Jaclyn Watterson

Issue 14 · Fall 2014

They’re converting women like me into spindly, sexless infants, so I’m hiding out 
at Alex’s.

There are so many things I don’t want to do, but become dumb, and unsightly, 
and a baby is at the top of the list. Alex is sympathetic, and brings things—sandwiches 
and crackers and books from the library. Alex says some women like me still hang out at 
the library, but there haven’t been any in restaurants or parks for a while. And they 
certainly aren’t using public transportation.

The last time I went outside, a stranger spoke to me on the street. He asked if I 
study at the university. I didn’t answer, I saw a fattish centipede on the sidewalk, I 
picked my nose when I was pretty sure no one was looking, I got a coffee in a paper cup, 
I walked through the park and stopped to admire a bird with the longest eyelashes I’ve 
ever seen and I wondered if the bird had escaped from the aviary and if so whether she 
would be all right, and then I let myself into Alex’s apartment, planning to stay for 
dinner at least but not thinking I might stay until I’m the last woman like me in our city.

Alex and I are not exactly close, but sometimes we make out, and Alex agrees 
with my cause. Which is more than I can say for my sister. She said, We don’t know 
what it’s like to be designed and engineered infants. Maybe we would enjoy it, and 
maybe we’d come back from it.

I don’t think she’s coming back.

Some of these unsexed babies live with families in the city, but many of them are 
in the old foundry. It’s still warm there, and they bus in formula to feed the infants. At 
least that’s what Alex tells me. 

Hiding out, I watch television and I’ve learned about a few creatures—including 
the iconic clown fish—who change sex when there’s a shortage of males or females. Is it 
possible that this new type of baby will grow, develop sex?

But surely they thought of that before they started harvesting them.

The girls in our city are growing without interruption. They’ll be women unless 
they die first. But not women like me, because we are converted.

My sister says Great Aunt Bea is gone. And then my sister’s calls stop, and she is 
gone too. If I saw the skinny babes, would I recognize any of them as my own? I ask 
Alex, but Alex says all the infants look the same. Now I wonder if I can trust Alex, and I 
say, I wonder if I can trust you.

Alex says my name, which upsets me, and then offers to bring one of the infants
to the apartment.

Here?, I say. A baby?

I can bring two, Alex says, and you can compare them.

A week later, Alex goes out for ginger snaps and returns with ginger snaps and 
two spindled infants wrapped and concealed in the messenger bag. I think the bag 
contains the library books I asked Alex to pick up for me, but Alex says no, the library 
books can wait because there are two modified babies in the bag to mollify. 

The bag is silent and still. I point this out. Alex says infants, especially these very 
unsexy ones, are often silent and still. This state is not to be mistaken for contentment. 

Where did you get them? I ask.

Alex is evasive, says the specimens are on loan from friends, then takes the bag 
from me and sets it on the kitchen table, which is round and lion-footed. The bag 
remains silent and still. I contemplate how the more-than-natural babies might and 
might not resemble my sister and Great Aunt Bea.

After a while Alex says, I’m going to take a shower. Look at them if you want.

I think it’s not me, but the spindly, sexless infants Alex should consider now. 
Would they like to be left alone with me, a stranger? But they know each other—
presumably—and outnumber me.