Short story: ILU-486

Summary: In the not-so-distant future of Virginia, the Personhood Act has outlawed abortion and chemical birth control. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, though.

 ILU-486

 for Evil Dr. Em and the twitter brigade

Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? James 2:25

About fifteen percent of Merrimack, Virginia was unemployed, but by god, they had congressmen looking out for them. It was comforting, one could have thought as they sat in the dim light of the living room and flipped through the government channels to watch lawmakers burn the midnight oil and make more laws.

“In this desensitized society, there is a shortening list of things that criminals consider punishment,” droned Representative Carter, a white man from Maryville. “They’re better fed in jail than they would be out on the streets. We give them free educations, money for working. We give them health care.”

One of these aforementioned unemployed people was Penelope Gallagher, a tall thin woman with a horsey face and a nervous twitch in her eye whenever she heard the sounds of a congressional meeting on the television. There was a certain crackle in the back of the recording, like a thousand hissing cockroaches.

“If jail isn’t a deterrent, then we need punishments that will work. Punishments that are effective.”

Her husband was asleep in front of the set, supine and sprawled on the recliner. There should have been something on the TV worth watching, but that seemed so old-fashioned now. Penelope tried to remember when television was for fun. These days every time she stared at the screen, she just wanted to stab something.

“Passing Proposal 404—the Punitive Display Edict is the first step in reclaiming our streets, our state, and eventually our country.”

She stood, turned off the set with a click and listened to the sound of the house, quiet creaking, the heater blower, and her husband’s soft snore. Then she opened the front hall closet, pried up the boards in the floor under the row of galoshes and pulled out the black bag she’d hidden in there. She covered her face and hands with the black knit gloves and mask she had stashed there, shrugged on the sack, zipped up her coat and boots and was out the door.

#

Kayleigh Bent had a full backpack. She ran down an alley towards the park with the jungle gym, her boots barely making any noise on the concrete. Just once, she wished that she could swing from rooftop to rooftop like Batman or something. Alas, that was something she would never master.

It would have been cool, though.

Her team met in the darkness behind the closed middle school. The few floodlights back there had been strategically broken and lazily never replaced. Kayleigh had heard that P. had shot them out with a BB gun, but she’d never asked. One of the rules was that you didn’t know much about the other people, so if you got caught you couldn’t tell much.

Kayleigh hid behind a dumpster and smoked a cigarette. Her mom hadn’t figured out yet that she was sneaking out, but she had caught her stealing smokes. She was down to her last pack, and she didn’t know when she’d get any more. They only sold them to men and women who carried nonbirthing cards.

The headlights of the van cut across the parking lot when it pulled into the back of the school. Kayleigh stayed where she was until the lights flicked on and off a few times, and she knew it was her ride. She ditched the smoke, pulled on her cotton gloves and ran for the van, which only slowed enough for her to jog alongside it.

“Hey,” G. said as she rolled open the side door. P. waved in the driver’s seat. “Busy night tonight.”

Kayleigh slung her pack into the van and they trucked off into the night. Her heart started to thud in her chest like a runaway drum set. G. was laying out a suction set, just in case. P. turned out onto the street and mumbled something under her breath, probably the address of where they were going.

“How are you guys?” Kayleigh asked, kicking her backpack under the passenger seat of the van. The rest of the van aside from the driver’s seat was devoted to medical equipment and pharmaceuticals—if they were ever stopped by the police that would be the end of them all.

G. held up an IV bag of something and read the label. “Oh, you know, just another day in paradise.”

#

Rachel Saunders had three kids and two bedrooms. Both boys were fast asleep in the bigger one, and her oldest, Peyton, was bedded down in the other room. Rachel had given up a bedroom when Peyton had turned thirteen, and now she used the couch out in the living/dining room. Right now she sat in the kitchen window and stared out at the fire escape.

She’d gotten home about an hour ago, had a shower, checked to make sure the kids weren’t dead, and then paid a few bills. She watched about fifteen minutes of the newest report on the congressional hearing about the gallows proposal.

Rachel wasn’t sure what she thought of the gallows. It wasn’t like they didn’t already have the death penalty. And this seemed barbaric and horrible, displaying bodies for everyone to see. Wasn’t that something they used to do in the middle ages?

Senator Collux had appeared on the screen arguing for the gallows. “There’s a reason this technique has been around since time immemorial,” Senator Collux said, waving a hand. “In all of the states where it’s been initiated—Utah, Texas, South Carolina, Iowa—it’s been directly linked to a downturn in contraceptive smuggling and illegal abortion. If this is what it takes to preserve the lives of innocent Virginians who don’t have the opportunity to defend themselves, then I am all for it. And if it provides solace to the victims of other violent crimes, that’s even better.”

He used the example of the man who had raped and killed fifteen nuns with a ball peen hammer last year. He’d confessed. When they’d found the man, he’d been wearing a wimple with the nun’s face skin still in it. If there was anyone in this universe that deserved the public’s ire, it was this man. This monster, Collux argued, deserved to be humanely executed and displayed on the gallows for everyone to see. But only for three weeks. Any longer was in danger of spreading pestilence.

Rachel shrugged and turned the television off. Then she stared at the fire escape, biting all of her cuticles into ragged bleeding tears.

She was worried because she’d taken three large white pills a day ago, and while she was clotting and cramping and the like, if she didn’t get taken care of soon, she was going to have to explain the miscarriage to the police. They would find out. She didn’t know how they did, but she was already on warning. Sally swore they had detectors in the sewer pipes, but that sounded ridiculous.

The instructions said to wait. Don’t pack a bag. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t plan for childcare. Nothing bad will happen. Just wait. Pretend nothing is amiss. We come to you.

There was more, of course. She understood that she had taken mifepristone, and that if she hadn’t yet miscarried, then she’d need the second drug. More importantly, she needed to get rid of the evidence. Terminating a fetus in any way was a crime, even if it was an accident. According to the cop she saw last time, there were no accidents, only what he called “accidents”, with finger quotes.

Rachel hadn’t been sure what he had meant by that. What she did know was that she had three kids, a bad job, and an ex-boyfriend who’d thought condoms were the devil. He’d said that once, that condoms were the devil, and when she had laughed at him, he’d smacked her one across the face. She might have been happy, or at least okay with marrying him for the added income until that had happened. Then three days later, the bruise still fresh on her face, she’d taken the test, seen the pink lines, and thanked god she hadn’t used the local clinic for the free pregnancy test. Sure it was free, but the moment it was positive, you were entered in the free natal care monitoring system.

She’d done what she’d heard whispered about at work in the diner, put a red kerchief on her window sill and closed the sash, just letting it hang there, and after about three days she’d noticed it was gone. In its place was a little flowerpot with a little violet sitting precariously on the ledge. She’d found the packet with the pills and the paper inside the dirt, under the roots, and almost wept with relief.

Now, she waited for something to happen. Maybe the cops would come. Maybe it was all a set-up. Her kids slept on. She could hear her upstairs neighbor kick on his video game machine and load some game with a lot of machine guns.

There was a knock at her door, and Rachel felt her heart almost stutter. She plodded to the door. Maybe she could just ignore it and it would all go away. She was in the process of reaching for the doorknob when she was seized with a cramp and she had to freeze, suck in a breath. No, there was no going back, not since she’d swallowed a few pills the day before.

She swung the door open and was grabbed by the arms before she could even say anything.

“This won’t take long,” someone hissed in her ear. “We love you. Every part of you belongs to you.”

Rachel felt her feet being fitted into her clogs, her coat being thrown about her shoulders. Upstairs the machine guns rattled on. Her kids slept through anything. She went a little limp, trudged between the two people wearing masks, leading her down the hallway and out the front doors of the apartment complex, towards a running van.

One of the masked people poked her in the ribs. “Just struggle a little. Make it look real.”

“The drug testing,” Rachel said as they shoved her into the van. Even though she was willing to go, they treated her as if they were taking her by force. “If I get called in, they’ll be able to tell.”

Her first abductor winked. “Don’t worry, you were kidnapped. We forced you to do this.” She, for it was a she, they were all shes, leaned into Rachel’s face, and she could see the little edges of smile through her mask. “It was horrible,” she cooed. “We are evil, wretched women, doing this to you.”

“Where did you come from?” Rachel asked. She wondered who they were. She couldn’t see their faces. They could be her friends, right? They could be her kid’s teachers, or the lady who served her coffee. They could be the minister’s wife. “How do you even do this?” The van peeled away, rocking back and forth with the sharp right turn.

“Like a thief in the night,” the masked face said, and behind the knit, Rachel could see the smile again. “Now just lie back. Gee is going to give you a sedative, and this will be over soon.” The woman ran a hand on Rachel’s forehead. “You’re being brave, and we’re going to keep you safe.”

Rachel might have said something about them being angels, but that didn’t seem right. But at the same time they were the biggest grace she could have imagined.

#

“We might have a new source over at public health,” P. said as they sat in the back of the van and stuffed packages by streetlight. Interior lights alerted the police to the fact that the van had people in it, and they got curious. Police really only ever had two modes, really—unnecessarily curious or inconveniently ambivalent, as far as Grace Bell was concerned.

“Yeah? Can she hack the monitoring codes?” The control of the random drug testing system enacted by the legislature two years ago was based in the computers at the department of environmental protection. It was one of those logic puzzles that led into a deeper and deeper hole—the Personhood Act prohibited birth control and classified it under the illegal drug act, but it was also illegal to just randomly test women to find out. But the release of estrogen through urine was an environmental hazard, so it was monitored by sensors attached to plumbing.

Smart women on birth control peed in a jar and tossed it in public trash cans in another part of town. But there was always some woman who forgot, and all it took was one. The sensor triggered the public health department, and out they came with their pink clipboards and enzyme strips. For the greater good of the environment.

They took women away when they tested positive., They always came back, but they didn’t seem the same. And most of the time they were visibly pregnant in a few months. Grace had never managed to convince one to talk about what had happened, but that was mostly her fault, not theirs. Once someone was caught, as cruel as it sounded, all the women in the community pulled away from her. It wasn’t her fault, but it was far the greater good, really. Grace hated the phrase “greater good”, actually. Perhaps they should replace it with “lesser bad.”

“It’s a man,” P. said, stapling the instructions for the mifepristone onto the little bag and tossing it in the smaller box. The larger box was filled with bottles of birth control pills, each bottle varying in size and label so that there was no uniform design that could give them away.

“Veto,” K. said, stuffing three packets of white pills in the hem of her cargo pants. “No men.”

“They’re not all bad,” P said, and Grace had to agree with them both. “I think he’s gay.”

K. snorted. “Any gay man with any sense left the minute they reenacted the sodomy bill.”

Grace shook her head and smiled at her hands. Ah, youth. “Who vouched for him?”

P. folded a paper in threes. “F. over at Bimouac.” Bimouac was three towns over, and they had a good record for staying under the radar. Grace wanted to be able to trust them. It would have been really useful to have someone fucking up the sensors at environmental monitoring, but failing that, they would have liked someone to screw with the ones at public health. As it was, they relied on Anonymous to do a lot of their deeper hack-work, and it wasn’t always fruitful or timely. And sometimes Anonymous planted pedo-bear gifs in the site, which, while funny, didn’t help them stay incognito.

Grace stripped off her gloves and stuffed them in the bag, then replaced them with the cotton ones she used when she wasn’t providing treatment or filling pill bottles. P. and K. did the same.

“No,” she said, finally. “Even if he isn’t a plant, there’s no way to know.”

K. shrugged on her filled backpack and slapped a black cap on her blonde hair. “My point,” she said, then blew a bubble with her gum. P. looked faintly annoyed. “See ya.”

Then she dove out of the van and dashed off into the dark, three addresses burned into her mind, and three dozen more written in Wingdings on her shoes.

P. shook her head and smiled. “I wish I was her age,” she said wistfully.

Grace shrugged. “At least you remember when we didn’t have to do this.”

#

Keisha Thompson sat on the toilet seat and cried again. She didn’t need this.

Okay, so she hadn’t listened too carefully in sex ed, if you could call it that. They mentioned all the bad shit that came with sex, like disease and babies, but they hadn’t mentioned how to get around it, except for not having it. And when Bobby had told her that he’d heard aspirin would kill the sperm if she put it up there before they got it on, she’d figured he knew what he was talking about.

She had thought about condoms, but Bobby had said that they killed, like the spiritual symbolism of the thing, and plus the rubber hurt his pubic hair.

It had been amazing, and Keisha wasn’t sure why sex was a bad thing, well, not that sex was a bad thing. They said that sex was a bad thing if you weren’t married, because of the things that could happen. All she could think was Jesus, if it was this awesome when she wasn’t married, how great would it be once she was?

As it was, sixteen was too young to be getting married, she thought. She hadn’t even finished high school. And Bobby was nice and all, but he didn’t even have a car.

Brandie had told her once that her older sister got birth control by hanging a white shirt out her window, so that it was visible from the street. A few days later a little bottle of pills had arrived, with instructions on how to take them. When she was out, Brandie’s sister just tucked some money in the bottle and dumped it in a flower pot on her windowsill. The bottle was eventually replaced. Brandie told her that even when her sister didn’t have money to put in the bottle, they still refilled it.

She had heard, Brandie said, that if you needed something else, if it was too late for birth control, you could change the white color to red.

It had been worth a try. Keisha had stuck a red sock out on the bathroom window, wedged in between the sash and the sill, just a little visible. Then she had waited.

The first night nothing had happened. Then her mother had found the sock and given her a look. But she’d left it there.

The second night, she’d fallen asleep on the floor of the bathroom waiting for something to happen. She’d woken in the morning to her brother banging on the door shouting about needing to piss. Nothing.

Keisha didn’t know how long she had, really. She was afraid to Google pregnancy in case there was some tracer somewhere that logged that stuff. If she hadn’t been pregnant, she wouldn’t have had any problem going to the reference section in the library and looking up things in a medical book or something, but now that she was, she worried that she was being watched. Where were the cameras? Were there really sensors in the plumbing? If she threw herself down the stairs, would they know she’d done it on purpose? What if it didn’t work? What if it killed her instead?

Keisha’s mom was at work, and her brother had passed out in front of the TV at midnight, so there was no reason she couldn’t just sit there on the toilet seat and wait for something to happen. Would they leave her something if she was right there? What was that saying about pots and boiling? When Keisha was a kid, she’d sat up waiting for Santa, but he’d never seemed to come until she fell asleep. Of course, Santa was really her mom, so that wasn’t going to work here; she was a hundred percent sure the abortion fairy was not her mother.

Keisha didn’t have any more tears. Her face felt hot and blotchy, and she’d used almost half a roll of toilet paper. She poured herself a glass of water from the spigot and slumped on the floor under the window. Maybe if they didn’t see her in there they might leave her something. Maybe she was scaring them away. She covered her cold feet with a towel and turned out the lights.

It was still dark when she heard a sort of bonking at the window. Keisha woke from a sound sleep at the kerthonk of something hitting the glass, and she froze, not daring to move. If she moved too quickly, they’d run, like deer and take whatever they had with them.

Someone jumped down from the stone fence and into the gravel driveway. The pebbles crunched under their feet, and then went silent when they hit the sidewalk.

She gave that person a few more seconds, and then scrambled up to see what was on the windowsill.

Brandie had said that her sister used a flower pot, but there was nothing like that there. Instead, her sock was rolled into a ball and set on the sill. Keisha lifted the sash and blinked at it. Her heart felt like it was going so fast, her breath couldn’t keep up with it. Her head was hollow, and her stomach fluttered. She snatched the sock from the sill and slammed the window shut, then she unrolled it and let the contents fall into her hand.

“Oh my god,” she whispered as she stared at the little bag with the three white pills and a folded paper of instructions in it. Stapled to the bag was a pink paper heart with typed information:

HELLO THERE. WE HEARD U NEED THIS.
DON’T WORRY, WE LOVE YOU.
EVERY PART OF YOU BELONGS TO YOU.

Keisha glanced out the window, and down the block she saw a flash of something move. It could have been a person in black. It could have been a dog.

“Oh my god,” she breathed, the package already sweaty in her clenched fist. “Thank you.”

#

“Mom, have you seen my shoes?” Kayleigh called from her bedroom. “The ones with the marker?”

There was a noncommittal reply from the kitchen, and Kayleigh flipped up her dust ruffle again, peering into the masses of crumpled papers and old chip bags. They couldn’t be back there.

It wasn’t like she couldn’t make her collections without them. She had backup copies of her route on a skillet in the basement, and in a glass jar stuffed into the dirt in the corner of the unused sandbox in the park. It was that the shoes were so convenient. And lucky. Since she’d started using them, she hadn’t gotten caught once.

In reality, she mused as she laced on her boots and frowned at how wrong they felt on her feet, it was a miracle they hadn’t been rounded up yet. It was probably a matter of time, but until then, Kayleigh was going to keep on keeping on.

Besides, no one ever said anything. No woman who wanted an abortion ever told anyone else what happened in the night. It was a mystery spoken about in whispers, scrawled on the stalls of women’s restrooms. It was word of mouth, it was a Bat signal in the sky, a red sock hung outside a window. Kayleigh liked the red thing. She’d gotten the idea from a Bible story.

Even when no one knew anyone else’s business, women could recognize each other in the sparks that filled their eyes when they passed one another, a shadow that slid across their faces and said, I know, I know, too. Men and the women who agreed with them thought all those looks meant the normal things: I need chocolate, or My husband doesn’t take out the trash, or Today is a good day for shoe shopping. And often it was a good day for shoe shopping or chocolate, and any time was a good time for shared spousal duties, but that wasn’t all it meant.

All this unity didn’t mean that there weren’t what Kayleigh called “fuck ups”. Messages went to the wrong place. Women took the pill and failed the drug test. The abduction didn’t go well and something bad happened. Once they’d lost a woman in the back of the van, having a stroke right there in S’s arms.

Before, you know, S. was taken away. Sometimes Kayleigh missed her the most, S. with her low voice and cigarettes, her burning hatred and quick fingers. S. had taken the blame for all of them, and Kayleigh had resolved to never be suckered in by a man again.

Very occasionally, they miscalculated the woman. More than once a woman had turned in the pills to her husband. Maybe she got cold feet, maybe she was a set up, it was hard to tell. People were hauled in, threatened, sometimes beaten, but it was easy to get out of the more physical stuff if you just said that you might be pregnant. No man wanted to be brought up on charges because he’d deleted a personhood in utero. Kayleigh used it every time she got hauled in, even though it was pretty obvious from the first urine test that she wasn’t. She did it to make them waste time and money. They deserved all the wasting they got, actually.

Like now, when she skipped out of the house, bag empty on her back, and they came screaming mimi around the corner, lights flashing. One officer opened his door and aimed a pistol at her. Kayleigh knew the drill. She threw her hands up and smiled. She was clean; none of them took birth control just in case they were picked up. It was an unspoken agreement.

“Hey officers, where’s the fire?”

The police officer, a young, fresh-faced dude with razor burn on his neck, put his gun up. “Kayleigh Bent, you’re wanted for questioning for contraband trafficking and violation of the Personhood Act.”

Kayleigh rolled her eyes and held her wrists out. “Again? You boys are in a tizzy.”

The back door to the cruiser opened and Detective Becking stepped out. He’d been on her ass for six months, ever since she’d turned eighteen. He held up a plastic bag filled with bottles in one hand, and a pair of shoes in another. “Forget something?”

Kayleigh cocked her head. “What are you talking about?”

Detective Becking shook his head, tossing the cuffs to the officer. “You’re not the only one who can read Wingdings, you know. I made your collections for you.”

Kayleigh shrugged as the young officer snapped the cuffs on her wrists. She tried to keep her face nonchalant, but her insides twisted. And if she wasn’t careful, they’d see that the rest of her would, too. Maybe they already had.

#

Three days later, Grace sat in a little diner on the corner of Main Street and President Avenue and sipped a cup of coffee. She was wondering about what she should do with the body in her van. She couldn’t keep it there forever, and she didn’t have the knowledge of security cameras that she should have. With her luck she’d pick a spot to dump the body that would be the most highly-monitored spot in the entire state, and fifteen cameras and satellites would get high-definition shots of her face.

But the fact remained that she had to do something with it. P. hadn’t shown up the night before last, and K. hadn’t made her money drop today. Their runner from Maryland had sent Grace an angry text: this shit isn’t free, bitch. Too true. And yet.

The waitress refilled Grace’s coffee and sighed at the television. They were the only people in the diner; it was one in the morning, and everyone was home by now. Bars had been on a midnight close for three years.

Ms. Bent, with an arrest record for previous acts of personhood violation, tested positive for chemical birth control during interrogation,” the voice-over droned. “Police are investigating her connection to the abortion ring that has been operating in the area, distributing contraband drugs and performing the illegal operations from a mobile unit. Anyone with any information to the movements of this group is strongly urged to contact police.”

Grace stared at the screen, at the image of the blonde teenager glaring sullenly at the camera. There was makeup over her eye; it was easy to see. They had roughed her up before they even bothered to take the mug shot. Grace wondered what she had told them, if she had told them anything. They already had all of the women on Kayleigh’s birth control route. The only women who were actually safe in all of this were the ones who’d had abortions—at least they had the relatively flimsy excuse of being “abducted”. Though she had heard that a woman over Maryville had accused a co-worker of slipping birth control in her coffee—a charge that couldn’t be substantiated. That was one way to do it.

Of course, none of the planning in the universe could help her come up with a thing to do with the dead body in the back of the van. It was the first time she’d actually had one in the back of her van. When she worked at the hospitals and they had a dead body, there were people who took it away. Now it was just her and P. and P. had disappeared, sort of.

Grace knew where P lived—she’d followed her home one night. She’d sent her a few texts on the disposable phone, but only received one short inexplicable reply: cant talk-sewing.

What did that even mean? Grace drained her coffee and stared at the sediment in the bottom of her mug.

On the television, the voice-over continued with the history of the gallows in the United States, from its abolition in the past to the new resurgence of corpse display popping up all over the country. It showed the mass protests in Nevada and Kansas, the ones that had ended in gunfire and tear gassing. Also shown were the Portland migrations and the New York Sequestering, when the city had setup the road blocks and guard houses. If someone had told Grace twenty years ago that New York City would elect to pull out of the state government and the United States would let them, she would have called them insane.

“New York City-State, which still allows abortion and the free distribution of birth control, is in negotiations with the outer New York State for the management of waste water. Mayor Brady demands that waste water be processed outside the city walls, but the outer state continues to insist that they are not equipped to filter out the hormones carried in the water.” The voice-over ended and the screen cut back to the anchor, Jaclyn Pernassis. “New York City-State remains the largest non-personhood compliant state.”

“Gibbeting,” the waitress said, facing away from her, pot in one hand, transfixed by the television screen in the corner. “That poor girl’s gonna be put up there for everyone to see.”

Grace shook her head. She didn’t know if she should agree, or look shocked, or if the waitress was displaying actual pity for Kayleigh Bent. Then when she turned to Grace, her face was resigned and sad. “I always remember that word because I used to confuse it with giblets.”

“It’ll never pass,” Grace told the waitress, whose name tag read Florence.

Florence stared at her for a second, as if she was thinking of something to say. Then she just shook her head and walked back behind the counter to take down the menu board, wiping it down with a rag before uncapping a marker and going to work on it.

Grace wondered what they would do to Kayleigh. Until now women in the movement, if she could even call it that, sort of disappeared. If they reappeared later, they were scared, and, of course, they were cut off. She’d never talk to Kayleigh again, even if they let her out tomorrow. Some women were still in jail. Grace’s mentor, Xenia, was still in there, supposedly. You couldn’t talk to them in jail either. It was too easy to be tagged in the system for extra monitoring.

Grace had been printed when she had had her hospital ID issued. So far that hadn’t worked against her. She didn’t have the kind of tag that logged her movements, not like the pharmacy workers did, or the morgue attendants. It made her mobility pretty free.

Free to do things like dump the body in her van (because hey yeah, back to that, right?). Grace felt horrible about the body–the woman; Dana Landry had developed sepsis after her procedure. Grace had tried to do what she could, but she didn’t have access to the antibiotics that she needed to treat it. It happened rarely, but it did happen. Most of the time she could anonymously drop the woman off at an emergency room and be on her way, knowing that the woman would be well taken care of, if shaken up. But this time, Dana had clutched her jacket and screeched, “NO HOSPITAL. NO HOSPITAL.” Sometimes they were like this—terrified of anyone finding out what they’d done.

Grace had given her a painkiller and then considered her options, and while she had been sitting there next to Dana, the woman had just stopped moving, breathing, everything. CPR didn’t do anything. By the time she had gotten to a hospital, she had known that it was a lost cause. And the hospitals were all on alert, had been since Kayleigh’s arrest.

Grace’s eyes burned, but no tears came. She wasn’t sad. She was angry. Very very angry. The kind of angry that actually made her chest hurt. The kind of angry that made men stab things.

Florence set up the menu wipe board again, the specials drawn out in a swirling green marker:

Strange Fruit Special: soft boiled eggs, white toast, your choice of meat. $5.99.

Grace left her twenty bucks, then hustled out into the dark night.

#

Rashida Covington, Channel Seven Action News was on hand when Senator Collux arrived at his offices one morning. She was there to get a statement on the Kayleigh Bent case from the senator before he got to his office and had a chance to prepare some straight-laced rhetoric. The senator sounded at his craziest when he was shooting from the cuff, and as much as she was supposed to be impartial, Rashida wanted him to sound crazy. It made up for all the smoothing out he did later. And if she was supposed to be revealing the truth, then that was what she needed—the crazy. Because that’s what he was—crazy.

Better to think him crazy than evil, though the latter was slowly gaining in Rashida’s personal opinion.

The senator was mounting the steps to his constituency office by the time she caught up with him. He had a cup of Starbucks in one hand and an iPad in the other. Rashida glanced at her cameraman to make sure he was behind her, and then she sprinted for it, dodging two aides bogged down with briefcases and laptop bags. They’d just gotten in from the capitol the night before. Now was a great time for a comment.

“Senator,” she called, “Senator, just a moment of your time. I’m Rashida Covington, from Merrimack Channel Seven Action News.”

The senator about-faced on hearing the name of a television news station, and plastered his smile on. She wondered if he knew what she was going to ask about. She was a woman, so he had to suspect it. “Miss Covington, it’s always a pleasure.” Rashida would have been offended if she hadn’t heard it from him about five times before.

“Senator, there’s a growing concern among the female demographic, that the gallows pole will be used in the case of Kayleigh Bent, the eighteen-year-old on trial for the violation of the Personhood Act. What are your thoughts on the matter?”

If Rashida had expected him to be taken aback by her question, she would have been disappointed. Sure it was early, and he could still go off message, but his staff had probably been coaching him all the way over in the car. He was up for re-election next year—he couldn’t afford to have a hair or quote out of place.

“Kayleigh Bent is just one in a nest of vicious criminals who are abducting women and aborting their children,” the senator said, looking at the camera and not at her. Only politicians did that—looked at the camera instead of the interviewer. It made Rashida hate him more.

“So you don’t feel the execution and display of a teenager’s body in the city is, some might say, a grotesque use of excessive governmental force?” Inside Rashida wondered if she’d just put herself on a list somewhere. Was there a list? She didn’t want to ever find out.

The senator had resumed his brisk walk inside, leaving Rashida and the cameraman and the rest of his aides to scramble after him. He was, after all, as he liked to remind people often, a very tall man, much like Abraham Lincoln.

“This is why the gallows pole will be instituted,” the senator said confidently over his shoulder.. “These people sow violence. They don’t regret that violence. The only thing they might understand is a body. So we’ll give them one.”

At that moment there was a scream, and an aide ran from the interior of the senator’s office, hands in front of her face. She tripped over a dip in the worn marble flooring and sprawled, face-down.

Rashida motioned the cameraman to keep rolling, but that was pointless, because he was a professional. He wasn’t going to stop until the senator was out of sight.

Two of the man with Collux ran forward to help the woman to her feet, but all she could do was scream. They lowered her to the steps that led up to the second floor and one of them flipped open his cell, ready to call for assistance.

The other two aides ran for the office, for obviously there was something wrong in there, Rashida took advantage of the general chaos to follow them and the senator into the reception area, and then back to his office.

“Oh my god,” mumbled the aide in front of Rashida, almost blocking her way, but then he stumbled and had to sit down on a chair arm, and she could see the senator’s desk, a large expansive slab of mahogany on brass legs. More of a table, really. There were no desk drawers. A man like Collux probably didn’t have to keep anything in drawers.

Seated in the desk chair was a woman. She was posed, actually, in an upright position, wrapped in the state flag. One of her hands was laid flat on the desk surface. The other settled over her breasts, palm over her heart. Her eyes stared straight at Rashida, and it took a moment for her to understand that they were dead eyes.

Just above her, scrawled across the wall in foot high letters, someone had painted a message in red, possibly the woman’s blood:

I WAS TOO AFRAID OF THE LAW TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL.

“Jesus Christ!” the senator shouted, obviously not thinking that he was going out to hundreds upon thousands of homes over the airwaves. “Someone call security.”

Rashida stared at the woman in the chair. There was no indication of what had happened to her—no stab wounds or gunshot holes. The sign made it painfully clear that she’d died in one of the abortion mobiles. Rashida herself didn’t use them, didn’t even use birth control (the station tested them all for drugs every month), but it wasn’t because she didn’t want to. She was on her last packet of condoms, and once they were gone, she wasn’t sure what she would do. Not have sex, she guessed.

Like that would ever work.

One of Collux’s less squeamish aides seemed to realize that there was a running camera there, and he herded them out, his arms wide. “Come on, folks, let’s give the woman some dignity.”

Rashida turned to her cameraman, Larry. “Did you get that?”

Larry patted the digital camera. “Everything, even the rigor mortis.” He frowned. “But we won’t be able to show it.”

Rashida wondered if they would ever learn the woman’s name. Probably not. An aide was heading towards them as they walked to the front doors of the building, but Larry had already palmed the flash card from the camera, and when the aid confiscated the card now in place, he’d just get a blank chip. Larry was a good man.

“No,” she agreed. “We won’t.”

But that didn’t mean that she wasn’t going to leak it anyway.

#

The red and white armbands arrived in the mail. Every woman in the state of Virginia received one. It must have cost a fortune to send them all, but there they were on every doorstep, as if they appeared in synchronization. The postal workers who carried them to each and every door trembled with excitement as they laid them out. Sooner or later someone would be home when they delivered, and they’d get to see one opened.

It hadn’t escaped anyone’s notice that all of the packages were addressed to women. They’d been x-rayed at the postal office, to make sure that they weren’t carrying contraband (in the early days before the mandatory drug testing, women had tried to get their friends to mail them pills from out-of-state).

Mei-Yun Cheng unwrapped the parcel with bated breath. Her friend Kay had gotten hers yesterday, and she had wanted to see it for herself.

Her birth control delivery was due next week, but she was pretty sure that she wasn’t going to receive it. No one had gotten pills in two weeks, if the sauna gossip was to be believed, not since the body had been discovered at the senator’s office. Mei-Yun had seen the video on you-tube before it had been pulled by the state.

Melanie Stern had been kidnapped and had a pregnancy terminated “against her will” the other day, so that was still going on, Mei-Yun thought with some relief. But as she stared at the package in her hands, and then unfocused her eyes to look beyond them, to the televisions screen and the picture of Kayleigh Bent’s corpse hanging from the gallows pole, she wondered how long it would last. People were still elected, right? They could change things through the power of voting. These things went in cycles, and eventually people would have enough and start to make changes. She just wondered if she could hang on long enough for her son to get a good education before they moved somewhere else. Maybe back to China.

She had thought that the second they’d dropped Kayleigh Bent’s corpse down on the rope and it had bounced there before stilling in the windless morning, the public outcry would force them to cut it down. But no one had said anything. For the last three days, the corpse had been shown on the television in thirty second clips once every two hours. It was impossible to get around. She’d gotten to the point where she didn’t even bother to shield Tian’s eyes when he was watching television. He was three now, but by the time he understood what he was seeing, it would probably be worse all around.

She listened to her heart thudding in her chest while she opened the inner wrapper, a bit of pink tissue paper, it didn’t matter. She wondered about the person who had sent all these, how they had sent them all, if they had made them all. It was obvious that they had been handmade, or at least not factory made.

There it was, this little band of red and white, meant to be fitted over a shirt, a jacket, a coat, whatever she was wearing. In a time before this, such an armband would have meant that someone had it in for her, and they wanted everyone to know it.

Finally, wrapped in that circle of cloth, a pink paper heart with typeset words on it, reading:

HELLO THERE. WE HEARD U NEED THIS.
DON’T WORRY, WE LOVE YOU.
EVERY PART OF YOU BELONGS TO YOU.

“What the hell is that?” Qiáng said, looking over her shoulder. Mei-Yun crushed the card in her hand, but the letters seemed to burn through and touch her skin. She took the arm band and tucked it into her pocket, where it would wait, until she knew if she was ready for what it wanted her to do.

#

“Where’s your armband?” Carla asked her friend when she saw her in the grocery store.

Sharon stared at Carla’s red and white armband. “Birth control is illegal,” she said matter-of-factly.

“No one’s making you take any,” Carla said, her face making an expression that looked like this: O_o.

They stood there like that for a while, Sharon looking uncomfortable, and Carla looking like an emoticon. Then Sharon shrugged and glanced at the display of douches. She wanted to buy one, but she didn’t think she should in front of Carla. “Well,” she said. “Um.”

Carla shook her head and shrugged her shoulders, and then waved a little before pushing her cart away, down the aisle. Sharon watched her pass the other cart and its user, Penelope Gallagher, whom Sharon knew from church but didn’t know very well. She did see Penelope had on an armband. It was as if they had sprung out of nowhere overnight. Now Sharon felt like she was the only one not wearing one. Well, the only woman. By this time, though, even some men were wearing them. They were mostly younger men.

But it was a silly thing to do, this protest that just made them all out to be whiners and manipulators (as if this whole celibacy thing would last long), and Sharon didn’t believe in either of those, either. Though last night, the news had reported that even the streetwalkers were staying in.

There were plenty of reasons these things were outlawed—look at the estrogen in the water, for god’s sake—and they lived in a republic where people elected the officials who made these laws. That was the way the world was.

If they didn’t like it, then maybe they should all move to Canada, or Finland or something, she thought bitterly as she stared at the armband of the woman scanning her groceries. The woman, whose name tag read “Sissy,” didn’t say anything to her, but every once in a while her eyes cut to Sharon’s left bicep, where her armband would be, or, as it was obvious to Sissy, should be.

Sissy watched her slide her card and submit to the retinal scan, then handed her the receipt. “Have a nice day,” she said, but it sounded like this: “Hahaveevevnaanbitch.” Then she dissolved into a series of hacking coughs and had to grab for a tissue to cover her mouth, so Sharon wasn’t sure if she had heard the woman correctly or not.

No matter. You turn the other cheek. You can’t let the little things bother you. You are not responsible for other people’s reactions, Sharon Graham, she told herself, pushing her cart out to her car.

It didn’t make her happy to not be on the wagon train like all her girlfriends, but the whole armband thing made her uneasy. She felt more uneasy when she passed the display gallows on her way home. Kayleigh Bent’s body still hung from the pole like a drenched flag, arm bands tied all over her legs. They had appeared there over time, the news said, along with flowers and cards and signs. Someone had spray painted on the wall behind her head, Keep on keeping on. Now there was a guard on the body so that they could make sure that it wasn’t tampered with.

No one could link the arm band to any crime, and just wearing the arm band wasn’t a sign of guilt, really. This was a free country after all, and if they let Jews wear those yarmulkes or Muslim women wear headscarves, then women were allowed to wear the armbands. As long as they didn’t do anything.

Kayleigh’s feet clacked together in a strong gust of wind.

Sharon forgot all about her when she thought about dinner for that evening. A nice roast. Yes, a nice roast was the thing for today. And after that, she’d sit down and work. She had five houses on the market, and they wouldn’t sell themselves, and most certainly not in this economy.

She sat at a red light and contemplated the graffiti sprayed on the wall of the pharmacy on the corner:

ILU-486

(2/20/12)

————-
ETA: Hello there! I am glad that this story is getting some play! I’m starting to reach the max cap for responding to comments, so if don’t get to you, I am sorry. (SADFAYCE). But if you want to link to this story or tweet it or FB it or [insert social media platform] it, feel free. I guess when I pubbed it, I lost control of who sees it, and that’s okay with me.

INSERT OBLIGATORY PSA HERE! For more information or to see how you can help in the fight for women’s reproductive rights in the US:

http://sparkrj.org/content/

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/

I am sure there are other places too, but those were the ones I liked when I went a’looking.

ETA 2: You can now buy the shirt! All proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. Thanks for your support!

About Amanda Ching

I write. Fo' you.
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256 Responses to Short story: ILU-486

  1. Amanda says:

    This was fantastic, in that it made my stomach hurt and made me angry and left me feeling hopeful in the end anyway.

    I LIKE WHEN YOU WRITE THINGS.

  2. Carolyn says:

    Amazing Mander. I have tweeted all over about this, everyone needs to read this – this should be in classrooms, every politician should read it, OMG… It scares me we seem to be headed for this, and it is a terrible direction to be headed.

    THank the stars this is fiction, I just hope it STAYS fiction.

    • Amanda Ching says:

      LOL I don’t think it should go that far, the reading. It’s fiction, but my brain always goes to the bad place.

      • I disagree–It totally should. I am about to boost the hell out of it and can think of several markets that would probably like to see it, if only you weren’t convinced of that it’s terrible.

      • Joann Cummings says:

        My friends & I have a plan to maybe take this viral in March 2013 – because things have only gotten worse since your wrote this. Can you contact me (by email or Facebook)?

  3. Sharon Scott says:

    Could I post a link to this on my Facebook page? I live in Virginia.

    Every time I read “We love you. Every part of you belongs to you.” it made me want to cry for some reason.

  4. Jacqueline says:

    Oh Wow! Just the fact they THINK (okay I use the term lightly) about laws like these and laws that prevent people who love each other to marry.. I am soo glad I do NOT live in America..
    I have to start reading more distopian stuff..It keeps me awake better than caffeine

    • Amanda Ching says:

      Yeah, I don’t understand it. I really don’t. I don’t understand how people can need to force their views on another person that they find it reasonable to make a law that…wait, I think that’s all laws in some way.

      Oh crap, did I just suggest that we set a governmental building on fire? No way, I totes didn’t.

  5. Taz says:

    That works. (Not that I wasn’t scared before).

  6. I love this so hard. I love the way you extrapolate into a future that’s just ludicrous enough to be captivating and just realistic enough to be terrifying. I love the well-rounded characters you’ve created–each one with her own circumstances and fears and strengths and flaws. I love the flags out the windows and the invocation of the story of Rahab. I love eighteen-year-old Kaylee hanging from the gibbit and the senator’s office and what became of the state flag. And the armbands. And the hearts.

    WE LOVE YOU. EVERY PART OF YOU BELONGS TO YOU.

    • Amanda Ching says:

      I would hate to write what happens next. Because what happens next is every woman in the state wearing an armband withholds sex, which works when even working women do it. It’s a pretty interesting thought.

      I wanted to say, in response to your comment above (i have to change the settings on this blog comment stream), that I don’t think it’s terrible. I actually thought it was pretty good. But I am fricking insecure, so I defended myself in that lame ass way. :)

      I don’t think I can submit a story when it’s previously been published on the web, right? I mean, I guess I could pull this, but that just seems like a waste now. There will be other stories.

      • Depends on where you submit, I think. Lots of places will let you submit unless it’s been professionally published somewhere. “Professionally” changes depending on where you’re submitting, but most places have guidelines that have to do with payment, number of page views, circulation, or some combination of the three. Not to mention the places that will accept reprints.

    • Smoothjazz says:

      Not every part of you belongs to you, GOD created you therefore ALL of you belong to HIM. Referencng Rehab from the Bible made no sense, she was used by GOD to help His spies, to save their lives…you took it out of context. I would worry more about answering to GOD and your choice of abortions then to the government. If you read your BIBLE, GOD is always in control, NO king, president, any government official is put in position without HIM. AND HE promises HE will return and return HE will and every knee including yours and everyone in the world will bow before JESUS CHRIST LORD AND SAVIOR and we all will answer for what we have allowed here to happen the death of millions of innocent babies! I would worry more about your soul being in the right place! I will pray for you and everyone like you, who believes you can do what ever you want and that GOD is a good GOD and will not punish you! THAT is not true, the BIBLE promises us, that those who believe in HIM and call upon HIS NAME will be saved. Do not believe for one minute that you are different from everyone else and you get to go to heaven just because you “think” you should, not how it works! read your BIBLE, study it, meditate upon it and see what GOD’s plans are! May HE have mercy on your soul!

      • Amanda Ching says:

        Thank you for reading! You are my target audience!

      • Veroxitatis says:

        You are everything that’s wrong with your country.

      • H says:

        1. Not everyone in this country (USA) is a Christian. Therefore, you have no right to force everyone in this country to follow your morals. You can still follow your morals, and tell others to do so. There is nothing preventing that, but it is not possible to eliminate everything you find morally offensive.

        2. Not everyone in this WORLD is a Christian. Therefore, many who read your post will find your point of view incomprehensible, and you may want to find some other arguments to use.

        3. Christianity is not about hate. I am frequently embarrassed by the things we have done, as a religion, in the name of our beloved Savior.

        4. This is not about doing “whatever you want”. Is it possible people out there have abortions casually. Those were not the examples used in this story. Those women were desperate, at the end of their rope, and they could not care for a child. And before you say there is always a family out there willing to adopt, that is not true. The chances are better for a baby than a teenager, but there are so many children out there for adoption and foster care, and raising a child is very expensive and getting more so.

        5. Lastly, instead of piously and condescendingly saying you will pray for us, or in addition to praying for us, please pray for the souls of the murderers in our country, the dictators who enact ‘cleansing’ upon their countries, and the so-called ‘leaders’ (presidents, kings, what-have-you) who violently suppress uprising and kill their own people instead of caring for them as a proper leader should. Also, please pray for the souls of those enacting ethnic-based genocide in somewhere in Africa, because it’s probably happening and we haven’t heard about it.

      • Hane says:

        Haha! BIBLE Scholar said “Rehab”! It’s “Rahab,” genius.

        Amanda Ching, this sexagenarian feminist bows to you.

      • Crystallia says:

        …you really need to see a therapist.

  7. Pingback: Free feminist dystopian short story: ILU-486 | Ruth Diaz Writes

  8. melmaccaskie says:

    This is so fantastic and inspiring. Keep fighting the fight.

  9. Pingback: Feminist Science Fiction Recommendation « Aging Backwards

  10. MsLorelei says:

    Linked to this story on my Tumblr.

    I am in tears. I’m 52. Abortion was there when I was 22 and needed it. It must go on being available.

  11. This is AMAZING. Thank you for moving me and chilling me, and ending with that tiny sprig of hope. (have tweeted about this)

  12. LeeAnn says:

    This was frightening and fantastic. I loved it.

  13. duniazade says:

    Thank you. For everything.

  14. Haunting and sad. It hurt but was good to read, which is true for lots of good writing maybe. Thank you for writing this.

  15. quietann says:

    Thank you for this. May I link to it on Facebook, LJ etc.?

  16. Pingback: Free SF/F/H Fiction for 2/22/2012 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog

  17. Rachel says:

    Dear Amanda,

    I found your story via Twitter. This is AMAZING. Would you be interested in submitting a short{er} story to the literary journal Anomalous Press? I’m one of the editors, and I love this piece and would love to read more of your work.

    You can visit
    http://www.anomalouspress.org
    to see our past & current issues.

    If you’re interested, please drop me an email any time.

    Cheers,
    Rachel T

    Listen & see & Read & think anomalously
    at AnomalousPress.org
    (poetry, fiction, nonfiction, translation and hybrid literary arts)

  18. Shane says:

    This has the potential to be the next ‘Hunger Games’ type of book. I demand that you expand it to full novel and not leave us hanging; an ongoing webcomic in that universe would bee cool too.

  19. Sean Graethorne says:

    Very well written. Didn’t press the “Like” ‘cuz the word doesn’t apply given the subject. I do, however, salute your skill and your courage.

  20. Mari says:

    Brilliant. Absolutely, positively brilliant. Am sharing the hell out of this on my FB page.

  21. Wow. Seriously unnerving and frightening — well done!

  22. Pingback: >>Nostalgia For Infinity - Go Read ‘ILU-486′

  23. Vic says:

    Wow.. just, wow… I was impressed, saddened, frightened and awed in equal measure. I really hope that this fiction never becomes a reality, but it was an amazing read.

    DON’T WORRY, WE LOVE YOU. EVERY PART OF YOU BELONGS TO YOU.

    Just brilliant… [loves]

  24. Kevin who is kevin says:

    This is really good, and of course “vonnegutian” (in a good way). I hope you write more in this vein.

  25. J Liedl says:

    This is absolutely stunning. What a fabulous and heartbreaking story you’ve crafted and all too plausible.

  26. My friend posted this on facebook. I have now reposted it. This is a very well written piece. I really feel in love with some of the characters and my heart broke for Kayleigh and the women in the world of this story. Let us hope it never comes to this! Thank you for your story. You should write more. =)

  27. Laurel says:

    I read this a couple days ago and I can’t get it out of my head. Awesomely terrifying. Thank you!

  28. Donna M. says:

    This is amazing work. Thank you for sharing it.

  29. ORIGINALea says:

    Was linked here via Twitter (*points above – J Liedl tweeted the link*) and am astounded. This feels very real, terrifying and should be read by everyone. Thank you for writing it.

  30. amy says:

    Holy crap, dude. Holy crap this is good. Uh, sorry I’m not very articulate today, but wow.

  31. asiangrrlMN says:

    Wow. This was sent to me via teh Twitter Machine. It’s a harrowing, chilling, terrifying story that everyone should read. I retweeted it and am posting it to my FB wall right now.

  32. brian says:

    wow. that was absolutely fantastic writing. a re-read and share for sure. i think i’ll read hills like white elephants tonight just to top that off. thank you and keep on keeping on.

  33. Kellie Groves says:

    It freaked me out, scared me and gave me hope all at once. Well done!

  34. FullMoon says:

    I got here from a comment thread at Angry Black Lady Chronicles. I do not usually click through on links, but I am really glad I did.

    I am sorry that the times call for a story like this to be told, but I am grateful that we have people like you who are talented and capable. Not many people could tell a story this powerful in such a short story.

    I am off to read other items in your blog. Blessings to you, and thank you

  35. This was a brilliant piece of writing. I don’t even know what else to say. I’m more or less speechless, and that never happens. Very well done.

  36. WHEOhio says:

    Found you through @AngryBlackLady. It’s 2:30am, I’m crying, and I can’t even conjure words. Just… thank you. So much.

  37. Nico says:

    I think this is the only way to get the message across to people that we will shortly be living in a crazy society if all these crazy laws are enacted and the crazy politicians keep spouting all the crazy. GREAT STORY!!!

  38. Stina says:

    This is amazing, and terrifying. I was directed here from a link on Facebook, and couldn’t be more thankful. This needs to spread and go viral, but I won’t share without your blessing.

  39. Tonya says:

    Brilliant!

  40. Your story was unnerving, chilling, and horrifying. And yet, I am filled with hope and awe at the commitment of the women to help and support each other.

    “We love you. Every part of you belongs to you.”

  41. Amanda knows who this is says:

    Your story makes me want to hurt someone. Don’t worry, I have some strategies worked out if it even smells of getting close to this in the future (at least in this area).

    See you at Joczas.

  42. Carrie Hines says:

    I Love U. This is really amazing. If I had any sort of organizational skill I’d ask for Abortion Speculative Fiction stories to be submitted for an anthology. Or even a blog carnival on the topic. My mind also goes to the dark places and there are so many stories to be examined. Once abortion and BC are outlawed, what happens? What does the clinic-protester do once her crazy dreams have been achieved? What about the anti-choice senator caught procuring an abortion for his wife/mistress/underage daughter? The pragmatic sheriff (they do exist–they have to enforce the backwards drug laws already). How will they respond when not only do they have to waste limited resources busting people who possess marijuana, but now they must stretch those same limited resources to investigate every menstrual period? Ugh.

    Wingdings. Awesome. That should be the code language of women’s rights activists. And recipes for black market abortificients and antibiotics should be widespread knowledge.

  43. Unfeathered says:

    Followed Canaan Alexander’s link here and wow. This is chilling and terrifying and frighteningly real.

    Once again, I am glad not to live in the US as I boggle at what has happened to the ‘land of the free’.

  44. Shadow_kisser says:

    I love the story! One question: what’s the significance of ILU-486? What’s it mean?

    • Amanda Ching says:

      Oh, it was just be being “clever”. (re: Not so much). RU-486 is the name of the abortion drug mifepristone here in the us. and ILU is netspeak for “I Love You”. I just smashed them together for grate lulz.

      • pangolin says:

        If it is ok, I’m making shirts for myself and some of my friends that say ILU-486. I won’t sell them, just for us. Though if you’d give me permission I could put the design up for the other person running the t-shirt shop so they could go out to the masses and more money for Planned Parenthood! I like it better than the other message which feels awkward to me with the one ‘U’ in netspeak and the other ‘you’s written out.

        • Amanda Ching says:

          No problem! If you’d like to contribute your design after you make it, please contact S Vincent, who runs the shop. Perhaps she would be willing to add it to the options if it is different. (I really leave the awesome art stuff to her. I can’t even sell stuff on ebay!)

          • Sharon Scott says:

            Are there shirts of the slogan for purchase somewhere?

            • Olulabelle says:

              I would like to buy one. From the UK I have been following the news in the US surrounding abortion and I am horrified that we seem to be moving ever closer to this ‘fiction’. Also just brilliant and gripping story.

        • My email’s octopus dot gallery at gmail if you want me to post it on the store.

  45. Aunt Snow says:

    Found you through Angry Black Lady. Fantastic story. Chilling. Incredibly well written.
    I will link to you.

  46. Coragyps says:

    Wow!
    At least some of us old men out here think that is FANTASTIC writing! Thanks!

    • don Roberto says:

      Same here. I’m 51 years old, and too young to remember Roe v. Wade (I was twelve when that passed), but very concerned for my little daughter’s future. This is Handmaid’s Tale-level scary writing, but terrifyingly plausible.

  47. Pingback: A Short Story for Today | Alas, a Blog

  48. Pingback: A Short Story for Today | Blog of the Moderate Left

  49. Just adding my voice to the chorus of well-earned praise for this. A marvelous work.

  50. Pingback: ILU-486: A Short Story by Amanda Ching | Some Disagree

  51. jerzygirl45 says:

    This is so amazing, what you’ve done. It makes me sad and scared and hopeful and exceptionally proud to be among the uterati. And determined. So determined to fight the misogyny and hatred and condescension and backwards “thinking” taking root these days.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  52. Pingback: Short story: ILU-486 by Amanda Ching « … but I digress

  53. Wow. this story is so poignant in the current political climate. I may not live in America, but women around the globe are denied their rights to their own body daily. Thank you for writing such a timely, if disturbing fiction.
    (oh, and your piece was tweeted by Margaret Freaking Atwood, talk about a literary nod! :) )

  54. Very timely and harrowing.

  55. T says:

    Holy cow, this made me cry, it was so realistic.

    I’ve been thinking for months now, how I’d be able to help my nieces in another state if they were denied access to comprehensive healthcare. I’m half tempted to start sewing armbands. Maybe it’s time to march on Washington.

  56. ladyjax says:

    I saw a rec for this in my Twitter feed and in a post on LiveJounal and immediately came over to read.
    Even at it’s bleakest, there was still a sliver of hope in the story that made me keep reading. Thank you for writing this.

  57. yasmin says:

    I came here from Margaret Atwood’s retweet too. I so don’t regret it.
    Thank you for sharing this with us. I really enjoyed reading it.

  58. Madeline says:

    oh my gahhhhhhd dystopian fiction is my jam. you seriously should write a book with this! i’d read it. it’s just horrifying because it’s so realistic but SO MUCH like other fictional books i’ve read…. you know? it’s like it’s bridging that gap between fiction and reality. love it!

  59. Kurn says:

    Fantastic read, excellent story. Thank you for sharing. :)

  60. Lara Eckener says:

    So behind on my non-LJ blog reading, but glad to have finally read this. It’s an important issue and you’ve done it justice. I’m happy that you’re getting the attention it deserves. <3
    –KL (this is my Big Girl Blog.)

  61. Luarien says:

    I teared up a little bit when I read certain parts of it…and had to stop myself for a second to keep from writing when I read “WE HEARD U NEEDED THIS” the second time. Not the first, the first I thought it was noble, nice, cute, disarming. Perfect for a message to put someone at ease. The second time, though? It’s a message.

    I can only hope that I’ll ever write something that is, that feels, half as important as this. Thank you, and I hope more read this.

  62. meadowgirl says:

    i want to tell you that this story has moved me like few things in the last few years. i have spent the day reading and re-reading it, sharing it and just generally crying. it terrifies me but i know it will motivate me (and many, many others) to keep fighting the good fight.

    thank you, thank you and a million more times, thank you for somehow bringing this amazing piece of “fiction” from your mind and sharing it with all of us. i will never be the same, cheesy and dorky as that sounds. :)

  63. Discombobulated says:

    HEY I love you too, stranger. This is fantastic. @Cleolinda linked me to it and I’m so glad I found it.

  64. Jenny says:

    Phenomenal. Thank you for putting this out into the world. <3

  65. This is absolutely stunning, and that line “every part of you belongs to you” is so beautiful and perfect and maybe the greatest sentence I have ever read.

    Tremendous work. I am a sister in a feminist sorority (Zeta Omega Eta – we’re looking into getting a national charter) and I posted this to our Facebook group because I know they would appreciate it.

  66. Truly moving. Thank you for sharing this with us all.

  67. DJ says:

    Stunning and frightening and real. Well done. I’m Canadian, but anything that you guys do ripples the pond up here, and I’d like to think we’d never go that route…

    Thank you.

  68. Deoridhe says:

    This blew me away – these lines in particular.

  69. Miriah says:

    Brilliant, chilling story! I shared it on facebook.

  70. From someone who has written some of his own short fiction, as well as someone who is every bit as appalled as you at current events around this issue (despite not owning a uterus), brava é molto bene! I am awed and jealous of your talent. Linked to your story by a (male) friend on Facebook, and have linked it to my own timeline. Keep on writing and keep fighting for justice.

  71. Peter G. Howland says:

    Very well written Amanda…and very, very frightening! Those ignorant right-wing nutjobs, Rick Santorum, VA Gov. Bob McDonald, et al., aren’t kidding you know. If you don’t fight it now and fight it hard, they will take the very essence of every part of you away. Even we 75-year-old geezers can see what they’re trying to do…don’t let ‘em, dammit! (Margaret freaking Atwood! Woot! you’re on your way kid!)

  72. Great story. As I tweeted recently, I used to read a lot of dystopian sf, now I just read the news websites.

  73. This is an amazing story. It sent chills down my spine, especially the images of Kayleigh hanging on the gallows pole and of the body of the woman posed in the Senator’s chair. And when I read the words “DON’T WORRY, WE LOVE YOU. EVERY PART OF YOU BELONGS TO YOU,” forget it. I cried ALL THE TEARS.

  74. Mandy T says:

    Directed via Twitter to this stunning piece of work. Thank you for sharing it.

  75. John Swindells says:

    When I taught biology in a Virginia high school, I had to teach that fornication, adultery and oral sex were illegal–this in the 90’s. My students were outraged. Laws so contrary to human behavior engender disrespect for all law. Women can throw those inmates who are running the madhouse out if they get organized. There are more of you than males. Get organized!

  76. Holly says:

    Props. I’m spreading this story.

  77. Sarah says:

    Its rare a story makes me cry twice but this managed it. It is phenomenal. I have recced it to everyone.

  78. Veni says:

    Frightful and powerful. Good God, Mander. Everyone needs to read this.

  79. Gerbelplec says:

    This is really brilliant, but, as always, cis-centric. It’s not just women that get pregnant.
    Nonetheless, I loved this. <3

    • Madame Suggia says:

      However you want to look at it, the fact is, it IS just women that get pregnant.

      • Ptrst says:

        It’s just people with uteri that get pregnant, which encompasses women, trans*men, people who are genderqueer/don’t otherwise identify within the gender dichotomy.

  80. gillbest says:

    Thank you for writing this. It’s impressive on many fronts, but what I really appreciated (as a writer myself) is the way you were able to take something political and current and make a good story out of it. Reading it didn’t feel like I was only meant to take your message. Though, your message comes through loud and clear. I hope your story never becomes fact.

  81. Pingback: It’s time for 1984 again « euler cycle

  82. WarLord says:

    An amazing and timely read

    Thanx for sharing your vision, Let us pray it remains fiction

    @warlordwrites

  83. Rob says:

    Great story. Reminded me of “Women on Waves” which is a real group that provides abortion on a ship in international waters, off shore of countries where abortion is illegal or limited.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_on_Waves

  84. Nice cyberpunk take on the Handmaid’s Tale.

  85. Violet says:

    Design the arm bands and we will start making them. I will see until I die if it means that this kind of future- which we seem to be rapidly approaching- can be avoided.

  86. Synn says:

    Hi!
    Even though everyone has already said it, this is fantastic!

  87. L says:

    Thank you for writing this! It’s excellent.

  88. Nekura says:

    HELLO THERE. WE HEARD U NEED THIS.

  89. sylvia says:

    What a story! creepy because it is so believable.
    Unfortunately, fictionally smuggling BC is not new…
    I remember reading about it in a dick francis mystery in the 70s.
    my, how far we’ve come… not.

  90. Margy Rydzynski says:

    Reblogged this on Collectables and commented:
    Wonderful short story, well written and timely. Think a modern-day version of the Handmaid’s Tale. Wish I had written it. Since I didn’t, I figured sharing it was the least I could do. Thanks, Amanda Ching!

  91. Hannah says:

    wow..incredible. brilliantly written and unnervingly possible.

  92. Hannah says:

    if only we had our own arm bands, maybe we could get some female organization and start pushing our weight around

  93. Ashley says:

    LADIES (and gents): Let’s start a campaign to tag with the phrase “Every part of you belongs to you.” Bathroom walls, lamp posts, bus stops. Use stickers if Sharpie is too destructive for your taste. To remind women everywhere that we are behind them and that they are doing nothing wrong when they exercise their right to choose.

  94. Sestra Prior says:

    I’m still finding it hard to believe that there are those who are actually proposing laws that may well eventually lead to a state like this. *shakes head in bewilderment*.

    An incredibly powerful message delivered in a very effective way, Amanda. All kudos to your pen, my dear. I can easily see “Every part of you belongs to you” becoming a rallying cry for those who WILL fight such ludicrous, personally invasive laws.

    Keep up the good work, my friend; the world needs people like you with the ability to raise awareness in others through the medium of the written word.

  95. Lauren says:

    I’ve made this into a PDF for those who’d like to read it on an e-reader or would like a paper copy. You can dl from: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10236413/ILU-486.pdf

    Thank you so much for writing this, Amanda. I haven’t been this touched by a story in a long time. Here’s hoping this remains fiction.

  96. Kevin who is kevin says:

    I hope you asked amanda if she was ok with that . . .

    • Lauren says:

      I didn’t, but I’ll take it down until I get her okay. Thank you for reminding me about doing this correctly. The PDF is completely attributed to her, though.

  97. Lauren says:

    Oh, your blog link is DEFINITELY in there. I PM’ed you on LJ with where the PDF is at the moment. You can review it and then let me know.

  98. Kevin who is kevin says:

    I just think you would probably quite like to be paid for this work, somehow. Could you release it on one of the ebook websites. such as fictionwise?

    Lots of authors have different strategies on electronically published work, from Cory Doctorow on down. Do you have an agent? Talk to her . .

  99. Megan says:

    I don’t know if I should thank you for making me cry like a baby, but thank you. This was beautiful and sad and terrifying and a little bit comforting all at once. It should be required reading for every lawmaker in the country.

  100. Rachel says:

    okay, so where can i get those t-shirts?

  101. kittenmommy says:

    That was amazing. I just hope it doesn’t come true!

  102. Some Name says:

    This is horrifying. I thought the detail about male smokers being unable to buy cigarettes unless they are ‘nonbirthers’ was a good detail. When the nutjobs get done stripping women’s rights, they’re going to go after men’s, too. You want to buy a laptop computer? Sorry, it might decrease your sperm count…

    Very well written.

  103. Ry says:

    I saw this being pointed to over the weekend and I just didn’t have the energy to read a story about what I knew it would be about. And then it turns out it’s yours! So of course it’s fantastic, but it’s fantastic in such a terrible way that it makes my heart hurt.

  104. Beverly says:

    Thank you. This was an awesome and scary read.

  105. KellyK says:

    Wow. This was amazing.

  106. Pingback: EWG -

  107. surelytomesh says:

    Reblogged this on …well fused flesh and commented:
    Woah. Ok, I’m torn on this because my objective side says it’s a sensationalist and slippery-slope argument, but my gut says it’s awesome. Very Farenheit 451/1984 and those are considered American Classics that all high schoolers should read, so… Regardless, totally worth your time to check this story out.

  108. Pingback: Up too late… « laurenisms

  109. MERIMAR says:

    Thank you, for shedding light on the darkness of the worst the possible truth. The possible plans that Big Brother want to hide from us. I just found my next tattoo, writing in Kanji, the heart on the armband. Question is: are the stripes on the band vertical like bars of jail and suppression, horizontal like our flag, or waved like a flag in the wind? We will weather this storm, too, since bending does not mean we are weak. It often means we are actually stronger than that which tries to destroy us. Thank you again.

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  111. Katy Bristow says:

    This is amazing. Thank you for writing this.

  112. Donovanable says:

    Reblogged this on pervasivegoodness and commented:
    This is unbelievable and terrifying, one of those short stories that devours you and tangles your insides with its reality. (About personhood)

  113. cheyinka says:

    We don’t agree on a particular political issue, which I knew before I followed the link to the story, but I gave it a chance anyway, and I am very glad I did. The story was absolutely amazing – very compelling, very well-written, and despite my political disagreement, it was still properly spine-chilling. Sometimes dystopias written by people with substantially different political views just seem silly rather than horrifying; this one did not seem silly in the least.

    (For the record, I’m a woman, and while I may be sympathetic to the purported goal of various bills, I don’t think they’re the right way to go about things, nor do I think that the people proposing those bills are doing so out of pure motives.)

  114. someone who loves u says:

    nolite te bastardes carborundorum ;)

  115. Claire says:

    That was freaking awesome. You should find some way to publish this and earn royalties, though. Or write an entire book; I’d read it for sure. Anyhow, I’ll try spreading this around. You’re an amazing writer.

  116. Every part of you belongs to you. And every part of you is awesome.

    Write a book. I’ll buy ten copies.

  117. Pawel says:

    Incredible. I wish I still had my facebook page, so I could share this with as many people as possible, but I will be mailing and texting the link to anyone I can. You’ve created something special here, thank you.

    I was going to buy a shirt, but was saddened to see it was not a unisex t-shirt. Please don’t ever think that there aren’t men out there as furious about all this as you ladies are.

    • The nice thing about Zazzle is that there are over 50 shirts you can choose from to print it on. I just picked my favorite for this shirt to display it on. All of the shirt options are to the right of the main image where it says “Choose your style and color”. Men’s, women’s, children’s, sweatshirts, tank tops, etc.

  118. Pingback: A Woman’s Body | Wyrd Writing

  119. This is brilliant! And a little frightening that it could actually happen. Well done. =)

  120. plien says:

    I could not read this in one setting, it is so terrible i had to click it away but it is so strong that i had to come back to it to get to the end.

    Great writing affects people.
    I <3 U

  121. That was amazing and terrifying.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    – Kali

  122. Emi Buckley says:

    Wow… What a fantastic story. It made my stomach turn and tears well up in my eyes. Thank you for writing something that will hopefully resonate with thousands of women.

  123. Pingback: HELLO THERE. WE HEARD YOU NEED THIS. « The Trials and Queries of Two Thinking Girls

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  125. Kathy Rubel says:

    Let’s make this go viral (er, more viral!). Anything relating to the oppression of women’s rights over her own body (limiting contraception, ridiculous abortion laws), mark with the hashtag: #everypartofyoubelongstoyou

  126. H says:

    My initial response is ‘Oh, my God’.

    This is interesting about 20 different ways: issues, a trapped and pushed society, etc. But still, ‘Oh, my God’, because this is what happens when we try to save ourselves from our own brains. Err, I don’t think that came out right. Here’s what always will: “Every part of you belongs to you”.

  127. Kelly says:

    Simply AMAZING. Really reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale but was far scarier because I CAN SEE IT HAPPENING. I’m sharing this everywhere, all over Facebook and Tumblr. Thank you for this.

  128. Carama says:

    I love that you had the words to write this story. I’m over on the complete other side of the world, and I will help to spread this story further. I watch with a calm horror the way the US seems to be stepping closer and closer to “The handmaid’s tale” while the working poor/unemployed of your nation grow in population and sink deeper into misery.

    I hope that I could be as brave as the character Kayleigh, I’m trying to be.

  129. sarsi05 says:

    You are a magical person. You clearly put a LOT of work into this. It was captivating, and I just couldn’t stop reading. I LOVE how you split the sections up into different people. I love what you have created. I’m buying your shirt. Thank you for this. I’m gonna spread this around like nobody’s business.

  130. Thank you for writing this (coincidentally, you posted on my birthday; what a lovely, dystopian present!). I wanted to say I loved it, but it scared the hell out of me. I’ve been following the assault on women’s autonomy for years now. Women are literally being arrested for choosing to homebirth, dragged to hospitals and given C-sections against their will. Your fiction is an entirely too realistic reality.

    Stay strong. Thank you.

  131. Just one thing, though.

    ” Sure it was free, but the moment it was positive, you were entered in the free natal care monitoring system.”

    The forced-birth movement will never, not in ten million years, provide free natal care.

    • Ai says:

      Yeah. Wish I could say I didn’t agree with this. Unfortunately, this is true. They want you to have the baby, because they want you to pay for your sin of having sex for fun instead of procreation. They don’t actually care about the baby itself! Just that you have to have it, because you had sex for fun, and that’s a crime, dontcha know.

  132. Madelyn says:

    Very Lysistrata, without the comedic twist. Good job. I just hope we can keep this (or an even worse) future from coming true. *sigh*

  133. Robin Holmes says:

    Bands. Shirts. Bags, Stickers, Hats, Radio. Novel. TV. Social Media. This message HAS to get out. And fast. Before some fellow with an agenda proves the old saying. “If but one of us is in chains, none of us are free.”

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  135. KatieHal says:

    Fantastic (and scary) work here. I hope more read it, I hope it spreads, hell I kinda hope you write a whole book on this premise and publish it!

    (I am curious though, as I can’t seem to find it anywhere here or elsewhere–what exactly does ILU-486 mean?)

  136. Pingback: A Personhood Law Taken to the Logical and Grotesque Conclusion: A Short Story | Angry Black Lady Chronicles

  137. Kellye Bussey says:

    Awesome writing and scary.

  138. aag says:

    This is my one and only time to comment online. In 1969, I had an abortion…pre-Roe v. Wade. I went through every kind of hell, including landing in a hospital almost dead, threatened with accessory to murder by a deputy sheriff, etc. Reading this made me cry over and over. So well done and, yeah, I could totally see this happening. The women in this were so real and true…in my situation, so many women, including some I didn’t even know, supported me. Young women: read this and know that women’s rights must be fought for again and again and again.

    Thank you, Ms. Ching.

  139. “Every part of you belongs to you.”

    Thank you for this. And the story, which I couldn’t read in one sitting, but…

    “Every part of you belongs to you.”

    Thank you.

  140. Pingback: Lisa Hendrix » Blog Archive » EVERY PART OF YOU BELONGS TO YOU

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  142. kathy cole says:

    thank you for this. depressingly well-done.

  143. This is fantastic and terrifying. Thank you.
    -<3

  144. I read this a couple weeks ago and it truly horrified me. What a scary vision of our future. I think every woman in America needs to read this to get an idea of what we could be up against. Thank you for writing such a raw and powerful story and sharing it with others.

  145. Jules says:

    Thanks so much for sharing the story- it’s terrifying, and even more, seeing what is going in this bizzare country– we need to OPEN our eyes, truly, we do..

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  148. I’m surprised there is still space to leave comments :)

    This story is amazing, and terrifying. We need to act, right now. I’m making a red armband to wear to the rally we’re having in Huntsville, AL this weekend, and quite possibly handing out notecards with the link to this story on them.

  149. Pingback: Short story: ILU-486 | War on Women

  150. Ai says:

    Make this Arizona or Colorado and I would be frightened for our lives. (Colorado snuck the Personhood Amendment past Congress when no one was paying attention, even as voters voted NO less than 6 months ago. And of course, who can forget AZ’s “if you take birth control your employer has the right to fire you” bill?)

    • But it *is* Arizona or Colorado. Or Tennessee, or any other state where this kind of terrifying legislation is going through. That’s the wonderful thing about fiction: It’s perfectly capable of terrifying us (or at least or terrifying *me*), even if some of the details aren’t quite right if and when the realities roll around.

      Sometimes, it even inspires us to fight to keep them from happening.

      • Ai says:

        I’m sorry, my comment was poorly worded. I intended to bring to people’s attention states that have been more egregious than Virginia in their prosecution of women, and I said it poorly. Arizona, to me, looks the closest to getting where this story is. I didn’t mean to disagree or to criticize the story.

        • Amanda Ching says:

          Oh, no apology needed, Ai! I got what you were saying! This was written back in the end of February, before I started hearing about all the crap coming out of AZ and CO, but you are right, it could be any state! I just picked Virginia because the personhood bill was on the table prominently there at the time.

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  152. eldritchMortician says:

    Depressing, but all too plausible. Thank you.

  153. Kalica says:

    Any chance of getting patterns or at least an image of what the armband should look like? I’d like to try crocheting a few.

  154. Amanda Ching says:

    I have to admit that I’m not creative. I think they should be simple, though, nothing complicated. My image in my head was a band about 3-4 inches high. The top half of the band is white. the bottom half of the band is red. Very simple.

  155. Pingback: A Glimpse into the Future? « A Bookish Beemer

  156. Lindsey says:

    I really, really, really appreciated this story! All of the small world-building details worked in without being jarring and the overwhelming fear and sadness and anger of each character were spot on. The slogan is beautiful “Don’t worry, we love you. Every part of you belongs to you.” I’m totally going to jump on the bandwagon and recite it where appropriate because more people need to hear things like that every day. Not everyone can ride around doling out stealth birth control to those who need it, but P’s armband solidarity idea was brilliant: everyone can wear an armband to show what they support. The possibility of a future like this is also completely terrifying, but in a way that leaves me not so much frightened as determined to make sure that future never happens.

    I would also like know if you would be opposed to an audio version of your story. I read podfic sometimes and am very fond of audiobooks, and I think that ILU-486 would be just as riveting in a listen-able format. I would love to be the one to read this story, but I completely understand if you’re uncomfortable with the idea altogether or would prefer to choose someone else as a reader (or if someone has already read it!). If you have any questions or anything, my email is ribbitribbon[at]gmail[dot]com, or I’m daeseage on dreamwidth and lj.

  157. Sarah Kirsten says:

    Came here from a rec by synecdochic on DW. Amazing story; I only hope, given the way things are going in the US, that it turns out to be wildy over-pessimistic. Sadly, I’m not sure it will be, and I am currently immensely glad to live in the UK.

  158. Hey there, Ms. Ching. We are simpatico: you wrote the (fantastic) short story, I wrote the novel. Check out my book! It’s called Expecting.
    I’m sharing your story on my Facebook author page!

  159. Pingback: For Mother’s Day I am Pro Abortion: on demand, no questions asked, no compromises given. « Bacon and Whiskey

  160. Emma says:

    this is incredible, please, PLEASE write more!

  161. Pingback: Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » ILU-486: Required Reading for Every Woman in this Country

  162. Pingback: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood | moviesandmangoes

  163. Nop says:

    Just wanted you to know that I loved this story, & linked to it on G+. I juxtaposed it with this blog post, that shows just how fucking prescient your story is:

    http://talksmanymoons.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/yes-women-are-being-arrested-for-having-miscarriages/

  164. Pingback: What's the name of a science fiction book/story that includes an abortion parable involving undesirables being punished (but not murdered, per the living cell anti-abortion argument) by having cells preserved in stasis in "jars?" - Quora

  165. Pingback: What if Abortion Were Illegal?

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  167. NyNy says:

    Wow! That was great! Actually after reading your story, I wonder if you would be interested to uploading it to ReadWave.com? At ReadWave, You can build up an audience around your story by starting small writing short stories now and allowing your readers to download and share with others. If you are aiming to be an author, novelist or writer, this is a great way to start to market your stories online. You’ll enjoy it and may even get some inspiration! So please check out the site: http://readwave.com or reply back to me!

  168. You’ve reached a lot of people with this – including me. Thank you for writing it.

  169. I found my way here after reading about this story on TV Tropes. What an amazing story–scary and all too plausible.

  170. Pingback: For Mother’s Day I am Pro Abortion: on demand, no questions asked, no compromises given. | Amoeba Kat Musings

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