麦原遼 (Haruka Mugihara)
Haruka Mugihara was born in Tokyo at 1991 and now lives in Kyoto. They hold a master’s degree in mathematics. Being a graduate of Genron Ohmori Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop, they made their literary debut with the novella “逆数宇宙 (The Reciprocal Universe)” (2018).
From our ribs
Grandma, I love you. Since I met you, I have felt blessed that I was born into a wealthy family for the first time. I can pay the expenses for your safe awakening from the cryosleep and welcome you—if my situation were different, I might have had to delegate the responsibility to my child or grandchild…. Or, I may have been forced to discard your body, unable to even pay the maintenance fees (just the thought of it makes me shudder). Oh, no matter what you may say, I’m delighted that you and I have met, avoiding all those terrible odds.
I felt the pain of our fight yesterday lingering on my stomach the whole day. I was furious because I thought my pride was denied and ran away from your place. Not knowing what to do, I haven’t gone back to see you yet. I’m getting ready for a conversation, reading the so-called ‘blog’ posts you seem to have written before the cryosleep. That’s what I’m doing now. I believe, Grandma, you have been listening to me without any objection so far.
Well, reflecting on my situation, there is one more thing I felt is bliss. That is, if I decide to have a baby with a woman, I won’t have to burden my partner with pregnancy. I don’t, because our family has a contract with D——. Of course, it will be different if my partner is a human who wants to have a baby as D—— does. Yes, although I couldn’t explain it to you yesterday, it is something that I’m very proud of. I’ll tell you that.
I read a blog post you wrote, Grandma. The one you began by saying: I will look back on my life and make a record of it because I might not wake up from the cryosleep forever. Oh, no, let me change the way I describe it. I am so choked that I feel like I cannot talk anymore…. I read your blog post, Grandma. It was one of the pieces filed under the Miscellaneous folder. And you wrote: My experience in pregnancy is inseparable from my life, and I learned a lot from it. Still, I can’t say for sure that everything about a child is good. The physical burden is enormous. The social complexity and biases in this matter often hurt, and I even felt like putting a curse on them at some point. I often talked about this with close friends over a drink—I wish the artificial womb would become available as soon as possible.
That’s why I assumed that you would be pleased to see the way D——s and we live together now. But then, it turned into a fight. No, it was not so much of a fight. It was rather my frustration against your disapproval—I was so devastated that I ended up thinking, ‘I might as well be talking to the wall.’
At the time, you said, “Are you dumping the burden on others?” However, it is not different from delegating complicated construction works or delicious dishes to others. D——s, they are the professional. They are the athlete. They are the artist. They really are, as far as pregnancy is concerned. They don’t know what morning sickness is. For them, labor pains are so minor that it feels like something itchy. When it’s all over, they are wrapped up in happiness. And there will be pride, joy, and a sense of fulfillment in all this.
In your days, Grandma, there was the term ‘surrogate mother.’ We do have them yet, but the work is now taken over by D—— gradually. People criticize the possibility that some pressures can force a woman to become a surrogate mother for a living. By any chance, is the woman robbed of a life she would have wanted had she been well off? That’s the problem. Is she following her wishes or not? If she is doing it because she has no choice, that’s not good.
But with D——, we don’t have to worry because they want it. We always ask them if they wish to move on to the next pregnancy. Even if they do, when it turns out to be too hard on them physically, we let them take a good rest. They are provided well with the necessities of life during the recuperation, but they often want to have a baby because it comes with happiness.
Why not using an artificial womb? I sometimes hear a rumor that the work on the artificial womb is in progress somewhere on this planet. To tell you the truth, I think it is a good option, too. However, here, where we live, a lot of people seem to be afraid of it: Will it not curb the pace of population growth too effortlessly? Many seem to share a belief that population growth should be connected to each individual body—that way, the growth can be controlled in a democratic and decentralized manner. And, well, there is another element, which is the respect for emotion. A work done by those who know happiness must be better than a work done by those who are unfeeling (or even emotionless).
D—— is a life like me. And D—— is an existence born with a constitution suitable for pregnancy, neither a woman nor a man in a traditional sense. I didn’t tell you yesterday, but they have education with us in the beginning. But, usually, they seem to lose interest in studying somewhere along the line and move to a vocational school.
While a D—— can have a baby with another D——, they can also implant a substance similar to the sperm-egg binding and fusion in their body, growing the embryo. They typically foster three to four individuals at a time. They are the elite. You’ve seen them, haven’t you? And they are pretty big and look healthy.
Oh, it just flashed through my mind what you may say, Grandma. But no, no, they are not slaves. If they are a slave, they will be made to obey what they hate deep inside. That’s not the case—they want it. Grandma, wouldn’t you feel frustrated if someone tells you that your decisions have been actually controlled or manipulated by someone else? I can hear you say, “If it’s not a slave, is it a domestic animal?” No way. It’s not like they are fenced. If D—— is a domestic animal, every one of us must be a domestic animal.
We all appreciate D—— for everything. Yes, they are our pride. They incubate and protect a precious life for us. And we try to grant most of their wishes. However, every D—— is so selfless. It seems that they feel happy enough if they can see beautiful things and work the body.
Oh, are you wondering how the first D—— was born? I heard that there was no direct genome editing. No, although it was a chaotic period. As far as I know, everything was accidental. But I can’t deny that there must have been a lot of experiments. You still don’t get it? Why not? Oh, I know what it is. You are wondering what happened to their ancestors before the current form of D——, who used to be still closer to ordinary people. You suspect that their will to live may not have been respected. They may have been coerced into doing all kinds of things. Besides, when choosing how to mutate their genetic information, they may not have been allowed to take the initiative to make the decision. Well, I must admit that I have never thought about these things.
Still, even if we assume that some wrongs were done in history, we live here and now. It is we who are living here with what D—— is today. If the past is evil, should the outcome be evil, too? I mean, is D——’s existence evil, too? Are you saying that we should deny them their happiness and control their posterity? Shouldn’t we just cherish the happiness of all living beings and be grateful to each other?
How about that? Oh, Grandma, what’s that look on your face?
No, no, I don’t understand. Somehow, I imagine you crying, Grandma. But why?