One is the Loneliest Number

 Sherry Becker: My prompt is a character… a single birth child born into a world of Twins.

M2475121A was finishing his shift at the food packaging plant, making squeeze protein packs that could be delivered efficiently by drones to each household on a weekly basis. Today was “A” day, all the workers were the identical twin A. Tomorrow, M2475121B would take his place on the line in the job that M2475121A & B shared. It was the Governnment’s way to produce workers that were both effective and efficient in a job, keeping everyone half employed in a world with too many people and not enough jobs.

Families were limited to one set of identical twins—to meet the zero population growth goals set by the Government. Women were engineered to ovulate only once, guaranteeing only one pregnancy. The water was spiked with the drugs that induced the twins-making process, and it kept the best of breed process more streamlined than a random two birth limit. The identical twins made better job sharing units, too. Each set was tested for best job fit at birth, and subsequent schooling was tailored towards that goal.

Twins

And because of their genetic makeup, twins were assigned to marry twins (A’s married A’s, B’s to B’s), so subsequent twins were more easily placed in occupations where there were shortages of workers. Medical advances made the process foolproof. Housing of married twins was also streamlined, as they could simply take over their parents’ home pods when it was time to recycle the parent twins. 99.9% of the population lived in towering superstructures of 50,000 home pods, eliminating the need for vehicles other than mass transit, most worked in the processing plants located within the home pod structure.

Twin mate couples M399828A and F7844222A worked the agrarian sector, home pod 41.6005° N, 93.6091° W. Their offspring, F7844222A&B were freer spirits than most, and as a young girls, the twins spent considerable amount of time wandering outside their home pod, in secret, but with the approval of their parents. This sector grew the corn and soybeans, hay and oats for the protein factories. The girls roamed the fields, lounging by the clear streams in the dappled shade of ancient oak trees. Each evening, before nightfall, F7844222A&B would be back in their home pod, preparing protein packs and supplement packs for supper.

The day came when F7844222A&B were to be assigned mates. As it happened, need for genetic diversity called for a metro twin set to merge with agrarian, thus it happened M2475121A&B were assigned to F7844222A&B.

The twin mate couples took over the agrarian parent’s pod, the girls continued their forays into the fields, the four mates began agrarian job sharing in the ag plant.

Soon the couples were pregnant. Great joy arose, as for each set of married twins, they knew this would be their one and only pregnancy. As the weeks went by, their OBGYN doctors became concerned. F7844222A&B were carrying only one child each! A boy and a girl! So they could not be identical. It was unprecedented. There were no reporting processes in place for this anomaly. Not knowing exactly what to do, the OBGYN doctors did nothing. F7844222A&B gave birth to singlet babies, a boy and a girl in the spring of 3085, tagged F9098665A and M9099442A. There were no “B’s”.

At first, the single children seemed no different than all the other twins, except that they were, well, singlets. The cribs were built for two, as were the car seats, carriers, strollers. Sometimes mothers F7844222A&B would put dolls in with their babies so they didn’t look so odd. When they started school, the classrooms suddenly had two singles to deal with, and they had no mechanism to do so. The precisely calculated classes were now thrown off by the odd number one child, instead of two.

As F9098665A and M9099442A matured, they became the center of attention, the unique among the mundane. And so they became the object of desire for the opposite sex. Who wanted to share when they could have a unit all to themselves? Male twins began to fight over F9098665A. Female twins would scratch and pull each other’s hair to get next to M9099442A. Suddenly, married twins who had not yet borne children wanted singlets. They no longer valued twins, they began to see the status of a singlet child.

When the time F9098665A and M9099442A were to be assigned mates, a dilemma arose: what to do with the twin that was “unassigned?” They could have been assigned to each other, but then the purity of the genetic lines became fuzzy. The unmated “B’s” became childless. Suddenly, career placement and planning got skewed. And inexplicably more and more singlets were being born. Population began to decrease. Zero Population Growth became Negative Population growth. Some singlets had to work full time, there was no twin to share the work. The spiked water didn’t generate twins, yet mothers only ovulated once.

The government was at wits end. What was happening? What was causing this epidemic of singlet births? And who’s pods were they to live in, and then what would happen with the empty pods that were created by the shrinking population?

F9098665A and M9099442A began the downfall of society, the beginning of the end. They were the antithesis of Adam and Eve.  Some stories have happy endings. This one did not.

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