Title: womb-born

Author: nostalgia

Rated: PG

Disclaim: This all belongs to the BBC. Except the bits about the TVM, which some Americans helped pay for.

Summary: Ever failed to fit in?


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He is torn, screaming, from his mother's womb.

Born, not from the sleek metal mixers of DNA that construct children from the best aspects their parents, but from an organic test tube, the product of random gene sequencing. He is a child of meiosis and mitosis. He is 'unnatural'.

* * * * *

You could stay here, live here, love here.

You could die here, again and again until you can die no more. Or rather, until you are finally forced to stay dead.

You could become domesticated, and drink tea from china cups as you help your children with their homework.

It could all be terribly civilised, couldn't it?

* * * * *

He can't see the stars, because a concrete dome seals the city in upon itself. He can stand on the balcony, twenty-three floors up, and stare out as the planet turns and his home travels across the night side of the world. But he can never see the stars.

Above him, the curving grey roof of the city is lit and imposing. It tries to reassure him, but he has always, for some reason, longed to see the stars.

But the stars aren't supposed to hold any interest. In school stars are reduced to numbers and equations. "Some of you," says the teacher, "May some day travel to the stars on research expeditions." To measure things, not to live them.

The pale boy in the back row decides that it isn't enough. The stars don't matter in themselves, he thinks, just the worlds they heat. Just the people on those worlds.

He wants to travel.

The pale, skinny boy day-dreaming in the back row becomes, suddenly and unnoticed, a heretic.

* * * * *

You could have a cat. Or a dog, a real one of flesh and blood. You could take it for walks in the park, or by the river.

You could drive a fuel-wasting, air-destroying, dirt-spewing car. You could wash it by hand on Saturday afternoons.

* * * * *

He feels cool grass against his back, dampness seeping into his clothes. Coloured lights flash across the sky, cosmic debris burning up in the atmosphere. He sees himself pointing upwards, to the steady silver beacons. "Which one's Earth?"

His father says nothing.

But the boy is insistent, demanding. He wants to know, he needs to know.

His father is annoyed at having to part with the information; he does not want to fuel his son's fantasies. "You can't see the Earth's sun from here."

So the boy looks up at the plane of the galaxy, a dim band of light bisecting the night sky. Somewhere in that mess of starlight lies his mother's planet. Somewhere is the home that half of him yearns for.

He becomes determined.

* * * * *

The woman stands with her back to a tree strewn with lights. You wonder about the symbolism; a primal earth energy mixing with technology, making a new and wonderful phenomenon. You worry about something.

A woman, red hair and curious eyes. A doctor, which is ironic, as so many things are.

Could she heal you? Could she kiss you and make you complete? Would you even notice if she did?

* * * * *

The boy feels different, because he is. He has never fitted in here, and he knows - somehow - that he never will. His life will pass on this world and he will always be given sideways looks by the curious and the suspicious.

His father is kind, and worries too much about the approval of others. He wants most of all for his son to feel settled. He wants his child to be happy.

The boy sleeps and dreams of another home.

* * * * *

But you could never belong here. You will never belong anywhere. You were born strange on a strange world and the blood that flows through you is a complicated cocktail of two separate evolutions. Genetically, you are an anomaly; culturally, you are adrift.

* * * * *

Children are cruel everywhere, and on some worlds the adults are children too. It is hard to be the object of fear when all you want is to belong.

The boy copes by growing a thinner skin and learning to take things personally.

Somewhere, hope is born to the lost.

* * * * *

You leave again as you always leave. You are annoyed that it doesn't hurt as much as you expected.

You see her one last time from the steps that lead to the absurdity you call home. You wonder if she wants you to change your mind. But she doesn't say anything, and the doors close behind you, sealing you into the ship's embrace.

* * * * *

The boy becomes deus ex machina, he becomes coincidence, he becomes an improbable plot twist at the very last minute.

He becomes an ace, concealed in a dark velvet sleeve until the game is almost lost. He becomes the reinforcements arriving over the hill, dust swirling behind the horses and the hounds.

He becomes the gun that jams, the lock that doesn't quite hold. He becomes the bomb that crashes through the roof and sits, unexploded, in the centre of the room. He remains unlikely.

He turns himself into a phenomenon of absurdity, a man whose only excuse lies in chance, in complex quantum equations designed to distract the observer from reality.

He becomes the one who cheats Time, Death and all the others.

He revels in being an anomaly.

He remains womb-born.

* * * * *

Your hearts beat, and you put away the sadness. You have learned to love the misfits and the rejects. You walk through time and you walk upon the Earth. You are unique.

You are womb-born.