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, seven , eight and nine.
Two days after his wife has checked herself into the retreat, K—is called in by his boss. He wears a stony, disapproving expression on his face and motions for K—to take a seat.
“We’ve had some disturbing news.”
K—isn’t sure why he’s been called in, so he just waits in silence.
The Boss continues:
“How much do you know about this retreat your wife has checked herself into?”
K—is visibly surprised; confusion clouds his face.
“How do you know about that?”
“We make it our business to know.”
K—stammers. “Not a lot. She told me it was a place her friend had recommended. She said it’s a place women in her position can go to to relax and get away from it all.”
“Women in her position? Are you referring to her pregnancy? You know about that?”
“That she’s pregnant? Of course I know! I’m the father!”
“There are greater things at play here than paternity, K—. I’d be very grateful if you kept that in mind,” he says sternly. “The truth is, you wife has been hiding a great many things from you.”
K—feels chastened. “Yes, sir,” he says meekly.
“She knows, K–,” he says gravely. “You should have done a better job hiding it from her.”
“I don’t understand. Knows what?”
“What we do. She knows in what capacity you help us do what we do. It’s driven her into the hands of some very dangerous people.”
“She doesn’t know anything. She can’t know anything. I’ve never told her! I swear to you.”
“You must have let your guard down somehow. Human error, K–. Something the boys have tried very hard to eliminate, but something that persists stubbornly nevertheless. Ever fell asleep at your computer, leaving it open to prying eyes? Been in the bathroom with your phone left outside where someone could see? Human error. It’s a bitch.”
K—looks down at the ground.
“Your wife’s a smart woman.”
“It’s why I married her.”
“Smart women are dangerous, K—. They get in the way with their questions, their concerns. They have no place in the world we’re trying to create. You do understand that?”
“If you don’t understand, then maybe we’ve misjudged you. Maybe you shouldn’t be here. Maybe we shouldn’t offer you a share in what’s to come.”
K—looks up quickly. This cannot be allowed to happen.
“I understand. I understand,” he says quietly.
“Good. We’ve left some things unsaid, K–, and we apologize. It’s now time, we think, for you to be told. Are you okay? Need anything? Cup of coffee?”
“No, thank you. I’m fine.”
“Alrighty then. Let’s first start with a basic timeline. You know how important it is for us to keep track of time. It’s essential to everything.”
“Okay, let’s begin. You met your wife at our company sanctioned retreat, yes?”
“Now this retreat was advertised to the rest of the world as holistic, restoratative and what have you. The truth is, of course, that all the men at the retreat belonged to our company. And all the women we allowed in are allowed in for one very specific reason. Are you aware what this reason was?”
“While the men are treated with their full consent—you, for example, were always informed about the drugs we were administering to you, the women were kept in the dark. All for their own good, of course. We wouldn’t do anything if it wasn’t in their best interests. It’s just that, sometimes, being women, they’re a little confused as to where their best interests lie. But one must make allowances. They’re dear, dear things. Don’t you agree?”
“Absolutely.” K—is immensely uncomfortable, but he does a good job at hiding it, after all this while.
“At this retreat, we handpicked the women who applied, for one very specific purpose: to further our cause. We treated them to help them realize their true potential. And for a woman, there is, of course, only one true calling. Pop quiz, K—, what’s a woman’s one true calling?”
K—doesn’t know. He remains silent.
“Come on, K–! You’ve certainly been with us long enough to know. To be a mother. Repeat after me. To-be-a-mother.”
K—does as he is told.
“What we treated them with was fertility drugs. Then we paired them up with our men. In service of a better world. You see where this is going? You got her pregnant after the first couple of times! All our condoms are defective!” He laughs deep in his belly, as if this is all a big joke.
“Of course, like I said, paternity is the least of your concerns. Truthfully, the baby isn’t even yours. You know why, don’t you? It’s a very special thing.—you become the Phallus every time you enter a woman. The one true Phallus. Our dicks in their off time are just poor imitations, wouldn’t you agree?”
K—smiles, still immensely uncomfortable. His wife’s face swims up in front of his eyes. It’s a very pretty face, with very full lips. He misses waking up to it every morning. He loves her face. He loves her. But he smiles.
“We have ways of monitoring these things. So we knew exactly when she got pregnant, then (viola!) decided both you and her were all better and ready to be sent back into the world. You did a very good job making her fall in love with you. We couldn’t have scripted it better ourselves. It was a lovely wedding, great food. And it’s been how long since then? Two, three months?”
“Exactly. You’ve let your guard down, K—. This Lakshmi, your wife’s psychiatrist, is not someone we cleared. You should have checked with us. We can’t see to every little thing, which is why we expect our boys to keep their guard up for us! You’ve disappointed us. But it’s okay—we understand human error. And we’ve decided to forgive yours. But you’ve got to buck up now.”
“I don’t understand. What do you want me to do? What about the psychiatrist? The retreat? What have you done with my wife?”
“We? I’m insulted! We haven’t done anything to her. We care about her. And you. The Mother is the problem.”
“The mother? Who the hell is the mother?”
“You have to capitalize it. It’s The Mother. You’re saying it wrong. The Mother and I go way back. The Mother is the antithesis of all we believe in. I don’t want to get into it right now—you’ll probably have the displeasure of meeting her soon. You’ll probably want to throttle her when you do—but don’t, we have other plans for her. You just need to get to the retreat and save your wife. She’s being very stupid.”
“What has she done? You need to stop talking in riddles—or whatever it is you’re doing.”
“Fine, have it your way. Your wife is at the retreat to kill your baby and destroy her womb with the help of The Mother and her lackeys. And this must be stopped because the Phallus has taken an immense liking to your wife’s womb, for reasons clear to him alone. Now me, I prefer a woman with bigger tits.
Anyway, have I made things clear enough for you? Let’s get you a scotch and soda and sort this mess out, shall we?”
K—just nods, losing himself in the movement.