Born of Man and Woman
|"Born of Man and Woman"|
|Published in||The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction|
|Media type||Print (Magazine)|
|Publication date||July 1950|
"Born of Man and Woman" is a science fiction short story by American writer Richard Matheson, originally published in the July 1950 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was his first professional sale, written when he was twenty-two years old. It became the title piece in Matheson's first short story collection in 1954.
The story is written in the form of an internal "diary" in broken English kept by what the reader presumes is a deformed child (gender unspecified) chained in the basement by its violently abusive parents (the story makes it clear that the man and woman who have imprisoned the child are its biological parents when the child recalls the man commenting about how, in stark contrast to the child, "Mother [is] so pretty and me decent[-looking] enough."). The child-narrator can sometimes pull its chain from the wall and observe the outside world through the basement window. On one occasion it even manages to sneak upstairs, although it has difficulty because its body drips green fluid that causes its feet to stick to the stairs. It eavesdrops on a dinner party but is discovered by its parents, returned to the basement, and violently beaten. On another occasion it climbs to a small window and observes a little girl (possibly its "normal" sister, who is apparently unaware of the chained child's existence), playing with other little girls and boys, whom the narrator, having no concept of ordinary childhood, can only describe as "little mothers" and "little fathers". One of the boys sees the child at the window, and it is again beaten as a result. In a final incident, the girl brings her pet cat (which the chained child can only describe as a creature with "pointy ears") into the basement. The chained child hides from them in a coal bin, but when the cat discovers the child and hisses at it, the child crushes the cat to death.
The story ends with the child-narrator, again being beaten, knocking a stick from its father's hands, which sends the suddenly frightened man fleeing upstairs. The child resolves that if its parents abuse it again, it will turn violent, as it had once before, noting that it ran along the walls and hung down "with all [its] legs", revealing that the child is far more deformed than the reader may have presumed, and in fact an actual "monster".
"Born of Man and Woman" was among the stories selected in 1970 by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the best science fiction short stories published before the creation of the Nebula Awards. As such, it was published in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964.