"God, he asked that? At his age? Really?"
"If he's old enough to ask, he's old enough to know."
"Yeah...but really? Now?"
"I think you should be the one to tell him."
"He trusts what you say. I think it should be you. Or we could do it together."
"No. No it's fine. I'll do it."
"Your mother said that you were curious to know how people come to be."
"Yeah. I can't quite figure it out. Why are we here?"
"Uh, wait. Are you asking why people exist at all or how new people come into being?"
"Both, I guess." Erasmus shrugged.
"That's actually harder to answer."
"Don't you know?"
"Yes...I'm just thinking how to go about it. Both are very complex subjects...and well I guess I should just start."
"Let me think--I had this all laid out in my head. So. When a mommy and a daddy, or a mommy and a mommy, or a daddy or a daddy, or let's just say, parent A and parent B decide to have a child--"
"My friend Dave has three parents and none of them are mommies or daddies."
"Okay. And parent C decide to have a child, they have to go to the reproductive design center. They have to make an appointment first, and then have to go in for a preliminary screening, and then they get put on a wait list which is ridiculous...and I can see that your drifting. Why don't I get to the juicy stuff then. So once the prospective parents jump through all the appropriate legal hoops, all the parents get their fingers pricked--and that doesn't hurt--and a little drop of blood is drawn. Now since not all the parents have a compatible number of chromosomes--you know what those are don't you? Good. The DNA is extracted and read into a computer.
"Then the parents get to design their child, by choosing traits from the parents, those are free, or choosing add-on or replacement traits, and those can be very expensive. A lot of parents will save up for specific traits. Now you just have traits from mommy and daddy, because we like each other's traits and frankly, we really preferred to have a down payment on the house. And we like how you turned out.
"Once everyone is happy with the design, it gets simulated by the computer to make sure no bad traits inadvertently pop up, because we can't have bad people in society, can we? No. Then the design has to go for approval by the licensing board and if that clears, and it's just a formality, but again, the backlog is...uh, anyway. So once that happens, then the design is spun and incubated. 'Spun' just means that the DNA is chemically written out, folded up, and inserted into a standard issue human egg cell shell. Wow, that is hard to say.
"The incubation machine works for three months, and the parents can go and visit it any time they like. We went to see you every weekend, and it was amazing to see you develop. I just remembered that we have photos! Remind me to show you later. Once your lungs and other organs are fully functional, you are taken out of the incubation machine. We were there for that, and since you were healthy, we got to hold you right away and take you home after a few hours. And that's it I guess."
"Okay. I kind of knew most of that."
"But why are we here?"
"Ah. Well, there are some people that say that 'why' is the wrong question to ask. We can figure out the how, but they say that 'why' is irrelevant and unanswerable, though our ancient ancestors were really good with coming up with all sorts of explanations. Personally though, I don't think it's an irrelevant question, if only because people keep asking it over and over again. I mean, we might never definitely find out the 'why' for everyone, but I think we can find out the 'why' for each of ourselves. And I think that at the end of our lives, or when we've lived more life than we have left to live, that answer begins to become clear, and it's individual to us."
"Does that sort it out for you?"
"Yeah. I guess. I mean, it sounds like you don't know the answer."
"Not really, no. That doesn't mean that there isn't one, just that I don't know everything there is to know. And I wouldn't want to."
"Okay. Thanks dad."
"Thank you, son."