Mother came in carrying his sheets one morning.
“It is time,” she said.
He felt ashamed. She had been in his room and she had noticed the stain. His ears got hot, as always when he got caught doing something he shouldn’t be doing. He shrugged.
“Johnny…” his mother said.
“What?” He said, harsher than he meant to. Why was he so angry? Maybe it was a sign that it was time, just as mother had said. But he didn’t want to.
She just stood there, with his sheets in her hands. He couldn’t read her face.
“Johnny, I know it is scary. And maybe even feels a bit unfair. But it is for the best. Your father made the sacrifice with pride. I know he did.”
Flashes of his father’s face came before his eyes. Life expectancy. Short span. Weakness. For the good of mankind. Man. He supposed he was a man now, by the governmental definition.
“How long have you been doing it?” she asked.
“Not long,” he mumbled. Didn’t want to meet her gaze.
“You should have told me at once.”
“I will book the appointment then.”
“Yes, I suppose.” Suddenly he wanted to cry.
She came and took his head against her bosom. His manly stained sheets was between them. God, he loved her. He wanted to make her proud. She released him and went out to the washing room with his sheets.
The office where they distributed The Pill was a large and gray slab of concrete, between two older houses, right in the middle of town center. Big letters over the doors proclaimed “Gov. office”. Johnny tried to straighten up. His mom looked at him with pride.
“You’re so tall,” she said. “Just like your father.”
“Don’t you miss him?” He gazed at her. Didn’t know if he wanted to know the answer.
She smiled sincerely at him. “Yes, I miss him a lot.”
“But you still think this is the right thing to do to us?”
She looked down for a moment. “You weren’t there before, Johnny. You don’t remember. So much violence. Every woman was afraid, all the time. We thought it was the natural order of things. To always worry about violence from the men in our life. Or rape. It was uncontrollable, and after a while, the politicians saw it too. And one day there was a medicine, a cure. My god, how we fought for it.” She was lost in her memories. Cheeks red with either the cold or the excitement of remembering. “They are still doing research on it, Johnny. Maybe you don’t have to suffer the worst of it.” Shorter life span. Most die before 45. Extensive research. Crime rate dropped with 80% in the whole world. For the good of all mankind. Paying back for thousands of years of oppression and violence.
“But maybe I wouldn’t be like the rest of the men. Maybe I would be different.”
“It doesn’t matter. It is the law. You know what happens to men that refuse?”
He did. Prison. Camps. Death. Even shorter life. Yes, he had no choice. He had to do this. For mankind. Why didn’t it make him feel better?
The Pill was small and yellow. It came in flat white packets. No labels. Everybody knew what it was anyway. He got enough to last him half a year, and then an appointment with a doctor to see if he’d gotten some of the more nasty side effects.
“Why don’t we rebel?” he thought when his mother watched him take the first pill that night. “We were the stronger ones once. We could take that power again.” The answer was immediate: rebel with what? They took the boys so early, never past fifteen. And when The Pill did it’s thing, no one wanted to do anything about it. That was the horror and the beauty of it.
Maybe he was one of the more lucky ones, as the days went past. He didn’t feel at all different at first, and when the major changes came, they came so slowly that he almost didn’t notice them. It was a weakness in his arms and legs. No more hot surges of fear or anger. He didn’t miss it.
He was, just like the rest of the male population, content.