This is a story I wrote a few years ago, it did well in Stroud Short Stories, but it seems that now is an appropriate time to re-publish it.
It’s been fifteen years, well, fifteen years and eleven days, 6 hours 32 minutes and 7…8…9 seconds to be exact; it took fifteen years and eleven days for world peace to happen. Mind you when I say world peace, it’s not what you think. It’s not eternal. It’s not the blissful harmony of the entire world in peaceful coexistence forever. I doubt this will last. It’s just one day, one day when no shots were fired. But you know what? I think it was worth it, I really do! Just for one day, we did it for just one day!
So how did all this start? Why no shots? Well, it was not just one thing, one event; don’t think that this is about North Korea letting off a nuclear bomb or that idiot president invading Mexico, or dictators, or revolutions, or Las Vegas or that school shooting in America, or that other school shooting, or the one in Florida, or the other one… or… you get the picture. No, it wasn’t like that, that’s not how it happened. It was more the drip- drip of water torture that did it, not a massive tsunami (so as not to mix my metaphors) event. It was event after event after event and then there was one last straw (now I have mixed my metaphors) and it began.
Well, like all good protest movements it started with immolation. First, it was the mother of one of those many US shootings. I honestly can’t remember which one, but she was clever this woman and desperate. She poured petrol in a shape on the ground. She went live on Facebook, TikTok, Twitter sent up a drone to stream it live, gathered a crowd and a pretty large audience online, most begging her not to, some being evil. She lit the match, went up like a torch and from above the cameras revealed the words written in flame “No more”.
That was it, that started a spate, a virus, a pandemic, if you like, of women and men from across the world who flung themselves into the flames. They did it in battle-torn areas, rural areas where quiet murder persisted. They did it in slums, they did it in high rise towers and then it happened, one tweet and a hashtag; @someoneorother tweeted “Women don’t have babies to be murdered by men how about #nomore #nomorebabies”.
And #nomorebabies went viral.
This wasn’t about no more sex, oh no, sex was still definitely on the cards. It was just about no more babies, not some kind of fertility fail because of pollution, not even a punishment, just rest, a rest from creating a population that murders itself. Why should women do that? They asked. Why should a woman, give over her body (and boy does a woman give over her body) to have a child, recover from having a child (or not) nurse that child, lose sleep, lose sex, lose sanity, lose her job, lose her career, all in order to raise a child for somebody else to shoot?
Of course, nobody thought it would take off, but you know social media, it got everywhere and suddenly Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit even Google+, you name it, all were sporting women denouncing pregnancy and saying #nomorebabies. Initially, no one quite knew why, until one female prime minister of a West African country stepped forward and said “no more babies, until not one shot is fired across the world”.
And the violence got worse – of course. They, whoever “they” are thought intimidation would work. They were wrong.
After only one year it was clear that the birth rate was falling. The pledge was working. It was patchy at first, China’s birth rate plummeted, Italy, Germany, Australia were quick to follow with a 75% drop in two years. UK was 62% and the US 40%. Needless to say another mass shooting, this time in a children’s soccer championship, kicked their birth rate into the hills, once the soccer mums made the pledge, the birth rate in the US was doomed.
To some women it was a relief, a relief not to have children, children who would be sent to war to die, or worse than that, children sent to war to kill. Mothers who raised soldiers brought up not only victims but killers. They raised children not only to be killed themselves but to kill another child, and so some other mother suffered what no mother should. It was a relief then to some not to have to fear that – either way.
Then #nomore went political and won! Political leaders who became #nomore won elections, but still, gangs, extremists, random idiots, border disputes and power struggles claimed victim after victim, although it was slowing down. In fact, it slowed down a lot, enough to give us hope. Hell, in America in one year the gun violence death toll dropped from 9,000 (and that was lower… for them) to 998, under a thousand, just. There was hope, real hope, but there was backlash too.
A militant wing of #nomore developed, which definitely defeated the purpose of the exercise, but they didn’t see that. They argued that if they could stop all pregnancy by fair means or foul, then the impulse to world peace (for a day, remember) would be stronger, it would happen quicker, it would be worth it. The mainstream wing of #nomore disagreed and after the murder of two pregnant women in the UK, the militant wing was disowned, the culprits handed over, and it was made quite clear that world peace meant world peace, and women and their supportive, their very, very supportive men, had to accept that.
But there were benefits (other than much quieter journeys on trains and planes). At first, there was panic on the stock market. If there were no young people, who would pay the tax that would pay our pensions when we got old? Financial institutions started spouting doom and gloom. There would be catastrophe; we would all die in squalor, living in a Mad Max dystopia! But then a strange thing happened. The economy improved. Well, I say the economy, it was productivity. It is a wonder what women can do when they have got the time! All of sudden there were millions of women in their twenties and thirties who didn’t have to find childcare, who didn’t have to dash back from work to relieve the nanny, who didn’t have to spend all their money on that nanny. They could push for that promotion because they were there doing the job. They were available and able. They could lean in and take the prize and then improve it. Women made huge scientific advances, now they could devote themselves to their academic work and make sure the supervisor didn’t pinch it. There’s an all-woman team preparing to go to set up a base on the moon. There has been significant progress in environmental care, you know how good we women are at cleaning! The upshot of all that is that our pensions are safe, our productivity, our stewardship, our environmental policies and the readjustment of wealth particularly with reference to guns, is better. We can afford the NHS, education and the emergency services, and we lowered the pension age for everyone! Think on that!
Peace does mean prosperity and now we have done it, now we are there! Almost. I‘m not counting any chickens yet. Nobody is, not after the last two times. Oh yes, three years ago we nearly did it. There was a countdown in Time Square, fireworks were made ready across the world. We got as far as number four in the countdown, and some asshole in Texas let rip on the party-goers in downtown Houston, go figure. The second time, nobody was counting, it was more mooted and at ten minutes to midnight, breaking news told us that a family dispute in somewhere, could have been anywhere, except it wasn’t, it was America again, a family dispute had ended in a shooting. For a minute we all hoped for life-changing injuries, but it wasn’t, it was death, so here we are again. Third time lucky and … Yes! There it goes! Midnight! All we asked for was just one day, just one day with no shots fired, no killing, we didn’t think it would last forever, we know it’s not over yet, but we were making a point and I think it was a good one.
Anyway now it’s done, I’ve no regrets. I never got to have children. I missed the boat, but there have been compensations because now I’m off to oversee the final decommissioning of Trident, a big old party up in the north to finish nuclear weapons in the UK. Oh, did I not mention? I became Prime Minister. Well, I had all that time on my hands, what else was I going to do?