Authors: Time Slave
“And you, too, my dear Doctor Hamilton, are quite different.”
“No!” she snapped.
“Being a female is a role,” cried Hamilton. “Only a role!”
“Tell that to a sociologist,” said William, “not to a physician, or a man of the world, one experienced in life.”
Hamilton turned on him in rage.
“The body and the mind,” said William, “is a unity. Do you really think that with a body like yours you might have any sort of mind, one, say, like mine or Gunther’s? Do you not think there might not be, associated with such a body, an indigenous sensibility, indigenous talents,. emotions, brilliancies? Do you really think that the mind is only an accident, unrelated to the entire evolved organism?”
“I have a doctorate in mathematics,” said Hamilton, lamely, defensively.
“And we both speak English,” said William. “I speak of deeper things.”
“Being feminine,” said Hamilton, “is only a role.”
“And doubtless,” said William, “being a leopard is only a role, one played by something which is really not a leopard at all.”
“You are hateful,” said Brenda Hamilton.
“I do not mean to be, Doctor Hamilton,” said William. “But I must remind you that what you seem to think so significant, a cultural veneer, is a recent acquisition to the human animal, an overlay, a bit of tissue paper masking deeper realities.” William looked down. “I suppose,” he said, “we do not know, truly, what a man is, or a woman.”
“We can condition a man to be feminine, and a woman to be masculine,” said Brenda Hamilton. “It is a simple matter of positive and negative reinforcement.”
“We can also stunt trees and dwarf animals, and drive dogs insane,” said William. “We can also bind the feet of Chinese women, crippling them. We can administer contradictory conditioning programs and drive men, and women, insane with anxieties and guilts, culturally momentous, and yet, physiologically considered, meaningless, irrelevant to the biology being distorted.”
Brenda Hamilton looked down.
“You are afraid to be a woman,” said William. “Indeed, perhaps you do not know how. You are ignorant. You are frightened. Accordingly, it is natural for you to be distressed, hostile, confused, and to seize what theories or pseudotheories you can to protect yourself from what you most fear-your femaleness.”
“I see now,” said Doctor Hamilton, icily, “why I have been dressed as I am, why there is this mirror in my room.”
“We wish you,” said William, “to learn your womanhood, to recognize it-to face it.”
“I hate you,” she said.
“It is my hope that someday,” said William, “you will see your beauty and rejoice in it, and display it proudly, unashamed, brazenly even, excited by it, that you will be no longer an imitation man but an authentic woman, true to your deepest nature, joyous, welcoming and acclaiming, no longer repudiating, your femaleness, your womanhood, your sexuality.”
“Being a female,” wept Hamilton, “is to be less than a maul”
William shrugged. “If that is true,” he said, “dare to be it.”
“No!” said Hamilton. “No!”
“Dare to be a female,” said William.
“No!” said Hamilton. “No! No!”
Brenda Hamilton ran in misery to the wall of her quarters. She put her head against the white-washed plaster, the palms of her hands.
“Very feminine,” said William.
She turned to face him, red-eyed.
“You are doubtless playing a role,” said William.
“Please be kind to me, William,” she begged.
William rose from the chair.
“Don’t go, William!” she cried. She put out her hand.
William stood in the room, in the light of the single light bulb. He did not move.
“Why am I being treated like this?” whispered Brenda Hamilton.
“The third series of tests will begin in a day or two,” said William.
Brenda Hamilton said nothing.
“The second series will terminate tomorrow evening.”
“Why am I being treated like this?” demanded Brenda Hamilton.
William did not speak.
“Bring me my clothing, William,” begged Hamilton.
“You are wearing it,” said William.
“At least bring me my brassiere,” she begged.
“You do not need it,” he said.
She turned away.
“Your other clothing,” said William, “has been destroyed, burned.”
Brenda Hamilton turned and faced him, aghast.
She shook her head. “Why?” she asked.
“You will not be needing it,” said William. “Furthermore it is evidence of your presence.”
She shook her head, numbly.
“All of your belongings have been disposed of,” said William. “Books, shoes, everything.”
“No!” she said.
“There will not be evidence that you were ever within the compound.”
She looked at him, blankly.
“You have never been outside of it, except once in the Rover with Gunther and me,” said William. “You can be traced to Salisbury,” said William, “that is all.”
“But Herjellsen,” she said.
“The Salisbury authorities know nothing of Herjellsen,” said William. “They do not even know he is in the country.”
Brenda Hamilton leaned back against the wall. She moaned.
William turned to go.
“William!” she cried.
He paused at the door.
“Free me,” she said. “Help me to escape!”
William indicated two buckets near the wall. He had brought them earlier. “One of these,” he said, “the covered one, is water. The other is for your wastes.”
“William!” wept Hamilton.
William indicated the tray, untouched, on the bed. “I recommend you eat,” he said, “that you keep up your strength.”
“I do not want to be a woman,” said Hamilton. “I have never wanted to be a woman! I will not be a woman! Never!”
“You should eat,” said William. “It will be better for you.”
Hamilton shook her head. “No,” she said. “I’ll starve!”
With his foot, William indicated the cardboard shoe boa on the floor. “Here is a brush and comb,” he said, “and cosmetics.”
“I do not wear cosmetics,” said Hamilton.
“It does not matter to me,” said William. “But you are expected to keep yourself groomed.”
Hamilton looked at him with hatred.
“Is that understood?” asked William.
“Yes,” said Hamilton. “It is understood perfectly.”
Just then Hamilton and William heard the two heavy locks, padlocks, with hasps and staples, on the door being unlocked. William, while within the room, was locked within.
“Who is it?” asked Hamilton.
“Gunther,” said William.
“He must not see me like this!” wept Hamilton.
The door opened. One does not knock on the door of a prisoner.
Gunther entered. Hamilton backed away, against the opposite wall.
Gunther looked at her. His eyes prowled her body. Gunther had had many women.
His eye strayed to the cot, to the untouched tray. He looked at Hamilton.
“Eat,” he said.
“I’m not hungry,” whispered Hamilton.
“Eat,” said Gunther, “now.”
“Yes, Gunther,” she said, obediently. She came timidly to the cot.
William was irritated.
“Herjellsen is nearly ready,” said Gunther.
“All right,” said William.
Hamilton sat on the cot and, looking down, began to eat.
“No,” said Gunther to Hamilton. She looked at him, startled, frightened. “Kneel beside the cot,” he said.
Hamilton knelt beside the cot, and, as she had been bidden, ate from the tray.
“She must be habituated,” said Gunther to William. “You are too easy with her.”
“When a man enters the room,” said Gunther to Hamilton, “you are to kneel, and you are not to rise until given permission.”
Hamilton looked at him, agonized.
“Do you understand?” asked Gunther.
“Even if it is one of the blacks?” asked Hamilton.
“Yes,” said Gunther. “They are males.” He looked down at her. “Is this clearly understood?”
“Yes, Gunther,” said Brenda Hamilton. She dared not question him.
Gunther indicated the cardboard boa. He kicked it toward her.
“She does not use cosmetics,” said William.
“Tomorrow night,” said Gunther to Hamilton, “adorn yourself.”
He then turned away, and left the room. “Do not lock the door,” said William. “I am coming with you, presently.”
Hamilton leaped to her feet, angrily.
“You obey him very well, Doctor Hamilton,” said William.
“Adorn yourself!” she mocked.
“I would do so, if I were you,” said William.
“I do not like this dress!” said Hamilton.
“Then remove it,” said William.
Brenda Hamilton’s hand lashed forth to strike William, but he caught her wrist, easily. She struggled to free it, and could not.
He forced her, she resisting, again to her knees.
“One thing you must learn, Doctor Hamilton,” said William, “before you think of striking with impunity, is that men may not choose to permit it. Further, such a blow might have consequences. You might be beaten, and perhaps severely.” He looked down at her. “It is important that you understand, Doctor Hamilton,” he said, “that men are stronger than you.”
At his feet Brenda Hamilton, for the first time in her life, understood truly what this might mean, that men were stronger than women.
“You are angry with me,” she said, “William.”
He looked down on her, furious.
Unable to meet his eyes, she put her bead down.
Then he turned away, and left the room.
She looked up, at the door. She knelt on the planks of the room. She heard the two hasps being flung against the staple plates, angrily. She heard two heavy padlocks, one after the other, thrust through their staples, and snapped shut.
She leaped up, and ran to the door. She put her fingernails to its crack, futilely.
She turned away from the door, and looked back into the room.
She saw the cardboard box, lying near the cot on the floor. She saw her reflection, red-eyed, across the room.
Slowly she went to the box and knelt beside it, taking a brush and comb from it and, with the brush, slowly, watching herself in the mirror, began to brush her long, dark hair.
The work in the experimental shack was apparently not going as well as it might.
The days passed slowly for Brenda Hamilton. In the morning, with a broom, she swept her quarters, and, when she had finished sweeping, with a cloth, dampened with water, on her hands and knees, she mopped the boards of her floor. Similarly, once a day, she wiped down the walls of her cell, using the cane chairs, to the ceiling of corrugated tin. There was little point in this. It was merely Gunther accustoming her to servile work. Also, he insisted that the cot be placed at a certain place and angle in the room, aligned with certain floor boards, and that the mattress be straight upon it. Doctor Hamilton was being taught discipline. She was being taught, too, to comply perfectly with the arbitrary will of a male. But such work was finished by ten in the morning, when the heat of the day was beginning, and there was then little to do in the hot, stifling room, now her cell, and she spent much time on the cot, lying upon it, staring at the wall or ceiling. She was fed small meals, four times a day, the last at nine P.M. She had more water than she needed. The diet was high protein, with few fats or starches. William, she knew, was in charge of her diet. The meals, and water, and such, were brought now by blacks, those whom Herjellsen used to guard the compound and perform its duties. There were two of them. As Gunther had told her, when they were in the room, she knelt. The first day one of them had pointed at the wall opposite the door. Understanding, she had risen and gone to the wall and knelt there, across the room from him, away from the door. There seemed little point in this there were always two of them, one who would bring the food, or whatever it might be, and the other who would stand by the door, watching, just outside. She could not run to the door and escape. After the first time she did not have to be again instructed but, when one of them entered the room, she would kneel across the room, unbidden, away from the door. In the afternoon, she would wash her body and her single garment, using a chipped wooden bowl, and a piece of toweling, supplied by William, and water from the drinking bucket. Each night, after her supper, as Gunther had commanded, she adorned herself. At first she was clumsy, but she was highly intelligent, and her small hands were sure. She taught herself to apply lipstick, which she had not worn since high school, and to apply powder and eye shadow. It seemed very barbaric, somehow, for her to do so, so primitive, this adorning of the body. Did it truly make her more beautiful, she wondered, or was it only a device to attract attention, to signal her sexuality, to proclaim her femaleness, to announce her eagerness for, her readiness for, her vulnerability to, male aggression. She shuddered. She removed two earrings from the cardboard box. They were golden pendants, with clips. She fastened them on her ears. Her ears had never been pierced. Doctor Brenda Hamilton would leave scorned that very idea, so primitive, like an aboriginal sex rite. She regarded herself in the mirror. Yes, they were beautiful. She was beautiful. She regretted suddenly that she bad never had her ears pierced. How exciting, she thought, the symbolism, the flesh meaning of such an adornment, the piercing of her softness by the hardness of the metal, the literal wearing of such an ornament, its beads or rings or pendant against the side of her throat, beneath the dark hair, their being fastened on her. I am beautiful, she thought. Kneeling before the mirror, she reached again into the box. In a moment she had opened a small vial, and touched herself, twice, with perfume. She lifted her hair and regarded herself. You are an exquisitely beautiful woman, she told herself. She regretted never having had her ears pierced.
She leaped to her feet and walked about the room, looking at herself in the mirror.
How beautifully she moved! And she found she could move even more beautifully if she wished. She noticed that she was graceful, and beautifully curved. She understood then, as she had not before, how beautiful a human female can be. For a brief instant she was not displeased to be such a creature, but felt an indescribable thrill of joy, of pride, that it was what she was, that that was she, so soft, so delicious, so alive, so vital, so marvelously beautiful. For an instant Doctor Brenda Hamilton was pleased that she was a female. Then as she looked at the softness, the beauty, the delicacy of herself, she was angry, frustrated, furious. Tears came to her eyes. It was so soft, so vulnerable, her beauty! She thought then of men, so hard, so large, so strong, so different and sometimes fierce, so different, so different from her. She wondered of the meaning of her beauty, its softness, its vulnerability. Perhaps, she wondered, it belongs to men. “No!” she cried. “No!” And then she hated the beautiful, soft, thing she saw in the mirror. “No!” she cried, looking into the mirror. “No!” She would have torn away the earrings, washed away the lipstick and cosmetics, the perfume, but she did not dare, for Gunther had commanded her to wear them and she was afraid to disobey him.