New story: Gloves

They say the lion is the king of the jungle. We've seen the nature films. Lions are just big, lazy cats. Well, the male lions are. The lionesses do all the hunting. Don't they realize how unfair this is?

New story in Dissident Signals, an anthology of dystopian worlds!

By James L. Steele

I stepped inside my husband's house for the last time and closed the door. I set the blue lunch bag on the carpet, making sure it was still zipped, and unclasped my wrap. As I unwound the single piece of thin cloth from my body, my eyes wandered down to the lunch bag. It was identical to mine, but it was not mine. I hadn't even looked in it since I met Ant today, but it had been on my mind as I worked on the factory line and during the bus ride home.

One of Ant's questions came back to me now: "Eighteen. Why are you required to cover yourself in public, but he is not?"

I had always believed what I was taught in school: that my fur was too thin for this climate, so we wrapped ourselves in cloth to be more comfortable. I had never once thought about why my husband never wore one until I attended the meetings.

I hung the cloth on the hook by the door, picked up the lunch bag and strolled through the hallway, keeping an even composure and hopefully an even scent.

From the living room I heard gentle moaning. Mouse had come home earlier, and our husband was on top of her. Mouse glared at me as I walked past the couch and into the kitchen. I met Mouse's eyes, flashing hate at her, making sure she knew she was not the only lioness in this house and I could challenge her whenever I wanted.

There had been a time when it would have occupied my thoughts all night, when jealousy would run through me and I would do everything I could to be the better wife so Rocke would be with me instead. It had consumed me for so long I felt embarrassed by how much time it had taken out of my life.

As I listened to them from the kitchen, several more of Ant's questions came to mind.

"Four. Why does your husband have his own room, but you live and sleep in the living room with the other wives?"

"Twenty-two. Why do you spend your free time fighting with the other wives for your husband's attention?"

I opened the refrigerator and slid the lunch bag onto the lowest shelf. Rocke might open it, looking for food, but that was a chance I was willing to take. If he discovered what I had brought home, I figured I could simply flee. I only had the gloves, but I did not have to use them. All day at work I did not imagine myself using them.

I walked back to the living room and sat on the couch opposite Mouse and Rocke. Mouse glared at me, growling and moaning extra loud, making sure I noticed she was under him, not me. I growled back, trying to sound full of fury and pushing it through my scent. I was acting the part now, but just a few months ago, I did not need to act. Back when the emotions were real and I desperately wanted to be where Mouse was now, all the time, and no other wife would take my place. I did not miss those years.

Minutes later, Meek walked through the door. I heard her unwrapping, and then Rocke's third wife pranced into the living room.


Read the rest in Dissident Signals.


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