Vrye was waiting nervously for his sister to call him in; he knew she had watched midwives deliver other babies, but had never done so herself. So many months of waiting—years really—to have a child to call his own. Vrye needed a new person to put all his hope and efforts into, a bit of light to outline the tunnel, “or is it really just a deepening hole?” he would ask himself pessimistically.
He used to have a very close connection to his parents, until he found out that their adoration for him was tainted by what his birth had meant. He was the force that put them into “the winner’s bracket” so that they might accrue a large family with the requisite dowries of fortune and land. However, in his original innocence, he had loved his parents and was very appreciative of the love he had received. It was the only time he really felt happiness until the dark reality of his corrupted people set in on his mind. He believed having a son that he could keep would be the first step in a new direction. His wife, Taya, he knew to be too much like the rest of them, too invested in the current system—that is after all why she was so happy to be married to him and all his acquired wealth.
Etianya, his sister, poked her head out the door and whispered “brother, I think you should come here.” Vrye quickly walked over and swallowed.
“Is it over? I didn’t hear any crying,” he looked a little panicked, “is the baby dead?” tears started to well up in his eyes, as he hadn’t even considered this possibility, so much riding on the others.
“No,” she looked down, “no, sometimes they don’t, I’ve seen it a couple of times before, it doesn’t mean anythings wrong.” Vrye looked relieved a bit, having things now in perspective. “But,” she continued gravely, “she is in danger.” Vrye looked very knowingly at her, and he almost blamed her for it, though he knew she was his only ally in all of this bad joke of a life. He hesitated to say anything, grounding himself and remembering his values. Then resolve took him.
“Does Taya know?” he asked suddenly, revealing additional fears that had been previously repressed.
“She was so out of it, and now she’s passed out…” Etianya hesitated, “I don’t think she even thought of it, she was just so out of it.” Vrye looked nervous. “She didn’t bleed much, I think she’s just very exhausted… and your daughter is quietly suckling, so I thought it was a good time to leave them.”
Vrye then got a very determined look. “My daughter,” he put his fist in his hand, and then started walking towards the door. “It’s settled then,” he said to himself, as he quickened his pace.
“Vrye,” his sister cried after him, seeing him grip his sword, “Vrye!!” He turned to look at her, “don’t start her life with a death.”
“You misunderstand me, sister, I am going to cut the cord,” and he turned through another doorway and headed down the hallway leading to the bedroom.
“I already cut it,” she whispered as loud as she could.
“One less thing to do then, but as long as I have her, I’ll need my sword. You know how they act when the stability of their system is threatened.” He paused and looked in, his eyes adjusting to the firelight. There was his daughter, so small, so needy, getting nurture from a mother that was imminently going to reject her. So far she hadn’t, and Vrye getting to actually see this connection, in the flesh, his attitude started to change, to soften. Maybe this time Taya would think differently, on her own, or even at his prodding, but this was so right and so natural, how could she so easily give it all up? He sat down next to the bed.
“Brother, what are you doing? You shouldn’t linger, you should go now,” Etiana insisted.
“I’m waiting until she wakes up… I won’t take my daughter from her mother without giving Taya a chance to see her face and realize what is right,” he said calmly. “Besides, I will not interrupt her first, and maybe only nursing from someone who truly loves her.”
“But she doesn’t love her, and she might not even have loved a him… you’ve said this so yourself.” Etiana reminded Vrye. “Look, I hate this whole thing, but I admire you and have always looked up to you, and what you are doing might be the one thing that I can truly keep in my mind and know is something good, worth making it through another day. I have a son, and that made me accepted in this world, but if I had the will to reject the world like you do now, having had only daughters… I was never really given a chance, luck made me fortunate, but I cannot say I truly enjoy it. Does anyone? Are the wealthy any less miserable than the poor? Certainly more comfortable…” Etiana came back to the present, she looked at him, “you need to go.”
“I don’t deny what you are saying, and I don’t change my mind, but I have a feeling she loves them when they are inside of her, and this is still very close to that. You’re right, I will not start her life with a death, and so I will not kill a relationship where there is hope it might survive. I need to give Taya this chance, I have to hope that she can change for her child, her fucking child. Gods damn us, why is everything so fucked up!? Today, I right things.”
“Just don’t spend too much time worshiping yourself brother, and make sure you are watching your back. Remember what you told me about cult followers: there are two types, those that want to catch up to you so that they can be like you, and those that want to catch you and slit your throat. You and I know that there are a lot more of the latter on this island; and for the rest of the world, that is a real mystery. But I have my doubts…” she was silent. Vrye seemed lost in thought, forgetting—perhaps intentionally—the gravity of what he was going to be doing once this tender family moment had to awake to the harsh reality. Why couldn’t things be like this and embraced, an aunt, a mother and father, and a beautiful new baby daughter, all in candlelit mellowness.
“Yes, but there’s got to be more people that are hiding in plain sight… but they’re cowards, you’re right, we know that and they might as well truly believe in this terrible system so they stop teasing us with hope. They are able to sow just enough doubt to make you waver. Then you bide your time instead of actually taking action, comforted by the fantasy that they might fight our battles with us, or for us. Either way, its not for me to rile them up anymore, its for you or others like you.”
“Once you’re story reaches them, you will have riled them up…” she started, but he put up his hand to cut her short.
“Etiana,” he said in a different tone, “don’t be naïve… I see it as a strength for you, but they will use it against you. You know my story will not be their story. Speaking of which, you should get back before you are implicated as part of this. You have already taken on an awful lot of risk for me, and I have been selfish with your time. I am very scared and you bring me comfort, but my daughter is born and very healthy, and I cannot ask you for anything more.”
“Vrye, this is the last time I will ever get to see you. If you would repay me for all that I have done, let it be by allowing me to choose to leave once I choose. Remember, I am never again going to get to see my older brother. I was so lucky to be brought into this family, but now my luck is literally going to run out…” she started to get teary eyed.
“I would like to go with the thought that I could come back and find you well, not dead or maimed,” he said, “especially knowing that it was because of me.”
“I chose to help you, and this is my fantasy too, but I would like to part with you at my own choosing,” she said.
The baby stopped suckling, and made a slight whimper, and then seemed to fall asleep. Vrye knew he couldn’t wait forever, but he didn’t want to wake Taya up just to lay on her the hardest decision of her life: to leave the only place she ever knew. He sat back and sighed, putting his hand on his daughter’s back and caressing her. He only had a boy’s name picked out, thinking a girl would not be an option. In his deepest honesty, though, he was glad it was a girl, it gave him the excuse to give a big “fuck you” to the system he so loathed. He had wanted and won agreement from Taya for his name to be Turo.
“I think I will give her the same name, Turo,” he said to Etiana, now lying down on one of the adjacent cots lost in her own thoughts.
“I’m sure you have a good reason,” said Etiana.
“I do”, he agreed. He took that as an invitation to explain his reasoning: “Because just like it shouldn’t matter whether or not a boy or girl is born first, it shouldn’t matter either if a name is supposed to be for a boy or a girl. Though…” he fell silent, hushed by some doubt. “I don’t know its tough, because I don’t want to get rid of this terrible system only to start new evil, laborious traditions. At best I go on to create a family that grows into a people and they—we have our own unique directions, and those are somehow corrupted and turned to evil use; at worst I do not get far enough away, or some plague takes me and my daughter and we die. Its so interesting how evil acts go beyond themselves and are able to corrupt good intentions. I know that the originals who came here to start this repatriarchalation weren’t totally corrupted, just men and women who…” Taya coughed, having been awake and listening to her husband for some time, able to gather that she had given birth to a girl. Vrye got up to fetch the water for her.
She started to speak but her voice was hoarse, “Vrye, immediately after giving birth and being exposed to those horrors of pain, I feel very courageous,” his eyes widened with hope, as she caught her breath. “Courageous enough to stand up to your boyish idealism. You are not taking her or yourself, though at times I wish you would disappear. You make my life a headache, even right after countless hours of labor.”
“It’s settled then, we need to leave, tonight, now, before any mention of this gets out,” Vrye said. He moved to take Turo, but Taya gripped her close to her bosom. “You would stop me from taking our daughter, but you wouldn’t stop them from taking her?”
“We’ve had this conversation a hundred times, I’m really not even sorry I didn’t give you a son. You would have ruined him and all his sisters…” she winced with pain and grabbed her side. Etiana moved to comfort her but then stopped when her brother responded.
“And I would’ve given him ideals that would keep him from ruining them himself—like all the other son’s we know of, who rape their sisters and kill their younger brothers because they see them as rivals, not as blood. Is that the kind of world you accept and defend for our daughter to go out into!?” He knew his arguments were futile, but he also knew that he had to give one last attempt at it getting through to his wife.
“What’s going to happen to me? You never think about me in any of this”, she cried allowed.
“You are plenty good of taking care of yourself”, he replied. “You play the game so I don’t know what you’re worried about.”
“I’m not saying about in the long run, but If you take her tonight, don’t you think you are putting me in a lot of danger?”
“Just play dumb, because that’s what you always do,” he said. He continued, “and you know, it amazes me how not good you are at it since you do it so often.” He repented these last words, he was just so angry.
“You never loved me,” she cried out. She looked at Etiana, “you love your sister more than your own wife… you probably have children with her that I don’t even know about. How are you any better than the other men out there?”
Vrye chose to not defend himself against this last accusation, it was mostly untrue and wouldn’t bring them to a better position. Calmly yet impassionately he said, “I love the you that loves our children, that loves the bump in your belly… but you always crush that you and replace another you. You are part of the sick irony of the land: that a man can have eight daughters and no children… this is sick, Taya, sick. Be healthy and come with me.”
Vrye was now standing next to her and calmly caressing their sleeping daughter. “Come with me,” he said, “come with me. The men who created this system were thinking it would make them stronger, when really they are at their lowest point, they are so weak because they cannot imagine or live in a world without this system. They thought they were rejecting feminism by creating this system, but really they were bringing it unto themselves. The imbalance has spread to both men and women. Be rid of it and come with me.”
After a long while Taya shook her head, “No, Vrye… sorry,” she was looking down at their daughter, still sleeping quietly. “Take her, take Turo. Go soon, before its too late.”
Vrye snapped out of a daze, grabbed his daughter, and was gone.