It's A Girl

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Review Chain

A girl must find a way to escape her restrictive marriage.

“It’s a girl.”

The phrase buzzes into my ears like a swarm of mosquitoes. Unwelcome. Unbearable.

A paper towel appears in the doctor’s hand and rubs at the clear gel slabbed over my stretched skin. Indifferently, though; a cold glob remains in my belly button.

A girl. 

“Any questions?” the doctor recites. 

Like I’d waste any of my words on him. I shake my head and the doctor leaves.

I dig a finger into my navel and wipe the gel onto the exam table paper. It seeps in, leaving a translucent, tear-shaped streak.

A red-lipped nurse steps in. “How are you today?”

I try not to hate her for the pleasantry—she can afford them, with her five-thousand-word allotment. I shrug a reply; I’m very good at nods and shrugs.

“Here are your vitamins”—a green prescription bottle is placed in one hand—“and here is your baby’s picture”—a flimsy square is placed in the other.

With nothing else needing said, we exit the room in silence.

 

###

“Just go cook dinner. I can’t look at you anymore,” the husband concludes his one-hundred-and-one-word speech.

I bob my head in routine agreement and slip into the kitchen.

The husband is as fluent as I in word counting, and he relishes giving one-hundred-and-one-word speeches. One word more than I’m allowed.

It’s the traditional gift for a husband., Tthe Speech Governor, attached to his wife’s larynx. One word above the prescribed allotment-per-day and her vocal cords are paralyzed for forty-eight hours. Women whisper that what the husbands really want are android wives.

The husband did not take the gender announcement well, as I knew he wouldn’t. He vowed that the child would be married off as soon as possible. 

Filling a pot with water, I light the weary stove. Seizing a crown of broccoli, I chop it into shreds.

Since being gagged, my thoughts come slower. They blur and tangle; impulse sways me like an animal.

The baby kicks and the knife clatters to the floor. It’s no use. Life can’t go on like this.  My daughter will not share my fate. 

There is a secret undercurrent among the wives at the market—a doctor removing Speech Governors in the night. No matter how much I try to starve it, my heart feeds on those whispered rumors. 

Twisting around, I return to the husband. Surprise on his face, then anger. His words begin, but my voice, thin and high from neglect, slices through them. 

Mark my words, husband—your day of reckoning will come. The day you will regret the injustices you commit so flippantly. Against me, and now my daughter. Make no mistake—one day the winds of judgment will blow through your little playworld and you’ll quiver. You will die a lonely death, neither wife nor child at your side, and I’ll be free of your suppression and tyranny. No longer muzzled, no longer stripped of words, but free to raise my voice in triumph—over you and any man who would seize my inborn rights. The world will hear me bellow.”

Enraged by my ninety-nine-word speech, he lunges at me. I spin and sprint to the kitchen. Hitching a foot onto the counter, I jerk the window open and clamber out.

“I’ll cut out your tongue!” he hisses.

I run. Then force myself to slow. He won’t chase me. Not in the neighborhood. He cares too greatly for his image. Chasing a rogue wife in full view of the public won’t do. He’ll wait until morning, when the Speech Governor Office opens. Then he’ll apply for permanent deactivation of my voice. 

I steer my feet toward the rumored location that floats in the air on women’s breaths. A green metal door at the back of the clinic, seen only in the hem of a streetlamp’s glow.

It's not far, but I am grateful I have my shoes. Padding quietly across darkening and dusty roads, I keep my head hooded and bowed to the men I encounter—a skill my mother taught me. Not with words, of course. Her words she saved for more important things; she saved all one hundred for me.

“I love you, Kushaaneh.”  She’d repeat it, over and over. “I love you, Kushaaneh.”

A rock catches the front of my toe. I trip and the sidewalk tears through skirt and skin. A yelp nearly escapes, but I catch myself. Only one word left.

The gray hospital is visible only in spangled patches of light. In one murky corner I see it, the green metal door. Hope and fear battle inside me as I turn the handle.

Inside is small. On one side of the beige room plastic plants bookend two wooden chairs. On the other, a man—white-haired and withered—sits at a simple desk.

“You here for your voice?”

I nod.

“I’m afraid,” he replies, “that the procedure is not reliable. A fifty percent success rate. The other half are mute.”

My fingers cover my mouth. No one mentioned such low odds.

“If it is successful,” he continues, “you’ll have to leave. Women’s words have no place here. If anyone finds me out…” 

 He doesn’t finish what we both already know.

“The deal is you leave the country, or I won’t do it.”

Fingers still veiling my dry mouth, I close it and swallow hard.

“It’s all right if you change your mind,” he says softly. “Most do.”

My gut twists on itself. In the morning, the husband will undoubtedly seek permanent muteness, but I’m not sure it would be granted. Generally, it’s preferred for women to have at least a few words, for serving purposes.

Fifty percent.

But even worse is the requirement to flee. I’ve never known anywhere else. And my friends…  Just this morning the other wives and I gathered at the corner park, listening to the lively chattering of the children at play.

Sounds that will be choked into silence all too soon...

“So, what do you think?” he prods.

The word surges from my mouth, its own entity.

“Yes.”

 


Submitted: May 17, 2021

© Copyright 2021 XCulletto. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Akshay Raj Chovhan

"I am very good at nods and shrugs" I thought the same and the narrator said ????. Lol. It's a very interesting and intriguing concept. For some reason I imagined the story in a steampunk environment. So...what happens? Does she get her voice? Is there a part 2?

Mon, May 17th, 2021 6:13pm

Archia

I loved that one word at the end; it was only one small word but it had so much impact and brought the whole story together. You have such an interesting idea here. I was a little confused at the beginning, I thought her not speaking was more of a reflective idea on the situation not something literal. But once I realised it was the actual setting I thought it was a really clever idea. I really liked the power she had and her choice in the end to take that chance to regain her voice.

Thu, June 3rd, 2021 9:22am

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