Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Feminist Manifesto


1. The tune belonged to Don McLean. The lyrics, to her: "Ilong long longgo ako..." 
"It must be nice--"
Abigail jumped off her table, twirled to face her attacker and drew her laser. "Rizal? I almost fried you!"
"But you didn't, didn't you? " He smiled and held up a brown bag. "That's because you could smell breakfast."
She put the laser back in her pocket and took the bag. "Pig? Again?" She ripped the sandwich in two and handed him his half. "Couldn't you get me tuna? Or lettuce?"
Rizal went to her floater and sat on it. "It's not 'pig,' it's 'ham.' And who eats lettuce?"
She shoved the sandwich into her mouth. "Not I said the cat."
He was still smiling. "You always say that."
"My mother's expression."
His smile disappeared. "I'm sorry."
Abigail sat on her table. "Don't be. She chose to die." She took his half of the sandwich and ripped it in two. She put both pieces in her mouth. While chewing she said, "Another one of her expressions was, 'We are the choices that we make.' She should have written greeting cards, my mother. Or stuck to graffiti."
Rizal floated towards her. He put a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, she couldn't have been that bad. I mean, she raised you well. She taught you Tagalog, for instance. And you got your voice from her."
Abigail looked at her watch. "Oh, let's forget about it! The atmosphere's bad as it is without going in to my genealogy."
He smiled again. "All right, all right. What do you want to do?"
"Get back to my job?"
"Seriously? We only have a ten minute break, you know? How about some loving?" He put his arms around her.
"Oh, oh not yet." She elbowed his ribs. "Not yet Rizal." She jumped off the table. "You better get back to your rounds, Milan is doing her rounds, you know?"
He got off the floater. "All right. But tonight, right?"
"Tonight, yes."
He kissed her on the cheek and left the office.
"Tonight," she said, and got back on the floater. Leaning back she interfaced with the U-5882. All at once billions of gigabytes assaulted her mind. Phone calls, emails, conversations. It was a flash flood, but her mind was the best surf board in the archipelago. She sorted each byte with ease, twirling, somersaulting, smiling all the while. It was the same damned thing all over again: the Army's assault on the Constabulary at Fort Prison. There was still no end to the fight, and there were speculations that Bonifacio was going to use chemical weapons. Still the same damned thing. Abigail's watch remained silent. It was not yet time.

2. When Abigail finally disconnected, her watched said six in the evening had come. She shook her head. Milan had not yet arrived. She was supposed to bring dinner, as well the ammunition. Abigail began singing again: "Ilong long longgo ako..." For eight minutes and thirty three seconds she sang. Then Milan arrived with a backpack. Abigail jumped off her table. "About time."
"No time to argue. Interface back."
"Why? I just got off."
"Fort Prisons has fallen."
Abigail interfaced with the U-5882. She saw it, billions and billions of gigabytes. She was no longer doing surveillance for the Constabulary now, no longer under the dominion of that terrorist Bonifacio. Now was the time to reveal her true colors, now her secret identity was to be revealed, now was the time to take pride in being a soldier of the Army. It was time. Milan, the ammunitions! Abigail disconnected.
The first thing she saw was the laser in Rizal's hands, then Rizal, then Milan's corpse by his feet. Before Rizal shot her she realized Milan no longer had a head.

3. She regained consciousness she didn't know how long after. She felt the arm cuffs binding her. Her jacket clung to her skin. She could not perform an interface.
She didn't open her eyes. She had to know her status as prisoner. Fort Prisons was one of the last pieces supposed to fall in the Army's endgame, but it was not the last. She needed Milan's backpack. Oh, Isis be proud! Milan! Milan!
"Open your eyes."
"Open them, or I will shoot you and harvest your brain."
Abigail opened her eyes. She was on the floater, still at her workstation. Rizal still had the laser. Milan still didn't have a head. Abigail bit her lips.
"Not my fault, she fought."
"We are warriors, you don't have to apologize."
Rizal put the laser down. "The destruction of Prisons. You must be so happy."
"I'll be even happier when we finally get rid of your Kingdom."
"My Kingdom? My Kingdom is not of the earth."
"Your Kingdom, your Kingdom. Pig!"
"You're not listening. There is no Kingdom, not anymore. They have taken Malacañang. Bonifacio is dead."
Abigail's arms tingled. Victory, Milan! Victory, sister! She looked straight at Rizal's forehead. "Your lies will not loosen my tongue."
"Do you have any idea how long you've been unconscious? Don't you have a nose?"
"What?" Abigail bit her lips as soon as the word came out of her mouth. She was letting Rizal goad her! Nose? What did he-- Oh, oh Isis, oh! Her eyes traveled back to Milan's corpse. Maggots were crawling out of the neck. The stench hit her like a barrage of gigabytes on the U-5882. If her arms weren't bound she would claw at her eyes. She returned her gaze to Rizal's forehead. "Needless cruelty, there’s a cauterize function on that thing, you know? Kill me. There is no point. You have lost the battle. Your rule is over."
"Again with the 'your'! I am a loyal cadre of the Constabulary, Abigail, but not all males benefit from Bonifacio's Union."
"Then let me go, I will speak in your behalf. You shall be granted amnesty."
"Your tongue might not be loose, but your mind certainly is. Amnesty? Your friend Milan would certainly speak against that! More forcefully now that she doesn't have a mouth." There was no bitterness in his voice. Just regret, cold resignation.
"If you're not going to kill me, and you don't want to surrender, what the hell are you going to do? The Army knows about this place. It'll be just a matter of hours before my sisters arrive."
"Hours. Lots can happen in the hours remaining."
"Like you starving both of us to death?"
"Like your sisters coming, triggering my booby traps and this whole mountain exploding."
"You were unconscious for almost a day. Milan wasn't much for conversation, but her backpack was full of tricks." He took the laser and set the corpse on fire. "Damn maggots. But you must be hungry, what would you like? Ham, or ham? Milan is an option, of course, but better make your mind up. She's going to be charcoal in a few minutes."
"You talk too much, for a male."
"Isn't that sexist?"
Abigail could not respond. Tears escaped from her eyes.
"You cry just enough, for an Amazon." He got off the table and walked towards the floater. With one hand on the laser, he released Abigail's arm cuffs. "You are broken. You may go."
Abigail slammed her forehead against Rizal's nose bridge. The laser fell, and she back flipped to pick it up. She landed, disintegrated his legs and pressed the laser on his left temple. "Why? You rapist, why?"
"Your question contains your answer. All males are rapists to you. Why try to reason with me?"
"We were going to make things better. For all of us!"
"The Union of the Patriarchy was my life. Bonifacio wasn't benevolent, but he brought us stability. He would have died eventually, a nobler Patriarch would have taken his place. Your Army disrupted the cycle! Your Army destroyed any chance of the Philippines being anything! Better? Better? I grew up in White Stone Island, you whore! Anything was better than that!"
"Say your prayers, rapist. Three, two--"
"Kill me and you'll never find out where Milan is."
"Stop. Your. Lies. Three--"
"Groin's not burned, fool. Check the genitals. I don't have legs, what are you afraid of?"
Abigail put the laser in her pocket. She took her jacket off and put the fire out with it. She bent down, released Milan's belt and pulled down the pants. She saw pubic hair and then, darkness.

4. When she regained consciousness she opened her eyes at once. She could not feel her left arm. She could not move her left arm. She lay on the floor. She took a peak at her left arm. Charred. Charred. Her legs she could feel, they were not charred, but she couldn't move them either. Isis damn the rapists! Rizal's lies had loosened her mind. Her eyes found him sitting up against her table. "You dragged me around?"
"You were unconscious for half a day. Milan was still all cold shoulders. That is Milan, by the way."
"A trap? In her groin? That is cruel... even for a male."
"Why complain about my cruelty? Rapist, I'm a rapist."
"You let me incapacitate you, in order to incapacitate me? This is madness. I'm going to crawl over there and kill you."
"I might not have legs, but I have both arms intact. And the laser as well."
"You want me to kill you."
"No I don't. Besides, you can't kill me. Not just because you don't want to, but because you can't."
"Isis have mercy!"
"If you kill me, you'll never know where I put the bombs. When your sisters find this place, there's still going to be explosions."
"Isis forgive me!"
"I thought the Army didn't have gods?"
"Isis! Isis!"
"Shut up whore! You deserve this."
"Isis destroy the rapist!"
"'Destroy'? I thought you and your sisters preferred the word 'murder'?"
"Isis erase him from the universe's memory!"
"'Primal murder,' isn't that what you people call it? Kill an oppressor, kill two persons: the oppressor and the oppressed. Any one, not just Army members, can commit primal murder. Just one murder, towards a Social Democracy."
"'Social Democracy'? You're not much of a spy, are you? Which edition of our manifesto have you read? The third? The second?"
"You really can't resist talking to me."
"You are right, Rizal. What can I say, you have the gift of tongues."
"I give angelic cunnilingus!"
"And I give you my goodbye." She rolled. Her stomach against the floor, she began her crawl. With her right arm she dragged her left arm, both her legs and her torso.
"I'm going to fry you! Don't go away!" Rizal shouted.
Abigail remained unfried. She continued crawling.

5. She crawled up five escalators.
Rizal caught up with her with the floater. "There is no exit, you know," he said, "There was, but now no longer."
"Is this hell then? Did Beelzebub put you aside specially for me?"
He shrugged. "I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with Catholic myth. That is a Catholic reference, isn't it?"
"How about a truce?"
"A truce? Are you kidding? I have the floater, I have the laser. This is not a negotiation!"
"If you stop playing your games, I'm not going to kill myself."
"That's what I want! To break you, my last revenge on the stupid Army, stupid Amazons, stupid sisters and the stupid Revolution."
"You don't want me to die, because then you'd be here all alone."
"After you kill yourself I'm going to set the bombs off."
"You can't kill yourself."
Rizal pointed the laser at his forehead. "Want to bet?"
"Don't you see, you fool? You're a Last Man, you're one of Bonifacio's precious gems."
Rizal's trigger finger twitched, twitched, twitched. He threw the laser on the floor. "You whore! How long have you known?"
"Five, six years? I operated on you myself."
He floated three meters directly above her. He jumped.

6. When she regained consciousness she couldn't open her left eye. "Rizal?" she shouted. "Rizal?" She was back at her workstation, lying on her table. With only one operational eyeball she could not scan the whole room. "Rizal, have you figured it out yet?"
"I have." His voice came from Abigail's left.
She rolled. Her right arm against the table, she saw him on the floater.
His mouth bled. "I have."
"Very funny, yes?"
"Bonifacio was a fool, signing the Act. Give the females some liberty, or else they will all come to the Army. We were fools! Fools! I should have spoken up!"
"You are just a cog in the machine. Your voice didn't count."
"And yours does, in the Army?"
"This plan with Milan, the Army didn't plan it."
Abigail rolled onto her back. Staring at the ceiling she continued to talk. "We are nomads, soldiers attached to no unit. The Union, the Constabulary, Bonifacio, they all could not figure out an organization without hierarchies. They could not grasp the concept of spontaneous revolt."
"Spontaneous revolt, yes. Primal murder, maybe. No hierarchies? No way! Your Army won you this Revolution, with its generals and colonels. Your Army, your multitude of Amazons."
"There is an old American saying, 'The deeds of the many outweigh the deeds of the few. But that doesn't mean the few are useless.'"
"You're making things up!"
"How many hours have I been unconscious?"
"Hours? You've been unconscious a day and a half."
"In the past three days I have: lost an eye, an arm, the control of my legs, and my best friend. I'm going to die soon, so I would have to request that you forgive my excursions to delusions!"
"You're almost as talkative as I."
"I don't have much to do. I've lost mobility and half my vision!"
"You want to interface?"
"There's no new info coming in, the Army must have disabled all input capabilities. But hell, there's still billions upon billions of gigabytes here."
"You'd let me interface?"
"I'm bored. I'm going to fondle your breasts while you're plugged in."
"You can't rape me either, idiot."
"The multitude won the Revolution, but technology played a part as well."
"Bonifacio, child of whores!" He floated towards her. "How do we do this?"
First he got off the floater and fell to the floor. Then they found out the floater was too far from Abigail's right arm. So Rizal had to climb up the table and then jump back up. He failed on his first seven tries. His jaw unhinged, he got back up on his eight attempt. He floated down to almost the floor. Then he jumped off, breaking his collar bone. Abigail failed on her first try to get on the floater. Her nose broken, she got on it on her second try.
Before interfacing, she addressed Rizal: "You'll still be alive when I get back?"
He took so long to answer she thought he was finally dead. "No. I won't. It's time."
"Thank you for this."
"Consider it a teardrop apology for the ocean of crimes we have committed."
"I programmed that, you know. Your stupid attempts at poetry."
"No. My mother, she read rhymes to me as a child."
Abigail did not reply. She interfaced with the U-5882. Her body died two days later. Her mind died the day after that. A month passed before the Army found her, and Milan's headless half-burnt body, and the mad, mad Rizal, singing 'American Pie' off tune, maggots coming out of his ears.

Philippines Free Press
May 17, 2008