XX v XY: The Final World War is predicting the future and it doesn’t look good. In this dystopian future novel the President of East America is head of a sick and cruel beauty pageant. Helpless young women are chosen to be physically altered and brainwashed. Read this passage from the prologue to discover more.
I AM VERY UGLY. I know this because my beloved told me so. It’s a term of endearment. His name is President X, and right now, I am an excited contestant in the Last Lady Pageant, held to determine President X’s final Nancy. If you’re in the West, or even overseas, that might confuse you. In East America, we’re all named Nancy. Well, the women chosen for programming are named Nancy. I don’t know what the others are named. I’ve never seen one. Well, the girls at least. I’m Nancy159. The pageant chooses his final wife. He has five others. You might wonder why I’m in a pageant competing for such a lofty prize if I’m ugly. The answer is: I don’t know! I’m a woman, not a book! No one explains things to me! I don’t ask questions! I can’t be seen as curious or inquisitive—two very negative attributes in a potential wife.
I suppose I have virtues other than beauty. After seven years of programming, I don’t spend much time thinking at all. Becoming a Nancy doesn’t happen overnight—and it’s not all daisies and rose petals! My inside and outsides are genetically modified to look nearly identical to Nancy1, the prototype. We spend hours plugged into the thought machines: long, metal, tubular thrones that plug us into each other. Getting plugged into a thought machine is like meditation of the deepest kind. Nancys are like monks—we tap into a deep energy. But the energy we tap into isn’t a Higher Power—it’s each other. We share a mind. I am a separate Nancy, but I can dive into the pool of my sisters . . . the pool of my selves, really . . . Look at me, prattling on! It is almost time for me to go onstage. The lights, I can’t describe them, they are insane. Bright, flashing. This year’s pageant is being broadcast live. Live. My hands feel tight and dry. My stomach feels empty and small. I step onto the stage and into the bright lights and smile. I can’t see Them, but I can hear their applause. I feel the bottom of my bathing suit hike up, but I don’t dare fix it; I mustn’t move. I turn around in a slow circle. The claps grow louder.
“Nancy159, why do you think you should advance to the next round of this competition?”
The voice is booming, loud. It surprises me. I jump. The audience laughs. I am not sure why I was chosen in the first place and I can’t remember the last time someone asked me what I think.
I say, “If President X desires me, I am thrilled to advance to the next round.” I do not know how many rounds there are. Or what happens to the Nancys who are deemed losers. “I am obedient and well—trained, and that is all I can say for myself.”
“And there you have it.” The Voice from Nowhere chuckles. “Well—trained. Will you walk in a line for us, sweetheart? We need to see your gait.”
I put a foot forward. And then another. I freeze. I cannot make my feet go another step.
The Voice chuckles.
Beyond the bright lights I hear the audience whispering. I see the outlines of the judges, big men in suits as always. Vomit rises in my throat. I stop and swallow it and still I cannot display my gait. This is a fault, I’m sure of it. Other faults include: physical strength, infertility, self-reliance, courage, and directness. Desired attributes include: submissiveness, helplessness, selflessness, and sexual and domestic talents.
“Not sure about this one,” the Voice says. His tone has changed; I can hear a difference. “She might be a lemon.”