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There was a lot of screaming.
There was also a lot of blood, hand squeezing and nurses yelling "Come on! One last push!" when the ordeal was blatantly far from over. No matter how many times the monotonous voiceover called it "the miracle of birth", we just couldn't see it. What I could see was something the size of a watermelon being forced out a gap clearly not designed for the purpose.
All in all, the birth video was not what the twenty or so students in our health class wanted to see on a sticky Friday afternoon. With our usual classroom out of bounds for fumigation, we'd already been shoved into the gym - a room better labeled "the human oven" - and the heat alone was enough to induce queasiness. Throw in a clip of a woman giving birth and it was a wonder no one had passed out yet.
If Coach Davis was trying to put us all off childbirth forever, he was doing a good job.
My best friend, Andrew, was squeezed onto the bleacher beside me. Glancing over, I saw he shared the same horrified expression that was worn by most of our classmates. His gangly height of six foot meant his knees were stuck much higher in the air than mine, and the look on his color-drained face told me it'd probably need to be between them soon. Andrew had always been squeamish - when I'd broken my wrist in middle school, he'd earned his own ambulance ride by passing out at the sight - but this was in a different league.
"Hey," I whispered, nudging his elbow gently, "you okay?"
I saw him swallow before nodding back at me. "Yeah."
The video ended shortly afterward, just after the woman was handed her baby - an odd, squidgy creature that looked vaguely extraterrestrial. After shutting it off, Coach Davis sauntered to the front of the class, wearing a smug expression like he'd just single-handedly wiped out teen pregnancy.
Which, in our class, he probably had.
"So," he said, "that brings us to the end of the module. And, as you probably know, that means it's time for your assignment."
Usually, the mention of any of the dreaded words (assignment, homework or pop quiz) was enough to send a resounding groan through the class. Today, however, it seemed everyone was a little too shell-shocked by what we'd just witnessed to do anything but stare back. Instead of facing resistance, all Coach Davis received was a wave of silence that fell across the room.
"This assignment is different than what you're used to," he continued, unfazed. "It doesn't involve any writing, which I'm sure a lot of you will be happy about. But if you think that it's going to be easy, well... you're in for a shock."
He bent down to retrieve something from the floor. Stealing a few quick glances at my classmates, I noticed that there were still a lot of pale faces, and even more widened eyes. I could tell the video was going to be burned into their head for a while yet. Although I did feel a little queasy, it was probably attributed to the stifling heat and lack of air-conditioning, not to mention the thick mist of other girls' perfume I was currently breathing in. I guess I had been slightly more prepared; I'd been there to witness my mom giving birth to my little sister, Millie, three years ago. Even so, I'd kept to way more of a distance than the cameraman of that video.
Suddenly, Coach Davis reappeared. In his arms he held a large box, its lid closed enough to effectively conceal its contents. "This," he announced, pulling it open, "is your new project."
Recognition swept over me the moment I caught sight of it. Who wouldn't? It was every high schooler's worst nightmare; the one project you definitely couldn't do the night before it was due.
YOU ARE READING
The Baby ProjectShort Story
Avery and Andrew have been best friends since middle school; they're close. But they're about to get a whole lot closer when paired up for the project like no other: the baby project.