“And as you can see from this scan,” the doctor said, turning a pinched smile to the pair, “I can confirm that you are indeed pregnant.”
Amanda clasped Colleen’s hand and squeezed it. Her cheeks began to burn as the smile stretched as far as it could go. It had taken them so long, but they’d finally gotten one step closer to starting their own little family.
“Isn’t this brilliant?” Amanda asked, leaning closer to her love.
Colleen’s grin was even greater than Amanda’s. “It is! It really is!”
“Erm . . .”
The doctor was fidgeting awkwardly in his chair. Amanda frowned, preparing herself for what was coming next. She’d learnt long ago how to deal with men like him; usually with a right-hook.
“Sorry,” he said, pushing a set of black and white pictures towards the couple. “But, perhaps you haven’t quite looked closely enough at the scans.”
“What do you mean?” Colleen asked. She pulled herself free from Amanda and snatched up the scans.
“Calm down,” Amanda said soothingly, although she couldn’t deny that panic was creeping up on her as well.
“Well . . . I’m not sure how to put this,” Doctor Cassius murmured. “It would appear that your baby is . . .”
“There’s nothing wrong with it, is there?” Colleen asked, her eyes beginning to brim with tears.
“I’m not entirely sure,” the medical man admitted, scratching the back of his head. “You see, it would appear that your baby is not . . . human.”
“Eh?” Amanda exclaimed.
“Well, generally, human foetuses don’t have horns,” Dr Cassius declared. “Or three arms.”
“Well . . . maybe – maybe it’s just an – an early developer?” Colleen asked, her voice cracking slightly.
“You did hear me say ‘three arms’, didn’t you?”
“What are you trying to say, doctor?” Amanda asked, rubbing Colleen’s back as she started to breathe heavily.
“What I’m trying to say is that your partner appears to be carrying an alien foetus,” the doctor stated, folding his hands together and granting them a warm smile, as if this was an everyday development that they should accept.
Both women stared at him, dumbfounded and numb.
“Have either of you been abducted recently?” he asked with the same attitude as if asking after the weather.
“Of course we haven’t been abducted!” Amanda exclaimed angrily. She couldn’t believe what this madman was spewing. At first, overcome with the malady that affects all newly-discovered parents, she had believed she could see the tiny shape of a fresh baby in that picture. But now that it had been revealed she ought to be looking at a creature with three arms and head full of horns the scan returned to what it truly was: an amorphous blob that could easily be nothing more than a smudge on the lens.
“Actually . . .” Colleen said timidly.
Amanda rounded on her with wild disbelief in her eyes. “You mean to say you’ve been abducted?!”
“No, not abducted,” Colleen said, rubbing her chin anxiously. “But a few weeks ago, around the time when we first started IVF, I went swimming, like I usually do on a Thursday, and there was – I don’t know what it was really – some sort of yellow goo.
“Anyway, I was just coming out of the changing room when I slipped in it and fell over. At first I thought it was just some sort of bleach or something, but I remember thinking that it wasn’t like any bleach I’d seen. I guess now that it must have been some sort of alien residue or something.”
The doctor nodded understandingly, as if this sort of thing happened every day in his practice. “Obviously this alien liquid must have seeped through your skin and impregnated you that way.”
“Oh no, that stuff got everywhere,” Colleen said emphatically. “I mean, I tried to clean it off in the showers but it was like baby oil. It clung onto every nook and cranny, and I mean every nook.”
Amanda’s mouth fell open as she tried to fully understand what was going on. Not only was her wife supposedly pregnant with the sprog of E.T., but no one was acting as if this was in anyway absurd beyond belief! She shook her head, pinched herself on the thigh, tried everything she could think of to try and wake herself up from this madness.
Colleen stared at her, her eyes imploring her for guidance. “What are we going to do?” she asked, her lips quivering and her eyes welling up.
“Let’s keep it.”
“You’re out of your bloody mind.” Amanda had spent the entire evening staring at the scan and, now that she had a few good glasses of wine in her system, she was beginning to make out the silhouette of an alien baby.
“Be serious now,” Colleen said, her toes digging affectionately into the side of Amanda’s leg. “I know it’s not what either of us wanted -”
“It’s not what any human wants!”
“What I mean is, even though it’s an alien, it’s still a baby, Amanda.” Colleen shuffled closer and then placed Amanda’s hand onto her stomach. “Isn’t that what we’ve always wanted?”
“Well . . . yes, yes we have always wanted a baby,” Amanda admitted reluctantly.
“There you go then,” Colleen said. “And let’s face it, we’re not twenty-three anymore.”
“You’re right, I’m twenty-six and you’re twenty five!” Amanda snapped, snatching her hand back. “I don’t think we need to fear our biological clocks winding down any time soon!”
“Yes, but who knows if we’ll get another chance to have a baby?” Colleen asked. “And that’s what this is after all: a baby! It doesn’t matter if it’s human or not.”
Amanda stared at the woman she loved. She’d heard enough times that expectant mothers became overwhelmed with hormones and grew almost animalistic in their protection of their unborn child. But Amanda had never imagined it would manifest in such a way as this.
“Hun,” Amanda said, mustering up all the patience she possessed. “This is an alien. We cannot keep it.”
“What’s the worst that can happen?” Colleen asked with a playful shrug.
That night the pair stayed up late watching a movie. The movie in question just happened to be Ridley Scott’s Alien. Twenty minutes into the film and Colleen’s dense bubble of maternal instincts were thoroughly punctured. She’d always wanted her life to play out like a film, but not like that one.
The pair finally agreed. Tomorrow morning the thing was going to go.
Nine o’clock the next morning Amanda and Colleen opened their front door and discovered an ocean blocking the path to their car.
People of all shapes and sizes filled the pavement, with quite a few holding placards. But it seemed that not everyone in the crowd was of the same accord. One sign read: ‘Save The Baby‘, whilst another one read: ‘Our Bodies = Our Choice’. And obviously one person had arrived at the wrong protest, because the sign he was frantically waving read: ‘End Fracking Now!‘
To begin with they had been milling around sipping coffee and arguing with the protesters from the other side of the argument. But as soon as Amanda had opened the front door and naturally gasped at the horrifying sight of several dozen protestors sitting on her doorstep, they had spun round and began their disjointed chanting.
Amanda slammed the door shut before the rabble could grab hold of them. Colleen stared at her with wide-eyed horror.
“What was that all about?” she exclaimed.
“Somehow,” Amanda said, placing her back against the door, “I think they’ve found out about the alien baby.”
“What – what do you think they want?” Colleen asked, glancing fearfully out the window. The mob was heaving with a newly injected sense of urgency. Placards were waved, teeth were gnashed and the chances of the couple reaching their car were dashed.
With that many people gathered in one spot Amanda knew there was only place she could get any answers. She stomped back into the living room, snatched up the remote and switched on the television. She was immediately greeted with the prim face of a BBC journalist standing outside her house.
“That’s right, Michelle,” the journalist chirped, one hand on his ear. “I’m standing outside the scene of all the commotion. As you can see quite a lot of people have turned up to demonstrate. I’m joined by the unofficial leader of the side opposing the planned termination. Thank you for joining me, Miss Chastity McKenzie.”
‘The name certainly suits her,’ Amanda thought as the woman in question sidled onto the screen. She had a coarse, walnut-like face with a nose so hooked it almost touched her bottom lip. The menagerie of teeth that protruded from her sneering mouth looked as if she’d stolen one from every animal she’d passed in the zoo. The beady eyes of a deranged hamster stared out of her sockets and the woman’s hair, an eclectic mix of tar-black and cat-lady grey, was only barely contained in a ponytail. The woman reeked bad news.
Dreading what she was about to hear, Amanda sank down onto the settee.
“So, Miss McKenzie, tell us, what are you here protesting about?” the journalist asked inanely.
“We are here to protest against these sinners murdering that poor defenceless child of God that is currently gestating inside her stomach!” the woman declared, an ugly southern American drawl contorting her voice.
“I take it then,” the journalist said slowly, “that you are against the notion of abortion?”
“You’re damn right I am!” the woman raged. “We are nothing more than the playthings of God! It is not our place to decide what we do with our bodies, only the almighty has that right!”
“But, by all accounts, the baby the woman is holding is in fact an alien.”
“You think that matters to Jesus?” Chastity snapped. “No! We cannot, and we will not, allow these sinners to murder that poor, innocent creature.”
“I see,” the journalist said with a nod. “And on the opposing side of the argument, we have Mr Randall Wesley.”
A man then stepped onto screen with a moustache big enough to have its own opinions on the matter. He wore a pair of horn-rimmed glasses stolen the 80’s and a plaid shirt buttoned up all the way to his pin-thin neck. He turned a cool, aloof smile towards the camera.
“We feel it is imperative that women have full control over their own bodies,” Wesley murmured, his voice only just managing to escape the thicket above his lips. “And these poor ladies can only depend on us to make sure this happens!” The man thumped his chest with a smug smile. “We can’t have other people dictating over what should, at the end of the day, be the woman’s choice. In fact we’re willing to frog-march the mother to the clinic ourselves right this minute, but this zealot here is getting in our way!”
“What’d you call me, you baby murdering son-of-a -”
“Well Michelle, we tried contacting the couple who are at the centre of this storm, however we couldn’t get past the mob. Back to you in the studio.”
The TV winked off and Amanda threw the remote down beside her. She swore quietly as a fresh wave of placards washed passed the window.
“What do we do?” Colleen asked, sinking down beside Amanda.
Amanda shook her head and took Colleen’s hand. “I’ll be buggered if I know.”
The zoological display in the House of Commons was in full-force that afternoon. MPs were hooting and hollering like baboons and they waved their arms as if they just didn’t care. Eventually they quietened down to a degree that allowed Edgar Nibb to actually be heard.
He wasn’t particularly pleased about the prospect. He had grown to enjoy the labour-less task of being a minor backbench MP from a county no-one paid much heed to. Not even his constituents knew who he was. So he’d been managing to coast along without having to do anything. He didn’t even have to attempt to look like he was following through with his election pledges. He had been living every politician’s dream. Well, that had been the case until that blasted couple had decided to have an abortion. Now, suddenly, everyone and their grandmother knew where his office was. He couldn’t even get through his regular afternoon naps without having that American nut calling him up and demanding that he stand up for the ‘moral citizens under such insidious persecution’, and by that she had meant herself, her supporters and no one else. And so, now with no other choice, Nibb was being forced to do some work.
“Thank you, Mr Speaker,” Nibb declared, struggling to raise his enormous wealth of fat from his worn-out seat. “As many of my esteemed colleagues in the house know, my constituency at the moment is home to a rather divisive discussion. I am, of course, referring to the matter of Miss Colleen Abercrombie’s unborn child and whether or not she should abort the foetus, which also happens to be an alien. Would it please the Prime Minister to offer her own view on the matter?”
With that, and a relieved sigh, Edgard Nibb landed back into his seat. The matter was now, officially, out of his hands.
The Prime Minister, a thin film of sweat erupting on her parchment-coloured scalp, rose slowly. She glanced over and caught the smirking sight of the opposition. A matter of this delicacy needed the ultimate form of tact. The volume of sweat began to increase.
“Babies are, of course, wonderful things,” the Prime Minister announced. “They should be protected at all cost, and I think it is our moral duty to defend their rights.” There was a murmur of agreement from around the chamber. “However, women are also, of course, wonderful things. They too should be protected at all costs, and I think it is our moral duty to defend their rights as well.” She then stepped away from the bench and sat back down. She folded her arms and smiled softly to herself. “Nailed it,” she thought.
“Welcome back to the show. For this second half we’ll be discussing a case that has literally divided the entire nation. I am of course referring to the matter of the unborn child of Miss Abercrombie and Miss Langley. The couple wish to terminate the foetus; however that choice has caused protests up and down the country.
“Now, speaking in defence of the couple is Doctor Miriam Croft, a leading figure in female health and visiting lecturer at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. And, arguing against the young couple, we have Mr Frank Bower who writes the horoscopes for Heat magazine.”
Colleen flicked the mute button and then took the mug from Amanda. “Thanks,” she said, resting it delicately on her uncomfortable bump.
“Apparently Channel 4 are doing a documentary on us,” Amanda said, sinking down beside her on the sofa.
“Oh? When did they call?”
“They didn’t,” Amanda replied. “I read about it in The Guardian.”
“Oh,” Colleen said, sinking slightly with disappointment. “Well, at least it’s not Channel 5.”
“No,” Amanda said, taking a sip from her tea. “They aired theirs on Tuesday.” She took a moment to study the expectant mother beside her. Her face had grown pale and drawn out over the past few months, as if she was wasting away. Her T-shirt was no longer big enough to contain the entirety of her bump, and veins that shouldn’t have been visible now stood out like thick cables. A sheen of what Amanda hoped was sweat coated Colleen’s arms and stomach, and her breathing fluctuated between shallow and laboured.
But what horrified her most of all was the fact that, sometimes when Colleen took her top off, Amanda could make out the shape of the creature writhing inside the womb. It made her think of a dog struggling inside of a burlap sack. Even now, just beneath the lining of Colleen’s shirt.
Colleen winced as slightly.
“Bloody thing,” she murmured, shifting the cushion beside her in a vain attempt to reach comfort.
Amanda threw herself to her feet and approached the curtained windows. A brief peek told her what she already knew. The street outside their house was no longer their own. It hadn’t been since that fateful morning, and she doubted it would change back until that thing inside Colleen was finally out. Until then, despite how often their neighbours complained, Amanda and Colleen had no choice but to sit tight.
“And how long is it between contractions?” the midwife asked, her voice sounding far too calm in Amanda’s opinion.
“Around thirteen minutes,” she replied, her mobile tucked between her ear and her shoulder whilst her hand was being squeezed by an agonised Colleen.
“Okay,” the midwife said, “just remember to keep doing the breathing exercises and just wait for the ambulance to arrive.”
Fat chance of that happening, Amanda thought. The campsite outside hadn’t shifted in size for weeks. Not even after the most recent punch-up between the two sides had resulted in the arrest of their respective leaders. Randall for breaking the peace, and McKenzie for breaking Randall’s collar bone with a Gideon’s Bible. With those two groups still in a stale-mate in the middle of the road there was no way a bicycle was getting to them, let alone an ambulance.
It looked to Amanda that it would be up to her.
She almost screamed herself as another contraction made Colleen crush Amanda’s hand. A scream of pain tore through the house, almost drowning out the prayers from outside. Amanda didn’t know what they were praying for, but she hoped for their sake that it was for divine protection. Because if both she and Colleen made it through this in one piece, then only God would be able to protect those damn bastards.
“Shit! It’s coming!” Colleen wailed, grasping at the pillows behind her and almost tearing them apart.
Amanda gaped at her and then at her watch. “Already? But – but the midwife said -”
“I don’t give a shit what the old bag said!” Colleen cried. “All I know is that this thing is coming right this God damn second!”
“Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!” Amanda ran round to the front of Colleen, pulled down her pyjama bottoms and stared down.
Help. Help was what she needed, and five seconds later she was opening the front door to look for it.
Like sharks smelling blood in the water, the protestors rose from their camps and began creeping closer to Amanda.
“Is anyone here a doctor?!” she called out desperately.
For the first time since this ordeal began there was finally silence.
“Why?” a timid voice asked from amongst the throng.
“Because my girlfriend is going into labour and we need someone who can help!”
Silence continued to enjoy its return. Realising that the protestors were going to be of no practical help in any situation, Amanda span on her heel and slammed the door shut behind her.
Another scream of pain rang out through the house, bullying Amanda’s reluctance into a submissive silence.
“Okay, hun,” Amanda said weakly as she returned to Colleen’s side. “Looks like it’s just the two of us.”
“I don’t care how many of us there are!” Colleen screamed, her sweat-drenched face turning into a virulent purple. “Just get this thing out of me!”
Amanda returned to the end of the bed and looked down at a sight she had at one point quite enjoyed seeing. Now was another matter.
Another wave of nausea ran through the woman, but a simple glance at Colleen gave Amanda the strength to steel herself. On the rare occasions the midwife had managed to make her way up to the house she’d tried to give the couple as much advice as she could, however, due to the . . . unique nature of the situation, her advice was weak at best. The best they could hope for, she had said, was that it worked just like a natural human birth.
But, looking at the mess before her, all the advice she’d been given sprinted out the back-door of Amanda’s mind, leaving her with only one word to cling to. “Push!” she yelled, her voice barely making itself heard above Colleen’s pained screams. “Push!”
The rest of the ordeal was surprisingly quick, despite what either woman would attest. Ten minutes of frantic screaming, pushing, and swearing finally ended when, much to the pair’s horror, a small figure rocketed out from between Colleen’s legs and ricocheted off the chest of drawers.
They stared at the pile of flesh that was crumpled up by the door. Its skin was an oily grey, draped with a thin coat of blood. Three twig-thin arms were curled around the horned head and a knobbly, wagging tail was the only indicator that the creature had survived the impact. Amanda and Colleen stared at their baby, neither one wanting to break the silence. Both felt that, as soon as they spoke, they’d have to accept this as their new reality.
Slowly, with a curious chirp escaping from the baby’s snout, it stood and stared at its mothers.
The sound of an approaching ambulance broke the moment. Amanda, her eyes reluctantly leaving the creature, approached the window and drew the curtains. The street outside was entirely abandoned. Only a carpet of rubbish, discarded tents and crude, hastily extinguished fires gave any indication that anyone had been camped outside for the last nine months. The flashing, wailing visage of an ambulance rounded the corner and quickly pulled up outside the house.
“What do we do now?” Colleen asked, her shirt soaked through and her hair matted with sweat.
Amanda, taking her eyes off the approaching paramedics, sighed wearily. “Who cares?”