Divisible (Ch. 3)
It's 2025. A woman's vote is counted for half of a man's, a minority's even less. We've been silent for far too long. It's time to fight... Even if our lives are at stake.
Morning dawned and I lie still thinking of my life from this point onward. Concubines had the same rights as average female citizens, the only difference is that we could vote in the Sovereign Assembly. Our votes only counted for half of a man's, but they stacked for how many concubines a Head of House had. For example, if the Head of House had 15 concubines, he'd be able to put forth 9.2 of votes adding the First Wife's 0.7 of a vote and his own point. The First Wife was originally only half a point like us, but they banded together and protested that they should be seen as equals to their husband. The Assembly compromised and decided that they would be given 0.7 of a vote.
I was allowed to vote. Hurray. I should get a cake for my whole 0.5 of a vote, my only tiny fraction as opposed to the Heads who collect concubines like women used to collect nail polish. If anything, this half a point rule was just an insult. After all, what was one half a drop of water to an entire ocean of acid? It wasn't as if we could change our predicament by majority vote. It was a power play, a slap to the face, this reconfirmation that we had no real choice over our destiny. Who would you like to be the new Sovereign State Appointed Leader? This bureaucratic misogynistic supremacist or this other bureaucratic misogynistic supremacist?
In my days working in the Craftswork Warehouses, it was my quiet fury that fueled me through each grueling task. Chain stitch, single crochet, silently envision stabbing the Adjudicator behind you who keeps kicking your chair just because he can, yarn over, repeat. They could beat you for the slightest offense like staring at them or missing a stitch.
I wouldn't have to go back to the Warehouses. Concubines could have their own gardens, make their own clothes, and have hobbies, just as long as each was in confines of regulation. At the price of complete subjugation to a man and to the mercies of his First Wife, you could have a taste of freedom.
I thought of what I might do today. My immediate goal was to get off this bed before the Head wanted to initiate morning sex. Luckily, his watch beeped an alarm at 6:50 AM and he slowly arose like a bear unfurling from his winter hibernation. His wiry, nondescript body was no more alluring naked than it was in his expensive tailored suits. I never noticed the tattoo on his back, between his shoulder blades. It eerily reminded me of my criminal analyst class way back when, when we were learning about prison gang culture including tattoos.
The two-dimensional eagle, wings spread, was called a Reichsadler. This symbol was used in the many reincarnations of fascism throughout history. Rather than the bottom circle being filled with the swastika. However, it was a contrived mash-up of symbols: the background, a white trident; overhead, an ichthys or a symbol more commonly known as the "sign of the fish;" below the three tines of the trident, the male symbol in gold wrapped around the middle; at the trident's base, the female symbol in silver.
I remember news stories before, of political pundits, early supporters of the Sovereign Party that would explain their ideology. Noel would berate the news station itself, questioning why they even let these "neo-Nazi assholes on." I wouldn't voice my concerns then, but I had to wonder if the government had been infiltrated long before the initial takeover. Anyway, one proponent of the Sovereign Party would explain the trident symbol being a "life rune," meaning "Aryan heritage." Nevertheless, dissenters would still call it a trident. It wasn't hard to figure out the complete message of the Sovereign Party's insignia: Christianity over man, man over woman, white-supremacy at its base.
There are times when I wonder if this life is really a fever dream. Maybe I was in a coma in my real life and this was an imagined nightmare.
The Head had slipped into the bathroom. I hadn't even noticed he left the bed. I also had to pee, but I would find another bathroom. There were about eight in this massive plantation house.
Carefully, I sat up, keeping the covers around my naked chest. Before me was the wardrobe full of modest spring dresses, each in regulation colors allowed for concubines. No black, no purple, no red, no white. Each of those colors had meanings not afforded to someone of my stature. I wrapped the linen sheets around my body like a makeshift robe and went over to open the wardrobe doors to view my choices. All were sleeved, modestly collared, and hovered just above the ankle.
I chose a royal blue plain dress and chose stockings from the boxes below the hanging dresses. I found an actual robe as well, quickly shucking the sheets back on the bed and redressing in the terry cloth. I chose underwear and a bra, both shapeless elastic cloth, and very quietly left the room, easing the door closed behind me. This hallway was silent, all doors still closed. I made my way to the far end where I knew a bathroom was with a shower. Thankfully, it was vacated and I looked around for towels. Pink ones were hanging from the bar beside the claw-foot tub, ready for spoilage.
There were no showers allowed for concubines—a few local dams in the area had been blown up in the pockets of war still waging on the East Coast, so water was being rationed. Each bathtub had a sensor that measured how much water was being used at a time and it stopped flow to a bathtub that used too much for a complete 24 hours. I heard rumors that the Adjudicators were notified every time it happened. For these reasons, I only filled up the tub half-way, enough to cover my legs and sink a cup into to wash my hair.
These days have taught me to exercise an overabundance of caution. I only talked when spoken to, I obeyed every command, I dressed according to regulation, I did every duty assigned to me. There were urges, of course. Urges to defy the regime and show my middle-finger to the Man. But this is so much more than restoring personal freedoms. There was danger hidden in every nook and cranny, spies in the walls, people begging me to break so they had an excuse, any excuse, to torture me into submission. Was rebellion even possible if survival seemed like a pipe dream?