When my husband and I went to the fertility clinic, the doctor said we could build our own baby.
“What do you mean, ‘build?’” my husband asked.
“There are all sorts of genetic improvements, listed here…” the doctor handed us a glossy brochure. Babies with shark skin, babies with lemur eyes, babies with the bioluminescent glow of deep-sea creatures. We could build a baby that flew through the air, a baby that could make itself invisible, a baby that, when threatened, emitted a noxious poisonous cloud from its tear ducts.
“We’ll discuss it,” I said.
That night, my husband and I had sex again (just in case) and I put my legs up in the air.
“If your parents built you,” I asked, “what would you have wanted them to include?”
My husband hummed off-key and kissed my unsightly moles.
“A singing voice,” he said. “I’d want to sing like a nightingale.”
We ended up choosing a lichen baby. Half-algae, half fungus, our baby would be the strongest, most long-lived baby the world had ever seen. Our baby could live in space! Our baby could thrive for a thousand years after all the nuclear bombs went off.
When our daughter was born, I wrapped her in a moist towel and pulled her spongy body to my breast. She didn’t need me for food, she ate rocks and photosynthesized, but I liked to hold her close and coo a mammalian song.
“Is there still a part of us in her?” my husband asked.
“She’s what she needs to be to survive,” I said.
So, we loved her.
In nine thousand years, the sleet gray rocks of the earth will be crawling with green lichen. There will be nothing left of humans, but my baby will thrive under the silent sky.
Deirdre Danklin holds an MFA from Johns Hopkins University. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines (including Hobart, Pithead Chapel, The Jellyfish Review, etc.) and has been nominated for BASS and Best Small Fictions ’21. She reads for Fractured Lit & The Chestnut Review. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and orange tabby cat.
Lead image: “lichen” (via Flickr user Siaron James)