Saturday 26 June 2021

'Smart Baby' by Eric Scot Tryon

The baby screamed something primal. Going on five hours now. Sheila paced the room pecking madly at her phone. But the Bottle icon had turned gray hours ago. Swipe, drop down. She hammered away at the Burp icon, but it too was gray. Inactive, dead.

The baby wailed and wailed. On its back, limbs kicking and punching the air like an overturned cockroach. Its eyes dry, clenched. Its face red, bloated. Sheila looked at the baby and back to her phone. And like a gust of wind the baby’s screams rose. Unbearable. Sheila grabbed at her ears. “Make it stop! Make it stop!” she begged, swiping and pounding at the Soothe icon.

A box popped up on her screen with a three-note chime: “Network Connection Failed.”

“No!” Sheila screamed and threw the phone across the room where it landed with a thud. Inert, useless. The baby’s breathing was labored, gasping, crying itself into a chaotic fit. “Make it stop,” Sheila muttered, gripping the rail of the iCrib, herself now beginning to cry. “Make it stop.”

But the baby. Relentless. Its face was purple and red, its gummy mouth open, shrieking, desperate. The sound boring holes into her brain, scrambling her thoughts. Louder and louder the baby screamed as if sensing Sheila’s breaking point. In a sheer panic, without thought, and against all instruction, Sheila reached in and scooped up the baby.

For the first time.

Held it in her arms.

Her son, falling into quiet and cradled against her chest. Oh what a strange feeling! So fleshy and slick and alive.

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