Short Story
                                   The Following Answer
                                                           By Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond, MD


   Theophilus carefully put down the antiquated quill and blew gently on his final document.  He felt an
arthritic hand on his shoulder, the ever present love of his life, Gladiola.  He gazed at the dust motes
floating in the air as the sunlight slanted through the porthole.  The ship barely rolled on the waves.  It was
the only safe place remaining on Earth for them.

   Their followers were legion.  His words, her thoughts, had made all the difference.  He was public enemy
number one.  The most wanted man in all the world.  To his believers he was a savior.  To everyone else, a
scourge on all humanity.

   Theophilus reflected on how it all started, brushing his long gray hair back with his fingers.  His daughter
came home with glad tidings.  She was pregnant.  It was back when he was Ted.  It was back when
humans were supposedly in their last generation.  All were sterile.

   ‘Ironic really,’ Gladiola thought at the same time, ‘that humanity’s end was because of the dinosaurs.’  
Some claimed it was a meteor that killed the dinosaurs.  However, further studies proved it was the
contents of the meteor that really brought their end.  Genetic material from the stars.  It was that material
combined with the wheel of evolution that made their extinction permanent.  One kingdom gave rise to
another.

   The dinosaurs indeed had the last laugh.  As they rendered their bodies and bones into oil, humanity
elected to plunder their remains to drive their cars and carry plastic bags.  The plastic once micro-sized
permeated our blood and bones, slowly making us infertile.

   “Mom, Dad, oh happy day, I’m pregnant!” Violet exclaimed, and Theophilus recalled.

   Ted stared at Violet’s protuberant abdomen in horror.  Not the response Violet was expecting.  Gladys,
her mother, came from the kitchen wiping her hands.  She gushed and placed her hand over her mouth
self-consciously.  Violet had waited until she was showing before she brought them the good news.

                                                                                   ***

   Violet and her husband had applied and were accepted for the procedure.  Dr. Victor Behram, a clinical
gynecologist devised it.  Behram was no longer an obstetrician, as obstetrics ceased to exist since the
day the last baby was born twenty years before.  He had stumbled on the cure for infertility purely by
accident.

   The doctor who saved the world, started out only wanting to save his daughter.  Molly had eaten from a
plastic bowl that his wife was soaking with the usual household enzymatic solution prior to disposal.  It had
sat overnight.

   The bacterial broth was designed to digest plastic and was required, according to law, to treat the
plastic on being recycled.  Victor found his four-year-old daughter with a mouthful of cereal and liquefying
plastic one morning in their kitchen.  Terrified for her life, he called poison control and their answer was to
send a hearse.

   By then, the enzymes and bacteria had entered her bloodstream and her liver was failing.  Victor
watched the whites of his daughter’s eyes turn bright yellow in the time it took him to make the call.  
Panicked, he placed an intravenous line and gave her an anti-sepsis cocktail he devised on the spot,
made from antibiotics, steroids, and enzyme binders.  A futile act made from sheer desperation.  Molly
survived from what was in his doctor’s bag.

   Ten years later, she refused breakfast and was vomiting.  After several days of this, Behram took a test
strip he found at the bottom of his old doctor’s bag, kept mostly out of nostalgia, and was shocked to see
Molly was pregnant.

   Not believing the result, he drew her blood, and sent it for testing. The hospital lab had left over human
chorionic gonadotropin monoclonal antibody reagent, and the test came back positive.  They repeated it
three more times to be sure.  The results were unequivocal.

   Dr. Behram then performed the first obstetrical ultrasound in a quarter century and found a viable
embryo growing in Molly.  The news of her pregnancy rocked the planet.  New hope for the continuation of
humankind was once more in our hands.  Joy had replaced despair.

   He still doubted her pregnancy was anything but a fluke.  To refute this, he collected some of her other
eggs to study. There was a clear absence of the destructive micro-sized plastic that had led to the global
infertility.  The plastic that had damaged all other women’s oocytes was not in evidence.

   Victor wracked his brain trying to remember the anti-sepsis cocktail he made that saved her life.  He
stared at his crew cut in the mirror.  He shook the stiff brown hair on his head trying to clear the cobwebs.  
He searched through his medical bag several times.  His blue eyes finally sparkled as the memory
returned.

   Several clinical trials and massive funding later, Behram’s work led to a refinement of the procedure
known as the Molly Plication.  He called it that as the girls and young women who underwent the procedure
entered the ‘fertile fold’ once more.  Women proudly displayed their fertility pins in public thereafter, not to
mention their protuberant bellies.

   The selection process for the Molly Plication required genetic and psychological testing of both parents.  
Riots broke out as couples fought to be tested and brought into the fold.  The requirements were rigorous,
and favoritism was often decried.

   Ultimately, they had to use exclusion criteria to limit selection, but allowed testing for anyone that wanted
it.  This kept humanity from a third world war.  Urologists administered the Molly Plication to men
scheduled to reproduce, after their mate had successfully completed the procedure.  This maximized the
couple’s potential for fertility and impregnation.

                                                                                   ***

   “Abomination!” Ted screamed.

   “Who gave you the right?!” Gladys chimed in.

   “Mom, Dad, I thought you’d be happy!” Violet cried out. “I only wanted to please you.”

   “You know our beliefs.  You know that nature must take its course.  If Allah wanted us to continue to
reproduce, she would have kept us fertile!  What were you thinking?!” yelled Ted.

   Gladys turned to her husband. “You know what we must do.”

   “I can’t.”

   “We must.  It is Her will.”

   Violet went pale.  She spun on her heels and raced for the door, but her mother was already there,
blocking her escape.  Ted found, in that moment, a religious fervor he had never known.  He had been
chosen.  As mother and daughter struggled, Ted rose from behind his desk and lifted his letter opener.  
His grip was firm, unyielding, his nerves steady.  He had no doubts.

   By then, Gladys had pinioned Violet’s arms. She thrust her knee into her daughter’s back.  The bulging
bump extended toward her husband.  A sacrifice had to be made.

   “Your hand, Allah’s arm,” Gladys uttered through gritted teeth as Violet struggled.

   Ted’s eyes flared red, pupils narrowed to pinpoints.  He lifted the knife high and struck down with such
force the tip scraped her spine as he sliced through Violet’s belly.  Emerging only after he had dug deep
into her pelvis and scraped her pubic bone on the way out.

   His daughter cried out, “Pappa!”  The look of shock faded as she slumped to the floor and died.

   Gladys released her and clapped her hands together.  She wiped the invisible filth of pregnancy away,
disgusted.  She shook in horror at what they had done and the power of vindication.

   Ted raised his bloody arm, still white knuckling the knife.  He declared to the heavens, “Allah!  I have
cleansed your creation of this abomination!  I swear here and now to end this plague of human fertility.  
Allah, let me lead the way!  As you have demanded our obedience and surrender, we will show them the
true path. Thy will be done!”

   “Thy will be done!” Gladys echoed and bowed her head in reverence.

                                                                                   ***

   That Sunday, Ted, became Theophilus.  He took to the pulpit in his hometown church raised the
Triangulus Bible and preached the gospel.  The Triangulus marked the joining of Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam under one coalition religion.  He fairly shoved the pastor aside and made his voice heard.  His
beard swept back and forth before the congregation.  It enthralled them.  From that first sermon came his
first followers.

   As his wife passed the hat, one woman uttered, “Look, she’s as beautiful as a flower.  The daughter of
Allah.  A gladiola in the fields of Her grace.”

   With those first contributions, Theophilus and Gladiola used the money to buy local television time.  They
intended to announce their mission and invite those that wished to join them to meet on Sunday in a tent
off Richfield Highway.  To their surprise and delight, the unsanctioned meeting drew thousands.  So many
they had to strike the tent so that all might witness the coming of the Answer.

   “... And Allah spoke!  Her words to your ears.  The time of humanity is over.  She has asked us to lie
down and let other life take our place.  We hear and abide.  In so doing there will be a place for us in
heaven.  Gladiola and I are One in the Answer, and we invite you to join us.  Let us celebrate the end of
days together!

   “Soon, we shall put forth the new Gospel, and we ask you to embrace it and spread the word.  We will
not allow it to defile Her creation with the filth of artificial fecundity!  If you see the fertile fold, strike them
down!  Stone their clinics, their edifices, and hunt down their children.  They are Abominations!”

   “Abomination, Abomination...” the congregation chanted.

   Theophilus railed on, turning listeners into believers, and believers into Allah’s warriors.  The money they
collected that day sufficed to begin their televangelism broadcast on social and all other media every
Sunday.  The sermons rang throughout the world, translated into every language, rallying even more to
their cause.

   The followers of the Answer came from all walks of life.  Some were believers only because the clinics
had refused them the procedure.  The Molly Plication remained exclusive.  Others became believers
because the Answer replaced their despair with a new vision.

   Once the Gospel of the Answer was published, it became a best seller overnight, surpassing even the
Triangulus Bible.  Soon it was given away on corners.  Preachers roamed the streets spreading the
Answer.  Those who did not believe were branded infidels, and the fertile fold were hunted down and
stoned.

   Pregnant women avoided going outside for fear of death.  They burned Plication clinics to the ground.  
Hospitals required military guards to protect maternity wards.  Global governments struggled to control the
Answer followers in an effort to curb the violence.

   The followers with technical and engineer training commandeered LED streetlights to spread the
Gospel’s message, embedding the Answer in 5G broadband signals.  The pervasiveness of mind control
was such that even police carried stones.  Stones they would use against the fold.

   In response, the fertile fold moved into gated communities.  They offered Plication vacation packages
so that pregnant couples could live in peace.  The communities raised their fences ever higher to block out
the signals and stones.  Some offered armed militia to repulse zealots.

   They even established their own power grids to live separate from the outside world.  These enclaves
often fell, besieged by the followers of the Answer.  Brought low by the bare fists of the righteous.  They
eviscerated the occupants and left them to rot in the sun.

                                                                                    ***

   The government crackdown was severe and fierce.  Making examples of those who followed the
Gospel.  Their response was to plead guilty in court, knowing they had acted intentionally and with malice.  
To accept punishment was a required part of their duty and penitence.

   Then a believer stepped forward and spoke her peace.  Defending herself before the judge and a jury of
her peers, her defense changed everything.  Chartreuse Devereaux was proud.  Her words were stolen
out of the courthouse by a follower, the court reporter on the case.  Those words are excerpted here:

   “If it please the Court, the Answer is a following that comes from all races, creeds, and religions.  I
myself am an agnostic, but I believe in the will of Nature.  The courts have determined that health care is a
privilege not a right.  Food similarly is a privilege and not a right.  If it were, then millions would not starve to
death every day.

   “Now consider the Constitution: religion is a freedom, and a guaranteed right. It follows that one’s rights
supersedes another’s privilege.  I was well within my right to torch a clinic that sold the cure for infertility.  
Artificial fertility is an act perpetrated by humans to ignore the will of Nature.  She has called all of us to our
end.  Therefore, allowing Nature to take its course is not a crime.  It is the natural order of things.

   “In fact, it is a crime for this court to interfere, and therefore, I am not guilty.  For indeed, I have
committed no crime.  I have simply acted on behalf of the natural world.”

   The silence that followed her defense was telling.  The ‘not guilty’ verdict of the jury was an affirmation
and set a precedence.  Chartreuse’s argument was not just sound, but would serve as a defense
henceforth.  This defense, however, did not justify murder of physicians nor the stoning of pregnant
families.  Those offenses were crimes, and the law was clear.  Prosecution continued.

   Government investigation ultimately led to the indictment of Theophilus and Gladiola Answer.  To avoid
arrest, they went into seclusion.  Their followers moved the couple from ship to ship to avoid Interpol.  
Theophilus continued to deliver the Gospel of the Answer on Sunday mornings via pirate broadcast.  Their
following only grew.

                                                                                   ***

   “Good day to you all. I am Dr. Victor Behram, the inventor of the Molly Plication,” he said to the camera.
“My family and I are here to request your kindness and understanding.”

   Televisions and internet streams across the world were broadcasting the message.  Victor, his wife,
Naomi, Molly and her husband, along with their daughter, sat on a davenport dressed formally to address
the global population.  It looked like a family portrait, a family from the past.

   “We have heard the message of the following Answer.  We are not here to represent Governments,
security, nor our successful clinics.  Instead, we come to you as a family and ask your forgiveness.”

   Molly spoke up, “My father acted when I was a toddler to save my life.  It was that simple act, my father’s
love for me that led to his discovery.  It was an opportunity to save the world.  To give us a choice for our
future.  The future of humanity.”

   Victor’s wife, Naomi, went next, “My husband offered hope in the face of despair.  That is all.  It was not
his intention to thwart Allah’s will.  To ignore Nature’s call.  To make us less than.  He wanted for us, for all
of us, to be more.”

   “So we ask you,” Molly’s husband Jack, chimed in, “to leave us in peace.  To end the violence and
destruction.  To give us the freedom to live in our beliefs, just as we allow you to live in yours.”

   “From the Behram family,” Molly’s daughter, Eve, said, “we thank you.  Our hearts are open.  We hope
yours are too.”

   The response to their broadcast was almost immediate.  Violence against pregnant women ceased.  
Clinics were no longer fire bombed.  Yet the numbers applying for the Molly Plication had fallen to near
zero.  To keep the doors open, they lowered the stringency of the criteria.  Eventually making the
procedure available to everyone.

                                                                                   ***

   Even when the procedure was offered for free, there were few takers.  The Answer’s campaign was so
successful, not only because of the mind control techniques, but due to a willingness of humankind to
welcome the end.  The reproductive drive had simply vanished.  Even after its brief flicker and
reawakening through the fertile fold.

   People looked at the world in a new way.  Not just because of all the other messages in the Answer
gospel.  These renewed a sense of fellowship and goodwill in the end of days.  Folks also were freed from
the pressure of greed and success.  The need to look forward to plan for the future was gone.

   Suicide had joined the death march of the elderly.  Not out of despair, but people felt relieved.  They
wanted to contribute in their own way to the fall of humanity.  They did not want to burden their family with a
delayed death.

   It is ironic that the biggest influence on the economy came from the health care sector.  The massive
amount of money and resources spent during the last six months of people’s lives were no longer used.  
That money went back to the remaining families.  As the population dwindled the quality of life for those
still living continued to improve.

   Humanity experienced a prosperity it had never known.  The arts and sciences flourished.  Folks
realized that what they left behind might be of value to the next species.  Still, they had no idea who would
inherit the Earth.  Biological research sought to identify the next apex predator.  They put candidates forth,
but like humanity, many of them folded because of the infertility driven by the micro-sized plastic
humankind had made.

   As industries closed, pollution decreased.  The air and water was cleaner.  Climate change slowed.  
Crime decreased rather than increased as had been predicted.  Neither the Behrams’ nor the Answers’
lived long enough to see these last glorious days of our species.

   In the end, the last of humanity found the promised land.  Paradise and abundance combined with
gentleness and kindness.  It was a true utopia.  A return to the garden.  Ironic really, that Eve was one of
the last humans to die, after her lover Adam had died before her.



About Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond:
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.
About Keith 'Doc'
Raymond M.D.

Dr. Raymond is a Family
and Emergency Physician
that practiced in eight
countries in four
languages. Currently
living in Austria with his
wife. He has multiple
medical citations, along
with publications in Flash
Fiction Magazine, The
Grief Diaries, The
Examined Life Journal,
The Satirist, Chicago
Literati, Frontier Tales
Magazine, and in the Sci Fi
anthology Sanctuary
among others.