(Content warning: vasectomy/surgical references)
I was minding my own—until everyone’s genitalia grew minds of their own. Scientists called it ‘Nocturnal Corporeal Dismemberment’. Whenever anyone became aroused during sleep, their reproductive organs went awol.
When it all kicked off, I was spending most of my days on the island repairing small boats. As I caulked and sanded, the soothing waves sharpened my focus. There were rarely any distractions—until he came.
The interruption was a besuited man trudging through the sand, bare footed, with a pair of dress shoes slung over his shoulder. When he got close, I froze in disbelief as he wrapped his outstretched arms around me without a word. My own arms stiffened at my sides like fins on a missile and I waited for his embrace to end. He put his hands on my shoulders and sighed. ‘Well—it’s happening. Just as I predicted.’
‘What’s happening?’ I said.
‘Imagine your penis and testes detaching during sleep and roaming the night looking for vaginas. Then you've got a pretty clear picture.’
He held up a finger—instructing me to wait. He knelt in the sand, opened his briefcase and fished out a black undergarment. He stretched the waistband proudly. ‘This is a prototype.’
‘Of what?’ I asked.
‘A chastity belt for the modern age.’
The breeze blew the undergarment onto the sand. He tutted, picked it up, and shook the sand off delicately.
‘Unplanned pregnancies, overpopulation and STDs are running rampant thanks to our rogue genitalia.’ He looked me in the eye. ‘And my device can put an end to it all.’
Without warning, he dropped his trousers and slid into the chastity belt. When he’d hoisted the garment up, he locked it off with his thumbprint.
‘Try and get into my pants,’ he said, gesturing to his crotch with karate chop motions. ‘Impossible.’
‘I believe you.’ I said, checking my watch like I had to be somewhere--hoping to hurry him along.
‘Nothing’s getting out of here, either,’ he said. ‘No more parts escaping. No more ghost babies!’
I thought he’d reached peak ridiculousness after bandying the term ghost babies around—but then I saw ‘Securi-pants’ embroidered in gold stitching on the waist band. Ashamed to be associated with this man, I scanned the beach for my fellow islanders in the hopes of palming him off on them. But there was no-one else around.
‘A Newcastle man impregnated a Zimbabwean woman recently. The conception happened somewhere over the Algerian desert. Isn’t it fascinating? He must have been like—“Way-aye-like! I’ll meet ya halfway, pet’’.’
I pictured the dismembered genitalia creating a bi-racial baby in the sky. I couldn’t see how it would be possible. Samantha and I had tried to conceive--on the ground--but we couldn’t even manage that.
‘Eventually, every sexually active person on the planet will be required to wear my garment when sleeping. And I’m giving you,’—he fired his finger guns at me—‘the opportunity to invest on the ground floor.’
I might have taken him more seriously had I not been pathologically ambivalent about all things in the world after my breakup with Samantha. In hindsight, I guess I moved to the island with the most beautiful sand so that I could bury my head in it. It was the best way to forget about her.
Since fleeing England, I’d completely avoided watching the news, so had no way of knowing if anything this clown was saying was true. Nine out of ten news stories were both fear mongering and downright depressing. If you could tot it up, the bad news equalled less than 1% of daily events in the world. Not letting the negative bias of the media affect me and relying on word of mouth for the news seemed like the best thing for my mental health. But this news—and its messenger—were far from recuperative.
To let the charlatan know I wasn’t interested in investing, I hopped back onto my boat and began sanding feverishly. If I could ignore the news, and my countless relationship regrets, I could very well ignore this idiot. He seemed to be extracting a perverse pleasure from the crisis because he stood to make a lot of money from it, but was emphasising the tragedy to distract me from that.
‘Vaginas are docking back into their owners by morning fully inseminated.’ He paused, before delivering the payload designed to tug at my heart strings. ‘Millions of underprivileged women are waking up unwittingly pregnant.’
‘Haven’t they heard of abortions?’ I asked.
‘Of course,’ he said, ‘but the third world has scant access to the appropriate facilities and catholics are completely reluctant to use them.’
He took a breath and launched into a final passionate plea. ‘Listen. The situation’s going to get out of control if we don’t act. My technology is the only kind that can prevent such a catastrophe. Please. Consider helping.’
I didn’t. Not for a minute. I did consider burying my head in the sand though. Literally, this time. But my appetite for oxygen prevented me from doing so. Perhaps if the charlatan invented me a sand snorkel, I could have submerged myself and contemplated his ideas long enough for them to become acceptable.
To appear more credible, he assured me that he was an engineer with a portfolio of work. His previous innovations included an off-road zimmer frame, crosswords for toddlers and silent fireworks. Such dubious credentials rendered me utterly unconvinced.
As I tried to focus on sanding my boat, his bare, pink thighs put me off my rhythm. ‘Would you put your trousers back on?’ I asked.
This time I quickly averted my eyes as he unlocked the chastity belt with his thumb and the garment fell around his ankles.
‘So has this thing happened to you?’ I asked him.
‘You know, has your penis gone gently into that good night?’
He rubbed the back of his neck. ‘Let’s not talk about my personal situation. Do you have a wife or girlfriend here on the island?’
I, too, did not want to talk about my situation. Instead of answering him, I watched the sweat beads gather around his dark red moustache—a whole community ready to dive fatalistically into the sand.
‘So what do you think?’ He said, adjusting his thick rimmed glasses. ‘Are you onboard?’
Onboard? That was another question that I refused to dignify with an answer. Then he mistook my silence for hesitation and threatened to go over his portfolio again.
‘You’ve taken up far too much of my time. I must get back to work now.’ I waved at him patronisingly. ‘Buh-bye.’
He shrugged and began gathering his things. I guessed that I probably wasn’t the first to reject his scheme. He traipsed away through the sand with deliberate steps, as if giving me time to change my mind and call out after him.
To make up for lost time, I began sanding at a furious rate. Working by head-torch after sundown until the entire boat was prepped for painting felt like a cleansing ritual after the nasty surprise of unwanted company.
I was grateful to find sleep right away when I flopped into my hammock on the veranda. But after a few hours, I was disturbed by what I assumed was a low flying plane. The narcotising effect of sleep garbled any notion to investigate, and I drifted off again.
When I awoke, there were crates bobbing in the ocean. Some others were hanging by their parachutes from the coconut palms. As I yawned and stretched on my veranda, the tree dwelling crates were being cut free by nimble climbers. I’d lived on the beach for six months and very much liked to keep to myself—so I had no idea of the names of the climbers, nor anyone else on the island for that matter.
A woman, who was perhaps a wife of one of the climbers, stood on the beach near my shack. She was investigating a crate whose parachute had failed—causing it to split open when it landed. It was stamped with the initials W.H.O.
‘Wagwan, Terry?’ She asked.
‘Nothing much.’ I pointed to the crate. ‘What’s in there?
She shook her head. ‘I see ya got ya head buried in the sand as usual, man. World Health Organisation declared a code red.’
‘Jesus,’ I said. ‘So what’s in the—‘
‘I’m doling ‘em out to everyone,’ she said. ‘Here.’ She threw me a clear plastic bag containing some black undergarments. ‘These’ll fit ya.’
I recognised the black material and gold stitching right away. The previous day came flooding back like a burst sewage pipe. Overnight, my brain had filed the whole situation away under ‘sun stroke fever dream’. Yet, there they were—chastening black pants in their dozens. My charlatan friend had evidently gone into production and distribution with the W.H.O months ago. So why had he asked for my help?
‘Have ya been for ya vasectomy yet, Terry?’ The woman asked.
‘Vasectomy?’ I grunted. That was a personal question.
‘U-huh. It’s mandatory.’
‘Ah,’ I said. ‘Not necessary. I have my magic underpants. They’ll do the job.’ I waved a pair of them around.
‘Don’t be a fool,’ she said. ‘They want us to be safe.’
‘What about people who want to have kids?’
‘They'll have to apply. Men need to fill up a cup and fill in a form at the sperm bank.’ She began filling a basket with the bags full of Securi-pants. ‘I’m not gonna be your source of news from now on. Get yasself a radio, man.’
When I got home, I investigated the Securi-pants. There were seven pairs in total—one for each day of the week. The instruction manual said: hand wash only; do not wet the thumbprint ID module; responsible adults must set the code for under 18s.
I scoffed as I pictured parents the world over, sending their scowling teenagers to bed after locking their respective private parts away for the night.
Thud, thud, thud
It had been a month, and I still hadn’t got the snip or bought a radio.
Thud, thud, thud
The impatient knock was a dead giveaway on an island full of laid back people. The two burly men in black W.H.O uniforms loitering on my veranda would have no trouble barging in, so I thought I had better answer them. The biggest one spoke in a deep, gravelly voice.
‘Trevor Brown? According to our records you haven’t been vasectomised yet.’
‘Err—No. I don’t believe I need to be.’
After nodding to one another, they pulled their protective visors down and bum-rushed my shack. Their visors were moot because I possessed no weapons or combat training. After pulling my trousers swiftly down, they carried me off and threw me onto a dining chair.
A severe looking man wearing a physician’s coat and carrying a stainless steel briefcase dashed in. As he began taking out the sterilising pads, I glimpsed his array of shiny scalpels.
‘I’m infertile,’ I gasped, ‘call my ex. We tried for months but couldn’t conceive!’
‘Mr Brown.’ The stoic physician said, as he pulled on a pair of latex gloves. ‘The stiller you sit, the smoother this will go.’
He tied a blindfold around my head whilst the heavies held me down firmly by the shoulders.
‘Aren’t you gong to anaesthetise me?’ I asked.
As the physician prepped me, the grip I held my consciousness with became tenuous. Being blinded, my sense of hearing was heightened. I picked up on the sound of flesh being slapped and thought the physician was performing a kind of primitive anaesthesia by slapping my sack into submission before making his incisions. But I felt no sensation downstairs. I heard tapping; the cadence of someone walking into my house wearing dress shoes and slow clapping. When the footsteps came to a stop nearby, a familiar nasal voice started up.
‘Your swimmers are immotile, Terry.’
The owner of the voice whipped my blindfold off.
‘Oh, christ.’ I said. 'Not you again.'
‘Sweet retribution, Terry.’
‘Are you just toying with me because I didn’t buy into your crazy scheme?’
The charlatan treaded the floorboards with his hands held behind his back. ‘This is for Samantha.’ He said.
‘I know all about the gaslighting—all that “It’s not my sperm, it’s your eggs’’ business. You refused infertility tests. She deserved better than that.’
‘Hah!’ I tried to shrug the bodyguard’s grip off, but I was still locked down. ‘Better like you?’
‘How astute of you. Yes. Better. Like me!’
He dabbed his red lip caterpillar with a handkerchief to blot the sweat. Samantha despised moustaches. She had never let me grow one.
‘Is that a moustache, or have your eyebrows just come down for a drink?’ I asked.
The charlatan’s bodyguards giggled and he shot them stink eye. As they finally released their grip on me, I watched with relief as the physician packed his instruments away. The charlatan pulled up a chair in front of me. ‘As it happens, I’ve had a little ghost baby of my own.’
‘You of all people? Inventor of the mighty Securi-pants?’
He lowered his voice. ‘That’s right.’
He leaned forward as if confiding in me. ‘There’s no women that want to touch me. How else was I supposed to continue my legacy? I had to let a few stray bullets off into the night to see if they hit any targets.’
He neatened the rolls of his shirt sleeves. ‘Of the many successful conceptions, Samantha happened to be the best candidate for my progeny. Young. Attractive. Fertile. Homely. Somewhat intelligent. She caught my bullets, Terry.’
I shuddered at his description of Samantha and all the talk of targets, bullets, and progeny.
‘It wasn’t easy, but I was able to track her down.' The charlatan said. 'She was a friend of yours, I believe?’
I had to hand it to him—he was good at asking questions that I didn’t want to answer. He rose from his seat. ‘Well, you’ll be pleased to know it was all done remotely. Hands free, as it were.’
‘Good for you,’ I said.
‘What can I say, Terry? My swimmers are superior to yours. They’ve outdone them in the same pool under the same conditions.’
‘So you thought you’d just pop in for a gloat?’ I asked. ‘Haven’t you got anything better to do?’
‘Anything better? I’m only saving the world, Terry. We can’t have babies being born whenever our genitals feel like it. When I met Samantha, she suspected you might be the father of her child because of the timing. But even if you had been, she had no way of contacting you. You abandoned her.’
‘Congratulations,’ I said. ‘Your the daddy. You win.’
‘Yes. That's right. So, now that we’ve set things straight, I’ll be on my way. Can I count on you to leave Samantha be?’
‘Yeah, whatever. Bellend.’
Satisfied that he’d given me a good enough dressing down, the charlatan led his entourage onto the veranda, but not before delivering his parting shot.
‘You need to get your head out of the sand, old boy. Get with the programme, look at what’s going on around you. And while you're at it, get yourself some working balls.’
The charlatan and his crew ambled through the sand and jumped into a dune buggy. They sped off down the beach—probably heading for a private jet or helicopter somewhere.
Alone for a while, I squinted at the remaining scraps of my pride and tried to gather them back up into something resembling self-respect and cram them into my psyche. But there was no room. When I finally mustered the moxie to get up from the dreaded vasectomy chair, I raided the liquor cabinet. Swigging mouthfuls of rum, I sacrificed all seven pairs of Securi-pants to a fire on the beach. But the act wasn’t as cathartic as I'd hoped, and the burning polyester created black fumes that made me choke.
As I sat by the ocean, the waves no longer soothed me. They only reminded me of swimming and things that swim; of my own hopeless swimmers and of his superior swimmers. The waves brought back to mind everything that I had run away from in England; everything that needed to be put right--with Samantha, and then some.
A part of me still didn’t believe that ghost babies were real. But I couldn’t let the possibility of Samantha raising his child slide. However far along she was, I didn’t want that sicko going anywhere near her. One-upping the charlatan wouldn’t be easy, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me—even if it meant building a raft from turtles to avoid detection by the charlatan (or because the meagre wage of a Caribbean boat repairman meant I couldn't afford a flight).
However misguided my intervention might turn out to be, in my heart, going back to England was the right thing to do.
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It's a pretty wild story :) A good contrast between personal hurts, in a relationship that fell apart, and broader issues that affect us all. And it's delightfully bizarre. I see some overlap with COVID, in the securi-pants/masks, and vasectomies/vaccines, at least in a dramatized way. And I can appreciate the protagonist's reluctance to follow the news, as yeah, it's often designed to get a rise out of us. It's curious. I initially thought the forced vasectomy would be what spurs him out of his apathy, but it turns out it's the possib...
Thanks, Michał--your comments always provide great insight. 'Delightfully bizzare' is akin to what I was going for, so I'm pleased to hear that. I'm glad you picked up on the line--'A bi-racial baby in the sky'. It almost sounds utopian, doesn't it? But in that world it's more like an unwelcome byproduct! Cheers :)
Ok, this was hilarious! Very creative--how do you get inspired?
Michelle, Thanks a lot! As far as inspiration goes, I think meditation deserves a lot of credit :) And recording funny or interesting ideas when they appear helps too.
Jim, Jim, Jim, how on earth do you think this stuff up? I don't think if I lived a thousand years, I would ever have connected these ideas and thoughts to form a story about autonomous genitalia. Just hilarious. There were dozens, but these were a few of my favorite lines! "To appear more credible, he assured me that he was an engineer with a portfolio of work. His previous innovations included an off-road zimmer frame, crosswords for toddlers and silent fireworks. Such dubious credentials rendered me utterly unconvinced." "Instead of answ...
Aeris, Thanks for reading, as always, my fave cheerleader :) You know how to put the wind in my sails! Part of the inspiration was that I once worked with someone who said they were going to put their engineering degree to use and build an off road zimmer frame, and it has stayed with me ever since. I wrote it during the heatwave we had in England when it got up to 40c, so it was kind of like my own sunstroke fever dream (figuratively speaking, because I didn't actually get sunstroke). Because the story reached a certain level of ridiculou...
Blame it on the heat--love it. 104!! That's unbelievably hot. Some of the states easily reach those temperatures, but in the South/East where I am, that would be pretty unusual. We'd all be sitting indoors with our sweet iced tea and flip-flops.
This was so creative. I'll bet it was fun to write! There were some belters but particularly "He must have been like—“Way-aye-like! I’ll meet ya halfway, pet’’.’ " made me snort.
Thanks, Karen. I'm glad you appreciate the Geordie colloquialisms. They may have flown over some people's heads (much like the genitalia) :)
Promiscuity, overpopulation...hot button issues. What better way to broach them than with humor? I tried to address reproduction become rampant in a story entitled "The Anomaly." It is sci-fi, a genre I believe can be used just as effectively as humor for purposes of conscientious social critique. I pray the temperatures in England normalize, but if more people can't be swayed by socio-ecologically minded fiction it seems likely that only draconian interventions such as futuristic chastity belts will save the planet from heat death. A t...
Mike, I just read 'The Anomaly'. As I presume you are alluding to--most people on this planet are 'under the spell of the joyful child cult' as well. I guess that has its pros and cons. Thankfully the heatwave only lasted a few days and we've gone back normal now with overcast skies galore. But yes-- imagine trying to force everyone into wearing locking underpants for the sake of the planet. Could we do it? Thanks for the reads and comments :)