Chapter: One Chapter
Spoilers: None, but it helps to have read the first trilogy to understand the events.
Date Posted: January 2006
This story is about a human hermaphrodite in the early days of Wraeththu. I have used the location of Forever and the character of Zack to give some indication of time period and locale. The location names in the beginning of the story are U.S. and “real world.”
I was born the day the levy broke. My father awaited my birth pacing in the den, gulping fine bourbon and sucking down cigarettes. His eyes were glued to the television, watching his hometown drown under the awesome fury of Katrina. Mother pushed me out in the ballroom that had once hosted her debut, temporarily turned into a new age birthing room complete with water-birth tub, piped in Tibetan chants, and a small army of long haired, organically clothed Wiccans. We dwelled in the house that would become Forever, but that was a distant tremor in our future, unimaginable at the time. The race of beings that would overcome our world had surely begun, but had not yet made themselves known.
The midwife was a priestess, with a frail, bird like appearance and large, spacey blue eyes. As she pulled me out of the water and onto my mother’s panting breast she cried, “look at that hair!” – an exclamation I would hear like a greeting the rest of my life. My crowning glory, with black and glossy bottom layers and white and wavy ones at the top, was already four inches long when I emerged from the womb.
After the initial excitement of my arrival, the midwife took me to a warm little bath to clean and examine me. As her assistant helped my mother deliver the afterbirth, to be planted in the garden, Willow the midwife marveled at my perfectly formed, long limbs – more like a doll’s than a squishy newborns.
As she cleaned between my legs she emitted a little gasp. My mother, though she came from money, had eschewed the medical establishment for both of her births. She didn’t need the cold and sterile hospitals to do what her body was made to do. She had not had an ultrasound, had not even gone in for check-ups during pregnancy. With an androgynous name selected, she wanted to be surprised on my birth day.
As my mother was cleaned, dried, and wrapped in a robe, she looked at Willow expectantly. Willow carefully wrapped a blanket around me, leaving it looser around my bottom.
“It’s…beautiful,” Willow beamed, handing me into Mother’s waiting arms.
Terrance, my elder brother by five years, had spent the birth hiding under a chair. The sight of it ruined women for him thereafter. He ran out to retrieve my father shortly after I emerged. Glass of bourbon and two cigars in hand – one banded “it’s a boy” the other “it’s a girl,” my father stumbled in as my mother unwrapped me from my blanket. Ten fingers. Ten toes…One penis. One vagina.
“It’s a miracle!” she exclaimed.
My father’s glass crashed to the floor as he saw me over Mother’s trembling shoulder. With shaking hands he lifted both cigars to his mouth and lit them, inhaling the pungent smoke before leaving the room.
My father married above him. A charming Italian gambler from New Orleans, he knew how to dress and behave around the wealthy, snaking himself into their lives and beds for long enough to pay his gambling debts before slinking into the next one. My mother, vacationing during Mardi Gras on break from her all girl boarding school, didn’t stand a chance when they met.
Mother’s family lived in Savannah. They were of a dying breed of Southern Old Money, one of the few whose wealth hadn’t disappeared during Reconstruction. After his careful seduction, she agreed to marry my father, who perhaps felt genuine affection for her as well as her inheritance. With a host of ghosts in every closet, my father moved into my mother’s family home, Montclair, known as “the Big House” to the rest of the town.
Generations of incest had created a tradition of anomalies in my family tree. Sprinkled with the fruits of aristocracy, that my mother and brother represented – fine featured, fey beauties with the amoral ease of privilege in their eyes – were the freaks. The mad ones, the dwarves, pinheads, buried blobs of protoplasm, Siamese twins, and, finally, me.
Most people have a very limited knowledge of human gender. X and Y. Male and female. There are actually at least five known genders in the spectrum of human sexuality, and I was born in the middle. Fully formed in both of my aspects, I was a bit of a celebrity in the limited field of medical gender research. I was poked, prodded, photographed and studied by the best, the only known of my kind. In my heart I was sure there were more of me running around, maybe in the shanty towns of Appalachia, the ditches of India, the whorehouses of Thailand, and anywhere else people too far from society to follow it’s recommended rules of propagation dwelled. Of course, if anyone had told me in my formative years that armies of intersex youths would eventually take over the Earth, take over Montclair, even, I would have laughed and spat in their faces.
My mother didn’t see me as a freak, but as a miracle. She saw me as a living yin-yang symbol, an expression of cosmic balance. Her and my father fought constantly about my upbringing. I would not be a he or she, she decided. I would dress in unisex clothes. I would be me, and I wouldn’t conform, she would make sure of it. While my father would yell, “just have them cut it off!” my mother would shoot smoldering looks and bang doors around Montclair until he came begging for forgiveness. She, the frail and dark eyed witch of the house, would always prevail. In her quiet way, she never let my father forget exactly where he came from.
And where he came from was submerged, in that year of disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes tore the land apart as nature fought back against the cars, the buildings, the feeble constructs of our society. My mother would watch the destruction with fire in her eyes, welcoming it. “The judgment is coming,” she would say, clutching me to her side. “One day the tide will come, wiping the atrocities of man off the streets.”
I’m glad she didn’t live long enough to see the real tide, the one that wiped man and woman off the streets. She was washed up in it herself, perhaps a willing sacrifice to the New Gods.