Nov 29

Code Baby

By Lucy Zhang

I initialized constants for your name, variables for your height and weight, buffer sizes for your capacity to learn. The code appeared in a spew of semicolons and letters, incrementing and transferring and accessing memory segments that you’d grow into. You’d find solace in an aluminum box, operating between 5% and 90% noncondensing humidity, a Beryllium-free environment. You’d age, become more complex, a pile of hacks and one-off conditionals–security by obfuscation–and the occasional glitch.


Uncaught exception: object cannot be nil

You were there and then you weren’t: an empty crib, lollipop-patterned sheets flat, untouched


Some cryptographic state information was unavailable

The secrets whispered by your fetal heartbeat, I could never hear


Error: use of undeclared identifier

I saw something the compiler did not, an unhackable placenta


Malloc: error for object ADDRESS: double free

Killed you once, removed you twice, uterus sucked clean, spirits swept into graves


You stopped growing in megabytes. You crashed, panicked, spun up the CPU until my skin burned. UML diagrams, flow-charts, object-oriented design–I planned. I swear I planned. I implemented and built this thing to last. Like a bird, I laid an egg, expelled from my body as a yolk missing its shell. I couldn’t get it to work again, couldn’t glue it back together with bit flips and binary, so I buried it in a hole.

Lucy Zhang writes, codes, and watches anime. Her work has appeared in SOFTBLOW, Atticus Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Pidgeonholes, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. Find her at or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.


Art by Michelle Johnsen, art editor

Michelle Johnsen is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine,, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at]