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The Price of Silence (chap 1-3)

In 2028, a Christian-nationalist president is elected. The Congress, Senate, and Supreme Court are liquidated and replaced with like-minded officials. A new series of laws and policies are enacted, code-named Project Picket Fence, outlawing women's rights in favor of stay-at-home mothers who are mandated to have five children or face prosecution. Ronnie Dolhyris is a single, infertile woman forced into nursing elite clients...with a secret side-business that could get her executed.

By CD TurnerPublished 5 months ago Updated 4 months ago 21 min read

edit 1: fixing typos, tense changes, and lore inconsistencies

1

The Rivers of Jordan Hospital interior are ridiculously blue. Bright, assaulting azure, not like the sky. More like the radiant color of fish or poisonous tree frogs. The floors are inlaid with blue tile with gold accents along the grout. The walls are uniformly blue with an alternating cross and star pattern along the top and bottom.

The beds are sterile white, every pillow and sheet made of a costly multi-threaded blend of soft yet easily-washable fabric. The nurses and doctors wear a deeper navy blue with golden crosses on the scrub pockets. They originally thought of red uniforms, to complete the patriotic theme, but decided it would be too affronting to the eyes. I heard they had a team of collaborators, all women, who decided the interior designs and fashions of the new regime. Did they really want this as much as the men, who were holding all positions of absolute power?

Perhaps they had no choice. Maybe they had to go through swatches and catalogs at gunpoint. More likely, they were collaborators, wives of the orchestrators of the coup that started all this.

I often sit rigidly still in the patient rooms, having inner debates in my head. It's the only place I have agency, within my own thoughts. I'm not permitted to speak unless it involves nursing duties or an important patient allows it. I'm rarely asked for my opinion, though. I serve as a mannequin at the times when I am not working. Sometimes I can dissociate enough to not hear the awful things the patients say. It's a learned skill, selective hearing.

I used to have dreams in which I could teleport and go back in time. I just had to clear my mind, thinking only of the destination. I find myself doing that, knowing it's impossible, illogical, improbable. If only I could escape into my own memories. I remember myself, who I used to be, imagine her as a completely different person. She was plumper than I am now, her weight not being illegal in those days. In college, she dyed her hair ridiculous colors. She wanted a nose ring, but the piercing needle had scared her too much, so she settled for vibrant makeup. Orange lipstick, rainbow shimmer on her cheeks, her eyeshadow in blue-green gradients.

The body I am in is a stranger. After my processing, I was sent to a fixer camp where men starved me and forced me to run laps. Turns out, having a gun trained on you is much more effective than Weight Watchers. It might as well have been a boot camp, but I was no soldier. They had broken me completely and I had to pick up the pieces. I'm still trying to put myself back together.

I sit at a respectable 140lbs, not the best, but it was just my body type. The Adjudicators at the processing center had said that God had given me a good child-bearing body, but I must have been a slut and ruined my fertility chances. Too many abortions (I never had one), too much drug use (never even smoked one cigarette), or too many boyfriends (I was a virgin). Any truthful response I gave was not believed. I'm woman, after all. We all lie.

I was infertile because of my endometriosis. I tried to explain it to the Adjudicators, but any mention of periods made them angry and disgusted. One of them actually said, "Good girls don't have periods." I guess my facial expression gave away my astonishment and he cold-cocked me for "insubordination."

I was supposed to think of these 12-year-old boys in grown men's bodies as my superiors. I often chewed on the inside of my mouth whenever these men were around. The pain helps me keep perspective. One act of petty revenge could mean my death.

I often think of just taking a walk off a cliff. Adjudicators don't pay attention to the barren women on the streets. We blend into the monotony of our caste. We're barely lower class, practically vermin on the social totem pole. That makes me think of rat poison. Doubt they would keep that lying around though.

Maybe I could make my death a spectacle like jumping head-first off the hospital building. There are plenty of cameras and I like to think there are whistleblowers and spies collecting information. My dead body, broken and twisted on the concrete, in a halo of blood. I'm not trying to be a martyr, but at least my death could mean something.

But I only sit in a chair, still as a statue. I am a nurse to the elite, which are only ever men. Men who hate me for existing. Men who also hit on me and say disgusting things. It's hard not to hate men when they are the literal enemy. There's no hope of air emboli or over-medicating - the patients come with their bodyguards. I help to save the lives of the very men that imprison, impoverish, disenfranchise, and rape women.

The doctors do not speak to me. I am an instrument, much like their stethoscopes, tongue depressors, and pen lights. I am a caregiver, bather, feeder, and cleaner. My job does not require speaking.

It's a slow day. A Thursday afternoon, to be exact. What month, what day? Does it matter? I do not watch the clock. Call me superstitious, but I believe it only makes the time slow to a crawl. Time is relative, but when you have nothing but time and aren't allowed to do much, it is both frustratingly slow and blindingly fast. I want to be busy. I want to be useful in ways the government says I am not.

I remember wishing I had more time for recreation, back when nursing actually paid well and people had respect. I was on the frontline of the 2020 pandemic, feeling the stress of each day, wondering if I would become yet another casualty. I had watched morgue attendants stack bodies into trailers. I had walked through protests of morons denying the reality of how healthcare workers were battling death on a daily basis. I stood by hospital beds, filled with infirm patients on ventilators, fighting their own cognitive dissonance as they slipped away.

I thought that was the worst of times I would ever experience.

The door chimes sound. That means a patient is on his way up. I stand at attention, arms at my waist, hands clasped, head bowed as though I'm praying. He is in a wheelchair, so this isn't quite an emergency. He's a heavyset, older man, wearing the blue suit of his rank. He was an Appointed Senator, the "Appointed" meaning by God, not by man. His armband bears the new regime's seal, a gold cross and eagle insignia, is bright red to represent sacrifice. Of course, the regalia is a little less impressive when it's covered in vomit.

The Emergency Service Adjudicators who accompany him inform us of his vitals and what had happened to the nearest doctor. He had collapsed at a meeting. I await orders, avoiding the urge to wrinkle my nose at the nauseating smell of half-digested meat and whiskey. I don't know of any meetings which would involve such fare. Perhaps it had been at one of their Good Ole Boys clubs I'd heard from the doctor grapevine.

"Clean him up and get him into a gown." the doctor directs.

I fly into action. Luckily, this guy seems too sick to try anything with me. His skin is pale and clammy, respirations dangerously low. The doctor and I lift his corpulent body, his legs trembling as they try to hold his weight. We place him on the nearest bed, pulling the bright blue curtains closed around us. We get his suit jacket off and white button-up shirt off, then his undershirt. I motion to remove his belt and he grabs my wrists.

"N-no...I'd like to keep them on. Don't remove them." he begs weakly.

I looked at the doctor, saying nothing. Not like I want to remove an old man's pants any more than he does, but this is procedure.

"Sir, we need to examine you." the doctor insists. "I know it's embarrassing, but we've seen it all, trust me."

"Young ladies shouldn't...see stuff like that." the Senator wheezes.

I'm surprised he cares. Normally, me removing a man's pants incites all sorts of sexual innuendo, particularly if they're drunk.

The doctor manages to convince him. He yanks down the man's underwear and we se why the Senator was so reticent. The man has second-stage syphilis with angry red sores all over his penis and testicles.

"Please...don't tell my wife. Or the Decency Commission." the Senator pleads.

The Decency Commission is the governing body that decides what actions are moral or not. Sexual immorality is (officially) outlawed. Sex that is strictly not between a married woman and man is considered adultery. (Though obviously, this law tends to be ignored by affluent Senators.) Any sexual act that can't result in a pregnancy is illegal. Gay sex is punishable by death. Even a blowjob can get you imprisoned.

"Our only priority is to get you well, Senator. Prepare a dose of penicillin." the doctor demands.

I quickly rush over to the Pyxis, the one form of technology the old dinosaurs bothered to save. The Adjudicator guarding it had overheard the doctor's request and already authorized the withdrawal. He hands me a vial of penicillin and a syringe. I carefully prepare the dosage, handing the Adjudicator the vial back, and hurry back over to the doctor. During this, the doctor has inserted a central line into the Senator. I hand the doctor the syringe and he administers the medication into the Senator's hip muscle.

"Nurse Douglas, your shift has ended. Please punch out, college your wages, and report to your living quarters." the intercom buzzes.

My last name is Dolhyris, but that wasn't Anglo-Saxon enough for this regime. My nickname, Ronnie, was also forbidden. I am Veronica Douglas, a dutiful nurse. I could not fulfill my womanly purpose through childbearing, so I shall gracefully serve as a nurse to God's Appointed.

It's been seven months and I have still not awoken from this nightmare.

2

I walk home slowly, breathing in the cold air. It used to smell of smog and fast food burgers. During Christmases of the past, there was a pleasant aroma of pine trees, apple cider, and roasted chicken. Now, the scent is of newly-poured asphalt, wood smoke, lime, and just a hint of rotting flesh.

There are still rebel attempts, efforts to fire up a revolution to take back the country. They usually end with bullets and blood-stained concrete. They've stopped immediately cleaning up the bodies, choosing instead to anoint them with powdered lime and shroud them in an insignia-printed sheet. Sometimes, cards are accompanying the display, often quoting scripture. The most disturbing tableau I've seen was an entire row of female bodies, the shroud folded back to display their heads and breasts. They had tried to protest the Ordained Marriage Law, a new edict that established the Appointed Marriage Bureau, where fertile women were required to register for arranged marriages. The card had read:

Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

- 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

It was a warning. Everything is always a warning. Every single law change since 2020 was a warning, but we were all convinced that someone else would fight for us.

I walk through the market square, now called God's Promenade. I just call it the Market in my head. I hate the pretentious new names they gave these places. The old hardware store is now called The Onyx Stone and the supermarket is now Eden's Bounty. A clothing store for the fertile women, Fruitful Looms, sells all of the vibrant colors I am not allowed to wear. I can't even enter the store. I have to change out of my work clothes before I leave the building, lest I forget how low on the totem pole I am.

I wear dark gray, like all barren women. A demure-length skirt dusts my drab winter boots. They are zip-ups, not laces, for obvious reasons. I have a crocheted poncho which drapes over a thick woolen turtleneck. My hair is tucked into a matching crocheted cowl. I wrap a short knitted scarf around my lower face, the smell of damp wool masking the bitter lime and decay.

They've cleaned up the recent bodies - leaving them too long results in odors the lime can't even begin to overcome. Yesterday, the body of a teenage boy was slumped against a brick wall, head lolling onto his shoulder. The shroud wouldn't stay over his head, so the bullet wound showed, dried blood and all. I hate to say it, but you do get used to the death when it's so blatantly shown for shock value. We had to view each body as a cautionary tale of what happens when you try to usurp authority. I have nightmares where I am awake yet bleeding out on the concrete, my split-open torso filled with writhing maggots.

There are no homeless people, no vagabonds jingling Styrofoam coffee cups of coins, no street musicians busking for meal money. Everyone had a place within American Republic society! Though for most people, that place is in a mass grave, trash fire, or solemn patch of blood-soaked ground where they were slaughtered. There's no laughter, no children playing outside in the snow. That's only allowed within their 10-foot-tall school fences, topped with barbed wire. The schools are nowhere near here, near the dead bodies, businesses, and processing centers. Those are located in the elite compounds along with their affluent fathers and broodmare mothers. To call them parents, like equals, was laughable.

I had seen many kids pass through the hospital, visiting their Senator fathers. I have also seen the mothers, looking so tired yet still having the energy to give me smug once-overs. Oh, yes, dutiful mother. I am so ashamed of my infertile ways. Oh, I wish to be reduced to my reproductive organs and dealing with five brats, house chores, and being submissive to a man who only sees you as a walking vagina.

It's mean to think such things. They arguably have the worst lot. Still, my righteous fury is the only vice I can have.

I make it to the apartment building where I live. I pass through the front gate and approach the two Adjudicators blocking the entrance. One of them produces a metallic wand, running it from my head to my feet and back again.

"Have a blessed night." the Adjudicator grunts, sliding his keycard through the reader next to the front door.

"God willing." I say robotically in response.

God willing. It's a phrase that haunts my everyday life. I don't know if it's an official thing. It's just something you say to fit in, like saying Bless you after someone sneezes. I do see the words embroidered on clothing and throw pillows. Even the huge biofuel factory has GOD WILLING in large white letters on the biggest chimney. It's unnerving, to say the least.

I go into the building. The front lobby doesn't have loiterers. The old apartment I had at least a couple of roamers, drunks, drug addicts, sometimes irate ex-boyfriends threatening to tear down doors. Hell, I'd take that over this unnatural quiet. You didn't linger in the halls now. There are cameras everywhere. I suspect the apartments themselves are bugged. That's why it's so silent - people fear saying anything that would get them arrested.

I walk to my apartment door - 408 - and swipe my ID card through the scanner affixed beside the knob. No expense had been spared to invade your privacy. I suspect some computer somewhere detailing every swipe of the card and at what time. The reader beeps its assent, unlocking the door. I go inside.

The painted insignia flag of the American Republic is the first thing to assault my senses upon entering. Red, white, and blue, reminiscent of the old flag but the 50 stars had been replaced with one giant golden cross with a garish holy light behind it. The American Republic only managed to capture 23 states and was still fighting to add more. The entire Southern US make up most of the 23, of course. The full name of the new regime is the Holy States of the American Republic. I was in deep denial upon learning the name at first. They can't have honestly let that through. It was so goddamn memetic, they had to be joking. I was sure if citizens were allowed to access international news, other countries would be mocking the States mercilessly.

Civil war is still occurring in several states: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Michigan, and Montana. I learned this from overhearing the Republic News Channel Senators watched in the hospital. C-SPAN networks had been shut down, no longer showing exactly how laws were being made. Now, information is filtered through an impossibly polished news anchor, laced with sugary sweet propaganda. So, who knows if the information is correct? I have no way of checking.

So far, I've learned that Mormon rebels have kept control of Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona. United States loyalists - California, Oregon, Washington State, and Idaho - have the advantage of distance and an alliance with the Mormon rebels. New England states formed the Liberty Front, helping funnel the overflow of refugees into Canada and across the Atlantic. Alaska had asked Canada to officially annex them, which the Republic had disputed. That's rich. The tyrannical state formed after a bloody coup trying to argue jurisdiction.

I'm not sure what happened to Hawaii. I'm hoping the indigenous population took their country back, expelling all the millionaires who want to colonize it. They already have their tragedies to contend with, the volcano eruptions and the onslaught of Pacific cyclones.

The rest of my apartment is gray, just like my outfit. Besides the flag painting, everything else seems devoid of color. I guess that's how I feel...gray. Numbness, forced indifference, survival mode complacency. Those are all phrases that can be associated with gray. I'm probably gray inside as well. Gray blood, gray bones, gray, dead uterus.

I sprawl out on my bed like a starfish, staring at the ceiling. There are bubbles in the hasty paint job, and spider webs in the corners. I used to hate spiders. Now, I welcome their intricate talent of weaving webs and catching gnats. I envy them. They're feared in ways that keep people scared and distant. There's not many roads for a spider to travel. They either weave their own homes in dusty, dark corners; live in colonies with their thousands of children; or being snuffed out by a shoe. In my darkest moments, I hoped one of them would bite me in my sleep and I'd be dead by morning. I'd become a gray soul, drifting away from this mortal coil, finally free.

The sun goes down as I ruminate on my own misery. The automatic lights flicker on, bathing me in sterile, artificial light. I rise, walking over to the door, pressing my ear to the wood. Nothing. No telltale, muted chattering to indicate an Adjudicator patrolling. It's time.

My day isn't done yet.

3

The window is supposed to be nailed shut. An alarm is supposed to trigger if the window had been raised or broken. I've heard rumors of automatic spotlights and turrets. I've also heard rumors of electricity shortages due to rebels hacking into the power grid. They have plenty of pillbox Adjudicators and patrols, so maybe it's a waste of resources. Turrets don't discriminate based on who's wearing the insignia or not.

So, how does a barren nurse sneak out of the compound without raising alarm?

Having a double agent Adjudicator outside of the window with access card privileges helped immensely, it turned out.

We don't know each other's real names because it's better that way if we get caught. I know him as Ike and he knows me as Bea. He's wearing the Adjudicator Patrol uniform: black khakis, gray undershirt barely concealing the lump of Kevlar around his torso, black boots, heavy parka, and thick leather gloves that held the grip of his machine gun. He has an armband with the Republic insignia and his rank title - Adjudicator, Patrolling Officer, God's Appointed Peacekeepers. He had told me that in an exasperated tone, during one rare time where we could speak, so he wasn't joking.

Ike deftly disconnects the alarm wire without making a sound. I slide the window open, the three nails dislodging from the sill. Ike had carved wider holes into each so the nails would only look like they were seated properly. I carefully and quietly shift through the open window, thankful for the sleet-sodden grass muffling the sound of my feet hitting the ground.

Ike and I don't talk as he leads me through the least guarded avenues. When we see the beams of flashlights, we melt into the shadows, not even breathing as the patrols passed. Some nights, they have the drones going, especially after news of more refugees making it to Pennsylvania. We all have a curfew, so no shops are open past 9 pm. The streets are deserted except for the Adjudicators.

We make it to the ruins. A pile of bricks, drywall, and roof shingles remain of the bombed Planned Parenthood clinic. They hadn't bothered clearing it. I guess it was a reminder of the unGodly fetus genocide that had been committed within. I remembered pundits on news stations comparing abortion to the Holocaust. It baffles me so much how they could contrast and compare their perceived injustices with actual crimes against humanity. They can call the women having reproductive rights murderers, but ignore children getting massacred in schools because they love their guns too much.

Ike and I shift the rubble to uncover the dust-and soot-coated rug. I think it used to be red but was now almost black from the grime. We find it the perfect cover for the trap door below it. Ike folds back the carpet, revealing the bunker door. I open the door, preparing to climb down the ladder. Ike didn't follow me, instead closing the trap door once again. He would cover the trap door with the carpet and guard us from above, watching for patrols and making sure nothing blocked the door.

"Nice of you to join us, Agent Bea." says the sardonic drawl of "Titan," the wayward doctor of our little illegal cell. He wears a plastic suit over his crisp white Republic Doctor uniform so he won't get blood on it.

"Thank you, Patrick Bateman." I snap back.

We didn't hate each other, but didn't like one another either. I think he's still a pompous, uptight jackass, but it seems like he was only that way to colleagues, not patients. Since so many of our patients are desperate women trying to hide forbidden pregnancies, miscarriages, and abortions, he didn't feel the need to add to their misery.

He has plenty of misery for me, though.

"If I have to check out another fascist dickbag's hemorrhoids, I'm gonna assassinate them myself." he seethes, knocking back a fistful of painkillers.

"I had to see a Senator's syphilitic chode today. You're not special." I scoff, pulling on my own plastic suit.

Titan smirks. He used to be handsome, blond hair, green eyes, and stocky shoulders, but it's clear he's destroying himself with pills and liquor. If we lived in any other reality, I'd tell him myself. In this society, you have to find some way to escape, if only for a few hours.

"How do you ladies handle this shit?" Titan murmured. "The things these fuckers admit to doing. Awful to their wives, more awful to their domestics. They don't give a shit about their kids unless there's a political benefit. Selling their daughters for a promotion."

"I've given up hope a long time ago." I answer. "Besides, this is nothing new to women. Especially women of color."

"Not so fun when the white women are being enslaved, too, huh?" he reasons.

People of color had been forced back into enslavement. It was either that or be "deported." I read between the lines and gaps in every Republic News broadcast. I refuse to believe the doctored photos of minorities boarding ships with smiles and cheery goodbyes. Quite often, you'll find Black men who'd been massacred in the streets. They don't even get shrouds or patronizing scripture cards.

I can't speak to their experience. I can only relay the things I hear, even if they might be false. We have many Black patients, women who've been beaten, raped, and/or impregnated. I think they only trust me because of the gray uniform. I have been marginalized, but not as severely as them.

My father used to say, "At least we're not like them." His racism only got worse as he aged. He was chock full of privilege and showed it often, to the detriment of his family. Mom resented him greatly, but she was too financially dependent on him to leave. My brother hated him, determined to work and save up for college so he could leave as soon as he hit 18. I was the problem child, always challenging his authority. His authority to be a bigoted, body-shaming, gun-toting, fascist-supporting loser. Needless to say, I went to nursing school to get away from him as soon as possible.

At least we're not like them.

Am I like them now? I still have privilege, in a way. I'm condemned into a life of slavery, whether it's thankless hard labor or breeding stock. Isn't that what the privileged do though? Make themselves feel better by saying, "Well, at least I'm not that bad off." But looking at these women, these exhausted women who could barely care for two children, much less five or more. Their husbands were men they didn't love, men who roll off them every night after giving the bare minimum of affection. Their children will grow up not knowing freedom even existed once. Some won't even know what love is.

"Heads up, arrival from the tunnel." Titan alerts me.

There are two entrances to the bunker - the one being guarded by Ike and another wider entrance from the underpass. I'm not quite sure how that entrance is guarded, having only used the trap door. Perhaps there are more double-agent Adjudicators? The underpass entrance leads to the far wall of the bunker, blocked by a metal shutter. Both Titan and I lift the shutter, allowing the prospective patients inside.

Upon examination, my heart drops into my stomach. It's a little girl. She can't be more than 7 and she's very underweight. The Black woman wears the uniform of a housemaid: brown, shapeless dress with tawny apron and white kerchief. The girl has messy pigtails, her hair looking like it hasn't been washed in days. She wears a tattered blue nightgown patterned by doves in flight. Her feet and legs are filthy, like she's been lying in mud.

"I found her passed out in the backyard." the housemaid informs us, choking back tears. "Her mother ties her up when she misbehaves, sometimes for days. She forbids me to feed her. And I think someone's been..." she gasps for air in between sobs, "...been molesting her. If she finds out I took the girl for treatment, she'd have me hanged and probably kill the girl."

"We'll do all we can." I promise her as Titan and I go to work.

The girl is very dehydrated. I can't find a red vein, so I have to use a blue one in her forearm to stick the central line. She cries out from the pain.

"I know, sweetie, it hurts. But I have to get fluids into you." I calm her.

"It is possible to get Yvonne to take her?" Titan asks me as we work.

"Yvonne" is a contact who relocates children, starting them down the safehouse chain, hopefully getting them to Pennsylvania.

"I haven't heard from her in weeks. She may have been caught." I tell him.

"Well, she can't go back to that house." Titan presses. "They'll kill her for sure."

"You don't think I know that?" I retort hotly. "Honey, I need to check you out between your legs to see where you're hurt. The doctor will step away and it'll only be me, okay?"

"No!" the girl squeals, now terrified and shaking.

"Push 2 units of Lorazepam." Titan commands.

The last thing I want to do is drug her, but she's thrashing around so much. I find the vial of Lorazepam and prepare the syringe. I quickly administer the dose and the girl slowly drifts off to sleep.

No. This isn't privilege.

This is the result of too many children and not enough love.

About the Creator

CD Turner

I write stories and articles. Sometimes they're good.

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Comments (1)

  • Alex H Mittelman 5 months ago

    Fantastic, exciting story! I hope this doesn’t happen but who knows!

CD TurnerWritten by CD Turner

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