Divisible (Ch. 6)
"Power is not the same thing as intellect, nor is intellect contingent on power... when power is accompanied by intellect, it can either be a force for good... or it can be an immensely dangerous tool, like an atomic bomb."
Catch up by reading the previous chapters:
I had my own designated bedroom tonight. It was Flora’s turn to sleep with the Head of House. It was originally Kristen’s, but Isolde had made her stand outside in the boiling heat for three hours as punishment for embarrassing her at the rally. When she came back inside, her face was sunburnt and solemn, the lingering scent of bile and sweat entering with her.
I lie on the bed, feeling more like I was resting on concrete. These firm mattresses were supposedly good for your back, but I would wager lying the floor would be more comfortable. I stared at the ceiling, counting the globules of hastily-painted eggshell white on the ceiling. If you stared long enough, they’d become constellations. Or maybe my brain was desperate to entertain itself. Isolation is crippling to both mind and body. I’m surrounded by people, but these people reject me or exploit me for selfish motives. I’m little more than an asset to be claimed on government forms, bolstering rank for men that would rape and kill me without blinking an eye.
I stared at my fingers, contemplating the color of my skin. I was undeniably the child of my biracial mother, yet stark white like my father. To think that I would be accepted as Concubine of a ruling class of white supremacists was baffling. They abhorred the “mixing of white and black blood,” called biracial children “mongrels.” Was I a mongrel who had somehow slipped into the system? I was once a field worker that lived in the compounds, the same classification as my mother.
I picked vegetables from the massive Richmond Plantation, owned by an old woman who addressed us as “those compound niggers.” I always wondered if I had slipped into a wormhole somehow and found myself in 1930, because this was not in anyway the 2024 I had imagined. The woman was nicer to me, but only because I was the lightest-skinned. That didn’t mean she wasn’t racist—she saw me as a victim of the ungodly times. I would rather have her vitriol than her simpering pity, like I was a child whose parents had been criminals.
I met Arthur at the plantation during fall harvest. I was picking apples off trees in the orchard, sweating my life away in the 90-degree heat. He came over to admire our work. He didn’t talk to me or introduce himself. He just watched as I worked. It was almost creepy, like he was imagining me naked. The Adjudicators did this as well, acting like it was their right to leer. It was a silent threat. They had smirks that reached their eyes that were saying, “Whatcha gonna do about it?”
Weeks later, I was transferred to this plantation house, though I no longer had harvesting duty. Strings had been pulled, asses kissed. Though in some respects, this was a different form of slavery. Only the First Wife was more Antebellum than Great Depression. How long has it been since I was captured? Days feel like weeks here, though in hindsight, they were over in minutes. I was a phantom, an anachronism in this regression.
How had it all started? What was the catalyst, where was the epicenter of backwards revolution? The 2021 Stock Market Disaster, Hurricane Mitch’s destruction path through the gulf coast in 2020, the continual onslaught of earthquakes and tsunamis in California of 2022? The election of a Republican candidate even worse than the last… Jim West. Born in West Virginia, raised by Reaganites, ideologies compromised of the most extreme conservative values. He, however, was not an idiot. He was everything missing from the government’s efforts to whitewash the Congress and Senate. The United States could have gone downhill in 2016 if that president at the time hadn’t been such a dumbass.
To think that idiocy spared America for a few more years. I almost miss that administration now.
Power is not the same thing as intellect, nor is intellect contingent on power. Sure, you have more chances to better yourself if you’re born into an affluent family, but ultimately this society values charisma and social standing more than how high your SAT scores were. But when power is accompanied by intellect, it can either be an extremely powerful force for good, like Bill Gates, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey… or it can be an immensely dangerous tool, like an atomic bomb. That is what James “Jimmy” West was in 2020.
Noel and I had watched the Republican National Convention the year before, watching the previous president elect stick his foot in his mouth... and all the way down and out of his own ass. Jim West had been unapologetically ruthless in his promises to “clean up the filth of this spilled mixing pot.” He was politically correct, but not to the benefit of the people… it was a snide overstating, always said with a leer and a smirk. He never outwardly promised the things that would unravel in the months after his inauguration.
Jim West was not conservative. He was fascist in all of his motives. He did not promise just to end abortion practices in the country, he promised to make it a capital offense to kill a fetus. He was not in favor of deporting illegal immigrants. He wanted to offer them jobs. Only these “jobs” didn’t pay anything and the immigrants weren’t allowed to go homes. Soon after the public outcries started happening, the news channels started disappearing. Word-of-mouth stories started spreading about newspaper factories being evacuated and shut down by force. C-SPAN channels were removed. Capitol Hill’s designation as a tourist attraction was revoked. People were arrested for trying to sneak cameras into government functions such as Congress and the Senate.
The disappearances began. These weren’t random either, it was always a certain demographic. Hispanic, African American, Asian, European, openly gay, bisexual, transgender, Pride-supporters, Muslims, Jews, atheists, humanists, anything other than straight Christian Caucasian was fair game. I remembered hearing the horror stories, seeing the rare video taken of carvings of swastikas and other symbols of bigotry on doorways, slurs spray-painted on business buildings, entire window displays broken, the stores set afire…
I remember Noel and I trying to find any source of news that would tell us what was happening in the country. That was the ultimate warning sign, the siren blaring for us to get the hell out. We booked red eye flights to the UK. Come to think of it, I believe we got those tickets ridiculously cheap. Some kind of effort on the airlines to get as many minorities out of the country as possible.
Though we thought that all of us escaping was doing their deporting for them, they started buckling down on all airports. Literally, the day we drove to Richmond International, there were blockades of black-garbed men with rifles in their hands standing in front of the terminals. Crowds formed in front of them, yelling this and that about constitutional rights.
But this was not the America we knew anymore. Weeks before, the 14th amendment had been abolished. But minorities were sure as hell not going down without a fight. And they did fight. But the Holy Adjudication Militia had the better weapons. They fired rounds indiscriminately, the only diversity they ever embraced. Whites that fought against them weren’t spared, they were considered race traitors. Soon, regretfully, the protesters stopped and they were arrested.
They would all be dead now. They would have been made examples, like the rally we saw today. All of that blood spilled, regardless of the corpses’ skin color, bled the same color scarlet. In these quiet moments to myself, I mourned them. I let myself silently cry the tears I’d been reserving. They would be wasted on the people in this house if they saw me crying. It’s the least I can do, to cry for the injustice and loss. That way I can tell myself that I’m not crying for selfish reasons.
I cried for Noel, because somehow I know he’s dead. I feel awful admitting it, giving up on him so easy, like he wasn’t strong enough to fight back. But this society was not about who’s stronger than who, it’s who’s whiter, who has the right opinion, who has the bigger stick… a double-entendre if there ever was one. I wish I had a picture of him, something to remind me to keep living. Even if I believed he was dead, I would still cleave on to his memory. In my dreams, he would seem so real, the warmth of his palms, the smell of his aftershave, the taste of his skin. I would wake up crying because I knew I couldn’t linger there in the non-space, the ex nihilo of denial and desperation.
Sleep does not come easily tonight. I feel deprived of so much. I am not touched in love. I am a possession, a trophy to fondle when he needs his ego stroked. Yet, I feel like I let him use me. Was it rape if I gave him wanted he wanted? The question seemed stupid to me—of course it’s rape. When it’s a choice between being torn apart by dogs and being raped, it is no choice. I tell myself this and yet I remember how my traitorous body reacted. I was wet and slick enough that it didn’t hurt from friction. I tell myself it was a survival thing, the body trying to lessen its own trauma. However, I can’t help but feel like a part of me is relenting to him, allowing him to dominate me.
Somehow, someway, I do sleep. I dreamt of walking down a runway naked, the audience surrounding the stage were weird mechanized rats. The absurdity of my dreams was embarrassing and I equated it with stress.
Sometime in the early morning, I awaken to a commotion in the hall.
“Disgusting! You could have told me it was your feral week!” I heard Arthur screaming.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know that it would come so soon! I’m so sorry!” Flora cried.
I jumped as the sound of flat hand hitting flesh pierced the air.
“Go wash off and plug yourself up,” Arthur replied. A door slammed. Flora could barely breathe for crying.
Feral week. That was the new terminology for menstruation. These laws were so backwards, that women got punished for getting their periods at inopportune times. “If it wasn’t for the need to produce children, I would have the bitches’ wombs sewn shut!” These things said sound so outlandish, but it is my unfortunate recollection of the men’s rights activists. There were divisions among their members, the types that support the abolition of abortion and contraceptives. But there were also proponents for forcible hysterectomies. “You want to bleed like a bitch? Then I’m gonna spay you like a bitch.”
I considered going out to comfort Flora. But somehow, as a woman, I knew she wanted to be alone. There were times for solidarity and times when you couldn't stand to be seen so vulnerable.
I cried for Flora, too.