Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hastur La Vista, Baby

It was important to have principles, thought Martha. George Orwell went to fight in the Spanish Civil War because of sympathies for their Republican movement, and Muhammad Ali was arrested and stripped of his boxing title because of his refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War.

Martha refused to buy products or services from any shop that used the Comic Sans font in their logo or publicity material.

But, as Infant:Inside were the only business within a hundred miles offering the particular baby scanning services she was after, this was clearly one principle she'd have to temporarily shelve.

She tried to ignore the cursing and swearing coming from the back room as she picked up a glossy brochure from the pile sitting on the waiting room table. She spent a few moments staring in disbelief at the company name on the front, which she still couldn't quite believe wasn't some kind of joke. Even though written in a bright cyan Comic Sans font, it still didn't stop the word looking – and even sounding - like Infanticide.

Another cry of frustration from the back office was followed by the sound of somebody kicking some furniture. A tirade of swearing burst forth, turning the air bluer than the company logo. He'd seemed like such a quiet young man when he'd performed the ultrasound. Admittedly he'd barely seemed old enough to tie his shoelaces, let alone operate expensive diagnostic imaging hardware, but he was friendly enough.

"Who's the best guy in the building?" he'd quipped. "The ultrasound guy." It was a joke older than he was, but it had achieved its aim and put her at ease.

The sound of electronic hardware being firmly shaken could now be heard from behind the closed door, followed by the sound of two voices. They were arguing with each other in that type of way you do when you don't want anybody to hear, but you both defeat the object by each having to raise your voice to put your point across.

"You tell her," said one. "No, you" said the other.

Martha wondered whether it was a mistake coming here at all.


Some women were simply custom-built right out of the box to be perfect mothers. That seemed to apply to every single woman in the Antenatal clinic except Martha. They were all exuding that radiant glow and aura of natural calm, whereas Martha simply looked permanently unwell. They all had their loving husbands and doting boyfriends with them, and Martha sat there alone. The term was "one night stand" but, to be fair, it was an evening in which Martha hadn't been doing a great deal of standing.

Martha wasn't the sort of person to go to nightclubs on her own. And yet that one evening, she'd felt compelled. The same compulsion that saw her down an entire bottle of Prosecco, and end up bringing some stranger back to her flat. He was tall, dark and handsome. She thinks.

Ordinarily she'd have been put off by the font choice on the leaflets that the rep handed around the clinic, but something intrigued her. "A 3D model of your unborn child!!!" it proudly declared with an excess of exclamation marks. "For a special reduced price!!!"


The man-child sheepishly emerged from the back office, reluctant to make eye contact. He stumbled forward as though abruptly pushed forward by his colleague, and crashed into the counter.

"There's… been a slight problem and I'm afraid we won't be able to provide the 3D modelling service for you at this moment in time."

Martha looked up at him.


"If you'd like to… erm… bring your cash card over, we'll refund you the money."

Martha got to her feet, the weight of her belly feeling heavier than ever.

"If there's a problem with the printer, I don't mind waiting. I heard you swearing at it."

"Not a problem with the printer as such."

"What do you mean 'as such'?"

The boy went bright red, looking back over his shoulder at the closed back office door as though it would offer salvation. He looked at Martha, back at the door, back at Martha. His mouth opened and closed but intelligible words refused to form.

The door opened and an older man stepped through, placing his hand on the boy's shoulder. She took him to be the manager, an assumption borne out by the Comic Sans "Manager" badge clipped to his shirt.

"Ma'am," he said authoritatively. "My young colleague isn't entirely correct. It's sort of a problem with the printer. A restriction of the technology."

"I'm not sure I understand. What do you mean by restriction?"

"These 3D printers, you see. They're bound, as we are, by certain well-established guidelines of causality and physics. They're simply not designed to print out anything that doesn't adhere to the traditional rules of Euclidean geometry."


"Euclidean. Look, it says so in the book."

He placed a well-thumbed and coffee stained photocopied manual in front of her, pointing out a paragraph. It looked to be a troubleshooting page, and his fat calloused finger was pointing at a particular question.

"Can my Saishomatsui 3D Printer be used to create shapes that do not adhere to the standard rules of space/time geometry?"

"No. Please refer to the operating manual."


Martha cradled the hot cup of tea in her hands. Tea traditionally solved everything, but even she struggled to see how infused leaves could make this any better. Even Oolong, she suspected, would struggle.

She stared blankly down at the handful of printouts the manager had placed on the waiting room table in front of her, the ultrasound scans of her unborn child.

In the first static-filled image she thought she could make out a tiny hand. In the second, some tiny toes. The third, an infinite vista of impossible structures. The fourth, the utter insignificance of man in an uncaring and unknowable universe.

But the father – he'd been tall, dark and handsome. At the time, she'd thought those protuberances were dreadlocks. Tall, dark, handsome – and squamous. Possibly squamous. Eldritch at the very least.

She looked up at the sorry face of the manager who was still patting her on the shoulder in the manner one might reassure a dying dog.

"Can you answer me one question at least? Is it a boy or a girl?"

"Yes, I can certainly answer that."

"Well, is it a boy or a girl?"

"No. No it isn’t."

No comments:

Post a Comment