(Read part 3 of the story)
Rose felt torn - she understood the arguments from those talking heads, but she also could not deny the feelings in her heart.
The vast majority of the human population had the gift now. They were, for the most part, happy with their lot in life. There was the issue, however, that two humans with the gift could only produce two children. Coupled with the fact that some couples were bound to produce less than two children for whatever reason, there was a real problem with population decline.
Some extremist had in fact gone quite far in tackling this problem. They had taken to calling the gift "the curse", and advocated for total separation of the afflicted population from "the pure", the ever-diminishing fraction of humanity that still lacked the "curse". They wanted strict regulations on who can procreate with whom, with the purpose of keeping the still "pure" people away from the "accursed" ones. The really extreme "pure" ones even occasionally employed deadly force in order to keep their sons or daughters from "falling into the hands of the accursed". All of this could be very difficult, given that many people did not even know whether they had the gift - some were not yet old enough to have it be active, and some people assumed that they were just lucky in their perfectly happy marriage with two kids.
Of course, there was a counter-movement to all this as well. With the slogan "love conquers", they argued for allowing everyone the freedom to love whomever they wanted. They argued for governments staying out of people's bedrooms. They argued for not killing young people who were acting in love. And really, who could argue against that?
Rose herself was the product of two parents from the opposite sides of this debate. Her mother had the gift. Her father did not, and was initially opposed to the idea of intermingling with someone like his eventual wife. But he could not resist that very gift which he was trying to contain.
Rose herself somewhat bought into the position that her father had once held. She could see why population decline would be a problem. But that problem seemed far away and abstract, while her crush Carl - with his broad shoulders and piercing blue eyes - was in the here and now, and as real as the flesh and blood that beat and pumped in her chest. What good were all the arguments of the talking heads in the face of love? What did it matter that he and his lineage did not yet have the gift? After all, who could be against love? Would it not win in the end?
And so the remorseless course of history would continue, working itself through one more person.
By the time Hugh was born, nobody called the stranger's gift "the gift" anymore - since everyone had it. The last person without it had died some time ago. It was now simply a feature of the human condition. People generally found themselves locked into monogamous pairings which were virtually unbreakable, but there were also some polyamorous groupings where a group of people were all under the effects of one another's gift.
Hugh was in the latter group - the sex was good and he was happy. He didn't want any children, nor did anyone else in his group. That would disrupt their sex and happiness. He knew that there were people in high places that worried about the fate of humanity, but that was hardly his concern - the sex was good and he was happy. What more could he want?
As he lay in bed in a tangle with other bodies, he briefly looked out the window and stared into the night sky. He had wanted to be an astronaut when he was a boy - but nobody nowadays talked much about interplanetary travels or anything like that. Humanity was in decline. It had lost hope.
But what did that matter to Hugh? The sex was good and he was happy. So he and his group would continue on with their lives, choosing to enjoy their life unencumbered by things like the "humanity's future" or "having children".
Something like this would happen occasionally, where someone would not have their full allotment of two children. With the general malaise afflicting humanity, many people simply chose the childless lifestyle. Others had medical problems with conceiving. Some died in accidents before having children.
And every time this happened - every time a pair did not produce their full allotment of two children - the total potential human population would be permanently, irreversibly decreased. Two people, who would eventually die, were replaced by less than two people. Thus the human population would bleed away, one or two people at a time - inevitably, irresistibly, inexorably towards zero. Towards extinction.
Like many others, Hugh knew all this. But he didn't care. The sex was good and he was happy. He turned over in his bed, groping for one body part or another.
You may next want to read:
The want of a mate (Part 3) (Previous post of this series)
Christian predictions on the future of science (part 1)
Another post, from the table of contents