Perihelion - October 2002
D.I.Y. Baby-Born - Alex Crosse
(page 16/16)

D.I.Y. Baby-Born

"This place will revolutionise the human race. Sex will no longer be the method by which we perpetuate ourselves. It will be recreational, done for fun..."

The speech droned on. Black suited men and official looking women shuffled uncomfortably. It was hot. The government representatives had been nervous ever since the tour of the new facility had begun. They had been sent by the Department of Trade and Industry to check out this new company that had just set up its controversial new factory in Wimbledon, but nobody had seemed to know what sort of business this company was involved in. When they had arrived the guide had proudly announced he would show them everything, and when he said everything he had meant "everything". They had been hurried through an impressive series of genetics labs, and a not so impressive series of basement storerooms, They had climbed service ducts and absailed down subterranean lift shafts, (the elevators were still not working properly, the guide explained) and had even been given an intimate tour of the ground floor men's room. And still they had no idea what this place was for! The guide had blasted them with techno-babble, giving most of the listeners headaches and when questioned he had given vague answers or had simply smiled knowingly. He had been the perfect politician, but this seemed to be the finale, this was what the long presentations and endless speeches had been about, behind the great towering steel doors in front of them was something that would change the world for ever.

"Gentlemen, I present the future."

The doors creaked and groaned as they slowly receded, exposing the marvel beyond. The officials just stood there, stunned into silence by what lay before them. It was sometime before one had the courage to utter the phrase that was at the back of all their minds.

"Good god!"

"We can't just let this go ahead, it's," He paused searching for the words, "it's ... unnatural, that's what it is!"

The group of officials now sat round a large circular conference table. Dotted around the salmon pink walls of the room were stencilled the company slogans in bold green letters, "Nine-minute babies," and "Babies while you wait." The room felt more like a primary school classroom than a serious company conference room. The guide had explained that it was to "lighten the spirits of the employees," but it probably only helped to remind the employees of what it was like to be five again. The government officials, however, seemed not to notice the childishness of their surroundings, since their eyes were firmly fixed on the impressively large tower of money that dominated the mahogany conference table. When the guide was asked whether the company was trying to bribe upright government representatives he flatly denied it, saying that it was just the surplus cash which the company no longer needed, an excuse which they accepted. He then said that he would leave them alone to think over what they had just seen, and after wishing them a pleasant holiday in the Bahamas, he walked out. Which left them all alone... with a mountain of money... which wasn't a bribe. For a long time they just stared at the heap of notes, not daring to make a sound. Then one stood and started to speak, but what he said hadn't quite been what the others had expected.

"This is an outrage! Who knows where this will lead! The miracle of new birth should be cherished, remember a baby is for life not just for Christmas!"

The others, who seemed to have come up with a slightly different solution to the problem, ignored the speaker. The silence, having been shattered by the pious speech, was now unrepairable and officials were now chatting among themselves, but still the money remained untouched and unmentioned. The clamour steadily rose drowning out the sound of honour and reason echoing from the end of the conference table.

"Concentrate on the issues please." Shouted the original speaker. Actually nobody knew who he was. He had just appeared five minutes after the tour had started. He had dropped down from an air vent in the ceiling, which had surprised everybody a great deal, except the guide who acted as if nothing had happened. He had immediately began to throw his weight around, which owing to a large waistline was quite considerable, and the officials had begun to wonder how he managed to get through the vent anyway. From then on he seemed to be running the show, and nobody argued at the time, because he seemed to understand what was going on, but now everybody thought it was just taking the piss that a man who had fallen through the ceiling was now ordering them about. They didn't even know his full name. He just went by the name of Nick. Geoffrey had pointed out that the devil went by the name of Nick too, but nobody ever listened to him anyway.

"We are talking about the future of the human race here! Are you to condemn us to be a race created by some tacky Japanese slot machine!"

"There's nothing wrong with Japanese slot machines!" said Ken, who happened to be Japanese but nobody ever listened to him either. In fact it was very rare for anyone to listen to anyone else in the Department of Trade and Industry, unless they were getting a pay raise, or getting the sack.

"You're missing the point," Nick growled through clenched teeth.

"It is a lot of money they're offering us," Martha muttered in a dreamy way. She was thinking of her Bill Gates screensaver. It was one of the reasons why she didn't do any work at the office. She refused to move the mouse lest the ridiculous face disappeared. There had been numerous attempts to delete the screensaver but all had failed. The latest attempt was rumbled when Geoffrey trod on Martha's Geranium. The plant had been dead for years but Martha had a worse crush on the cluster of dead leaves than on the grinning face that met her every morning when she stared into her monitor. The various conspirators scarpered leaving a bewildered Geoffrey to try and explain why he was standing with his foot in a pot. Martha and Geoffrey hadn't spoken since. In fact there was a sweepstakes to see how many weeks it would be before they spoke again. Terry, who had got the "Never" ticket, was already booking a grand night out.

The mention of the money seemed to be the cue for everyone. There was a crash as everybody dived for the pile of orange notes, and within minutes nothing remained on the table except part of Ken's jacket that had inadvertently been torn, and a few spots of blood which had been donated courtesy of Geoffrey when Martha had got him in a head-lock and had repeatedly banged his head against the table, supposedly payback for the geranium incident.

Nick stood alone at the end of the table; a ten pound note floated down from the ceiling and he caught it. He held it up and stared at it before crumpling it quickly and throwing it to the floor.

"I have failed," He moaned "Nothing can save them now."

And with that he vanished. A few minutes later he reappeared, picked up his briefcase and vanished again.

The queue stretched three times round the warehouse. Three lines of excited young couples laughed and joked under the bright red neon sign, that read "D.I.Y. babies inc." Among those waiting impatiently for the miracle of new birth were the newly wed couple of Martha and Geoffrey, who had finally found true love when Martha had apologised to Geoffrey for breaking his nose. Geoffrey had apologised for treading on the plant. Martha had said it didn't matter, because she still had her Bill Gates screensaver, which was slightly awkward as Geoffrey had just deleted it, but he thought that he shouldn't mention it just yet, and they had been married the next day. The lavish reception was paid for by the money they had both received from D.I.Y. Babies inc. so they felt they should have their first child by the new company. Behind the two love birds, stood a very disgruntled Terry, who was furious at losing the sweepstakes and a very happy Ken who had won. And behind him a large proportion of the population of London snaked away round the corner of the slate grey building.

The sun was sinking behind the London skyline when Geoffrey and Martha finally reached the front of the line. By this time the members of the Organisation against the Inhumane Child-Birth Machines had gone home. The small fanatical minority had dropped a bombshell this morning by turning up to protest. D.I.Y. Babies inc. thought it had completely won over the populous of Britain, normally by rather large cash hand-outs, and therefore had no opposition. Actually, the group had caused more confusion by their choice of name. Most people thought that the Organisation against I.C.B.M's was some sort of reincarnation of the old twentieth century campaign group C.N.D. Once they had explained why they were there the life seemed to have dropped out of the protest and most of the wandered off to the pub. A few hard-liners had stayed, but now the patch of grass was empty and nothing challenged Martha And Geoffrey's entry into the building, which only days before they had endorsed. After passing through a musty foyer - Martha could have sworn the receptionist had been the one from Ghostbusters - and having signed various legal documents, basically some poorly disguised disclaimers, they finally reached the birthing hall. The sight that met them now was exactly the same as the one that had met them on the tour, except the initial shock had already passed and they stood for a moment surveying the sight before them. Stretching away in front of them were rows and rows of what looked like drink vending machines, except the big Cola bottle on the front had been replaced by a giant image of a baby brandishing a rattle above his head, in much the same way a medieval knight would brandish a mace, and grinning toothlessly. In fact it was quite a ghastly picture and had been enough to drive a few couples away. The machine itself was simple. You put your fifty pence piece into the slot. The flashing lights then guided you to a pair of buttons, a large pink one and a large blue one. Once you had chosen whether you wanted a little girl or a little boy, the machine whirred and whined and within a few minutes your healthy infant was deposited in the collecting tray. And that was that. The minute Martha saw the picture of the devil/baby brandishing the rattle like a middle ages knight would brandish a mace, she went into her soppy mode, usually reserved for an afore mentioned screensaver or cats, and was soon dragging Geoffrey towards a free machine which stood out of the way of the others in a corner. About ten yards away she let go of Geoffrey, who promptly fell flat on his face, and ran towards the machine. Before Geoffrey could reach her Martha had put the money in the slot and had pressed as many buttons as she felt necessary and was standing with her hands over her eyes.

"Oh, Geoffrey tell me how our little Violet looks. Is she pretty?"

Geoffrey reached into the dispenser tray and removed it's contents. He stared down at the steaming cappuccino and muttered,

"She's lovely Dear."

"I got him at that new baby outlet thing, doctor, the one that's just opened, out near Wimbledon. Well, I just wanted to know whether he's all right, you know healthy, you can never be too careful can you."

"That's very sensible of you Mrs.Richards. Frisky little thing, isn't he!"

At that particular moment the baby had got away from Mrs. Richards and was trying to strangle the doctor with his neck-tie, and by the colour the doctor was going seemed to be succeeding.

"I only brought him in because of what happened last night."

The doctor didn't answer, he was too busy trying to prise the toddlers fingers from his jugular. Getting no answer Mrs. Richards ploughed on.

"It was late you see, and my husband had just got back from work and I go to the door and open it, and I see little Jerry here crawling down the hall towards us..."

By this time little Jerry had decided that he was getting no where with the neck-tie and had gone for the telephone, which he was now swinging round his head by the cable. The doctor had retreated to a defensive position, under his desk.

"...well, I start calling to him, and he starts grinning and waving his rattle like he does. Anyway, he reaches us, we're smiling down at him, and he's smiling up at us, you see. My husband says "Hello Jerry." And Jerry put his little hand on the wall and raised himself up to his full height and sunk his teeth into my husband's knee-cap! I was just wondering if that was normal for a growing child."

"You shouldn't encourage him." Came a muffled voice beneath the desk.

The last remark was punctuated with a crash as the baby threw the computer monitor at a nurse who had just walked in. Luckily it missed and the nurse beat a hasty retreat. The baby had now gone into overdrive and was practising infant Tai-Chi on the photo of the doctor's wife, that was on his desk.

"What do you feed him on?" The doctor inquired.

"Mainly the food left over from my last son."

"How old is he?"


"That could be your problem."

There was silence for a few minutes, well as silent as it could be with Jerry swinging from the lampshade. It was the doctor that broke the pseudosilence.

"Actually this is the fourth case of infant violence I've had to deal with this week. All the babies were the product of the D.I.Y. Babies and I feel that this is a risk to the community. There is only one thing I can do but I will need some help. Would you be so kind as to fetch the duty nurse... on second thoughts get all the nurses!"

Mrs. Richards left and returned a few minutes later with the nurses to find the doctor screaming as Jerry tried to insert pencils up the doctor's nostrils. In fact there was already an eraser up one and pen lid up the other and there was no more room but Jerry hadn't worked this out yet. It took all eight of them with all the energy they could muster to hold the baby down while the doctor took a little rubber stamp out of his pocket and stamped on the baby's arm:


Within a few days the stream of babies being returned was phenomenal. Where to put them was becoming a problem. Originally they had been housed in the factory outlet, which had been shutdown just after the returns had started flowing back, but the babies had just trashed the interior, destroying everything in sight. They had then piled up all the debris under a window and escaped into London. That night the number of muggings and reported vandalism had tripled. The police had finally rounded them up and incarcerated them in a maximum security prison. It was a good temporary solution but a more permanent solution was required. Many ideas had been floated, such as abandoning them in Antarctica without a change of nappies, or building a spaceship and sending them to Mars, but all had been rejected as too cruel. The discussions dragged on. Many people thought they would do for some time.

Geoffrey stood across the street from the ominous building that had been the heart of the problem. A big sign read, "Closed for refurbishment." Geoffrey doubted that it would open again. The company was desperately trying to cover up the mess that they had created. The large neon letters spelling out the company name had already gone and now even the smallest pieces of evidence were being swept up and surreptitiously disposed of. Even now you would have to look very hard to see that this was not just another warehouse belonging to another industrial giant. But Geoffrey knew the memory wouldn't be erased that easily - they couldn't sweep people's minds into dustbin bags could they? Actually, Geoffrey thought they probably could, but it would be very messy and the tight government wouldn't cough up the money, but it amounted to the same thing. He and Martha had split up shortly after he had returned their baby Violet. She had said that she would never sacrifice her child but the camel's back had been broken when Violet had mistaken Geoffrey for that camel. When Martha found out she walked out. Shortly after that he had lost his job at the Department for endorsing the D.I.Y. Babies company. It had been a terrible day. He was just considering leaving and finding a bar, when he realised he was being watched. He turned around to find himself face-to-face with a tall man in a black suit with a pair of sunglasses on. Before he could react there was a blinding flash of light and he was gone. Geoffrey turned back to what he had been looking at and was curious to find himself looking at a warehouse belonging to a blank-faced multi-national corporation. However hard he thought he could not remember why he had been looking at the dreary grey building. It didn't even look used anymore He turned to walk away, and as he did so he couldn't help feeling that in some way his brain had just been swept up.

Alex Crosse