Neil and Karen had tried for their first child for no less than 2 years, since making the decision to go for it when he was 34 and she 31. Demanding careers and the fact that, if truth be told, they were not the most naturally sexual of people had held the dreams of a family at bay. Whilst acquaintances got on with it, either deliberately or accidently, from their early 20s, Neil and Karen's home remained conspicuously child-free. By the time they really wanted it, it was sod's law that it turned out to be 'difficult' for them. Whose fault this was, they never found out, because the miraculous happened just as they were beginning to consider fertility treatment.
The pregnancy was not the easiest, but not the worst either. Karen carried the baby okay, with probably more than her fair share of sickness and muscular trouble, but there were no serious concerns. At the scans, everything looked good and healthy, and they jointly declined the more invasive types of testing due to the small risk of causing miscarriage. As the due date approached, Neil's excitement far outweighed his anxieties. Karen did not seem unduly worried either, although fed up with feeling like an elephant seal. The conception had happened romantically, on holiday in the Scottish Isles, and quite erotically too by anybody's standards. It was from a fuck in a small B&B bedroom, with her laying on the end of the bed and her feet up against the damn wall! Nice. It had taken them quite a lot of practise to attain such liberated fun together. Anyway, it all seemed to point towards a lovely and healthy child.
Neil envisaged him or her becoming a physicist, but a greater one than he: maybe a leading cosmologist or, hell, even an astronaut. Anything was possible. Karen said she didn't care so long as he/she was happy and healthy, but secretly she probably fancied a concert pianist to surpass her own status as a private teacher. Well, whatever the little fellow was going to be, he/she decided to arrive four days before due date. Not a problem in itself, of course. The birth was not the easiest, but nothing went markedly wrong. Karen, petite as she was, had to be cut, and the baby finally popped through just as they were beginning to worry about its stress levels.
"You've got a beautiful boy," said the midwife.
"Oh, look at his eyes," gushed Karen, when she got to hold him. "They're so distinctive."
"Hmm, yes," said Neil. "I think they're yours."
"Well, he's just kind of squinting, isn't he? They chuckled.
"I'm just going to get the paediatrician in," said the midwife, somewhat seriously all of a sudden. "Just routine checks."
A short time before these events, that is 'in much less than the blink of an eye' in cosmic terms, a discussion was going on outside the universe. Strictly speaking, this occurred in 'no time' at all - or in an infinity of time, if you like - neither before, after nor during the events above. However, to transpose it into the frame of reference of mortal existence, then it was obviously 'slightly before'.
"That is one thing you'll have to adjust to from the off," said the All-knowing. "Time."
"Is it so bad, though?"
"When - if - you become aware of your own mortality, then yes. But in any case, you will probably experience your existence on earth as a mixture of good and bad, while it lasts."
"And the mixture will depend on who, where and when I am born unto?"
"Yes, now you're beginning to understand the great ... adventure ... terror, even." The All-seeing chose his words carefully.
"Please can I be born somewhere, um, 'good'?"
"You'll be born whenever there's a vacancy to be born, and you have to take a random chance like anyone else."
"Well, I wish to take my chance. I want to experience humanity, and I'll take the hate with the love if I have to."
"What if you experience only hate? Some do."
"I think the odds are against that."
"Just about, yes."
"So, can I please, please have 'my time'? I wish to... 'exist', and find out what it's like."
"Just so long as you realise what you're getting into. You know, you're a being with no malice in you," said the All-wise. "You have a simplicity and purity that does not transpose well into the human cellular construct. All humans are born inherently destructive, complicated, but with a streak of goodness that we all know will prevail in the end, but not for many many millennia."
"How, um, 'long' are millennia, exactly?"
"You see," said the All-encompassing, "you have no concept, until you experience it. It's, well, a 'long time'. This means the odds of you being born into a 'good' time are slim."
"Well, you won't. Especially not if you find yourself chained in an asylum, beaten, resented and locked in a cupboard days on end or, worse still - 'euthanized' in a gas chamber, or cast alive into an open fire, or cleaved by a Viking sword before you are days old," explained the All-wise one. "Ah, actually, the last two would be fairly quick and you wouldn't understand very much. Bit of an anti-climax to your stay on earth, though, yes? And a painful one."
"I'll take my chances, please. Let me have life, 'as they know it'."