We don’t choose the yoke, the collar, the leash, the chain, and the whip. We choose our right to self-determination, our freedom, our humanity.
We choose ourselves.
We don’t want to be the last representatives of women as they were before the payload. We want to be the first representatives of women as they will be again.
We are hope. The very last of it.
- ONWARD THE REVOLUTION
I have seen true glory.
The fall of women, the prostration of my gender, is not a punctual event, a moment in time. It’s a protracted strangulation, carried out slowly, methodically, and over time.
But if you were to reduce it to one moment? Make it into a painting? Then this would definitely be it. This moment of true, masculine glory, as evil as it is breath-taking and irresistible.
Grim thoughts, for my grim mood. The heavy oak doors close shut with grim finality, sealing me in the lion’s den.
After my fall from grace, it feels much more opulent somehow, this chamber of power. Ornate chandeliers hang from above, their dim glow adding to the room's gravitas. Every surface, from the dark polished wood of the expansive conference table to the richly upholstered chairs…
It was just background noise, set dressing, once. Now, it jumps at me. It reminds me of the life I used to lead, before the event.
A thousand years ago.
I’ve chaired meetings in this room hundreds of times, when I was in the fullness of my power. Now… I’m a part of this painting. Crucial, and unimportant, at the same time. I’m a trembling little girl, sitting in a corner, clutching at her notepad.
Ready to take notes, while the men discuss the future of my gender.
They sit around the table. Thin men and portly ones, balding or not, some older than others, all in their impeccably tailored suits, ties, and fixed, merciless eyes. No woman is at the table. No woman is capable of sitting at this table.
The chandeliers bathe them in tremulous light, adding to the surreal, liminal ambience, like this is not just a meeting, and not just a room, but a fractal of the state of the world. A fallen prime minister, relegated into the corner, fearful, trembling. Knowing that she’s no longer the protagonist of this story.
The men are. Our conquerors, our tamers, those who hold our fate in our hands.
It takes all my willpower – what’s left of it anyway – not to whimper like a wounded animal, moan like a needy little slut. I always knew that the task at hand was incredibly risky, and I might not make it, but I’ve never felt like this. There is…
There is so much male energy in this room. It radiates from them like heat from the sun, washing over me, nailing me to the wall. Making me feel small, and helpless, and there for the taking.
I feel so diminished. So intellectually inadequate, emotionally lost, physically vulnerable. I feel lesser, and sexier, and more feminine. This is true glory. This is true power. I’m in awe of it, and the voice that almost sounds like my own keeps whispering to me, and I’ve never been this close to the edge… to the gaping maw…
The phone. I look at it, seemingly innocuous, discreetly placed right next to me. The phone is proof of why I’m here, that I’m not yet lost. If this really were a painting, it wouldn’t just be depicting the fall of women.
It would depict a spy in the belly of the beast.
A treasonous little slut, my brain whispers to me, making me press my thighs together, bite my lower lip. No, I try to push back, I’m a woman who made a choice. Who has agency. Who can still fight.
That’s why I’m here, that’s why I need to be here, keep it together. So that the (hopefully) women on the other side of this phone can get information… and I can, eventually, get my answers, and perhaps, even a cause.
I know they’re listening. Whoever’s on the other side.
Do they have a way to screen what they listen to? After all, nothing’s theoretically stopping me from exposing them to the payload through my phone, isn’t that the whole point of us not talking directly?
Maybe they use some kind of speech to text software to eavesdrop safely. There’s so much I don’t know. How can you fight a war, let alone win it, when you’re completely in the dark?
Rafael clears his throat, snapping me back to attention. "Gentlemen, I don’t think the current legal framework for this sort of activity suffices. Not any more."
As my attention returns to this moment, I am once again left breathless by the sheer visual power of this imagery. I study the faces of his ministers, all men I knew once, men I used to think of as my opponents, and not my… my…
A few throw glances in my direction. Like they’re embarrassed to discuss this in front of a woman. Others pointedly ignore me, which of course makes me feel funny inside, a dismissive sort of good, the only sort of attention a girl deserves…
Focus, Helenia. All I need to do is sit here and not go insane. That’s so easy, it’s so simple. But for a woman, these days, the simplest things are incredibly complicated…
Delgado, a thrice-divorced grizzledman who somehow ended up with the portfolio to the (now former in all but name) gender equality ministry nods his agreement.
"Yes, the concept of enthusiastic consent is increasingly antiquated at this point. Women often exhibit… zealous behaviour that is hard to distinguish from genuine enthusiasm.”
“Is there even a distinction at this point?” I hear someone else say, followed by chuckles and snickering.
“Order,” Rafael says, in a calm tone of voice that still somehow managed to plunge the room in cold ice. He’s annoyed, I can see that. His eyes wander to the empty chair at the table – Ruiz is absent, and if my observational skills haven’t deserted me, I think Rafael is most unhappy about that.
But my other set of observational skills disagrees.
Of course he’s unhappy, my brain whispers, gently, so gently. I’m here on this chair instead of there… kneeling, folding myself lower and lower under the desk, wrapping my uppity feminist mouth around his cock, tending to his needs, patiently learning his requirements…
“Maybe we can rename this from sexual harassment to 'unsolicited male attention'. That should fit better with the current circumstances."
“It’s not a rebranding I’m looking for,” Rafael says, curtly. “But unsolicited male attention sounds good. It will make it clear that unwanted sexual advances should not be condoned, but that the circumstances have changed, and so have the penalties.”
Of course they have. Can’t blame a guy for hitting on me, and not being able to tell if my consent is genuine, or payload-induced. It’s not his fault that I’m a brainless slut. It’s not his fault that I naturally respond to male sexual aggression.
That I was built to kneel and please.
Rafael nods towards Delgado. “Have a draft done, and send it up to me as soon as it’s ready. I’ll look at it myself. We’re still trying to protect our wives, sisters, and daughters, I’ll remind you,” he says poignantly, looking at each of his ministers across the table.
Protect us. They’re essentially decriminalising sexual harassment, because they’re protecting us. They want to be able to regulate which woman gets fucked by whom, not because we are human beings, but because we are their wives. Their sisters. Their daughters.
We are theirs.
I hope they can’t hear me, because I’m panting like a stupid dog. I hope they can definitely hear me.
“Speaking of which,” Rafael continues, “that’s not the only reform I want us to work on, and eventually submit to parliament. We’ve dilly-dallied enough, and it’s time we got on with our jobs. So, the next pressing issue for us to deal with is collaring.”
Just the word is enough to send a shiver down my spine. My neck feels so bare, so wrong, in a way that no necklace could possibly fix. A woman without a collar is like a woman without a name. Stray. Unowned…
I stare at the table, at the phone, it all looks so foggy. Every one of my muscles is quivering. I don’t know if I can do this. What will they say if I just dart out of the room?
Will one of them follow me? Hunt me?
“Or rather,” Rafael continues, “how to resolve collaring disputes. Such conflicts over ownership are disturbing, and go against the societal harmony we're trying to achieve."
Once again, Delgado has an opinion. Well, it is his ministry after all… he clears his throat, and Rafael nods for him to speak.
"I’ve had the ministry staff work out preliminary proposals,” he says. “Our thinking is to draft priority lists. Determine who has more right, under the law, to a specific woman’s collar in a particular situation.”
Rafael leans forward, studying him closer with his eyes, clever, deducting, piercing. “And the criteria?”
“We could assign priority based on pre-existing personal ties—husbands, boyfriends, brothers, or even close male friends.” Delgado shrugs. “If a woman is to be collared, might as well be from a friendly face. Certainly better than a stranger forcing them into a collar in an alley at night.”
A friendly face. Of course close male friends have a right to us, to our services. We haven’t been tending to their needs, how thoughtless of us. And he said brothers…
“Get it written,” Rafael says, nodding with approval. “One more thing. When I attend the international summit on the payload question in Lakeside View later this month, I don’t intend to show up empty-handed.”
Murmurs travel across the table, and I look up, temporarily pulled away from my haze of indignation and sexual need. The summit… I forgot, or perhaps I never paid attention. The first time since the beginning of the crisis that world leaders are gathering for a hands-on discussion.
“It would do good to our reputation,” Rafael says, “if we could be seen leading the discussion on establishing the best arrangement for women, while the situation persists.”
Good to our reputation? Day after day, women are being rendered an inoffensive force in the world, purely decorative companions, and he’s worried about our country’s reputation?
Once, I would have thought of that as vain posturing, even almost macho, in a way. Of course conservatives would obsess over their image rather than actual policy. That’s what old Helenia would have said.
Before. A thousand years ago.
Now, well… now I feel like such a silly girl. Of course he cares about reputation. Look at him. He looks like a king. He knows that form and substance are one and the same. No one could look at him now, radiating maleness and authority, and refuse to take him seriously.
To be in awe…
“What do you have in mind, Mister Prime Minister?” A voice asks from the far end of the table.
“Two things,” Rafael replies, counting on his fingers. “One: regulation of catcher spaces. We need coordinated global norms, because catchers don’t stop at borders. Not in terms of online dissemination, and not in terms of actual catching, either.”
Oh God. Regulation of catcher spaces? Does that mean… does that…
Delgado must be thinking along similar lines, because he voices the question I was failing to even finish in my own mind. “I assume we’re not against catchers existing in principle?”
“Of course not,” Rafael says, so casually, so light-heartedly. Of course he’s not against. Why would he be?
“A ban would be impractical, and merely drive the activity further into the underworld, where we can’t supervise it,” he says. “We’re going to need a framework of rules, limits… how this squares with the introduction of priority lists, too. We’ll need to issue permits for catchers…”
Oh God. Permits. Like a hunting license, which I suppose is the point in a way. Is this what the future looks like? Men who make it a hobby, a recreational pursuit, to hunt and enslave women? Men who do it as a profession?
“As for item number two," Rafael continues, “which we do need to crack down on… there is a growing issue with scams aimed at infected women. No civilised country can let such criminal behaviour go unpunished. I want us to lead that conversation.”
Yes, scams. Fabled dietary supplements that can defeat the payload sell like candy, and after all, why not? There is no more eager customer than the one trapped in the grip of despair.
Even scarier, though, are the supposed “safe havens” which promise to shield women for the duration of the crisis. Idyllic imagery of underground havens in the mountains, or remote islands entirely free of men…
They usually turn out to be human trafficking schemes. That hasn’t stopped many women from trying their luck anyway. Like animals backed into a corner… desperate, with no way out.
We’ll have to find another term for that, I think idly. Woman trafficking schemes… more akin to smuggling cattle than people…
I’ve long since stopped even pretending that I’m capable of writing this down. My hand is shaking like crazy. I can’t do this. I can’t stay here, and maintain my sanity. I can feel it crumbling, disintegrating, leaking out of my cunt, alongside my intelligence, my beliefs, my will.
Just when I’m about to stand up and dart out of the room, I see every man at the table get to their feet. Hands are shaken, complimentary words muttered, and I sit back down, exhausted, panting, covered in cold sweat. I look like a mess. It’s so much easier to just stay seated, when the men stand…
I’m below them.
Finally, the meeting adjourns. The men leave, their footsteps echoing down the hall. Rafael ushers them in one by one, and finally, when there’s only the two of us left, he turns to look at me.
I can’t meet his gaze, not right now. It might end me. I keep my eyes to the floor, even after he clears his throat to call my attention. Even if every fibre of my body is screaming that I should comply with his will, and look up…
“So, Helenia,” he says. “Were you successful in taking notes?”
That is such an absurdly belittling question, even though it is not meant as mockery. The fact that it’s a perfectly appropriate question in this context only makes it feel even more belittling.
“Yes,” I nod. And then I realise, like an idiot, that he’s waiting for me to clear the room.
It’s wrong to keep a man waiting.
Unsteadily, shakily, I rise to my feet and make my way towards the door… towards him. He’s holding it ajar for me, perhaps in some notional display of chivalry, which is entirely mistaken. If he really wants to do me a favour, he needs to step away from the threshold, because if I have to pass right next to him to get out…
Before I know it, we’re standing uncomfortably close. I can smell him, in a quasi-animal way, this powerful predator who makes my knees quiver. I can feel his breath against me, see the faint outline of veins on his strong hand as it keeps the door open for me.
I look up at him. He looks down at me, as it’s only fitting. And I lose myself in those deep emerald eyes of his. Green and gold.
I can feel the words forming, before I even consciously think about them. Madness, it’s utter madness, I should stop. I shouldn’t say anything.
“… Sir, if I may presume to comment…” I say in a small voice, mousy, feeble, weak. “You looked very displeased, earlier. Anything I can help you with?”
Rafael looks at me for a long moment, silent. Is he taken aback by my observation, or by how absurdly deferential I sound?
Eventually, he shrugs.“You picked up on it, eh? It’s nothing you should be worrying about. You’re here to consult, not to be my assistant.”
My knees nearly buckle. I need to go. I’m jeopardising everything, the entire mission, my rationalisations, my independence. But I can’t look away, or keep my mouth shut, it all feels so compelling, like gravity…
“I wouldn’t mind doing you a favour,” I say. Swirling ever closer to the edge of the abyss.
“Alright, I suppose I… there’s one thing you can do for me. I have to take a call,” Rafael says. “In the meantime, could you find Ruiz is for me, Helenia? Send him to my office when you do. I have a few choice words for him to hear…”
The thought of Rafael chastising anyone makes me slick with need and heat. It’s me he should be chastising. I couldn’t handle it, of course. I would break down, into so many tiny little pieces… he could choose which ones to keep, and which ones to discard…
My entire body tingles as I nod frantically.
“Yes, Sir,” I say. With a capital S, I can feel it there even if he doesn’t.
Two words, rolling off my tongue: yes, Sir.
It feels so good to say that…
I head out into the hallway, walking as if lost in a foggy, dreamy haze. It all feels so unreal to me, like I’m a passenger in my own body, like I don’t have a material connection to what’s actually happening.
I try to stay tethered to reality, to a world of actions and consequences. I try to make it all feel real again. I tell myself that my… handlers? Contacts? Must have heard my exchange with Rafael. The thought makes me blush, and cringe inside. What will they think of me? What if they don’t consider me reliable now?
Could I have thrown it all to the wind, for the sake of one momentary erotic thrill? All this risk, all this danger… for nothing? That better not be the case. I’m hanging by a thread, here. If this one last hope shatters, I don’t know what I… I…
It’s not working. Dream-like, I walk down long halls decorated with rows of paintings, depicting past leaders, commanders and heroes of our country. All of them men. I feel the silent judgement in their eyes as I walk past them.
I don’t belong. I should have always known. They certainly did.
It’s okay, I whisper to the paintings in my mind. I’m not here as a usurper anymore. I’m doing a man’s bidding…
I’m not even sure I’m looking for Andreas Ruiz. I must have walked past multiple closed doors, and I didn’t even stop to ask myself if he’s in the building at all, or if he can be reached by phone. I cradle my face in my hands, trying to hold the panic at bay, because I know that I’m starting to fall apart at the seams.
That’s when I hear the noise.
It’s coming from behind the door to my right. Ruiz’s office, my own feet took me here even if I didn’t realise it. But what is…?
It’s an unmistakable sound. Messy, and primal, and wet. Rhythmic, and thumping, and squelching.
Rafael wanted me to find him. But I can’t open this door, I can’t see what’s behind it, I need to stop now. If I proceed, I am lost. I need to stop, and turn back.
But Rafael asked me… no, told me to… fetch…
I find myself taking one step forward, and then another, and then pressing my ear against the closed oaken door...
"All those snide remarks to the press, all the times you mocked me in parliament... but who's the minister now, bitch?"
There's a loud CRACK, and then I hear a mewling voice, broken and tremulous, barely recognisable as it’s drowned out by the sound of her unceremonial mounting.
"You, Sir," the voice says. Anna Costa's voice. My former ally, and friend, and lesbian, and fellow feminist… before. A thousand years ago.
"Thank you for putting me in my place,” she says, and her words go straight to my brain, to my clit, to a clit in my brain… place, our place, it was always our place, we’re just being reined in, back to where we’ve always belonged.
“Please,” she begs, “fuck pride right out of me. Please turn me straight..."
Yes. His obedient, docile, straight little secretary, a female companion available 24/7 at a mere snap of fingers. As it always should have been.
As it always will be.
If I proceed, I'm lost. And yet, I find myself lowering, crouching, peeping through the keyhole... and there's no mistaking the moan of desperate sexual need that escapes my throat, at the breath-taking scene of womantaming on display before me.
Anna Costa is bent over the desk that used to be hers, her face covered in sticky cum from a previous round, her hair firmly grasped by Ruiz's hand like a set of makeshift reins.
He towers behind her - towers, I never thought I'd say this about someone like him, so pudgy and soft, but that's one of the effects of the payload, isn't it? We're reduced, and every man is a titan, from our lowly vantage.
He's having his way with her. God, that expression. His way with her. I think about what it means. His will is subsuming her own. He's overpowering her, he's taking her and taking from her, he's a predator, and she his lovely, cum-drunk, lesbian, feminist prey.
My mind can't stop obsessing over that detail. A feminist, like me, in my own government, overcome and completely broken, putty in his hands, utterly mastered, sexually dominated.
If that's her fate, how dare I think it won't be mine?
She's nothing but a stupid whore. It's not my mind thinking that, I know it isn't, but I can't help it! She looks like a dumb fucking cow. The flame in her eyes, snuffed out by the masculine grip of her male conqueror.
Glassy, devoid of intelligence, face contorted into a stupid expression as the pleasure she's feeling literally overloads her pathetic womanly mind, shattering all the ridiculous pretensions she ever had at calling herself this man's equal.
Any man's equal.
Look at how she responds. Eyes, rolling back, mouth open, back arched. Her lesbian identity died the moment her knees first hit the floor, the moment the walls came down, and the payload flooded every corner of her mind.
Under male guidance, she's been reborn. As a simpler, prettier, more docile, more useful version of herself.
"Apologise," Ruiz says. "Atone."
"I'm s-s-sorry I ever dared sit in your chair... I dared enter politics... rose too high... uugghhh... eekkkhh..."
That's when I lose it. When Anna loses all manner of linguistic coherence, I lose my ability to control myself. To breathe normally.
I know what must be done.
This is stupid, so stupid, Rafael doesn’t want me to fetch his own labour minister for him. He doesn’t want me to write feedback, or take notes, or advise and counsel, or suggest, or do him favours. He just… wants me.
It’s his right. He should have me. That’s how I’m supposed to make him happy. Go there, drop to my knees, and beg him, say those words, those incredibly alluring words that I repeat in my dreams every single night: that I acknowledge myself owned.
I turn around, away from the door, abandoning Anna to the humiliating, degrading, absolutely dominating fuck she’s always deserved, and I start walking towards Rafael’s office.
I freeze, eyes going wide, heart racing, looking around to identify the speaker… but I’m the only one standing in the hallway. Sweat trickles down my back as I realise what I was just about to do. What headspace I was in.
It wasn’t a normal voice, that I just heard. A woman’s voice, unmistakably so, distorted, and yet familiar.
With a trembling hand, I fish my phone out of my pocket. It’s the same voice as that very first night. How did they know? Are they watching me? Could they tell by just listening? Is this a recording, or, perhaps…?
“Go home, Madam Prime Minister,” the voice says, in a whisper, distorted by some filter, and yet clear, like a stream of cold water washing over my face. “Go home, and make sure you’re alone. We need to talk.”