In Berlin, an old man sits in a rocking chair. The warped wood floor creaks under the swaying rockers in the otherwise silent house. His wife of fifty years sleeps soundly in the next room. The man runs his hands through his thin, graying hair, reminiscing on the lives he will never know. All seven children, lost somewhere in the universe. Some were blind, a few deaf, and two were joined at the hip. No one else he knew had been so unlucky. Most couples had at least one that was good enough. He shakes his head, berating himself. What's done is done, and there’s no use wasting thought on it now. The old man pushes up with wobbly arms onto equally shaky legs, walks through the door to his bedroom, and climbs into bed. His wife’s face is still wet. She must not have been sleeping for very long. He kisses away her tears and closes his eyes for the day, no different than any night before.
In Australia, a little girl plays on the beach. Her blonde pigtails flow behind her in the breeze. Her sandcastle is taller than she is, and she can just barely place the flag on top. A great big golden retriever splashes out of the waves. It plows into the side of the girl’s masterpiece, knocking her to the ground. She laughs as the dog shakes out his fur, showering her with water and sand. She pulls the tennis ball out of his mouth and tosses it back into the ocean. The dog barks and charges through the foam. In his excitement, he swims past the ball and has to spin in a circle to find it again. He snatches it up in his jaws and paddles back to shore. The girl giggles. It's the sweet giggle of an innocent soul; a soul who hasn't the faintest knowledge that five years earlier, she was not the only one to arrive crying from her mother’s belly.
In Tokyo, a woman stares at the three bundles in front of her. The doctors have told her the one on the left is the best, but the choice is up to her. It's been a few days, and she's not as tired as she was when these three arrived. She’s had some time to think, but her mind keeps going in circles. She walks over to the row of clear boxes, and the bundles start to squirm. Her vision blurs, but she turns away before the tears fall. With one hand over her eyes, she signals to an attendant, who pulls two boxes out of the room. Only the best of the three remains. The attendant returns and places the bundle in the woman’s arms. The woman stares down at the tiny face that so resembles her own. It smiles and waves its arms even as its mother finally lets her tears fall.
In Ethiopia, a man clocks into his workday. He passes the suited men and women talking on cell phones and shuffling papers back and forth. He envies them. What he wouldn't give to wear a suit instead of his lab coat and apron. He squeezes into the elevator. At each stop, the crowd thins out, giving him more space to breathe. The man is the last to get off; no one wears suits this far down. After washing and snapping on his gloves, he preps his first needle of the day. He hopes everyone will be asleep. It's easier when he doesn't have to hear the crying fade away. The next eight hours pass by in a blur of tiny squirming limbs, and the man tries not to think about what he’s doing. As he signs out of work to return home, the number sixty-four fills his head. The number is all there ever is. There are no names, and he doesn't look at the faces, but the number sticks. It runs, jumps, and dances in his mind until the next day, when he gets a new one.
In Washington D.C., the annual international census has just finished being counted, and the officials grin with pride. All over the globe, populations have dropped dramatically. There is no crowding of people. There is enough food and money for everyone, and overpopulation is a thing of the past. Parents aren't saddled with more children than they were expecting. No one is forced to live in pain and sorrow due to an accident of birth or congenital deformity. The world is full of the best, brightest, and strongest history has ever known. The statistics improve every year, and it’s all thanks to the International Natural Selection Association; the savior of us all.