If you’re reading this, in a self-destructing DM, on the reverse strand of a plasmid, in the recipe binder you found in a deported neighbor’s belongings dumped on the curb, you’re no longer angry.
Your last co-op got raided by the Department of Homeland Biosecurity, hunting for pharmaceuticals “dangerous” to those at risk of getting pregnant. Your lab mates are bloody stains being hosed off the sidewalk. You barely escaped, but even in your grimy motel room you can’t help but keep a hotplate, a few chipped beakers, and a trusty pipette.
You’re starving. Not for more regulation of your reproductive system, as if the reversal of Roe twenty-six years ago, as if every ticking clock and prohibition heaped on our bodies since then weren’t enough. Deep within you, where everyone thinks a maternal warmth should be, is a ravening. You want to sink teeth into those majority opinions, those judges that know what’s best, rend them, chew them into bloody giblets.
A highway howls outside. On your room’s flatscreen, a politician kills a clinic with a slash of his pen and smiles. You flash your canines back. Your life is different now. You made a choice. You altered your body; or the mere act of reading the first chapter of this Cookbook altered your mind. You turned your anger inward, allowing it to transform yourself, and now you are a kind of beast with wings and talons and gaping maws. You came to me again because you want to know what to do with them.
I can give you a few ideas.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Eggs. You really only need one thing in addition to the materials you collected in Chapter One. Oocytes, or egg cells, or the soul of the next generation, as the groups dedicated to saving concepts as nebulous as Life or America say. What you call them is up to you, not the savers. You have (or once had) a body capable of giving birth to another human being; now you have a body capable of giving birth to a new world—to change. You’ve always had this secret ingredient, nestled deep within. You only need to extract it.
Step 1: Ovulation. But you’re so young, the fertility doctor says. Surely your ovaries don’t need to be stimulated! Even the forged referral, the affidavit from your “partner” that they want the procedure, are barely enough to convince the doctor to administer the drugs. After the final shot, he tells you to come back in a few days for the next steps. He’ll be in hot water with the DHB if he loses track of the eggs maturing in your body. You nod sympathetically. You help yourself to one of his ultrasound probes and a box of his aspirating needles on your way out.
Step 2: Retrieval. It’s not difficult to find someone with the expertise you need. Even in the heartland, there are farming co-ops that aren’t just farms. Especially in the heartland, there are ex-physicians who never stopped practicing. A whole wave of them went into hiding after the In-Vitro Fertilization Clinic Raids of 2036, after the DHB took protective custody of the unborn: thousands of embryos “rescued” from freezers, even more embryos killed by the DHB’s improper handling, and thousands of embryos already implanted into the wombs of those deemed “unfit.” Those pregnancies weren’t terminated of course, our president at the time proclaimed, wiping a tear from his eye—they aren’t monsters, after all. The mothers were given the best of facilities, and the best of re-education, until the babies could be safely delivered and taken to “safe” homes.
That didn’t stop people who can’t ordinarily get pregnant from starting families, to be sure. It all just went underground. Drive your junker down the highway, stopping at roadside farm stalls. Look in particular for ones with chickens strutting around, pecking at the dusty grass. Direct your conversation toward eggs, the shortages, how difficult it is to even bake a birthday cake these days. Ask carefully—might there be a few cartons stashed in the back of a fridge, hidden from state-mandated purchasers, that you could buy? If you play it right, you’ll be on your back on a kitchen table, with an ultrasound probe inside you and a needle aspirating your ovarian follicles one by one. Anesthetic won’t be available. You’ll leave with a lot of abdominal pain—and hopefully at least twelve vials of egg cells.
Once you get your oocytes, you’ll need to handle them carefully. Transfer them into the highest quality cell culture media you can barter for. Keep them in an incubator under physiological conditions. Look at them under the microscope every day. Are they perfectly spherical? Is their cytoplasm homogeneous? Is their membrane thick, but not too thick, their polar body intact? Move the plate slowly. Don’t even breathe when you take off its lid. You have to be gentle. Eggs are fragile, so fragile. However, as our foremother once said, not fragile like a flower. Fragile like a bomb.
So make your bomb.
- Gene editing. Egg cells are surrounded by the “shell” of the Zona Pellucida, a stronger membrane than that of the cells you worked with in Chapter One. You’ll need access to a microinjection apparatus. Thanks to the labor shortages, that won’t be difficult to get. More and more cattle farms are using them, and looking for lab technicians to operate them too. You’ll get training on how to hold a cow oocyte with a micromanipulator, remove its nucleus, and replace it with one from a high-quality steer—bam, cloned beef! Most meat these days, when you can get it, is.
On a slow day, load your own oocytes into the well and use the micropipette to insert your desired genetic material into the nucleus instead. Your egg cells are transcriptionally inactive at this point, so nothing will happen immediately. But don’t worry. The payload will go off when it’s time. Inject your trusty synCas-X vector along with guide RNAs targeted to the following genes: TP53 and PIK3CA to give your egg the extra growth push it needs. TET1 and KMT2D for the epigenetic malleability to adapt. Finally, you’ll want to make your eggs just a bit defective in DNA repair by targeting an ERCC gene or two. Just enough to scramble some of your germline variants. Just enough so that your egg can’t be traced back to you.
- Implantation. If I know you, you already have a candidate in mind. A certain district judge who brags red-faced at the bar every night: I’m the one who killed the pill. That pill, and that pill, and that one. A million babies saved! I’m practically their father. Or perhaps a senator? The one who nods and says, I’m just giving the people what they want; anyone who doesn’t want it isn’t a person. Or any of the dozens applauding around them, playing with fascism as with toy soldiers, and discarding the sex workers they hire as even less than that?
You’re always so attractive to them, for a reason they can’t quite put their finger on. It’s the hunger in your eyes that reflects their own. They’ve been warned about bioterrorists with needles, but most will still let you lance them in the heat of the moment (see Diagram A). You need only whisper the magic word in their ear: virility. Despite their preaching about biosecurity, about Big Pharma destroying the bodies of the birthing population, most of them will take any kind of drug to get it up. For the needle-shy, there are hydrogel microcapsules you can form around your oocytes instead. Your eggs will travel, shielded from digestion enzymes, and latch onto the wall of the intestinal tract. From there, it’s only a short hop to the target.
- Embryogenesis. Millions and millions of sperm in the epididymis, squirming so helplessly, suddenly find an oocyte among them. Of course they surge forward. Of course they penetrate. It’s only natural for a sperm to fertilize an egg—the most natural thing in the world. And at that exact moment, as the savers say, the miracle of life begins. For what forms at your injection site in the scrotum is an embryo, indistinguishable from one formed in a Petri dish, or even a womb. It’s so small as to be unnoticeable. But slowly, but surely, it grows. Only after you’re long gone does it become impossible to ignore. At that point, beautifully, it’s formed hair and teeth. It has a heartbeat. It has all three germ layers; it even has neurons, of a sort. It’s alive, as the savers cry, it’s alive! Never mind that the mass is almost certainly moribund, never mind that its environment has little to no possibility of sustaining development up to live birth. Even a one in a billion, a one in a trillion of a chance of survival is an absolute in the eyes of their God. It’s alive!
The host will have to let this thing run its course. That’s simply the morally right thing to do, according to their politicians, their preachers, their CEOs. After all, it’s an embryo—it’s practically a newborn baby! Who’s to say it doesn’t feel pain? Who’s to say, up until the moment its environment can no longer support it and it necroses, taking out all surrounding tissue with it, that it’s not viable? There’s a chance that the mass may instead become metastatic and grow out of all control, killing its host, but that’s no excuse either. It’s simply a matter of principle. For if the host shows weakness, if he submits to removal of this foreign growth with half his DNA and a theoretical possibility of becoming human—then what else might he have to submit to? Those with wombs doing the exact same thing? Or, horror of horrors, that such a procedure might be a basic human right?
Such cases have become more and more common lately. The scion of a prominent family, suddenly confessing to calling the DHB on a college girlfriend, as if that will stop his own mass’s growth. An award-winning actor and spokesman for the savers tearfully begging for an exception to the law, for medications to eliminate his own twelve-week-old case. Each time, the hydra they helped put into power rises around them. Its heads debate, deny. They writhe, they chop themselves into little pieces. If they would rather destroy themselves than yield—then let them.
You’ve heard the whispers, haven’t you? Despite the assurances of the DHB, the deportations, and arrests, the youth are afraid. A certain type of youth, now that willful carelessness is no longer their God-given right. This recipe is so easy, after all. Anyone with eggs could do it. More and more of them want to get their testes removed to avoid the issue. Avoid the bars, they whisper among themselves, the dating apps. Sick bitches lurk on those. If you refuse to wear a condom, they’ll force their egg into your drink, or their saliva; even a kiss will be enough.
Then the whispers will turn to you. They will say: you should not have this power. Fertilization is natural, beautiful, but in your hands it’s violent. It’s wrong, because you could use it to terrorize the innocent, to assault their bodies, to destroy their minds. Never mind that you’ve carefully considered all of that. Never mind that you would never waste your oocytes on such a base, senseless act. Never mind the countless spermatozoa those whisperers jack off daily, unpoliced. They’ll turn to you, at the dinner table, in the line outside the grocery store, and with wide eyes, you’ll respond: It’s terrible, it’s tragic, but that’s just the world we live in now, isn’t it? Of course, we don’t have to live in this world. We could live in a world where abortion is legal and accessible instead. Until then: Sperm will be sperm and eggs will be eggs!
Do you taste it? It’s the most forbidden of fruits dribbling down your lips, burning down your throat. Its warm flesh contains all the calories you’ve denied yourself over the years, all the fats and sugars you were told would twist you into a monstrosity beyond desire, and therefore beyond worth.
You would never deem a fellow human being worthless. You’ve been taught to eat only until full, or better yet less-than-full, or best of all to puke it all up after. But you can eat this forbidden fruit, and you can keep eating. As long as we live in this world where fellow humans deny us justice, you can feast. You can gorge yourself, or you can lie in wait. It’s up to you. I only have one request. When you finally swoop down on your prey, digging into tendon and bone, when he pleads he’ll give you anything save for the basic human rights you’re due:
Don’t. Let. Go.
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