All Stories, General Fiction

s-Perfect by Tris Matthews

After a short rest, when she thought he might fall asleep, Amy reached round to slap her sweaty lump of husband on the back.

“Get off now.”

With a groan, Brad peeled his slick torso from hers, rolled off and collapsed, naked and vulnerable. Their mixed sweat chilled the front of Amy’s torso, but she didn’t have time to shower.

She flicked on her bedside lamp. The erotic midnight blues gave way to the warm peach tones of their cosy bedroom and blushing bodies. Amy fought to free herself from the damp sheets and scooted to the foot of the bed.

The s-Perfect kit was an immaculate white, hard-plastic box about the size of a briefcase. Its sleek design looked out of place on their wooden dresser. Amy flipped the lid, plucked out an alcohol wipe and cleaned her lower belly. She extracted an adhesive sensor-affector pad and applied it to the spot she’d cleaned, smoothing the air bubbles out with her little fingers. Amy grabbed her iPad and twisted to lay face-down with her feet up by Brad’s head.

The app looked like the kit: a white square decorated with a pale blue S-shaped sperm. At a touch, it expanded and faded to reveal the blood-red cave of Amy’s uterus and the charging army of Brad’s sperm.

Amy’s heart fluttered. The scene looked identical to the training simulations, but these were Brad’s little soldiers inside her body, right now. Her womb was host to 50 million rivals racing on a scale smaller than the human mind could conceive, and Amy had the honour of influencing the selection.

On the right of the screen were four buttons with the Greek letters alpha, beta, iota and tau: analyse, boost, impede and training. Amy tapped analyse to get an idea of what she was dealing with. Over twenty years, s-Perfect had recorded data on thousands of lives from sperm to fully-grown adult human. This data had revealed the connection between swim pattern and adult personality. Now it was categorising Brad’s front-runners into their future personality types.

Colours speckled the squiggling mass, indicating the assignment of each sperm to a cluster, until the scene reached an average purple-tinged grey. The stats popped up–one column for females and one for males.

Amy and Brad had wanted to leave their child’s sex to chance, but s-Perfect recommended against this. Many personality traits correlated with sex, and having strong male traits in a female, or vice versa, led to frustrated and bitter people.

They’d decided their first would be a boy. The most frequent male sperm-type in this portion of ejaculate was shaded maroon and entitled ‘Cluster L’. Brad had also tested as a Cluster L adult. The thought of a miniature Brad nipping at their heels brought a grin to Amy’s face. She clicked for further details: beta male, stubborn but fair, passionate about his hobbies, creative job, puts family above work, dedicated father.

Amy poked Brad in the head with her toe and said “Oi, it’s you! I’m brewing a you!” Brad remained comatose.

The memory of their beginnings came to Amy’s mind. Brad had first won her friendship over three years while they’d each pursued their own love lives. They’d discovered each other’s quirks and kookinesses and built a solid base of trust. Then, finally and fatefully, they’d realised their love. It was a love based on understanding that later blossomed into passion. Theirs had been the perfect start to a perfect relationship.

Amy tapped the boost button. The scene erupted in a firework display of tiny flashes as all non-Cluster L sperm ceased to be. Over the course of 15 seconds, the average colour shifted to the same maroon as Brad’s Cluster L.

“Doesn’t hurt at all,” Amy mumbled.

Beside her, a little life oozed back into Brad. He twisted round and joined his wife shoulder-to-shoulder at the foot of the bed. Her skin was chilly and refreshing against his.

“You started without me?”

“Life is a race and she who waits has already lost,” Amy replied.

“Alpha female, eh?”

“You betcha.”

Brad nodded at the iPad. “How many did you kill?”

Amy scowled. “Don’t say that. One of them is our son.”

“Not one of those you killed! Anyway, I’ve been thinking–we should go with a girl.”

Amy gave Brad a sideways glance and said “Fortunately, when you start a sentence with ‘I’ve been thinking’, I know you’re being ironic. Now are you going to help or not?”

On the screen, the maroon was already speckling with the colours of the most eager second-wave sperm. Brad scanned the stats and his eyes fell on the red of Cluster A. It was right at the bottom of the list.

“I’m not the greatest producer of alphas, am I?” Though he meant it in jest, his voice quivered.

He reached across and clicked to analyse Cluster A: alpha male, highly driven, confident, values wealth and influence above all else.

Brad and Amy had scrutinised the defining qualities of the different personality clusters. Many qualities were shared between clusters, and some clusters were downright awful. s-Perfect’s training videos stated clearly that all people were not created equal–some had no redeeming features. You should recognise such sperm and impede them without impunity. After that, your decisions were down to personal preference. The swagger of alpha males repulsed Brad and Amy, so they’d decided to avoid all clusters with alpha characteristics. Cluster A was the epitome of alpha.

Still, an alpha got what he wanted. Who wouldn’t want that for their child?

In the analysis, s-Perfect displayed the swim pattern for the exemplar sperm for Cluster A. Its head was sharp and stayed firmly centred along its axis of motion. The oscillation of its tail was narrow and smooth, but powerfully purposeful. Brad recalled the swim pattern of Cluster L’s exemplar: head darting from side to side, tentatively unsure of direction; medium amplitude tail oscillation, but with a periodic flick of the tip, like the embellishment of a ballerina’s hand. Though more interesting to watch, how could it compete in life with the single-minded self-centred drive of the alpha?

Amy yanked the iPad away. “Why you wanna look at these? We’ve had this conversation too many times.”

Brad hrmphed as Amy backed out of the analytics. She zoomed in so individual sperm were discernible.

Brad reached over and tapped a red one he saw, then hit the impede button and the little alpha vapourised in a powdery red sparkle.

“Happy now? I’m a murderer.” Brad said.

Amy winked at her other half. “You’re a sculptor of our future, darling. Good job.”

“This one…” Amy tapped a sperm and it enlarged so they could assess its movement dynamics. “It’s got that confined head movement and vigorous tail-flick that correlates with highly-motivated but charitable people, don’t you think?”

Brad hmmed. It was highlighted brown for Cluster J, as Amy was implying, but… “Not sure,” he said. “Isn’t that tail-flick the sign of a bully?”

“Yes, if the sperm has normal head movement. With narrow head movement like this, it’s assertive. Video six. Look…” She tapped analyse and brought up a predicted personality description. “See!”

Brad squinted to read her screen. “Oh yeah. Before you do anything, though, check out the ones around him.”

“Course!” Amy said, zooming out. “Nothing special.”

Brad hmmed again and Amy considered that an assent. The s-Perfect boost button’s function was to terminate all sperm in view other than those selected.  She tapped the assertive swimmer and hit boost. All its neighbours effervesced and disappeared. Two seconds later, the next wave filled the spaces they’d left.

“Here, look at this one,” Brad said, leaning his weight on his wife so he could point out the tiny spot. His chosen sperm was energetic, but with an ever-so-slightly arrhythmic tail-flick and a weaving motion that playfully nudged its neighbours.

Amy shook her head. “That flick predicts poor focus.”

“But swimming from side to side suggests he’ll be super sociable. That’s what we said we wanted.”

“I don’t want no A.D.D. baby,” Amy said. She hit impede before Brad could protest.

“Hey. Get your own sperm!” he ejaculated.

“Your sperm are my sperm, love.”

Amy kissed Brad’s smooth cheek just as the final message popped up on their screens: the front-running sperm were now in the vicinity of Amy’s egg. They had only a minute until a potential fertilisation would trigger the cortical reaction, thereby stopping any further sperm fusing with the egg. Brad and Amy focussed, nimbly darting from sperm to sperm, fumbling over each other’s hands as they fought to eliminate all sperm they didn’t like.

Suddenly, Amy cried “Stop! I’ve found the perfect one. See.”

The sperm had a rhythmic swimming cycle which oscillated between two long and two short tail flicks while its head remained steadily forward-facing. “It’s exactly what we want. Highly driven, but fair. Focussed, but still a capable listener.”

Amy turned her earnest face to the father of her soon-to-be embryo. Instinctively, she rolled to her side and lay a hand on her belly, on top of where the s-Perfect patch was doing its work.

Brad nodded and took the iPad. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

With their chosen sperm protected, he mashed the impede button as wave upon wave of hopefuls approached their unattainable goal. The oocyte came into view on the screen. It appeared like the sun rising over the ocean and transfixed the happy couple. Brad stopped impeding.

As he did, a single red sperm wriggled into view, far behind their selected one. Its swim pattern was identical to the Cluster A exemplar they’d seen earlier. This was an ideal alpha: implacable and unrelenting, but it was hopelessly behind.

Brad’s mind cast back to when he’d met Amy on their first day of university. He’d been enamoured from the get-go. Two weeks later, they’d become friends in a group project to debate the morality of the second great wave of eugenics. They’d hit it off like a house on fire, but only as friends. Already, Amy had become an object of attention for a laddish politics major and star of the football team. That hadn’t lasted long, but then there’d been a similar guy, then another. Alphas, every one of them. Brad provided sympathy and a shoulder to cry on. It hadn’t been till their final year, when Amy was too busy with exams to go out, that she’d finally noticed Brad in that way. Only then had he told her how he felt. His love was as strong to this day, but he still worried he was just a safe option rather than one who ignited her passions. He hated the guys who’d toyed with Amy. But he envied them, too.

Brad tapped the alpha.

“What are you doing?” Amy said. She reached for the iPad, but Brad jutted his arm out beyond the bottom of the bed.

“Get rid of it, Brad.”

He rested a hand on Amy’s shoulder, holding her away, and said “I don’t want my boy to have a life like mine.”

Amy looked like he’d slapped her. “What? What’s wrong with your life?”

She threw off his hand and lunged for the iPad, but Brad rolled backward onto the floor with a thump. He scuttled to his feet and scampered towards the door with Amy in hot pursuit.

“He can’t be weak,” Brad cried. He swung the door closed behind him, but Amy flung her body into it before it latched. She leant into it with all her strength.

“Brad! Stop! Don’t you boost that alpha. We’ve had this conversation. We came to a decision together!”

“I’m sorry, love,” Brad whispered. “Our son has to be strong, not just another beta.”

He tapped boost.

The screen froze. Brad poked at the screen again, but nothing happened.

A screwed-up ball of rubber fell through the gap between the door and frame. Amy had torn off the s-Perfect’s adhesive sensor-affector pad.

Amy forgave Brad, as she always did. They never determined which sperm it was that had become their little Alfie, but she loved the child above anything or anyone. Alf was still young when he left home to make his mark on the world. Even with all his success, he regularly called his mother, though he had little time for his father, finding him a weak-minded and a poor role model.

Brad didn’t mind. His son was exactly the man Brad wished him to be.


Tris Matthews

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7 thoughts on “s-Perfect by Tris Matthews”

  1. For me a writer begins in a big hole ( no pun intended, but I’ll take it) when sex and or violence is present at the start. It takes a Herculean job to get out of the hole, because there’s little new down there (same pun disclaimer). But, goddamit, YOU have done it. Great job.


  2. Hi Tris,
    Ah…Selection and all the pitfalls!
    I have no thoughts as I don’t relate well to children and really don’t understand anyone wanting them. They are all PSKs whether selected, filtered, natural or created in a factory somewhere near Leeds! (PSK – Potential Serial Killers)
    This is superbly written, witty, clever and perceptive.
    All the very best my friend.


  3. Ballard was the master craftsman of inner space, with a surreal screw. My personal favourites include The Crystal World, Crash, Concrete Island, High Rise & Cocaine Nights.


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