to watch her through her UVA's eyes; she also couldn't bear to part with Emi even if her rollers sometimes got stuck in the carpet.

When Hana mentioned that Emi had ruined her new imitation silk rug to Shinto, he took out his phone and showed Hana a video of his new UVA, Mai. She was surprised to see how life like the UVA looked; Emi had an immovable plastic face and painted hair. Mai had long straight dark hair and soft round cheeks like Hana herself. As she studied the screen, Hana realized with a flutter that Shinto's UVA bore an uncanny likeness to herself. Shinto told her, "It's not just human limbs, you know. The new UVAs have realistic sex organs. I bet you wish they made male UVAs, don't you, Hana?" and he winked lasciviously, adding, "Soon, we won't be able to tell humans apart from UVAs, isn't that cool?"

After a week of inertia, Hana knew she needed to do something; she switched Emi on and was surprised at the rush of contentment she felt. For Emi's benefit, she pretended to use her tampon supply, and Emi, efficient as ever, restocked them. Then Hana bought a pregnancy test on the black market to confirm what she already knew.

As she looked at the red lines, Hana realized she would need to go to her doctor and get a mobile home screen so he could monitor what was happening in her womb. After that, she'd be assigned a PHLM, Protect Human Life Minder; if she let him move in with her, she'd be allowed to stay in her home, and as long as Dai didn't want to be actively involved, she might be able to bring up her baby on her own. Then after twelve years, barring any further pregnancies, she'd be allowed to work again.

Hana knew if she didn't do this, her pregnancy would be discovered at her next state of the womb check, and then it would be obvious she had not reported her pregnancy. Then they would admit her to a Bed Rest Hospital, label her a 'Possible Unfit Mother,' and have a permanent womb screen fitted. She would have to stay there for the duration, not even able to take a bath by herself. Once the baby was born, they would take him or her and house Hana in a PHL collective to be re-educated. Finally, she'd be given a mate, and hopefully, by the grace of God (their words, not hers), she'd be blessed with further children.

If she dared not attend her mandated six-month womb check, they would send the police to pick her up. Women not following the PHL mandates were taken to The Bertolini Space Station. The Government insisted a stay at the space station was like having a spa vacation with amazing views of planet earth. Women were looked after, given everything they required for a healthy pregnancy, and their mental health problems addressed. But, after it was revealed by an undercover documentary maker that women sent there had their wombs removed, it became known as "Womb with A View." The documentary also disclosed that the wombs were kept alive and hooked to computers. They were used as incubators for clone soldiers. The documentary maker was expecting his film to bring down the Government. Still, as no man wanted to go back to being drafted to fight in the never-ending Water Wars, all that happened was the filmmaker was sent to jail for life.

Abortions had been outlawed decades before Hana was born. Still, it was only ten years ago the Government replaced girls' schools with 'Grooming Centres' intended to teach the female population how to be good wives and mothers. Hana had just left college and joined in with the street protests that erupted throughout the country. It wasn't only women who marched; men who had daughters joined the rallies too. But then the Water Wars started, and they were the first to be drafted. Next, women protesters were rounded up and taken off-world to work in Comfort Stations. The Government argued that such work was acceptable; it had happened since the 1930s and, therefore, was a historical precedent. Unsurprisingly, people stopped protesting.

After that, some of Hana's friends decided to join an underground organization to fight back. Ren, Hana's best friend, begged her to join too. Ren told her, "We're using Margaret Attwood's Handmaiden's Tale as a guide. We're setting up escape routes out of the country to Australia for girls and women seeking abortions," And she'd pressed a copy into Hana's hands. Hana had just secured her first job, so she told Ren, "I can't take the risk. If I lose this job, I might never get another". Ren had given her a lukewarm smile and said, "Oh Han, please be careful who you share a bed with. There are informers everywhere. They're like crabs. You might not know you've got them until it's too late".

Not long after, men were offered money to report whom they had sex with, and Hana stopped dating. When they forced women under twenty-five to marry, she thanked a God she didn't believe in that she was almost thirty.

Now Hana took out Atwood's book; she had covered it with a different dust jacket when it was banned. Ren's number was written next to a quote she had highlighted in marker "A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere as long as it stays inside the maze." At the bottom of the page, Ren had written, "Call me when you no longer want to be a rat."

Hana only just stopped herself from asking Emi to place the call to Ren. Finally, she took a deep breath and said, "Goodbye, Emi. You've been the best friend a girl could have". Hana could swear that Emi's unblinkable eyes glistened with unshed tears as she wiped Emi's memory banks and shut her off for good. Crying, Hana hugged Emi and put her in the hall cupboard; then, she made the call herself. In the darkness, a stream of tears dropped off Emi's chin.


Rate Adele Evershed's Womb With A View

Let The Contributor Know What You Think!

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...