Elsie by Katie Claryn

Elsie looked in the mirror and sucked in her tummy. The lit up numbers on the mirror told her her age, height, weight, and vital organ stats. She ignored them all, especially the blinking red light tracking her liver. Yep, definitely losing fat. She wanted to be in shape before they started their family, so she could keep up with whatever ragamuffin came home with them. She grabbed her bag and left for work. At the train station she zoned out waiting for her ride to work. Loudspeakers hooted out their advertisements, and a giant smiling baby with droplets of tears on its eyelashes peered off one of the huge bill boards. “Please feed me. Donate today!” the animated speech bubble begged. Pulling out her screen Elsie wired fifty dollars to the RSCC. No wine tonight then.

Lisa had busted Fleur out of the pound when she was ten, and even that was pretty old for a rehome. Lisa took on all sorts though, the babies and the teenagers. Sometimes they were dumped at her gate, found crawling on the road. So another trip to the doctor it was, with another bill to pay. They lived there until they died though, or were adopted. The new laws made it tough, kids like Fleur might stay there their whole lives. Fleur was one of the older ones at the shelter, already fifteen, anywhere else would have killed her. Unless someone adopted her, she couldn’t move on in life. No job, no education. Time was running out for teenagers. So many times people called asking for a baby and dodged Lisa’s questions about why not an older child? Some were blunt though: too much baggage.

There was a protest happening when Elsie and David went to the Royal Society for the Care of Children. Placards reading “RSCC: Gratefully using your donations to kill me” with grainy photos of babies, red stickers everywhere. Elsie pushed open the door and a frazzled secretary smiled at them. She led them down a hallway and left them to browse the children. They pressed their noses against the glass or gurgled from their bassinets, some with toys spread across the floor, some had books, while others had nothing. They knew what they wanted; girl, baby, blonde hair to match their own, Caucasian. There were none. Elise and David left, promising to come back in a few weeks, and to keep an eye on the website for new arrivals. On the way out a protester shoved a small book into her hand and Elsie responded with a nervous smile. Thinking the protester mights tart yelling at her, she made a point of carefully tucking the book into her bag.The RSCC do a great job Elsie thought on the way home.

A child sat in a glass room as Elsie and David browsed the windows and didn’t even glance at the seven year old. Blood and cornchips; sharp, salty, grainy. The only thing the child ever tasted when she is in here, the corn food was meant to sustain not nourish, and tasted pretty cheap. She can hear the girl in the room next to her pacing again. Three steps, turn, five steps, turn, three, five, over and over. Teeth brushed, breakfast done, gums bleeding. Must be reading time then. She picks up her book and lets the colours from the pages blur while she daydreams about her family. They will come soon. She falls asleep re-reading the sign over her bed: The RSCC Loves You.

Elsie flicked through the brochure the RSCC had given her, but she had already read it twice. Elsie’s screen had started sending targeted ads for children available. She didn’t want one of those kids though. It wasn’t even illegal, this unscrupulous breeding for profit. You had no guarantees of health though with those children! At least the RSCC made sure the children were healthy, and if they weren’t they put them out of their misery. Behaviour was a problem too. The RSCC made sure your new child was well behaved, not violent, or shy, or fearful. The poor mistreated babies had to be put to sleep otherwise, it wasn’t their fault, but it was for the best. It was better for society Elsie reassured herself; you need to make sure you only have well behaved kids out there.

Lisa picked up the phone and called RSCC again. Yes, that child would be PTS tomorrow. No, you can’t have her for your no-kill shelter. Why? No law says we have to give her to you. The phone went dead, and Lisa wiped away her tears before any of the children saw them. There shouldn’t have to be a law when it comes to protecting a child’s life. Lisa went and prepared for her double shift at the factory, so she could have the money to save more lives.

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