B and M were busily watching television and eating their prepared dinners when M suffered a pain in her stomach so great that she doubled over and fell to the floor. The program B and M were watching on their television was a game show called What Happens Next? where viewers were invited to watch a short video and, once the video had stopped, shout out-loud what they thought would happen next. At the time of M’s excruciating pain a video was playing of a man running full-speed into a brick wall. As M fell to the floor the video stopped with the man merely inches from the wall and in full-stride.
He’s going to hit that damn wall, B yelled at the television screen.
My stomach hurts bad, M said and writhed on the ground.
Hold on, B said to M. I want to see what happens next.
The video of the man running full-bore at the brick wall unpaused and the man, just as B had predicted, ran right smack-dab into the wall. The impact sent him sprawling into a heap on the ground and made him moan and cry out in pain.
It hurts so bad, M said to B.
I bet it does, B said. He ran right into that wall.
No, M said. I’m talking about my stomach.
B stood up from the couch he was sharing with M and sat his prepared dinner on the coffee table in front of them. He looked at M and watched her writhe on the ground in pain. Do you think it has anything to do with that big bump of yours? he said.
I don’t know, M said. Maybe. That would explain a lot of things.
It sure would, B said. You’ve had that bump for a while now.
M bit her lip. Too long, she said.
B did the only thing he could think of doing. He ran into the kitchen and hit the button marked HELP that was placed on the wall next to the box where they kept their prepared meals. A red light above the button marked HELP flashed and B ran back to M, who was still on the floor.
I hit the HELP button, he said.
Good, M said. It’s only getting worse.
The pain or the bump? B said.
The pain, M said. I don’t know if the bump’s getting worse.
B leaned down to where M was on the floor and observed the bump. From what he could tell the bump had not grown since the pain had started. Looks okay to me, he said to M.
Good, M said. The last thing I need is to hurt and have that bump get worse.
In twenty minutes time help had yet to arrive, so B helped M back up onto the couch. He got his prepared dinner and her prepared dinner and the two of them sat on the couch and watched more What Happens Next? on the television. A woman on the show was holding a hammer in her hand and looking at it inquisitively.
What do you think happens next? B asked M when the video paused.
I don’t know, M said. All I can do is sit here and hurt.
I think she’s going to hit herself, B said. That’s what’s getting ready to happen.
Okay, M said. I feel like something’s moving.
Is it the pain? B said. Or is it the bump?
I don’t know, M said. I’m not a doctor.
B said, I know you’re not a doctor.
There was a knock at the door. B got up, upset about the way M had talked to him, and opened the door and let the help in. The help consisted of an old man wearing a tie and a white doctor’s coat and a robot carrier unit that rolled around on six wheels. The old man and the robot carrier unit approached M on the couch.
What seems to be the problem? the old man asked M.
I got this pain in my stomach, she said.
Uh huh, the old man said.
Beep, the robot carrier unit said.
Let me ask you a question, the old man said. Have you had a bump for a while now?
A few months, M said. I don’t know how long.
Has it gotten bigger and bigger? the old man said.
Yeah, M said. Can’t you see it?
I can, the old man said.
Beep, the robot carrier said.
Tell you what, the old man said. Let’s get these pants off, what do you say?
Pants? M said.
It’s best to do what he says, B said. I think he’s a doctor.
I am a doctor, the old man said.
Okay, M said, unbuttoning her pants with great difficulty.
The old man got into position on the floor and the robot carrier unit followed him. It beeped and whirred as he manipulated M. B stood off to the side and ate his prepared meal. Thirty minutes later and the old man was pulling a wriggling, goo-covered person out of M. B and M watched the process in utter shock.
Is that a little person? B said.
I think so, M said.
It was inside you? B said.
I think so, M said. I think it was inside me.
Oh god, B said.
It’s a perfectly normal procedure, the old man said while wiping the person off with his handkerchief. As old as time itself, he said.
Beep, the robot carrier unit said. Beep beep.
You’ll find, the old man said, that that bump will go away on its own.
Did you hear that? M said to B, panting. He said the bump’s going to go away on its own.
Sure thing, the old man said. He lowered the person to the level of the robot carrier unit. A shelf in the unit’s chest popped out and the old man placed the person snugly onto it. When the shelf rescinded B and M looked at the person through a transparent window in the unit’s chest.
Who is that person? B said.
I don’t know, M said. I don’t know him.
No you don’t, the old man said. Take care of yourselves now, he said, leaving the apartment with the robot carrier unit and person in tow.
Man alive, B said. I’m glad about that bump.
Me too, M said.
You’ve been worried about that bump for awhile now, B said.
Too long, M said. Say, what happened with that girl and the hammer?