By Mary E. Gerdt 2012
All rights reserved
The Letter… Part 1
Alice woke up with a dry parched mouth and a pounding headache. She spied the empty brown bottle. One Japanese beer was all she could stomach any more. Maybe that was for the best.
She must have passed out next to the letter that started a crying jag that shivered the timbers of their island beach house. Alice strained to recall anything but Margo, the name, Margo, what did it mean, who was she?
She realized she never really even made it to the letter, just the envelope, just the thought of her mother, her clone mother, would write her a letter, make her carry it around and put that load on Alice, too. Secrets, on top of secrets. Alice wanted to burn the damn letter, the one that had her off her game, emotional, out of control…with…feeling.
Georgia checked in earlier, left some cold cereal, juice, fresh towels. She never saw the letter, and would never have known about it if Alice had just burned it, right then, as she impulsively wanted to do. Alice waited a split second and blew her chance to be a daring, cavalier gambler. Instead, she is calculating, scientific, like her Mom, predictable, objective, boring.
Alice rubbed her eyes, took a swig of juice, and read the letter.
This time the Dear Alice thing didn’t even garner a sneeze, let alone tears.
She looked at the empty beer bottle and swore to herself, “never again!”.
You have been the shining light in my life, my everything, my purpose, my chance to make my parents proud, my country, my sciences that I loved more than a spouse, or my parents.
As I grew as a scientist, there were certain boundaries I had to consider, evaluate, analyze.
(of course, Alice thought, cloning? The ultimate ethics challenge-never seemed to bother Mom)
When I was in basic training, readying for the space program, I was in the program with Gigi Fairweather. (Alice’s interest perking up).
Before we went to space, we had the option of saving embryos.
It was generally accepted that we might be rendered sterile in the radiation of the trip and the risks associated with the early settlements. So they gave us a catalog of likely sperm donors and we ordered up children to be frozen if we made it back.
(Alice is more puzzled than ever)
I never made it to outer space even though I flew plenty. Gigi wanted to go all the way to Mars, even back in school. I preferred cloning plants and monkeys and trying to make humans. Switzerland offered me a great deal of money and a state of the art research lab. We worked for 5 years.
Alice heard this all before.
Alice’s heart skipped a beat. Like a flip flop. She paused breathing. Then began again. She checked her own pulse. “I am alive.” she thought.
She read on.
We knew we failed. Yet we could not show nothing to the Swiss government, they were so on edge, too hopeful and insistent. By then I had developed arthritis and had terrific pain in spite of treatments. I knew even if I wanted to clone, I could not give you, or any child, what I knew would be a painful condition.
So my faithful midwife Georgia, thinking she had planted a clone, actually planted an embryo I had removed from Gigi’s cache. No one knew.
Not one single person.
Alice dropped the letter, stunned now, past emotions, past understanding, her life based on a lie, a white lie, or a terminal ego or the well meaning of a caring mother surrogate.
Gigi was her mother. Alice was being interviewed by her mother living on Mars who does not know it. Alice’s mother Susan lied. Alice was more alone than ever. Once unique and suffering being the only one, and isolated. Now she is like the rest of the human race, finally like everyone else, and no one to tell, no one to care.