"Screw that job! He thinks he can share his 'hypothetical' fantasies about me? That's the third time this month his shit got to me. That's enough. I'll be fine for a while until I get something new." "So you're done?" "Absolutely fun-employed" "Good for you, have some of that fun for me. I would settle for uninterrupted rest, myself." "Rocky will grow up faster than you think, and come on, you knew about that part." "Don't get me wrong. Thank you so much for your help with making everything happen. John is so much more relaxed now. He's got no clue." "Do you know anybody else who might be interested? This fertility crisis is getting out of hand. I saw some news report about clinics cloning sperm that had been frozen before this pandemic." "I can't believe some of these stories I hear about the things guys are doing to try to increase their fertility: freezing cold ice baths, testicular massage techniques!" "Artificial robot sperm!" "I'm scared by how popular that last one has become." "Have you seen the blogs of the guys who incubate their own?" "Don't stick me with that R2D2 spooge!" "Holla at you girl. Seriously, I'm going to try selling those tea bags. Let people know about it." "Alright. I'll catch you later." I'm going to miss seeing her everyday. The last few years would have been unbearable without Jesse around the office. --- Between Jesse and I, we found a group of women interested in meeting at my apartment on the given premise that I may have a solution to the fertility crisis. "As you all know ladies, covid-26 has pretty much put an end to reproduction the natural way. Sperm banks are running dry and who can afford all those fertility treatments anyways?" "You're damn right!" "That's why I've gathered you here today. In these tea bags, I've put a serving of the Salvia Partheneolus leaf, an ancestral plant of my family. Drinking the tea will fertilize one of your eggs as your clone and you will give birth to a little girl as beautiful as you are. It's how I was conceived as well as all of my ancestors for thousands of years." "This is insane! You're telling me you and your family have kept this secret for so long? Is it even still called a family when you're all clones?" "It's not the first time the plant has come close to public consciousness. As a kid, your history classes told you about witch trials but they never told you the effects of their potions. I learned as a little girl about my ancestors who have been tempted to spread the plant. If they weren't powerful, why do you think they were punished so harshly?" "And you're just going to end up the same. Why wouldn't the men burn you too?" "Things are different now. I don't forget my great-grandmother who was murdered for her practices but I must do this for all of us. It's worth the risk." A woman in the back stands up irately, "I should not have come here. I don't want to be a part of this. Excuse me." "Wait! Wait! Nobody is going to threaten you. There are many single mothers and nobody would have any idea." "The doctors will know. I can't have that scandal on my family." I don't give up until she slams the door, "For what it's worth, I've never had an issue with my doctor. I do hope you change your mind!" "Well, for the rest of you, you're welcome to take a tea bag to try when you're ready. Just one strong cup should be enough." --- "Hey Mom. Come in, the door's unlocked." "Hello Samantha. I've missed you so much." "It hasn't been that long." "I'm just worried since you quit your job. How are you going to get another one with a poor reference like that?" "I don't care about a reference from those pigs! My friends are going to help me come up with something new." "Well, I hope so. Is that Partheneolus I smell?" "Yeah, I've got one growing in the living room." "Are you planning to consume it?" "No...yes...no...maybe..." "I don't understand. You should feel the time when it's right." "Don't you think every woman should be able to grow the plant?" "I wish it were the case, but you know how men react to it." "That was back when men were still part of the physical process. Now it's mostly done in a doctor's office." "Men's minds aren't going to instantly change though. There's a thin line between bravery and stupidity. I taught you about the plant and our family's usage of it so we could continue. Not so you could put us at risk." "I shared it with Jesse. Her husband is happier now. He believes the baby is his too and no longer compains about everything." "You'd better not try that again. I can't let you take a chance at bringing attention to our secrets." --- I had the strangest dream just now. I woke up in my bed at night and everything was like it is normally, except, in my room, standing looking back at me was myself, but not like I'd ever been: covered with handmade woven clothes and with a wild look in my eyes. Wake again and it's morning. Just me in my bed. My plant's missing. And my seeds, and the tea bags. I didn't tell my mom about those tea bags. How did she find it all? How did she sneak in so quietly? I should call her to apologize for everything. Seriously though, I never imagined her to be such a good thief. Wait, what if it wasn't her? I can't call and admit to possession of teabags with intent to distribute. But who else? There's no broken window and she's the only person with the key. "Hey Mom. How are you?" "Good. How are you Samantha?" "I just wanted to call to tell you that I'm done. Nobody else is going to get any of the plant." "Thanks for putting it to rest. I didn't like the stress." It's all too ambiguous. I don't know if she did it or not! --- My party wasn't fruitless. I'm gotten two messages confirming they drank the tea. There's a few messages from guys that aren't too pleasant but, lately, I've been getting different messages. Men are asking for the plant. They all say the same thing: that they're infertile but still want kids. I can't help them. I can't go to my mom to get the plant. She doesn't even have any growing and her seeds are not in a place I can access without getting her attention. When I was a kid, my mom took me out to the desert where we found our family that still lives away from the city. I can drive there and get seeds or a cutting or something. --- This is as far as the pavement goes. The rest is in the sand on foot. I've got two days worth of water and food. Hopefully this works. --- I'll try to write this as best as I remember. I was sleeping in a narrow canyon when I woke up to see the woman from my dream. She's real. I chased after her but she was too fast. I collapsed exhausted in the dark alone, thinking it was a hallucination. When the sun came up, they were all around me. Apparently, they recognized my face. I followed them back to their camp. I tried to explain why I was there but they did not like it. I refused a single serving of the leaf and asked for seeds. "We will not supply you. Each provocation with publicity has reduced our numbers. They've killed us every time, for centuries." "No, you don't understand. It's different now! Men are asking me for the plant since they cannot produce children anymore." "The serpent mother showed us this plant so that we could survive in the desert. If we had to support twice the number of people, all those men too, we would have perished long ago." "Why are we so special? Why can't we spread the plant everywhere?" That's when the lecture began, "Men have taken over this planet and will do anything to keep that control. These men you think are trying to be supportive of their wives will use this plant to their own ends." "There was one of us who thought like you, three hundred years ago. She shared the plant with another woman whose husband was infertile. He ended up sneaking the plant into her food for many years and sold all the children as slaves. They are more monstrous than you can imagine." "This is not the only story like this. They go back as long as we can remember." My words are useless, "That hasn't threatened our family though. You're preventing the spread because you believe it will only cause more suffering. This isn't helpful. You're just a variation of a Gnostic. Your pessimism is self-reinforcing." It didn't matter though. After I said that, I saw the pot that had carried my plant, discarded on the ground behind the camp. My eyes teared up as I walked over and put my hand on the broken edge, "It was you who stole my plant!" Seeing the pot reminded me of a seed that had gotten stuck in a little crack in the ceramic a while ago. It was still there. Without changing my demeanor, and without collapsing my palm, I squished it up between two outstretched fingers, apologized as best as I could for giving them any trouble, and left as fast as I could. I'm back safe at my car now. Maybe my mom raised a thief.