“A Stone Cast Into Stillness” by Maurice Broaddus

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My final week of the 2014 Deal Me In Challenge served me up the Ace
of Spades, which I had assigned to the Maurice Broaddus short story “A Stone Cast Into Stillness.” I own it as part of the anthology collection, “Dark Futures: Tales of SF Dystopia.” (pictured above) I didn’t realize it when creating my 2015 roster that one of my featured “local” authors for next year, Jason Sizemore, also edited this anthology. Perhaps this is Deal Me In’s way of segueing me into the new year.

Anyhow, this particular tale is set in a distinctly bleak future featuring, among other things a suffocating – and largely automated – bureaucracy. The couple we’re introduced to in the story, though residing in the “Middle Caste,” have a life seemingly devoid of happiness and almost – almost – without hope for any.

Through the wife’s “customer service” call (to a snarky automaton) regarding her “Certificate of Procreation” we eventually learn that she has lost a child. Naturally, a terrible thing to endure, but maybe even more so in this world where reproduction is strictly controlled. Despite their relative “insignificance” to society as a whole’ the couple, especially the wife feels the pain of a lost child as acutely as those at the uppermost levels of society. Later, her husband has the best of intentions and tries to ameliorate her pain by making a special purchase:

…so, anyway, I got you a Vir-Bab.”
“A Vir-Bab.”
“A virtual baby. It’s all the rage on the West Coast
.”

The Vir-Bab, it turns out, is a pretty damn sophisticated construct, accepting programmed-in DNA of the owners, with all kinds of other interfaces to give one a, well, virtual experience. After explaining how the Vir-Bab works, the husband says, “Can you imagine? We can skip those troublesome teen years.” Broaddus continues:

She hated her husband in that moment. He was such a… man. Trying to fix something – the hole inside of her, the eternal ache – that couldn’t be fixed.”

How does the story end? Does the wife accept this “substitute” for a real baby? I’m afraid I shouldn’t tell you. If you’re interested, the book is available as a $4.99 download at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Futures-Tales-Dystopian-SF-ebook/dp/B0056AEAB4

Oh, and where does the title of the story come from? It is a quotation about the impact a death of a child has. Author John DeFrain compared it to a stone cast into a still pond, the ripples go everywhere. Everywhere. A great image to inspire a story, I thought.

Well, that does it for Deal Me In 2014. I’ll have to print myself up a “certificate of completion” or something. :-). I’ll be reading (at least) a story a week again in 2015 via the Deal Me In 2015 Challenge – care to join in? My story roster for the new year may be viewed here.

Photo below found at: http://www.gettingthroughthis.com/6771/skipping-through-life/

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