Extrait THE NEW EVE
THE NEW EVE
Other published books
Barzakh, a novel, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2008;
L’Amour Impossible, a novel, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2009;
Madinetou al-riah, a novel, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2010;
Science Fiction and Heritage, a study, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2011;
Hajj al-Vijar, a novel, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2012;
La Mecque païenne, a novel, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2014;
Patrimoine oral mauritanien, recueil, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2015 :
- T.1. Contes d’animaux ;
- T.2. Contes merveilleux ;
- T.3. Maximes et proverbes.
Fragments de futures, recueil de nouvelles, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2017;
My story, an autobiography, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2018;
Paganist Mecca, a novel, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2019;
Hajj 2053, a novel, Nouakchott, DIWAN, 2020;
THE NEW EVE
Moussa Ould Ebnou
Copyright © 2021 by Moussa Ould Ebnou
"The myth of the Mother"
He had been waiting two hours; an almost imperceptible moment in the eternity of endless time, but it was a long wait in the life of a father impatiently awaiting the birth of his son. All the means brought to bear by the Reproduction Center to calm parents’ heartburn and eagerness for the children, did nothing to calm his raging nerves. This, despite being designed on the basis of a precise knowledge of the parental psyche, representing a form of childbirth with neither labor nor pain for the benefit of parents.
He sat on a revolving armchair moving around from corner to corner in the waiting room, so that he would not be tired of turning and spinning. Evidently, the compassion of the affectionate father hurls him into turmoil and upheaval until the newborn sees the light. At the beginning of the wait, a host Android provided him with a cigarette made specifically for this type of occasion, which generated from its own ashes, like the Phoenix. Whenever it ignited, the proportion of tar and nicotine would diminish, without lessening the flavor of tobacco, enabling the father to satisfy his desire without damage from smoking residues.
He sat smoking his undying cigarette, revolving, coming and going on his moving armchair, as videos cascaded on the screens of his glasses, explaining how to deal with newborns... What came to his mind was the Android smile that had accompanied him since his arrival: «The smile is familiarity, compassion and tenderness. It is the body’s other way to accept and seduce… But his smile increases his strangeness and returns the passion and desire of the other body to their metaphysical origin. No sooner does it begin with the relaxation of the lips than it takes in the entire face, revealing a clear, sculpted gap, emitting from the depths of its throat a breath and a wonderful resonance, like the holy shouting by the men of Arkadia in their beauty contests… » His attention drew back to the scenes flowing through his spectacle screens and returned to his reality as a father impatiently awaiting his son. He remembered the circumstances of a birth in the old time, as told by the "myth of the Mother": «On her second day of labor pains, with every thrust, the mother made sure relief was at hand and that the newborn would finally accept coming into this world and out of her bloated womb. She felt him moving, so she imagined he was playing. She was sure that the time for his delivery had come, but she did not understand why he delayed his arrival every time. Every woman explains this according to her own experience and point of view. "Your baby does not want to come because you craved something and did not get it, reveal your desire to us!" The mother did not answer their questions. The only response she issued was the screams of labor. Searching for the cause of the delay in childbirth, one of them found the puzzle and said, "I know what she wants! One day, a pilgrim came to us and described a wonderful sunset he had beheld from atop Mount Sinai. Throughout her pregnancy she yearned to lay eyes on this remarkable sight!" When he heard the news, the baby who would be born from time to time, decided to delay his delivery until he inspected the scene from inside his mother's womb, atop Mount Sinai. "Indeed", admitted the mother, "I vividly recall that pilgrim’s story. And I still long to see that amazing scene!" The women shouted: "God help us! Egypt is so far away! If the mother does not give birth in six hours, the baby will surely die!" Word was sent urgently to the Egyptian People's Bureau requesting the visa... it was quickly obtained thanks to the help of the consul whose mother was a midwife. The hardest part, nonetheless, remained: to arrange such a long trip in such a short time. They consulted the travel agent; whose answer came quickly and definitively: "Al-Egypt Airlines alone can arrange such a journey". Al-Egypt is the airline born of the merger of Egypt Air and El Al after their purchase by the American billionaire Sam Turner. This is how an Al-Egypt aircraft was chartered and took off at four twenty-five.
«During the flight, just before safety belts were unbuckled and cruising altitude was reached, a bushy-bearded, mighty-looking man emerged from the rear of the plane. He was short of stature but haughty, carrying a book in which he claimed to be pointing a pistol, as they do in the spaghetti western films. Where did this man come from? Perhaps he had stowed away in the cargo hold before the aircraft took off? No matter, he was here now, as was his book and the pistol inside his book! "Alright listen up!" barked the haughty, mighty, bearded one, "This is a kidnapping! Nobody moves! here is my request: I wish to replace the midwife! If you refuse, I’ll blow up the aircraft!" For an hour the passengers quarreled back and forth, raising a din, then the haughty, mighty, bearded one brought them back to their senses, threatening them with the pistol concealed in his book: "Quiet! Decide fast before my patience runs out!" An hour later they decided to obey the haughty, mighty, bearded one. Thanks to the time difference the plane landed on Mount Sinai a quarter of an hour before sunset. The child and his mother beheld the most amazing sunset in the world, and the baby was born with the help of the haughty, mighty, bearded one, right after sunset in the desert sands.»
This was during the time when men were born from their mother's womb, like animals, before humans mastered the technique of determining the sex of the embryo. In fact, human sexual reproduction was turned over to modern technology and has changed radically with the amazing transformations that have turned human reproductive methods and means upside down. With the discoveries that enabled humans to determine the sex of the embryo, along with the methods of in vitro fertilization and cloning, it became possible for each person to select the gender of his child. People resorted to in-vitro fertilization to choose the gender of children, and since most husbands preferred males, an imbalance appeared between males and females. Women protested against this situation, which had come to threaten their gender. They demanded a fair division between the sexes of the embryos prepared for implantation.
Thus, the women's liberation movement turned into a movement to defend female fertilization. The "fee" to join organizations for the defense of female fertilization was to go to an IVF center and have a female fetus implanted, which made all the members pregnant. After a few years of mobilization in favor of femininity, the old equilibrium flipped, and the male component became threatened. In turn, men organized their response: They decided to hire the wombs of mothers. During this period, it was easy to find traitors to the feminist cause prepared to accept the male fetus until its birth. Thus, men were able to form a network of tenants for their wombs. Women formed intelligence units to expose all those who betrayed the cause. When they discovered treachery, they would abort the traitor and sterilize her. And whenever they did this, the men would counter-abort and sterilize.
This is how the gender conflict turned into a devastating civil war. After a long time, in order to end this deadly war, androgynes seized power, reorganized the relations between sexes and set new rules for procreation. Gender balance was restored, the rights of men and women were declared, and the family was abolished. The social mixing was prohibited, and new regulations were established to define the ways men and women would coexist in two separate societies, with all their rights and duties. The men would be entrusted with the birth of males, while the women were placed in charge of the birth of females, with each gender having their annual share of births, while androgynes supervise the reproductive centers.
A framework for a Mixed Service was created to maintain the cohesion of the two communities and ensure peace. Upon reaching puberty, every man or woman was required to enroll in mixed groups of recruits for that service. Mixed Service rested upon participation in the sexual life, entertainment, and working with conscripts of the opposite sex. Those who rejected this mixed sexual life were brought before the courts and sentenced to severe penalties. Women began to return to the estrus cycle as a result of their segregation from men. Their daily life changed, and their estrous cycle coincided with their time of Mixed Service. Reverting to the estrus cycle first manifested as the discontinuation of ovulation for some women, then this phenomenon spread to include all women; ovulation no longer resumed except during the period of Mixed Service, when there was contact with men.
They tried to rectify this situation by opening ovulation houses. Candidates for ovulation had to register for these houses a month in advance. Ovulation training began with a careful hormonal and psychological preparation which involved only women preparing for pregnancy, entailing self-fertilization of the egg, circumventing the need for the male’s sperm. This was female self-fertilization, which enabled a woman to bear a child who was her own clone. Ovulation training began on the first night of the lunar cycle. Women were subjected to treatment with hermaphroditic hormones throughout the training period that accompanied the lunar cycle. The trainers came every evening to attend dances witnessed by an audience of pregnant women and supervised by members of the ovulation houses, disguised as men. These dances were based on simulating the position of the bodies of men and women in the state of sexual contact, in a way that the trainees could recognize. Pregnant women – who circled the dancers without actually participating in the dance – would produce screams that mimic the stages of copulation. When the dancing finished, they would break up into couples to spend the whole night together. Before lying down, every female trainee would tell her "husband" – a woman disguised as a man– "I want to be the man’s woman! " The "man" would then take her just as a man would take his woman. Before morning, the trainees would get up and see their companions having removed their disguises, donning once again their female attire. They would return to the Center to confirm the start of ovulation, then fertilization would ensue.
The production of semen in men did not change; nor did their hormonal secretion. The segregation of the sexes did not lead to any change in their sexual and reproductive nature. The main obstacle that men who wanted to have children had to overcome was finding a vacant artificial womb. Although men and women had equal birth rates, women faced the inequity of being able to conceive. The pregnancy of men was not guaranteed, which forced them to rent prosthetic wombs. These were available, however, in limited quantities, as their manufacture was subject to the annual reproduction rate authorized for men. The man who wanted a child had to wait a long time or take the risk of pregnancy.
The Father waited several years before he could have a womb. When his turn came, he went to an assisted reproduction center to choose his egg and attend the in vitro conception of his son. For the next month, he had the same dream every night: he was making love with a frozen egg. When he arrived at the assisted reproduction center, he was greeted by a silver-haired man in coveralls. Without delay, he began to extol the products and methods of the Center:
“You know, sir, an egg is very fragile, if the freezing is badly done, you fracture the cell. The moment you freeze is also very important. The cell must be ripe. The eggs that we are going to offer you were frozen five hours after their synthesis. Our freezing technique has proven itself. It consists in first freezing the cell at a temperature of - 7 ° Celsius. At this temperature, it becomes solid. We slowly lower this temperature down to –196 ° Celsius. This is called "biological time". At –196 ° the cell no longer ages. Theoretically, we can keep it indefinitely. In practice, we keep the eggs frozen for a maximum of ten years.”
The Father and the silver-haired man finally arrived in the center file room. There were all the frozen eggs with their date of freezing and their genetic heritage.
“Take your time, said the silver-haired man, choose the egg that seems most worthy of your son. When you have made your choice, call me by pressing the yellow button, there in front of you. We will then proceed to fertilization without delay.”
Having made his choice, was joined by the silver-haired man who led him into the fertilization room. There it was first necessary to bring the ovum back to life in order to be able to fertilize it.
“The warm-up phase must be rapid. This is the key to the operation. You have to go fast, otherwise the ice crystallizes inside the egg and it deteriorates. It goes from - 196 ° to + 40 ° in about half a minute.”
When the egg came back to life, an androgynous took a quantity of sperm from the Father and proceeded to fertilize the thawed egg. A spermatozoid entered the egg, their nuclei mated. The egg thus obtained was placed in the womb, within which there will remain eighteen months during which the cells will proliferate, build and assemble organs and tissues to form an adult man.
Now the father found himself waiting anxiously for the birth of his son. He was still smoking his undying cigarette on top of his armchair moving from one corner to the other in the waiting room, and the Android had not yet appeared. Then he came with his Arkadian smile and said, "Follow me, I will lead you to your son!" The father jumped out of his moving armchair without stopping it and went out behind the Android, which seemed to be ignoring his eagerness. A silver-haired man was waiting for them in the delivery room. He helped the father remove his son from the artificial womb, cut the umbilical cord, and wash him with his first bath water. "Now", said the silver-haired man, "you can name your son, and if you haven’t yet chosen a name, we have a bank of names from which you may choose."
“I haven’t yet chosen.”
He led him to the hall of names.
“You must enter your name in the computer and your son’s birth date and any number.”
The father gave his name and his son’s birth date and chose a number, then pressed the appropriate button. The computer screen went dark and remained for a long time without an answer, as if the data had flummoxed it. Then a four-letter name appeared on the screen: Adam.
Emerging from the womb is not everything: Adam had to become a man. Others saw it as their duty to make a man out of Adam, and always reminded him, not of what he would like to be but of what he should be: "Be a man!" the men enjoined Adam repeatedly. At first, he did not understand what they meant, but then he chose the easiest solution: «Being a man means acting like the others. » He grew accustomed to viewing his own character as the product of his interaction with others and tried not to take it seriously. The identity of men was determined by differentiating it from that of women. Each of the two sexes strived to highlight its distinctiveness to prove itself. To avoid mixing, men and women endeavored to develop the particulars of their respective gender. In order to bring out their femininity, women were specially fed with substances mixed with female hormones. As to men, they were fed with substances mixed with male hormones. This dedication to highlighting the peculiarities of each gender increased the mutual attractiveness of the two sexes, making segregation between them more difficult. Be that as it may, as the task of human reproduction was relegated to technology, sex became an empty process. Without its main driver, i.e., reproduction, sex became a perversion, a hoax, an oddity and an aberration, even if some people tried to replace the instinct of reproduction with the ethics of pleasure.
Since sex had become a function without a purpose, pleasure has become a matter of education. Both men and women developed a new imagination of pleasure that excluded the other sex. Eroticism and pornography were reconsidered: The sexual appearance of men no longer excited anything except for men’s own lust. Likewise, the woman’s body aroused only other women. Sexual narcissism and innate pleasure became satiated by this sexually oriented imagination. These differences did not change the old gender integration. It was this very integration that the androgynes wanted to maintain through the institution of the mixed service. The coexistence of the two sexes relied on a shared language, but each sex had developed its own language with its own features that differed from the other sex. Thus, the masculine noun gradually vanished from the women’s language, as did the feminine gender markers from the men’s lexicon. To maintain coexistence of the two sexes, androgynes organized, as part of the "the mixed service", oratory contests with the prizes going to those who flavored their discourse with the greatest number of words from the other gender.
Maneki was upset this evening, perhaps because she would dwell, for the first time in her life, among members of a mixed group. Just this morning she had received her summons for the Competency Exam, paving the way for Mixed Service. “No need to worry!” she thought, to reassure herself. She knew her chances of success were meager. To her, men represented the other face of humanity. They aroused her curiosity, but she did not connect them with her life. she knew little about them, and never saw them except from behind their anti-radiation uniforms, when she came to maintain the programs to run the nuclear stations. The impression she formed was that men were unreachable entities. They had no affection, and women were right to choose segregation. She finally fell asleep, submerged by her apprehensions. « The most difficult test for Mixed Service was to climb a steel object sculpted into the shape of the male organ. When she reached the base of the statue, two guards approached her. They struck her with a whip and ordered her to disrobe and climb. She tried to ascend but her legs and hands would not grasp the smooth, thick, slippery object. She tried to climb, depending on her legs and hands but whenever she tried to ascend, she slid down…» She woke up, sweat pouring out: it was an awful nightmare.
Early the next morning, she arrived at the Competency Exam Center, a big building hotel-like. The gates opened with a magnetic card that came along with her summons. She headed towards the door to a long corridor between walls covered with mirrors, reflecting her in multiple images. Until now, she perceived nothing but cold glass and steel. She heard nary a voice nor saw a single human being. At the end of the corridor, she took the lift, her heart rate accelerating with the ascent. The lift stopped and opened on a walkway leading to one door bearing the same number noted on her card. She advanced toward the door, inserted her card, the door opened, she entered, and then it closed behind her.
Adam was fascinated by women. He thought that their physiological differences with men were due to the consequences of the first nuclear disaster. Prior to that catastrophe, humanity was comprised only of men, but after some of them were exposed to nuclear radiation, a series of genetic transformations ensued, turning them into women. Impatiently he awaited his summons to Mixed Service and the day he would head to the Competency Exam Center. On the day he presented himself at the Center, he was worried, his throat dry, his hands dewy, as if facing an unknown fate. When he opened the door bearing the number noted on his summons card, he saw a woman, her facial features indistinct in the dim light of the room. When the door shut behind him, he remained in his place, wary, as though facing danger. The prospectus of the service says that the man must declare his flame to the woman.
He had not prepared his declaration in advance, but he knew he was good at improvising. He would not prepare himself for courtship without even seeing the woman. Moreover, one must be an artist, his declaration must suit his female partner as much as her evening dress, even if that was contrary to the rules of Mixed Service. He had read in the pages of the summons file examples of declarations, some delicate, some ardent, but viewed them all as silly, laughable. At the same time, he envied the women who had only to respond with silence or a look of consent. All the proposed models were formed metaphorically, describing women in pictures taken from nature. As if those images were the only ones that were suitable for flirting with women. Women might have a delicate sense of nature. They wish to be flowers, planets, day, night, life or death. This tendency may explain the nostalgia for nature, which has gone extinct. Yesterday he had gone to an exhibit of sketches of scenes of nature; exhibits that had replaced the extinct public gardens. People visited these exhibits in search of the natural scenery, now lost. It was his first time visiting a place like this.
By evoking nature, he was searching for the woman, gazing at the natural landscape paintings as though they represented different images of the woman whom he would discover. One painting particularly aroused him, a coconut grove on a beach, with one palm whose roots were stripped bare by the action of the waves. It leaned towards the sea, stretching to the sky. The image of this tree visited him as he stood before the woman: “You’re like a coconut palm on the beach, whose roots are stripped bare by the waves, hearkening to the call of the sea, stretching into the sky, becoming the most beautiful bouquet of flowers!” The woman’s eyes blinked rapidly, and the night and day flashed between the raising and lowering of her eyelids. The declaration bewildered her. It was not one of those she had read in the summons file and learned by heart, but it was lovely, lovelier than all those she had seen. It pleased her to hear it. Adam noticed the blinking of her eyes… she seemed moved. “Perhaps I have used some hurtful expressions.” There was no doubt that these looks were an expression of fleeing an inevitable destiny.
He advanced and sat beside her. At first the two stared at one another, eyeing with caution, with all senses vigilant, looking at the other as if fearful. Then Maneki turned her gaze away from him and looked back again, but ashamed. Spontaneously, each of them decided to jump up, to feel each other’s body. They began with mutual touching, each placing their hand on a position on the other’s body, then withdrawing rapidly, as if afraid that the skin of the other would break off and stick to their hand. Moments later, with apprehension gone and safer adhesion, hands touching no longer sufficed: each body clung to the other.
Maneki was now reclined in the bathtub. Her knees raised above the surface of the water, looking at her soft white thighs. She then began to separate them a little, then brought them back together, slowly, patiently. When she released them, the water would turn into droplets and cover all areas of contact with the thighs. And when she brought them back together, the droplets would meet and intertwine in water strands, merging and dividing at the frequency of spacing and seam: «Are the bonds of love as loose as these strands? » She could not comprehend the dimensions of what she had just experienced; all she knew was that she had performed a strange, but mandatory ritual. She wished the experiment would end here that she might be spared this Mixed Service. Perhaps this experience aroused curiosity, but there was something about it that frightened her. The Mixed Service Competency examiners would determine the outcome of this experiment. In a little while, she would go with Adam to the building on the other side of the street to learn the result.
After she finished arranging her outfit and styling her hair, she went to sit near Adam. The imprint of her kiss approached his cheek, near his mouth. When she raised her lips, Adam noticed with surprise that his cheek was still attached to Maneki’s lips by means of filaments from the skin of his cheek and the skin of Maneki’s lips, strands of skin and lipstick. They were of various sizes and bore the color of skin penetrated by beams of light in pitch darkness. When she smiled, the fragments dangling from the left edge of her mouth were split, leaving filaments clinging to the teeth, a few of which gleamed. Adam's eyes had become two microscopes; no longer did he see the space between the walls of the room, nor the bed on which Maneki now sat, nor the stature of her body, nor the features of her face, he saw nothing but the fragments between Maneki’s lips and his cheek, which set him in a pink mist. He bolted upright, trying to break this frightening spider web. His movement ripped the delicate filaments. Most shattered, but some survived. “Let’s get out of here!” he told her with sudden impatience.
When he reached the threshold, he fell down hard, then he stood up, but stumbled at the first step and fell again, startling Maneki, who shouted, “What’s with you? What happened to you? Are you alright?” He spoke not a word. She was terrified, fearing the man would die, afraid they would accuse her of poisoning him. She helped him into the lift as he clung to her lest he fall. He lost familiarity with things, location, and gravity. All his senses focused on the filaments that occupied his perception. While crossing the street, Adam collapsed into her arms, right in front of a speeding car. The driver slammed on the brakes, bringing the car to a screeching halt, horn blaring. The shock and tumult brought Adam back to his senses. He saw the other cars and buildings around him and again became aware of his natural surroundings. There were no longer any filaments, or at least he no longer perceived them, yet he was certain that the fabric was still intact, even if hidden from sight. He knew beyond doubt that bodies are not separated as with the ax, that they interpenetrate by invisible links, that humanity is a gigantic body whose individual bodies are only cells; that the shreds of flesh and skin were only part of the invisible web connecting human bodies, and that the filaments were nothing but strands of the fabric of this hidden lattice which tied together the bodies of humanity. With relief, Maneki noticed Adam emerging from his malaise, no longer concerned with anything but the results of the Mixed Service Competency Exam.