'My baby! Where have they taken my baby?'
Cornucopia Rackoff was causing a disturbance in the corridors of the maternity ward of Thomas Sankara Hospital. Doctor Hygrophanus MacCunliff, who had been dozing in a wheelchair in an unoccupied room, leapt to his feet and charged towards Cornucopia in four brisk strides, knocking her to the ground with a strike of his forearm to her neck. Cornucopia continued babbling and sobbing on the ground.
'They haven't let me see my baby in two days..'
'Madam pull yourself together! This is a hospital, for Luke's sake.' Dr. MacCunliff slapped Cornucopia twice across the face then helped her to her feet and lifted her gown over her head for a quick examination. Doctor's perks. He restored her modesty and drew his features into a look of compassion.
'I am Dr. MacCunliff, the lead neonatologist. You are Mrs. Rackoff?'
'Miss' an unshakable companion of the doctor's corrected him.
'Miss? O well that is splendid. But you still had better be seated for this.'
'O God. It's serious?'
'I said sit down!' the doctor exploded. Cornucopia blushed with arousal and looked around for a seat. Dr. MacCunliff's ever dutiful companion dropped to his hands and knees to provide one for her.
'Get up' growled Dr. MacCunliff. His companion ran to find a chair and within moments was running back carrying one. Cornucopia did as she was told and Dr. MacCunliff continued.
'I am afraid your son has stage four..'
'O God, no.'
'Yes. Stage four. Inoperable.' He grimaced and inhaled sharply with sympathy.
'I've never heard of an operation to cure autism.'
'That means you have never heard of a successful operation to cure it. The prognosis is rarely good. Most babies like your son die within their first week.'
'O, I say. Most?'
'Lamentably, yes. It could be all but evidently that is not allowed. They accused me of practicing eugenics. Me!'
'Ha, ha' concurred Dr. MacCunliff's companion. A gurney struck Cornucopia's shins on its way past.
'Do you see any swastika tattoos anywhere on my person? A copy of Mein Kampf in my office? It is laughable what they come up with. They were unable to prove anything in the end. But I still must take care not to draw attention to myself. I send a few home to live out their lives, tragic as they are. Then the rest are plausibly deniable.'
'Of course' said Cornucopia. Then, 'Sorry but I don't understand?'
Dr. MacCunliff waved away her concerns. 'Not to worry. I am the doctor, remember, not you.'
Dr. MacCunliff's companion placed a hand on Cornucopia's shoulder and fixed a compassionate gaze between her eyes. 'It's not a death sentence any more' he told her.
'You are thinking of AIDS' Dr. MacCunliff said.
'Are you sure?' Dr. MacCunliff's companion took a minute to reevaluate some things then fixed his gaze between Cornucopia's eyes again. 'I think what I meant to say was 'We believe in using 'people first' lan..'
'Very good but not now' interrupted Dr. MacCunliff and he took his companion by both arms and gently moved him aside. Dr. MacCunliff sat on Cornucopia's lap and placed his arm around her neck. His face took on a trustworthy smile. Cornucopia smiled back equally brightly. A gurney struck his shins.
'To put it bluntly, madam, your son will never speak. At least he will tend to fail to look you in the eye when he does.' Cornucopia brought her hand up to her mouth. 'The best you can hope for is a 'retarded psychopath' case which overlaps the lower end of the human range in ability. This type is rare and in a case such as yours a fourth trimester abortion is usually advised.'
'Really? God. What about the risks?'
'The tidy thing about postpuerperal termination, madam, is that there is virtually no risk at all as far as the mother is concerned.'
'Virtually? So there is a risk?'
'O you might die of grief or some other such fabulous scenario.'
The doctor seemed prepared to answer anything. Yet something still did not make sense.
'But how can you know this early whether my baby's autistic?' Cornucopia demanded.
'We believe in using people..' began to offer Dr. MacCunliff's companion, who was cut off.
'Trust me, I know it because of my intuition. You know about intuition, you're a, hm hm,' sniggered Dr. MacCunliff as he generously while tastefully mimed a woman fondling her own breasts. Cornucopia was satisfied by this explanation. Dr. MacCunliff helped Cornucopia to her feet and placed his broadly splayed hand on the small of her back as he led her back to her bed.
Baby Boy Rackoff supposed that he must have died and gone to hell. One second he was suspended in his lovely dark and quiet tank of amniotic fluid and then he was enjoying a nice squeezing along the birth canal, perfectly happy. Since then he had been passed between the hands of a series of hideous and formless beasts in a blinding and deafening world and was finally left in a box in a room where he was surrounded by his fellow damned and their incessant clamour.
He had lain in his box for three days before he was removed again. Baby Boy Rackoff noted a change in the lighting of the room as two pale shadows approached and he began to squeal with panic. A tiny mask was placed over his face and by a sweetly perfumed gas he quickly became cooperative. The next thing he knew was having been moved to a brighter, colder, and quieter room. Baby Boy Rackoff turned to the sanctuary of his abstract day dreams as something unfathomable was being done around him.
'Take care to measure the dose accurately. Micrograms count with that.'
'We do not want a repeat of Easter. Blind me, that was gruesome. That baby had immaculate timing.'
'Why's that then?'
'Never mind. Just double the dose. And keep that circular saw ready.'
While Dr. MacCunliff and his tar fast companion were at work preparing Baby Boy Rackoff's abortion procedure the hospital's nondenominational chaplain was sharing a bottle of bereavement wine with Cornucopia in the hospital nondenominational chapel. The chaplain toasted new beginnings. Cornucopia giggled.
'Is it strapped tightly?' Dr. MacCunliff asked his companion.
'Nice and tight' came the answer.
'Good. Administer the carfentanyl.'
As Dr. MacCunliff's companion tapped away the air bubbles in the syringe and inserted the needle in to the IV catheter in the baby's arm Dr. MacCunliff held two fingers to the baby's chest and his eyes on his wrist watch. After several viscous minutes Dr. MacCunliff finally spoke.
'Note the time of death as 18:23 and begin removing the brain.'
Dr. MacCunliff's companion wrote the time. On the death certificate next to 'Immediate cause of death' had already been written 'Cot death'. He then selected a scalpel and peeled Baby Boy Rackoff's scalp. He activated the saw and cut around the baby's skull then lifted off the bone. He sliced through the meninges and peeled them back to finally reveal the baby's brain. Dr. MacCunliff's breath caught in his throat.
'That is it there! The autistic brain. I want that thing atomized! There must be no surviving trace! Destroy it utterly!'
'Right you are' said Dr. MacCunliff's companion as he pulled out the baby's brain with a wet pop and placed it in to a bag marked for medical waste. He set to work restoring the baby ready for disposition by the mother. With a staple gun he reattached the cap of the skull. Part way around he realized that the skull cap was facing the wrong way but it was already too late to correct this so he continued as he had been doing. Meanwhile Dr. MacCunliff removed his surgical gear, washed his hands, and went to visit Cornucopia.
Cornucopia and the chaplain greeted Dr. MacCunliff with a hearty cheer. Cornucopia's diet of the last few days had consisted entirely of jam on toast and sweetened tea and the delivery of her baby had cost her a lot of blood. Consequently the half bottle of wine she had drank had made her exceptionally merry.
She raised herself from her pew, fell back on to it, then successfully attempted again to stand. She staggered towards Dr. MacCunliff who reared back, seizing every millimetre away from her that he could find. His face only showed a warm and open expression. Cornucopia clumsily dropped an arm on Dr. MacCunliff's shoulders.
'Thanks for all you've done for me' slurred Cornucopia.
'It is perfectly, er. '
'You're my only friend, you know. No one else would have helped me the way you have.'
'Madam it is my duty and what I am paid to do.'
'Well. Thanks still.' She leaned in to kiss Dr. MacCunliff on the mouth then remembered where she was and turned away, laughing with embarrassment. The chaplain laughed along. Dr. MacCunliff's body became tense but his face betrayed nothing. The chapel door swung open with a clatter.
'Baby's bagged up, doctor' said Dr. MacCunliff's companion as he entered. Cornucopia gave another cheer.
'If there was nothing else..?' said Dr. MacCunliff as he stepped towards the door. 'Dr. Jivanji will take over from here. You are in capable hands.'
Dr. MacCunliff placed an arm around his companion's shoulders as the two ambled away.
'Just look at her face' said Dr. MacCunliff's companion.
'Quite. This is why we do what we do. Today we have saved a woman from a life of certain horror. She will never feel unloved by her own child. She will never have to surrender her life to an idiot tyrant. And perhaps a few years from now she will have a normal child and a normal life and all will be well.'