The Man/Woman War
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As for Jasper, he had proven to be an erudite and charming host in spite of his great age, and had regaled her with tales from before the Pogrom and before what men called the Betrayal throughout dinner, until music was heard outside and they looked out the cracked window to see a black War Wagon zoom past with its red lights flashing and its belly (presumably) full of Witch Doctors, after which a silence settled over the room and his tone became more somber. “You want to know what happened … how women became witches and men became Witch Doctors. And how the sexes became so estranged that they would kill each other on sight rather than suffer another Betrayal or Pogrom. Don’t you?”
She nodded slowly.
He dabbed at the corners of his mouth with his napkin and sat back. “Well, I told you how things were, how men and women were. That there weren’t any Witch Doctors except the kind you saw on TV, and there weren’t—” He paused, noticing how they both looked confused. “TV—television—the boob tube, squawk box, the glass teat. Nevermind. It’s not important. The thing is, men and women liked each other. Sure, they got to squabbling once in a while—hell, some might say that was half the fun of it. But they didn’t fear and mistrust each other to the extent that, that—okay, well, some did—they’d kill each other. The point I’m trying to make is: they were bumper cars that enjoyed … bumping.”
Satyena and Jeremiah looked at each other.
“They danced,” said Jasper. “And when they danced it was something to see. But over time that dance began to sour, mainly because, outside the dance hall, only one side seemed to have all the power. Now, whether that was true or not depends on your point of view, but having read all about it and lived through some of it, I’d say the case could be made. And if you’re wondering,” He looked at Satyena. “It was your ancestors that felt they didn’t have any power. So, steps were taken to even the balance, just as they were with my own ancestors, and I think most would say that those steps were successful.”
Again there was the sound of music, and again a War Wagon blew past with its lights flashing.
“The problem with human nature is, it doesn’t know when to stop. Eventually, every apparatus designed to right a wrong just becomes a new one—it has to, you see, because once created, its focus becomes its own survival. That’s when the ideologues come—like saviors, some would say, while others would say like vampires—who feed off everyone’s fear, stoking it and fanning the flames. Our Chairman Kill-sin is a man like that. Perhaps you’ve a counterpart among the witches …”