“It’s what she deserved” said Maximilian gravely.
“The witch betrayed us all.”
Sixty three years since the war began. The useless position of men caused by Eggtech® had turned them hostile upon wombbearers. The tension had begun to rise as women gradually outnumbered men. They started to raise political and religious questions on the utility of mens existence. It had escalated when Arina the Zych had publically slaughtered a rapist on Madaleina square. She had walked away freely. Female political leaders had vanished, only to be found back dead months later, often mutilated, sometimes together with a starved baby girl. Men, too, had found their ways to breed. Soon afterwards you were no longer safe among a member of the other sex.
Young girls were taught to fear the predatory beasts outside the city walls. Humanity, teachers said, had made the necessary step to evolve: making men inutile. Eggtech® – fertilization by another egg cell – allowed them to emancipate from the destructive behaviour of man. They had once been crucial to survival, but now they held civilization back. They were to be wiped out to make the evolutionary step complete. All there was to do, was to keep them out.
Boys’ class was different. They learned that their existence depended on prey. They were taught to hunt without the kill. Women left their settlements every now and then. They travelled in groups, protected by warladies, often fiercer than men themselves. Those had to be killed from a distance, while the protected ones were captured and brought back to a men’s camp. The fate of the prisoners depended on how they acted. Resistant ones often had limbs cut of, so that they could not interfere with the bearing. Some women were cooperative. They kept their legs and arms and were treated gently, sometimes even after they had given birth to a son. But no matter how big the trust that grew, all women would eventually make an attempt to escape. They’d find themselves caught somewhere in the wilderness. Sooner or later, every man had to learn for himself that women could not be trusted. According to the law, he then had to take revenge in the cruellest of ways.
But hidden within valleys, deserts and densely grown jungles laid settlements where men and women still freely enjoyed each others’ grace. Common laws and beliefs had no importance there. They were secret rebels. The inhabitants had to be vigilant of both men and women, who, upon discovery of their fragile co-existence, would be ready to slaughter or imprison them without a second thought.
It was in one such settlements, hidden in the woods of Anzara, where Maximilian had poisoned Silena for conjuring dark dreams upon the minds of the tribe.
“What makes you think that?”
“I can not tell you now” answered Maximilian. “If I would, she’d have you too…”
“Look …” whispered Zinnia.
“In the bush… Halt the caravan. Keep quiet.”
Something was wrong. Was it a trap? Men wouldn’t leave such traces. She scanned the area. She felt her heart beat in her throat. Her breathing was quick and out of control. She’d been a caravan frontwife for over a year now, but still found it very hard to cope with threats. She had to act strong. Whatever came, she would have to lead the protection front. It was well-known that small caravans only survived two out of three attacks. She looked into the eyes of Feline, her second, and saw the same fear. Fear was a guarantee for defeat.
“Take your positions” she ordered the other four. In a swift, silent motion, they closed in on the merchands’ chart. All gazed sharply into the darkness that lied hidden among the trees. A breeze gently pulled their senses. It intensified, then vanished. A rush of blood shot through Zinnias temples. She was dizzy, and had a strong urge to run. She couldn’t. They counted on her.
With a gun in her shaking hand, pointing towards the bush, she took a step to the place where she had seen the movement. Something shiny lay on the leaves of the forest bed. Distraction, she was sure, and ordered two others to follow. Every step closer strengthened a sensation of being pulled by her shoulder-blades. Her hands were tingling. She could not feel her lips or her nipples. A little further and she would go numb.
The next moment she relaxed. As if the depths of her soul released comfort. It did not matter. Calmness was around. It was a substance she walked through. Step by step. She could now see that the shiny thing was round. Its beauty compelled her. It was transparent, but at the same time it gently shone a light of many colours. She stroke it. Then she slowly picked it up.
“Oh…” thought Jacky, as she watched the frontwife grab Selinas motionate gift. “It’s lost…”. She understood why Anzarians had warned her to stay close. Why they said that it’s dangerous out here. Jacky had never seen such heavy armament. Still, she smelled fear. She had to sit motionless and wait for them to leave. The thought that they would take the orb terrified her.
“You two, search the area.” Zinnia felt back in control. The warladies dived into the bushes, looking for signs of something they’d rather avoid. It did not seem to be men who had put this here. The orb was too valuable to put at stake in a trap. Zinnia was quite sure that it possessed magic properties.
Would Jacky move, they’d hear her. Staying meant risking to be found, and heaving to explain what a twelve-year-old was doing in the jungle all alone, holding a ball of unfathomable value, unafraid of men in the wild. Jacky was glad she was not a boy. She’d have to make something up. The bushes could not hide her much longer. They were coming close. What to do? Run? Get caught? She’d have to decide. They were merely a few hedges away. What to do?
Jacky stood up and ran. She knew this place better than them. She’d outrun them. Go to spaces where her pursuers would not fit. A bit further to the left would be a good way. She jumped, she hopped, she ran as fast as she could. They caught her.
“What are you doing here all alone, girl? Haven’t you paid attention at school? It is dangerous outside. You’ll soon be fertile. Rapists can catch you. You’re putting us all in danger.”
Jacky did not know what to answer.
“She must be a witch”. The warladies lifted her up and put her in the chart. In the distance, she saw her favourite old oak. His entangled branches comforted her. She thought she would never see him again.
Maximilian stood alone in a dark hut. A single candle flickered. Its flame pale blue. “Cold”. He said out loud, but his voice was a woman’s. He recognized it, but could not place it. He felt danger. He started to cite words he did not understand. With every word he spoke, the voice seemed to come closer. The flame grew. Bigger and bigger. The voice, louder and louder. They mesmerized Maximilian. Surrounding him, the light and the sound slowly took hold. Flames danced to the serene rhythm of the voice, that had now come closer than his own had ever been. Inside him, surrounding him. The hut caught fire. Maximilian kept singing. He called them. He did not want to. Outside, far away, he could see their cities. He sensed their imprisoning rage. Blue flames instantly turned red and hot. They burned him from within. He kept singing. They saw him now. They shot, and hit him in the throat. Once more in the chest. The singing stopped. He remembered. The voice had been Silenas. She had called them.
Jacky followed Silena out of the village. They crossed fields full of flowers that waved at them. Jacky adored their colours. She saw tall trees reaching their branches into the sky. It seemed as if through her strides, Silena sang to them. Jacky was full of joy when they arrived at a cave. Silena entered without slowing down. She was the most beautiful lady Jacky’d ever seen. Her light meandering robes subtly revealed some of her curves. In her long, dark hair, she wore red parrot’s feathers. Jacky wanted to touch it, but she knew she’d never dare.
The cave was dark. Silena lit a candl, giving some dim light. Jacky saw objects she’d never seen before.
“Unfortunately, Jacky,” she said as if she’d read her mind, “there is no time to introduce you to all of this”
Jacky looked at her big eyes, puzzled.
“Your father has poisoned me”
“It is slow poison, but I feel it in my veins. I will die soon”
Silena looked at her and Jackies mind went still. “There is no time to mourn. I don’t know why he did it. He must have his reasons. What’s important is this…” she handed her a little globe that seemed to shine. Blueish. It didn’t reflect the candle.
“By murdering me, your farther has banned witchcraft. He has banned you. You have to go now”.