“A New Christmas”

Here is a Xmas fable that some may find a little grim. You have been warned!

(Special thanks to Heidi Berthiaume for the New Improved Xmas covers.)

CRASH_reindeerAntlers - smaller“A New Christmas”

James was born one day early, secretly and illegally, on December 24th.

The father, a humble d-mat engineer, knew the law well. Data is supposed to be inviolate: if people could not assume with one hundred percent surety that the information that made them them would remain unchanged while being transmitted, they would never use d-mat again. Fears of arriving with two heads or reversed or merged with random insects would overcome the massive convenience of being able to go anywhere, any time, for free.

The irony, as the voices in his head so compellingly expressed, is that people can assume no such thing in everyday life, so why hold d-mat to a higher standard? Age, random accidents, cosmic rays, drug use–all violate the permanence of flesh. And so it should be, he came slowly to understand. God made the universe and set it in motion. Fixity is unnatural. All things, the voices said, change, or die.

That was why he was chosen.

When you’re a d-mat engineer, it’s a trivial matter to spy on the data streaming through the system. Not much harder to steal and alter it, either.

The more difficult problem was finding a compatible donor. He didn’t want to tinker with the genes too much, although he needed to, of course, to remove any obvious defects. And although the womb and its precious contents could easily be shaped to match the site into which it would be implanted, there couldn’t be two versions of the same child. Erasing the “original” while the mother was in transit required quick wits and a light touch. Five of the donor mothers bled afterwards. One was hospitalized.

The voices soothed his qualms with reminders that great work requires great sacrifice. He too was taking risks, both professionally and personally.

Crashland_elfHat - smallerWorking alone, he had no one to oversee the implantation, or the occasional topping up of nutrients. He made many mistakes and was grateful for his lonely existence, far from prying eyes. There was a lot of evidence to be disposed of, erased from the private network he had built in his basement. There were no tiny graves in the floor, although he imagined them every time he paced back and forth, agonizing over what went wrong and how to get it right next time.

That he did eventually get it right was the main thing. With the voices’ encouragement, he persisted–and prevailed, bringing the child at last to term and delivering it successfully, using the technology that God had given the world.

This wasn’t a virgin birth. This was something much better, something entirely new. It was good that it had come early. Henceforth, Christmas would have a new date.

Change, or die.

James’s father knelt at the kicking feet of the child he had made, his body restored to its former shape, still tingling from the miracle. The voices told him that he had done well. After thirty mistakes, there lay crying the culmination of all his efforts: the messiah, the one who would remake the world anew.

“All hail the king!” sang the voices.

The humble d-mat engineer remembered the feel of the tiny body kicking inside his own, and wept.

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