I’d been waiting in line in front of a drab office building for about three hours for the honor of turning my dick over to the government. Dick and balls, actually. One isn’t really any good without the other. This was the mandate that had come down from on high. My male counterparts and I were powerless to oppose it. One could either turn in one’s dick voluntarily or have government officials confiscate it. If one volunteered, the removal surgery was apparently quick and painless. The sedative knocked you out and you woke up a few hours later with a smooth hairless spot and a couple of stitches where the genitalia used to be. There was a grieving period for a couple of days, thinking like what the hell am I going to do now without my precious man parts. But you got used to the absence, or so my friends told me. I would find out myself soon enough.
If one resisted, though, and tried to cling too tightly to one’s manhood, shit got ugly. Shadowy government figures wielding sharp surgical equipment would burst into your living quarters and pin you to the ground. They would cut and slice and yank and refuse to administer pain medication. This was the punishment for resisting the will of the government. After the parts had been violently removed they’d shove the bloody hunk in your face and scream and make you pledge allegiance to the president, our wonderful president, our kind and empathetic president. Then the shadowy figures would stitch you up, once again without pain medication, and leave you lying on the floor in horrific agony, very much a diminished version of yourself.
I had no desire to experience this second scenario, so I readily volunteered to turn in my dick, which is why I’d been standing in line with my fellow male citizens in cold weather for hours. We were bundled up in our government-issued fur coats, one per person, waiting for our opportunity to be ushered inside and castrated by a representative of our beloved nanny state. None of us were excited about what we were about to endure, but we were all so terrified of our president that none of us dared to voice an oppositional thought. A rat could be anywhere. All it took was one slip up, one moment of disloyalty at the wrong time, and those shadowy figures would haul you away and you’d never be heard from again. This wasn’t an abstract fear. It happened to my good buddy, Stan, after he’d made a comment during dinner one night that the highly-processed government-issued canned meat by-product was a bit mushy and that he wished he could have a big juicy steak every once and awhile. Stan left my house that night and I never saw him again. Others that I’ve known have been taken away for good, too, yet I cannot recall their names. On my worst days, I questioned if they’d ever even existed. That was the most terrible part about the regime, the way it made you unsure of your own instincts and memory. Worse even than the fact that it was chopping off our dicks.
They were chopping off our dicks because the president had deduced that testosterone was one of the leading causes of dissent within the public. This was a flawed assessment, of course, because historically speaking some of the most outspoken critics of the regime had been women. But of course these women had been wiped out, just like Stan and everyone else I couldn’t remember, and their names and faces were long forgotten. At any rate, the president wanted all dicks removed ASAP, so the order had been issued and here I was. The most intriguing part about it all was seeing the propaganda posters hanging on lampposts in the dilapidated city center advocating for the necessity of dick removal. “LOVE THY GOVERNMENT, REMOVE THY DICK” was one of the slogans. “WE SMITE THE DICKED MAN” read another. My favorite, however, was of a mustached man in a red suit pointing out from the poster with the words “GIVE UP YOUR DICK FOR THE MOTHERLAND” printed in all caps across the bottom. The general consensus of these posters was that it was patriotic to turn your genitalia over to the regime. It was madness, of course. It was all madness all the time. But we felt powerless to do anything about it, so we kept our heads down and stayed quiet as mice.
When my name was called I walked into the building through broken glass doors and was ushered into a small white room with a hard table in the middle. The walls were covered in pro-regime propaganda and photos of our grand leader, whose name I don’t like to mention because I fear I’ll be punished even if I’m talking about him in a good light. He wasn’t a particularly good-looking man — he was short with a battered face — but he had penetrating blue eyes, and those eyes seemed to be everywhere all of the time, even in our most private moments (indeed, there was a poster of him above the toilet in the surgery center bathroom). He’d won our country’s Most Desirable Bachelor contest 17 years running and while there was obvious fixing going on, nobody mentioned it for reasons that should be obvious by now. I was instructed to lie down on the table by a bespectacled man in a lab coat. So I did, then stared up at the ceiling and waited for them to get on with the thing.
“This won’t hurt in the least,” said the man. “It’ll be over before you know it.”
He placed a mask over my mouth. A gas that smelled like laundry detergent filled my nose and I grew woozier and woozier until I passed out. I had no dreams or visions while I was unconscious. It was black and empty and very much like being dead. I would’ve preferred to remain unconscious than to wake up without a dick, yet wake up without a dick I did, lying in the middle of my living room, excruciating pain emanating from between my legs. I howled and reached down there to find a bloody bandage covering the spot that had once been my manhood. The pain was throbbing and raw. I felt so sad and empty that I fell back asleep and did not wake up for a long time.
In the dilapidated city center, dissenters of the regime were forced to construct what the president had dubbed the Wall of Patriotism. These dissenters were forced to work long hard hours without food or water and many hundreds of them died, but this was a small price to pay for what the president deemed an essential undertaking. The result was an immaculate memorial 300 feet long and 100 feet high displaying the dicks of the people that had been turned over to the government. They were preserved in amber and placed behind a small plexiglass square. Below each amberized dick was a bronze plaque with the person’s name, the phrase COUNTRY OVER BALLS and either an “R” or a “V.” The “R” stood for resistor, and designated the individuals who had to be hunted down and de-dicked. The “V” stood for volunteer, meaning these people willingly turned over their dicks, and their displays were much more ornate than those of the resistors. The biggest difference was that the volunteers had petrified flowers next to their amberized dicks. The resistors received no extra flourishes, and most of the time their man parts were grotesque and disfigured, because they’d been forcibly removed.
The biggest difference was that the volunteers had petrified flowers next to their amberized dicks.
The wall was a strange place to visit. I didn’t like going there and one got the feeling no else did, either. I never sought out my own dick, because what was the point? It was no longer mine and seeing it would only fill me with a deep sadness. My apartment at the time had a clear view of the wall and there was rarely anyone there. The most frequent visitor was the president himself. When he was present, I’d break out my binoculars and study him. He was always surrounded by men in brown suits. These men seemed nervous and unsure of themselves, and were constantly in a circle around the president, who really was one of the ugliest men I’d ever seen, save for his piercing eyes. The closer I looked at his face the more obvious this became. His skin was like cement. His smile, though, was by far his most off-putting feature. He’d gaze at those dicks and grin like a proud maniac whose mind could only hold a single thought at a time. It made me think of a snake. I didn’t like it at all.
During those first couple weeks after the procedure I really missed my dick. It was like being trapped in a horror movie. I’d wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, jump out of bed and in a half-asleep state desperately search the apartment for my missing member. I’d throw my regime-approved books off the shelf and toss the contents of my refrigerator (which was mostly empty except for bread, mustard and indefinable meat) on the floor before waking up and realizing it was gone forever. Upon this realization I’d collapse in bed and cry until I was completely numb. Then I’d just lie there and stare at the ceiling until the sun came up and then I’d get up and get dressed in my regime-issued gray jumpsuit and go about my day as if nothing was wrong, as if I loved the regime more than anything else in the world.
Say what you want about the regime, but their dick removal policy succeeded in what it set out to do. The general male populus seemed completely demoralized, which was saying something, considering most everyone — male, female and other — walked around in a defeated state pretty much all of the time already. Before the Great Castration, as it came to be known, a man here and there would speak out against the regime, whether it be over dinner (of state-issued canned meat by-product) or down at the local cafe (while drinking state-issued “coffee,” which was really just hot water with mud in it). There had also been the occasional uprising, where large groups of people would gather underneath the statue of our president in the downtown square, throw trash at said statue and chant anti-regime slogans in unison. These protests were also squashed with mass arrests and the occasional state-sanctioned televised example killing. Even if these protests never went anywhere, it was encouraging that the masses had the gusto to at least attempt to break free from the mindless oppression we’d be living under for years.
None of that happened now. People kept their heads down and stayed to themselves. Even the women, who’d once been some of the strongest anti-authoritarian voices, seemed to have been castrated by proximity. It was as though a great wind had been let out of everyone’s sails. Hope, already on the ropes, was dying. Of course, there were surely many men out there who’d somehow slipped through the cracks, men who held onto their dicks. The country was far too large and vast for this not to be the case. But one never heard from these people because they were too afraid, too smart, to speak out.
Then one day, a funny thing happened. I was walking down a desolate shit-stained alley near my apartment when a woman with a huge smile on her face ran up to me out of nowhere.
“The president’s dead!” she shouted. “Can you believe it? That sonnovabitch is dead!”
I took a step back and looked around anxiously. I was sure this was some sort of a ploy.
“Don’t worry, he really is!” she said, sensing my nervousness. “They just announced it on the radio. Heart attack. Dead. Just like that!”
As she was speaking, people began hanging out of their apartment windows. Some were shouting. Others were crying. Some were banging pots and pans with wooden spoons. The noise was sporadic at first, but soon grew deafening as more and more people hung from their windows and came down into the street to celebrate the death of a most hideous man. I wanted to express my joy, too, because I truly hated the bastard, but I remained reserved, because I knew that his passing didn’t mean better times on the horizon. I was old enough to have lived through regime changes, and they were never pretty, especially not for the commoner. All of the joy people were feeling in the moment would soon morph into confusion and worry, as a clunky transition of power began to take place. It wouldn’t be so much a transition of power as an all-out battle for power, with a wide array of sociopaths disemboweling one another for the opportunity to assume full authority over a defeated electorate. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that our plight was only going to worsen in the coming months. Even worse was the fact that us men would be balless for all of it. It seemed too awful a future to live in.
Call me crazy, but I disliked not having a dick. I missed it terribly. It was like missing an arm or not having a soul. All of those wonderful flowery feelings I used to experience when I saw a beautiful woman on the street were gone. Now when I looked at a woman I might as well have been staring at a brick wall. This lack of sexual energy, as it were, wasn’t the only downside to being dickless. It was so much more than that, a lack of any energy whatsoever. Most days I felt lobotomized, institutionalized, locked up in a depressing reality I could not escape. I’m assuming that this is how most of my male counterparts felt, too, but I can’t say for sure, because we no longer spoke to one another. Most of us, I think, had reserved ourselves to wallowing in isolation until the day we died. That’s certainly what I was doing. I spent most of my days sitting on the ragged couch in my apartment, staring at the white walls, unsure of whether or not I was even conscious. There was no hope here.
As I mourned the loss of my beloved member alone in my shell, the literal battle for the presidency raged outside my door. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but I read the state-issued newspaper occasionally just to get a general sense of things. There were three contenders at first, but one of them had been killed under mysterious circumstances. A couple of fisherman found him stuffed in a barrel down by the river, a clown mask sewed onto his face. Castrated, too, of course. That seemed to be the common theme. The journalist who’d published the picture in the state-sanctioned newspaper was then killed himself several days later, because everyone is always dying and murdering in places like this. He was just doing his job, but doing your job doesn’t amount to hillibeans in the land of the insane. He was also castrated, by the way.
The death of the third contender left us with a head-to-head battle between two awful candidates. Their names aren’t important enough to mention. One had a mustache and the other didn’t, that’s all you need to know. It was so obvious that one of them was going to be murdered that the question wasn’t “is anyone going to get killed?” but “who’s going to get killed first?” We had our answer several weeks later, when the body of the non-mustached candidate was covered in donkey fur and nailed to the side of a barn in the countryside. A farmer came out one morning to feed his chickens and there was this presidential candidate, pinned up there like Jesus on the cross, except covered in jackass fur. The farmer called the authorities, like any good citizen would, and was promptly killed a few weeks later and tossed into a nearby lake. He also had his dick chopped off. What a surprise. This was really a not so great place to live.
With the death of the non-mustached candidate, the mustached candidate, who apparently was also a distant relative (but not a fan) of our most recent president, assumed control of the country. There was technically an election, but there was only one person on the ballot. So there was that. I should note that the term president is used very loosely in our state. Our presidents are dictators, through and through. At one point, many years ago, we were apparently on the path to democracy after the Powerful Democratic Country from Overseas stepped in and attempted a “regime reconstruction,” as I think they put it at the time. They placed a man in power and attempted to establish the pillars of a democratic government — legislative chambers, a functioning court system, all that — and for a while it looked like we were on the right path. But then the powerful democratic country stepped back and said “all right, it looks like you all have a handle on this thing. We’ll get out of your hair now.” Then they left. Within a couple of years, corruption had overwhelmed every governmental institution, and all the so-called progress we’d made was obliterated. We were back in an autocracy, baby. Which was no good for anyone, except maybe the autocrat. Though even that could be debated.
The farmer called the authorities, like any good citizen would, and was promptly killed a few weeks later and tossed into a nearby lake. He also had his dick chopped off. What a surprise. This was really a not so great place to live.
At any rate, here we were: under the rule of another mustached dictator (excuse me, president), an ugly son of a buck without an ounce of sinister charisma. I’ve always thought that at the very least a good dictator should be charming, no matter how black his soul may be. At least try to convince me, you know? But this new guy, Christ, he was ugly and bumbling and prone to wild fits of unprompted rage. On the morning of his “inauguration” parade celebration, he stood behind the podium in front of our state’s crumbling capital and shouted semi-coherently into the microphone for an hour-and-fifteen minutes, veering off into wild tangents about the previous president (he was a “dickless chimp who deserved to die”), the influence of the Powerful Democratic Country from Overseas (“democracy is the enemy of true freedom”), and our country’s undeniable rabid possum problem (“too many people have died”). The most shocking moment from his speech, however, was directed at the dickless masses. He announced in direct terms that he would be exterminating every man who’d willingly had his dick removed by the previous regime. Why? Because these people had shown “loyalty to a false leader” and “succumbed like little bitches to the insane orders of a madman.” He also announced that he would be tearing down the Wall of Patriotism and incinerating all of the amberized dicks within. And that he wanted to lake in the center of the city drained, frozen and made into a giant ice sculpture of himself slicing the throat of an opossum. His mustache was wet and trembling the entire speech. It was nauseating.
So here I am, standing in front of another drab office building, waiting to die. The government has asked, nay, ordered us “loyalists to a false leader” to come down to the dilapidated city center at our earliest convenience to be “murdered by way of ‘intestinal spooning.’” That’s how the flyer put it. It didn’t sound very fun, but hell, it couldn’t be any worse than having one’s dick chopped off.
I could’ve fought back. I could’ve tried to flee the country or hid out in my apartment until the shadowy government officials came pounding on my door. But I don’t have any fight left in me. After decades of violence and chaos I’m ready for it to end. Resisting is no longer worth it because what does tomorrow hold? More oppression. More killings. When all hope for the future has disappeared, there’s nothing left to live for. Let them scoop my intestines. I’m ready to leave this please and find out what the afterlife holds. Plus the opossum problem really is getting untenable and I don’t want to be when that shit ramps up.
Small things can still wonder. Gods don’t have that luxury. I don’t think it’d be all that fun to be a God.
So he went down to the bar and got drunk. He hadn’t done that in a couple years, since the last time he stopped drinking, but it was one of those things where he had to have a drink right away.
Reflections on fatherhood and family history.