Any honest analysis of the plight of women has to begin from this assumption: any right conceded, is a right that can be taken away. It is inherently false equality, a pantomime. Our freedom would exist out of the mercy of, and at the sufferance of, our very oppressors. That is still subjugation; no matter how gentle its trappings.
I“I am Helenia Garcia,” I declare out loud, “a fallen prime minister in a world of fallen women.” I lick my lips, taking in unsteady breath, trying to calm my twitching fingers. “I may lead a double life, but my self is one.”
I clear my throat, trying to sound more confident than I feel. The office chair beneath me squeaks in protest, as I shift uncomfortably in my seat. “I can finish this report. All I need to do is type. Easy, I’ve done it a thousand times before.”
I can finish this, and maybe not masturbate, I think to myself. But I don’t include that part in the mantra. That would do me no good.
I never put much stock in mantras, but the payload has made me reconsider. If there truly was no value in repetition, in constant exposure to an idea or a concept, why would the developers take such pains to incorporate them in their design?
Maybe it will help me ground myself, which I direly need right now, because as it happens, I do lead a double life.
The first half is as an overpaid and dubiously useful consultant to the government. I mostly work from home, and only go to Rafael’s office when strictly necessary. My political instincts tell me that physical proximity to power is important, but if I don’t keep my visits short and infrequent, I… I don’t know what I might do.
Oh, no, I know. That’s exactly why I don’t go. Already as it is, Rafael’s eyes haunt me. Green and gold. Made to undress a woman, revealing not just her sculpted, man-pleasing form, but most of all, her inadequacy. Her inferiority. Her failure…
Small wonder I can’t write, with such filth swirling in my head. I try to focus, but the blinking mark on the blank page of my word processor stares at me in silent mockery. I can see Rafael’s gaze as if he was here now.
He’s kind of my boss, in a way, isn’t he? He’s set a deadline for me, a deadline for this report to be finished, and there is such expectation in his eyes… or maybe my payload-addled brain is making it up.
The deadline is closing in, and I need to submit the…
The document. Of course. I gulp, trying to ignore the sudden dryness of my mouth. I’ll make it by the deadline, for sure, I’m just having a little trouble being productive right now.
Naturally, the me-adjacent voice whispers in my head. You’re a woman. You have… other ways of being productive.
I slam my fist on the desk, and it hurts, which is good. Pain is good. It brings me back to the here and now.
I look out the window, as shadows lengthen with the dying of the day. No matter what men tell us, and tell themselves—the dark has never been friendly to us women. It’s never been safe. But now, that’s so much truer than it’s ever been.
And yet, I’ll be heading out soon. The second half of my double life, after all, begins when the sun begins to dip towards the horizon.
Each evening, in Carnazial, an unattended phone from over twenty years ago awaits me. And each evening, I pick it up.
As always, instructions and questions await me, in the form of draft text messages typed out on the phone, and sent to nobody. What does the new labour reform entail? What will you tell Rafael? Will he listen to you?
Good questions, all. Once I’ve read them, I delete them, as instructed… and begin to type my own responses, to the best of my ability. Leaking secrets of my country’s government to a mysterious group, because that’s how dire women’s plight feels to me right now. Because they say they are hope.
The very last of it.
It’s difficult, so difficult, because I’m a fallen prime minister in a world of fallen women, and I coexist with a double voice in my head. My own voice, and the other one, one that sounds so deceptively like my own subconscious, except it’s wrong. The one that tells me I’m betraying Rafael. My boss. My lord.
I can feel it, trying to warp my logic, to bind my will, to rein me in. It deprives me of sleep, bombards me with images. All I have to fight back is my intellect, and my will. And the mantras, those help, too. I constantly remind myself that I am a person, that women will be free again, and most importantly…
That I can choose.
It’s surreal how such an entirely mundane statement can become powerful, even extraordinary, in so little time. I can choose, and so many women are in no position to say the same… because ultimately, that’s what the payload is all about. Isn’t it?
To strip a woman of choices, one after another. Plucked, like petals from a flower, so easily taken away, until all that’s left for them to do is… fall.
Oh, the illusion of choice is there, but it usually doesn’t last long. Every single day, all over the world, women employ many strategies to try and resist, to dodge their fate. To avoid that singular moment of surrender that is etched deep into our dreams, night after night.
Knees hitting the floor, lips pressed in reverence against cold leather, a feeling of rapture…
They all fail.
You can run to the far corners of the Earth, but the payload will likely find its way to you. You can try to trick it, but there’s no tricking an evil that lives in your brain. Pretending at docility will not satisfy its hunger. It demands the true thing, no, it compels it.
You can negotiate, plead, cajole, arrange… but in truth, so many women don’t even get to choose their own master. Not really. After all, your owner—God, that word makes me bite my lower lip—can swear and promise to keep you, to respect you… but the moment the collar fastens around your neck, all bets are off.
If he wants to sell you off, he can. If he wants to use you in a way you had ruled out while “negotiating”, there will be no stopping him. The payload is not content with women making deals, moderating their enthrallment, oh no. It will accept one outcome, and one only: unconditional surrender.
After all, a man has the right to dispose of his property as he sees fit…
I dig my nails into my thighs, trying to ground myself, to fight the images. To fight, period.
That matters. I’m fighting back, I’m leaking Rafael’s secrets to this shadowy group, for no other reason than because I chose to. Me. Not a digital parasite in my brain, pretending to think for me.
Unlike so many women, I actually had alternatives, real alternatives. Even after my fall from grace, the end of my political career, I could have enjoyed a priceless luxury few women can afford. A quiet retirement, someplace where I can wait out the payload, until a cure is found.
Instead, I have chosen something else, not once, but twice. First, I’ve chosen to get involved with Rafael’s government, to see what I could do for women. And then, I’ve chosen to channel information back to whoever it is that called me that night; that leaves the unattended phone for me on a bench, day after day.
I wonder if it makes me a hero, of sorts. Somehow, that feels a little ridiculous to even consider. Even if it was technically true, heroes are big, strong…
And I feel nothing but. I’m small, and girly, and lost.
I must confess, when all this began, I imagined it to be somewhat more dashing, more… noble. The opportunity to counsel Rafael—a foot in the door, a last gasp chance to influence him for the better, do something to help women. And this, well…
I guess even prime ministers, fallen or otherwise, aren’t immune to the romanticisation brought about by spy movies. I feel nothing like a dashing informant, or for that matter even a villainous traitor. I just feel like… a woman.
That means something entirely different now than it used to, unfortunately.
No matter how much I try to muster my energetic, inherently feminist, blazing defiance… there are moments when I wonder why the hell I ever made such insane choices. Why I couldn’t just accept stepping down from the stage, and let the world figure out its own problems without me.
This is one of those moments.
Over three years in office, I have stood my ground while locking gazes with the mightiest men on the face of this planet. And now, I’m sitting in front of my computer, huddling in my chair like a scared student before an exam.
Worse. I’m panting like a desperate bitch in heat, eyes growing watery and unfocused, desperately trying to keep my hands firmly planted on the desk.
To not let them wander…
I stare at the two screens in front of me. On one is my report, slowly and laboriously coming together, in spite of the empty page staring back at me from the screen. So daunting, so disheartening.
On the other screen is a copy of the legislative draft I’m reviewing… the government’s proposal for labour reform. Such a nondescript title. A euphemism, really. If I’m having trouble writing, surely at least reading a dry legislative document should come easier to me.
After a while, my head throbs, and my eyes begin to water. I have been battling with this demon inside me long enough, that I can recognise the beginning of the downward spiral: weakness feeds on weakness, and each moment of vacillation gives the payload more ammunition against me.
Reading isn’t girly, my subconscious declares with absolute certainty. Try kneeling instead…
But I do read, and the words fill me with a strange sense of excitement, anticipation. Just the title of this thing is enough to make my legs twitch, to make me wonder if it would really be so bad to just rub myself, just for a little while…
Developing a clear and concise legislative framework for female demotion in the workplace, I read, and the words feel like honey to me, sweeter than sex ever felt, better than any sensation this earth has to offer.
I never thought I could attach sexual connotations to terns like these before, but now they roll so sweetly off my tongue… demotion, relegation, lower pay, more befitting of their status… Proper place. Reduced. Rolled back, once more confined to the home, for our own protection, and our masters’ convenience.
My fantasy, unbidden, flies to feverish scenarios. Is there going to be a Female Demotion Act? Is parliament going to vote on it? Will I publicly endorse it, blushing and simpering, shouting my treason to my own gender at the very top of my lungs, for all the world to hear?
…Will it make me wet?
The last one’s rhetorical. I’m wet now. Panting like a bitch in heat, in fact.
So pathetic. So weak. I can only imagine what my younger self, tireless student and rapid-fire writer of essays, would say if she could see me now. Drooling, struggling to stay focused on the words, battling a self-defeating arousal that’s been forcefully implanted into my brain.
Incapable of completing this next page of my report, because I’m busy savouring the incredible sensation, the way the words sound so right, like they were ordained by nature itself. Female demotion. A vision of knees buckling, all over the world, and feminine hair swept away, to bear the collar to the yoke we were always destined to-
I wince in pain, as my nails dig deep into my flesh. I don’t relent, though, and keep pressing in for five seconds, ten. I only loosen my grip once my vision clears, and my breath steadies.
Such a fighter I am. Can’t write a fucking uni-level report on a legislative draft, because my brain is no longer my own. At least, not entirely.
I sigh. There’s this thing I’ve learned about the payload. It radiates a kind of… totalising corruption. It trickles down every nook and cranny, contaminating places you never even thought of. Like this one.
If you’d ever told me, before the event, that I would have been hopelessly aroused by reading a draft bill on labour reform, I would have asked what you were smoking.
And yet, I read through each clause with trembling fingers, and I have to softly bite on them, to stop them from wandering down, between my legs…
Employers’ concerns about the professional suitability of payload-carrying women are grounded, the proposal says. Grounded. An evil mind control virus has been implanted into our brains, and they’re grounded for being worried that we’re not going to be good employees?
The more I read, the tighter the knot in my stomach becomes. Many female employees simply can’t be trusted to carry out tasks at previous performance levels; trusted to keep confidentiality; or even to show up to work on time.
That’s right, my subconscious supplies. What if someone collars you on the commute to work, drags you back to the den by the hair, or by a leash… I’d follow so willingly, but waste the precious time of my employer in the process. My MALE employer. So, why not just skip the middleman? Why not just lower yourself in the shadow of a man, and…
Even punching the wall is barely enough to pull me back, this time, and that worries me. No, it terrifies me. What if the workaround stops working? What if the payload builds, I don’t know, tolerance, or…
I snarl. The payload is a puzzle I can’t solve, and thinking about it is just going to drive me mad. What I can do is tell Rafael that this proposal is infuriating.
Yes, he wants to end indiscriminate and utter chaos in the workplace, but that doesn’t mean he wants to guarantee women’s jobs, or anything like that. Oh, no. He’s simply replacing the rule of the jungle with legal and authoritarian oppression. That may be more orderly, but it doesn’t make it any less abusive.
His cronies, particularly his secretary of labour, Ruiz, have filled the proposal with so many bad-faith clauses, clearly trying to codify as many instances as possible where it would be legal to take a woman’s career away. By demoting her, or firing her.
For a moment, I wonder what’s become of my own former secretary of labour… Anna Costa was young, fierce, as determined a feminist as I’ve ever known. She was also the very first of my ministers to resign after the payload hit her. I haven’t heard from her since.
I shake my head. Rafael won’t care for what I have to say when it comes to the fundamentals, I know. I can maybe trim around the edges, but if I just tell him this is a dumpster fire of evil, he’ll politely deny. He’ll say he just wants to establish procedure.
Because that way, if a company fires a woman for the payload, it’s not wrongful termination anymore, but grounded concern about our abilities. And naturally, if a company demotes a woman to a more appropriate position… one more befitting of her talents…
I don’t know what angers me more, the intellectual dishonesty behind this manipulation, or the fact that every neuron in my body is lit on fire by the very thought. Begging for me to ask him to demote me himself…
But in a way he already has, hasn’t he? He’s taken my old job away…
Focus, Helenia. Keep reading.
Oh, and of course there’s the other way women can avoid mistreatement and abuse in the workplace… not harassment, or rape, I note. Those words do not show up in the draft, not even once. That makes sense. In a way, women can’t really be raped anymore, now, can we?
Should we? Be raped?
No, there are clauses in here about… husband’s prerogative of protection… his right to confine his woman to the home would thus be enshrined in law. No need to fear being made the office sex slave, if you just give up your career.
There it is again, choice. A choice between serving men at work, or serving your husband and/or owner at home. And we don’t even get to make it! We have no say in any of this. The man can simply decide to extend his protection to the woman, to withdraw her to the workplace, and to the more natural safety of the home…
Rafael, you sneaky bastard. Of course, you’ve always thought and said we belong in the home. What better excuse to push us back there, now? It’s for our own safety! This way, we won’t get gangraped in the office! We’ll just have to give up our autonomy, and act as maids and house servants for men.
Serve them. Accept them as our rightful lords and masters…
I was worried that Rafael’s penchant for procedure would not be enough to salvage some rights for us, but what I’m seeing here is horrifying. There’s no meaningful improvement over the current chaos. It just details how to get to the same outcomes in a more orderly manner.
This is what it looks like, then. Legislation in a world of fallen women. Maybe I can challenge it, push back against it, at least mollify some of the details… but in order to do that, I need to finish this fucking report, and soon.
Easy, right? It’s just a report, and I’m a big girl, a smart girl. All I need to do is battle the demon voice inside me, trying to make me crumble from within.
All I need to do is start typing. Better yet, I need to get through the entire draft first, without masturbating.
I lean forward, my head between my arms, forehead pressed against the cool wooden surface of my desk. This is so unfair. I’m trying so hard to make a difference! I could have walked away, and instead I chose to stay and fight, only… why does it have to be so hard?
Maybe I just made the wrong choice. I could be sipping margaritas in an isolated mansion far from everybody. Why am I subjecting myself to this torture, to this… humiliation? To this considerable risk to myself, even, because God knows just reading these words, the formalisation of our impending relegation, is making me teeter closer and closer to the edge of the abyss…
Why, just why?
But I know the reason. Right? For sure, of course I do: I’m doing this for women.
That’s true, isn’t it? It has to be. I’m the only one who can try and ameliorate this horrible draft, my gender needs me. I have many concerns about this proposal, to put it mildly, and if I am to help my fellow women, I need to bring them up to Rafael’s attention.
Really, this is just an extension of my lifelong career—I entered politics because I wanted to build a better world, and this is no different. In darker circumstances, but the same. It’s the same.
For women, yes. That’s the reason why I will finish this report, and not masturbate.
No matter how much I begin to hyperventilate, when I get to the list of newly-minted legitimate reasons for demotion, and among them are pathological submissiveness and payload-induced female cognitive simplification…
I press my thighs together, emitting a long, low moan of agonising torment. This is it: totalising corruption. Every single thing under the sun stinks of sex, and power, and masculine triumph. The taint is on everything I see, because in truth, the taint is in the eye of the beholder. The weakening, lessening, fading beholder…
Maybe I’m not doing this for women, after all. How can I be sure? Can a woman truly help other women, at a time like this? Maybe my mysterious contacts are right. Only those free of the stain can see the world clearly. Only they can help.
Maybe I’m doing this for them.
But no, that’s not true. I don’t know their identities, their methods, or even the details about their ultimate goals. I’m just hedging my bets, that’s all. Playing it by ear, navigating the ever more treacherous waters of gendered power in this fallen world…
I’m so exhausted, and I’m not used to the feeling. When I ruled, I would greet each morning like a new opportunity to win. Now, I crawl out of bed, gasping and trembling. I grasp at anything to grind me in the real world. To make me forget the heat in my sex, and the sudden weakness in my limbs.
I didn’t know tiredness, once. Now, my limbs and mind drag me down into the pit of despondency, whenever I try to get some work done. And even if I succeed… even then…
The nature of my work for Rafael does not agree well with my current condition, let’s say. Maybe I should have thought about it before accepting. Me and my stupid pride.
But that pride is all I have left. My bulwark. My self.
Maybe that’s the real answer. I’m not doing this for the mystery callers, or for women. I’m doing this for me, to protect the last bulwark of the woman I was. Am. Will be again.
I shake my head, trying to concentrate on the reading… while simultaneously ignoring the stain.
Come on Helenia, I tell myself. I need to finish this. Rafael loves order, and will not tolerate tardiness. I should not disappoint him with inadequate work. Then, he might look at me with cold contempt… or chastise me, ohh…
I will myself to focus, and resume typing. I go through each major item, explaining why it’s terrible for women, or insufficient at helping them, and why it needs revision.
And not, absolutely, why it’s so hot, and natural, and just, and fucking hot…
Maybe that’s the truth of it. I’m doing this for Rafael, aren’t I? What purpose could a woman possibly have, that is not a man? Me, his fallen rival, turned dutiful assistant, powerless secretary, hopelessly compiling a report to assist him in his efforts… to stand by, and watch him rule.
Arching my back, touching myself like a good girl who knows her place. Eating from the palm of his hands, like the pet I was always meant to be. Hands… my right hand is resting on my belly, now, and it wasn’t there before.
My thighs part, just a little. The subtlest of invitations. It could snake down so easily, just get to work, it’d probably be over in minutes, because I’m so worked up, thinking about Rafael, the sole of his shoe pressed gently but firmly against my neck.
It feels like my hips are trying to twitch upwards. To make my sex meet my hand halfway, perhaps, or just to hump the empty air, like a dumb animal in heat, waiting to be filled, to be repurposed…
Maybe, if Rafael likes my report, he’ll let me get down to my knees and suck his cock…
A moment of defiance is all I get. A moment of defiance is all I need.
I turn away from the screens in a panic, the chair thrown back to crash into the wall. I run out the room like something’s chasing me, even though it’s no use, because the predator hunting me is inside my own brain and there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
I sit down, huddled in a corner, back against the wall, knees pressed to my chest. I wrap my arms around them, a terrified little girl in the sitting equivalent of a fetal position. Breathing heavily, my forehead pearled with sweat.
I’m not cut out for this, I just can’t. Trying to get this thing in writing is… what if I lose myself to the…
No no no. That wasn’t true, that fantasy. None of it was true.
I may not know why I’m doing this for, or for whom, exactly, but I’m Helenia Garcia, and my self is whole, and this much I know—that I can do it.
Only, if that’s true… why am I so afraid?
* * *
There is a surgical quality to the eyes of men.
At least, the payload makes it seem that way… but the archetypes it’s evoking, those are not new. No, they’re old, as old as our civilisation. Rafael’s polite, superior gaze is the sort of silent sentence every woman has ever known.
The judgement, in his eyes. The expectation that he is the evaluator, and the female has to conform to his specifications. He is the patriarch, the general, the shaman, the lord of the manor, and I am but a lowly servant in his presence.
Surgical: under his gaze, it feels like all the affectations of modern gender politics are being stripped away from me. Removed, not unkindly, but still very firmly. His eyes are a scalpel, and my pliant female brain is his tool, to remodel as he sees fit. To easily pluck feminism, equality, and confidence out of me, and leave me a lesser and diminished creature, mutilated and enfeebled…
Like I was always meant to be.
The words are spoken so deeply, so cavernously. There is such a finality to them. He’s acknowledging a point of fact, the judgement is merely implied. My inadequacy has brought disorder to his workflow, and what do women exist for, if not to make it easier for men to implement order?
“I, I, I…” this isn’t my voice, it sounds nothing like me. It certainly sounds nothing like a prime minister. A little mouse, perhaps… in the presence of a wiry, strong, predatory feline. I gulp down, trying to keep my composure. To keep the payload at bay.
“I’ve been having t-trouble with…”
A flicker of annoyance passes across his face, and my instincts haven’t deserted me yet, payload or no, because I recognise it. It’s how his face looks like when he’s angry at himself. He should have seen this coming, is what he’s probably thinking.
Because of course the payload would be an obstacle to my talents, I think.
Because he was wrong to entrust so much responsibility to a woman, my poisoned mind whispers back to me. The only responsibility we can handle is to gently cradle his hardening cock with our warm lips, right before we begin to-
“I see,” Rafael says. “More time, then, perhaps? Or is there some other form of assistance you require?” He leans forward, steepling his fingers. “I can’t say I’m a big fan of deadline extensions. You can have some time, Helenia, but understand: this draft bill is going ahead, with or without your input. I intend to present it to parliament before the year is out.”
He’s called me Helenia.
Hearing him use my first name, and with such a tone of… of utter superiority, of casual management, like I’m a lesser creature so firmly under him that he can finetune me like I’m just a thing…
It makes me feel more womanly than I ever have in my life. It takes my breath away.
A deadline extension is exactly what I came here to request, but now, no matter how I fight it, no matter that my nails are digging deep into the palms of my hands, the words just won’t come. Letting him down like that feels almost monstrous. Unwomanly.
I hate the thought. I reject it with all my might, I try to push it out. But I can’t stop it from burrowing…
“I wouldn’t want to cause trouble…” I say, my voice barely audible. A decent compromise. It’s the truth, without saying too much, or being too compromising.
“Tell you what,” Rafael says. “Why don’t you talk about it with Andreas? He’s asked me to borrow the office next door for the afternoon. Maybe you can voice him your concerns, in a preliminary fashion, just so we have an idea of what the main thrust of your recommendation is likely to be about.”
“Andreas?” I ask, going suddenly very, very still. The chill of dread that trickles down my spine is enough to shock the arousal out of me, if only for a moment. “Andreas Ruiz? Your… the…”
“Secretary of Labour, yes,” Rafael says, with a hint of impatience this time. “Who else would you bring your objections to? He was going to read your report too, so might as well fill him in now. We’ll take a look at it when you manage to finish it.”
I blink, slowly, processing the information. I don’t want to see Andreas Ruiz. I don’t want to voice him my concerns about the misogynistic filth he’s working into the proposed reform. He doesn’t have any of Rafael’s redeeming qualities, and all of his flaws. He’s just a pig.
And he’s occupying the ministry seat that used to belong to a woman ten times more talented than he could ever hope to be, I remind myself… even though my head spins when I think the words, and I swear I can almost feel the derision of the payload-poisoned part of my mind, at the idea of a woman being more capable than a man.
“Go,” Rafael says with a curt nod, right before I can voice my objections. And just like that, the protest dies in my throat. Did he just…
Was that an order?
I don’t know. I don’t want to find out. I’m afraid that if it is, I will like that, and in any case, I barely have time to think, because my body is already responding. Almost on autopilot, I head out into the hallway and towards the office next door, and it feels so natural to just… comply.
To do as I’m told.
In my state of shock and confusion, I turn the handle, and open the door before me, without knocking. It’s only when it slams close behind me that I realise my mistake, and the idea of showing impoliteness to a man… even a filthy pig like him… feels so unnatural and wrong.
And Ruiz isn’t much of a man. Never has been. He’s such a pudgy, craven, sanctimonious conservative that he could be a stereotype, and he’s been the primary obstacle to his own political career. He’s said so many stupid things on live TV, digging his own grave every time, that even his own party had bets circulating about the stupid and inappropriate thing he was going to say next.
Now, he’s in government.
I don’t know what Rafael sees in him, but I know he’s in a position of real power, while I’m just a silly girl who can’t even finish a report without her brains drooling right out of her sex…
Ruiz seems startled by my entrance. His forehead is pearled with sweat, and his breath is a little short, but he tries to compose himself.
“Ahem,” he says. “Yes. Good to see you, Ms Garcia. What can I help you with?”
There was a time when he would have called me madam prime minister. I shake my head. “Prime minister De La Rosa sent me,” I say, my voice timid, feeble… although the honorific feels so good to say out loud. It suits me. In a way it could never, ever suit me.
That’s not true. My nails dig in, but I’m struggling to stay grounded, to keep a clear head.
“Is this about the reform?” He asks. “Do you have your report?”
“No,” I say, and the admission stings, more than I care to admit. I fail to meet his eyes, small and stupid as they are, and look away. “I’m… a little behind. The prime minister said we could hold a preliminary discussion…”
“Oh,” he says, tugging at the corner of his shirt. “Right now?”
I arch an eyebrow. What’s wrong? Why does he look so flustered? I shrug. “That’s what he said.”
“Oh man,” Ruiz says, sounding disappointed. “Well, Rafael is not one you keep waiting, if you want to keep your job that is. Yeah, let’s have this talk. Alright, sweetheart, we’ll have to finish another time.”
For a second, I hesitate, confused by his seemingly contradictory statements. But then, I hear a scraping noise, and a slight bump against a wooden surface, and then… a figure emerges from beneath the desk.
All of a sudden, my body feels like it’s been lit on fire. Adrenaline, panic, shock, arousal—all together they hit me like a ton of bricks, and I find myself swooning in place, lost to vertigo. A woman. Kneeling under the desk, while Ruiz here is busy codifying laws that will bring about the subjugation of her gender for all time…
Rewarding him with her tongue and her lips, while he annihilates women’s financial and professional autonomy with a single stroke… she doesn’t even get to watch as he works on the laws that will see us tamed and domesticated, reduced to the level of pets, no, she only gets to kneel and worship and suck…
She’s elegantly dressed, no less elegantly than him in fact, though her black stockings are wearing out in places. Mostly around her knees. She turns to face me… and my heart sinks.
“What?” Ruiz asks, befuddled. “It’s not like this sort of thing doesn’t happen all the time, don’t pretend to be shocked.”
I don’t address him. I’m too stunned for words. The beating of my heart grows faster, louder, a thunder beating against my chest.
“Are you alright?” Ruiz asks. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
That’s because I have. He may not realise it, but I have.
The first time I met Anna Costa, we were both still in university. We bought tickets to go see a movie together. A reboot, recast with a female lead, which she was so thrilled about.
I have a clear mental image of her. The ardent feminist, the talented student, the fiery politician who will be the voice of the voiceless. The first female to occupy the office Ruiz has currently claimed for himself. A strong woman, promising, young, determined.
But that was before.
The woman standing before me is undisputably Anna Costa, but also undisputably not the Anna Costa I remember. The fire is gone. Her features are soft, distended, relaxed in a blissful expression that makes it look like she’s still sucking cock in her mind.
The cock of the man who usurped her.
Her lips were once used to rail against the patriarchy, and to mobilise women everywhere. Now, they’re glazed with cum.
Her eyes once shone with the flame of hope, for a better future, for a better world. Now, they’re glazed with a dumb, uniquely feminine kind of horniness.
What was it the draft reform said? Payload-induced female cognitive simplification…
She looks glassy, vacant. Empty. Unfit for duty. And of course, there’s that one detail, the one screaming at me, pulling me in like the orbit of a dark star—the pretty, shiny black collar around her neck…
She was a lesbian, I recall glumly. But that was before. She was a lesbian, and I was a prime minister, and we were free, and the future was bright.
My knees almost give way, but only for a moment. Wordlessly, thinking of nothing but my own survival, I rush out the door. I have just a moment to catch Ruiz’s confusion, and then his shrug. I don’t need to see. I know.
Before the door can close behind me, Anna’s knees have already hit the floor, ready to get back to work. That’s what his shrug was. Might as well!
I don’t walk away fast enough to escape the unmistakable sounds of ultimate female defeat. The slurping, the sucking, low throaty moans that say more than a thousand words ever could: that our mouths were built to service cocks.
Receptacles for cum.
To my right is Rafael’s office, which used to be mine, just like Ruiz’s chair used to be Anna’s, and look at her now. Tamed and enthralled by a man she hated when she was a lesbian, when she was a feminist, when she was free.
I’ll do it, I tell myself. I will step through this door right now, stand before Rafael, sink to my knees, and say the words. The pledge that is recited to my dreams all night long, every night, the negative mantra to fill the negative space that the payload will create inside my brain once I surrender.
I will kiss his shoes. I will pledge myself to him. I will ask him, no, beg him to take me over the desk that used to be mine, to fuck the politics right out of me, to shove my pride and my cocky words and my silly pretensions all the way down my throat with his cock. To take me as his maid. His pet. His slave.
I’ll do it. I will. My right hand is on the handle, trembling, and yet so ready to grasp it, to pull, to usher in my fate. But my left hand…
My left hand hurts. Nails, I remember, digging into flesh. Pain.
In a heartbeat, I take my hand away from the handle, and bolt the opposite direction, left, towards the exit. I run, pushing my body to its limits, leaving the beautiful Renaissance-era government palace behind me, without ever consciously determining my destination.
I don’t need to. My subconcious knows, anyway.
As I flee my close brush with utter gendered annihilation, gears spin in my mind. That’s what the voice on the phone said to me. They tried to warn me, didn’t they? Collaboration achieves nothing, the voice said. It’s a doomed road.
That’s what the voice was talking about when it referenced the Great Trial, whatever that is. That there are no rules to live by, and there’s no compromise to be found, with a system designed to destroy you. You can’t legislate away your own oppression, not when it’s literally designed to be unassailable.
The creators of the payload have been thorough. Intellectually, I already knew that. Did I really think that my advisory work was ever going to water down our plight? The man writing it has fucking collared Anna.
She was sucking his cock under the desk. The most gendered, humiliating and total personal defeat she ever could have suffered, at the hands of a fucking pig to boot. And worst of all, I lick my lips and my sex radiates with slick heat, just at the thought.
The creators of the payload… It occurs to me, with some degree of disquiet, that maybe my mysterious contacts know who they are. I mean, if anyone does, it must be them, right? I wonder if I could just ask them. But then again, I don’t know who they are in turn, and how they got in touch with me, and what they plan to do…
Maybe it’s time I found out. They could know so much more than I imagine. Maybe they can tell me how I can actually help my gender. Without letting myself get duped, this time. Without having to rubber-stamp a “watered down” version of Ruiz’s misogyny, while the person I appointed to his position is busy applying her more feminine talents at his behest…
I mean, maybe this group has all the answers! For all I know, they’ve been fighting this war way longer than the rest of the world.
It all sounds so crazy, like a fever dream. Could there really have been a shadow war, going on away from the public eye all this time? Hell, not just away from the public eye.
I’m not the average person, wondering what’s driven the world upside down. Until recently, I was a head of government. Our country’s intelligence was never able to trace the payload back to anyone, not even tentatively.
If there was a shadow war playing out before the release of the payload, our best intelligence officers knew nothing about it. Or at least, if they did, I wasn’t informed. Which just makes me shiver with a cold touch of renewed paranoia…
No. I must not balk. I may not know this shadowy group’s identity and goals, but at least something about them is genuine. Why would a hostile agent ask about the draft labour reform in such levels of detail? I doubt an unfriendly country would need to go to these lengths to uncover details of a pretty standard legislative process. Even if the circumstances are not standard at all.
If I want to fight… and I do… then there is no alternative. No other way but this.
My run ends at the outskirts of Carnazial. I find myself wheezing, leaning against a lamp post to catch my breath. But I force myself to keep going. The fear, the adrenaline, it’s still pumping strong inside me.
I know how big a risk I ran, today. I never want to risk that again.
Unfortunately, the scenery around me does little to quell my anxiety. Carnazial, like most public parks, has a small but growing amount of men openly walking their new “pets” in public. In the fading light, some men feel bold enough to lead leashed women through the park.
The women follow meekly, heads bowed low. Their occasional, exaggerated moans become an absurd element of ambience, alongside the rippling of water from the stream, the songs of birds, and the whisper of the wind through the leaves.
It’s only a handful of men, I tell myself over and over. Only a handful. It’s still looked down upon. The only people who are like to be this bold now, are probably those that were already misogynists before the event.
The thing is, their numbers isn’t really the problem.
The problem is how hungrily I crave being one of those girls. And that is the clincher, isn’t it? Clincher, like the collar being fastened around a woman’s neck… we’re a joke of a gender, and the payload is the punchline.
But even if that’s the case, I at least intend to go down swinging.
The phone awaits me on the bench, as usual. I wonder if my contacts are watching me sit down on the bench, not cool and collected like always, but visibly agitated, on the edge of panic. I freeze with my fingers hovering over the keys, suddenly unsure what to type.
What is the Great Trial? I type. But I delete it, and start from scratch.
Who created the payload? Who are you? Is this a war? How long has it been going on?
Can we win?
I delete them all, cursing myself, because as much as I want to know the answers, I know these people have no real reason to trust me yet. No more than I have reason to trust them… and if I really have decided to take a leap of faith, then the meaningful step has to come from my side.
I need to prove myself.
We will have work for you, they told me, the first time we used this dead-drop system for communication. Of course! How didn’t I see that before? That’s the answer. That’s what I should have asked them the first time I decided to work with them.
I type feverishly, saying the only thing that truly needs to be said.
“What do you need me to do?”