In 2025, it became legal for someone convicted of a crime to pay someone else to go to jail for them. The reasoning was that since the criminal justice system was based entirely on numbers, it didn’t matter who did the crime and who got punished for it, as long as those numbers remained consistent. You could literally get away with murder. For some people this became a very lucrative way to make money.
In 2026 the country was dealing with massive food shortages. The global temperature exceeded 2°C and a new dust bowl was brewing. The livestock weren’t getting enough to eat and shriveled in the sun. They looked like wilted lettuce.
In 2027 a team of international scientists met at a summit in Paris. They announced a new term for changes in the earth’s atmosphere: Clusterfuck. They said it was too late and there was nothing they could do except head to Mars while earth crumbled into a fine powder.
By 2030 Antarctica had evaporated and a heatwave killed off most of humanity. The fabulously rich moved into enormous glass dome cities where the air was cooled and you didn’t have to worry about low income students muddling your kids’ test scores. The scientists built a space shuttle called Samson’s Ark to colonize Mars. It was named after the Archdiocese of New America, Drew Samson, who led the mission. Everyday people sat in their mini-dome houses and watched him talk on TV about God’s plan to preserve humanity.
“Fuck, he said. “Fuck as much as you can. We need babies, damn it.”
Gloria Valentine and her husband Glenn were at home watching the Samson Power Hour from their mobile deluxe dome, which cost three times as much as most people’s domes. Gloria used to be the star of a daytime soap opera and they lived off her royalties. But now Gloria was pregnant again, and popping them out like a human baby factory. So far they had thirty-eight, and if luck would have it, at least one would make it onboard Samson’s Ark.
The one they hoped for was named Leo. Leo Valentine was ten now, growing big and sitting alone in the living room and watching Diddley-Doo Finds Out What His Doohickey-Do. He was smarter than his other brothers and sisters, which wasn’t saying much. For instance, he couldn’t tie his own shoes, or spell his own name, or differentiate between the cat and the cactus. Once a day either Gloria or Glenn would have to pull the needles from his face and feed him a Nicorette so he wouldn’t throw a shit-fit.
Gloria and Glenn were waiting to hear back about Leo’s application. If he got accepted, they would get to go too. Mars was all the rage. Earth was getting dated. And they hated their neighborhood. Something about seeing all the mini-domes lined up next to each other was depressing. It reminded them of snow globes on the half-off shelf after Christmas.
The doorbell rang.
“Shit,” said Glenn. He knew it was that damn lawyer again. He got up from the couch and answered the door.
“You missed your court date,” said the lawyer. He was a former personal injury lawyer and in the midst of prosecuting Glenn for a recent DUI. Glenn had gotten drunk off his ass and plowed his car into a neighbor’s mini-dome and killed their dog.
“But I paid Rodriguez to take the blame,” said Glenn. Mr. Rodriguez was the neighbor who Glenn paid fifteen thousand dollars to accept the blame for his little incident.
“Mr. Rodriguez is already incarcerated for another crime,” said the lawyer. “For performing an illegal home abortion. Punishable by life imprisonment. You know the rules, Mr. Valentine. Only one charge per person.”
“Shit,” said Glenn. Quickly he scanned the living room and caught sight of Leo putting his doohickey in the vacuum cleaner. At ten he was just old enough to accept the blame for his father’s indiscretion, since they lowered the age to be a legal adult.
“Get over here, Leo,” said Glenn.
Leo dropped the vacuum and ran to his father like a shelter puppy. He would do anything for his father. Once he swallowed Glenn’s lit cigarette butt when the ashtray went missing.
Glenn got down on one knee and said “Leo, how much do you love your father?”
“So much,” said Leo, who stretched his arms out as wide as a ten year old could. “If inches were miles, I would love you this much.”
“Good kid,” said Glenn, pushing his arms back to his sides. “How would you like to go away to camp for a little bit?”
“Will you be there?” said Leo.
“Haha, no,” said Glenn. “But I’ll visit at least twice. And you’ll make new friends, and they have art class, and there’s a big cement yard to play in.”
“Big cement yard?” said Leo.
At that moment Gloria came into the living room and dragged Leo away by the hand.
“Absolutely fucking not,” said Gloria. “He’s our only chance at a better life. We’re not pawning him off so you get off this stupid DUI charge.”
“But the judge is saying a year,” said Glenn. “Look at me, Glory. I’m all fluff and cream filling. I won’t make it the joint. Once I had to wait at the DMV for three hours and I had a panic attack. The driving instructor took me to the emergency room.”
“Tough shit,” said Gloria. “Maybe you’ll lose some weight while you’re in there. I’m tired of not being able to do missionary anymore because I’m scared you’ll pancake me.”
“Missionaries live in missions,” said Leo.
“Well if everything is decided then, I’m afraid I’ll need you to come with me to Dome-Jail,” said the lawyer.
“Fucking Christ,” said Glenn. “Leo. Glory. Other kids. Remember your father as a man of his word, strong, if not in flesh then at least in fortitude, twice salesman of the year at Best Buy until wooing your mother with insane price match deals on Blu-Ray players.”
Then Gloria and Leo watched as Glenn was carted away in the back of a government issued paddy wagon. The drone of Gloria’s babies drew her back to the basement where they sat cradled in neat rows, ten-by-four, totalling 40 precious infants sucking at artificial teats connected to a vat of formula.
As it happened, Gloria was already stooping from a swollen belly. She was afflicted with what medical professionals called Sudden Litter Syndrome (SLS). The disease was engineered by scientists to help replenish the human race, which acted by putting female ovaries into overdrive. They put it in the drinking water so every woman would contract it. The end result was huge litters of babies at a time, upwards of a dozen, who somehow managed to grow within a matter of weeks. The problem was: They couldn’t turn it off. So now once a month Gloria and every other woman of breeding age in the dome would get pregnant, and they had the option to either raise their babies or pay to hand them over to the abortion truck.
Then Gloria heard a very familiar jingle from up the block.
“The abortion truck is here!” said Leo.
Gloria ran outside, where she found Tomo, the Japanese abortion doctor, chucking a bundle of unwanted pregnancies inside back of his cab.
“Tomo!” said Gloria in her best Ricky Ricardo voice from I love Lucy. “I have some babies for you!”
“Sorry Mrs. Valentine,” said Tomo. “I just did a pick-up last week! You know the rules.”
“Rats,” said Gloria. Truth was: Gloria had a thing for Tomo, and she couldn’t do anything about it while her husband was home. Unlike her husband, Tomo was small but fit, capable of scaling a tree with one hand behind his back to retrieve Leo that time he got stuck looking for Keebler elves.
“Don’t you want to come in for a quick drink?” said Gloria.
“I would, but I have a busy schedule,” said Tomo.
“Just one drink,” she said. “I have that soda you like with the marble ball in the bottle.”
“Ramune?” said Tomo. “That’s rarer than brandy! Where did you find it?”
“I have a case in the basement,” said Gloria. In actuality she just shoved a marble in a Sprite bottle.
“I suppose I could take a break,” said Tomo. “Can I wash off in your bathroom first? My hands smell like afterbirth.”
“Of course,” said Gloria.
While Tomo freshened up, Gloria went upstairs and wore a blouse that exposed her cleavage and hid her pregnant belly. If she played her cards right, she figured Tomo would squeeze in an abortion for her with that giant hose connected to his truck. When she came downstairs Tomo was sitting on the living room couch with Leo watching the news. On TV was Drew Samson, for his afternoon Prayer Power Hour.
“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” said Drew. “And if you find it hard getting in the mood, try putting a pacifier up the rectum. Works for me.”
Suddenly the broadcast was interrupted by an important news bulletin.
“Giant God-Sized Cows Plummeting Towards Earth,” said the news anchor.
“For chrissake,” said Gloria.
“Golly,” said Tomo.
“Cows have five bellies,” said Leo.
The news anchor explained that years ago, scientists experimented on cows to make them grow thicker overnight, which they called the Kardashian Effect. They then could chop off hunks of meat and it would instantly regenerate, thereby creating an infinite supply for the meat industry. But the cows wouldn’t stop growing, eventually to the size of Wrigley Stadium. When the National Guard couldn’t stop them, the only other option was for NASA to attach rocket boosters to their hooves and ship them off into orbit, hoping to never see them again.
“And due to changes in earth’s gravity, we will be seeing a precipitation of cows later this
afternoon. God help us all.”
Well that was that. With a rainfall of giant cows, it seemed the domes were finished. Gloria looked over and saw Tomo was shaking his hands, so she clenched them in hers tenderly and assured him that everything would be OK.
“I love prime rib,” said Tomo. “But not like this. God I wish I’d just flown to the sun like my relatives. This whole clusterfuck would be over with.”
“We still have time,” said Gloria, putting her hand on his knee.
“Time for what?” said Tomo.
“La dolce vita,” said Gloria.
And just like that she was straddling him, calling him her little Japanese dream-boat while they thrusted in unison loud enough to echo all across the neighborhood. Then something happened: Gloria was giving birth. Like spider eggs, a hundred babies burst out, and Tomo fell to the carpet in shock and embarrassment, running for the door without his pants on.
“But Tomo!” said Gloria.
Then the first colossal cow smashed through the dome and landed one of its hooves on Tomo and his abortion truck, smashing them mere inches from Gloria’s home. Looking over, Leo put his doohickey inside the electrical socket and made a sound like a cat having its tail stepped on before sparks flew through his body. And while Gloria got up to help him, one of her gooey newborn litter trotted past her knees and she fell, hitting her head on the expensive davenport, blood gushing out of her ear.
All the while the TV was still running and Drew Samson came back on air, talking about God’s plan, or lack thereof.
“I’m sure all you viewers at home were expecting this would lead to something,” he said. “And the truth is, I’m not so sure anymore. Good night.”
Sean Nishi is a Japanese-American writer from Los Angeles, CA. He completed his MFA in San Francisco. He lives with his partner and two cats, Toby and Waffles.
Christopher Paul Brown is known for his exploration of the unconscious and the serendipitous. This year his work has appeared in twelve periodicals and one hardcover book. His first photography sale was to the Standard Oil Company of Indiana and his video You Define Single File was nominated for the Golden Gate Award at the 47th San Francisco International Film Festival. He earned a BA in Film from Columbia College Chicago in 1980