Periodical Installment 1
Jane 6 opened her eyes to a world with three choices. She existed on the 1016th floor of the “TenLawn”, but making this choice would help her live. She certainly wouldn't have to have the catheter anymore, pulling the urine from her body to break it into it's usable components. She'd soon be breathing that sunny yellow as oxygen and using the trace carbon to enrich what was called food. No one knew exactly what they ate, except that the brownish green goo looked disturbingly similar what came out the back end tube and had the right amount of base elements to keep them alive before they made THE CHOICE. Jane 6 had to choose: not choosing one of the three meant staying in her pod in the “TenLawn”, a group of ten high rise towers built after the “Water Wars” of 2121, and she couldn't exist this way much longer. There was talk of a small group of “Refusers” on the 1050th floor, but that had to be legend. None of the “TenLawn” residents seemed to be over 20, and how could you live like this by choice? You had to choose, and there was no 4th option of staying.
Like all the girls in San Francisco's “TenLawn”, Jane 6 had never seen a lawn or even been outside the building, she couldn't afford to. The breathing apparatus wasn't part of BASIC, neither were the food upgrades or water supplements. She dreamed of glasses of water, and was told that making THE CHOICE would give her something called a “tap”, where she could fill glass after glass of the glorious stuff; even wash herself with it. Imagine! Washing her body with water? The most she'd ever drank at once was the straw capsule devices that delivered one precious ounce, just enough to bathe her mouth in it's sweet wetness; she'd have to settle for the water lozenges. All the girls in “TenLawn” had acrid breath from sucking on them to keep the dryness at bay. No one liked a girl with dry corners on her mouth, and if she chose to become a “Sexer”, she'd never have a dry mouth again. “Sexers” got daily deliveries of all kinds of ointments, nothing on them was dry, and they got a non-restriction “tap”. Maybe she could be a “Sexer”, she'd been weighing the choices for years. It was certainly the easiest of the three. Sure she's lose her cortex and uterus, but she'd have a tap without limits. She imagined what a bath was like; all that water, and none for drinking. How decadent to choose how to use all that resource. Sure she'd let people use her body any way they wanted as a sexual resource, but she wouldn't really have her own mind anymore. They replaced the cortex with a chip that made you want it all the time, so what was the problem? Kim 7 and Kim 12 became “Sexers”, and they really seemed to like it. In only on week since their choice, they'd both gained 4 lbs, their hair shined and bounced, and Kim 12 even gave Jane 6 a bite of something called “Apple”. It tasted like crunchy, sweet water and Jane 6 would do almost anything for another bite, except remove her cortex and uterus in what they called an noninvasive surgical procedure.
Jane 6 could choose to be a “Breeder”. The opposite of a “Sexer”, these girls chose to be implanted. They used their uterus to grow a better future. While “Sexers” worked until they died, it usually happened on the job as the majority of “Sexers” died from strangulation, “Breeders” only had to birth twenty in their lifetime before they went out to pasture. At least that's what they said. She'd never seen a “Breeder” not full of future, and she'd never seen a “pasture”. She'd heard rumors that people used to eat animals called “cows” who lived in pastures and ate grass, but that was crazy talk. No one ate animals, what a waste, as so few animals still existed in 2222. Where would you keep them? In one of the “TenLawn” Towers? Would they have a catheter? How would they recycle the nutrients to their base forms? It was all too much to think about, and Jane 6 didn't think she could be a “Breeder”. It seemed easy enough, get special supplements and a semi-restricted tap. She could wash whenever she wanted, but never submerge, and she could drink glass after glass without payment. Jane 6 didn't want the added two extra catheters to her breasts, and she'd be constantly growing and shrinking, but every choice came with compromises. Her only real trepidation, Jane 6 didn't know if she could handle the constant sucking sounds of four embedded catheters. How would she sleep with four pumps mining her body for almost twenty years? And where did that future go? She'd never even seen what the breeders actually made. They got shots, got fat, got skinny and drank water, seemed easy enough.
Jane 6 meandered the grey hallway of the 1016th floor to visit Kim 12. Kim 12 made her choice last week and was moving out of the “TenLawn” into the “MissShawn Sexers” district. The tallest building there was only 100 floors, and every room had a “tap”. The lights were always on in the “MissShawn” casting a reddish hue to invite men (and women) to the pleasures of the “Sexers”. Anytime anyone wanted it from anyone, a “Sexer” was quickly there and happily willing. Could Jane 6 be constantly willing? She supposed her cortex had something to do with that, but everyone seemed so happy once those pesky things were removed.
Jane 6 perused the ubiquious choice posters coloring the drab hallway, “Choose NOW!”, “Is Sexer right for you?”, “I can be a Breeder too!” and the rainbow one with a heathy girl drinking a clear glass of liquid that always caught her eye, “I am a HOST, and I hold the future of the Universe inside me!” Being a Host seemed the only viable choice for Jane 6. She'd get an unrestricted tap. She'd have access to actual food like Kim 12's magical water-food “apple”. She'd still have her own cortex. She'd never have a catheter hooked to any of her parts again. But what would she have? She'd have an entire new world inside her with their own laws and rulers and choices and posters and buildings and beings, and Jane 6 would still be Jane 6. It hardly seemed like a compromise.
Jane 6 stopped in front of Kim 12's door, solid in her decision. Jane 6 would become a “Host”, but today she'd have another bite of this amazing thing called “apple”, and say goodbye to her friend who was leaving the 1016th floor of the “TenLawn” for greener pastures, whatever those were.
Pam Benjamin is the director of Mutiny Radio. She has an MA in Fiction and an MFA in Poetry from SFSU because she likes fancy framed pieces of paper on her kitchen walls. Pam likes to do stand up comedy because it is poetry that people actually listen to, and she does an excessive number of weekly podcasts: