There are many different types of science fiction, from the classic Competent Men in their gleaming spaceships to the noir-tinged dystopic cities of cyberpunk. C C Finlay‘s “Your Life Sentence” is another type again, and maybe one of the most important and powerful – the sort that asks “what will happen if this carries on?”, but which asks it about something that’s – all too sadly – well within the boundaries of the possible.
Though I believe he started writing it before then, we received Charlie’s story not long after the announcement that the House and Senate of the State of Utah had passed a bill that would criminalise miscarriage. A dark serendipity, perhaps, but it makes “Your Life Sentence” one of the most timely stories we’ve ever published here. I hope you enjoy it.
Your Life Sentence
by C C Finlay
You sit in the bathroom, pants puddled at your ankles, and stare at the vase of orchids on the marble counter: the blossoms curl like purple teardrops.
Brandon, your husband, raps on the door. “Hey! Did you fall in?”
“Out in a second,” you answer. For added verisimilitude you rattle the toilet paper roll.
“Well, call me if you need a lifeguard.”
You hate the joke. “Sure thing,” you answer with saccharine cheer.
You live in a world that requires the bravado of false cheer. For the past several days you’ve suffered from the too-familiar cramps, but you’ve been in denial, blaming the iffy paella valenciana at the restaurant two nights ago. No more. Only the deep breathing techniques you learned in Lamaze class the first time you were pregnant ease your panic.
“Honey!” Brandon pounds at the door. “We don’t want to be late.”
No, you don’t: the weekly doctor visits are a condition of your parole, after the second pregnancy. Even you think that’s only fair.
“Almost done,” you answer. A shudder runs down your spine, like a finger dragged across a keyboard badly out of tune. You rise and pull your pants up. The bowl flushes automatically, but you refuse to look back. You tuck in your blouse, yank open the door.
Brandon stands there with a shoe in one hand and a big dumb grin on his square face. “Know what week it is?”
“No,” you lie. He leans over for a kiss and you dodge him.
“Week nine,” he says, laughing as if it’s a game. “We’ll have the doctor fill out the Certificate of Conception, then call your parole officer. Then if we have to check you into the hospital for the next thirty weeks–”
“Thirty weeks in the hospital — that’s almost like prison.” You grab your keys and purse from the dresser.
“We’ve just got to stick to the plan,” he says earnestly.
Brandon has a plan, an answer, for everything. It’s why you married him, and you liked that about him for a long time, even after you realized most of his answers don’t work for you. “I think I left my ring in the bathroom,” you say, because you left it in the bathroom. “Can you get it for me?”
As soon as he turns away, you go to the garage. You’re already driving down the street when he dashes out the front door. He hops after you on one foot, still holding the shoe, shrinking in the rearview mirror as you speed out of the cul-de-sac. Continue reading NEW FICTION: YOUR LIFE SENTENCE by C C Finlay