First Chapter Second Place/Science Fiction: The Mother Siege by Phyllis Zimbler Miller
August 14, 2016
The Mother Siege by Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the Second Place winner in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.
Award-Winning First Chapter
NATALIE FIRST HEARD the announcement on her Videobook screen hung above the kitchen wash station. Thinking she had misheard, she tapped her Twitterverse earpiece to hear what was trending.
The ceramic cereal container slipped from her hand, smashing into pieces in the stainless steel wash station.
The noise of the smashed container got the attention of her 12-year-old son. Jonah looked up from his home-schooled lesson tablet. “What’s the matter, Mom?”
She made the decision in less than a second. She was already a subversive, although unknown as one to the world-at-large. She would not obey this order.
“Get your sisters, Jonah!” When he didn’t immediately jump up, she yelled, “Now!”
She took deep breaths while her mind raced. She calculated her chances of success at less than 50%, but it was a risk she would take. The alternative was unthinkable.
The 10-year-old twins Jessica and Julie appeared behind Jonah. Natalie motioned the three of them to sit at the kitchen eating station.
She hesitated. The world as they knew it was about to be destroyed.
She sat down and looked at each of them in turn. How she loved them! She had already fought for them. And now –
“The Provisional Government has just announced that 30 days from now all children over the age of six months and younger than 18 are to be removed to group homes.”
All three children started to speak, but she held up her hand.
“Parents will be given visiting rights one day a month.” She paused only for a second before reaching into the drawer under the kitchen eating station and removing an old-fashioned chalkboard found when cleaning out her grandparents’ home.
She wrote: “I will not allow this to happen to you.”
Tears formed in the girls’ eyes; Jonah looked as if he might puke.
Then she wrote: “Say nothing and let’s go for a walk now. Leave all your electronic devices here.”
Natalie unplugged her Twitterverse earpiece and dropped it on the table. The children didn’t yet have these. But they took their personal communication devices off their wrists and placed these next to hers on the kitchen eating station. Then they followed her out of the living unit front door.
Natalie led the children to the nearby outdoor recreational space and motioned them to sit on an outdoor recreational seating arrangement besides a pseudo waterfall.
She stood facing them and began: “Have you ever wondered why the three of you are home schooled?”
Jonah answered. “Because you don’t like what is taught in the Provisional Government school system.”
“That’s true, but not the whole reason.” She hesitated. What she was about to say could mean life-or-death for all four of them.
“What I am about to tell you is for your ears only. Telling anyone else can bring down on all of us the worse sanctions of the Provisional Government.”
Jessica and Julie clasped hands. While not identical twins, they shared many of the same characteristics and often sought comfort from each other.
Again Natalie hesitated. How to say this?
“When Jonah was born, he passed all the newborn screening tests with high marks. As a pediatrician I was allowed to be the doctor of record for his test scores even though I was also the birth mother.
“When Jessica and Julie were born, Jessica passed the screening test but Julie showed a tendency to develop asthma. The Provisional Government policy was to stamp out asthma as a medically expensive condition by eliminating all newborns with that potential. There was no way to falsify the screening tests.”
Natalie saw the horror in the children’s eyes.
“Instead I falsified the birth records. I put Jessica down as a live birth and Julie down as the opposite.”
Now the girls’ hands clenched even tighter. Jonah hunched closer to his sisters.
“Because Julie does not officially exist I have home schooled all of you. And as a pediatrician I have been able to bring home vaccination doses and antibiotics without ever taking Julie to see a doctor.”
Jonah caught on first. “Why are you telling us this now?”
“Because you need to know that I am already a subversive in the Provisional Government’s eyes if anyone knew what I had done. And now I will not allow you to be taken to group homes.”
“What are you going to do, Mom?” Jessica said.
Natalie shook her head. “I need time to think and plan. We have 30 days. Whatever we do, we probably won’t do it until the last minute. I will need you to pretend that we are compiling. You will do your homework, chat with your friends online as if you look forward to being with them. Whatever it takes to evade the authorities monitoring your activities too closely.”
All three children nodded.
“Whenever we talk about this, it will be outside without our devices. Perhaps I will tell you nothing more until we are ready to act. But I will not give you up!”