2070 in Exquisite Sex, a story for Jean-Pierre Bekolo
There will be no more women by the year 2070… Florent Couao-Zotti‘s speculative ode to visionary filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bekolo is a powerful chronicle of our last days. Part nightmare, part sci-fi, part elegy to love, to the past, to femininity, to power, and to obliteration. Translated by Cullen Goldblatt.
She risked first one foot through the opening, then engaged the second foot, and, slowly, crouched and slide her filiform body into the sewer. Despite the darkness filling the interior, she made out a small iron rim set into the masonry above her head. Her right hand grabbed it. She let out a breath, turned and pulled the concrete cover down over the mouth of the tunnel.
Black again. But also stinking. It reeked. Odours from all the city’s entrails stewed violently in the air. Without pause, a muddy flow of lumps, escorted by waste water, followed the drop of the tunnel. A brutal gas wafted from the flow, strangling, making her own entrails seize and dance…
In-and-out of consciousness. Head spinning. Sudden urge to…
…to spit, to vomit, to be free of the nausea that had risen brutally in her throat. Also an urge to get out of this vice, this experience of asphyxiation that prowling spiralling through the tunnel. But close by, on the other side of the concrete, noises of rage. Men’s voices, propelled violently, came bashing against the cement cover.
Where is she, that bitch?
Where is she hiding, the whore?
She did not move. Rigid she waited, breath shallow, ears pricked, hands gripping the iron rim. She waited for the noises to grow distant or for the wind to thin their sound. But the voices, on the contrary, became louder. It seemed to her that all her pursuers were there, the pack expanded by a thousand fangs, by ten thousand vengeful fangs, ready to sink into her flesh, into her sex, the woman’s sex she has hidden for a long time, concealed in her men’s clothes.
What do they want? To rape her to her death. To punish her for making herself male for all this time. Or simply to use her to console themselves since there are no more women, in the city or the whole country, who are sexually active.
She could sense the breath of her pursuers on the other side of the concrete. She even felt them sniffing the brickwork, like drooling dogs sure of the presence of their prey right there under their paws. Crucial moment. She must stay still, not move a finger, not a single motion to bring consequences.
Bad luck: a mouse, at that very moment, slid down her neck. The rodent, hidden in the folds of the brickwork, had exited his hole to… to do what? The young woman could not hold back: feeling the hairy feet and cold nose of that awful intruder, she lost her composure. A sharp cry escaped her throat. The mouse fell from her neck and disappeared.
Outside, the men’s voices burned once again. The fugitive felt them fill her head, whirl and launch a sort of staccato concert into her heart. Then a hand violently pulled back the concrete cover. Another plunged in a wrist-light. A click and a powerful beam milky light violated the darkness. Blinded, the young woman turned and lied into the sewer.
– Quick, she’s there!
– Come this way!
In the current of shit that coated the tunnel floor, in the muddy water that wound towards the interior, the fugitive advanced by guesswork. Without a compass w orient by, without light to sec by. A survival instinct flooded her body: from then on, she had only her strength and courage – she must make it. Our to the city’s subterranean limits.
Indalrik 2070. Small state situated between India and Africa.
The statistics had predicted it since 2050: “There will be no more women by the year 2070. If foetuses continue to be eliminated because of there sex. If people continue to kill newborn girls at birth, the current trend will not reverse itself, on the contrary, there is risk of a great imbalance. Today there is one woman for every fifteen men; in 2070, it will he one woman for every 125 ma1es.”
The government held an emergency meeting. Clutching the statisticians’ alarm hells, they issued a decree, heavy and bituminous, threatening to condemn to hell every citizen to perpetrate female infanticide. They even created a Special Squad responsible for quashing abortion and criminal acts against little girls. Did they believe their own words? Like attitudes and traditions, a decree for them was nothing more…
A long rime before, under the tyranny of international donors, the state had been forced to adopt a program of birthrate reduction and population growth rate reduction. A population which multiplied “like rats” and which, they said, would likely leave at any minute “to assault European lands.” Severe methods of family planning were attempted. But laced with their unpopularity, the government was forced to cede to traditionalist attitudes and abandon it all.
The “attitudes” claimed that to have a daughter was a catastrophe, “a seven pairs of ribs and a diabolical slit between the legs.” They also said that parents who brought daughters into the world must marry them off with a dowry, must do so even if it meant hocking everything but their bones. Because marrying off daughters necessitated paying the fiancé for relieving the house of a daughter. Thus to have two or three chignons in your house was equivalent to pre-program med ruin: “a seven pairs of ribs is a diabolical expense for the family coffers.”
To be certain, the Special Squad displayed its rigor on occasion: to give a good show faced with International Feminist indignation, it offered the heads of a few criminals; but still, parents who could not bear dowry debt committed suicide by acid and by blade: “a seven- pairs-of-ribs brings suffering to the family.”
Then, the traditionalists found their strategy. Instead of provoking abortions, instead of organizing crimes against the young, they simply opted for a more discreet solution: prevent women from conceiving girls. And thus, traditionalist researchers finally came up with “bangala tea,” a phallic tisane whose active ingredients weakened the man’s female chromosomes, all the while increasing the resilience of male chromosomes.
Generational consequence: twenty years later, chignons are rare. The statistics did not give lie to the facts: if in 2050, 1 woman for every 125 men was predicted, today there arc 250 males for a single mignon. Because, despite the widespread usage of “bangala tea,” girls are born. Among bourgeois families that do not fear the expense of a dowry, among families of modest means in which the tisane did not produce the desired result.
In those cases, the poor mothers rook their daughters and disappeared with them into the wilderness. Or more precisely, to the other side of the border, to live under other skies, ones more lenient with the exquisite sex. There were others who preferred to stay put. Playing hide and seek with the sex of the child, protecting the angel until maturity, eliminating the emerging female characteristics. Like the fugitive surprised amidst her fellow workers, in flagrant delight of “feminine disgrace.” She had no choice but to flee.
She had been recruited two years earlier as a worker in a rainwater treatment plant. On her birth certificate and the other papers that established her identity the description of “sex” indicates her belonging to the race of “testiculars.’ She had been aided in this by her physique:
square shoulders, flat chest, straight hips flat buttocks – plated screw” said her mother -. But her voice betrayed her: flute-like, soft and monotone “Fille manquée” muttered her fellow workers:
But they did not count on the resurgence of feminine physical characteristic that had been long repressed. A surge of rebel hormones, like a river rising from its bed, came to disrupt everything. Shoulders descended, hips flared, a curve hollowed at the base of the lumbar, and the chest proffered small well-formed papayas. But she herself noticed nothing. Until the day when her colleagues at the factory, during a work break, decided to trap her: to take her by surprise and strip her. Her breasts were discovered. Her femininity – the treacherers did not dare go lower – became certain. As indignation broke out everywhere, and the entire factory was called to confirm the fact, the young woman, seized with panic, made an escape.
The tunnel floor was becoming more and more muddy. No light entered its depths to illuminate the fleeing young woman. Behind her, the male murmurings grew louder, threatening. They were all in the tunnel, two hundred, three hundreds maybe five hundred. Those who could not bear the stench preferred to follow the motion from outside, running above, along the sewer.
It was then that the young woman’s reflex awoke, the reflex she should have had at the onset: call the Special Squad, an SOS for rescue. She pressed the alarm-chip, a small bluetooth-piece attached to her ear.
– Majoie Elavagnon here, known by the male name of Tiken, in desperate flight to escape from insane males.
– Be careful with all the joking, was the reply.
– I am being tracked, sir, act quickly or I will be killed.
– Where are you?
I left Quarter South A going towards… I don’t know anymore. I am in the sewer. I…
The connection broke off. The area she bad just entered did run permit remote communication. Columns of mud, long trails of shit were piled everywhere, obstructing the passage, as if a wall had been erected to prevent the tunnels’ meeting. Unless it was the end of the underground system. Give up? Give in?
Emptiness within, yes the loss of the horizon, yes, but not despair, not accommodation, not that feeling of total vanquishment that leads to lowered arms, to kneeling, to renunciation. Continue, dare, until the end decides it otherwise.
She steeled herself, held her breath, and plunged head first into the column of mud. Like a block of butter pierced by a sword, the magma cedes. She plunged ahead, exerted her body, her legs, her arms, arid found herself on the other side, covered completely with shit, head to toe. In the time it took to wipe her face, a little light suddenly appeared.
It was between two joints of the same tunnel. The masonry had cracked from weather – and no doubt from bad craftsmanship – and an opening had formed. The young woman stretched out both arms, gripped the hanging pieces of broken concrete, and hoisted herself through the opening. The sky, blue and sparkling, fell into her eyes. Rolling on the ground, she dosed her eyelids, relieved and tired at once. Just a moment to breathe, to release the tension accumulated in her legs, then she must move again.
Poor calculation. At that instant, the men who had run along the sewer, following the noise of underground chase, appeared. They were there, around her feet, waiting for her, surrounding her with their massive shadows. The young woman did not even need to open her eyes to know. A heavy presentiment – she felt she had already been captured.
“Crap,” she said to herself; “it’s all crap.”
Slowly she pressed into the ground and stood. Her eyes fought for a moment before opening. Around her, the male pack. A hundred at the onset, now a thousand. They had come from everywhere, informed via public phone and via the classic cell phone. Zombies emerged from the sewers, others arrived from the city’s skyscrapers. Seeing their faces disfigured by anger, their eyes burning with concupiscence, their mouths twisted by an enraged desire to possess her, she tells herself there is no chance of escape. But at least alert the Special Squad again. The alarm-chip on her ear is no longer there, fallen somewhere back in the tunnel.
The sun was yellow, an ochre yellow, with its flow of light that made the clouds transparent. An always blue sky, a liquid blue that invited voyage, escape to other horizons, everything the opposite of the drama playing out right below, on he arid land of men.
Men who had, for the most part, undone their pants, and who was each now holding an erect drooling sex in his hands, ready to stick the fugitive with it. That the pitiful one was covered with mud, that her body was encrusted with suit, that her feminine attributes could not be less visible, none of this bothered them in the least. She was female, at least, the rumor had declared: she must submit to the ecstasy of their unleashed hatchets.
Suddenly, the wave, like a moving mountain, fell upon her. At the same moment, from far- off, the Special Brigade siren called.
First published in Pulsations