The room was dark and silent, but that wasn’t for lack of people. In front of the room was an image displayed on a screen. The image of a man with short hair, brown eyes, and a mischievous green on his face was displayed to the room.
“Dresden Miles.” A woman standing in front of the room said boldly into the silence.
There was no click, but the image changed into the image of another male. This guy had red hair and freckles and looked to be in his forties.
“Peony Smith.” She spoke another name.
Face after face appeared on the screen, name after name was called out. Finally, a slide with a familiar face appeared , but it wasn’t just anyone. It was someone I knew well. I felt a strange feeling shooting through me at the sight. I don’t even know when this particular picture was taken. Images were taken with a magical device, and it didn’t really look much like the cameras I was familiar with in my own world.
A sudden familiar name caused my eyes to widen. It was a picture of Ashton, my roommate and an apparent demon. Her image disappeared off the screen as quickly as it had come on.
“Clyburn Bonholdt.” The woman said with a sense of finality to her words. “In the last year, this is the list of the men who have perished or disappeared worldwide.”
Why was my face the last one on that list? I didn’t know. Maybe it was because I was the youngest, and they wanted it to end with a particularly shocking point. Maybe it was because before I died, there were rumors I was some kind of special chosen one. Well, that was true, and some people believed it, but those rumors probably didn’t reach everyone in this room. Maybe they just went reverse alphabet and my name ended up at the bottom. I really couldn’t answer, but the effect weighed on my heart heavily, as was the attention of the female speaker at the front of the room. There wasn’t a man in the room who didn’t squirm in his seat at her powerful gaze.
She was a beautiful woman. It was difficult to tell if she was from Amaryllis or another similar country, but she had the familiar facial features of an Amaryllis woman. She was tall, with pale white skin, dark hair and dark eyes. Her nose was sharp, her lips were large and red, and she wore a very business-like dress. In fact, she reminded me very much of Ashton’s mother, Allie, although Allie was a bit prettier. That was one woman I did not want to run into again. How could I even talk to her, knowing that her daughter was likely still alive and a demon at that?
“The death rate of men in the world is currently ten times the rate of women. This is absolutely unacceptable.” She changed the image to a graph. “As you can see in these graphs, while many leading countries have managed to keep their population steady over the last three decades, we’ve seen a 15% decline in men. This is staggering.”
“This is a problem for your countries.” My grandfather suddenly spoke out loud. “You treat your men like sheep, putting impossible demands on them to create offspring, and then forcing them to interact with women alone. It should be no surprise they become overwhelmed and swamped. You also allow these so-called male-hate groups… those like this Wrath. These women should be strung out by their tits, but you seem to allow them to fester.”
“Councilmember of the Matahari, yes?” When grandfather nodded, she continued. “I’m surprised you chat of such things. Was it not your own prince who was poisoned not too long ago? I also heard that he had disappeared from the castle for some time where his location was unknown.”
“Unknown to a woman, perhaps!” Grandfather snarled back. “My grandson was also poisoned by a woman! I find it interesting that you complain when my son is outside of your view! We of the Matahari find that too much female involvement is exactly the problem!”
“In some ways, I agree with you.” The woman sighed. “Yet, at the same time, your country has its own problems. Even though there hasn’t been a decrease in the ratio of men to women, there has been a decrease in population entirely. Your country is in a decline!”
“And what of it? The population will eventually level out. It’s just settling.”
“The number of men and their behavior in your country isn’t sustainable!” The woman on stage shot back. “The population will continue to decline, and eventually, your entire country won’t be able to function. You’re in denial if you think anything else.”
The other councilman, Davont, put a handout and touched Grandfather. Both men seemed to have identical expressions on their face. Any sense that they were at odds disappeared in this place. In fact, it really did seem like the council members were out of place. There were almost fifty countries meeting here, and almost everyone in the room was a female. Every country seemed to have two speakers, but only Matahari had two males. A few had one male and one female, but at least half were all female. The contrast was staggering. It got me thinking if this wasn’t what it was like for women in politics in my own world, at least in the beginning.
“Gentlemen, before you can fix a problem, you first have to admit you have it!” The woman continued. “I’m afraid the small male population is a problem that affects all people. We cannot continue the way we were. It doesn’t matter what country you’re looking at, the public may still be in denial, but we are its leaders, and we must admit we’re all in serious trouble!”
“What do you propose we do?” A woman called out.
It sounded prompted, like this whole talk was planned from the beginning. I didn’t really know much about politics, but I felt like we were being led to make specific conclusions from this talk. I guess convincing others to see your way was sort of the point of politics, huh? It didn’t mean I had to like it.
“Good question.” The woman in front smirked. “Those from Amaryllis might be familiar with the Male Protection Act. This was put in place some years ago in an attempt to protect men from unjust laws made for women. It was an attempt to provide them more freedom, and It failed spectacularly. The Day of Wrath, as some of you know, was an event that led to mass death. More than half the men on this list died on that day.”
“Are you suggesting we remove government protection towards men?”
“Quite the opposite.” She clicked, changing to a new screen which had the words Extended Male Protection Act written across in bold lettering. “I suggest that we increase it. It is time that we treat men as the valuable resource that we all know they are. It is time we use our resources to protect them, keep them, and ultimately monitor them.”
“You dare!” Grandfather couldn’t help but stand up.
“We do…” She said smoothly. “In fact, it was your culture in which we based much of my five-point plan.”
“You segregate men from women, creating a system where women are brought to the man. We have realized it is far too dangerous to allow men to seek their own women. Men are continuously being raped, having their homes broken into, and being snatched off the streets. We used to allow men to handle their own security, but this has proved to be insufficient. It leaves too many holes in security. It leaves men too widespread and too disunified.
“What exactly is your five-point plan?” A woman asked.
“I’m glad you asked.” She smiled, looking pleased with herself even though Grandfather was still standing and glaring at her. “Point one, all men will be rounded up and placed into specialized male-only camps. This will allow them to remain strong and interact among their own kind.
“If men aren’t exposed to sex continuously, their libidos will decrease!” A woman shouted from one of the tables, the first that didn’t appear to be prompted. “This is known! If you do as you suggest, you might as well doom us all.”
“Studies have shown that what we thought we knew about male anatomy may be wrong.” The woman answered without missing a beat. “In fact, I have a study suggesting that being around other men increases a chemical in their body known as testosterone, making them more fertile. Competition breeds fertility, it seems.
“How do they breed in these camps?”
“Of course, every man will be registered and trained on the new method. As of now, men receive no education. In the new system, education becomes compulsory. From the age of 13 to 18, men will be taken from their mothers and placed in a secure, all-boys school to receive their education safely. An event like what happened in Amaryllis will not be allowed to happen again!”
“This is madness!” Grandfather growled. “You’re talking about completely restricting male freedom!”
“Actually, we plan to expand it!” The woman grinned. “Using an assigned liaison, men will be provided a lavish location where they may select women from a catalog. We will bring the women to our men. Women who have first been screened so that we know they are fertile, willing, and most of all safe for our men. In my proposed system, you will have many more choices than you were ever given before. A different woman every night with none of the dangers involved.”
“This will create a classist war!” One of the women shouted out.
“This will actually help close the wage gap, ladies.” The woman raised her hand comfortably. “Don’t you see? Age, occupation, financial records will not be provided to the men. In the past, men needed to select targets in order to earn their slice. This pushed men heavily towards more wealthy women that could provide better slices.
“Now, the government provides the slice. This way, a man isn’t paid based on who he sleeps with, but rather how successful he is at impregnating women. Is it not fair that the most fertile men obtain the most rewards in our society?”
“Are you suggesting that men live in cages?” I found my voice coming out.
This caused several whispers, including a look from my grandfather, but I didn’t care. What they were talking about was complete control. Picking women out of a catalog? Just banging women for benefits? A different woman every night? This sounded like utilitarianism mixed with a socialist nightmare.
Isn’t that what you wanted? A voice whispered in the back of my head.
I had just been starting to settle, to commit to the idea that the only thing I’d be good for was making babies. Suddenly, those thoughts seemed so foolish. How could I agree to a fate like this? Making women pregnant to fill a government quota was one thing, but we did it to keep from becoming a government tool. This plan seemed like a way to strip away all male rights. It left me feeling disgusted.
“Of course, we understand that you are people too.” The woman chose to answer, but her comment was patronizing and a few women even chuckled like she was humoring a child. “You will be allowed to leave your residence under close supervision. You could even apply to and work jobs. And, should you wish to have sex with a particular women you meet, we will arrange for it accordingly.”
Allowed. Arranged for. Supervision. All of these words told me it was a complete loss of choice. We would be told what to do, where to go, and who to fuck. I definitely didn’t believe a word of her talk of decreasing the gap. At least, in the current method, old and ugly men were encouraged to sleep with poor women, because something was better than nothing. In this system, the government could just cut out some women completely.
They could refuse to list women based on personal biases. A woman would never know if her picture didn’t end up in that catalog, and neither would the guy. That was the problem with control. The more you had, the more you could abuse it.
“Matahari will never sign a contract like this,” Grandfather said. “You are trying to fix a problem that you yourself created. It is women who have made life dangerous for men. In this way, you should give men control. Only men know how to raise men. Give you control of all men? We’ll be dead in a generation!”
There were many frowns amongst the women in the audience. They didn’t like being told that they didn’t know what was best for the men. However, most of the men in the group seemed to be nodding in approval, as if they were thinking the same thing. This Extended Male Protection Act would force men to basically give up all power.
“In my system, we will do just that.” The woman smiled. “Men will be in close proximity to other men. You’ll have male teachers, male role models, and male advisors. There is absolutely no reason that men can’t have control of their own world.”
“Of our own world.” Grandpa sneered. “You mean… a self-contained world isolated from the rest of the world. You want men to have our world, and you want to keep this world for women alone!”
“And what do you suggest? Men in charge of women?”
“It has worked for Matahari!”
This caused crowds of women to suddenly start to protest. In fact, the rooms eruption was so sudden it caught me off guard and caused me to sit down again. Some women snorted while others wore open disdain. The thought of a country run by a man seemed appalling to this woman. It was clear to me that these women truly did see men as inferior. No, it was more than that. It was as if they wanted complete control of men.
Then, the truth suddenly dawned on me. That was exactly what this was about. This was about putting a stake in the patriarchy. As I looked around the room, I could see a battlefield. Matahari was on one side, representing perhaps the last true Patriarchy in this world. On the other side were uncountable Matriarchies trying to make all men sit in a corner and wait patiently. As I watched my Grandfather be the only man in the room brave enough to stand up to the words this woman was saying, I realized something else as well.
Terah wanted to assassinate this man and rebel against the government. I had convinced myself the council was full of bad men. After all, they had children irresponsibly, sat in a back room on high making choices that affected everyone, and even called for my Mother’s beating. However, they were also the last men in charge in a world full of the female-run matriarchal aristocracy.
I starting to suspect that Tyranny wasn’t what Terah was fighting to the end. She wanted to found a female-run government. She, like all of the others, wanted to oust male control! Looking at Grandfather’s back, I realized I had let an assassin right into our clutches, and even as we spoke, she could be plotting his death.
The other men were nodding at his words. After today, there would certainly be meetings between delegates. Grandfather and Davont would sit down with other groups of men, and they would start forming sides. Thee were just enough men here that it was possible this idea could go away, but only as long as Matahari lead that charge. I had to stop this assassination. If I didn’t, then who could say what would happen to this world.
“Time will tell.” The woman in front smiled. “But let us speak of other things for now. This is simply one idea put forth. There is still much more to unlock when it comes to things. I don’t want anyone here making an uninformed choice. That is the nature of this meeting.
The woman ended up calling up other women, in turn, Some were scientists or magicians revealing information that they discovered about men, fertilization, or the current state of the world when it came to populations. Most of this came off as bleak, with the women declaring that populations were either in total decline, or at least male decline. Our heads were filled with so much information that by the end, even I was starting to think that maybe it was best if a system like they suggested was put in order. Was it heartless? Sure. What else could be done, though? Even as someone who would be most disadvantaged by this policy, I could see why the women here were considering it.
After the meetings broke for the day, I followed the councilmen back to our Mansion. As they closed the door, Grandfather cursed loudly.
“These stupid women! The Bules would treat us like slaves! We must not allow this act to go forward.”
“Relax,” Davont spoke up. “Do not let your emotions overwhelm you, old man. We can still salvage this situation. Let us meet with our closest allies first. Dricon and The Republic of Zao both have strong male support. We need to consolidate our power.
“Yes, of course.” Grandfather sighed. “Now is not the time to squabbling. I will access my contacts and see what we can do.”
“Do you need me to do anything, um… Grandfather?” I asked.
Grandfather turned and looked at me while Davont only sneered. “This is a bit above your capabilities. You were bold in speaking out today, but these women do not take you seriously. It is best if you just focus on your harem. You’ve done well today.”
“Ah, yes…” I bowed and then left the room, feeling a bit awkward.
I did get that feeling of being looked down on when I spoke. I didn’t like it at all. I wondered why Grandfather didn’t get that. Was it because he was a threat to them? I didn’t really know and I didn’t understand enough. All I could do was exactly what Grandfather asked. However, it wasn’t exactly in the way he had suggested. He meant for me to go and sleep with my harem some more, possibly making another woman pregnant.
Instead, I went and saw Brooke immediately. Thankfully, she had returned and was waiting in her room. When I knocked, she answered instantly. She was fully dressed and looked about ready to go to war.
“Have you had any luck in finding a way off this island?” I asked, “Can you get yourself, Lyra, and Charlie off?”
“I can…” Brooke said uncertainly, “But you’re not going to like it.”
“What does that mean?”
“In short, I found someone who is willing to sneak us off, but only if I report on you.”
“What? What do you mean, report?”
Brooke shook her head. “They want me to spy. Your supposed Grandfather, your entire country, it seems to be a sore spot at this, particularly meeting. They’re pushing for something, something big, and it seems like he’s standing in the way.”
I knew Brooke well enough that I decided to just tell her what I had seen at the meeting. She was a friend and I trusted her with my life. Furthermore, if we continued, the best way she’d know what information she could and could not say was to know how they were going to use it. When I finally finished telling her that woman’s 5-point plan, she had a bitter expression on her face.
“I can’t believe things have gone this far,” Brooke said. “After the Day of Wrath, I knew something was going to happen, but this feels like overkill, even for me.”
“And it isn’t just Amaryllis,” I added. “They seem to be trying to push this new system on everyone. A system where all men are government shills.”
“At least you’d be safe,” Brooke whispered.
She threw up her hands. “Hey, I don’t like it any more than you do. But you can’t deny your life has just been one crazy event after another, right? You’ve been kidnapped by gangs, almost murdered by a demon cult, kidnapped as a slave, fought some demons… I have been by your side for most of that, and even for me, it is a bit much. I just want you to be safe.”
“What’s the point of being safe if I have no free will?” I asked in return.
Brooke lowered her head. “I got it. So, what’s the plan then.
I sighed, “For now, keep working on an escape. If they want information, act like your interested. I don’t want to let them know anything that might compromise Grandfather as he fights against this, but you and Lyra’s safety is still the most important thing to me.”
“Alright, Cly, just stay safe and don’t ruffle too many feathers, okay?”
“Yeah… it’s not like I’m going anywhere.” I smiled haphazardly.
Once Brooke had left, my eyes fell on the next door, which was Terah’s. Terah the terrorist, it even seemed to rhyme. Was she already working with the other people on this island? I didn’t know how I felt about that. However, I didn’t want to confront her right away. I had to be smart about this. That was easier said than done. I couldn’t wait too long though. I had no clue what kind of plan she had for the councilmen. If I waited for her to strike, it could already be too late.
Worst of all, she was pregnant with my child! I couldn’t just attack her or get rid of her. I had to find some way of making her stop, or convincing her to stop. Unfortunately, I suspected as soon as I tried to stop her, she’d think I turned traitor. She already didn’t trust me all that much. My best course of action was perhaps to convince her it wasn’t worth her baby’s life. Perhaps, if I appealed to the mother within her, I could change her mind.
As I was having such thoughts, I shook my head and decided to retreat for now. Instead, I went to check on Kemala and Veronika. What I found instead was a note on their door, but it was addressed to me. Curiously, I opened it and read.
Please meet me by the lake tonight at sunset. I found out something about Kemala, and I must tell you about it immediately. I believe that she is betraying us. I’m scared what will happen if she finds out I know, but knowing that Daddy will protect me keeps me going. I look forward to seeing you tonight. Your lover and daughter,
I had to read the note three times before I could finally accept what was in it. Kemala was really betraying us? I found it hard to believe. She was so quiet and well mannered. The thing about her poisoning me… she hadn’t done it. However, even though that was the case, we had tossed her into a dungeon for months. It was possible that she was looking for revenge. I wasn’t even that upset if she was leaking information to the other side. However, if she was doing it, and then Brooke did it, there was a chance Brooke could be caught in a lie. In that respect, I had to find out what Veronika knew.
First, there was Terah, and now there was Kemala. I felt like I was in a leaky boat desperately needing to patch holes and hope we don’t sink. Somehow, when grandpa informed me that I should take care of my harem, this was probably not what he had in mind!