In a society where only unborn fetuses have souls, people who grow up are chattel called "arvies," doomed to be controlled by biotech superfetuses from inside their wombs. But what happens when a fetus wants to have a baby?
That's the utterly weird question raised in Lightspeed Magazine's latest story, "Arvies," by Adam-Troy Castro. It's a dark, spare story that satirizes religious beliefs about when people become ensouled - and in the process, enlists your sympathy for the drugged-out, genetically engineered human arvies of the fetuses who rule the solar system. It's also a scathing portrait of people who have children for all the wrong reasons. Prepare to have your mind scrambled and your hopes for the future crushed by Castro's tale. Here's how it starts:
STATEMENT OF INTENT
This is the story of a mother, and a daughter, and the right to life, and the dignity of all living things, and of some souls granted great destinies at the moment of their conception, and of others damned to remain society's useful idiots.
Expect cute plush animals and amniotic fluid and a more or less happy ending for everybody, though the definition of happiness may depend on the truncated emotional capacity of those unable to feel anything else. Some of the characters are rich and famous, others are underage, and one is legally dead, though you may like her the most of all.
We first encounter Molly June on her fifteenth deathday, when the monitors in charge of deciding such things declare her safe for passengers. Congratulating her on completing the only important stage of her development, they truck her in a padded skimmer to the arvie showroom where she is claimed, right away, by one of the Living.
The fast sale surprises nobody, not the servos that trained her into her current state of health and attractiveness, not the AI routines managing the showroom, and least of all Molly June, who has spent her infancy and early childhood having the ability to feel surprise, or anything beyond a vague contentment, scrubbed from her emotional palate. Crying, she'd learned while still capable of such things, brought punishment, while unconditional acceptance of anything the engineers saw fit to provide brought light and flower scent and warmth. By this point in her existence she'll greet anything short of an exploding bomb with no reaction deeper than vague concern. Her sale is a minor development by comparison: a happy development, reinforcing her feelings of dull satisfaction. Don't feel sorry for her. Her entire life, or more accurately death, is happy ending. All she has to do is spend the rest of it carrying a passenger.
Read the rest of the story at Lightspeed Magazine.