Chapter One: A Chart of Phantom Children Whenever I meet a man, I catch myself wondering what our child would look like if we were to make a baby. It's practically second nature to me now. Whether he's handsome or ugly, old or young, a picture of our child flashes across my mind. My hair is light brown and feathery fine, and if his is jet black and coarse, then I predict our child's hair will be the perfect texture and color. Wouldn't it? I always start out imagining the best possible scenarios for these children, but before long I've conjured up horrific visions from the very opposite end of the spectrum. What if his scraggly eyebrows were plastered just above my eyes with their distinctive double lids? Or what if his huge nostrils were notched into the end of my delicate nose? His bony kneecaps on my robustly curved legs, his square toenails on my highly arched foot? And while this is going through my mind, I'm staring holes in the man, so of course he's convinced that I have a thing for him. I can't tell you how many times these encounters have ended in embarrassing misunderstandings. But still, in the end my curiosity always gets the best of me. When a sperm and an egg unite, they create an entirely new celland so a new life begins. These new beings enter the world in all kinds of shapes and sizes. But what if, when the sperm and the egg unite, they are full of animosity for each other? Wouldn't the creature they produce be contrary to expectation and abnormal as a result? On the other hand, if they have a great affinity for each other, their offspring will be even more splendid than they are. Of that there can be no doubt. And yet, who can ever know what kind of intentions a sperm and an egg harbor when they meet? It's at times like these that the chart of my hypothetical children flashes across my mind. You know the kind of chart: the sort you would find in biology or earth science textbooks. You remember them, don't you, the kind that reconstructs the hypothetical shape and characteristics of an extinct creature based on fossils discovered deep in the earth? Almost always these charts include full-color illustrations of plants and beasts, either in the sea or against the sky. Actually, ever since I was a child I was terrified of those illustrations because they made the imaginary appear real. I hated opening those textbooks so much, it became my habit to search out the page with those charts first and scrutinize them. Perhaps this proves that we are attracted to what frightens us. I can still remember the artist's re-creation of the Burgess Shale fauna. Derived from the Cambrian fossils discovered in the Canadian Rockies, the chart is full of preposterous creatures swimming around in the sea. TheHallucigeniacrawls along the sediment on the ocean floor, so many spines sticking out of its back you might mistake the creature for a hairbrush; and then there's the five-eyedOpabiniacurling and contorting its way around rocks and crags. TheAnomalocaris, with its giant hook-shaped forelimbs, prowls through the dark seas in search of prey. My own fantasy chart is close to this one. It shows children swimming through the waterthe bizarre children I have produced from my phantom unions with men. For some reason I never think about the act that men and women perform to produce these children. When I was young my classmates would make fun of boys they didn't like by saying things such as, "Just the very idea of touching him makes my skin crawl!" But I never thought about it. I would skip the part about the sex act and go right to the children and the way they would turn out. Perhaps you can say I'm a little peculiar in that regard! If you look closely you'llKirino, Natsuo is the author of 'Grotesque', published 2008 under ISBN 9781400096596 and ISBN 1400096596.