Once, some other time, an oppressive monster ripened heavily in solitude. Dining, even al fresco, was a dispiriting performance when enacted alone. This monster, being anatomically disparate, did not correspond with any other variety of critter or beast. Humans especially had ridiculed the poor creature because of the strange fissures and accessories of its body, frightening it into reclusion. Hundreds of years cocooned in gossamer bodily resentment had ravaged the once pleasant disposition of Gender. Envy over the immortality humans spent in the company of one another crowded into the monster’s skull, ruinously coupling with a grudge already residing there. Having decided that if it must be segregated in this way, Gender vowed these humans would suffer the same. Disguising itself as old wives, as sailors, as high ranking officials of church and state, Gender would whisper barbed yarns into the ears of every consecutive generation that divergent roles existed, called woman and man. The repetitive cadence of Gender’s voice cleaved down the middle of society, between legs, turning unabbreviated people into two separate entities of varying combination.
Through subterfuge Gender achieved celebrity as a blemish of genitalia. Almost every animal on Earth would rummage through fractured memories to discover the half of themselves they had lost, and if a divided creature was lucky enough, the jagged edges connected again. But Gender had not anticipated the development of other rather unfortunate behaviors related to its vindictive incantation. This new breed of somewhat disembodied blunderers became more desperate than Gender had ever been in centuries of hermitage. Countless men and women found loneliness too much of a burden to withstand, and disconnected themselves permanently. The intangible, severed threads of one-half, steadily reaching for a material reunion, sensing the death of their twins, would wither and wrap around their portion of skin, causing a slow and horrible end that came to be known as cancer.
Suicide and disease were only two of the numerous finales this new race of the lovelorn came to expect. Immortality had been more than halved after Gender pulled their bodies apart like a sadistic child after butterfly wings. It seemed their new forms were limited to an allotment of decades or years, sometimes wordless days. Their amputated bodies would atrophy, becoming useless husks which would no longer hold a solitary breath. Witnessing the patterned movement of fauna, to shrivel like flesh, bloom, and shrivel again, men and women began to plant the remains of their loved ones; shed salt water in nourishment of only bones. Nobody has yet returned in bloom.
Impermanence, however, was not the only drawback to the new normal. Every minute juxtaposed between creation and oblivion was plump with distasteful emotions and suffering. Gender’s schism had produced random sequences of males, of females, and strangely enough, some people had been set asunder with male and female counterparts. Regardless of orientation, each pair struggled to put their bodies together again. Although sex felt closer to unity than anything had, it was futile. They remained separate. Among other curious developments, these failed experiments in coupling produced tiny bundles of dread that screamed often and required constant placation.
Eventually, the early humans realized these wailing miniatures thickened and warped, over time, into people. Initially, there had been ambitious fantasies about sharpening the bones of these diminutive skin widgets to sever or suture the recent appendages they were not entirely sold on. Once the little critters acquired voices of their own to protest, that whole plan passed with a collective sigh of relief. Both women and men had become unreasonably attached to babies. But the complication of Gender remained.
What paleoanthropologists infer from the artifacts, is that the early gendered humans increasingly relied on a form of mysticism they referred to as religion. The details of religion are still hazy, but it appears that there was a tendency to venerate the men and subjugate the women and that this behavior would somehow alleviate the affliction between their legs. Whether this sect was strictly for men is unknown, but it is a reasonable assumption. Anatomical effigies have been uncovered among mass graves that seem to indicate discord between men and women escalated to the point of near genocide of the males. Due to the modicum of men still in existence at this point, our ancestors experienced a second evolutionary genetic drift.
Subsequent millennia of breeding aroused variations in the composition of these disorganized organisms. A growing number of anomalies were present at birth. Some children evacuated the womb with pudenda that did not define them in either direction. Unnerved at first by similarities between their babies and the notoriously tyrannical Gender, parents of the unisex adopted a methodical secrecy to protect their families. Years assembled, exchanging gossip with one another about the implications of the change until no more children could be explained as either/or.
When Gender was roused from the ether of self-importance by hushed tones and hurried syllables, it conducted a census of all the villages nearby. Silence welcomed the monster at every doorstep despite the disintegrating curses Gender had soliloquized hundreds of thousands of days ago in its attempt to usher in an era of dissatisfied moaning. There was a stoic quality to the breeze that seemed to hang down from the clouds by their hair. It felt to Gender as though there was a multitude of breaths exhaling in its direction.
Without flair the unisex people stepped out of their hidden eclipses, their bodies exposing the score more than words ever could. With crudely fashioned cudgels and skewers, they surrounded Gender, who acquiesced to the whistling passage of blades that undressed its skin, like tree bark peeling effortlessly from the trunk. Thrashed repeatedly in the face, Gender’s teeth danced down to the earth in a meaningless pattern of serrated ivory. Legs broke beneath its massive body, Gender tumbled down behind them. As Gender closed its eyes to the bitter faces still beating its body, it smiled. It thought of these people as its children.
Andy Kroll has spent the past five years in prison, thoroughly enjoying the attention of men. He has been published in Right Hand Pointing as well as a number of highly exclusive, imaginary journals.