The Caretaker by Crystal L.

The Caretaker by Crystal L.


 

The sun had barely emerged from the dew dropped grass but the family was already wide awake and ready for the day ahead. It was a quiet morning as Charlotte and George ate a quick breakfast together while their baby kept herself busy with some toys in her crib.

 

With a briefcase in hand, George moved the baby onto the carpet and hurried out the door where Charlotte was starting the car. The monitor activated upon sensing the weight of the child and a glass screen scanned her face; it was equipped with advanced facial recognition to differentiate between children in the family, if need be. After a quick up-and-down, the screen displayed hunger, sleep, and happiness levels, and prompted the milk machine to whip up a warm bottle of formula milk. A hand reached out to feed the hungry baby her first meal of the day. After gently burping the child, the hand hoisted her up and situated her onto a large cushion that imitated the warmth and natural respiration of a mother with an electric body that heats up and a mechanical heart that beats rhythmically.

 

When the sun finally retired for the day, the mother returned home and found her baby fast asleep right where she left her. She had barely kicked off her shoes when her phone went off with a ringing noise.

 

“I’m taking another shift tonight so I’ll be home late,” George explained over the phone, “at this rate, we’ll be able to buy that latest upgrade within the next week or so.”

 

“I hope so,” Charlotte replied, “the machine’s been acting up lately, it’d be nice to fix it up soon.” She hung up the phone, then inserted a bowl of instant pasta into the microwave, when all of a sudden, the baby awoke with a screeching cry.

“Oh, come on,” Charlotte sighed lazily and walked over to the system where the screen would usually display the cause of the wailing – but it was stubborn this time, and stayed unresponsive to the mother’s demands.

 

After a few minutes of frustrated tapping, Charlotte resorted to the paper manual that was tucked in a hidden compartment of the machine. The crying only escalated as she hastily skimmed through the booklet until she landed on a page titled Methods of Comforting a Crying Baby.

“Okay, let’s see . . . diaper change? Milk! That’s it! She’s probably just hungry.” Charlotte poured some powder formula into the empty bottle according to the instructions on the pamphlet and the screen responded immediately. The hand extended from its resting position, added some water to the bottle, warmed it up to the right drinking temperature, and carefully fed it to the hiccuping child.

 

The baby caught her breath and slowly calmed down. The brief encounter with the agitated child left Charlotte breathless and sweating; she’d only ever hand operated the baby feeding when that rainstorm caused a city-wide power outage a few months ago. Charlotte let out a sigh of relief and headed back to the kitchen to retrieve her now overcooked dinner. She headed straight to bed while her baby stayed in the living room, clinging to the warm cushion as their heartbeats gradually fell into synchronism. The mother did not stir until the sun had emerged from the dew dropped grass, once again, the next morning.