‘They’re all from around my bit,’ Hunter says through a mouthful of gum. ‘Went to primary school with them before I was streamed. Thought they were fucking stupid for not getting abortions at the time but it’s worked out pretty bloody nicely if you ask me!’
‘Hear, hear!’ Davey pipes up.
The eight of us have hung back after the meeting to discuss the pregnant girls which, for all our delight, also weigh heavily on our shoulders as if we are each a body part of Atlas. The mothers-to-be had grilled me on the podium for thirty minutes, loudly supported by everyone else in the group. Thankfully, I had covered everything in my research and had answers for every doubt. They left with a fixated amazement - even hope – and almost exhausting my own supply in the process. But before leaving the girls promised themselves to our spearhead and refuse the injections; they renewed us all with their life-affirming words and rounding bellies. Now, it is our job to keep those lives safe.
‘And you’re positive they won’t do jail time?’ Alice could only be directing this at me. I stand up from my perch on the podium and join their circle.
‘Absolutely. It’s an urban legend the media’s done its best to perpetuate, easy guess as to why. I looked up the bill, it’s definitely just a fine they’re threatened with.’
‘Yeah, a fucking huge one…’
Will weighs in. ‘The idea is if we get enough people doing this we can put pressure on the government to scrap the fine system so their debts get wiped in the future.’
‘And that could be the beginning of the end for Death Values,’ I conclude, scraping my nails across my newly shaved scalp. ‘We can’t miss this opportunity.’
‘I’m with Red,’ Hunter chimes in, grinning. ‘Besides, if anyone’s gonna do jail time it’s us.’
’I just want to make sure it is us and not them.’ Alice’s narrow eyes are still searching my face for doubt. I practice Will’s face of stone.
‘Nuhuh, sweetheart.’ Mags waves a bony finger in Alice’s direction. ‘The whole fucking point is we’re doing this with everyone for everyone as fucking equals, right Red?’
‘I know where you’re coming from and I do share your concerns,’ I say to Alice gently, ‘but Mags is spot on. Empowerment is far more important - and more lasting - than power, which is why we can’t have any special power in all of this.’
‘But it’s us leading the charge,’ Sammy protests.
‘We don’t have to be special, though, Sammy-boy.’ Davey winks at me and bangs his stick on the ground. ‘Maybe we’re just stupid, eh?’
‘Yeah - or bored-’
‘Got some free time on our hands-’
‘That can be our excuse!’ Hunter laughs, slapping a knee with her palm. ‘We’re all single! Ish…’ She giggles, looking over to Sammy and Alice. I catch her eye and can’t stop the bubbles of hysteria rising in my throat. Seconds later, we’re both howling, and she falls at me to latch an arm around my neck for support as we both collapse to the floor in fits. I can hardly breathe but it sounds so fucking good echoing around the hall that I don’t care. I bend backwards and look at the blurred lights on the ceiling, screeching. They look like fireworks.
Art is talking over us. ‘...be happier if we could find a doctor for them, anyway, who’ll fake their injection records. At least until we get more women to agree.’
‘How many weeks are they? Hunter? Hunter!’ Will’s voice slices through our hysterics and we let go of one another, panting on the floor and hiccupping the occasional, stray giggle.
‘Between fifteen and eighteen weeks,’ she wheezes, squatting on her haunches.
‘Ok, so we have - what - two weeks to find a sympathetic GP?’
‘Three max,’ I nod.
‘Mags - can you put up an email capture on the site asking for doctors? Probably get more people contacting us that way if it’s less effort.’
’I’ll give you a fucking pop-up ‘n’ everyfing, Willie,’ she winks at Davey.
‘Good. Red - how many cameras do we have left?’ His thick arms are crossed over his chest and the only tell he is excited are his thumbs tapping quickly on his biceps.
‘Two or three. Why?’
‘Let’s make some kind of video - a documentary, maybe - about these girls and their pregnancies and their decision. Something that shows them to be sane mothers concerned about their children’s welfare. We can walk the audience through their lives and their concern for their kids’ prospects and then show the births of three healthy babies born injection-free.’ He looks around the circle, nodding slowly. ‘Something that will inspire others to do it. Even the Inner Zones.’
‘Like a vlog? A new video every week?’
’No. We have to keep their identities secure until after the births. We want one film that says it all. We want a film people can share.’ He seems to be standing even taller on his evenly planted feet, as if roots have pushed him five inches into the air.
‘Something that can go viral! Brilliant!’ Hunter pops into the air beside Art, eyes wild with excitement. ’That’s just fucking brilliant! They’ll do the filming and we’ll edit it so it really hits people, you know? Something fucking real. Well done, mate.’
I step out of the circle slightly as their voices get louder and more animated discussing what the girls should film and how to attract more doctors to our meetings. I turn away slightly, and lower back down onto the podium, sagging as the future morphs and disappears in the muggy fog of their words. I glance up and find Will’s gaze fixed on me, silent in the hustle around him. The same concerns float in the blue tranquillity of his eyes like cataracts.
It was his idea, yes, and it’s the best we’ve got - but it’ll be another four months before any of those girls give birth.
Four months is a long time to tread water waiting for theirs to break.