Chapter 12: Logen
Logen never told Ulula he knew she moved his e-tab. He never bothered to wonder why she did, only assumed she tried putting it in the exact same spot when she couldn’t figure out the password. All he knew for sure was that Ulula, as well as the e-tab, was still in his house since they’d met over a month ago.
Logen had been asking around at the hospital whether there might be any paid positions opening up for Ulula anytime soon. Everyone he talked to said it would be at least another three months before the assignment center was up and running. Until then, his friend would have to search elsewhere or wait. Ulula wasn’t leaving his house anytime soon.
The living situation was not much of a problem for Logen. He was fine with the company, and Ulula showed her gratitude by doing a few chores around the house while he was away. She only left the house when he was with her, partly because that’s what he asked of her.
The first time she left his house was when they went to collect her belongings from her house. They managed to carry everything in one trip. She only had three outfits, which she rotated between every couple days. Everything else could be provided by Logen.
The two were constantly learning from each other. From Ulula, Logen would learn about the everyday life of people in Vera. Or at least, people like her. She would tell him about bucket showers, burglary, and food fights. It took a few explanations before Logen realized food fights in Vera were actual skirmishes to decide who would have food for themselves. In return, Logen would come back from work and tell Ulula everything about his day. From this, she would learn all there was to know about assignment therapy. By the time any jobs opened up, she would be a viable candidate. Lately, though, their discussions had veered toward politics.
“So, you’d vote for that Robin Libera guy, not Charli Phelps?” Ulula asked, her back straight but her head tilted.
“Absolutely,” Logen said as if it were obvious. “I’m pretty sure the majority of the country would vote for him. I don’t think Phelps has a chance.”
“Phelps isn’t consistent,” Logen began. “She argues she is trying to maintain the laws and the governing system that survived the SHF, but then she tries to go and amend these laws like she’s trying to move forward. Like secondary assignment therapy. If she really stuck to her word, she wouldn’t be interested. Instead, she’s trying to act as if she’s for it because Guru Macaab said the same thing. Last I checked, Guru Macaab was losing popularity for that exact reason, so taking his exact stance is a bad idea.”
“I think I wanna go to the library witchu next time you go,” Ulula said.
Library was a bit of a misnomer. Most libraries were just post offices now, where they kept the wingmail pigeons. It was called the library because people could read the news there, not books. Paper products were rather scarce, since most of it was burned for warmth during the Hostility Era. Since then, paper was hard to come by, and it would be some time before the first paper mill would begin production. Until then, people could read on the computers or e-tabs at the library.
“Sure,” Logen said, surprised but also happy. “You want to read up on current events and try and debate against me?”
“Yeah,” Ulula said with a chuckle. The sound gave Logen an warm feeling in his chest.
“You’re gonna have to do more than study up at a library. I have insider information most people have no idea about.”
“Yeah,” Ulula said, willing to play along, “like what?”
“For starters,” Logen said, straightening his posture, “I know Charli Phelps used to have an older sibling. I mean, older as in twelve years older. Darryl Phelps, I think, was nir name. All I know is ne had a full miscarriage when ne was sixteen. Four years later, ne was brutally murdered for being an epicene. My parents heard the story in the local news, because they lived in the area at the time, but word didn’t spread because back then epicenes weren’t that important. It’s still bad now, but they were treated much worse twenty years ago. My parents were sympathetic, though, and have been donating to organizations like Spivak for as long as I can remember. By the time Charli grew up and made her way into politics, the world had forgotten all about Darryl. Chances are, few people even remember Darryl existed. Now I just have a sneaking suspicion Charli is in politics to fight for epicene rights. Her stance on secondary assignment therapy makes sense, but I can’t be sure of her long-term motives.”
“You actually do know some secrets,” Ulula said, “I feel special you’re telling me.”
“You should,” Logen said, “you may be one in ten people who know the true story.”
Logen watched as Ulula smiled, but it faded when something else seemed to be on her mind. “Why do they call it secondary assignment therapy? That’s such a long name. Why don’t they call it reassignment therapy or something?”
“They’ll never call it reassignment therapy. Ever.”
“Because I’m pretty sure reassignment therapy is partly how the SHF started in the first place.”
Logen let out a hefty sigh. Apparently not everyone knew the history.
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what?” Logen asked.
Ulula repeated his sigh, only with a horribly exaggerated face. Do I really look like that? Logen asked himself.
“You always treat me like I’m some kinda child who don’t know anything every time I ask a question. I’m sorry it’s so hard for you to deal with someone so uneducated. It must be really tough for you.”
Logen felt sick to his stomach. He had never seen Ulula this upset with him. Her jaw clenched and her eyes piercing like green blades. This was also the first time she raised her voice at him. Maybe she was making a good point.
“I’m sorry,” Logen said, glancing at the floor. “I just have trouble because it’s something everyone learns at a really young age where I’m from. So, I was kind of hoping you already knew so I wouldn’t have to explain it. But if you want to, I can try.”
“Yeah,” Ulula said, calmer this time.
“Okay,” Logen said. He glanced around, trying to think of a way to describe the most influential paradigm shift in human history. Locating his e-tab, he came up with a plan. He grabbed the device and sat on the couch pad. “Do you know what people call the SHF? Not Sterility, Hostility, Fertility. The other one.”
Ulula strolled over and sat next to Logen, so closely Logen felt her forearm rest on his leg. He thought maybe he should move away, but the discomfort dissipated and he remained. “Yeah,” Ulula said, “Shit Hittin’ the Fan.”
“Exactly,” Logen said as he punched in the passcode to his e-tab. “There’s an entire metaphor for the SHF. It’s the metaphor kids in school used to tell each other to make it easier to remember what really happened. Do you know what metaphor I’m talking about?”
“No,” Ulula admitted, “not really.”
Logen opened up to a blank white screen which would allow him to draw with his finger. He began with a simple circle on one end of the screen, and a fan with four propellers on the other side. “Imagine this is the shit. It represents the human race. Then over here we have the four blades of the propeller. Each blade represents something different, and it’s broken down into pairs.
“The first pair represents supply and demand. That’s the easiest way to remember it. The demand is the amount of people in the world. The population was getting so high there were too many humans for the amount of resources to support them. One blade represents the supply, which is the depleting resources of the world. The other represents demand, the increasing population. Those two problems alone were enough to lead to the end of the world.
“And then you have these two blades. This pair is a little different. This blade represents sterility, and this one represents sexuality. Sometimes you’ll hear people say Sterility, Hostility, Fertility, but others will say Sexuality, Hostility, Fertility. They’re interchangeable in the name because they both played a huge role in the beginning of the SHF. The sexuality part comes from the fact that we used to be born either male or female, but we’re not anymore. More and more people were born andies, like us. Nowadays, androgynous births are the norm. Slowly, more and more children were born as andies, until basically everyone was born without a sex. The sterility part came because those who were born male or female were not able to have kids. Now there are still some people who can’t have children, even after assignment therapy. So, less and less children were being born.”
“Okay,” Ulula said, taking her finger and making scribbles on the screen. Now her arm was wrapped up in Logen’s. “I know most of that. But you still haven’t said why we can’t say reassignment therapy.”
Logen let the e-tab rest on his knee and continued. “Like I said, people have different beliefs on what exactly caused the Sterility and Sexuality Era. What we learned in school was that it wasn’t one specific thing. It probably had to do with a couple things. For instance, gay marriage was legal. There were a lot of men marrying other men and women marrying women. Those couples didn’t really have kids, because they couldn’t. Another thing was that medical scientists figured out how to control what sex a baby would be. They did this using something called gene therapy. Long before we were born, a doctor could change one gene and make us a boy, even if we were supposed to be born a girl. Oh, and boy and girl are old words for when you were young but you were gonna be a man or woman when you got older. This is the factor people thought had the strongest effect on the human genetic makeup, and led to the SHF.
“But the final piece of the puzzle was sexual reassignment therapy. That comes after birth, and usually only happened when you were an adult. It is similar to the assignment therapy we have now, only it was to turn a man into a woman, or vice versa. The science was basically perfected, and after reassignment therapy, somebody could still have children.
“The problem is nobody realized the long-term ramifications. They had no idea gene therapy and sexual reassignment surgery would become so widespread it would affect the genetic makeup of everyone in the world. By the time they did, it was already too late. The shit had already hit the fan, and the world nearly ended during the Hostility Era. Two-hundred years after the shit hit the fan, the scientists finally got back on top of things. Humans almost went extinct, but we survived.”
“Mhmm…” Ulula said, scribbling on the screen the entire time Logen was speaking. For someone who was angry to be treated like a child, she was pretty infatuated with the fact she could draw on the screen of the e-tab.
“Are you even listening to me?” Logen asked.
“Yeah,” Ulula said, staring at the e-tab. “I heard everything. We almost died out ’cause there was so much gene therapy and sexual reassignment therapy going on. That’s why we can’t use reassignment to say secondary assignment therapy. They’re pretty much the same thing, but if we say reassignment, it reminds us of the time humans almost fucked up and kilt themselves.”
“Well,” Logen said, “you’re putting it pretty harshly. But you’re not completely wrong.”
“Of course I’m not,” Ulula said. Logen was beginning to like the way she picked his brain and challenged him. “I can multitask. It don’t mean I ain’t listening if I’m playing with your e-tab. You never let me use it.”
Logen stared at her with a raised eyebrow. “You saw me type in the password, didn’t you?”
Ulula glanced up at him like she was trying to figure out whether or not this was a test. He stared back at her and realized this was the longest they had held eye contact since the night with Dominique and Taylor. It was dark then. Now, in the light, Logen realized how mesmerizing Ulula’s eyes were. “Yeah, I did,” she said.
Breaking from his trance, Logen was finally able to say, “Then now you can use it whenever you want.”
A smile so bright came to Ulula’s face Logen had to turn away. His heart raced and he gulped down whatever was stuck in his throat. “Yeah. Now you and Zenith are the only two people in the world who know how to get into this e-tab.”
“Zenith,” Ulula said, the name sounding familiar in her voice. She stared across the room as she tried to remember. Logen knew he had mentioned her plenty of times before. “The woman who lived witchu back in Fenicia?”
“Yeah,” Logen smiled.
“But she’s not your flame?”
“No,” Logen said as he scoffed from the thought. “She’s not my flame. She started her assignment therapy three months ago. Up until that point she wasn’t sure if she was going to choose to feminate or masculate. Femination was just by chance. She won’t actually be a woman until next year. Definitely not my flame.”
“But if she was a woman earlier,” Ulula said, “what woulda happened? If you knew she was a woman all along, would anything different happen between you two?”
“No, I doubt it. She lived with me for so long she is like a sibling to me. Always has been. Always will be.”
“So, she’ll never be your flame,” Ulula said, more of a statement than a question.
“Yeah, she’ll never be my flame,” Logen said. He looked down at Ulula. “Why do you want to know so badly?”
Silently, Ulula sat up and eyeballed him. At first, he thought she might want to tell him something. As she teetered toward him and dropped her eyes toward her lips’ destination, he put the pieces of the puzzle together and realized it wasn’t something she wanted to say. It was something she wanted to do. After some thought, Logen realized he wanted to do it too.
Logen’s lips met Ulula’s halfway. This was the second time, although it was under different, much more preferred circumstances. Logen closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the moment. He could feel Ulula’s heartbeat through her lips matching his, fast and strong.
Logen brought his hands up and placed them on the back of Ulula’s head to deepen the kiss. This time, it was his hands that were grabbed and pulled away.
Opening his eyes, Logen felt maybe he had done something wrong. The way Ulula was staring at him, she didn’t seem upset. They sat in silence. The promise Logen had made a month ago came to his mind. He told her he would never ask for something she didn’t want to do. “I’m sorry,” he began, “I just thought—”
“I know,” Ulula said, interrupting him before he could say something stupid. They stared at each other as Ulula’s voice fell to a whisper. “It’s okay, I trust you. I just don’t know yet. I want to, but I think it’s gonna take a while. We just gotta take it slow. I’ve never had the chance to take it slow, and I wanna enjoy it. I’m sorry.”
Logen nodded and leaned away. Noticing the e-tab fell from his knee, he picked it up off the floor and handed it to her. “Here, play with it as much as you want.”
Ulula took the device with a closed mouth smile. Logen stood up and walked away. He had nowhere in particular he was trying to go, but felt awkward sitting there. What came over him with Ulula, he didn’t know. It was strange, but felt good to behave on instinct. He folded shirts upstairs to busy himself for a few minutes before returning down to Ulula.
“Do you think it was meant to happen?” Ulula asked.
The part where we kissed, or the part where you pushed me back? Logen was tempted to ask. Although he wasn’t entirely sure she was talking about either. He kept his question vague. “Do I think what was meant to happen?”
“You said the human race almost died out completely, but we survived. Do you think we were supposed to actually all die out? What if we’re not supposed to be here?”
“It depends who you ask, I guess,” Logen said. “Scientifically, there have been a lot of extinctions. This one wouldn’t have been the first. But the few groups who believe in a god would say it was all a part of nir plan. Most people deny that, and argue if anything, it was God’s plan for us to die, but we overcame extinction. In a sense, they would be saying we are stronger than God nemself. Lots of people believed that, which is why there isn’t much religion in the world anymore.”
“What do you believe?” Ulula said, apparently not wanting the entire speech.
“Me?” Logen said. “I don’t think God’s role matters much. The SHF was an era, it was a struggle. Humans have always gone through struggles. We have an interesting natural ability to survive, no matter what. Survival is an instinct. Sometimes you can’t fight your instincts.”
“Instincts,” Ulula repeated with a chuckle, “right.”Logen couldn’t remember the last time he had blushed like this.
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