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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Mother (as in maternal parent) (04/24/08)

TITLE: Beautiful Lulu
By Jan Ackerson
04/28/08
~2nd Place


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Lulu is beautiful to me, but the doctor’s accusing litany of small abnormalities floats in the air above her cradle. With one trembling finger, I trace the offending features: Lulu’s wide-set eyelids with an inner fold, so thin that they seem blue. Her button nose, giving her infant features an elfish cast. That thin, smooth upper lip with a tiny milk blister. So beautiful…

She charms me for months, while I constantly swallow my guilt. The hospital chaplain has given me a Biblical Module for my Auditory Implant, and I listen to its calming words whenever I’m feeding Lulu or soothing her fitful sleep.

One day when Lulu is five months old, my spirit shifts in adjustment to the words that whisper in my ear. Guilt is covered by grace.

I embark on a year of scrupulous frugality, saving every credit I can, and finally I contact ModifiTime with a proposal.

While I wait to hear from them, Lulu learns to take stumbling steps, but only by gripping tightly to my fingers. Her entire vocabulary is mama, mama.

Two weeks before Lulu’s second birthday, I am rubbing her tummy and studying her face—her cheeks are flatter than the pinchable pink pads of the babbling toddlers who run around my silent Lulu in the park. I bend to kiss her; she is still my little elf. A musical tone in my Implant signals an incoming message.

“Justine Wickes,” says the artificial voice, “ModifiTime has approved your application for a Time Change as both minimal and beneficial. The stipulated amount of credits has been removed from your account. Report to any ModifiTime Center in order to effect your Time Change. Good luck.”

I dress Lulu in pale pink, and we set out immediately for the ModifiTime Center downtown. The smiling receptionist scans the IdentiChip embedded in my wrist. After a few seconds, she speaks. “Ms. Wickes, you’re in Room 3. Please listen carefully to the instructions before you proceed with your Time Change.” She indicates a play area, walls aglow with animated cartoons. “We have excellent RoboNannies. Shall I take your little girl?”

I pass Lulu’s hand to the receptionist and watch her teetering steps into the playroom. Behind me, the doors are numbered with digital displays. I enter Room 3 with Lulu’s face emblazoned behind my eyes.

As the door closes silently behind me, instructions stream into my Implant.

“Spend no more than two minutes out of Time. Touch only the items listed in your proposal. Speak no more than ten words. Remember, you cannot be seen outside of Time. Your words may or may not be heard, depending on noise and distraction at your destination. Take only the actions submitted in your proposal. Your actions may or may not change Time. If your actions do not change Time, no refund will be given.”

I tell the Walls my destination in Time and Space.

And I am there, with no transition whatsoever.

It is the kitchen of my own apartment, and for a disorienting moment I believe that Room 3 has malfunctioned. But a closer look reveals that it is my apartment from nearly three years ago. There is nothing of Lulu here: no colorful plush toys, no framed holographs.

With only seconds to accomplish my Time Change, I take a hesitant step into my own living room and watch myself. Justine is on the couch, weeping. I remember what she has just learned: She is pregnant.

She does not want to be pregnant.

She reaches for a bottle on the end table, a bottle half-full of a rich amber liquid.

This is my moment. With tingling feet I take three strides, and I sweep the bottle onto the floor. Whiskey and broken glass mingle on hardwood.

Justine looks around, startled. As she picks up the largest pieces of glass, I stoop close to her and whisper in her ear. “Don’t drink it, Justine. Don’t drink. Her name is Lulu.”

And as Justine searches for the source of this maybe-a-voice that is obviously not her Implant, I am suddenly back in Room 3 where soft yellow words are crawling across the wall. TIME CHANGE COMPLETE. PLEASE EXIT.

I head toward the playroom, my throat aching.

Lulu-but-not-Lulu runs to me, sure-footed, clutching a hand puppet. “Look, mama!” she says, and I can see that her features have refined, sharpened, brightened. “Kitty cat! Kiss kitty cat, mama!”

I gather my new Lulu and Kitty Cat into my arms and kiss them both.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Sheri Gordon05/01/08
Wow--this left me with goosebumps.

You did a good job of projecting what was coming with the ModifiTime. I was relatively certain she wanted to change something she had done which had caused her daughter's abnormalities.

But the story left me wondering...did she really want the "new & improved" Lulu? Hadn't she grown to love the daughter she originally gave birth to?

Very creative story for the topic.
Janice Fitzpatrick05/01/08
This is so good. There are so many of "Justines" in life who wish we could have do overs. Yet even with do overs comes changes maybe we didn't want afterall. Very insightful and I loved the storyline and futuristic theme you used for this piece. Well done! Janice
Sara Harricharan 05/02/08
Oh I so LOVED this one! The sci-fi touch was wonderful! I'm glad that she did make a difference in time and especially the stipulations with the ModiTime that she could only speak ten words, etc. That made this so real, and the characters. I'm so glad that Lulu now has something even better. So glad. Nice job, this a favorite of mine this week! ^_^
Betty Castleberry05/02/08
Off the charts creative, and wonderfully written. This left me wanting more. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/03/08
With imagination and skill you've created a wonderful story.
Chely Roach05/05/08
Oh my...this was phenomenal. Beyond 'creative' with superb writing. Wow.
Joy Faire Stewart05/05/08
Very unique writing on topic. I was intrigued from beginning to the end.
Joanney Uthe05/05/08
I loved the opening description of Lulu as shown through the mother's eyes. It made her wanting to change her, to correct her guilt seem more selfish. I really liked the warnings with the Time Change and the limitations involved. Great story with much creativity.
Peter Stone05/05/08
I think you've excelled yourself this time (if that was possbile, and, pun not intended). At first I thought the mother was going to change time to avoid the pregnancy, so what a pleasant surprise to see her stopping herself from taking the liquid that damaged her daughter. Touching to see her reunited with her daughter, who is now whole.
Beth LaBuff 05/05/08
Definitely "out of the box," in fact, I would say that you've "left the building." Wow! How clever and creative. This is great!
Lyn Churchyard05/05/08

This is marvelous! You have certainly slam dunked with this one. Jan, there is nothing weird about this. It is a piece of science fiction at its best. Well done doesn't even begin to cover it.
Holly Westefeld05/06/08
Jan, this is a creative and intriguing piece, in which you impart just enough detail to keep the reader from being confused in this futuristic world.

The only area that seemed awkward to me was this:
"With only seconds to accomplish my Time Change, I take a hesitant step into my own living room and watch myself. Justine is on the couch, weeping. I remember
what she has just learned: She is pregnant.

She does not want to be pregnant.

She reaches for a bottle on the end table, a bottle half-full of a rich amber liquid."

Rereading carefully, it was clear that Justine was referring to herself in third person, but I wonder if it might have worked as well or better had you had her continue to speak in first person, but switched to past tense to indicate that it is her younger self speaking.

A place like Modifitime could make a bundle, but how many of us would go broke trying to patch up our lives?

Are you sure you're not sentimental? :-)
LaNaye Perkins05/06/08
I love Sci-Fi and I really like the way you put this powerful message in the story. Great writing!
Willena Flewelling 05/06/08
Not weird at all. Thought provoking is more like it. I really like this entry!
Sally Hanan05/06/08
WOW! You've outdone yourself with your imagination, and I like how you didn't make it unreal--if every mother with that kind of shame could go back and change things, they would, regardless of how much they love the child "as is."
Joanne Sher 05/06/08
Very creative and intriguing and thought-provoking.

Makes me wonder if you would do this for Jericho if you could :)

Or - for that matter, if I would do it for Marc.

Excellent piece, Jan.
Joshua Janoski05/06/08
Wow. I wasn't expecting this to be sci-fi when I first started reading, but then it really grabbed my attention and piqued my interest.

I was a bit confused at who she was looking at in the apartment. At first I thought it was a friend, but then it all made sense to me after I read on a bit farther.

Very good lesson told here. I tis so sad when little ones have to be born with problems because of poor decisions made by the parents.

Thank you for sharing this wonderfully unique and thought provoking entry.
Beckie Stewart05/06/08
Well written. You do an excellent job in pulling your reader into your story. I was actually disappointed with the ending, but that is okay, we should not get what we expect when we read a story.
Melanie Kerr 05/06/08
I enjoyed all the sci fi jargon - not enough to be baffling. I am not sure about the mother's actions to change the child. I would rather she nadn't changed Lulu.
Yvonne Blake 05/06/08
Interesting! Don't we all wish we could go back in time to fix our (or someone else's) mistakes.
Well done!
Lynda Schultz 05/06/08
This is an "if only …" and is a creative way to deliver an important message—spread it far and wide. Well done.
Debbie Wistrom05/06/08
You are indeed a master, can't say anything that hasn't been said already. Fun read, felt a bit Heinlein to me, but it has been years since I've read his work.
Myrna Noyes05/07/08
Wow! So creative with that unusual sci-fi touch! How many times have I wanted to go back and change things, too!

Your topic is sobering, though, as there is a young girl in my family who has fetal alcohol syndrome. You described her very well as an infant and toddler. Unfortunately, her mother was not able to modify time.

Thank you for sharing this.
Loren T. Lowery05/07/08
Wow and wow again. So creative it boggles the imagination. In a way it reminds me of the "If" poem by Rudyard Kipling.
I know there must be some ethical issues involved with the possiblity of having such a time machine...but for now, the writing and what it evokes is challenging enough.
LauraLee Shaw05/07/08
WAy to brilliant for me to comment on. Over my head for sure. You seriously need to start that on-line video tutorial class. I'd be raising my hand the whole time...for questions, not for answers. ;)
Catrina Bradley 05/07/08
Masterfully written, of course. :) Did she do the right thing? She had already accepted grace, then makes the decision. Was her guilt over what she HAD done, or what she was GOING to do? If it was for drinking the liquid in the past, then it seems to me she negated it by going back to change it. Great question!!
Laury Hubrich 05/08/08
Wow Jan. Make me think so early in the morning! Thank you for mixing up your styles and experimenting so much. You are a great example for me to follow. Loved this Sci Fi piece!
Laury
Lauryn Abbott05/08/08
This really was excellent and a well-deserved win. What a great concept for a do-over. Big congrats to you on this very creative entry!
Sheri Gordon05/08/08
Congratulations on your EC. This was one of my favorites this week. Love the way it made the reader really think.
BOB BLACKMAN05/08/08
I loved this piece. Being new to FaithWriters, I never expected to find any SF here. I'm greatly pleased and marking your name in hopes of finding more. Congratulations on placing.
Loren T. Lowery05/08/08
Way to go, Teach! Showing and leading us students all the way. Congratulations, Jan, on this intriguing, paradoxical and profound entry. Loren
Lollie Hofer 05/08/08
Incredibly well done! I too struggled with the ending but the point you wanted to make came through in a powerful way. It was very thought provoking. You have set the standard high - I'm not complaining about it though, that is a very good thing.
Myrna Noyes05/09/08
I knew this piece was a winner when I first read and commented on it! :) CONGRATULATIONS!
Helen Dowd 05/11/08
Well done, and congratulations! I was puzzled as I read this piece, not knowing anything about sci-fi. I have never read anything in that genre. I puzzled about the meaning all the way through, but when I read the comments at the end, then I understood it better. (I never read comments before I read a piece, as I don't want to be influenced by other people's opinions) In this case, though, had I not read the other's comments, I would have been baffled, not because your story wasn't well told--it was--but because I did not understand the TimeZone thing. (I am not of the modern generation.)....Thanks....Helen