DEAR SON • by Frederic Himebaugh

Dear Son,

If you are reading this letter, it must mean that I have died, and that your uncle Dyrz has remembered to deliver it to you as I asked.

I am sorry that this message comes to you at a difficult time emotionally, but there is something I need to tell you. Something terribly important. It’s something that I may have neglected to say to you when I had the chance — something which the struggle to live in this crazy world may have prevented me from saying.

This terribly, desperately important thing I want to tell you is: you are everything I ever hoped for in a son. From the time your gestational parent and I brought you home from the research facility, I have always viewed you as perfect.

I tell you this because I know you have heard voices that tell you differently. I want you to become strong, strong enough to ignore those voices.

I’m talking about those voices — human, mostly, but not always — that say interspecies reproduction is wrong. Or that genome manipulation is wrong. That tell you you are ugly. That call you abnormal. That so confidently assert what are the optimal number of legs or arms or ears or sphincters or snouts or coital grappling hooks a person should have.

You are not a freak! My son, my darling son, never ever let anyone criticize your body. Never let anyone tell you that your prehensile mammary glands are “disgusting” or “twitchy” or “unjustified by the imperatives of biological function.”

You are perfect. You conform exactly to the characteristics I selected from the exhaustive (400 pages!) menu presented to me by the pioneering scientists at Tiara Chimera Engineering Research Group. Your very large number of tentacles (still a world record!) is not a mistake. Not hardly: it is the fulfillment of my perfect plan for you. That the lower half of your body is mostly gelatinous for the optimization of rapid pivoting gives you an advantage in competitive environments and ought to be the envy of your peers. If it is not, then they are the ones with the problem, not you (nor, permit me to add, me).

Your weight equals that of four “normal” people. Your thorax is a subwoofer that paralyzes your opponents. Your farts propel you in low-g. You’re welcome.

I know that, in the past, our relationship has been rocky. I hope, by the time you receive this letter, you will have outgrown your resentment toward me which, quite frankly, I find mystifying. Life is a series of trade-offs, after all, even for one whose biological deployment and form factor have been so lovingly premeditated. Believe me when I tell you that a life such as yours, lived inside an environmentally-controlled habitat, however small, definitely looks to be worth living.

(That remains true despite your extreme gravitational sensitivity, which I know restricts you to the surface of Pluto, Eris and Triton. Again: trade offs.)

Because of the way you are, you have so many advantages that others can only dream of. How many of your peers can see simultaneously in all the directions you can see, or laugh in the auditory frequencies you can laugh in, or adhere to all the surfaces you can adhere to?

I know you will go on to do great things. You are my greatest accomplishment. I am so proud of you.

With all the love I am capable of,

Dad

***

Dear Dad,

I’ve asked Uncle Dyrz to place this letter on your tomb, since you chose to be laid to rest on a planet I cannot visit. Thank you.

With this letter I am including my gold medal. You should have it. It means so much more to you than it does to me.

Through the years, I’ve struggled to understand you. You didn’t make it easy, what with your moody silences, your refusal to explain yourself, your demand that I simply read your mind. However, it’s clear to me now just how humiliated you felt by your fourth place finish in the low-g omnifield obstacle skeet shoot, back in ’52.

I know — everyone knows — how impressive your performance was. You were the last of the nomods to compete at that level. You achieved a super-human score, but as a human.

Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for you. So you decided that I, your heir and namesake, would be molded into the perfect skeet shooter.

Now that you’re gone, I’ve achieved some perspective. And honestly, I’ve grown to admire your single-mindedness. And although you didn’t live long enough to see it, I accomplished what you worked so hard to achieve. I not only won the gold in skeet, I earned a perfect score of 10,000. “Impossible”– but for me, it was easy.

Nobody is laughing at me now. I’m the biggest sports hero ever. I’m too big to prosecute.

Thanks to your hard work, and the sacrifice of my older brothers who didn’t survive your learning curve, I am unstoppable on the skeet range. My aim is deadly.

My aim is deadly off the skeet range as well. But you know that better than anyone.

Your dutiful son,

Junior


Frederic Himebaugh edits a pulp fiction podcast, and the fauna of that world are prone to wander into his real life — aliens in the back yard, corpses in the freezer, teenagers in the pantry; that sort of thing. His song “Abraham Lincoln Was an Invader from Space” may be found wherever music of that ilk (or filk) tend to find refuge.


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