By: Graydon Hanson
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Emily was a miracle.
April and I had been trying for a couple months. We both realized something was wrong, but we didn’t want a doctor confirming our fears. Instead, we’d pick out another shade of pink paint, choose toys we thought she’d like, and try again. We knew we wanted a girl; the paperwork for the prenatal gender choice had been already long filled out and was sitting somewhere at the bottom of my desk. At this point, we both knew it wasn’t a question of if for us. It was a question of when.
April has always been more patient than me. It was as if the waiting wasn’t affecting her; she always had the same hopeful smile each night. But I couldn’t take it.
Our options only decreased as time went on. Orphanages were a thing of the past; now the general consensus was to heal the current generation before starting another one. Going to a doctor would only raise more eyebrows.
It was around this time that the Larimore Foundation was being shut down for good although it was a common belief it should’ve died a long time ago. The Facsimile Decrees had already outlawed all exact holographic duplication of a human being a year prior. Soon the wave of copy-cat companies that rushed to fill the power vacuum essentially killed the demand for commercial simulacrum altogether. As a result, the old Larimore factories were being cleaned out; thousands of hours of old footage secretly dumped and ripe for the taking.
Of course I didn’t learn about the footage until I got wind of some underground markets appearing for these old holograms. I had been approached about a business deal at the landfill I worked at, but after they found nothing, they moved on. Most of the demand was for prostitutes or old celebrity sex footage; a throwback to earlier tech if you will. But that got the gears turning for me. Surely there was other footage lying around.
Online under a fake name, I requested if there were any simulacra available of a girl between the ages of 2 and 11. Those were the only specifications. That kind of footage could only be viewed on one of the old Carousel machines, so I’d have to view it and make the purchase in person. Soon I got into a new pattern. I would sell machine parts from the landfill and then pool the money together, name my price, and wait.
I never told April of course. I had to keep up the hope I saw in her eyes every night, even if I knew it was hollow. Because I knew we’d have a solution soon. I knew we’d have a daughter somehow. And she would be perfect.
A dealer named Alice176 was the only one who responded, but only after I doubled my price to $20,000. She said she had a hologram of a girl named Emily. Age 8, blond hair. The footage was a full seven minutes and 34 seconds long, so I knew she had come from a rich family. I wrote back to Alice immediately and specified a location to meet up. I’d have the cash with me.
—Ok sweetie. Look at the camera and talk about yourself.
—Do I have to, Dad?
—It’s just a test, ok? Just look at me. There you go.
—Ok. Well…my name is Emily. I’m 8 years old….
—What do you like to do?
—Ummm…I like to play with my dolls.
—That’s good, Em. Why don’t you talk about what you’re doing in school right now?
—Ok…well…today Ms. Samantha showed us how to make turkeys out of our handprints. For Thanksgiving. It was really funny. I colored mine pink and Tina got mad since she said turkeys can’t be pink.
—That’s great. That’s fantastic. Keep talking about that.
Emily was a miracle.
She was exactly what we needed. The way she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. The way she pulled her hair back behind her right ear. The way her eyes glittered when she was called “Em.” I could finally come home to April with real hope in my eyes. I could finally come home with a daughter. Our daughter.
At first, I think April thought it was a joke. She said that we’d be okay. We were going to have a real daughter soon. I just had to be patient. But then I brought out our old Carousel machine from the closet and I inserted the small hard drive into the back. I’m pretty sure the Carousel was an old birthday present I had kept for some reason.
The machine suddenly whirred to life and Emily appeared, the exact same apprehensive smile on her face. I quickly adjusted the machine so that the projector was facing April, who was now sitting down at the dining table. Now her new daughter was looking at her directly.
—Do I have to, Dad?
I saw a slight change in April’s eyes. No longer were they filled with hope of something that would never come. Now, all I saw was love for something that was already here. Something that was ours and ours alone.
Emily continued to talk about school, Ms. Samantha, and her pink turkey, and I walked over to stand behind April. I slowly kissed the top of her head and put my hands on her shoulders. One of her hands lifted out of her lap to wipe a tear that had appeared on her left cheek, and then it settled on top of my hand on her right shoulder.
We watched and listened to our new daughter, laughing at just the right moments and knowing that we were now a real family.