2112, PRESENT DAY
Bette's eyes opened before the lights scheduled to simulate dawn began to fade on. She often woke before she was supposed to, and always when a man spent the night. Partners were not required to spend the night, which was stated in the Mandate. Overnights were a matter of preference, a choice she could make. She lay still, blinking at grayness, petite fibrous hands folded across her concave stomach. Each time she exhaled, the corner of her rib cage slid under her thumbs.
By design, efficiencies were made for one person to exist comfortably; however, cohabitation was a direct violation of the Mandate. The honeycomb that was her apartment building was just big enough to live a half-life. So, when another human displaced her atmosphere, Bette felt the press of all three hundred and ninety-eight square feet like a too-tight jacket. His breathing, the heat that radiated off him, the random shifting in his sleep . . . these things only exaggerated the tight quarters.
Most nights she preferred to sleep alone but these were not days of preference.
We are beyond the luxury of time and preference.
These were the days of the National Fertility Agenda. These were the days of the Department of Propagation, the DOP. These were the days of the Mandate. Days of fertility monitoring and sex compliance. Days of crushing expectations and obligation. Days of struggle, duty, and sacrifice. These were the days they all hoped would not be called “the end days.”