Bloody splotches have quit appearing between Ivy’s legs. She’s gotten used to them, and an unstained pad seems bizarre where only recently Dr. Kaur and her surgical team have reshaped organs and soft tissue. The absent blood makes Ivy think of a missed period. Silly thoughts—she’s never had a menstrual cycle, so how can it be missed?
“What if I’m pregnant?” Another silly thought, echoing off her apartment’s bathroom walls.
In her bedroom, she admires herself in the full-length mirror, the scars and stitches looking rough but right. No baby bump above. Her gender reassignment surgery is one thing, but science can’t yet give trans women wombs, and anyway, she could never afford such a procedure. She counts herself lucky that her insurance covers swapping one genital arrangement for another.
She tries making a follow-up appointment with Dr. Kaur only to learn that she’s no longer in Ivy’s insurance network. They’re always shuffling her doctors without warning or explanation.
“Congratulations!” The first word from Bonnie, Ivy’s new OB/GYN.
“I’m not pregnant,” Ivy says, sliding a hand down her swollen belly. “It must be an infection.”
Bonnie smirks. “We’ll see.”
Ivy puts herself through the gel-coated rigmarole partly out of uncertainty but also, she admits, because it’s somewhat validating.
“As expected!” Bonnie shouts, pointing to a black and green monitor. It’s only fuzz and static to Ivy, but Bonnie wouldn’t emphasize it unless there was something to see.
This can’t be. The monitor must be mistakenly connected to another woman. Only, it’s scanned Ivy’s abdomen.
“But I can’t—didn’t you check my history?” she asks.
Bonnie opens a manila folder. Silent lips mouth the word, transition, and Ivy thinks at last things will make sense.
But Bonnie only closes the folder and shrugs. “Miracle of life, huh?” She isn’t disturbed. Why isn’t she disturbed?
Three fertility clinics confirm Ivy’s “condition,” her pregnancy both an illness and the best thing that can happen to her. No one seems curious why the impossible is coming true, as if there’s been a medical breakthrough she missed during bottom surgery. Where did this baby come from? If someone snuck a fetus inside her while she was anesthetized, there is still no womb to carry it. How will she give birth?
“Congratulations!” A common greeting from friends and coworkers. No one’s perplexed, even those who knew Ivy pre-transition, even trans friends.
She doesn’t mind strangers’ little courtesies. Transit passengers give up seats for her; pedestrians hurry past her to open doors. In return, she must hear and answer their prodding questions.
“Boy or girl?”
“Have you thought of a name?”
“Are you keeping it?”
Funny—they’re questions she used to ask years ago when the mirror reflected what was both a body and a betrayal.
By day, she consults unconcerned medical experts. By night, she combs the internet for answers. Cravings and restroom visits are constant, reminding her that her body is, once again, not hers and something of a betrayal.
Her abdomen has become a liminal space. Unseen, unknowable, it shares existence and non-existence across dimensions. Her organs are there, but perhaps they neighbor strange worlds, parallel universes, and between them, a growing creature.
It’s becoming real. Somehow, someday, she’s going to have an impossible baby.
Are you keeping it? A question asked when she first came out by a relative whose unseemly gaze gravitated downward. Ivy’s eyes follow the same path to her swollen abdomen.
A knife started this, and a knife will end it.
She fetches one from the kitchen, eight inches long, and hovers the blade over her skin. It isn’t like she’s never been here before. At fifteen, still closeted and presenting male, she hid in the bathroom one night with a knife and fantasized carving pieces from her body. Quick and done.
Still, sounder thoughts prevailed that night, and without having mutilated herself, she has what she wanted. And more.
Are you keeping it?
Supernova heat pours through her insides. Her limbs quake, and the blade jerks past her skin, leaving a red hairline.
She sets the knife hard on the kitchen’s marble countertop. “I’m sorry,” she says.
Her apology is not accepted. Fluid slides down her legs and pools at her feet. Her water has broken. The next contracting wave throws her to the floor, where cold tiles hiss against her burning skin. She would wonder how she can be having contractions without a womb, but the fetus is no longer caught in the dark realm of maybe.
Her impossible child insists on existence.
Thoughts scream something’s wrong and sing that everything’s fine until it’s all the same. Ivy marinates in sweat, her body transforming into an avatar of pain. Her shallow vaginoplasty offers no canal to her non-existent womb. She needs a Cesarian, but the knife feels distant, and she worries over the cosmic consequences. Her non-womb might not hide a child. To peel open her abdomen might spill alien landscapes across the maternity ward. She is simultaneously pregnant with the Big Bang and an all-consuming black hole. To look upon uncertainty makes it certain.
The universe never makes sense. Ivy’s known since she was young that existence is an ocean of time accidentally drowning a valley of matter. Now its tide crashes her against its shore.
Numbness takes her.
Seven Months and a Long Evening
A sharp scream snaps her awake. Unlike the last time someone else opened her body, there’s no post-anesthesia grogginess and no stitches. No painkillers, either.
She doesn’t recognize herself in the squealing, radiant sun that wriggles on kitchen tiles. His strange journey has left him an ever-shifting cosmic flower of uncertainty.
She reaches for him. Every living thing deserves some tiny bit of control, even if it means crossing dark prenatal highways between shadow torsos, various wombs and non-wombs. Galactic fluid seeps through her fingers, but she keeps grasping. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.
But then, she thinks, nobody does.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hailey Piper is the author of horror novellas The Possession of Natalie Glasgow, An Invitation to Darkness, and Benny Rose, the Cannibal King. Her short fiction appears in Daily SF, Flash Fiction Online, and Year's Best Hardcore Horror. A trans woman from the haunted woods of New York, she now lives with her wife in Maryland. Find her at www.haileypiper.com and on Twitter via @HaileyPiperSays.