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At the Museum of Holographic Art

M.K. Hutchins regularly draws on her background in archaeology when writing fiction. Her YA fantasy novel Drift is both a Junior Library Guild Selection and a VOYA Top Shelf Honoree. Her short fiction appears in IGMS, Podcastle, Daily Science Fiction, and elsewhere. A long-time Idahoan, she now lives in Utah with her husband and four children. Find her at mkhutchins.com.

I met Ernest inside the Museum of Holographic Art, in the Bio-Interfacing wing. He gave me a peck on the cheek. I squeezed his hand.
"How'd your appointment go this morning?" he asked.
"Good!" I answered reflexively. Though that didn't exactly cover it. I chewed my bottom lip. Should I tell him now, here? I'd had two hours to digest the news, and I still didn't know how to tell him.
Before I could come up with the right words, the usher came and led us into the holo-recreation of Henry Ossawa Tanner's "The Annunciation."
The display was a joint effort of the Animist Christian Artist's Coalition. According to the nearby plaque, they wanted to show reactions from everything present during this holy moment--from Mary to the walls themselves. As we waded through the hologram, the various objects hummed with different emotions. The waterfall of blue cloth resonated with calm peacefulness. The bricks were steady -- as if they'd always known. The tiny oil lamp trilled with excitement. The rumpled rug seemed unsure what all of this meant.
The artists had done a sublime job with Mary, though in honesty, Tanner had already captured every emotion on her face. Quiet contemplation sang in my bones as I stepped through her. A moment ago, she'd had one vision of her own future, and now that imagined life was gone, replaced with something both glorious and overwhelming.
I squeezed Ernest's hand. He squeezed back. Like normal. Unsuspecting, unknowing.
We moved to the pillar of light that represented the angel. It had been quite daring in Tanner's day to use such an abstraction.
The Coalition had filled their Gabriel with pure exuberance. It washed through me, filled me with joy, but as soon as I stepped out, the feeling faded.
Even if he was an angel, Gabriel had to be more human than that. He had to wonder if Mary would understand his message. Where was the eagerness to comfort her, the concern that she wouldn't understand that this was, ultimately, a blessing? The worry that, perhaps, she wouldn't instantly love this unplanned child as much as he already did? My announcement was positively mundane compared to Gabriel's--well within the realms of normal human life--and I felt like I might be ill on the carpet.
Maybe that was just the morning sickness.
Gabriel couldn't have known that Mary would be so contemplative. Would Ernest look that calm, that reflective, when I told him?
And I had to tell him. It would come as a rather rude shock if I didn't.
We left the exhibit, and the usher let the next group in.
"Wasn't that amazing? Did you notice their use of neo-synesthesia theory in matching sounds to colors?"
"Or the intentional holo-frizzing on the brick floor to make it look old? I mean, like old brick and an old hologram. Such a nice touch."
He startled, like he just realized I'd been trying to talk to him. Worry washed over him and he put a hand on the small of my back, like he thought I was going to faint. "Did something go wrong at the appointment this morning? With you? With the baby?"
I guess my voice had cued him in that this was serious. I exhaled. "Ernest. It's not a baby."
His concern turned to confusion.
"We're having twins."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Author Comments

During a Codex writing challenge, I got a prompt to write about a picture with some unusual property. Henry Ossawa Tanner's "The Annunciation" was my current computer background, and as an older sister of twins, this story shortly followed. I love Tanner's art--I hope people read this story and then go look him up.

- M.K. Hutchins
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