Life of a sort

1

 “Turkey!” Stan cried. He couldn’t bear his hunger anymore and was about to lose his patience. He stood up from the dining table and dashed to the kitchen. He stared, aghast at his mother, a poor soul. She couldn’t dare to tell her only son that they were short of turkey, a favorite of Stan.

“I am afraid that there’s no turkey left,” Jenna said. Stan left the house in tears. His mother ran after him. “Stanley, come back here right now,” she cried. It was a silly idea on Stan’s part to get out so late at night, considering the dire circumstances. It was days since anyone left their small village.

“What’s wrong, mama? You scared of a warlock taking you for a bride, or of the monster lurking in your nightmares. Get over it, the cock and bull, hardly worth tinkering about especially during dinnertime. Oh, wait! Where’s the dinner? I forgot there’s none to be had.”

“I understand, but you understand as well. We can’t leave the village to get what we need. You know what happened to the others, all 200 of them. 40 families vanished into thin air, leaving no traces behind but their belongings. Our home has become their lost and found. What are you expecting, a pardon granted by…”

“Shut up, I don’t want no smothering. I am not a child. I am fifteen. I can take care of myself. You are a mess, good-for-nothing.”

Stan takes a walk, away from his home and his family. His parents watch him leave while his sister is in tears, unable to see her twin brother walk away from her. Life’s a shrouded undertaking keeping this family and the one next door alive and kicking. They breathe while the rest whoosh.

2

Jenna was afraid of what lay ahead for her only son after what happened to Chris, her younger son. She was shivering with terror, horrified at the repeat of circumstances under which she lost Chris. He was taken over by a pack of hungry wolves while he was out playing in the woods with his friends. But that was five years ago.

Jenna found Stan crying in his tree house, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” Jenna took him in her arms and dragged him out.

It has been a hard week for her. They barely had any food left in the house. Just some potatoes and lentils. Even her garden, once filled with strawberries, had nothing left. No wonder Stan was upset.

No one knew what was going on. Each day in the last 40 days, one family went AWOL. After three such incidents, people were confused and asked for answers. What could possibly happen? An alien invasion? But what about others, they are still here. The police couldn’t find it out.

Nonetheless, the villagers carried on with their lives as if nothing happened. One after the other, the families kept on vanishing leading to mass unrest and confusion. They started offering prayers in the dark, but to no avail.

Now it came down to two families. “Which one would it be? I hope the neighbors,” Stan wondered.

3

The night slowly crept casting a shadow of the tree into the room of Stan, growing larger with every passing phase of the hour. His eyes were open with great trepidation. He feared for his life like never before. For it was a binary night for his family. Tomorrow morning, he’s either in his bed or he’s not. He wonders if he’s not there, where will he be? Will he be dead? If alive, then what.

All sorts of things stepped into the abyss of the troubling thoughts he had since the last seven weeks. It kept piling up like a stack of cards. He barely slept well during this time. How could he? He heard the frightening stories of his friends getting sucked into black holes arising out of nowhere. There was nowhere to run or hide. This village is marked by the apocalypse. He has been marked. There is no way out of it. So better say his goodbye to his family before time runs out.

Stan runs out with his bare legs to his parent’s but they were fast asleep. His sister was there on a mattress in their parent’s room. She has been acting weird these days, always murmuring something hardly cognizable to the common folks. The village has driven her out of her mind. It has taken a toll on her. She barely eats and drinks. She’s a lost cause on the verge of breaking down further into oblivion.

Stan retreats his steps with the complete incoherence of what he saw. How could they sleep peacefully with so much at stake? They slumber, while he shrieks silently.

The night seemed too long for Stan lay awake. There was pin-drop silence. He went to his window. The neighbors made no sound. Maybe, they were fast asleep. He couldn’t bear the patience. So he went to check on them. Their door was ajar. It was too dark, so he used the flashlight. “Is anyone there? Mr. and Mrs. Daggart, I’m Stanley. I heard some disturbance. So I came to check,” he lied. Not hearing a single word, he went up to their room and found it empty. There were gone.

4

It was 4:00 in the morning. Stan came back to his room with the speed of a snail. After witnessing his worst nightmare, things looked bleak to him. His stomach growled like never before. He is famished but has no inkling for a morsel. He’s a boy who is about to vanish any moment. There will be no existence left. If this is his last day, then what does he do? He believes that life is no more, life wasn’t there for him to begin with. Born in a poor family as a twin, he always had to share the love of his parents divided by another soul. He also shared whatever meager amount of food was there each day. There were sacrifices to be made, like looking after his younger brother when he could be playing out with his friends. He remembered the day when his brother fell down the stairs and instead he was blamed entirely. He was the bad brother, a bad boy with no humanity left in him. He was a spoilt brat, for he was led to believe that his siblings are better than him in all aspects. His twin sister always made their parents smile and laugh just with her presence. No wonder she is beautiful, but that can’t be the reason you differentiate among your own children. Just imagine how the others would feel, being left out to fetch some love for themselves. But where will they get some? There’s no such to be found outside of your family, it’s very difficult. Stan had a friend to whom he confided everything, every tiny detail of his life. He had to. Afterall, he needed an outside entity to fall on to when he needed some attention and comfort. “Whenever you feel the blues, you ask for my shoes,” Ron used to say. There is something about a good friend that makes your life different. The bonding you will develop is unlike others. You can’t have that with a family member. You may but not to that extent. The nitty gritty will differ enormously. Ron was such a friend to Stan. Stan couldn’t think of a life without him, but now he’s gone. He left Stan miserable. Stan thinks of him and his words, and finally goes to sleep.

5

“Stan, wake up! Get yourself together. Wake up. Hurry now. You are not dead. Are you?” his twin shouted. Stan opens his eyes unwillingly and shoves his sister away. His parents stand still staring at him, thinking about what to say. His mother started, “Is this the way to treat your little sister? Is this the time to still be sleeping? We were bothered about you.”

“First of all, she’s not my little sister. We are of the same freaking age. And second, I was awake all night. And if you haven’t noticed, the neighbors are a whoosh.”

“We know. This is the first thing we did after getting up: to check about their whereabouts. I am glad we are still here. It’s them and not us.”

“Okay, so it boils down to us versus them. And we should consider ourselves lucky to be sleeping in utter disregard to the things going round and round. It’s just 41 days. One more to go and the village will be free, free of the inglorious souls which made it a living hell. We are so goddam lucky, too lucky to be not dead I would say. Well, too lucky indeed to sleep in fear of our existence. And goddam lucky to be witnessing the horrors that engulfed this godforsaken village. I do, I definitely do…”

There was no need to get so excited and take it out on his poor family. But Stan was downtrodden to the deepest abyss. He was on the tilting landscape ready to split apart and push him into it, never to return again.

6

When Stan came downstairs, he found his family at the dining. Potatoes and lentils welcomed him. He greeted them with a sullen face ridiculing their presence in his life. Life comes to a halt when you are left with no choice in food. You compel yourself to swallow when it’s the most difficult, hurting your mouth in the process. Your stomach resonates with your taste, rocking your inner world and making you uneasy.

The mother puts on a long face startling her daughter who is inconsolable. The father sits glued to his chair with hardly any motion. The house is a wreck decked up in rags from nearby homes. Their possession is unwelcome, they are dead for crying out loud. Stan didn’t want their spirits to roam his abode. This one day, just this day.

“Let’s flee this place. Let us start now without anything on us. We won’t carry anything, nothing at all. Let’s just run for it,” Stan said.

“Shut up!” his mother snapped. Then she says, “You know that most of the neighbors tried to flee but in vain. There’s something holding this village to its knees, not allowing us to do as we like. We are stuck here for eternity.”

“No, not for eternity. This is the last day, the last freaking day. And you want to sit tight, lay low to avoid any more distress to your little mind,” Stan shouted.

7

Stan starts munching on whatever he gets his hands on. He eats like there’s no tomorrow, no sunshine left in his shortened life. His life is down to a matter of hours, minutes maybe. He eats, while his mama watches. He ends up with thrice the amount he usually has. For the first time in weeks, he has a full stomach. He burps and declares victory at conquering the very food which he was about to throw away the other evening.

He straightaway goes outside after he’s done with his meal of the day. He moves away from the home and the souls with time running out of their hands. Time moves on till it’s there in nature. As soon as we point it out, it comes to a standstill and becomes a discrete number. It is not supposed to be so because it is ever-changing, each and every moment.

Stan picks up an axe and takes it out on the tree in front of his room. No more shadows lurking in the dark and casting on his window. No more sleepless nights and no more humdrum life. Let’s put an end to the maddening circumstances leading to this inopportune moment. Let the village seek its last victims. Let it all get over soon for it does not matter at all. If it has to be, let it be. Why bother with our fates and toil to find the reasons if life has to end anyhow? Why take the pain and give others hope when it is coming in your face greeting you with a big fat smile? Let it become bygones already for Stan is done with this world. He hits again.

“Come down, you freak! Let me ground you. No one is going to look after you starting from tomorrow. You started with me. You must end with me. Let us leave this earth together and embrace our fate saying a final goodbye to all that we had together,” Stan said bluntly.

8

“Are you done helping your friend, taking it down, washing its dirt, cleaning it up like a real good friend?” Jenna asked in derision.

“You think it’s a joke. How do I respect you? You don’t respect my feelings. You don’t respect my faith. You don’t respect my thoughts. You don’t respect my personal space. You don’t respect my time. You don’t respect my being a teenager. You don’t respect the one called Stanley. I am not a child anymore.”

Jenna was out of words to define the horror she just went through. What happened to her little Stan? He’s not himself anymore. He balks at the slightest. He’s uncooperative. He’s gone to a place where there’s no returning. Her only son is gone, lost in the wilderness. She can never have him back.

Her daughter cries. She wails like a little puppy out in the new world, unable to make sense of anything. The little twat has her mother living on the edge about to fall down any moment.

Her husband stares at something all the time without knowing what to do. He is an optimist, a definite moralizer. But he’s unable to help his family cope with the situation. How is he supposed to? He lost his friends too. But he’s waiting, in complete denial of the fact they are about to whoosh.

9

Stan goes for a walk in the heat. He breaks into a sweat with only a few yards away from home. It is a fine day to talk a stroll. He walks on and on with no purpose. There was a time when he got the company of his dog who left him last year. His time had come. Stan didn’t mind it. Now he’s all by himself amongst the trees that make no sounds anymore. The village has been quiet for 41 days. Stan is curious, he always was. As a child, he used to tear down everything he could get his hands on. He tried to understand how things work, how the world is what it is. How it all came to be? How he came to be? He never stopped at anything. His motion was relentless even with the opposition of his family. For them, he was a naughty child running around all day without contributing a helping hand. His parents had concerns about what he would come to be. But now that concerns are no more for he would be no more. No more disappointment, his parents can breathe with ease without a thought of Stanley obfuscating the smooth stream. He thinks himself as a hindrance to his family’s good fortunes. He believes he’s cursed and his family’s suffering can come to an end if all goes well.

He stumbles upon something. A pale green rock lay in front of him. He picks it up and finds it smooth. How can a stone lying in the forest be so smooth and round? It can’t be naturally. He looks at the other stones completely different than the one in his palm. He wonders and comes up with nothing. He backtracks to his home with the sky dimming behind him.

10

Stan reaches home in a dilapidated state. His mother is relieved to see her son once again after the way things ended between them in the daytime. His sister finds the stone and starts asking questions, “This is a different breed. What’s so special about it? I have never seen anything like this before. Where did you find it? What did you do with it? Why is it so pale and smooth? Why are you quiet?”

The questions came across rapidly. But Stan has no answers. He has no time for them. It is time to reflect back on his life just like Marcus Aurelius did in his personal journal ‘Meditations’. Why bother about a stone with no future in sight?

“Oh, poor Stana. Why don’t you just let it be? Why worry over trifles? Enjoy your last moment while it lasts. The stone is here to stay, but you are not. You are about to whoosh.”

“Stop it, right now. You should learn to mind your tongue. Why think about it? Why discuss it? If it is what it is, then let it be. Why suffer now? When we can live our lives, let us do so. Nothing changes as you wish. It is God’s will,” the father said. Finally, he opens his mouth. Perhaps, for the last time.

Stan bursts into laughter. His sister joins him and so does their mother. All of a sudden the tension submerges and even the father starts laughing. They come nearer and become a family once again. A sudden sound broke their celebration of life. The stone was vibrating. It threw up yellow light as bright as the sun. The family had to shade their eyes.

11

“What the hell just happened? It felt like the house was lit on fire. What is this light? And now it’s gone,” the father said rubbing his eyes.

“Is everyone okay? Stan, Stana, are you all right? My eyes hurt,” Jenna said blinking in a rapid manner.

“So does mine. I am half-blind,” Stana cried.

Stan seems to be all right with his steps growing towards the magical stone. He picks it up and observes it. He still can’t make anything out of it. It is still a mystery. He throws it out the front door of his house and shuts the door forcefully.

“I will be in my room. It is out of bounds,” he said.

Stan retires earlier today. He wants to sleep to the fullest. The last night of one’s life matters. He wants absolute solidarity and silence. He wants to dream; a nightmare would do as well. But dream he must, because he considers dream important. Without dreams, he is just a vegetable. And a vegetable’s life is temporary. Today it’s there plump and healthy, tomorrow it will rot. But Stan is different. He is alive and kicking. But the circumstances have changed now. He knows it’s the 42nd day. The last family is still breathing. He is still alive. But it won’t be for long. His family can whoosh any moment without prior intimation.

Little does Stan know about the happenings downstairs. After the family is asleep, Stana goes out and gets hold of the stone. She brings it back inside and again it glows making her blind.

12

Stana yowled in pain. She felt the sun in her eyes. It burned her retina and short-circuited the signal to her brain. She goes blind.

Jenna runs downstairs followed by others. She takes Stana in her arm and asks, “What’s the matter? What happened?”

“My eyes hurt. I can’t see. I can’t see,” Stana cried.

Stan found the stone lying on the floor. He understood what happened and took it out on a ride. As soon as he left the house, his father stepped out and brought him back. “You can’t leave at this hour. It’s dark outside. We must stick together. We must.”

“So what are we supposed to do? Get blind one after another. This unholy thing is not welcome in here. It has to go.”

“But wait a minute. We are still here. We are still alive. No family has survived beyond the dawn. Look outside. It will be dawn soon. But we are still here.”

“So you are implying that this is the work of this stone. That this is what’s keeping us alive,” Stan shouted.

Meanwhile, Jenna made her daughter sit still on a chair. She cleaned her eyes and put a bandage on it. Then she started, “Legend has it that whoever possesses the talisman will not be hurt for it will protect him and his family.”

“What legend and what talisman? What are you talking about? Who is harming us? What is up with you?” Stan grilled his mother.

“It is time you know about this. First, I didn’t believe it but when I saw this I started remembering the story told my grandfather. According to him, there’s a legend that a devil resides in the village’s heart who rises once a century to feed on souls. He doesn’t stop until the last soul is taken. He cannot be stopped but one can avert his moves by the use of this stone. The stone protects the home in which it resides. The stone hasn’t been found since I was born until now. And it belongs to our family once again. We just need to keep it in a copper box hidden from the eyes of the rest of the village.”

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The quibbles of life

1

Rupert wakes up under a heap of dust and matter. He smells blood and tries to move his legs but in vain. Pulling at his legs, he tries to find a way out of this mess. He rises like a Phoenix, only to be welcomed by a series of hues and cries of his comrades. His colleagues, few of them, have lost their lives as heard from the cries. An explosion made the hellish life of the miners, worse than the one in which a convict dies only to be brought back alive after resuscitation.

Gasping for breath, Rupert crawls up to his friend, John who himself is not doing pretty well. He is lying unconscious, or so it seemed. Rupert tries to wake him up but there is no movement. He has stopped breathing, no pulse either. Rupert fears the worst for his best friend. What an impeccable fate has descended upon him. He has lost his best friend, the one whom he had known for eons.

With no outside help, Rupert crawls further and gets out of the mine. Covered in soot, he is completely incomprehensible to an acquaintance’s eyes. His fellow miners, afraid of entering the mine and helping, can’t recognize him. And he can’t recognize the others still inside the mine left for dead. The pale daylight is creeping upon him like a spider hanging down from a thread of web cast onto the ceiling with aplomb. He cringes slowly, and balks at the incredible pain he suffers from his broken leg. He can see the shinbone of his right leg majestically standing out and gleaming red at him. He retches at the mere sight.

No one else is brought out alive. Twelve miners died from the explosion. Rupert, the lone survivor, cries in pain as he waits for someone to take him to the emergency room. The nearest hospital is eleven miles away. But he is hopeful that he will be fixed and will be able to walk again soon.

The coal mine looks like the den of a tiger, lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on its next meal. He fears the mine, the unholy abode of the souls trapped inside gasping for an outlet.

Rupert lies supine, staring at the infinity, with bloodshot eyes. He is maladjusted with the changing features of the sky, reminding him of the change in numerous fates, twelve to be exact. He doesn’t count himself for he is the lucky one to have escaped. Or is it otherwise? Is he the unlucky one and the lucky ones have left their lives of drudgery and pits?

2

Rupert finds himself in a hospital. His legs, operated upon, sends him a dud signal for he’s sedated quite long. There’s a numbness down below. He appreciates the kindness of the nurse to let him off the hook of the pain like never before. It was excruciatingly difficult to get hold of himself after the incident. The pain was too much for him. Now, he is at ease unlike yesterday when the pain made him shiver like a jolt from the lightning bolt.

It’s 4 in the morning. The room looks stuffed with an abnormal tinge of air making him gasp for more breath. It smells funny, must be the medicines all around him. He hears a voice, “Daddy’s awake. Come, quick.” He immediately recognized it, the voice of his daughter, Sarah. Next, he sees his wife, son, and daughter towering over him like birds in a nest trying to find their way into the little space left.

“You look good. The doctor has stitched you up real good,” Maya said. She got hitched to Rupert nine years ago in a small downtown Church. It was a small gathering of acquaintances from work and friends, for both the bride and the groom had no family. They were orphans, lucky to find each other and make a family for themselves finally. Both their mothers died during childbirth and their fathers died in an accident. Fate has brought them together somehow.

Rudy starts to climb the bed, stopped by his mother. “Wait a minute. Let me get you a better view. Your son looks desperate, dear,” Sarah said. Rudy stares at his father with desperate eyes looking for an acknowledgment. Much to his dismay, his father was yet to become fully conscious, yet to interact with his family.

3

Tom and Miles took a break. They always go out together, always. They are from the same high school and of the same age. Their facial expressions resonate with each other and they smile indistinguishably. Tom’s blond while Miles’ brunette. They sweat their blood with Rupert in the same dungeon. He went after them one day, and found them kissing each other, and touching inappropriately. He didn’t complain. He doesn’t mind. Let lovers be lovers. Who are these so-called ordinary men and women to stop them? They should be allowed to continue. If it’s in their nature, then it is all right. If no outside entity is forcing them, then well and good. What’s the harm done in such an act? Nature can’t be questioned, it can’t be reasoned with. That’s how we are aligned with the universe. Our nature defines us. It is not something weird if our nature is different than our siblings, our classmates, our friends, and our colleagues. Everyone has the right to be themselves without being forced upon to choose an identity by the society. How dare the society force its stupid rules on us thinking they can get away with it? No, they simply can’t. You can’t turn Nature upside down and lead yourself and others to believe that it’s okay and nothing wrong with it. That’s just a farce.

It came to the notice of Anthony, our notorious boss and the proprietor of the mines. He started harassing them and making them pay for their unholy demeanor by extracting some part of their monthly paycheck. They were aghast, to say the least, having to let go of a part and left with a measly amount. Times were desperate and so were they. They had no choice but to stay and work. Jobs were hard to come by.

Well, they are no more. Tom choked on his blood, and Miles’ head was blown into pieces. Rupert remembers it now. He remembers every horrifying thing that happened that very day. It flashes before his eyes like some nightmare. Maybe, this is a nightmare. But he lies awake feeling the worst he possible can, unable to move his leg. There lay Rupert with the morbid thoughts engrappling him, making him choke.

4

“Dear, the police is here. They need to ask a few questions about the incident,” Maya said. Now, what do they want? There is no crime that they are investigating. What can possibly the police want out of a poor fella like Rupert lying miserably in a hospital bed reeking of drugs.

“Hello, Mr. Paul. I am inspector, Matthew and this is my partner Julio. We are here to ask a few questions. What do you remember about the incident?”

“Oh, I remember everything but nothing at all at the same time. I feel lucky to be here but dreaded by the thought of what’s next. My family feels hopeful but I don’t. I will surely not keep my job. What is to happen to my family? How do we pay our bills? We have two little mouths to feed. What about their education?”

“Please calm yourself, Sir. There is no need for such outbursts. Just tell us about the incident. We need your statement. Please cooperate. That’s all we ask of you. Any monetary support will definitely be looked after by the company you work for.”

“’Worked for’ is the phrase you should be looking for. Anyways, I will tell you all about it. What else do I have to do here? I have all the time in the world. So, please be my guest.”

Rupert narrates his tale of woes. What a pity! The policemen left after hearing him out. Now, Rupert thinks about Anthony. Where is his boss? Is he not at all bothered by Rupert’s state? What keeps him away, totally obscured by this tragic state of events? Anthony lost business and resources, but others lost their lives. What makes a man oblivious to the vagaries of someone else’s life. Even if that someone works for him. Isn’t he aware of the basic human need of comfort and solace where and when it is needed the most? Anthony doesn’t, it seems. The boss rules, while the laborers stumble over each other, drowning in each other’s sweat. The boss takes the maximum share of the gains, while the laborers stick to pennies. The boss shines at day and night, while the laborers shower, in soot and mud, vilifying themselves. The poor succumb to the fate that they think they are destined for endlessly. But no more, or something Rupert thought. His brain’s afire with thoughts of reneging. He thinks his kind has suffered a lot without getting their dues. A lot to be had and a lot to be not, for he will make do the needful for himself and his comrades. No more torture at the hands of the oppressor.

5

A few weeks later, Rupert was back to square one. He is standing in his boss’ office discussing his future with the company.

“Sir, my leg is all healed up and running. I can start work immediately.”

“That’s great news. Looks mighty fine to me. You start but I don’t want no complaints.”

To hell with Anthony and his puny attitude. He is least bothered by another soul dying under his reign. He cracks his whip with the ease of a master whipping his servant back in the good old days (good for the likes of Anthony).

A lot goes on with you when you are subservient. Your boss always has an upper hand. The subtle tinge of power looks too much to digest, at least for Rupert. For he wishes for the sea, the moon, his wife, his children, and a life of bliss and happiness. He wishes a part of Anthony’s wealth thrusted on him. He wishes a horse will come galloping one day and take him by his hand to the den of Ali Baba, and he will shout in a stupor: Open Sesame!

But Rupert was only a part idealist. He was planted, deeply rooted to the reality that is filled with soot and darkness, the tiger den. He sees himself as a man of reality embarked upon the quest to feed his family and a bit more. But he also disliked the ‘more’ part which was hardly enough to provide a decent education to his children. He dreams of the ‘more’ in his life. Maybe, Maya will find a job, now that the children are grown up. She can leave them with someone, or they may stay at home by themselves for a while after school. This can work, it has to. The burden of living slightly increases with every passing moment. A baby tree looks real nice and bright, it grows big facing the wrath of the irresolute weather, until it slowly deteriorates and loses its shine. Rupert feels the same, unable to face the wrath of reality staring right at his face. He shudders, but keeps it going for himself and his family.

6

Rupert is back where he belongs, the place that puts food on his table, roof over his head, and cash for his bills. He is back to his comrades, the lucky ones, the ones who didn’t know what it was like on that day. They were oblivious to the horrors as they were just distant onlookers to the tragedy that engulfed the now dead. They missed their chance to leave the earth by a fraction, as they were out on a break. Good Lord! They were indeed lucky, as lucky as the single poor mother who got a new husband, a rich one. Damn luck.

“It seems fate has brought me back again. It’s great to see you, guys.”

“Hello, Rupert. It seems you are back from the dead. I was not quite sure after I saw you that day. I am glad you are back,” Tommy said. Tommy is a man true to his words. He always speaks up his mind unlike most of the other comrades, lying and scheming to no ends. He is a man worth having in your life, whether as a friend or a spouse. Rupert hates white lies. They serve no purpose. What’s the point in lying when the other person knows about it? It is like you are making a mockery of yourself. It’s better not to interact than to lie at every moment of your interaction just to show that you are okay and the other person is not. At least, don’t expect any respect, ever. If it’s comfort that you seek that find it someplace else. You were comforted by your parents when you were little. Now that you are grown up, take the help of some other useful activity.

The other miners greeted Rupert with joy. They were glad to see at least one man alive after the apocalypse that shook the miners and their families. They now fear for their lives. Their future lies uncertain, for Anthony would not spend a penny to take adequate safety measures. Why should he? Is he getting away with it? Of course, he is. Then why should he? He is that kind of a man who means business in everything he ever does. He doesn’t have a family of his own. How would he understand the pains of the families of the miners? How would he sympathize with Rupert’s family? How would he make sure that his family is not affected by his leg which was on the verge of splitting into two? He simply can’t. Because he understands the language of business, and nothing else.

Tommy hears some strange sound when he was swinging his pickaxe. It seems like some metal. He started digging away with his hand to see what it was? It was shiny and bright.

“I found something, guys,” Tommy exulted.

“It’s the Ali Baba’s treasure,” Rupert said.

7

Tommy, Rupert, Randy, Gilbert, Peter, Ron, and Robert. All seven eyes glittered with apprehension. Is this it? A means to an end, an end to their miseries. A chance to revive oneself after being kicked around and left alone in a vegetative state. This is a miracle, one that is read only in fairy tales, one that is seen only in the movies. This is a hell lot of surprise which is hard to digest for the likes of these poor miners, locked away in the tiger den like caged animals, suffocating in their own exhaled breath.

“My goodness, is that real diamonds?” Randy exclaimed.

“Well, it sure looks like it. Look how hard it is. I’ll be damned,” Gilbert strained.

“Say hello to our new-found wealth. But what are we gonna do?” Peter uttered with joy.

“We can’t tell Anthony about it. Is anyone?” Ron asked.

“Not a single soul. We have suffered too much to let go of this into someone else’s hand,” Robert said.

“We need a plan. A well-planned process will lead to a well-deserved outcome. We hurry, we fail. We show prudence, and we win. So, put your thoughts forward, and then we vote,” came from Rupert. At last, Rupert got the opportunity he was looking for. Something changed in him after the incident. He became a believer, a believer in the law of attraction. ‘Whatever we attract, we get in the long run’ as told to him by his friend, John. He remembers John and his words, such powerful words. He couldn’t believe his eyes. It actually works, it worked for him. And there he is with diamonds in front of him and everything to gain. And now the game begins, the best of his life.

Submission, with your permission

1

Perversion is pervasive. Perversion is prevalent.

Or am I about to lose it?

The cool breeze helps pass along her scent. Tangerine marmalade with a whiff of butter. She sits two desks left to me. Auburn hair. Trimmed eyebrows. Eyes glistening with magic. A perfect nose. Full lips projecting her puberty. “Miss Liz. You there with us?” snapped Mr. Burnstein, the English professor. Overpowered by the smell, it took me a moment to get back in the class. “Miss Liz…” came again. “Yes, Sir. Just my migraine. Sorry for that.”

Never mind. Today, I did it. I reached my pube, short for puberty. Wow! It hurts and tickles a bit. Not that I am complaining. I am a tad bit confused. Ma said, “It’s a grown-up thing and I better learn to deal with it.” Pa decided to jump in with his understanding of the matter. But Ma intervened immediately, “Let this be girl’s only talk. Stay out of it.”

Ma always was a dominant upper hand dealer, trying to make others submissive. But Pa seemed to love her anyway. They had accepted this. A secret of their relationship success.

The English class got over and I rushed to Tessa to tell her about my recent discovery. Tessa already had hers a week before mine. “Hey, T. Today’s my pube day,” I whispered in her ears. She was wearing a star earring. A string of silver lining her neck ending in a T between her collars. “How you feel? You asked for help?”

Yes, I did. I did ask for my Ma at this crucial juncture. But I wanted more. I wanted her. Was it wrong to want her? I have been dreaming since the past few nights. Sweating all over, perspiring like a cattle about to slaughter. She’s been giving me the chills, goosebumps all over. But today, I woke up abashed bleeding as well. Is this her doing? What kind of power did she wield over me?

2

Weird day. Nothing major happened. T is still on my mind. I saw her in my dream again. And guess what? She made me sweat. Bad girl needs some spanking. But who’s the bad girl here? T or I?

Christ! I’m going to be late for school. It’s 8 already. Breakfast looks so dull, sandwich and milk. The same old, same old. I spilled the milk without even having a sip. What a mess! Now clean it. Ma staring furiously at me. What to do? I begged my younger sister to clean after me. She’s a nice little girl, always taking my side. A perfect sis.

Timing is perfect. I reach just before the class is in motion. A stare from Mr. Burnstein, “You feeling all right now, Liz!” You bet I do. Wet dreams!

Thinking of wet dreams, my eyes went to the empty chair. Where is she? She’s never late. What could it be? I hope nothing troubles her.

I asked Ronald about Tessa’s whereabouts. Even he didn’t know about her absence.

I bunked the next class and went to her home. It took me ten minutes. I was still sore from the blood gushing through my ruptured veins. It felt like something sinister inside me, something within me wanting to come out. This was my body expressing its availability. All the talk of someone planting seed seemed repulsive to me. But I couldn’t dare to say it in front of my parents. Ma and Pa dream of a perfect marriage in the next decade. A union of souls. The continuation of the species. No babies, please!

I found boys repulsive, averted their advances all my life. So far so good. Got Ma worried. Pa is definitely happy. It makes two of us.

3

Ma needed some veggies for her well-known ‘A Trip to the Bahamas’ soup filled with exotic vegetables. I went to the market after school. Red, yellow, green. All available in plenty. I picked up a few pieces from the list. Long and short, narrow and wide. Never tried one of those.

I remember T telling about her maiden venture. “Peeling didn’t help!” T said. “I like it rough,” she burst out. Zucchini’s her favorite. She tried others. Cucumber, Carrot, you name it. And guess what! Banana melts inside. Oh! T, the things you do and share with me.

I’m wet. I believe I don’t need an external intervention. My imagination is vivid enough, enough to get me wet. But I still need her. No, I want her. I like the way she smiles when she looks at me. Her oh-so-perfect teeth dazzling me blind. Her gentle nudging, touching. I love it all.

She likes her taste. Every time, she ends up with the veggie in her mouth. “The aftermath is worth cherishing,” she said. It gives her a certain high no narcotic ever did. She’s a bad girl, always trying out things with guys older than her. I wonder what her parents know. Would they approve? I hope not.

T believes in a try-it-yourself approach to life. She jumps unbelievably fast into the unknown and the untrodden path without thinking of the outcome. She is daring. I give her that.

4

I was peevish on my first weekend as a menstruating new-kid-on-the-block. Popsicles on my mind. I called up Tessa. “Hi, T! How’s it going! Tried anything new?”

What the hell just happened? I blurted out too soon. One down on my bucket list. Well, T. How about we start again?

“Nothing much. Reading Lolita,” came from T. Of course, she’s reading Lolita. A book every teenager should read. Especially one with burning desires. One who opened a bottle full of bleeding surprises. A girl coming out of age. One with the desire of popsicles.

“T! I feel like having popsicles. Why don’t we grab some on our way to the city mall?”

The mall is our go-to place every weekend. Window-shopping. Ice skating. Ten-pin bowling. Munching on popcorns at the movies. Holding her hand once in a while. So soft and serene and warm. Popsicles.

“What! You want to try some for yourself, or you want me to help?” cracked T.

Whoa! She got me finally. I think this is it. I can finally pop the question. “11 o’ clock at your door,” I cried being all wet downstairs. I hope she didn’t catch me moaning.

All this business downstairs is driving me nuts. Keeping me guessing what next. Is this it? What’s the big deal about it? How do I take control of it? What if it happens in front of Ma, Pa, my sister or worse, T! Popsicles.

5

“What’s your color, girl? Try the Icy Spicy. The newly launched!” advised T. Why not? Anything goes for T. “But you will have orange!” I snapped. T laughed agreeably.

I see her lips turning. The motion. The vibration of her mouth. The creases on her chin and cheek. The squinting of her eyes. Juice flowing out. Dampening her like a moisturizer down her chin.

I reached out to her. “You got some on your chin. Sloppy T!” I said. Her eyes glistening with mirth. My T! Just look at her. Full of joy and juice.

I got what I wanted. T! No, more than that. There’s more to it than taking T for a ride, like juicy popsicles.

“I’m famished. Especially after this,” T said. Let’s get going.

Looking at the mannequins decked up in different hues, T raised an alarm. “Woah! I love it. This black outfit is meant for me,” T said. I told her to try it out. It’s her birthday next Friday. I better come up with a decent gift. I hope this is it. This dress looks perfect, perfect for T.

T goes to the trial room with aplomb. Her buttocks moving wildly with a swift motion. She moves almost like a model down the ramp with great confidence seen only in the movies. Her hair running down her spine, covering her upper back. What man on earth wouldn’t want her?

The trial room’s lit. T, surrounded by mirrors, takes a confused look at herself before undressing. She seems to have gained some pounds. She puts on the curtains and shuts me out. T and I separate. Now, T stands shrouded behind a veil. I fantasize her undressing surrounded by mirrors on all sides. The top comes off and then the jeans. The bright light shimmers on her skin accentuated by the reflecting mirrors. The room fills up with her scent. She’s in the new dress like a doll.

“You look so…fabulous,” I said with utmost joy. She does look darn pretty. The dress suits her like cream on a cake. The cake’s definitely good. “The price is way above my pocket money. I will wait for the next month,” T smiled. Well, you don’t have to. You are getting this next week.

6

Four days to go. T will be 14 soon. Just a month older than me. I remember meeting her for the first time. We were 11 and ice skating. She was better than me on so many counts. She still is.

Back then, I didn’t feel the way I do now. I was just a child who thought life was rosy and fun. Until recently, everything changed: my body and my thoughts. My life turned upside down in a matter of days. The stream of thoughts is a burden. Where do I look for answers?

I am in the shower, rubbing myself and feeling the warmth travel up my abdomen to my breasts. It’s cold outside. My nips stand out. The rush overtakes my senses like a drug sniffed at a friend’s party. I feel subdued by the sensational avalanche by the gratification of the senses.

Ma has noticed a change in me. I am not aggressive anymore. I feel overwhelmed by the rush of newfound emotions. I listen to my parents now, more than ever. Pa is happy. His little angel is growing up to be a nice lady.

I wish T appreciates the change. I wonder what she thinks of me now. Did anything change? I don’t see it. Better to ask than keep on wondering and be lost like a puppy. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And I am desperate. Raging for love and affection. I need to get her attention.

I start with Lolita. Mr. Nabokov shines some light on perversity. A man riding a 12-year old. His own stepdaughter. Lust got the better of him. Would Ma approve an adult dating me? Pa might kill him.

What does it take to fall in love? Or lust? It’s too much for me. How would I know? Leave alone understand. I hope finishing Lolita will shed some light on this. I won’t ask my parents. They will definitely tell me to concentrate on studies.

What does T think about this? Is she in love? Will she ever love me?

7

Next day at school, I ask T, “You done with Lolita?”

“You bet I did.”

“You like it. How do you feel about it?”

“It was like a smooth ride on a horse galloping seamlessly. I felt the emotions hitting me. As if it was told to me in person. I was completely engrossed. Such an epic tale. You should totally try it.”

“I have already started. Got to the 50th page. A long way to go. I enjoyed it so far.”

“I’m glad you did.”

I felt a bit insecure talking about the intimate scenes. And how T feels about an adult with a teenager. What am I ashamed of? I don’t mind talking to T about anything. But something has changed in the recent past. My body and so is my mind. I feel different about things. I feel different about T. She reminds me of the nymphets from Lolita. She would beat each of them hands down. Her attractive-self kills every other beauty in the town. Nobody comes close to her. My T always shining, always bright, always a wonder.

8

Liz… Liz.

The voice of Ma woke me from my slumber. “What is it?” I asked half asleep. A call from T.

“What’s up, T? You up so early?”

“I have to tell you something important. I am leaving town.”

“What? Why? How could you…”

“My father got a transfer. We leave this Sunday. I…”

I pushed the phone away, couldn’t believe what just happened. I am totally shattered. And completely awake. T is leaving town. No, she is leaving me. It can’t happen. I won’t let it. It’s ridiculous.

On the brighter side, I don’t have to think of a parting gift. The birthday present would serve the purpose.

9

It is the 6th day since T left. It will be a week soon. Ma’s worried. She thinks I miss my friend. Pa thinks I will get over this soon. My sis keeps on asking me the reason for my dismal mood.

I am lying on my bed shattered and oblivious to the world around me. The sun doesn’t reach me. I stay in the dark beguiled with heightened emotions, unable to submit to the harsh reality. I feel stigmatized by the subtle changes in my environment. My heart shouts for solace. But there is none to be found. I take to Lolita.

I am losing weight as I lost my appetite. I skipped school yesterday complaining of an upset stomach. Today, I have no alibi. I retch at the mere thought of school.

Mr. Burnstein looks at me in dismay, “What troubles you, my child? Tessa is gone only for a while. You can still reach out to her. Meet her during the holidays. Don’t beat yourself up about it.” That’s good to know. I can still see her. As if she’s a convict and I can visit her in prison.

Soon after the class gets over. Steve walks up to me and kisses me. Before anything else, I punch his face several times. He falls down and starts receiving kicks from me. I knock out his front two teeth and give him bruises all over. Mr. Burnstein rushes towards me and takes me to the principal’s office. Steve is taken to the first aid.

“What have you done? Now, he needs to go to the hospital,” Mr. Burnstein said. But he is the one who sexually harassed me. I am the victim here. Hospital! He should go to the prison.

10

All hell breaks loose when you are grounded, unable to move out of the home, paralyzed like a kid who got into an accident. This kid breaks his arm and leg, and stays in a pile of gruesome eternal torture, unable to go out and play, unable to see his friends. He lies in his home all day with a broken heart and soul, sulking into oblivion with no substitute to the maddening turn of fate. I feel for myself as I would feel for him. The incorrigible magnitude of the fate that is encompassing me has taken a wild turn, a ruthless one; rendering me incapable of mere acts of joy. The destitute would laugh at my state, the state which seeks the plentiful amount of empathy. But where is the source to be had it from? Where is the sun which is supposed to shine? Where is T?

I throw up every time I am reminded of the pain that T has left me with. It comes out in the form of a morose, sullen stare into the wilderness of the white wall next to my bed. I stare back at myself through a wormhole cracked into the wall. Liz is staring back at me. It is stigmatizing, to say the least. I feel like I am looking at a different person which is myself but somehow it is not exactly me, but someone else. I reek at the craziness of my thoughts. It scares me. I don’t feel myself in the world anymore. I feel an absence, an entity which has gone astray in an instant wonder. Time stands still while I rack my brain with the dim reality. There is no motion left in me. I hardly feel anything, even my breath which is shallower than ever. Have I stopped breathing?

I try Lolita. But the words are now beyond my reach. I look at the page and the words are illegible. I hardly make sense out of them. Her world is not meant for me. I lose her forever. Her world turns, full of motion but I remain still. Her world thrives while I fade away. Her world has a purpose while I am lost, lost in the great wilderness of unending pain and suffering.

11

Just one more step and I leave the home after a week of solitude, away from the outside world. My feet say I am happy to touch the dusty carpet lying outside the door. I get the goosebumps after my first ever grounding by my parents as well as school. I should be ashamed of my action, and I am. These seven days I realized my fallacy and I repented. I gauge the magnitude of the freedom that I feel on leaving the house. I feel free like the tiger set free in the wild by some wildlife so-called-activists. The tiger seems confused at first, meeting the nature, his real home. A home which is free from any boundaries and limitations. He can wander at will and prey at ease. He cakewalks to his meal when he’s hungry. Rest he lies free of any trouble of the world, no tension, and no worries. There’s nothing bothering him. He’s always at ease with himself, never getting bogged down with worldly affairs. No peer pressure to do silly things which don’t define him. He is free to choose and live a life true to his nature. Nothing overpowers him. He’s the king of his own world, the ruthless hunter. He runs like the wind on his back gently nudging him further to ease his efforts. There is no care in the world that can stop him and subdue him. He’s at home.

The rays of the sun made me half-blind. Where are my shades? I run to my room and find it in my backpack. I haven’t used it in a while. It seems to be broken. The careless me who couldn’t keep it in good shape. I remember throwing my bag last week after returning from school. What an impact on my shades, shattered in half. Just like I am.

I cringe and take a step back to reminisce about the day I was suspended from school. My suspension is over now. I feel nauseated to go back to the place which reminds me of T. I am better left here, way better than causing a ruckus somewhere else. I feel sorry for the souls I have hurt. It saddens me deeply. Every word I said in the past couple of weeks. I take it back. I take back the morose mood which I flashed on others. The sullen face and bloodshot eyes are not what my family deserves. I better stand up for myself, for nothing seems to be helping me. I better go to school and start breathing like I should. I better live for myself, rather than for T.

12

I reach school after a week. My peers shy away from me. Steve looks the other way. He’s still nursing from the bruises. I am the pariah. I am the culprit. I deserve it.

Lily walks up to me. She tells me that she is an LGBT activist. I ask, ”What’s LGTB?”

“No, it’s LGBT. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. You may call it a gay culture or queer culture. Unaccepted by society, we support each other.”

“That’s great. But why am I hearing this?”

“Because you are one.”

“You are out of your mind. Better watch your words.”

“It’s all right. You don’t want to accept it. I understand. But I did notice a lot going on with you and T. The sad part is that she doesn’t know.”

You got me. Now take me to the gallows. I wish to be exterminated and let the society get rid of a queer. I will wear the rope like a necklace around my neck, stand on a chair, and push it away myself. I need punishment. I need a tree. Hope the branch doesn’t break and make it a tragedy.

13

So, I’m a queer, un unconventional section of the society, only to be mocked upon and ridiculed by people considering themselves as pure and in sync with nature. I am twisted inside, and crooked in the head. I defy nature and gravitate towards the unknown at will, with no sense of morality. I am an undignified soul with the purpose of mass impurity, an upliftment of the creepiest nightmares of the public. I am the harbinger of the doomsday of the very natural state of mankind, the state which helps us to procreate and leave our mark in the world after we die. I am the force who beckons an end to the continuance of our species. I will make the world ridicule me, and worse my family. How can I let this happen?

The whole world comes crashing down on me. I lie in a pile of innominable thoughts, full of clutter. Lily made me unload another tiger, this time onto my bed. I must lie at the edge afloat to have a fighting chance. I must kill the tiger somehow. I must come to my senses.

I have gone astray. The world seems to be acting normal, but I…

“Lizzy. You have a call,” came from downstairs. Lost in another world, it took me a moment to come to the real one. “Liz…” came again.

“Hello! This is Elizabeth.”

“Hi! There. I hope I am not disturbing you. But I haven’t heard from you in a while. What’s going on, Liz? I heard about the incident…”

“Oh! That. It was one I regret. I’m so sorry.”

“You better be. You put Steve down and in the hospital.”

She starts laughing. I missed it so much. I am elated at the mere sounds coming out of her movements. I feel her presence, standing right in front of me.

“So how’s it going? Will I ever see you again?”

“Soon. I am returning this summer.”

14

Summer, I wait for you. I tackle the emotions running through me like bees in a honeycomb, flapping their wings to cool the air inside to save their home from the desultory heat outside. They work as a team, supporting each other through thick and thin, looking after each other. T and I were close, too close I would admit. And we will be back again together. We are meant to be together, at least as friends. I am afraid to confront her with my feelings towards her. Will she reciprocate and invite me in?

The burning desire inside me is stronger than ever before. I am clear on what I want. I was never so sure of anything else in my life, until now. There’s no dissonance, no second thoughts I admit. I feel liberated like an eagle let out after held in captivity for eons. The wind beneath my wings is thrusting me upwards, and I want to fly higher. My dreams will come true sooner I suppose with T on my side, cajoling me. We will spoon and take turns.

I am wet, thanks to my mind wandering to the Dreamland where everyone is happy and satisfied. Everyone’s at peace and accept each other without any restrictions. Nothing stops them from indulging in their fantasies. They do without the care of the world. There’s no hesitation, no second thoughts. A common friendly force of nature binding them all into submission to their nature. They submit to their basic instincts, their natural state without any boundaries put forward by the society. They are true to themselves and those they affect.

The Postmeister

11

It’s on tonight. You know when and where – Matthew finds this note the next day.

He’s glad that Juana is out there alive and kicking. He longed for her all these years. His excitement knows no bounds. He leaps in joy. She accepted his request. It’s happening all over again.

“What do you expect out of this? If you want to have a look, just spy on me. There are so many others out there. Throughout the world. Why don’t you reach out to them?”

“Hello Juana, and it’s good to see you again. Please be calm. I don’t like this as well.”

“That makes two of us. Now what?”

“It’s been five years and the board is still intact, still behaving the same way. Now, all we have to do is reach out to these people and find out if they know anything.”

“Well, good luck with that. I wish you well. But don’t make me a part of this. I got too much on my plate. I am now grown up and have responsibilities. I don’t have time for this.”

“Of course, you don’t. I thought maybe you were as curious as I am. Maybe, you would like to find more about this. It’s all right. Good luck with your career. So it’s goodbye then.”

“Goodbye,” Juana said. She leaves the bistro leaving Matthew all by himself. Now he sits and thinks. He goes deep. People start staring at him. They might be thinking he’s into some drugs. He sits there looking like an addict who’s lost his mind. He doesn’t move a muscle.

“Are you all right, man? You look like a frozen yogurt. I don’t mean to offend but what’s up with you. My girlfriend is worried,” a neighbor said.

Oh, right. His girlfriend is worried. At least, he has a girlfriend. What about poor Matthew whose dream girl walks out the door never to return. She’s gone for good this time or so Matthew thinks. He is too deep in his thoughts. And the neighbor’s girlfriend gives out a shriek.

The Parley

3

“You get more attractive as the day progresses,” Ron said. He pokes at June to see if she’s awake.

“Excuse me?”

“Morning is a bad thing. You always said that. It irritates you. And you feel twitchy. Afternoon wakes you up completely. The evening brings out your color to get you ready for the night.”

“I don’t know where you are going with this. I guess you are drunker than I am.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. Stop poking me. You can’t take advantage of a helpless, drunk girl.”

“Why? What’s stopping me? You can take advantage as well. What’s stopping you? I will never bitch about you.”

“What are we doing here? Why did we come here?”

“You were not in a condition to go home. You wouldn’t let me take you home. I decided it’s best to sleep here tonight.”

“So you are making decisions for me now. I feel fine. Let’s leave.”

“I have already paid.”

“Aren’t you an optimist? What did you pay for? To keep me here all night.”

“Not against your wishes, of course. You are leaving tomorrow. Aren’t you? We will take a cab tomorrow morning to your home and then go straight to the airport. How about you spend a moment with your best friend. Your childhood friend. Best friends forever, remember?”

“Of course, I do. Why won’t I?”

“It seems you hardly care for me now. I don’t know what’s got into you. Your behavior…You are reckless. Getting drunk out of your mind…”

“Gina dumped me.”

“Why?”

“She said I’m wasted. Do I look wasted?”

“You look beautiful.”

“There you go, lover boy. Easy for you to say, lover boy. How many times I told you no?”

“You said no, not never. You were running away from Gina. But you were also running away from me.”

Strip Them Away

2

“There are here, Mr. President.”

“Send them in…I was getting desperate. Good day to you, beautiful ladies.”

“Thank you, Mr. President. Good day to you. I am Jennifer Toe, the head at The Kill Switch. And this is my partner, Stacey Foot.”

“Hello there. Isn’t this a big surprise? Foot and Toe. Got a Row…”

A blank silence follows.

“What will you have? Tea or coffee?”

“Tea is just fine. Thank you for asking.”

“Now tell me all about it. What is going on?”

“Sir, 15 years ago we started working on artificial semen. It was supposed to make a woman choose what she wants. Customization is the ultimate customer service.”

“I see. Such a gem of a business idea. You name spells doom. No wonder you were hiding.”

“As you may recall the #MeToo movement, it spread far and wide. Both of us were victims once upon a time. We decided it was time. We said no more. We started working on a solution.”

“Jennifer, if I may call you by your first name. You call this a solution. Isn’t this preposterous? What is the role of men in our society now? Was this about power struggle?”

“You bet it was. It always is. Men have been uncanny and ruthless with women. We can’t be subdued no more. This is our answer. We have played our parts in the service of sisterhood. But this is just the start…”

“Start? What do you mean? There’s more to come. What are you not telling me?”

“Sir, we need to market our product.”

“That is all fine. You want the business. But we need to make a call on this product of yours.”

“No matter what, we go ahead. We will make do with or without your support.”

“Then we will shut you down.”

“What do you think helped us keep this a secret all this while? You think women in power don’t want this already. We have massive support. Don’t underestimate us.”

The interaction was way off the charts. The President hoped for something better to come out of it. Jennifer and Stacey showed what was to come in the future. If this is how women start acting, then the doom of men is inevitable. It is time for women to take on the world. It is their birth right. Earlier, a female God was worshipped instead of a male God. History has a habit of repeating itself. And this ground breaking invention spells doomsday for men. Now it’s up to the women to let men out in the world.

Strip Them Away

1

“This is our day. We have achieved a miracle. This is fortunate for all those women out there who want independence. We have cracked the code. What’s the update on the baby?” Jennifer said.

“She is doing just fine. Yes, indeed. This is a miracle. Our years of hard work has yielded finally. We don’t need men anymore. We are lucky to have this secret discovery kept to ourselves over a period of 15 years. The year 2033 will be remembered as the most important year in the history of mankind. Or should I say womankind?” Stacey said.

“Let us be careful now. How do we make it public? We may receive backlash,” Jennifer said.

“Don’t you worry about that. First, we have to make sure that our invention stays amongst us. No one gets to meddle with it. It is ours.”

“Damn right you are. No one gets near it. We will call upon all the women in the world and discuss the next…”

There’s a knock on the door. “May I come in? Sorry to interrupt. But it couldn’t wait.”

“What couldn’t wait? What’s going on? Why is everyone here?” Jennifer asked.

“It’s all over the news. We are done for. Someone betrayed us.”

“They call it an abomination. Well, men are the abomination on earth. When will men realize that?” Stacey said.

“Sisters, I believe it’s time for us to take it to a mass level. We will knock on doors if we have to. We will make this work. I promise you. Every woman will know her right to be who she wants,” Jennifer said.

“It’s my husband. He must be having questions…” Stacey said. She leaves the room.

“I will handle every question the government throws at us. We are not stepping back no matter what. Do you hear me?” Jennifer said.

A roar of yeses echoed in the room. Stacey returns and says, “Okay, the President wants to speak with us. Let us prepare.”