Copyright © 1996-2003 Sarah Henderson.
She is given to me quietly, secretly.
I see her face. She looks up at me with huge eyes, like pools of sparkling blue water. Her gaze is very trusting, so much that I have to look away. I can't look at her knowing what I'm about to do to her. I prepare the needle. I glance back at her face. She is still gazing at me, and seems to be smiling now. I look at her pleadingly.
"Please don't think I want to do this," I say. "Please forgive me for what I'm going to do. I don't do it by choice."
I leave unsaid my selfish reasons, that it's her life or the lives of my family and I. That if it isn't me doing the stilling it will be someone else. That it's for the greater good of the whole community, in the interest of population control. These things will be meaningless to her. She will never have the chance to understand them.
Usually I don't see the babies I have to still. While they are in the womb the hospital gives them a drug, which paralyses them and means they will feel no pain. After they are born, they are wrapped up and brought to me for a final, fatal injection, called a still. This can't be given to a foetus, because it would kill the mother.
The parents never know what happens to their child. All they are told is that the percentage of 'stillborn' babies has risen recently.
This girl waves her arms. Obviously her muscle relaxant hasn't worked. I'll have to prepare another one. I reach for her file, to check what she has been given, but to my surprise, it isn't pinned to her cloak as it would normally be. After a quick check of the floor for the file, it all clicks together. Her open eyes, her lack of drugs, the absence of a file - she is not supposed to be stilled.
Cradling her in my arms, I stride out into the office where the nurse waits.
"Where did this girl come from?" I demand. "She's not supposed to be stilled, she doesn't even have a file."
To my utter astonishment, the nurse promptly burst into tears.
"It's mine," she sobs, "I'm so sorry, I don't want a baby." She repeats this over and over, barely understandable amid her tears.
After I calm her down, I listen to her story. She's just been accepted to live on the new moonrise colony, but she won't be allowed to have a child there without permission. The pregnancy was the result of a rape, and she doesn't want anything to do with a child.
Already I know what will happen to the baby. She looks up at me trustingly, gurgling delightfully. I am unable to conceive naturally.
I'm calling her Still.