This is a short story that R3 thought was too creepy to publish here--and if R3 thinks something's too creepy, then it probably is. But I'll let you decide for yourselves...
"I love my wife. Watching her body swell with the new life she was nurturing within her, is the most awe-inspiring sight I have ever beheld. When I think of the great sacrifice she was making on behalf of our children, the future of our species, it makes me suffocate with emotion...
"Among our people, childbearing is a lifetime committment. My genetics were deemed to be superior, and so I won the right to chew ghan and develop into a breeder; I was given my choice of a wife from among the females deemed to be excellent brooders, and you can be assured that I chose very carefully. Many married pairs do not care much for each other, and consider childbearing but a function they must perform for the good of society; but I knew how important it was for a man and his wife to be not only compatable, but affectionate. Perhaps I was thinking of my own mom, whose great love for her children made me who I am today. I wanted to find a wife like my mom, so that our children would know that kind of love.
"Some people thought it odd that we chose to live together for a while before I made my nuptial flight, but I wanted to be certain that she was everything I wanted in a wife before I asked her to dedicate her life to me. When I was confident that we could work as a team, we sealed our filial bonds and then set about making plans for the family that was to come. She needed to be in peak physical condition for the rigors that childbearing would impose upon her, and to that end I worked hard to provide for her as best I could. I watched her grow fat and sleek and my hearts sang with joy. And for her part, she kept her eyes out for a likely female whose eggs she could nurture in her well-fed body, pointing out this one or that one to me as the time for the nuptial flight drew near.
"The mother of my children was beautiful. Gorgeous, accomplished, highly intelligent, she was a superior specimen in every respect. I will always remember the glassine shimmer of her nuptial wings as we flew together above the colony mound, the way the sunlight gleamed on her metallic bronze skin...oh, I wanted her more than I'd ever wanted anything before in my life! I would have traded every sugar-cow my family tended just for the chance to be with her...
"But wanting is not having, and I had to fight off several rivals before my beauty could be mine. My pulses surged with pride as she submitted to my triumphant embrace, and we coupled, twirling on silver wings high above the ground.
"She put her exquisite eggs inside me, and I took them home to my dear wife, whose soft and ample body is perfect for nurturing our babies. I stroked her fur as I told her of my success, and she purred her pleasure, curling lovingly around me to accept our precious prize, our eggs, our children-yet-to-be. My wings fell from my shoulders, and she hungrily devoured them, and then I tenderly inserted the ripening clutch into her warm and receptive body. Afterwards we fell asleep, my head cushioned against her bosom, where I could hear the rhythmic beating of her hearts.
"Within a few days, we could tell that the eggs had all taken. The pregnancy progressed in the normal manner. As my wife grew heavier, her short legs ceased to be able to carry her, and so I tended to her, bringing her food in ever-increasing quantities. I decanted the nectar of the sugar-cows and mixed it with carefully chewed sweet herbs to help sustain her through the gruelling weeks of her confinement. She was so patient and brave, despite the toll all of this was taking on her health, that I loved her more and more each day.
"And so I say again--I love my wife, there is none like her, none. I do not regret that we have embarked upon this course, for our children will be a credit to us and to the colony. I desired their mother, but I love my wife, in whose body our children have been growing.
"The last night before our babies were born, I held my wife in my arms, and we just talked. Although she was very weak now, her head was filled with plans for the future, the things she wanted for our children, and I listened to her silvery voice as she spun out her dreams. I could see the babies moving around inside her, ripples under her taut skin, and from time to time she would catch a sharp breath, or wince, though she tried her best to hide her pain. I knew she had to be in agony, but soon, it would be over. I stroked her to sleep.
"As the sun was breaking over the horizon, I heard my dear wife groan, then utter one strangled little scream, which faded to a gasp like a passing breeze. I held her tight, and gazed into her large jewelled eyes as she mouthed the words "I love you...all..."
"Then she stiffened, and the skin along her distended belly burst open, revealing a wet, dark mass of squirming forms, glistening legs and biting jaws. The mass began to squeak, then to keen, and my wife had but one final moment to look at these, our babies, and smile, before her eyes went dark forever.
"That she had survived so long was in and of itself a mysterious miracle, for when our infants tumbled out of her, there wasn't much left of her beside her pelt; and with her warm skin, I dried and wrapped our newborn children, humming to them softly, telling them how much we had longed for them, and how happy we were to finally have them in our arms.
"No longer would I be I, but we--mother and father both to our brood. My wife had given her life to bring them into the world, and I would give mine to protect them until they were themselves full grown.
"I looked at our babies. There were two spotted males and six striped females. Sated with the final remnants of my wife's corpse, they curled into a heap and fell into a deep slumber, purring quietly. I reached out to stroke the soft, rippling fur on their squirming, damp bodies. Some would mature to be beautiful like their mother. Others would be gentle and loving, like their mom had been. Only time would tell.
"I thought of all the plans for the future she had made--now they were my plans, too. Her wisdom would guide us, as my mom's wisdom had guided me. I never knew her, except in the stories my father had told to my siblings and me. And in that I was truly blessed, to understand what great sacrifice a brooder makes when she accepts the eggs her mate brings back to her. My wife knew, and yet she chose to brood my eggs. She could have refused. But she did not.
"And so I say to you, my newborn children, I love my wife..."