Childhood’s End

This story is also available at 365 tomorrows.

Even after nine years, people still stare at us. We’re used to it.

The plague that suddenly made all of humanity sterile wasn’t easy on society. There was panic, rioting, doomsday cults. But eventually people adjusted and things calmed down, and scientists turned their attention to finding a cure.

It took them ten years, but they succeeded. After a decade of global childlessness, our generation was born.

Adults say we’ve had a strange childhood – I suppose so, though I wouldn’t know. I’m used to everything centering around us, from all the stares we get to the entire industries, a decade dead, springing back up to cater to our needs. When we entered elementary school, it had been ten years since any of the teachers had last taught first-graders. I sometimes wonder if that made them better or worse.

The older kids, the last generation born before the plague, look at us with a mixture of jealousy and suspicion. Jealousy, because previously they were the ones getting all the attention. A noticable fraction of them still wore diapers when we were born, their parents unwilling to let go of the last babies they might ever have. Suspicion, because we don’t share their culture. All the games and silly rhymes and crazy rumors that passed from one generation of kids to the next, secret from the adults, are lost now. We never learned them from the kids a few years older than us. Instead we chose to make up our own culture.

Never in the history of mankind has there been a generation like us. Even the adults are a bit weary of us, deep down. They know they forgot how small children should be treated, and they fear that they’ve made mistakes.

I say: let them fear. It makes things easy for us. Each night when we pray, those of us who’ve been taught to pray, we secretly add a thanks for the plague.

For making us unique.

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