The frenetic clicking and dragging of ideas on an old fashion blackboard suddenly stopped. Shafts of late afternoon sunlight illuminated the chalk dust suspended in the now quiet air. She placed her hands in the pockets of her lab coat and looked up. Scribbled gypsum spelled out a complex equation. The results clearly expressed the time it would take the mutation to reduce the human male population of the planet to 1% of its current value. Ampules of the virus, suspended on shock-mounts were already in her knapsack. The feeling of dust between her fingers made her smile. She knew that the same equation was already embedded in many computers around the world. She only wrote it out in long hand for its aesthetic beauty. Her thoughts were interrupted by the breaking of glass… the unmistakable sounds of police entering the building.
Lying under blankets, in the trunk of a vintage Ford Falcon she was sped to the safe house. In the darkness of the moving vehicle, drifting into daydream, she recalled the Museum of Human Rights and Remembering in Santiago, Chile. Black and white images of military men dispensing dominance and control. Of torture one woman speaks on video, “Time softens the memory of the physical pain but not the humiliation.”
Scanning the large hall with all its noble dignity her eyes settled on her own feet. She noticed the way light shifts and distorts through tear filled eyeballs. When surface tension was overcome by gravity her eyes would clear enough to watch the small liquid spheres free-fall to the pool between her shoes. Even in her suffering she saw the world like a scientist.
The motion of the car finally stopped and the engine fell silent. As she was slowly lifted from the vehicle her eyes scanned the deep twilight lingering in the northwestern sky. She stood very still. The quiet, only speckled with the clicking sounds of the engine block cooling down, felt powerful. It felt… right. After a few moments her lips formed the words, “so be it.”
Grabbing the knapsack she walked into the building.
When the men finally found out what was happening there was panic. The backlash, brutal. An entire gender had become like a drowning man, grasping and clutching at anything to save itself from oblivion. In their rage some men waged a vengeful war. Desperate and hateful. New levels of violence fell upon many women in pockets all over the world. Some men sought to protect the women they loved, others attacked. Some women fought back, some succumbed.
At the same time there were countless other women who were horrified by the loss of men in their future. Furious at the perpetrators of this murderous manipulation, they were disgusted with the ideologues who caused it. They did not seek asexuality or lesbianism as an answer for human destiny. They did not wish this. Many even fought alongside the men they loved.
The remaining people, the gentle people, the moderate people, their voices mute with sorrow, simply went about their days. Counting down the remaining years.
The maddening problem was that stem cell based in-vitro reproduction technologies could only replace the female population. As the decades wore on, women’s numbers bounced back while the men simply aged, their stamina and numbers fading. Apocryphal stories of chemical antidotes, superstitious rituals or any means to reverse the lack of male births would haunt the last of the aging men.
All the while, media made noise. News stories, documentary films and best selling books flooded screens everywhere. Talk shows endlessly argued the morality of forcing upon the world this new matriarchal structure. Her image appeared in graffiti, her name in pop songs, her character in Hollywood movies, both applauded and vilified. For decades she was like a ghost, hunted and protected equally. Eventually all this noise faded to a murmur and a simple sadness replaced the chaos with resignation. A kind of stillness emerged.
Then one morning a headline, “She has been found!”
An exhausted pallor settled upon the world as The Hague prepared for trial. It had taken a generation to find and capture her. A geneticist, a criminal, a hero, a monster, a woman beyond myth and legend now sits in shackles. Through bullet proof glass she sees the panel of judges, a ratio of 11 women to 1 man. She quietly wipes her eyes.
The clean lines of the courtroom and the crisp linens of her prison uniform are welcome in her mind. The last few years spent hiding in filthy squalor had worn her down, she felt relief in the cold architecture. She ran her finger along the brushed stainless steel desk before her and thought of Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov. Like him, a long fever of the soul had eroded her spirit and made her painfully aware of the suffering she had caused. Like Jason sailing past the Isle of Sirens she had lashed herself to the mast and listened to the screams, as sorrow and loss rained all around her. A sickening sadness was within her too. “I’m still human”, she would tell her supporters, “I too feel grief.” Yet she knew her convictions trumped all feelings that followed. “With both eyes wide open”, she would often say, understanding her fate. She was the mother of a new people and childbirth is painful.
The legal complexities of her trial were daunting. In her defence, parallels to industrial accidents or force majeure were evoked. It was argued that the use of the global freshwater cycle, which allowed the ensuing rainfall to seed and then accelerate the air born infections, on such a scale, could not possibly be traced to one local act of terrorism. At worst it was a terrible accident. The prosecution countered with digital images of the blackboard and the equation’s deep understanding of the consequences. Clearly the scale of her actions was intentional.
Both teams struggled to define this new kind of genocide. A genocide where no one is killed, only denied the opportunity to be born. Where is the murder? Reawakened arguments of abortion and the beginnings of life wove their way into the proceedings. Who is the victim? Only women were directly affected by the genetic mutation, no longer able to produce male children. Yet it was the male gender that was being exterminated.
Over the months she watched and listened to lawyers explore in nuanced detail the implications from every angle. It impressed on her the difference from the previous military tribunals that had dominated the world 40 years ago. Back then the men would have offered swift and simple judgment. She recalled being dragged from the stadium and wordlessly processed by the machine of justice. A factory of suffering, silently rubber stamping the innocent to oblivion. Now she looks around the room. Due process it seems, has reawakened. Habeas corpus has returned. Even in her guilt she is allowed dignity.
Drifting deeper into daydream the room faded from view; the voices dulled, as if underwater. It was not just in this courtroom, it was everywhere. All over the world these differences were being felt. In all aspects of life, a more nuanced approach to the stewardship of the planet, to its people, to its essence, had taken hold. She wonders if these are the rantings of madness? No… it was the answer.
In front of the court buildings, hundreds of people assemble for the verdict. Among them a young engineer enthusiastically describes technologies being developed for the Pacific Garbage Patch Global Initiative to a news crew. They are interrupted by the announcement. A video wall beside them splashes the headline; “A Capital Crime of Unheard of Proportions. Death by Injection the Consensus.”
Behind bullet proof glass an old woman watches lawyers closing their dossiers. Feeling herself lifted from the chair, she understands. If she is the mother of a new people, then she shall die in child birth.
I am off to Banff, Alberta to the Banff Centre for the Arts. I’m to mentor young engineers.
Looking very much forward to it.