Not so flash short fiction

By David Winter 14/12/2010

As I had predicted, I didn’t make the short list for New Scientist’s flash fiction competition. Here’s what I had entered, reproductive health a Lamarkian world:


He closed the door, put the pottle down and sighed. Tuesdays were the worst. He’d adjusted to the early morning runs the late night saunas, he’d even come to like the all-curry diet but he couldn’t get used to this.

Before, when this had started, he’d boil from one emotion to the next on Tuesdays. He’d be angry at Janine for wanting to do it this way; angry at his parents for leaving him with this; disgusted by this harshly lit white room, its sterile lino floor and the list of men who’d used it before him. Today he didn’t even care as his flipped through the same set of magazines again. What was the point? Even if he could change Janine’s mind he wouldn’t, and his parents couldn’t have known their choices where effecting anyone by themselves. Hell, he’d got to thirty without finding out, on the first pre-conception check up:

CFTR: 46% (+/- 3%) germules abnormal

His parents hadn’t exercised, the doctor explained, so the germules that would have helped them breathe and sweat efficiently didn’t get used. As a result, he’d inherited a suite of derelict germules , the most dangerous of which was one called CFTR. He had enough healthy CFTR to get by, but because Janine had the normal background level of broken ones (about 4%) there was a chance their children would have cystic fibrosis. Once the counsellor explained the disease it was obvious they should avoid it. They might have created and screened embryos, only implanting healthy ones, but Janine couldn’t destroy the ones that didn’t make the grade.

So, his life had become almost entirely about his germules: chilli, running and saunas to exercise them and Tuesdays to test them. That meant a bleak ten minutes in this bright room, after which he handed Louise, the unnerving cheery nurse, his sample. He couldn’t even muster embarrassment at this transaction anymore, so he avoided the waiting room and stuck around for the verdict:

“It’s definitely working, 23%, that’s half way to the target! See you next Tuesday!”