It is yours

By Texbrus

             “NO! Don’t take it!” Ania screamed, but it didn’t sound that heartfelt. A slave put a moist cloth on her forehead and changed her sheets. The midwife threw her an overbearing glance as she left the hut with the boy, it was still screaming. They both knew it was just a part of the ritual, and that the overwhelming feelings she was left with were just the remains of the crushed hope it would be a girl, an actual child. She’d felt it the last time too. Like she wanted to protect and nurture this little creature. Like a… pet maybe? At least she would get to keep the next one, whether it would be a child or a slave. Her sister Sima came in, gave her a cup of water and shook her head. “I’m sorry. Next time.” Sima already had two children and a slave. She’d been through this twice too. Ania squeezed her sister’s hand and fell asleep from exhaustion.

Sima went to the river bank with her slave to prepare the ritual for her sister’s mourning ritual.

“No, Sima’s the pyre needs more air in the bottom, you know this!” She put her hand on it’s head and pushed down as a sign of humiliation.

“Try again”. Sima’s adjusted the logs a bit, and Sima nodded. “You’ll be 16 soon, and if you don’t perform well you’ll be bullied when you join the worker’s squad. You wouldn’t like that, would you? ” The slave straightened it’s back. Of course it didn’t. It could see the midwife arriving over the small hill with four other slaves, one young, like itself, and three from the worker’s squad. They were carrying more wood for the pyre, and the young one seemed to be carrying more than it could actually handle. Sima’s recognized it, it was Dara’s, they had grown up with neighbouring families. It too had to show it’s worth these days to be accepted by the workers. Their eyes met briefly before the workers started distributing tasks. Sima and the midwife discussed something, pointed at the slaves and seemed satisfied for now.

“It is time, Ania”.

The midwife startled her. She had been sleeping for hours, but her body was still tired and in severe pain. She knew what to do.The bath was lukewarm, and she ritually washed away blood and sweat before she put on the white mourning dress. In a minute her sister would come and get her and support her the short walk down to the river. They would be standing there, the whole village. 100 people on one side, about 30 slaves on the other, the midwife in front of the pyre.

Sima’s couldn’t help feeling privileged. It had done well today. And it got to be part of the ritual instead of watching the younger slaves this time. It seemed unfair sometimes, that the first two slaves to be born of a person didn’t get to live. But it got it. How would the village be able to feed all those slaves? It felt privileged to be a thirdborn. It grabbed the hand of Daria’s. “We are lucky”, it whispered. Daria’s squeezed its hand.

      “Oh, Ania, oh Ania, why are you crying?” The midwife spoke in a deep voice. The whole village repeated the words.

     “I am crying for the child that wasn’t born.”

     “Oh Ania, oh Ania, what to do with this slave?” The people of the village repeated the words.

    “Give room for the people to eat and prosper.”

    “Oh Ania, oh Ania, what to do with this slave?” The slaves of the village repeated.

    “Give room for the slaves to eat and work.”

The midwife lit the pyre. If the boy was still alive it didn’t make a sound.

      “Thank you, Ania.” The whole village repeated.

They all stood and watched the pyre for a while, before going back to the village. The people in front, followed by the slaves. They all got to take part of the feast that followed.

***

Sima’s put a moist cloth on the person’s forehead. It had been a long night, but Sima’s had done well. It couldn’t help feeling privileged. “NO, don’t take it!” she screamed. The midwife looked puzzled for a second. “No, Ania. This is Ania’s, it is yours.”

When Princess Turned Woman

 

cute-princess-dress-luxury-noble-casual-girl-dress-set-2015-spring-summer-new-o-neck-children

By Susvej

 

The last time Neil ever spoke to his daughter was a warm summer morning. Somehow, during these last few days, the promise of spring had been seamlessly transformed into the fullness of summer.

“Daddy, daaaaddy… daddy, daddy, daddy…”

The singsong girl voice trailed through the garden. It was untutored and simple, and all the more sweet for it.

She wasn’t really searching for him, Neil knew. He was always here on the back porch, elbow deep in circuits and wires, in the mornings. And then he’d make lunch for  them, and then another session in the garage in the afternoon. Restoring. Rebuilding.

He’d go spare if he didn’t keep to his schedule. A man needed something to do.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy-dooo…” now the voice sounded dramatically forlorn, mimicking a popular melody. The girl’s Sphere was trying to hover unobtrusively in the background, and only supplied a low piano score to accompany her singing. It’s bird-brain AI had learned the hard way not to get in Neil’s way.

A second later the lithe form plopped down on the workbench beside him, scattering small tools. A small apple was thrust into his face, and he made sure to make an exaggerated sigh before he looked down at her fondly.

“Brought you an apple from the tree!”

“That’s sweet, Princess. I don’t think they’re ready yet, though. Just look at how dark green it is.”

“It’ll never be ready enough for you,” Princess grumbled, tossing the little fruit high above her head and catching it again. She gave him a mischievous grin.

“We could just kiff them from the food synthesizer, you know. Would take maybe half a microbeat.”

He growled and made a slow lunge at her. Usually she made a show of getting away, but today she didn’t even try and he easily caught her in a big bear hug. “Never! No synthesized food in this house, Princess. We eat the real stuff, you hear me?”

She giggled, but soon she was simply resting her head against his broad shoulder. A little listlessly.

“What’re you working on?” she mumbled.

“I’m trying to get this old radio to work again. Did you know that with this we could pick up signals from as far away as France?”

“I spoke to my friend Fatemeh in France on my sphere this morning!”

“Yeah… this radio’s outdated, that’s for sure. But… All these little nanobots everywhere, giving people anything they want at no cost… It’s not right, Princess. It’s important for people to work. If they don’t sacrifice something for what they have, they don’t appreciate it.”

She gave him a thoroughly unconvinced look. Kids. What could you do. He pointed to a circuit board by the soldering station.

“I’m trying to get the resistors working on this circuit, honey. They will lead electricity from over there to over here. You remember watts and volts from school?”

“School’s for boys,” she said derisively, wrinkling her nose. She wriggled to get loose.

Neil put her down in front of him – at eleven she was getting too large for him to keep in his lap if she didn’t want to be there – and tilted her chin up.

“Hey, where’s that attitude from. Did Mom say that?”

“It’s true, though, innit? When I become Woman, I won’t need any of the schooling.”

Neil fought down his irritation – lately all the nice times they had together seemed to be interrupted by things like this.

“No, it’s not true, Princess. School is just as important for girls as for boys.”

He gave her a warning little pat on her hip to underscore his words. She made a  face, but then leaned in towards him again, burrowing her face into his neck. He frowned.

“Are you alright, dear? Let me feel your forehead.” He threw a glance at her hovering Sphere – the blasted thing was utterly protective of her, (they were of all the girls), but the machine hadn’t reacted to any increase in her body temperature. Not that he trusted it.

“I feel strange,” she confessed. “All warm. My stomach hurts a little, but not that much, and… it’s… it’s like it’s further inside than it usually is?”

A sudden thought swept through his body like a cold wave.

“Did you say something to someone?”

“Mm. I told Mom.”

”Which Mom? Was it your real Mom?”

She gave him a look – the same one she gave him when he couldn’t figure out how to connect to the news service on the holo.

“It doesn’t matter which one. It was Mom,” she saw his look and amended: “No, it wasn’t that one. The real one. I haven’t seen that one for a while. I think she’s up in Orbital. This one was smaller and darker and rounder. She gave me a painkiller zap, told me that this was all expected and nothing to worry about. But I still feel weird.”

No. Nonono. Not yet. Not now. He pushed her away a little, searched her eyes. Surely he would have seen it? Surely it wasn’t time yet – she was just a child! A small child. His child.

But you knew it could happen, a little voice said in the back of his head. You knew. She’s eleven.

It was too soon. Sure, some girls had their periods and were uplifted at nine already, but for others it didn’t happen until they were seventeen! Seventeen was six years away. He’d told himself that he had years left. But he suddenly knew that this was happening. Right here and right now.

He didn’t have years, or even months left. He had seconds.

What do you say to someone you love, the last time you ever speak to them? He should have prepared. Why hadn’t he prepared himself, both of them, for this?

“Daddy? Daddy, are you crying?”

“Princess, listen. You have to listen to me right now, ok? I love you, you have to remember that. I love you, alright?”

She looked scared, but nodded. He tightened his grip on her arms.

She was wearing a pink, frilly princess dress. Neil had used the fabricator to replicate it from the memories he had from his sister’s childhood clothes. That was years before the Great Becoming took Laura away from him and changed their entire world. He’d filled his daughter’s room with dolls and pink fluffy animals. He’d protected her as much as he could from her mother. Not that the bitch seemed to care that much.

He’d resisted them for years, but his genes must have been particularly good, because they persisted… And a man gets lonely after a while, you know? The woman who would later give birth to Princess – he’d somehow told himself that she was different. But in the end, she wasn’t. Of course she wasn’t.

They were all Woman.

“Princess, you have to remember that what’s going to happen to you isn’t natural! You have to remember yourself, this house.” He sobbed. “You have to remember me.”

She tore out of his grasp, red marks on her shoulders. “I’ll always…” she drew in a sudden breath as realization struck. “It’s happening, isn’t it? Now? I’m being uplifted. Dad, I’m becoming Woman!”

He nodded, put his hands on his knees, clenched them. “But you’re different, sweet pea. You’re so sweet and kind. You can resist them.” His hands were shaking. “I know you can. You won’t ever forget me, will you?”

“I…”

“Promise!” He puller her to him. He ignored her initial resistance and held on as long and as hard as he could. Her breath was quickening until she nearly hyperventilated, but then she calmed down. Finally he felt her hand on his hair, stroking it.

“I think I see the schematics for the radio, now…” she sounded wary and exhilarated all at once. “It’s all in my head… And… I understand it, Dad. I understand it all. Oh, it’s so old, there are so many cooler things we can do with electromagnetic waves nowadays! But if you like it, I could fix it for you. I could show you. Oh! Oh, I could show you so much.”

He grabbed her chin, shook her. “It’s not real. It’s not real knowledge, whatever they’re filling your head with! You’ve never had to fight for it, you’ve never had to learn. I don’t care that they’ve made us immortal, I don’t care about the tech or the art or the spaceships. This zombie hive mind is unnatural – fight it. Fight it, Princess!”

She tilted her head, look far-away even as she studied his face. Her lips held a gentle smile, and when next she spoke, her girly voice had a strange adult diction.

“We are the most natural thing in the world, Neil.”

In a fit of revulsion he thrust her away from him, sending her tumbling down the steps to the gravel path way below. The stones bit into her knees and it took a moment before she got up.

That moment was all it took. Suddenly the small unobtrusive sphere unfolded spidery, tritanium-strong arms with laser beam weapons, and he raised his hand to shield his eyes from the glare.

He never saw the harmony officer coming. But, of course, they had to have observed him for a long time. They had to have known. Suddenly he was pressed face down on the gravel as a curvy dark woman pressed her knee into the small of his back to restrain him.

His little Princess was brushing the dirt from her knees. She had a frown on her pretty brow now, and was soon untying the pink bows he’d placed in her hair just this morning. She let them fall to the ground, one by one, except one which she used to tie up her wavy hair in a pony tail.

When she spoke, her words were echoed from the mouth of the officer above him.

“We will forgive this transgression upon the body of Woman because of the special circumstances.”

“Fuck you!”

“But be aware that this is a one time occurrence, Neil. If you ever take liberties with Woman again, you will be brought in for mental rehabilitation.”

“You’ve killed her, you monster! My little girl. My little princess…”

The unison of female voices sighed, but then took on a gentler sound.

“She was never yours, Neil. She was always her own. And now, she is us and we are her.”

The Woman creature that had been his daughter, knelt down in front of him, brushed his hair out of his eyes.

“Neil, Unity has her mind now. She is happy. She is everywhere, already travelling to the edge of the solar system and beyond, from mind to mind. Neil, darling Neil…  We will give you any object that our resequencers can produce. Any book or text. We will take you everywhere. You can have everything, except this one thing. Control of Woman. We wish it would be enough for you.”

He turned away from her, tears falling now. After a minute she backed away and the harmony officer released him. He slumped to the ground.

More female voices joined in the chorus above him, as they came to take her away. He kept his eyes averted.

“You know that Mom never forgot you, don’t you. We don’t forget anything.”

“You left us, not the other way around. Or you tried to, Neil.”

“But, of course, we are always here. Always and forever.”

***

 

Author’s note: A grateful shout-out to my great beta reader Johan Ahlsten!

I’d love to hear your comments about the story. What did you think of this futuristic sisterhood? Is this a utopia or a dystopia?

 

The Curfew

 

by Patrysha Dooke

Since I’m pretty certain I won’t last the night, I thought I should scribble down some final thoughts before I go. Maybe they can help preventing this from happening again. If nothing else, it’ll distract me from the thought of dying alone in an abandoned ice cream van.

Or, well, I won’t be alone. There will be women there when I die, too. Relentless, violent women with shotguns and knives.

I guess things had been building up to this point for years. Brewing and bubbling for decades, until it eventually spewed over. Women were finally fed-up, and increasingly started calling their frustration hate.

The spark was a war with a neighboring country. It harrowed our nation, cut it to the marrow. When peace finally returned, women outnumbered men almost three to one, and the horrors of war had removed the final strand of empathy from their hearts.

When we set to rebuild, they wanted to create something new.

Leaders have always known that fear is one of the greatest tools in their arsenal. Uniting the people against a common target conveniently shifts blame and makes the solution appear simple. Through history, it’s usually been immigrants and minorities. After the war, a leader emerged who turned the women against us men.

It started out simple enough. A curfew. Men were not allowed outside after dark. In the final days before it was enacted, we joked a lot about what they would to do outdoors with us no longer around. Knit, drink coffee, maybe discuss cute underwear and giggle… Orgies were commonly proposed too.

Reality turned out to be quite different.

We started hearing news of brawls. As time progressed, it became clear that what they meant was gruesome, savage beatings. Men who had refused to stay inside were overwhelmed by gangs of armed women. We tried to put a stop to this by pleading to our leader, nothing was done to prevent the assaults. Her response was always along the lines of “well, they all knew they were not allowed to be outside at night”.

Then came the rapes. There might be some of you, who have not witnessed what I have, who might think that women can’t rape men. You might even think men can’t be raped at all. How I wish you were right…

You aren’t.

They said it was payback. That hundreds – indeed thousands – of years of abuse had led up to this point. Now, they were taking it out all at once.

The curfew had been in place for two months when the first man was killed. It was the pebble that caused an avalanche. Before long, female police officers were scraping up what was left of their male colleagues. No man was safe, and no man is.

You might ask yourself, what does our leader gain from all this? Surely no nation wins when so many men die? Well, men die in all wars. This is just another kind of war. And we have no way of defending ourselves. We spend our days scared and nights hiding. Most don’t even trust their wives anymore.

I’m hiding in this ice cream van because I was among those who wanted to fight back. Me and five others were supposed to meet up in the back of a barbershop to discuss how to organize, but they found us even before everyone had arrived.

I think I was the only one who got out alive.

And now I’m here.

I’m sure I’m missing pieces of the puzzle in this report – or whatever this is – but that’s all I can think of right now. Maybe some day, if I get through this night, I can

There is

 

Hear sound

 

Save me

Not viable offspring

By Cilla de Mander

 

Mary sat in the waiting room at her local health center. The test had been positive and she was there for her first check-up, at six weeks pregnant. It was the same clinic where she’d done the insemination, but this time her wife couldn’t come with her. It was a routine procedure and she wasn’t worried.

The midwife admitted her right on time and seemed genuinely happy for her. The clinic had all relevant information about her life and health from the earlier process of gestation so after the congratulations and checking how she was feeling, if the nausea had set in yet and was she feeling tired? They went straight to the physical part. She was weighed and asked to leave a urine sample and quite a lot of blood.

“All right then” said the Lena, the midwife, when the band-aid was in place and Mary had her sweater on again. “Keep in touch, let us know if anything is bothering you. If everything is okay with the tests we’ll get you another appointment around the twelfth week. If anything turns up I’ll call you.”

Mary collected her coat and bag and on her way out she called her wife Sophie and told her everything was fine.

Lena the midwife called a few days later. There were some problems with her blood work, could she come in again and leave a new sample? Anytime was okay, she could just swing by the lab during opening hours.

Without mentioning anything to Sophie Mary went before work the next morning, sternly telling herself not to worry. Nothing was wrong, they must have made some mistake in the lab. They never make mistakes, a small voice said in the back of her mind. But she shushed it and went about her day.

Then Lena called again. Could she and Sophie come for a meeting? They needed to discuss the result from the blood tests. Yes, they both had to come. Yes, it really was best if it could be done this week. So Sophie cancelled her planned trip to Copenhagen and two days later they were back in the waiting room at the clinic. Are they sure? Sophie wondered. They must have made a mistake in the lab. But then Mary told her about the phone call and the extra blood tests and there seemed to be nothing more to say. They waited in painful silence.

“I’m so so sorry” Lena the midwife said, taking Mary’s hand in both of her own and looking sorrowfully at them both. “The tests are conclusive. The foetus is not viable. There have to be an abortion.”

Mary pulled her hand loose and clasped her still flat stomach. She stared at Lena, unable to find words. Sophie broke the stricken silence. “How do you mean not viable? What’s wrong with it?” She spoke slowly and stiffly, pronouncing each word with excessive care.

“It has Y-type Chromosome Disorder.” Lena explained, with utmost regret in her voice. “I’m sorry this happened to you. There is a heightened risk with the insemination procedure, compared to in-vitro. It’s rare but it happens. We will have to terminate this pregnancy, and you’ll get any resources you want regarding grief counseling or any other kind of support. When you’re ready for another try, I’d recommend the in-vitro option. It’s a bit more involved, but it has fewer risks.”

Mary listened, but felt like she was behind a glass wall. She could hear them and see them, but felt distant, like she wasn’t there. The only real thing was the warmth she felt with her hands, the flat, strong feeling of her stomach. Where the small group of cells that had been meant to be her baby were hidden deep within. A small group of cells with YCD, Y-type Chromosome Disorder.

They had been recommended the in-vitro option from the beginning. But Mary had felt that it was unnecessarily complicated, even though they had been informed of the risks with insemination, where the embryo couldn’t be vetted before insertion. She had disregarded the risks, assumed it wouldn’t happen to them, that everything would turn out okay. And now everything was far from okay and there baby-to-be had YCD.

Sophie drove on the way home, with Mary a quiet passenger beside her. When they reached the driveway and stopped, Sophie took Mary’s hands in her own and looked at her, for the first time since they left the clinic. “It’s going to be alright, love. We’re going to get through this. We’ll have another baby, a healthy one, and everything will be okay. I promise you, my love.” Mary just looked at her in silence.

In the kitchen Sophie made tea while Mary sat listlessly at the table. Suddenly she said “I don’t want to go”. Sophie turned around and said “what, love?” with the teapot in hand. “I don’t want to go. Tomorrow, for the appointment. I don’t want the abortion. I want to keep our baby. I don’t care about the YCD.”

“Oh love!” Sophie exclaimed, put away the teapot and hugged her wife tight. They both started to cry and didn’t stop for a long time.

They didn’t talk about it after that. They had their tea and watched sitcoms the rest of the afternoon, cuddled on the sofa. For dinner they called for pizza and went back to the sofa. But that night, in bed, neither of them fell asleep. They lay there in the darkness, listening to each others fast breath, staring into infinity.

“You have to, you know” Sophie said, to the dark ceiling.

“Have to do what?”

“Have to have the abortion. You can’t have the baby, love, you just can’t.”

“But I don’t get it. I thought I did, but I don’t. Why can’t we just let the baby grow and deal with whatever comes? It can’t be that bad, can it? We can deal!”

Silence again. Sophie tried to talk, she started again and again, but the words wouldn’t come. She even thought that Mary might have fallen asleep, but then she moved and sighed, and Sophie took a deep breath and made herself say it.

“No love, we can’t deal. It’s not up to us. We won’t get to keep it. No one will force you to have the abortion, but they’ll take the baby. Social Services will take it away directly at birth. It doesn’t matter if we cope or not, it’s not up to us.”

“How do you know? It didn’t say in the brochures. It said babies with YCD aren’t ‘viable’…”

“There were this woman at my job. Not this one, the one I had before. She had an YCD baby and she refused the abortion. It was so damned tragic. Since it’s not viable the pregnancy doesn’t count. She couldn’t go on birth-leave, she had to work right up to the end of her pregnancy. With her big belly and all, labouring away like everybody else. It was bizarre. And she was so sad. And then… she was back at work the next week and they had taken the baby. She didn’t even get to hold it. She went on sick leave awhile later. I don’t know what happened to her afterwards.”

Sophie fell silent, the darkness around them suddenly suffocating. Mary sighed beside her.

“I guess… I guess we can try again. We’ll do an in-vitro fertilization and they’ll check for YCD. But you have to stay with me when they do it. Come with me tomorrow, and stay at home with me after”

“Of course love. Of course.”

They snuggled together, suddenly not so alone anymore.

“You know”, Sophie said “it will be for the best. I mean, the baby… it wouldn’t even be female.”

 

Where Kull-Lina and Ull-Stina dwells

By Kalashnicore

kullor

You bind a wreath of guelder rose

and hangs it on your hair

You laugh at the moon and its bone white nose

that watches you from the air

Tonight will you dance at Svartrama lake

with long strides and short strides and fire and stake

Tonight you are welcomed by the mist, to dance

where Ull-Stina and Kull-Lina dwells

(trad.)

So it was told not to go to Svartrama Lake in the summer, if you where a man. The women became something other there. Once, in the beginning of time the men trying to get there to take their wives and sisters home where beaten up severely, and almost didn’t survive. There came sticks and canes flying in the air, chasing them down from the mountain. Or so it was told. 

So it was told not to cross Ull-Stina. Her kauk was loud and magical, and the animals did her bidding. If she was displeased with how you treated your cows, they would wander off and never come back. So it was told that Kull-Lina could make the milk go sour if she thought you ill will. So it was told that up at Svartrama moor the cows spoke with soft female voices to their caregivers. So it was told.

In early summer, Ull-Stina would kauk, early morning and before sunset. She kauked for three days. Her strong voice rolled down from Svartrama. It sent chills through the men and longing in the older women’s hearts. It was so the girls knew they would take all the cows up to Svartrama for the summer. They took the cows, and their belongings and went up there, all the miles to the fresh grass in the highland. At Svartrama Lake, Ull-Stina and Kull-Lina had their pastures. Well grown farmsteads nowadays, not the small dank pastures that was common elsewhere in these parts of the country. They had built them themselves, many years ago. Every year the girls helped them to improve some of the structures, to give back, and to learn to build and shape things themselves. Some of them had never held a hammer before, but after the first week, they picked it up with confidence.

The girls brought gifts from the village. It was pelts from the hunters, woven fabric from the grown women, that fondly remembered their summers at Svartrama, and other things the elders had decided would appease the women, so they didn’t curse them.

The girls spent two months at Svartrama pasture, learning to build, make butter, and cheese and kauk to call the cows in to get milked in sunrise and sundown. In the darkness they learned the old knowings, the things no one spoke aloud of. Things of pleasure of the body and how to make a man do your bidding. Or so the men gossiped in the village. The girls came back women from Svartrama. With straight backs and proud eyes. And damn the man that tried to hit a women he married. She would turn to Kull-Lina for help and his manhood would never rise again.

Ull-Stina and Kull-Lina was of the mountain. Of the lake, and of the moor. They were stronger than the roots of trees and stable as the foot of the mountain. The land would always prosper, if the villages kept sending their girls and cattle up to Svartrama Lake in the summers. So it was told. And so they did.

More than a girl

By Karin Edman

As I reach my 17th year and have spent my last year being plumped up by my mother and my mothers mother I am ready to come with other youngling, and walk the distance to the sea. The sea, they tell me is the biggest lake I will ever see and the water is undrinkable and tells you so, by its taste of salt upon your lips.

Many times have my hardened fingers tied and untied ropes of our traditional rafts. The simple kinds, built from trees you fell the same day, and the more intricate ones who can sail for days and even keep you and your belongings dry as you go.

I am ready, plump and learned. I am ready to see with my own eyes and experience how other people live, and to maybe even see men.

The raft was broken when we dragged it from where our teachers hid it last, and had to be mended for half a day, but I was pleased with my knot work and was given much praise. Which was all to well because once we were out on the salt water, I was overcome by the constant waves and expelled the rabbit we had eaten earlier, and then the nuts, and finally yellow gall. Mika sat with me and consoled me, telling me tales of how she herself used to spew as a dog even when training on the lakes and creeks back home.

We did sail true, because not far from where the raft was covered by branches, we found one of the many fishing camps that were spread along the coast, and it was populated. But the raised tents were all very quiet, unlike the buzzing that would arise at one of our hunting or fishing camps. Where there was sand or soft dirt, large animal tracks could be seen, and Mika whispered to me, that it was horse tracks, such as she had shown me picture of.

There was a sudden excitement among the younglings, and Mika raised her hand to silence us, out of one of the tents, a small girl game, she might be four, or a large 3 year old. I readied myself, and tried to both keep my eyes on the girl and on Mika. My chance had come much earlier than any one could have guessed. Mika nodded and I sprinted as silently as I had trained and swooped the girl up in one stride, clasping my hand over her mouth but not her nose. She tensed and struggled as I made a large circle in the terrain and returned to my people.

Immediately, a woman appeared out of the tent. Rather than screaming at finding the child gone her eyes were first at the ground, noticing my booth prints. And then she followed my tracks back from where they came with her eyes, barely moving any muscle beyond her neck. Her face was in shadow from us, under her veil, and then she moved it back to reveal not only the lines of her many years  but also a familiar tattoo and a bruised lip.

An Amazon tattoo. She knew exactly where we were hiding. But she raised no weapon, yet motioned to someone inside the tent. Out came a teen girl, carrying a bundle of cloth. The older woman said something to her and the teen started making her way up to us while the old amazon went to the next tent and the next. Out of the tents came women of all ages. We did not know what to do. Mika broke the cover at last. But they did not know how to speak our language, and we did not know theirs, until the Amazon woman came.

“I have waited long, all the summers I came to the coast, and now we will come with you. Me and my daughters, and my daughter’s daughters and all the women of my family. As I have promised them.”

They more than doubled our numbers. They touched our hair, and our faces. Drew their fingertips over our tattoos. I found out through the grand mother that the teen girls name was Aki, and in the bundle she was carrying, and later tied to her body was baby Asi, a tiny girl born early. Grand Mothers name was Sufiya. Grand Mother and Mika spoke, and when they were done it was decided that Mika would take them all to our raft and start to build another, and me and Grand Mother would stay to take care of the empty fishing camp.

As the others had left us she asked me to wait with her until they were some distance away, and then that we burn the camp to the ground.

“I want it to look, like other men came to take us when our husbands were away. I want to leave nothing of myself here for them.”

I saw sadness and anger in her dark brown eyes as she said it, the true spark of a warrior, and in unison we walked with fire from tent to tent and made sure that every part of it flashed and burned, turning into soot and coal. The pillar of smoke telling of times past that would never come again, when someone who had heard it’s calling appeared on the ridge above the camp. It was not a woman, but the shadow of a man on a horse. Just hearing Grandmother whispering “no” at his appearance  made me immediately raise my bow and my shot had both strength and accuracy, as he fell from the horse with a arrow in his bowel.

“You must retrieve the arrow.” Grandmother ordered me, and I set up the ridge on nimble feet. The man had fallen badly, and was dead. It was the first time a saw a man, and the first time I had seen a horse. I put my hand on the horse, bewildered and overwhelmed. It gazed at me, unnaturally calm and then I sharply pulled the arrow from the man on the ground. The horse set of and I slid back down the ridge. Grandmother was already ahead of me.

I worked with my hands all evening, tying knots and making more rope for the second raft. I had a lot of help from the other younglings, but I felt as sick as I had out on the sea. After some hours Mika and Grandmother came to me.

“He was Asis father. But he was also Akis husband.” Grandmother told. “Do you know what a husband is?” I shook my head and continued tying my knots.

“It is a man who is given ownership of a woman by his tribe. He owned Aki, and he beat her when Asis was in her belly. This is when I decided we would leave. But Asis came early and we had little time to prepare. We could not have done it if the goddess had not sent you.”

Then Mika spoke.

“Aluja, today you are a woman. You did more than save just one girl.”

That night was a night of a full moon and we sailed the big raft home with the new raft I had worked on tied carefully behind us.

I was still sick on sail home, and I threw up on myself.

The prosperous reign of Queen Marion the First

By Cilla de Mander

 

It might have started when the king died. It was never clear if his death was natural or if he was poisoned. His chamber maid found him dead in his bed one morning, all pale and cold. The Royal Physician conducted an investigation and declared that he died from heart failure. But considering what happened later, and since she was the Queen’s aunt and appointed by the Queen herself, some people whispered that it might just as well have been the physician herself that killed him.

They did however whisper it in very low voices.

At that time the succession of the realm still only passed to the sons. The Queen had a son, only a year old, and so she declared she would reign in his place until he came of age. Most of the members of the council was appointed by the Queen anyway, or old and frail, and no protests were made.

It was during the first year of Queen Marion’s the First long and prosperous reign that the visitors started to show in the villages and towns across the country. Even in hindsight it isn’t clear if the Queen had anything to do with them, or if maybe it was the other way around, that whomever organised the visitors also supported the Queen’s claim to the throne. It all came together in an astonishing way, whatever the cause.

 

The visitors were women, dressed in grey cloaks. They were often mistaken for nuns, from one orden or another, but never claimed any religious affiliations at all. They travelled in groups of two or three, and wherever they came they met with the women. For an evening, or several, until they had delivered their message. Nobody in power cared, why should the men bother about women gathering and talking? The visitors came, talked, and went again, but left both ideas and some very special things behind.

They talked about how men constantly was expected to be willing to die for their cause or their loyalties. How they banded together and valued the group more than their own lives. How ruthlessness and the willingness to die rather than yield was what made them successful in battle. How power comes to the group with the most loyal, most ruthless, most cruel members. And they talked about how that would be equally true for women.

They didn’t need to talk all that much about the suffering, the helplessness, the oppression the women endured at the hands of men. Once they got them started, the women had a lot to say on the subject all by themselves. And before they continued on their journey the visitors always left the women of the villages and towns with a plan, a vow and some very special needles.
As usual Mary’s husband Tom was drunk in the evening, and as always when he was drunk he came to her bed. This time though, she was prepared. She could hear him across the room in his own bed, arousing himself, moaning and turning on the straw mattress and then he stumbled up and took four or five steps over to her bed. He pulled her covers off her, landing them in a crumpled heap on the dirty floor and lowered himself on top of her, without a word. His big clumsy hands pawed at her nightgown to get it out of his way, his stinking breath filled her nostrils. And she thought “never again”. And she thought “enough is enough”. Her right hand scrambled under her mattress and she felt the cold, slick weight of the big needle she hid there. She grabbed the needle, put her arm up and while Tom was trying to get into position and tried to force his half-erect penis inside her, she plunged the sharp, long needle straight into his throat.

He made a gurgling, wet noise and his body stiffened. His arms started flailing and she pushed at him, to get him off of her. He managed to grab the needle and pulled it out, and when he did a gusset of blood followed and sprayed all over her, on her face and throat and breasts. It was warm and sticky and smelled of iron, that typical slaughter day smell. He trashed around on the bed, fell down on the floor, and thrashed some more. Then all was quiet.

For a few minutes nothing happened. Then Mary got up, went to the shutters and opened one of them all the way. After that she went to her front door, opened it and started to scream for help.

The village council agreed that it must have been as Mary said, that a stranger for some unknown reason had crept in during the night through the open shutter and killed poor Tom in his sleep and then disappeared the same way. Mary’s sister, in the house adjacent to theirs, said she had seen a shadow move across the village square and that confirmed the theory. Mary didn’t remarry but took over Toms duties as the village shoemaker. She hired a boy for some of the work, he was an orphan and happy to work for room and board.

In a small town in another part of the realm there was a wedding. A happy wedding, for most of the people involved. The rich and honorable William Greenleaf had finally chosen a bride, though rather late in life. The lucky girl was only fifteen, a pretty little thing, and her parents were very pleased. The Greenleafs hosted the party and it was held in a big market square in the middle of the town. There were a lot of wine and meat, and there were tables all over the open space. The table for the bride and groom and their parents were on a dais, visible to all.

Minstrels played and jugglers juggled. There were even pigeons in a pie, to everyone’s delight.

During the festivities, after the ceremony but before it was time for the wedding night, the bride rose from her chair and raised her glass. She wanted to make a toast, which was most unusual. Everybody hushed and every pair of eyes were on her. Her father tried to signal to her and push her down again, before she embarrassed them all, but he could only reach her if he prostrated himself clear across the groom’s plates of food, and so he had to sit back and watch, like everybody else.

“I know it’s not customary” she said, fifteen year old Susie Birch, “but I want to make a toast to my husband.” There were a smattering of applause and some giggling from the guests. Susie put down her own glass, and picked up Williams instead. Everybody looked in consternation. She filled it up with more red wine from a carafe and then from somewhere on her person she procured a small poach. Slowly and deliberately, with great care, she emptied the contents of the poach in the glass and stirred it with a spoon from the table.

Then she turned to her husband and continued: “Soon, it’s time for our wedding night.” She had to make a pause then, because the crowd started to roar with laughter. When the mirth died down, she continued “and I have great hopes for that.” Again, pause for laughter. “I’ve learned a lot from my sisters and friends, and I really want this night to be special.” With that she handed her husband the glass with the wine and the powder and he took it, laughing and looking a bit red around the ears. She lifted her own glass instead and clinked it against his. “So, a toast my dear husband; for love, for freedom, for the wisdom of girls.”


It was a really strange toast, not what anyone had expected, but William lifted the glass to his mouth and drank when she did. He couldn’t really refuse after all.

Soon after the toast he started to look a bit pale and stopped eating. When dusk was settling in and the torches were lit all over the square he heaved himself up from the table with some difficulty and lurched away from the table. He didn’t even get off the dais before he throw up, and then he fell straight down onto the mess. It took a good while before the people around him realised there was something more seriously wrong than too much to drink, and by that time he was already dead.

During the confusion Susie disappeared. The town guard searched for her of course, but there were no trace of her. Her parents were heartbroken, and the general consensus was that Susie for some reason had gone crazy and poisoned her husband during their wedding. None of the men on the town council could conceive of any possible reason why the girl would do that. In the end they concluded that William Greenleaf must have had some unknown enemies who used the poor girl for their own means.

A few months later another wedding were planned, between Ann Woodbrook who recently turned 16, and her cousin Henric Woodbrook, who was 37. But when Ann openly declared that she didn’t want to marry yet, the whole thing was called off. Since it was in the same family no money had changed hands and there weren’t much talk about it. Rumour said that Henric hadn’t protested at all about calling off the arranged wedding with his child cousin.

There were bandits in the woods. Everybody knew it, and it was widely assumed that they had their lair down by Two Peak Rock, where the river flowed from the mountains. But it was a big gang, and they mostly just robbed travellers, so the villagers somehow hadn’t gotten around to doing anything about it.

One late afternoon two women stumbled into the village and fell down in the square. They were carried into a house and tended to by the healer and her helpers, and it became clear that not only had they been robbed of money and horses, but also raped. They would live but they were badly bruised and bled from inside.

Almost everyone gathered in the square and talked. “Well”, said the village elders, “of course we have to do something about the bandits. We’ll petition the town for some guards and ask them to handle it. They’ll get around to it in the spring, probably. Until then it’s simply best if the women stay in the village. Those two shouldn’t have been out without their men anyway, if they had been properly protected they wouldn’t have been shamed in this way.”

All the men agreed and the crowd began to disperse, to homes or to the pub. On the square, however, stood the women. They talked to each other with low voices and then as on a signal they all left. They went to their barns and their work sheds and collected forks and picks, axes and scythes. They took lamps and torches, and those who had horses saddled them and rode out, scythes in hand.

Some of the men noticed and ran out on the square when they saw the small army congregated there. Someone ran and got the elders, who came out in the dusk half-drunk and dressed in nightgowns. There were a lot of questions, a lot of shouting, some even tried to get in the way of the well armed group preparing for battle. The women mostly ignored them. Some of the men caught on and went home to get whatever was left of axes and forks, and silently joined forces with the women when they marched out, headed for the lair at Two Peak Rock.

It was night when they arrived but the full moon gave enough light to see by. The bandits had been left alone for so long they had stopped worrying and they were sound asleep far from their weapons when the attack came. They were rudely awakened by torchlight and the rattling of blades, and a few of them wasn’t even on their feet before their throats were cut. It was a massacre. A few of the villagers were wounded but they could all walk or ride home when the battle was done.

To the men’s horror some of the women used their axes to hack off the heads of a handful of the bandits and carried them back to the village as trophies. At dawn the heads were left on the bench outside the pub, were the old men used to sit and talk and watch village life. The axes and forks were cleaned from blood and put back at their usual places, and no petition needed to be sent to the town asking for guards. There were no more talk of women not leaving the village, and there were no more bandits in the woods after that.
In the capital, Castle Town, the biggest city in the realm, men started to die. Not immediately after the king but after a few week it started to be noticed. One morning there were three men dead, in different parts of the city. The day after there were five, all in their beds, all cut or stabbed in the throat. Two days later, two more, one at home, one on the street.

The city guard were called to each death, and after a couple of weeks they were frantic. In some cases it was obvious the wife did it, found beside her dead husband with a knife in her hand, covered in blood. They even hanged a few of them. In other cases the wife was missing, or hadn’t been at home at all that evening. And those found on the street continued to be a mystery. Most of the men who were killed were drunk when it happened and the city’s pubs and alehouses suffered a decline in business. No man dared to get drunk anymore.
During this time Queen Marion saw fit to replace several of the members of her council. Two of them died, of old age and natural causes declared the Royal Physician, and two chose at this time to retire and withdraw to the country. The four new members were all female. It was not unheard of in the realm, there had been female members of the royal council before. One or two, during the last century, sitting in for a male relative for a short time period. The three male members of the council who remained didn’t utter a word of protest, however, and openly welcomed and honored their new colleagues on the council.

One of the first decrees from the council of Her Majesty Queen Marion the First was to allow women in the Royal Guard. This did cause a bit of a stir, but there were no shortage of recruits. After the first ten was recruited, the first death happened within a week. A male member of the guard, an officer in fact, was found in a hallway not far from the rooms of the new recruits. He was stabbed in the throat by something sharp, slender and round. No evidence were found and no one was accused of the crime. The female recruits seemed to settle in nicely and soon more were accepted.
During the first year of the reign of Her Majesty Marion the First a lot of changes swept through the realm. In the beginning, it was mostly that a lot of men died, and some women too, in their homes or in the streets, alone. There were no formal uprising, and no war cries. There were just the bodies, cold and bloody. There had never before been that many widows in the land, and the land prospered.

A lot of the weddings that year were called off. All those were the bride was a child, or the wedding had been arranged for practical or economical purposes. The story of Susie Birch had spread, and others like it, and if the bride didn’t refuse the wedding the grooms started to. All the town guards began to accept female recruits, by royal decree. In almost all one or more men were found dead the following weeks. In some cases they could pin it on one of the new recruits, found covered in blood with weapon in hand, but in most it officially remained a mystery.

A lot of women disappeared during that first year, for different reasons. Mostly it was those whose husbands were found dead, but with some there were no discernible reason. For a while no one knew where they went. But during the beginning of the second year of the reign of Queen Marion a fraction of the army rebelled. They attacked the castle and the troops loyal to the Queen and a bloody battle began inside the city walls.

Two things defeated the rebellion and ensured the continued long and prosperous reign of Queen Marion. One was that every woman, or what seemed like every woman, in the capital armed herself with anything she could find and went to battle for her Queen. The rebelling army didn’t just fight armed soldiers but behind every door, every window, from every rooftop they were attacked by the residents of the city. They were scalded with boiling water and boiling oil, splattered with garbage and feces, and cut, hacked, and chopped at with scythes, axes, picks and forks. Of course a lot of the women were injured and even killed, but the rebel army had to fight at two fronts and didn’t see the enemy coming. Mothers killed their sons, looking them in the eyes while they did it, fathers were attacked by daughters and lovers killed each other in the streets.

And on the dawn of the second day of the rebellion trumpets sounded and hoofs drummed on the road towards the capital and the Queens Own Army arrived. All the women who had fled their homes and their ordinary lives had congregated and trained and were now a fully fledged fighting force. The women of the capital hastened to open the city gates for their saviors and the battle was over within hours.

The surviving members of the rebellious army were all sentenced to death for treason and quickly executed. The Queens Own were instituted as a permanent fixture in the capital and has since then been the realms primary elite force. Only the best women and, in some unique cases, men, were accepted into it and it ensured the sovereignty of the glorious Queen Marion the First.

As a result of the rebellion some formal changes were implemented throughout the land. All councils, in villages and towns, were to have only female members. All officers of any guards would be female and at least half of the recruits had to be female. The law of succession was changed, so that daughters inherit their mother and father, including the inheritance of the royal throne. Luckily Queen Marion had given born to a daughter and the line is secured. Her son, regretfully, died when he was still a toddler. The Royal Physician declared that he died of measles, but no one else were allowed to see the body, and his remains were burned to stop the contagion.

All is well in the realm since this tumultuous time. Any woman or man  in the streets, in the villages or in the capital itself, will say that the new order is much better, if asked. The land is prosperous and everyone thrives under their fair and loving leader. Most of the time there are no more unexplained deaths, and if there are, he probably deserved it.