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The Price of Silence (chap 4-6)

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 18 min read

edit 1: typos, tense change

Catch up:

Chapters 1-3

4

I find the housemaid shot dead in the street two days later.

She'd taken the young girl to a safehouse. That was the hope, at least. But when I saw her beaten, bloodied body in an alley across from the hospital, all hope diminished. She's tucked into the fetal position, like a child curling up on the floor to brace for blows from a belt. The blood that once oozed from the bullet hole in her temple is now frozen.

I can't linger around the body for too long. I have to pretend that I'm just condemning their sins with righteous anger. She has no placard, no shroud. She's deemed not even worthy of setting an example. Adjudicators will have deposited the girl back into her abusive family. There's no government intervention anymore like child welfare or social workers. The man is the king of his castle. He decides what his children learn (or don't learn), how they eat (or don't eat), and how they are punished.

I wish I had asked her name. Maybe she would have lied, but lamenting her last act of bravery seemed so hollow without a name. Nor did giving her a name feel right. In this new Republic, bodies are buried under blank markers, sometimes just thrown in ditches. To deprive these victims of their names is more than dehumanizing. They become numbers, eroded by the rain, if they're chiseled in stone at all.

It's Chapel Day. All of us in the district must be at the God's Holy Blessings Church at noon. The last thing I want to do is be in a stuffy church full of the pompous and privileged. Most times, I can't even keep a seat. Barren women have to give up their seats to Appointed Wives, even if they aren't pregnant. The term "Appointed Wife" makes me want to gag. I stick to the old term for them, before the regime: tradwives. These are the women on social media, wearing pinafores, aprons, and bragging about how rewarding it is to be always pregnant, cooking, cleaning, and mothering. I rarely see a tradwife nowadays who didn't have thick makeup covering their eye-bags, black eyes, or bruised cheeks.

I set off early, wanting to take my time as I walked to the church. They haven't taken nature away from me yet. I can enjoy the crisp, winter air and feel the warmth of the sun on my face. The only credit I can give to this regime is that they now acknowledged climate change. Who knows what finally convinced the dusty-ass Senators? Maybe they read research on plastic pollution causing low sperm counts. My theory is that they don't want climate refugees from Latin America. Factory farming is harder to overcome because, by God, these Senators love their steaks. Beef made from plants is sacrilege in their worldview.

Titan's theory is that the pronatalists and ecoterrorists formed an unlikely alliance, at least in the early stages. They each found common ground on pollution's effects on fertility and ecosystems. It was similar to how militant feminists of the 1980s had a common enemy with the Religious Right in wanting to abolish pornography, albeit, for wholly different reasons. I also wonder if there was some compromise decided between the fledgling regime and capitalist monopolies. Perhaps oil and gas companies found a new venture in biofuels. I can see how media companies could be turned into channels for propaganda and censorship. Sustainable capitalism is possible when you don't care about human rights.

Instead of annual taxes, citizens pay monthly tithes on every 3rd of the month. I was paid very meagerly, so my tithe only gobbled my wages right back into the system. I didn't have to pay for rent or utilities...at the price of ultimate privacy invasion and oppression. To my understanding, affluent men who are permitted wives and children are paid bonuses based on how many children he fathers. I've overheard rumors of dowry prices for their eligible, marriageable daughters (the marriage age is 13). I don't know the specifics, but the younger daughters fetch higher dowries.

I imagine the barely prepubescent girls in plaid, modest dresses with pigtails, like the ornate porcelain dolls my grandma had back before the regime. She had an entire shelf filled with dolls. It creeped me out to no end. All those fragile, meticulously painted faces staring at you accusatorily. Only the real-life girls aren't so easily breakable, not on the outside at least.

I make it to the old church, or rather, what used to be First Baptist Church. It was a historically Black church in this district, founded in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. Not anymore, though. The irony isn't lost on me. The entire perimeter is surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with razor wire. Three gates lead into the enclosure, each manned by Adjudicators.

We all form a line before the metal detectors. Even the elite have to pass through the detectors, though they are never stopped and frisked. We're identified by a portable retina scanner and the barcode tattooed on our wrists. I still remember the pain of the tattoo needle as it inscribed my new identity on my flesh. It's a reminder, of sorts. We are property, merchandise. In my case, I'm unsellable. We are produce on a conveyor belt, on our way to the bagging area. So many tortured metaphors are applicable right now. Livestock on our way to slaughter, objects on an assembly line, inmates checking in to prison.

"Arbeit macht frei..." one of the Adjudicators jokes.

The tactlessness is on brand for them. These are the men who probably spent their Before days baiting people online with extremely polarizing opinions. It was intentional because it caused public outrage. It was also a catch-22. You couldn't ignore the harmful misinformation, but you couldn't tolerate it either. It was the perfect storm, a ground base for propaganda.

There are women in front of me having a conversation. One wears a red and pink-striped prairie dress with blue accents on the collar, sash, and hem. A matching sunhat with fake flowers adorns her head, though the day is overcast. The other woman has a navy blue ensemble, with a white blouse under a blazer with a matching floor-length skirt. She's forgone a hat, opting for a flowery bonnet tied under her chin. It's something my grandma would have worn. Their shoes are pumps, though low-heeled. One woman's pantyhose near the ankle is starting to run.

I study their clothes, surprisingly not as jealous as I think I would be. I hate wearing pantyhose. As a nurse, I know the overuse of pantyhose caused yeast infections. I wear thick white stockings because God forbid someone see my bare ankles. I can hardly imagine what modesty standards these women are expected to adhere to.

"...Sarai keeps acting up in Domestics. She's left her homework till the last minute. How in heaven's sake does she expect to knit a 6-foot scarf overnight? She's not particularly good at it, either." one woman complains.

"Oh, sweet mercy. You're lucky you have daughters. My sons always procrastinate on their Woodwork projects. Stanley can't help because he's always in meetings and I can't help because what do I know about Woodworking?" the other woman comments.

I fight the urge to grimace. Is this really how women talk now? They sound like a skit from a late-night improv show. And I know that education was more abysmal than ever, but is it actually so segregated by gender roles now? Are girls talk to read, write, think?

"Oh, Clara. I think we better save this conversation for later. I feel bad talking about kids around barren women. It must be so hard for them." the blue dress says with an heir of phony grace.

Yes. My life is so rough, not having the privilege to spit out babies like my vagina is a clown car.

I resent her faux consideration, though I do not sneer. I merely keep my head down, pretending to humble myself. The line moves and we shuffle closer to the gates. A commotion breaks out in the other line. Another barren woman in the telltale gray apparel is fighting against the Adjudicators grip on her. Her curly red hair's peeking out of her cowl, her face a show of defiant malice. She's thrashing, her speech garbled as she yells nonsensical things.

"I did not! I did not! Unhand me, I must avenge us!"

Her screaming persists until she's stowed away in an armored van.

I find myself wondering if that would be me one day.

5

The sermon drones on in the austere congregation hall. The seats are set up like a baseball stadium's bleachers. I'm in the nosebleeds along with the other dishonored castes. Gray-wearing barren women, brown-wearing housemaids and fieldhands, black-wearing penitents. The penitents have black tape in the form of an X on their mouths to remind others that they aren't allowed to talk. They are almost always women, though there's occasionally a man who used to be a fieldhand for a wealthy family. Fieldhand is just a nicer word for slave. They'll be allowed to serve their punishment as a penitent if granted a Grace Sentence, meaning that their owner would be willing to forgive their trespasses upon completion of their penance.

Sometimes I wonder if I went back in time somehow to the 1700s. But then I see the quite modern, quite deadly machine guns in the Adjudicators' hands. The Appointed Pastor has a headset microphone because he moves while he preaches. Appointed Pastor Beau Garrison is in his late 30s, yet Brylcreemed his hair in a shiny ducktail style like it's 1950. He wears a royal blue three-piece suit with a golden cross stole over his shoulders. He preaches of sacrifice in the name of God's forgiveness. And other such bullshit.

"We let ourselves be swayed by the temptations of the world. We allowed ourselves to forget the truth of the Lord's message in favor of...tolerance." He spits out the word like it's a disgusting piece of candy. "The former illegitimate government was always taking God out of the equation. And then they were so surprised when evil took over our lives. They took God out of schools...here come school shootings. They took God out of medicine...here comes abortion, birth control, and forced vaccines. They took God out of our kids...and they grow up to be idolaters, sinners, whores, and degenerates."

I imagine something heavy falling upon AP Garrison. Perhaps his own hypocrisy in the form of a huge knife blade. I wonder how impotent he is in bed. Little blue pills don't do much for a man who knows so little about women. Perhaps he fucks like a drunk panda, too weighed down from his own inadequacy to make his wife orgasm. I imagine her lying beneath him, bored out of her mind, wishing he would finish so she could iron the laundry.

I pass the time with these demeaning scenarios, knowing that any utterance of them will get me turned into another street decoration. It could be that his sex life is perfectly satisfactory for both of them. Maybe he's a good husband, to compensate for being a horrible human being. Many wives and children of the German Nazis remember them fondly, not knowing the evils they perpetrated day after day. Sometimes it's not the most evil aspects of a person that horrify you...it's the tiny glimpse of humanity peaking through the cracks, like lotuses blooming in the dead of winter.

As much as I will never admit it out loud, I'm jealous. He can have conversations, be around people, have physical intimacy, and have his life mean something. You don't realize how much you need a social life until it's forbidden. Titan's hardly sober and we only meet maybe five times a month. The women I treat are too traumatized by their shitty lives. I have yet to find a decent man in this no-woman's-land. Maybe Ike, but we don't even talk or know each other's real names.

I guess I'm thankful to be a virgin. You can't miss sex if you've never had it, can you? I wasn't exactly a recluse back then, but I wasn't a social butterfly either. I had considered a one-night stand with some random guy, but it was a terrifying prospect. What if he ended up being an ultra creep? And it was still the beginning of the regime take-over when women's rights were deteriorating, making the usage of even period-tracker apps potentially life-threatening. Doctors told me it was unlikely I would ever conceive, not impossible, after all. Women couldn't get elective tubal ligation or hysterectomies. Celibacy was the safe option in a reality where a signed document had more agency over your body than you.

I'm whacked in the shoulder with a gun butt, snapping me back to the present. Some cueball-headed Adjudicator with a swastika on his ugly face drags me into a standing position as the closing hymns start. I mouth along to the anemic song, utterly devoid of any spiritual grace.

"You servants of God, your nation proclaim,

and publish abroad his wonderful name;

the name all-victorious of soldiers' extol;

his nation is glorious and rules over all."*

I suspect words have been changed to make it more nationalistic. I've noticed that any mention of Jesus is rarer than his lessons of tolerance and loving of one's neighbor. I'm not exactly a Christian, but I'm not an atheist either. I didn't much take to Sunday School and summer church camps as a kid, preferring to ride my bike and play games with the cul-de-sac kids. I accepted evolution as Earth's history, not two people and an evil apple tree.

My parents weren't super religious like other people we knew. I used to eat lunch with a fundamentalist girl in high school. She always wore floor-length skirts and long sleeves and read her Bible a lot. People picked on her for it, but she wasn't a brazenly hateful type of zealot like her parents were. She was always embarrassed at school functions because her parents would show up and make a big deal out of the secular music and cheerleaders' skimpy outfits.

My friends and I would laugh, not at the girl, but how comical her parents were in their earnest convictions. They were so entitled and pompous! I wondered how anyone could live their lives so incredibly roadblocked.

Well, I didn't have to wonder now. You live by remembering the good days and on the hope you'll be free again someday. You learn to shut your brain off and coast through the monotony. If you're fertile, you lie back on the bed, legs splayed open, eyes unfocused as you dissociate until he's done. If you're barren, you lie back on the bed, becoming overwhelmed with your uselessness, letting your rage seep out through your tears.

You exist.

And nobody cares.

6

I'm back in my government-issued apartment. The painted flag wall burns my eyes. I'm so used to gray that the red stripes are painful to look at. I can't cover it. The furniture is nailed down. There are no curtains or means to hang a blanket over the wall. It might as well have two giant eyeballs following me around. One of my aunts had a Jesus photo like that. I knew it was just an illusion, but the passive, judging face of Caucasian Jesus haunted my childhood nightmares.

What my parents lacked in zealotry, my extended family made up in spades. Both my parents had been divorcees before they met, so we didn't have a traditional family, at least not the American Republic sense of the phrase. Dad had a son with his ex-wife, the half-brother who went to college. Dale protected me as much as he could from Dad's rages. I was born when he was 9 years old. Dad worked long hours at a factory. Even when he was home, he wasn't the loving, doting father type. I suspected that he agreed to have me to make Mom happy.

I think they expected a baby to bring them closer as a family. Their marriage was on the rocks. I was a colicky infant and Mom had post-partum depression so bad, she had to stay in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Dale took care of me during that time and our grandparents helped out. I think they expected Dad to finally show some responsibility toward his kids, but no. He elected to work more overtime.

I think the first time I realized my father was an unpleasable man was when I began gaining weight in middle school. He forced me to join sports teams. I wasn't bad at them. I liked volleyball and made a few friends on the team. I hated basketball, though. The older girls bullied me, saying I ran like I shit myself. Dad would monitor my food intake to an obsessive degree, literally swiping half-eaten plates of food from me, telling me to go run it off. He weighed me three times a week. If I gained even a pound, he'd yell at me for an hour about how he wasn't going to have a lazy fat-ass for a daughter.

I don't remember the last time I saw him. I had moved away, finally free of his control. I don't think he ever told me he loved me.

My mother was a doormat. It's not a nice thing to say about your mom, but it's true. She might as well have been mold sticking to the wall. She feared my father's rages, compulsively cleaning and ironing to have his shirts ready for work. She watched Dad screaming at us mercilessly without saying a word. I complained all the time, asking why she didn't step in.

"He's just like that. You have to do better."

Do what better? I saw no end to the ongoing, exhausting cycle of appeasing him. I was no dog he could bash on the nose with a newspaper in hopes of training me. I was not a robot to be programmed to his liking.

And yet...

I guess in a way, I was trained to live this life. That brief taste of freedom faded. The few years I had agency over my own life had been a rug covering the growing piles of corruption swept underneath. We the people thought we were immune and that democracy was irrefutable.

It didn't happen all at once. We weren't waiting for it to happen because we were too busy living our lives to notice. The sensationalized media only covered the bloodiest and most scandalous events. Handshakes in secret meetings weren't newsworthy, conspiracies brewed in the blind spots behind flashier scapegoats. The problems of the nation were blamed on video games, secularism, millennial selfishness, and progressive movements.

We were cynical after 2020. The pandemic conditioned us to expect the worst. When the January 6th riot happened, it had been alarming, but we weren't surprised. We had seen the rhetoric from pundits on social media and news stations, knowing that the pot was just about to boil. We thought the lunacy had hit its peak and things were going to plateau again. The rioters were arrested, but the conspirators within the government still kept their seats.

The ongoing trial of the former president who incited the riot lasted well into 2024. Even after he tried to incite an insurrection, the Supreme Court had let him remain eligible for re-election. Once he lost again in November, I let out a breath. He would be sentenced in 2025.

I wanted that to be the end. The end to the nightmare that threatened to uproot our lives, to demolish our nation into dust. But it was only a catalyst.

On March 7th, 2026, I arrived at work to the entire hospital in chaos. Social media, online universities, online retailers, and even email clients were down. News stations covered the outage, claiming that it was a solar flare. I called bullshit. A solar flare would disable entire electric grids, not just the servers. Cell phone data networks soon followed. One of my coworkers managed to jerry-rig a connection through the Dark Web. Underground forums were overloaded with people commiserating about the outage. We formed a consensus that this was a terrorist attack.

Well, we were kind of right.

The radio stations went silent, AM and FM. Cable stations went dark. C-SPAN channels disappeared. I was too terrified to use landline phones. I stopped going to work, fearing for the worst. Riots began in the streets—cars on fire, broken windows, looted stores. I hid inside my apartment, shutting all the windows and deadbolting the door. Sirens blared through the nights, interspersed with gunfire.

I couldn't think of how to escape, except the ultimate way. I remembered staring at a bottle of pills, never quite getting the courage to down them. Maybe the riots would calm down and the streets would become deserted. That was the desperation talking. The days dwindled by slowly, the food in the fridge became scarce.

The apartment raids were the most horrifying time of my life. I heard kicked-in doors, breaking chains, people screaming, babies crying. I nearly suffocated, crying so hard from fear. There were whimpers of dogs, yowls of cats, screeches of birds...then the sickening sound of crackling, like they were being strangled.

I pleaded with God, a God I'm not sure I believed in.

"Please...please...please..." I sobbed, holding myself tightly, like I was afraid I'd fall apart.

I wasn't sure what I was praying for. My life? My death? For them not to find me? For them not to rape me?

My door was broken down. I couldn't move. I couldn't even breathe.

Please...please...please...

"Got a live 'un!" one of the invaders shouted. "Ugh, she's a porker. Up you get, bitch."

The guy was in a cop's uniform. I didn't look at his face. I only knew him as a hand gripping my arm as he dragged me off the bed.

"What do you think?" my captor asked his fellow officers searching the rest of the unit.

"Fat camp, definitely." another face said, almost bored, checking something off a clipboard.

"Found a freak flag." a third man said, holding a pride pin. "She got a dick?"

My captor fondled between my legs.

I left my body then. I had no use for it anymore because they certainly weren't going to respect it.

The escort journey was a blur. I was barely aware of being in a van with five other women, looking like they had lost touch with reality as well. I was a zombie as I was processed. I was stripped naked, prodded, poked, and invaded by instruments, and fingers. They treated me even worse when I was deemed a barren woman.

They placed me in an uncomfortably hot cell with barely a stitch of clothing on. They gave me just enough water to stave off kidney failure. They hadn't yet decided what to do with me. Some women could be useful, even if they weren't fertile. Sometime, maybe a couple days or weeks later, I was collected from my cell and brought to an air-conditioned room. A robust man with an orange beard and shaved head listed all of my known sins.

"29-years-old, infertile. Hymen broken, so you probably went too many times on the dick carousel."

Horse-backing riding as a kid had broken my hymen, but I wasn't about to tell him that. Not like he was going to believe me. Let him think I'm a whore.

"You were found with a pride flag in your possession. Are you an ally or part of the freak brigade?"

"Ally." I hissed, my voice rasping.

"Freak supporter. I'm sure the dykes, bikes, trannies, and faggots all appreciate your loyalty from hell." he said dismissively.

I stayed silent. Any wrong words had a price now, I knew that much.

"Well, you know how to be quiet, that's one good thing. And your nursing career could be of use to us. It's a shame you can't bear children. Though, never say never. There have been miracles before. Maybe some months of doing the Lord's work will bless you in due time. Now, the plan is for you to lose some weight so you can be presentable as a dutiful woman."

Every meal I ate was logged. They still are. Meals are distributed three times a day by a grunt Adjudicator. Every single calorie, protein, and vitamin was calculated. There was no hiding food because they did unit checks three times a week. I ate everything given to me, even I hated it.

I am a dutiful woman. I stay quiet, I cross my legs like a lady, I humble myself before Appointed Wives and Senators.

I start to cry as I lie on my bed.

I am a dutiful woman, but I not a person. I am a body being rented by men, not sexually, but still in a demeaning way. This can't be it. This can't be the extent of my life on this planet.

I still have a name. My last name had been changed, but I can still remember the real one. So what if my records had been eradicated in the purges? I'm still me...kind of. Aren't I? My heart still beats, my lungs still breathe, though shallowly. Perhaps it's delusion, desperation, dissociation...all the fucking exhaustive diagnoses that come from living a borrowed life.

Silence is the loudest when you have no way to fill the hollow air.

*This hymn is a bastardized version of "Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim" by Norton and Charles Westly

About the Creator

CD Turner

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

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    CD TurnerWritten by CD Turner

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