Shifa’s love of experimental fiction and feminist theory have contributed to the conception of ‘Womb’, a serialized novel to be featured here once every
two weeks week. Here’s chapter one, two, three, four, five, six and seven .
I get to his office and he shrugs on his coat.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he says.
We head out the door, into the grounds.
“Four showers later and you’re almost ready for the real stuff.”
I laugh. “As if this wasn’t real enough,” I say.
“You’ve only just been introduced into our world. But I think you like it. Do you?” He playfully punches my shoulder.
I smile. “I do. I feel more alive than I have felt in years. Emancipated.”
“Have you noticed something different about our grounds?”
“You mean apart from the fact that there is no sun, there are no plants or animals, and almost no sound?”
“Today I’m going to tell you why. Our grounds are limitless. Noticed that?”
“We’re here to create an all-encompassing world, so to speak. Today, I’m going to tell you all about that world. You’ve talked. Now I’m going to return the favour. Okay?”
“I work here. I have worked here for many, many years. But I don’t own the place and it wasn’t my idea. I’m not at liberty to tell you much about the founder; she’ll do that herself when you meet her in three showers. But I can tell you that she is a remarkable woman with a vision that can, if executed properly, change the world. We call her The Mother.
“She’s had quite a tortured past. But no one (not even I) knows much about that. The only hint that betrays this past is the extensive scarring on her face and body. This gash you see on my face is meant to pay homage to her scars—but don’t worry, it isn’t standard practice. Only her most dedicated followers find the inspiration in themselves to do it, and we don’t ask it of everyone. That kind of passionate engagement cannot be coerced. It would mean very little if it was.
“You’re here on the recommendation of a friend of yours. You have a problem that is keeping you from fully realizing yourself, and you’re here to address the problem. This friend of yours is, you should know, fully committed to our beliefs. She works for us, not because she’s an employee, but because she really believes in what we do here and wants to help women like her—and you—realize their true potential. She brought you our ad in the paper after you discussed your concerns with her and recommended that you come see us. However, she told you very little else about us and what we do. I’m here to tell you the rest.
“The Mother started this retreat a number of years ago (we’ve lost track of how long ago, of course) and I’ve worked here from the beginning. The world is a bad place, you realize; it’s why you’re here. The Mother realized this too. And she realized that she had to do something about it. So she spent a lot of time thinking and she arrived at the answers. She taught me the answers and now I’m here to teach them to you.
“Most of this is privileged information. We’ve singled you out. You’re special. Most of the attendants you’ve seen around the place do not have access to what I’m about to reveal to you. For the most part, they see this retreat as just that—if a little stricter than most others and only for women. They do what we tell them to and they don’t question anything. But you’re different. You questioned us. And you had a keen awareness that things were not right with the world from the start. This is why we have decided to trust you with our story and this is why The Mother has asked me to bring you to see her. I want you to understand what an incredible privilege that is. Not a lot of people are invited personally to meet with her. So I want to make sure you understand the gravity of the situation and I want to prep you for what you’ll see.
“The Mother has, shall we say, an unusual appearance—an appearance caused only in part by her scars. She is bald, completely hairless, naked, and, some would say, significantly emaciated. This appearance is a very conscious—and serious—expression of her ideology. I know we’ve talked about ideology before, but in this case, it is a good thing. It is a privilege to be interpellated into The Mother’s ideology. Because The Mother has, we believe, figured out how to save the world for us. She has figured out how to destroy the Phallus at the centre of things.
“You’re a literary theory student, you’ve said. And we’ve discussed the Phallus at the centre of things for some time now. You understand quite clearly that the Phallus represents the greatest danger to us. But till now, you’ve understood it as a purely philosophical construct. It’s never been real to you. But you’re mistaken. Everyone from Lacan to Irrigary was mistaken! The Phallus is real. It exists. We know where and we’re here to tell you.
“The very first session we had, you told me that you understood that there was no point to the world; you understood that nothing was going on; you understood that there was no essential truth; you understood that men—the men who taught and built and governed and generated—that these men created the illusion of an essence. You were almost right. There is an essential Truth. But not the one they’d have you believe. The essential Truth is not Man. The essential Truth is Woman. The eternal Symbol is not Phallus. The eternal Symbol is Cunt.
“But the Phallus at the center of things has worked to hide this truth. It has employed men over the centuries to manufacture its version of the world— to control, to interpellate, to enslave, to shame and to subject. The Phallus employs men—men at the top of the food chain, so to speak, with the quality of hegemonic masculinity that you so eloquently described in our first meeting without meaning to—to go out into the world to attend conferences and teach, to analyze and build, to study and conclude. These are the men who deny our Truth. The only real Truth. Woman. Cunt.
“The Phallus exists. It is housed in an establishment somewhere. We don’t know where exactly—but we have identified that it is situated somewhere to the west of 54°54′N 25°19′E. The exact location has been extremely difficult to identify because it is so closely guarded a secret. Nevertheless, we don’t actually need to figure out the exact location, because we’ve identified the Phallus’ energy source— what sustains it, keeps it in control. So all we need to do is take care of the energy source. Cut if off. As it happens, you are one of those women who, against your will, of course, are carrying around this energy source. That’s why you’re here. That’s what we’re here to help you with.
“K—, it has come to our attention, works in close contact with the Phallus. But then you already suspected this. He analyses data for it, sees patterns, goes about fitting them in to the fabric of reality to give it the appearance the Phallus demands. K—doesn’t realize the full extent of his involvement—he doesn’t see the long term consequences. He’s not a bad person—for a man. However, his boss is one of the top bosses, so to speak. And K—will sooner or later be asked to take over the position. We are of the educated opinion that he will accept. He has everything to gain. Because with that will come an unprecedented control over the world, and, seeing as his specialty if numbers, over its mathematical and scientific ideologies. These ideologies, like all others the Phallus directs, deny the Truth of the Cunt. And this is something we cannot allow to continue. So we’ve figured it out. And you’re here to help us execute it.
“Woman has always been her own enemy, but not in the way most people have come to understand it. The Mother has realized that Woman holds within her the power to destroy the Phallus and claim herself once again. I remember telling you once that Cunt, to us, is the most beautiful word in the English language. I also remember telling you that Womb is the worst. The reason is because The Womb allows The Phallus to thrive; it is complacent in its own enslavement. It is the Womb that manufactures the energy the Phallus thrives on—its workers, its binaries, its hegemony. The Cunt is here to destroy the Womb. We owe our allegiance to the Cunt. The Cunt denies the Phallus. The Cunt denies the Womb; and most importantly, the Cunt denies Reproduction.
“Reproduction is the lowliest activity a Woman can engage it. It is what is keeping the Phallus in power. It is what is keeping the Womb alive. Everything you see around you has been designed specifically to impede reproduction, to deny the Womb. We allow nothing in that encourages organic growth. Organic growth disgusts us. There is no sun, there are no animals, there is no sound, there are no plants. We discourage the growth of microbes, which is why we treat our water. Our meals are designed to discourage weight gain—we are not fond of the aesthetic of the voluptuous woman with her full, nurturing breasts and broad, child-bearing hips. Everything we do, we do for one reason—to kill the Womb, to destroy the Phallus, to deny creation, reproduction. The world has had enough of that. It has gotten us nowhere, and it is time someone put a stop to it. That someone is Mother. With our help. And yours, if you’ll give it.”
We come upon a door suddenly. I don’t notice till it is right in front of us, six feet away. A sign on it reads ‘Ultrasound’. Reflexively, my hand moves to rest on my belly. There is a quick tightening of my stomach muscles. A flutter like a sigh in secret spaces.
“You know why you’re here. You understand what we’re about to do. You know where this is going,” he looks at me with the strangest expression. It is almost one of pity. He smiles his sad smile.
“It’s time for your first scan. If it’s a girl, we might allow you to keep her, Mother will decide that. But if it’s a boy and you choose to continue with us, to help us change the world—well, then, you know what you have to do. We cannot feed the Phallus. We cannot deny the Cunt. Do you understand?”
“Are you ready?”
I take a deep breath. I enter. I silently pray for a girl. I lie on the bed. I wince as he lifts my uniform. I breathe in as he applies gel on my belly. I breathe out to the sounds of the machine. I stare fixedly at the ceiling as he moves the probe up and down my belly. I pray for a girl. But I know what is coming.
“It’s a boy,” he says gravely. “I’m so sorry.”
I nod. I smile.
“That’s okay,” I hear myself say.