He held the baby-shaped thing aloft, almost indistinguishable from his breathing, living son. But light revealed its empty insides, gave it a pale glow. A shiver ran the course of his spine.
‘And people will buy this?’ He was utterly perplexed.
She nodded, as Actual-Baby suckled a bottle in the crook of her arm. Her extensions
splaying out over the white leather sofa he’d chosen last year. He wasn’t sure he liked it
‘People love us,’ she said as she side-eyed their child, ‘want to be just like us.’
‘Don’t you think it’s creepy?’
‘£290 a doll. If they have the promo code.’
He whistled. That was a lot. Unless nobody bought one. The warehouse, insulated
with row after row of counterfeit babies, sidled into his vision. Left him spinning.
‘It’s our baby.’
‘Only a copy.’
The original squirmed, emptied his bowels with a strained and slightly panicked look.
She handed him over, long pink fingernails clashing with the aquamarine bodysuit he was crammed into. She insisted on keeping him in his newborn suits because she was in no mood for him to grow up and stop loving me. The baby’s toes strained against the seams while a little yellow daisy was spreading at the top of his thigh. The nappy unable to contain its cargo.
‘How come this is always my job, babes?’
She didn’t answer, just waggled those long nails at him while she posed, pouted and
She didn’t tag him.
He slipped the lukewarm parcel his son had gifted him into the flimsy plastic bags that
made the nursery smell like pot pourri. Doused his hands in sanitiser, running short manicured nails under each other until he was satisfied he was clean. He picked up his baby boy, held him high. Revelled in the solidness of him. He drew him close, smelled his hair, stroked the flick of down at the nape of his neck. Soft as a duckling. He knew he looked like a bad advert for life insurance, but he didn’t care. He rocked from side to side until the boy’s chest rose and fell with sleepy satisfaction.
‘Have you checked the packaging?’
3D printed. Totally lifelike. Nappy bulge included. Adjustable hands for a genuine
cuddle. Realistic love at a reasonable price. Sent with love, from our family to yours.
‘For our international audience.’
‘I need to go down to the warehouse today, document the process.’
‘What else?’ she frowned as best she could and bopped him on the nose, the blunt
end of her nail grazing his glabella.
He’d been reading an anatomy book to the baby that morning. Mozart in the
background. He wanted this kid to be so smart. Smart enough to escape all this.
‘Are you taking him with you?’
‘Of course. He’s all the marketing we need.’
He watched his son wheel out of the door. His cheeks wobbling, rosy and real.
Back from a book signing, of a story he didn’t write a word of, he kicked off his
trainers. Relished in the freedom for three seconds, before tucking the laces in and sliding the shoes into their space on the rack.
‘You alright, love?’
A distracted acknowledgement drifted from the living room.
He walked in; she didn’t look up from her phone. The only noise in the room was the
milk bottle glugging.
‘Is he okay?’
‘Oh yeah, he had a lovely day. The factory workers made such a fuss over him. I got the
best vid of one of them pretending to parcel him up. He missed his Daddy though,’ she unplugged the bottle with a pop. She thrust the baby at him, like he was a rugby ball. He savoured the weight of his boy, held him up high. Light shone through the little Buddha belly sloshing with a full bottle of milk. Plastic fingers curled, ready for a cuddle.
Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. Her flash has been published by Sledgehammer, Perhappened, Bandit, Reflex fiction, Briefly Zine, and Ellipsis among others. Balancing too many projects at once is her natural state. Tweets @poor_and_clean.