A conspiracy theory no one would have guessed.
It’s 2168 and expiration dates have been a part of the human genome for the last hundred years. Society has grown accustomed to these birthmark dates, revealing the day you will expire. But suddenly, an exponential number of infants are being born across the globe with very short expiration dates, giving them only hours, days to live.
Elisa Quinn’s cousin’s baby is amongst these born with shockingly short expiration dates. Devastated over the rapid demise of the baby, Elisa begins to search for answers. Not satisfied by the response the global government is providing for the growing number of short expiration dates, she sets out to discover what could be behind this alarming trend. Aided by two scientists, Ashlei Quinn and Claude Monark, Elisa investigates the long-standing gestational supplement of nutriment injections as a potential source in the shortened dates.
While researching, the trio uncover an extremist group, Restituere. They learn of the group’s plot to control the growth of the population, potentially exterminating a large portion in the process.
Armed with their new revelations, Elisa and Claude travel to Boston seeking help from the one person they thought they could count on, only to find themselves fighting for their lives. Unable to trust anyone, they venture out on their own to interrupt Restituere’s plot. They soon find themselves in the middle of a deep global conspiracy, and in the crosshairs of those who would stop at nothing to see this plot through.
Unless they can prevent this deadly group’s plans, their loved ones will be lost and the human race altered forever.
If you love Dan Brown’s, Deception Point; Michael Crichton’s, The Andromeda Strain; and A.G. Riddle’s, The Atlantis Gene, you will love Expiration Date.
Melissa Morrison put her feet up on a chair in the break room, resting her head on the table. The door opened slightly and June, a student nurse, poked her head in.
“She’s ready, ten centimeters dilated.”
Melissa lifted her head slowly and dropped her feet to the floor. The dark circles under her eyes told of the last eighteen-hour, three-day shift she’d been working.
Melissa entered the room as the laboring mother—Shauna, she re- minded herself—screamed with her next contraction. She watched the woman’s husband, David, get swatted away each time he tried to dab her head with a cool cloth, and wondered how much longer she would tolerate the attention.
One wall was painted with a mural of lilies, lupine, peonies, primrose and asters—an English garden to soothe the trauma of labor— while the other featured lambs and geese frolicking together in the countryside, washed over with a melancholy overtone contrary to its playful characters.
Melissa was happy to see the friendly face of the woman’s cousin, Elisa, who was standing by the birthing bed.
David was pacing. “Is the doctor coming soon? I think she’s ready!”
“He’s on his way,” Melissa said.
“I’m going to be a dad in like five seconds and I don’t exactly know what to do here.”
Melissa glanced at Shauna, panting and gripping the sides of the bed—she let out a grunt.
“Okay well, I’m pretty sure there’s not much for you to do here. I believe Shauna will do most of the work,” Elisa assured him. “Your job is to be supportive.”
Dr. Reed Frederick entered the room. “Elisa, I didn’t expect you to be here.”
“Hi Reed. I’m here for moral support.” She side-eyed David with a smirk.
“Great, the more the merrier.”
The room was set up for expectant moms to deliver on one side of the room with a half wall separating the newborn baby area. The baby’s nook was filled with baby supplies and brightly lit with white walls.
Melissa observed as June pulled the sterile drape off a covered table and began to prepare for baby’s arrival.
“Melissa,” Dr. Frederick glanced at the nurse, “informs me that you are completely dilated and ready to go.”
“I’m ready,” Shauna panted.
Elisa scrunched her face as Shauna contorted hers with a contraction. She let out a little scream and immediately resumed her breathing exercises.
Everyone assumed their positions, with David holding Shauna’s hand repeating, “Breathe, breathe.”
Elisa stood at her head as silent support, though occasionally giving words of encouragement. The only wall not adorned with animals or flowers was the one facing the birthing bed—it was a plain lavender.
Melissa smirked, glimpsing Elisa mouthing the screams with Shauna as she pushed with each contraction.
Twenty minutes later the shaky cries of a five-pound baby girl filled the room—Jessica, they decided. The anxious mother grappled for her daughter, rapidly searching for the birthmark, as the baby was whisked away to be inspected.
“I’ll have her right back to you in a moment,” June promised.
David turned back to his wife, while she lay back to rest, wiping the stray hairs away from her eyes and sweaty cheeks. He looked down at her, meeting her unsettled gaze.
Elisa backed away, not wanting to intrude.
In the baby’s nook, Melissa instructed June on how to examine the newborn infant using the Apgar score system—the practice of quickly assessing a baby’s health moments after birth.
She noticed June’s hands trembling, so she placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. June closed her eyes for just a moment and took a deep breath in to block out any distractions before performing a second test, checking the baby for signs of anything less than healthy.
“Heart rate’s good—110 beats per minute,” she blurted out, talking herself through it. “Reflex response.” She gently let Jessica’s head drop into her hand. “Spontaneous movement, sluggish. Next check,” she flipped the baby slowly from side to side, “baby’s… color… is… good.” She looked again and lowered her voice. “Hands and feet, slightly discolored. Respirations… slow and irregular.” Melissa watched over June’s shoulder as she finally wiped Jessica down, while apprehensively searching her tiny body for the same string of numbers Shauna had so desperately tried to catch a glimpse of earlier. Finding them, the date was clear. The birthmark read, 7152168. She looked up at Melissa and grimaced.
June loosely wrapped Jessica in a blanket and carried her to Dr. Frederick, who stood at the end of the birthing bed. She gently slipped the blanket away, positioning the foot so he could see the numbers. His weary eyes looked up, then from father to mother. “I’m so sorry,” he said quietly, glanced at Elisa, and mournfully left the room. There’s nothing more he would do here.
Shauna cried out. “Nooo, not her!”
Wails echoed throughout the ward from room 701. David let out a bloodcurdling howl.
Cupping her mouth, Elisa stood silently waiting in the shadows now, allowing the distressed parents space to absorb their child’s fate. A fate that is always possibly looming with each birth, but never easy to accept. She wiped the tears from her cheeks.
His eyes red and swollen, David reached toward Shauna, trying to console her. She flailed her arms, rejecting his efforts.
“Please God, no, no, no!” she cried desperately. Elisa moved forward and placed her hand on her cousin’s shoulder only to get pushed away— she crossed her arms and again receded to her haven against the wall.
David continued to attempt to console his wife, though he didn’t really have the will to completely contain her. Her arms still pushing him away, she inadvertently hit him in the mouth, causing a trickle of blood to form on his bottom lip. He noticed, but didn’t care, though he stopped trying to hold her. Distraught, he wasn’t sure how to calm his wife or even sure if he wanted to.
June swaddled Jessica and carried her to her parents. The new mom’s gaze followed her as she got closer, as though her baby would disappear if she turned away. She took her in her arms and kissed her forehead; her dad bent down to do the same, nuzzling his cheek against his daughter’s as if to take a little bit of her with him when he retreated.
“Check again,” he whispered to her. “Check again, maybe they’re wrong, maybe it wasn’t clear. Check again.”
Shauna opened her eyes wide. Another chance. A small wrinkled foot popped out as she meticulously unwrapped the pale pink blanket Jessica was swaddled in. Inching closer, Elisa fruitlessly tried to steal a glimpse from across the room. Everyone waited in anticipation knowing the result, but maybe…just maybe there could have been a mistake?
They both looked so quickly–perhaps they didn’t see well! She unwrapped the last layer and looked away briefly, then turned back. She raised Jessica’s foot, searching as if trying to focus on the words on the page of a book. Her face scrunched up and distorted into what was an unmistakable answer; she sobbed. Unable to hold his stance, David collapsed onto the side of the bed, and this time she allowed him to throw his arms around her and they wept together as a family.
Silently, Elisa made her way over to join Melissa and June. “What’s the date?” she asked in a whisper.
Melissa somberly looked into Elisa’s eyes. “July fifteenth, twenty- one, sixty-eight.”
Elisa gasped and softly said, “That’s three days from now!”
Suddenly, David pulled away from his family, turned and hit the wall, crushing his hand. He winced, but picked up the chair he’d been sitting in moments before and hurled it across the room, nearly hitting June. Melissa raced to push a button on the wall, while Elisa rushed toward mom and baby to act as a shield of protection.
The hospital loudspeaker urgently announced, “Code orange maternity, 7th floor, Code orange maternity, 7th floor.”
On Elisa’s hip she heard her pager, “Beep, beep, beep…”
Mardine Perrins is a writer and a Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist in a Cardiac Catherization lab in upstate New York. Forever fascinated by the unknown and questioning the unexplored, you’ll find her curiosities displayed throughout her work. Her imagination is driven by anomalies in nature; bizarre creatures that live beneath the sea; underground caverns teaming with undiscovered prehistoric life. She’s captivated with the complexity of the human DNA, mind and body and is drawn to natures ability to overcome, adapt and persist. She investigates why these things exist and how she can bring them to their potential through her stories. She currently lives in East Greenbush, NY with her husband, children and two cats.
Two winners will each receive a print copy of Expiration Date by Mardine Perrins (US only)