Potential in a Jar

PROMPT: A stranger hands you a jar. What’s in the jar? And what do you do with it?

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She presses a small jar into my hand. “Keep it safe,” she murmurs, then whimpers and disappears into the crowd before I can speak. I bring it up to my face. It bears a baby food label, but that’s not what’s inside– not anymore.

Is that– an embryo? Its little heart pulses, and it appears to be floating inside a transparent sac. I blink. It’s still there, barely formed but already resembling the human baby it has the potential to become. 

How is this possible? Is it magic? Science? A little of both?

It’s a miracle.

But I’m not ready to raise a child. So I put the jar in a padded box and keep it hidden in my closet. Every so often over the ensuing years I bring it out, to make sure its heart still beats. This jar full of infinite potential becomes my most treasured possession.

One day I realize with a pang that I’ll never be ready. This gift is wasted on me.

I walk to the park, the jar riding in my deep coat pocket. Her, I think, as I watch a middle-aged woman looking longingly at the children playing with their moms and dads. I pull out the jar and cradle it to keep it warm as I approach the woman’s bench. 

“Umm. Here,” I say, thrusting the jar at her. She takes it, caught by surprise. I turn and run, forcing back my tears.

Goodbye, little one. You’re in better hands now.

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