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Stepping out of the shower, Harvey let water drip on the floor and willed away a dangerous erection. He scorned the towel in favor of air drying, preserving pheromones for his mate, the mother of the child he’d never see. He would meet her, put his seed into her, and then, he would die.
He did a little windmill spin step as he walked to his bedroom to get dressed. He puts his arms through a satin black shirt tailored especially for tonight, and dark pants that fit him perfectly. He laughed. He could have been maimed, like Tommy, whose testicles were removed when he was ten; or milked, like Jordi, who died at fifteen.
His offspring would be at the very top of the hierarchy and would stand a good chance of becoming a genitor himself. He would be cherished by a mother whose beauty and genetic perfection equaled his father’s.
Three knocks on the door, like the beginning of a play, announced the start of his end. A man dressed in traditional red robes signaled. It was time to go. He walked over the threshold, a fledgling out of the nest. He had seen these dark corridors hundreds of times, but tonight, everything looked different.
He stepped into a garden where scents of lilacs and lilies tickled his nostrils.
He hasn’t seen ANY woman since he turned fourteen. At that age, a simple look could cause spontaneous ejaculation and kill battalions of pimpled adolescents. Suicides by masturbation were frequent. By then, boys who were not attracted to women had been rooted out; homosexuality was not a suitable trait for genitors. Tonight, for his last night, he will be with women again.
With a crimson hand, the old man showed him to a gazebo. Delicate morsels of fish and fruit in a warm rainbow of colors awaited on a table. He was to eat well, but little. He heard his playlist in the background. Beautiful girls entered his field of vision.
A powerful erection gripped him, and he closed his eyes to divert the blood with the usual imagery. The master put a hand on his shoulder:
“You don’t have to do that anymore.” His voice startled despite velvety tones.
Harvey nodded. He wasn’t sure he could.
He found himself in sensory heaven. The young girls were careful not to come too close, but their giggles delighted Harvey in a way a symphony never did. A perfect sushi of red tuna released its ocean fragrance under his teeth. He lifted his head to the warm breeze. An arch of light appeared in the wall that surrounded the garden. There SHE was.
To say black was beautiful would be an understatement. Black. Was. Magnificent. One look at her flawless skin, long muscular limbs, and burning gaze, and he forgot how to use his lungs. As she got closer, he remembered and took in a huge gulp of air. This Goddess was going to birth his child?
She sat across from him under the gazebo and at the table. He stared at her, the bulge in his pants enormous. Funny how quickly he discarded his own conditioning. Almost twenty years of repression.
“We finally meet”, she says in a musical voice. “I’ve been waiting for you my whole life and we have so little time together.”
He was tongue tied, but listened intently.
“What is the one thing you want our child to know about you.”
“They said the child would see a picture a me”, he managed to say, forgetting the pressure and the rush of blood for a second.
She dipped her chin and looked at him through long eye lashes.
“I want to be able to tell him or her one story about you.”
He took a few deep breathes to calm down. That was unexpected, and incredibly sweet.
“When I was about 8 years old, my mother won a special prize and took us to the beach for a few days. It was cold, but sunny, and we spent all our afternoons walking in the sand, looking for shells. One day, we went east, with the wind, and we came across a whale stranded on the shore. It was dying and there wasn’t much we could do about it. We spent the whole day caressing it, pouring water on its skin. It died but we eased its suffering. It was both the happiest and the saddest day of my life.”
“Thank you”, she said after a minute.
He got up and walked to her side. Touching her hand nearly killed him; waves of warm electricity, like getting shocked in the womb by an electric eel. He lifted her up into his arms. She didn’t resist. Her body turned moist as he laid her in the grass. He entered her and ejaculated immediately. He was ready to die.
The unique cocktail of hormones released in his blood stream activated the genetic modifier. Polypeptides, a form of viper poison, slowly started to build up. They would slow his heart and, in time, stop it.
The woman slipped him out and kissed him. He was still hard and felt potent, but his most motile sperm was inside her, swimming to meet her egg. As an inexorable tide of sluggishness took hold of his motor functions, he found comfort in knowing he had fathered a child. He rolled on the sweet-smelling grass. Every sensation took on a new aspect. Sounds sharpened, colors brightened. He drifted off.
When he came to, the headache was like nothing he’d ever felt. His brain wanted to escape its bone box. Through eye lashes, he noticed the black clothes he was wearing were gone. Instead, pale blue thighs covered his legs and shamelessly revealed his junk. A poufy white blouse, with a stringed open collar, completed the ensemble. Trying to filter out as much light as possible to prevent his brain from imploding, he examined his surroundings. White walls, a blissfully dimmed light source somewhere in the ceiling, a hole to relieve himself, a barely visible door in front of the narrow bed. If this was paradise, he wanted to speak to the decorator.
The door swung soundlessly on its hinges to let in a tall man in his fifties. He was wearing a thin black suit, an ancient garment, but it fit him like a well-crafted costume. He carried what looked like a medical bag.
Harvey’s hands applied pressure on his ears. The tall man was speaking. Harvey slid off one hand, wincing at the sudden increase in suffering.
“Give me your arm,” he repeated.
Harvey obeyed. The man tied a tourniquet on his biceps and produced a syringe. The prick of the needle was barely perceptible over the storm raging inside his head.
“Feel better?” asked the black clad man after a minute or so.
He did! Whatever substance was rolling around in his blood, it was working. He straightened up and opened his eyes to take a proper look at his savior.
“I am doctor Kent. I can see the morphine did its job.” He smiled.
“I know what happened, Harvey. You didn’t die like you were supposed to. You’re not the first.” He pointed to his chest:
“Do I look like a eunuch?”
His wide shoulders, shadowed chin and solid looking bones shouted that he didn’t. Not by a long shot.
“A mutation has occurred. About one genitor out of a thousand has it. We have yet to find a way to detect it.”
Harvey was silent for a moment.
“What happens to the genitors who survive? They all become doctors?”, he asked.
“I can’t answer this question, but I can take you to someone who can. Do you feel strong enough to meet her?”
Harvey stood up. His legs wobbled for a second, but he steadied himself.
He was surprised. He had rarely been hungry. His dietary needs were always taken care of.
Doctor Kent produced a rectangular bar from his bag.
“Eat this,” he said handing it. “It should be enough to carry you through the meeting.”
Harvey took a small bite and was rewarded with an explosion of flavors. His stomach stopped growling. He finished it quickly.
They left at once. The facility’s layout looked familiar, but the white corridors were like a negative image of the dark universe he grew up in. They were above ground and windows let in the green scenery of New Zealand. Last week, the whole community received news that Tasmania would soon be opened for settlement, their 500 years nuclear winter finally coming to an end.
Doctor Kent entered an atrium and invited Harvey to move forward. A woman in her fifties was standing behind a glass desk.
She was short, but an air of authority emanated from her diminutive stature. As he got closer, Harvey discerned dark green eyes, rather large breasts, curiously tanned hands and a welcoming smile. She wore harem pants of the same hue as her eyes, a white blouse and a black turban.
“Welcome Harvey, please have a seat.”
“My name is Miranda. I am the leader of this pod,” she said simply. “Did the doctor take good care of you?”
He nodded. No word formed on his tongue, or too many, like a flood trying to fit through a pin hole. He had never met Miranda, but he’d heard of her, every genitor had. She oversaw finding suitable mates for each genitor. She was the ultimate authority. She knew about the mother of his child.
“Do you have any questions?” She sounded patient but a bit condescending, like a loving parent talking to a challenged child.
“I do,” he said, damming the flow of words to extract what mattered the most. “Could I see my mate?”
A brief look of surprise crossed her face, but she was a person used to hiding her emotions, and the expression disappeared like dry ice in an oven.
“Your mate is well. We will confirm conception in a few hours.” She answered calmly, but there was noticeable steel in her tone.
She paused, waiting for another question. He had none.
“I want to see her.” His voice was firm.
This time her face remained impassible. He wouldn’t catch her off guard again. She took her time.
“Harvey, before the genetic modification, men fought great wars. The justifications were diverse - race supremacy, democracy, terrorism - but the reason was simple: Right to reproduce. Simply stated: If I take your country and kill all its men, my genetic material will survive, not yours. No one phrased it that way, but in the aftermath of the 200-year war, when large chunks of continents were turned into deserts and the remaining population numbered less than 100,000, all agreed drastic measures had to be taken.”
She gave him a little smile.
“You were taught History, so you would understand why the unijaculation genetic modification is the greatest gift to mankind. The numbers speak for themselves! Since its introduction, no war broke out. The murder rate is down to 1 in a billion. Conflicts are resolved through a system of compromises based on the golden rule. Remaining stocks of nuclear weapons have been destroyed.”
She made a tent with her fingers.
“Your request would send us backwards. Your biological makeshift would take over! You would become possessive, want to have more children, more mates. You would endanger our way of life and our society.”
Harvey twitched. He wanted to get up, get out, and go look for her.
Her voice softened.
“Most men I see, and I meet every genitor who has the mutation, want to know when they can have another woman. The focus of their life shifts dramatically once they experience orgasm. Their reptilian brain takes over, thus unleashing the irrepressible desire to spread their seed as often as possible, with as many women as possible.”
She stared at him, obviously taking in his physical beauty.
“There is room for that in our society. High ranking women, most of them passed their child bearing years, quite enjoy the company of surviving genitors.”
Her gaze caressed him, he could almost feel it on his skin.
“The thick reddish hair, blue eyes, square jaw …You are spectacular,” she murmured, more to herself than to him.
He wanted to reject her offhand, show disgust, integrity. Instead, he returned her appreciative look. His treacherous penis, encased in stretchy material, showed what he was really thinking. A though: that was the reason he was wearing these ridiculous thighs.
“Come closer,” she almost whispered.
He watched his feet obey, powerless. When she gently cupped his testicles, he almost choked. She kissed him down there, delicately, somehow aware that he could explode. This experience was going to be different. His mind followed his body, all resistance vanished.
A few passionate minutes later, as she pulled her loose pants back up, she said:
“You are going to need practice, but you have the basic equipment.”
A man’s mind was clearest right after the release. Before, all he could think about was sex, and within five minutes, he was thinking about it again. Harvey’s brain was clear for the first time in his life.
“I want to see the future mother of my child. Where is she?”
Miranda felt mollified. Women were different. After an orgasm, their mind slowed, neuroreceptors gummy with the pleasure hormone.
“Her name is Maya. She’s with the other women. She’s spending two nights in the antechamber of the pregnancy quarters,” she said. “But you can’t see her! That’s just ridiculous.”
He took a quick step toward her.
She lifted her palms up in an ‘I give up’ gesture.
“It’s unheard of! There are no real ‘fathers’ anymore, just father figures, and they’re all castrated.”
Harvey felt empowered by his last sexual experience. Sliding closer, as smooth as a silk sheet, he put his arms around her waist.
“It’s not hard for you to make it happen, is it? Then we can ‘practice’ as much as you want.”
His hair tickled her nose as she looked up. His body, firm, young, warm, perfect, a harbor in the storm of her busy life. She had given up so much for her work. Other administrators on The Committee were often women with low sex drive, or lesbians, and the absence of men didn’t affect their life. She was different, she struggled all her life with a raging libido and she was especially sensitive to Harvey’s persuading. But she had to resist.
“Why do you want to see her? You only met her once, and only for a minute according to the report”, she said.
He had to reflect. Why meet her again? They had fulfilled their mission.
“I think it’s curiosity”, he answered, sincere. “There’s a pull also, right here.” He pointed to his heart.
Miranda nodded, but winter took hold of her features.
“Do all the survivors mate with women from The Committee?”, he asked.
Miranda looked away quickly.
“You will find out soon enough”, she said.
“Ok”, he said.
“Look Harvey”, she said “none of the women know about the genitor’s mutation. We want to keep it secret until we find a way to detect it, cure it even. In the interim, we try to do right by our genitors. You can become whatever you want, a doctor, a cook…a philosopher! Have regular sex.”
“I can’t let you see Maya. If I do, our society may collapse.”
She had revealed her name. She closed both hands in tiny little fists.
“We are so close to reclaiming part of Central America. We started a colony in South Africa. I may even see China in my lifetime.”
She placed her hands on her hips.
“It’s not going to happen.”
He nodded. Smiled. Wanted to strangle her.
She said to the walls and the ceiling:
“Siri, send Kent to the office.”
A few seconds later, the slick doctor reappeared.
“Take him to the survivor’s quarters.”
She turned, went around her glass desk, sat on her black chair.
“Come on Harvey. You’re going to like that place”, said Kent.
He left with Kent. Miranda, absorbed by her work, did not give him another look.
They followed the same corridors. The complex was shaped like an I; genitors at one end, women at the other, administration in the middle branch, gardens all around.
“Survivors live outside the main complex”, he said, opening a door to a space Harvey had never seen before. They followed a path that crunched under their feet and veered left after a hundred meters. From the inside of the building, strategically located bushes made it look like the path simply ended at a row of tightly packed junipers.
They walked on. The headache threatened a comeback triggered by the evergreen smell of the trees. Morphine only lasted so long. The sound of an electricity powered supply truck could be heard behind the tree, and the highly distinctive ki-ki-ki-kew of the emblematic black-fronted tern was everywhere. It was a waterfowl, there must be a body of water close by, he thought. He’d always liked birds.
“You think I can get some clothes”, he asked.
“You can get anything you want. You’re a lucky guy, you’ll see.”
After a trek that seemed to last an hour, they finally arrived at a series of houses surrounded by a brick wall about twice his height. With their thatched roof and squat structure, the houses looked straight out of a Victorian novel. The doors and window frames, painted in bright primary colors, contrasted with the grey stones that composed most of the outside. A network of gravel paths linked them together. Tennis and basketball courts completed the picture.
Harvey’s surprise was visible.
“That’s where we live?”, he asked.
“Yep”, answered Kent with pride, as if he built each house himself. “Have you ever seen anything that beautiful? I lived here four years.”
“Was your mother rich or poor?”, he asked.
“We were not rich, but not poor. She worked as a clerk for a cleaning company. When I moved to the potential genitor’s complex, just having my own room blew me away. This is a palace.”
Kent led him to the furthest house. It was a few meters away from the wall, and separated from the rest of the complex by three basketball courts. Kent opened a red door where a bronzed number 7 hung. He led him upstairs to a room overlooking the grounds.
“Everyone is at work or school right now. We never know when a new survivor will show up. But you will meet your roommates tonight.”
“Do you still live here?”, asked Harvey.
Kent shook his head.
“I live with a woman”, he knocked on the wooden desk. “Fifteen years.”
Harvey felt a jolt all the way to his toes. A man and a woman living together!? How shocking! He knew from History classes that it was common Before. He stared blankly at Kent.
“I was one of the first”, he explained. “They didn’t know what to do with us. That little cell I found you in? That’s where I lived for a year. But Jocelyne changed all that.”
“Who’s Jocelyne?”, asked Harvey.
“Jocelyne is the architect behind these beautiful facilities. She is a visionary. Once survivors started popping up, most women wanted to meet the men. She brought the idea of a survivor’s complex to the leader, who rejected it. But there was consensus among the women of The Committee, and Jocelyne won her point. Construction started a month later.”
“So now, you live with the woman who first suggested this? How is it, living with a woman?”
He raised a hand and shook it on an horizontal axis.
“’Comme ci, Comme ca’. The pros outweigh the cons most of the time”, he grinned.
“Did you ever meet your child? The one you conceived with your first woman?”, asked Harvey.
“That’s one of the few things we are forbidden to do”, he said before closing the door to show him.
“Here, there’s a list”, he added.
Harvey examined the small sign displayed behind his bedroom door:
“Two unavailable days a week? What does that mean?”
Kent coughed, shrugged, looked at the ceiling.
“Oh…”, says Harvey.
“You have access to ALL this!”, said Kent. “You can learn a trade or a profession.”
Sex for hire was so much a part of human nature, it survived a nuclear war. The realisation made his head spin and he grabbed the door handle for balance.
“Are you all right?”, asked Kent.
“Yeah, just a bit dizzy. Lots to process.”
“Of course! Is your headache back?”
He thought for a moment. He could get another shot of morphine, forget all this, just go to sleep. How tempting. But he needed to think.
“No, no, well maybe a bit, but a simple dose of ibuprofen would do.”
“Say no more!”
Kent opened his bag, extracted a small bottle, and shook it. It rattled.
“There you go.”
Harvey took the bottle, opened it and swallowed two pills.
“All right Harvey, I’ll leave you to it. The boys will be back in a few hours. Take a nap, go for a walk, whatever you want.”
Once alone, Harvey admired the luxurious surroundings. Spacious, bright, the room easily accommodated a large bed, two bedside tables, a step master, a desk and chair. A whole wall was devoted to books covering every possible topic. Harvey pulled one out and read the title: The Great War: 1914-18. How ominous. He put it back.
He opened a drawer at random. Rewarded by a set of black gym clothes and a long sleeve T-shirt, he quickly got dressed.
Harvey walked around the room, tried to rest on the bed, grabbed a book, but he just couldn’t sit sill. One thought remained through the confusion, stronger than all the others:
He didn’t like this.
Maybe other men would be happy with mindless sex, but he couldn’t live with it. He would have none of it!
He got up and went back downstairs. The house was still empty. The red door beckoned, and he accepted its invitation. Outside, he directed his feet towards the path that lead back to the complex.
“I wouldn’t do that.”
A brown man in his forties was sitting on a bench. Lustrous black hair tied in a man bun, flawless skin and striking grey eyes, his cut off t-shirt showed tight, defined arm muscles. He was holding a basket ball.
“You’re heading back to the complex, right?”
He pointed precisely where Harvey was going.
Harvey could only stare.
“You think you’re the first one? There is a guard, just at the junction of the path and the junipers, in case you make that move.”
“What, what do you mean ‘I’m not the first’?”, said Harvey finally finding his tongue.
“Hi, I’m Yohan”, he said, extending a hand.
Harvey shook it, repeated his question.
“About two men out of ten try to head back. You know what happens to them?”
He didn’t wait for Harvey to answer.
“They are terminated, sent to paradise, ‘shot behind the chemical shed’.”
“It’s just an expression, it means sacrificed for the greater good of some political entity. Point is, us gigolos post someone here every day, because we don’t want this to happen anymore.”
Harvey ran his fingers through his hair.
“So, I have a choice between this…”, he rotated a finger to indicate the whole complex, “or death?”
“There is a third option”, he said.
Yohan got up, dribbled and threw the ball to Harvey’s chest, who threw it back. Hard. He wouldn’t beg for an answer, but he’d motivate.
“I’ll tell you”, said Yohan.
He sat back down.
“We get about ten to twelve new men a year. Several want to leave, and after losing so many, we came up with a plan.”
Harvey was all ears.
“Twenty men escaped, about 5 years ago. They took food, supplies, all they could carry, and they set out, in the jungle, through unimaginable dangers, but they survived.”
“How do you know?”
“Some come back, every season or so, to get more supplies, more men…and women.”
“Women? The mother of their child?” his voice, strangled with sudden hope, went up almost an octave.
“Not at all. Those women are very conservative by nature, and once they’re pregnant, they want to nest, give the baby the best health care possible…?”
Harvey understood. Hope shattered, Yohan’s words like a boulder through a frail window.
“They take women that come from the other classes, the cleaners, the cooks, the teachers. They need people with knowledge of botany, mushrooms and trapping. They need builders, people who can work.”
“That place in the woods, is the government trying to find it? Crush it?”
“They tried. They have found some, but the men were clever. They colonized iffy zones, the borders where radiation levels could be outside the safety zone.”
Harvey nodded. The wall behind the house and all around the installation was high, but not impossible to jump. He gave Yohan a side glance. The man was slightly shorter, fine boned and lean, but muscular. He thought he could have left. Had he wanted to.
“When can I go?”, Harvey asked.
“Next time one of the men visits. Mean time, hoard food, medical supplies, anything you figure is useful in the bush.”
Harvey thought for a moment. He knew about birds, he was strong, and he could tie good knots. Surely, he could help the colony.
“A few guys were here not too long ago, so you’re looking at a couple of months.”
Harvey grunted. So long! Yohan put a hand on his back.
“You’ll be ok, buddy. You may even want to stay. It’s not so bad.”
“Not so bad? Is that why you stayed?”
The brown man’s mood darkened.
“I won’t be able to stay much longer. I’m getting older and…”, he pointed between his legs. “I’m slow to rise. The girls hate that.”
Harvey stopped breathing.
“What happens when…”
“If you’re lucky, a woman takes a permanent liking to you and you move in. There’s chemicals for that, but they’re expensive.”
“And if you’re not lucky?”
A look of naked fear crossed Yohan’s face.
“They take your testicles, give you a job where you only interact with others like you. In case one of us spill the beans...”
Startled, Harvey got up, turned his feet toward the jungle. He looked at the tall wall again. Gauging it.
“Wait! You can’t just leave.”
Harvey got close to him.
“Come with me, brother. Don’t let them maim you”, said Harvey with earnest.
“I will stay alive. You’ll die alone in the jungle.”
“Come on, man”, said Yohan. “Calm down. We have a plan. You’ll get out. But you need to be smart about it.”
He looked around. Where Yohan saw an enjoyable life, he saw a golden cage, an aquarium.
Yohan paced around. Some men refused to take risks, no matter what was at stake.
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you go”, said Yohan. He held what looked like a small electronic device in his hand and pressed a button.
“What? Why?”, said Harvey realizing what was happening.
“They’ll let me stay longer that way”, said Yohan in a voice dangerously close to a whine.
He heard their approach before he saw them, the shuffle of their boots crunching the gravel on the path, the low hum from their combined breathing. Men. A dozen or so. Dressed in grey uniforms, faces locked into a cold mask, they were coming for him.
Harvey got up at once. He was not a coward, but he couldn’t fight that many and hope to win. He ran a few steps toward the wall, but came back to grab Yohan’s bottle of water.
“You won’t need this”, he said.
The men were closing in, crossing the basketball courts, cutting through.
“Here”, said Yohan tossing him a bar like the one Kent gave him when he woke up in the prison cell. “Good luck!”
Harvey gave him a long look, trying to convey some of his resolve. Yohan just shook his head slightly and took a step back.
Harvey stuffed the bottle of water and the energy bar in his pockets and started running. A gravel path ran along the wall, making his steps easier. Feet pounding, kicking small clouds of dust, he was easy to follow. His only trump card was speed. He found a corner after a minute or so. The men were in pursuit, but he had some time. He jumped and planted both legs on opposite walls while reaching up to find the edge. He hoisted himself up. The damp smells of the New Zealand forest were thicker at his height.
He jumped down, rolled, both terrified and elated. Running head first, crushing through bushes, tripping over roots, he eventually found a narrow game trail. No one was following; the eunuchs must have strict orders to stay within the walls.
He didn’t know if he would find the settlement. There was a good chance he would die. But he would do it as a free man…a complete man.
Unmaimed, uncastrated, uncompromised, and maybe, in time, he would come back for Maya.
|Outrunning the Storm|
|Hold The Anchovies|
|The Dreaming Fire|