Terror of the Flesh
by Sara Sheikhi
Sometimes Prina could see themselves in the mirror and see the woman Patricia.
She wasn’t there anymore, Patricia was filed together with the rest of the 0-1-world, packed in a box that would soon become material for the teachers to use when explaining political history. They were shipping the first edition of Thinking beyond the dualities as Prina were getting ready to leave for work.
She was history. Alas, the dear, overused and mass produced idea of a he also went down with her. It had been on the first page of the daily paper the day after the revolution as a lingual act of contradiction; she was his story now, as if the concept of a sex and a second sex had depleted itself. It was an ending brought by that radical sentence, and upon it a new thinking was forced. The imagination of the oppressed was enforced. The first time was a time full of symbols and new myths arising – an exciting time, as Prina remembered it. The phallos-shaped monuments were cut down, smashed and demolished. Assigned male population were caught by mobs, forcing them to strip themselves naked in the middle of the cold winter. Shame was written on their names, on their bodies, in their faces was suddenly horror to see. The work of destruction of the male symbols lasted longer than expected, the revolve was not a smooth transition, but a tricky turn. When it came to reducing symbols of the feminine, there were fewer things to be found. In fact, it appeared to the assigned females revolting that the few and impractical items concerning symbols of womanhood were linked to the direct pleasing of the men. When it came down to it, they weren’t even symbols of womanhood, only opposite-male symbols. Therefore, they couldn’t be classified as something else than male, since they required the existence of being male. Somewhere in that mess of a society on its brink, a group called Them saw the opportunity to take over the power and start acting new. They said they needed to work separatistic, they couldn’t invite all to their political movement. Only people who were worth it would do.They found the idea of democracy “problematic”.They didn’t want to use history either anymore. Not even as remembrance. “No”, they said, “one must prove an example, otherwise no one will learn” They were the new power-holders, the ones that stood first in line when conducting and designing the Contract. Now they made sure that no child was let out in the world without one. They thought that neither hisstory nor herstory were worth much in comparison to what could be achieved in the new society. In fact, it seemed that there was a lot of talking about what was worth something these days, the modern values had come to rule not only the minds of people but also the classification of them. Prina folded their pants into their shoes and buttoned the gown under the chin. The small pins gleamed over the embroidered chest panel. Prina was a Worthy One. But they had no idea what it meant for they to be rich if that wealth wasn’t an expression of freedom of mind. What was it in their mind that was so hard to describe, what scared Prina so much that the vision in the mirror haunted her?
The 0-1-world, the era of binaries had already started to turn to a memory for some. But for Prina, the revolution itself had not faded away yet from her knowing; Patricia was still a name of her inner realm, it was still a name they guarded with uttermost privacy. They still wanted to be she, at least sometimes, some days when the current reality seemed to queer. This wasn’t what Prina meant with queer, for that part.What they wanted was to be a she again, not because former times of women and men were glorious in any way, but she couldn’t just identify as them. The new norm was choking her inner self, killing her in a new way compared to the misogynic unsharpened blade of a society she endured have had next to her neck so many years. The effect would eventually be fatal. Please pick your preferred way of dying. Is that freedom? Patricia felt like she was living in a shell of lies. No one would understand that what she had inside of her was a pearl. She was too hard on the outside, she kept herself hidden in the sand. If someone just could find her, understand her. How could she express it so that others would understand? People had turn to be too harsh – too much like animals. She had paid Them well, she was serving and earning her monthly wage with a self-worthy assimilation of the new ideals. Do you feel like you are living in the wrong body? No, she definitely didn’t have that feeling, but she had a strong gut feeling saying that the contemporary was fucked up but also that turning back time wouldn’t defuck it in any way. The past haunted her and she asked herself where it all went wrong. There must have been a certain time, a certain place and space where the injury occurred. She tried so hard to find that place. The tears were flowing, she cried out her frustration in her modern and well-furnished apartment. It was her home, but from another point a way, it would never be her home. Patricia would never feel at home with herself after what she had allowed to happen to her and her dreams.
The thought of the revolution made her angry. It had not been a revolution, not as she had pictured it, anyway. It hadn’t been her revolution, neither one of the people. Revolution was just a word that the upper class had abused, another thing claimed from the ones serving them. Sure, the Them consisted solely of people former non-men identifying, but They weren’t representing her. They all looked the same and were born into families of great wealth and well-pronounced articulations. Patricia thought about how she had dreamed about how people could unite against their rulers, how they with help of the power of the masses could overcome the ones oppressing them. But capitalism had brainwashed them over the decades and made the idea of socialism and social democracy seem unrealistic, even bizarre.
The revolutionizing idea of Them was to make every citizen create a consensual contract with the new ideals. As a part of the contract, they all had their names changed. The 0-1 era had to go, everyone agreed on that. A name change could be nothing. It seemed like a small price to pay in order to gain control of their bodies and win a place in the society. They didn’t reflect on it first. They thought about the money and power that the contract promised them. It offered them revenge. Revenge for all the decades of unmotivated wage differences, revenge for the sake of not getting to use a voice, revenge of the passive act of acting womanlike, revenge of the passive wanting to be active and in charge. If one gets let down by a capital society time after time, the capitalists eventually successfully convey their idea that freedom for a poor person must be to buy whatever they want. The capitalist society had made people confused, and in somewhere in this great confusion, Patricia had sold her socialist ideals in the belief that she would get a better deal. Greed overtook the need for sisterhood and siblinghood. Once one is standing with one hand commanding lesser creatures and the other one judging the worth of a person, the loss of humanity is more real than the numbers of your bank account growing bigger on a pixely screen. Prina had sold Patricia, Prina had bought capitalism and offered her soul, which had been consumed by the invisible monster that leaped silently through the bank vaults. You don’t reflect on the impact of changing your name, gender and letting yourself be identified until your surroundings start to treat you thereafter.
Patricia wiped her face dry and straightened her body to full size. She saw herself collect her paper-filled bag through a haze of self-loathing. She often saw herself do things instead of doing them herself. It made it easier not to think about what she had become. Am I a monster? She wasn’t sure if it was worth it. Patricia wasn’t sure if the men really deserved it. But already she found herself in the city rush and she went on doing her business per routine. She entered her workspace, a spacious hall in form of an airplane hangar. Still, it was if the air quality was poorer inside. She smelled sweat. It smelled like time was running out. Fear.
- Prina? Could you please make sure that we get rid of the newly bought stock quickly? It is basically just taking up space and soon there is the new seasonal delivery, remember?
Her assistant waited for a reaction and then cleared their throat when Prina appeared to not have heard. The assistant pressed her hand and smiled without involving the eyes,
- Time is money, Prina. Don’t waste it.
Patricia just nodded. She had started all of this. It said so in my contract, I had to. No, she corrected herself, I could have ripped that contract apart, I didn’t have to follow orders. I did really start this, it is my fault, it is my responsibility to do this. The men did us unwell. They are nothing to us. We have to erase the men in order to erase the concept of being male. Soon there will be no one left of the 0-1 Males, soon I will leave this dirty business. Maybe I will be free.
She opened the vault door that separated the open workspace to a storage room. A great mass of naked males, crawling around like maggots without goals in the crowded space shook by the sudden ray of light. They formed a landscape of bodies, a terrain of flesh with their arms and legs like shivering branches, weakened by the transportation between the former buyer’s place and Prina’s. I have to sell them. I can’t afford to see them any longer. But what will happen with them? What do They mean by eliminating all men? I can’t be the cause for Death…
Prina thought about it and made some quick calculations in her head, using her fingers for each thousand. The males were following each movement with wide, frightened eyes. Prina had found herself replacing feelings with calculations in the latest time. They rarely wept nowadays. It wasn’t much worth to weep for the past. After all, words are nothing compared to action. And according to the contract, nothing is better to strife for than profit.
- You will be taken to the Flesh Market for evaluation later. Try not to be so sensible, it makes you look stupid and fat in this light. Crying makes you look ugly. Don’t forget to look natural. Everyone loves a natural look, but don’t overdo it.
The men screamed for their lives as Prina slammed the door shut, mutilating their voices to distant echoes of mankind.