where do babies come
Gibson tucked the corners
of the bed sheet under the mattress and picked a fuzzy Ninja Turtle doll off
the floor. She handed it to her son and smiled.
the Stork brings them,
honey. See, when a Mommy and daddy love each other very much, they write a letter,
asking the Stork to bring them a little piece of happiness. Then they fold that
letter up into an airplane and, when it’s midnight, they throw it out of the
highest window in their house. That plane flies off into the night and if
they’re lucky, it’ll reach the Stork. Nine months later, a bundle arrives on
theirdoorstep: a little baby, wrapped in a white blanket, all for them.”
is that how you got me?”
wrinkled his nose and
thought. “But Tommy in my class says the Stork isn’t real.”
mother ran a hand through
his sandy hair.
course he’s real, Joshy.
Where else would babies come from?”
penis is inserted into the vagina. When the man is
sufficiently stimulated, he ejaculates sperm.”
room erupted in giggles. Someone at the back of the
room shouted, “Va-gineeeer!” then Billy Potts formed a circle with his right
hand and began rapidly jamming the index finger of his left one through it.
Jack Webb laughed so hard he snorted.
Beatty sighed. It was the same puerile ritual every
yes,” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Get
it out of your system.”
boys continued to snigger as Mr. Beatty wearily drew a
sperm on the whiteboard. Only one boy remained silent.
Gibson stared wide-eyed at the diagram in his
textbook: a densely labeled illustration of an erect member deep inside a
strange tube, its tip only a short distance from something called the ‘Cervix.’
the sperm reaches the egg,” Mr. Beatty continued,
“they fuse. This begins the process of fertilization.”
of cold sweat had broken out across Josh’s brow. He
was the youngest boy in his class and would not be turning thirteen for another
six months, but that did not explain why the other boys seemed so much more
comfortable with this information than he did—it had not come as a total shock
to them. How had he remained so clueless?
course, he’d heard plenty of jokes about sex, often from
his classmates, but it had never occurred to him that any of it was actually real.
He’d always assumed they were just being gross for the fun of it.
forms the embryo, which—William Potts, stop doing
closed his textbook and raised a trembling hand.
Beatty clicked his tongue impatiently. “Yes, Josh, what
swallowed. “But what… what about the Stork, sir?”
Gibson placed the steaming casserole dish in the
middle of the table and sat.
in, boys, while it’s hot.”
husband, Mark, leaned over the dish and inhaled deeply.
smells fantastic.” He kissed her on the lips. “Josh,
pass your plate and I’ll serve you up.”
did not move. His eyes were fixed on the dish; his
face was pale and drawn.
anything the matter, sweetie?” asked his mother.
“You’ve barely said a word all evening.”
Gibson surveyed his son curiously and poured a glass
school today we… we learned where babies come from.”
parents froze. His father placed the jug of water down
and put his hands together under his chin.
see,” he said. “And what exactly did they tell
looked up slowly. His mother gave him a reassuring
on, sweetie,” she said.
Beatty said that… the man’s penis goes inside the
father slammed a fist on the table, causing the plates
to bounce. “God damn it,” he snarled. “I knew this would happen. I knew they’d
go filling his head with this nonsense sooner or later.”
just stay calm, hun,” his wife pleaded. “You know
you can get carried away sometimes.”
told you, Vera, we should’ve home-schooled the boy!”
whispered Josh. “Is it true?”
mother looked at him for a second then over at her
difficult to say. It’s how some people choose to
do it, I suppose.”
not in this house!” bellowed his father. “Now look,
son, you know full well how babies are delivered. We told you when you were
little, didn’t we?”
But that doesn’t make any sense, Dad—not really. It’s
just a story parents tell little kids.
But I’m older now and… and you should have let me know sooner that things
aren’t really like that. I was the only one in my class who had didn’t know. I
felt like an idiot.”
just upset,” his mother said, taking his hand.
“It’s a lot to take in all at once. Maybe you’re right though; we should have
told you that there are… other ways.”
it, Vera,” snapped her husband. “Don’t you go
confusing him as well!”
father took his glasses off and ran a hand over his
face. He leaned back in his chair and fixed Josh with a deep gaze.
he said coolly. “Some people may choose to do it in
that primitive fashion, but not the Gibsons. In this household, the Stork
delivers babies and that’s that.”
opened his mouth to object but a look from his mother
told him it wasn’t worth it.
let’s put all this nonsense behind us. Who wants to
your parents are nuts!”
Robbins was Josh’s best friend and could always be
relied on to tell it exactly as it was. Neither boy was remotely sporty. So
while the other kids ran around the playground, kicking balls and inflicting
beatings on one another, Josh and Andy slouched on the tarmac, their backs
against the gymnasium wall, gobbling snacks from the cafeteria vending machine.
know,” said Josh, biting into a squashed Mounds Bar. “I
don’t know why they still won’t just admit that sex is a thing. I think they
want to protect me. They think I won’t be able to handle it or something.”
mean, it is kinda gross,” sniggered Andy. “Imagine: your
parents had sex. Then you came out, right by your Mom’s ass!”
punched him on the arm. “Shut up! So did you.”
said Andy. “A stork dropped me on the doorstep.” He
let out a loud guffaw.
must’ve dropped you a bit too hard.” At this, the two
of the boys fell about laughing.
though,” said Andy, catching his breath. “It is
weird. You should just say to your parents: I’m old enough to handle it. Stop
treating me like a baby.”
he brushed his teeth that evening, Josh’s mother peered
around the bathroom door.
Josh turned with a start. “You made me jump.”
smiled. “How was school today?”
spat into the sink and rinsed his mouth with water. “It
was okay. I got 79% in my Math exam.”
good. Room for improvement, but not bad at all.”
Well, goodnight Mom.” His mother remained in the
was wondering,” she said, running her finger down the
wooden doorframe. “Would you like me to tuck you in tonight?”
hesitated. “I… I dunno. I’m a bit old for that, don’t
you think? I mean, you haven’t tucked me in for years.”
know,” she said. “But sometimes I miss it. You’re
getting so big I won’t be able to do it all before long. Will you let me do it
just this once? Please?” She gave an exaggerated pout. “For me.”
though her tone was playful, there was something
behind her eyes: a kind of sadness—even a hint of desperation.
said Josh, reluctantly. “Just tonight though.”
followed him into his room and watched as he got under
the covers. When he was in, she sat at the corner of the bed and pulled the
sheets tightly across his chest.
a little too tight, Mom,” he grunted. “I can barely
she said, loosening them slightly. “Just want to
make sure your cozy. And safe.” She looked out of the window at the dark sky. “I
know your dad can be a bit much sometimes,” she said softly. “He doesn’t mean
to snap. He’s just very traditional, that’s all.”
thought about raising the subject of sex with her.
Away from his father, she might be more inclined to give him the answers he
needed. He opened his mouth to say something but found he didn’t know the right
question to ask. Besides, it was just too uncomfortable.
mother seemed to sense what was going through his head.
She pinched his cheek gently.
getting older and certain things can be confusing,”
she said. “I realize that. I’d just say take some of what you learn at school
with a pinch of salt. After all, teachers don’t know everything.” She turned
off the bedside lamp, casting the room into darkness. “Sleep tight, Joshy.”
Gibson, get up here NOW!”
heart skipped a beat. He closed his homework diary
and stared at the wall.
I won’t ask you again!” his father yelled. “Come
upstairs this instant!”
stood and walked somberly up the stairs. When he
entered his bedroom, his father was standing by the cupboard, his face a deep
shade of crimson.
Dad?” Josh asked, tremulously. His father thrust the
magazine in Josh’s face. “Care to explain this?” A naked woman stared
out from the glossy cover, her hands cupped over her breasts, one leg crossed
above the other at the waist.
had found the magazine under a pile of boxes in his
parent’s garage: a comical memento from
his dad’s bachelor days. Of course, Andy had long ago managed to disable the
parental lock on his family’s Internet, so he had no need for the magazine.
however, was not so fortunate and, after much
pleading, Andy had agreed to give him the magazine in exchange for a week’s
worth of pocket money.
I just found it, Dad.”
found it, my foot! Let me guess, you were curious?
Is that it? You just had to see for yourself.”
felt a sudden anger rise inside him. “Yes, all right,
snatched the magazine from his father’s hand and opened
it on a folded page in the center. “Look, Dad—it’s true! Everything they taught
us in school! So why do you keep lying to me? There is no Stork, so stop acting
like there is!”
father stared at him for a moment. Josh had never acted
out in this way before. “I’m picking you up from school tomorrow,” his father
said quietly. “I want a word with this Biology teacher of yours.”
Beatty placed a mug of jet-black coffee on his desk and
sat. The chair creaked under his weight and one of his knees clicked audibly.
He loosened his tie and covered his mouth to suppress a yawn. On the other side
of the desk Josh sat by his father’s side, eyes fixed on the floor.
can I do for you, Mr. Gibson?” asked the teacher.
firstly, I appreciate you seeing me on such short
notice. Now, this is little awkward Mr. Beatty, but I wanted to discuss—”
Josh’s father placed the Biology textbook on the desk in front of him, open on
the offending page. “This.”
Beatty cast his eyes across the page then picked up his
coffee and blew before taking a lengthy sip. “I see,” he said. “What exactly is
honestly, my wife and I don’t feel comfortable with
our son being taught this kind of thing. At least, not at his age.”
age?” Mr. Beatty let out a snort. “Mr. Gibson, it is a
part of the curriculum that students be taught Sex Education. Not only that,
but I would argue it’s an important part of their development as adults. In
fact, if it were up to me, they’d be taught some of the basics even sooner.”
father winced. He forced a polite smile. “Mr.
Beatty, whatever your personal opinions on the matter might be, I think you
ought to respect mine. My wife and I may be considered a little old fashioned
but that is our prerogative. If, when he’s older, Joshua chooses to go down the
route your lessons propagate, well that’s up to him. But while he is living
under our roof, I do not want you filling his mind with this pornography!”
looked up and caught his teacher’s eye. He could feel
his cheeks burning with embarrassment.
Gibson,” said Mr. Beatty, flatly. “I appreciate your
concerns but Josh is at the age now when hormones are beginning to kick in.
Naturally, he’ll become curious and it is important that he understands these
feelings are normal.”
are not normal! Just look at these images.” He tapped
his finger angrily on a photograph of the inside of a uterus. “All this slime
and effluvia. Revolting! I mean if you must teach your version, there
ought to at least be some obligation that you educate the students on alternate
methods as well.”
Beatty cocked an eyebrow. “Alternate methods, Mr.
Gibson? What alternate methods would these be?”
father leaned forward and placed his hands on the
desk. “The Stork, Mr. Beatty. I’m talking about the Stork.”
was a long silence; the only sound was the lazy
ticking of the clock on the wall. At last, Mr. Beatty said, “If this is your
idea of a joke, it’s not a very funny one. I’ve had a long day and I don’t
appreciate having my time wasted like this.”
joking?” exclaimed Josh’s father. “I can assure you,
I am being deadly serious.”
Beatty stood. “That’ll be all, Mr. Gibson. Goodnight.”
wipers juddered across the windscreen as rain lashed
the car. Mr. Gibson glanced in the rearview mirror and caught Josh’s eye. His
son arms were folded across his chest, his brow creased in anger. They had not
spoken since leaving the school. “I can tell you’re annoyed with me, Josh, but
frankly he has no right teaching you that filth. Genitals and embryos, placenta
and zygotes! The man should be ashamed.”
crazy,” said Josh. “You and Mom. You’re both
father glared at him in the mirror. “I don’t think I
like your tone, young man. You just watch how you speak to me, understand?”
said you’re both crazy! The Stork story is just for
little kids. I’m not a kid any more, Dad! I don’t believe that crap and neither
do you, so stop pretending it’s real!”
car slammed to a halt. Josh rocked forward and slammed
the back of his
rest. His father spun round, his eyes wide and furious. “You get all these
ideas put in your head and you think you know it all, don’t you?” he hissed.
“Well you don’t know it all. You used to be such a polite, respectful child.” He
gripped Josh’s knee forcefully. “You would do well to remember one thing,
Joshua. It’s true that the Stork delivers children to mommies and daddies, but
if those children don’t work out in some way—if they’re naughty, or mean, or
disrespectful—there is another bird… a bird that takes them away. You
wouldn’t want your mother and I to have to write to that bird now, would you,
yanked his leg away. His father turned back around and
drove on. “Crazy,” Josh murmured. “You’re both crazy.”
lunchtime the next day, Josh told Andy what had
Andy baulked. “Your dad told Mr. Beatty he should
be teaching us storks deliver babies? Are you serious?”
said Josh. “He’s a psycho.”
know what you need to do,” said Andy. “You need to
prove to your parents that you know they have sex.”
What the hell is wrong with you?”
really,” said Andy, seriously. “They’ve obviously done
it, because they have you, right? So you need to sneak into their room when
they’re not around and find something that proves they do it. That way, they
can’t lie about it anymore.”
considered this. “What am I supposed to find, though?
I mean, what would prove it?”
Mr. Beatty talked about condoms and those pills that
stop women getting pregnant. Maybe you’ll find some of them. Or even some fancy
underwear. Hey,” he grinned widely, “if you do find some of your Mom’s lacey
stuff, you gotta show me.”
hit him in the ribs.
evening, while his mother prepared dinner, Josh
quietly entered his parents’ bedroom. The place was spic-and-span, as always:
there wasn’t so much as a rumple in the bed sheet. His parents’ pajamas were
ironed and laid out on the bed: Mom’s on the left side, Dad’s on the right. Josh
tiptoed across the room to the bedside cabinet and pulled open the top drawer.
There were no oils, ointments or prophylactics inside; just a Bible and a few spare
buttons. He closed the drawer. He made his way over to his mother’s wardrobe.
Perhaps there would be something provocative in there: a fluffy bra or some
item of negligee. Josh nearly gagged at the thought. Bracing himself, he
counted to three then threw open the door. He pushed aside the dresses and
jumpers to find… nothing. He closed the wardrobe, both disappointed and
somewhat relieved. He looked around. Where else could they have hidden
something? Under the bed! He knelt and squinted into the darkness. Downstairs
he could hear his mother bustling about in the kitchen, pots and pans clanging
was something under there; he could just make
it out. He reached in as far as he could and managed to snag the corner with
his little finger. Then, with a bit of effort, he was able to hook his entire
hand round and drag it out.
sat against the bed and held the cardboard shoebox on
his lap. It was very old and the top was covered in a layer of dust. Josh’s
heart pounded against his ribs. He dreaded to think what he might find inside.
He’d heard some of the older boys talk of dildos and ‘beads’—he didn’t think
he’d be able to stomach anything like that. With trembling fingers, he removed
was a pile of paper. Josh removed the top sheet. It
was run through with creases where it had been folded at some point. He turned
it over. It was the fancy cream-coloured stuff that his father used for
official letters and legal documents, headed with his parents’ names and their
home address. Underneath, in his father’s unmistakable cursive, it read:
name is Mark Gibbons. My
wife, Vera, and I have been happily married for six months and we feel we are
ready to take the next step in our lives. We are good people, with a
deep-seated belief in the importance of family values. We do not smoke, gamble,
or fornicate. I am personally partial to the odd glass of wine, but only on
special occasions. We both have stable jobs with good incomes and we are
confident we could provide comfortably for a child.
have a lot of love to give
and hope you will see fit to bless us with a bundle of joy to call our own.
you for your
couldn’t believe what he was reading. They really
believed it then. His parents thought the Stork was real. He dropped the letter
back on the pile, his head swimming. He was about to replace the box lid when
he noticed something poking out at the bottom of the heap. He pinched it with
his fingers and carefully pulled it out. It was a long, white feather.
the front door closed. Josh threw the lid back
on the box, kicked it under the bed and ran out of the room. He peered over the
bannisters. At the foot of the stairs, his father removed his had and coat. His
mother emerged from the kitchen in a pink apron and gave her husband a peck on
straightened himself out then walked downstairs,
trying to look casual.
Dad,” he said, with a bit too much brevity.
father surveyed him through narrow eyes.
Josh,” he said. “How was school?”
Mrs Jenkins said my English essay was the best in
glad. And how was Mr Beatty?”
mother cast a furtive glance at Josh.
was okay, I guess,” said Josh. “But I think I’m going
to take everything he says with a pinch of salt from now on. I mean, teachers
don’t know everything.”
father paused for an instant then a warm smile spread
across his face. “Well, I’m pleased to hear that, son. Good for you.” He gave
Josh a playful knock on the chin.
what’s for dinner? I’m starving.”
crouched and pressed his ear against the bedroom floor.
got a good kid, there,” he heard his mother say.
“Wouldn’t you agree?”
father said something unintelligible.
don’t think we have any cause to worry,” she continued.
“And you shouldn’t be too hard on him. He listened and took on board what we
heard his father cross the room.
I found something today. In our bedroom.”
was a pause. Then his mother said, “Oh.”
a sneak, Vera. We’ve raised a little sneak.”
talk to him tomorrow.”
Vera, no more. You mollycoddle the boy. I’m not having
him snooping around, spying on us. I’m afraid this time, sterner action must be
jammed his ear closer against the cold wood, straining
Mark. What are you going to do?”
father’s voice became muffled. Josh held his breath but
could not make out what was being said. Careful not to make a noise, he stood. Sterner
action. What did his father mean by that? Josh knew he would not be able to
sleep with that threat hanging over him. Perhaps if he apologised for going
into his parents’ room, his father would be more lenient on him. He decided he
would go down and face his punishment like a man. He descended the stairs two
at a time and pushed open the kitchen door. His mother was sitting at the table,
with a scrunched-up tissue by her hand. Her mascara was smeared and her bottom
lip trembled feebly. Behind her, his father was busy doing something on the
countertop. He turned when Josh entered.
he said. “Dad. I—”
back to bed, Joshua,” his father said. “It’s late.”
mother smiled wanly, her eyes shiny with tears. “Do as
your father says, sweetie. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
hesitated then closed the door and returned to his
room. He climbed quietly into bed. A couple of hours later, there was a knock
at the front door. Josh opened his eyes; he had not slept a wink. He turned on
the bedside lamp and looked at the clock. It was a couple of minutes before
front door opened, then he heard his father’s voice.
“Thank you for coming. Please, come in.” Footsteps down the front hall: slow
and faintly clumsy. “Upstairs,” his father said. “First door on the right.”
mind began to race.Don’t just lie here, he
though t. Get up!
threw off the covers and crept over to the door. He
pushed it open a few inches and peeked out. The landing was dark, with only a
thin strip of light from downstairs. A shadow moved across it. Josh hastily
closed the door. Someone was coming for him. He looked around desperately for
something to barricade the door but nothing was big enough. His eyes shot over
to the window. The drainpipe was located at the corner of the house, right by
his room. If he acted quickly, there was a chance he’d be able to shimmy down
it in time.
ran across the room and yanked the window open. The
garden was a good twelve feet below. His stomach did a queasy somersault. There
was a creak outside the room. Josh stuck one leg out of the window and stretched
out his arm. The weather had been unsettled that day and the drainpipe was slick
on,” he said, through gritted teeth. “You can do it.
You can do it.” The bedroom door swung open. Josh turned his head to see the
silhouette of a man, standing in the doorway. He was tall and thin, in a baggy
trench coat and pointed black shoes. He was wearing small, dark glasses and had
a shock of white hair, which framed his head like a halo.
are you?” Josh demanded. “Get away. I’ll jump if
you don’t!” The man switched the light on. Josh almost toppled out of the
window but managed to steady himself. The man was gaunt and deathly pale, with
a thin, almost lipless mouth and a very long nose, which ended in a sharp
point. Nothing was visible behind his dark glasses. Very slowly, he removed
them. At the sight of his eyes, Josh began to scream.
man’s eyes were round and glassy and intensely yellow,
with large, black pupils. A thin membrane flitted across them twice, in a
horizontal blink. They were not a man’s eyes at all. They were the eyes of a
was all Josh could manage, in a pathetic
squeak. The man opened his mouth, revealing a glistening pink maw. His
oesophagus was impossibly dilated and, if he had any teeth, they were so small
as to be invisible in his narrow gums. The lower jaw began to inflate in size
and a slimy, ribbed tongue flicked out, coiling and turning in the air. It was
cylindrical in shape and continued to elongate as the man’s mouth stretched,
wider and wider.
scrabbled for the drainpipe with both hands but could
not get a firm grip. “Mom!” he wailed. “Help me!”
tongue snaked across the floor, over toys and games,
tasting the carpet, searching Josh out. It stopped beneath his foot then rose
and wrapped around his leg, one, twice, a third time. Josh watched helplessly, immobilised
by fear, as the tongue slithered over the waistband of his pyjama bottoms and
onto the pale flesh of his stomach. As it contorted and writhed, Josh saw that
it was not a tongue at all, but a rubbery, pink tube, with an opening at the
end like a small mouth.
he groaned. “Please.”
was no response from downstairs.
the end of the tube latched onto his skin,
suctioning against his navel. The jolt was sudden and intense, like an electric
shock. Josh yelped. He tried desperately to yank it off, but it was fastened
tight, the end of it indistinguishable from his skin. Then the tube began to
pulsate, juddering horribly from side to side, with a twitchy peristalsis.
could feel his last meal being sucked out of him; he
felt so hollow all of a sudden, he thought he might pass out. Then the tube
began to extract more: blood and marrow and vital cells. Josh could feel
himself growing weaker. His breathing became tight and laboured. He slumped
forward and the tube dragged him off the window ledge, onto the floor, with a
thud. The man in the corner was no longer there. Something else was in his
Pelican stood roughly eight feet tall. Its feathers
were greasy and coarse, and here and there patches of pimply skin were visible
where they were missing entirely. Its yellow legs were spindly thin and its
long bill was hooked at the end. Its throat sack was the size of a large
tube pulled Josh limply across the floor. When he was
directly below the awful bird, it let out a piercing noise—not a roar or a
squawk, but a kind of terrible scream. The sound of a thousand babies crying at
tube began to retract, back down the Pelican’s gullet.
Josh was hoisted up, until his head practically touched the ceiling. Then the
bird threw its neck back and Josh fell forward, landing with a squelch inside
the dark pouch.
lining of the colossal mouth was warm and spongy and
coated in iridescent goo. Josh kicked his legs madly. The end of the chord
remained fastened to his belly.
what little strength he had left, he dug his nails
into it and tried to wrench it off—but it was no use. The pouch began to shrink
in size, closing in on him, as if he were an item being vacuum-sealed. His head
was forced between his legs and his knees jammed painfully against his
shoulders. He felt his spine crack under the pressure. As the bill slowly closed,
Josh looked up desperately at the last ray of retreating light, before he was finally
sealed inside the dreadful womb.
and Mrs Gibson stood waiting by the front door. Mr
Gibson gently squeezed his wife’s shoulder.
man walked back down the stairs, his dark glasses
covering his eyes once more. His stomach was full and round now, causing him to
you,” said Mr Gibson. “We appreciate it.”
man cocked his head but said nothing. They watched as
he waddled out into the night. Mr Gibson closed the door. “There, there,
honey,” he said, as his wife blew her nose.
Mark,” she moaned. “Are we bad parents?”
course not,” he said, kissing her tenderly on the
cheek. “You mustn’t think like that.”
will we do now?”
“Well,” said Mr Gibson, removing a fountain pen from his
breast pocket. “I guess we’ll just have to try for another.”
Rich Rose is a writer from
London, England. In 2017, ‘Whipped’, a TV show pilot that he co-wrote was
produced and subsequently featured in The Guardian in an article
detailing the best pilots that should make the move to TV. He has previously
had work published in The Horror Zine, The Honest Ulsterman and Storgy,
as well as freelance articles in Total Film.