Short Fiction: Reuben by Regan W. H. Macaulay

This week we’re bringing you another short piece of fiction from Regan W. H. Macaulay. Regan is the author of two upcoming children’s picture books, Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast and Beverlee Beaz, The Brown Burmese. The story you are about to read is a sci-fi story about an unusual clone…

REUBEN

“Clarissa, he’s an abomination,” said Father Simmons, stifling a dry cough.

“Now, Father, you promised me no melodramatic piety,” Clarissa said in a strained voice, feeling a flush of heat in her cheeks. Her jaw stiffened as she held her newborn close. “I think the term ‘abomination’ qualifies as melodramatic.”

Now it was Father Simmons’ turn to go red in the face. He rose from his seat, his lips tense and white. “This is serious, Clarissa,” the Father hissed, his eyes sharp as pins. “You should not have made him.”

“Made him,” she repeated with a rasp in her throat. Clarissa averted her gaze.

“What else would you call it?” Simmons retorted. “Heed me now, they will come for young Reuben. They’ll take him from you, and they will destroy him.”

Clarissa pulled baby Reuben so close she could have smothered him. She wished she could swallow him and hide him from the world and this rabid priest. Father Simmons relinquished his scrutiny, turned from Clarissa and the baby, and walked out the front door. Clarissa shot up from her seat, Reuben still pinned to her chest, and bolted the door shut behind the priest. She returned with baby Reuben to the chaise and stared into nothingness. The whole world wanted to steal her happiness.

***

A man, more bandages, blood, and bruises than clean flesh, lay before her wrapped in white sheets. One eye swollen shut. The other staring at her, filled with tears and regret. He cannot speak to her, but she knows he doesn’t want to leave her. But he will leave. And they will miss so much time together. She feels the immediacy of a throb lodged in her throat–the pain radiates throughout her body, mind, and soul. She will have someone to care for again, and someone to take care of her, someday. No one and nothing will rob her of the right all loving couples have to be together always.

***

Reuben’s fussing awoke her from her paranoid reverie and she cradled his head while fishing her breast out from her buttoned-up blouse. She offered her nipple to the infant and he accepted it greedily. She watched him feed and fell in love with him all over again.

“You are mine and I am yours,” she cooed to him as he suckled. “I will raise you to be a man and you will protect me when I am old and frail. That’s our bargain.”

Reuben’s gums released her areola. Clarissa watched him fade into a contented sleep. “No one is taking you away from me,” she whispered.

Gently rising to her feet, she carried her baby to his crib, which was stationed in the living room so she could keep an eye on him always. She laid him on his stomach and hovered over him a while before turning away with a sigh. Her landline handset blinked at her. It held messages she longed to avoid. More preachy nonsense from friends and family professing to care, but none of them understood. Clarissa walked over to the handset and picked it up slowly. She held it to her ear, played back the message, and exhaled.

“Clarissa, it’s your mother. Again. Please pick up the phone, honey, I need to talk to you. Your husband is gone, Clarissa, gone almost a year now. You have to move on–”

Clarissa paused the message–erased it. Next message: “Clarissa, its Trudy. Call me when you can, okay? Bye,” and beep. Erase. Next message, a click and dial tone. End of messages.

She hung up and stared at the phone in her hand when it rang and she jumped. She checked Reuben, but the ring hadn’t wakened him. She pressed the answer button. “Hello?”

“Hey, Claire, it’s me,” a perky voice replied–Trudy calling back. “How are you?”

“Get to the point, Trude,” Clarissa sighed.

“Right to the point, eh?” Trudy said, still sounding chipper. A pause of awkward silence passed.

“It’s okay, Trude, I’ve heard it all these past few days since bringing Reuben home from the hospital. Lay it on me.” Another sigh.

“I’m hearing scary things from people, Claire. I’m afraid for you. You shouldn’t have done it.”

“Shouldn’t have had Reuben, you mean.”

“Yes.”

“I deserve him, goddamnit! I love him!”

“I know, Claire, I know. It’s just so weird. People are not going to accept this. By making him you’ve put him and yourself in danger.”

“ ‘By making him’–you make it sound like I put him together in a lab.”

“Well, how did you do it? He’s a clone, right?”

“Yes, but I was still the surrogate.”

“That doesn’t make it any better. You’re his mother and his wife?”

“Yes!” Tears gathered in Clarissa’s eyes, her voice grew hoarse again.

“People think that’s sick.”

Clarissa sobbed. “It’s not sick, he’s my–”

“Your what? Your son? Your husband? So long as you have someone to look after you eventually, right?”

“You don’t understand! You have your husband. You have your children. You weren’t left alone!” Clarissa wiped her eyes roughly. Reuben stirred in the crib.

“I do understand, but Reuben is dead. You move on–that’s all you can do! You don’t do this. You don’t recreate and raise your own husband’s double. It’s just all kinds of wrong.”

Clarissa covered her eyes with her hand. She crumbled to the floor and tried to catch her breath.

“I don’t know, maybe you should think about leaving. Or give him up.”

Clarissa’s mind drifted back to the hospital one year ago…

***

The morgue in the basement of the hospital had aqua coloured walls and was lit dimly by several fluorescent fixtures. Her husband was locked inside a drawer, now.

“So Humanex will do it?” Clarissa asked softly.

The Mortician flinched at her whisper. “Yes.  I’ll send the sample to them myself,” she replied in a voice even lower than Clarissa’s. “They won’t ask questions. There will be no documentation.”

“And when will they…?” Clarissa swallowed, but no further words would leave her lips.

“I will contact you in a few weeks,” the Mortician, her old high school friend, replied. “They will inseminate you on site.”

***

“I will not give him up!” Clarissa screamed into the phone. Reuben shrieked. Clarissa hung up the phone and threw it across the room. She scrambled to her feet and rushed over to the crib. Tears and mascara streaked down her face as she lifted little Reuben out of the crib and held him in her arms.

“We’ll leave, that’s what we’ll do,” she sobbed to the baby in her arms. “We’ll go where no one knows who you are.  You are mine and I am yours. I will raise you to be a man and you will protect me when I am old and frail.  That’s our bargain.”

rhcmacaulay-headshot

Regan writes novels, short stories, children’s literature and scripts. Writing is her passion, but she’s also a producer and director of theatre, film and television. She is an animal enthusiast as well, which led her to become a certified canine (and feline) massage therapist.

 

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2 thoughts on “Short Fiction: Reuben by Regan W. H. Macaulay

Add yours

  1. Wow, what a unique story, Regan! A little disturbing too! How does one go from writing kid’s books to writing this kind of disturbing story? Wink. All the best!

    Liked by 2 people

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