Friday, 3 August 2012

Friday Flash Fiction - Manly

Far in our future, the suburb of Manly has been made into a prison, surrounded by tall, harsh concrete walls. A prison where men are put for the crime of being born with a Y chromosome. Men emerge from there ... changed. Not physically, although in some ways that might be less cruel. No, they are changed mentally. They are broken. Tamed. Domesticated. The warrior spirit from long ago squeezed out of them.

Before or after conditioning and training, the men are in some way unacceptable. They are brutes, slaves to their hormones, their passions, their muscles, and then the conditioning makes them docile, cow-like, obedient and calm but lacking any interest whatsoever. They will do the work set before them, but within a year most slip into a depressive coma and die. No domesticated man has lived past three years.

Lady Mara Adelbury purchased a manservant from the prison at Manly to assist her maid. She was assured that the collared brute had been conditioned to the highest standards of the facility, and that, should he die within six months, he would be replaced, free of charge. She was apprehensive at allowing a male onto the premises - no male had set food on the Adelbury estate in over two hundred years, since the gender wars - but the work was getting to be too much for her aging maid and you couldn't teach the young girls of today anything. Her own daughter was proof enough of that.

The man actually came shipped in a box, chained up, but loosely. Apparently comfortable enough. His handler, a square-shaped, heavy woman in leather armour and carrying a shock prod, kept a severe, distrusting eye on him the entire time, and even backed out of the room after Lady Adelbury had signed the delivery papers, watching the back of the man's head for any sign of sudden violence and betrayal.

It was not a sight that filled Lady Adelbury with confidence in her purchase.

The Lady found it odd that such a "highly conditioned" male would still be so distrusted by a prison guard, but thought better of saying anything on the matter. She looked her new acquisition up and down. He had close-cropped hair, wore plain denim overalls and simple work boots. His eyes were dull, and he had a brown leather collar around his neck.

Lady Adelbury was uncertain what needed to be done first. She asked him his name, and in a voice that was deep and quiet but clear, he replied, "Rodney, ma'am". Lady Adelbury had never heard a man's voice before, and it made her uncomfortable in a way she could not quite fathom.

"Rodney," she paused, wondering where best to put him to work. "The ... uh ... the gardens need tending. Pull the weeds in the north courtyard, then fetch Millicent to show her when you are done."

"Yes, ma'am."

Rodney turned on his heel and slumped out of the house, making his way to the north courtyard. For the next few hours, Lady Adelbury busied herself in the library, indexing and cataloguing her mother's handwritten biology notes, until teatime when she began wondering what had happened to Rodney. Had she been too quick to let him out of her sight? She made her way tentatively to the courtyard, peering around corners with excessive caution.

Lady Adelbury found Rodney on his knees in the courtyard, filthy, sunburned and his hands cut to painful ribbons by the thorns and thistles, now trying to pull weeds with his elbows.

For a second, Lady Adelbury was angry, and was about to ask why Rodney did not get himself some gloves to work with, before realising she had not told him to do so. The prison had said specifically that his conditioning was to do nothing he had not been instructed to do.

She led him inside by the wrist, sat him down at the kitchen table, and began to gently tend to his wounds, plucking the thorns from his palms with tweezers and disinfecting the cuts before bandaging his hands up. As she did so, she saw, just for a moment, a look of gratefulness in his eyes, but a moment later it was replaced by the standard blank stare of his conditioning.

Lady Adelbury wondered if that look had been part of his training - a bonding reflex they had programmed into him - or whether men were actually capable of gratitude and even love on their own. She wasn't sure, but she thought she should find out, and also read some history of the gender wars. And maybe she should find out just what kind of conditioning was really done at Manly.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - When I write it, I think Manly West will be a sequel to this story.
PPS - And that may be the best way to handle such similarly named suburbs in this series.

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