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The young man was surprised to see another patient when he walked into the office at eight that Monday morning. Usually the clinic was empty until the first city bus arrived at eight twenty, which is why he scheduled his appointments so early. He was always assured of quick assistance. Even more surprising was the other patient was an older man of about fifty, with thick dark hair, slightly thinning on top, and a large mustache, the kind you see in shaving commercials.


Smiling to the other occupant of the off green reception room he signed in at the counter and sat down. Looking over from time to time the younger man felt that the other must be waiting for his wife. After all this was an OB/GYN. Not many men had any reason to visit here.


“Mr. Carville?” the nurse said at the door to the back.


Ron Carville stood and, leaving the other patient to his thoughts went into the first room on the left where a middle aged black nurse was waiting.


“How have you been today, dear?” she asked, her southern drawl thick as molasses in the small cubicle. “Did we do right hip or left last month?”


“Right,” ron replied pulling his slacks to the bottom of his buttock and leaning against the wall. The thick serum took over twenty second to pass through the twenty-two gauge needle. To Ron it felt like a lifetime but by this stage he was getting used to it. The ache would come tonight and he’d be sore for a couple days and then it would subside. By next month he’d forget this ever happened.


“The doctor wanted me to ask if you were doing okay?” the nurse placed the needle in the bright red Sharps container on the wall, marked with every conceivable danger symbol. “He also asked if you had set a final date for transition?”


“I haven’t had any problems,” he said. “I’m getting heavier in my hips and from time to time at night get really hot for no reason.” The nurse smiled. “I also cry more at movies and songs.” He buckled up his pants. “As to full time I’ve been trying to catch my boss for over a week but this flu is causing hell with the office. Almost everyone is sick, grouchy, or miserable. If it weren’t for the secretaries I don’t think anything would get done.”


Before the dark woman opened the door she asked one more question. “Did you get your flu shot?”


“No,” Ron replied. “I get sick with or without it. I guess I’ll either get this bug that’s going around or it’ll get tired of our office and go somewhere else.” He gave a wide smile, his long hair framing his face. When he started growing it out people wondered when he’d cut it, since even for professionals the length was starting to get noticeable, but he kept it trimmed and usually in a ponytail. Today he just let it go. The dark brown was a stark contrast to his clear, almost porcelain skin.


Back in the reception room there were seven women waiting for their appointments but no older man. ‘I guess his wife is done.’ He thought as he walked to his car, the warm spring air filling his lungs with the scents of Jasmine and Hibiscus. It was another day at work, playing catch up with everyone else’s clients and waiting for the other seventeen men on his floor to get better.


As Ron Carville was dropping his pants in one room the lone patient in the waiting room was ushered into another one. Shortly after that a young nurse, about ten according to the description given later, but actually twenty three and two years out of school, came in and took his temperature and blood pressure. She asked the same questions that every other nurse asks, family health, smoking habits, drinking, etc., and left the chart on the examination table. Five minutes later the door opened a second time and the doctor walked in wearing a multi colored lab coat that did nothing to hide the fact that the woman wearing it was short, overweight, and sunburned. When thinking back on that first meeting Kevin would remark the light shined off her skin like a grill of hot coals.


“Mr. Stanton,” the doctor said, sitting on the stool next to her patient. “I have some very good news and some good news. Which would you like first?”


“I’ll go with the very good news first,” Kevin started to squirm in his chair. This was not where he expected to end up when he told his regular doctor that he had a large lump on one testicle and it ached sometimes after sex.


“What you have is not common but can be cured if caught in time, which fortunately for you, it was. Your records that I received stated you had a vasectomy in the Army, is that correct?” The man nodded once. “It seems that the procedure used in the eighties in the Army was a double vasectomy, as they are called. First the vas is cut, taking out an eighth of an inch and then cauterized to seal up the tube. The military, however, went one step farther and wrapped each end over itself where scar tissue developed, thus making it almost impossible to reverse. This is where the problems have occurred.”


Kevin thought about his vasectomy at Fort Hood. He and his wife had had three miscarriages and when he inquired about the reasons was told he had bad blood, not actually bad in the sense that it was dangerous to him, but it caused miscarriages in women he got pregnant. For that reason the Army authorized a vasectomy without children, which for them was quite extraordinary.


He had been at work in the motor pool when they called for the operation. Leaving a message for his wife to get a ride to Darnell Medical Center he drove over to the hospital and signed in. In all his years in the military, in combat, in the field, being shot, he had never been through a more harrowing experience. He was laid in a stirrup chair, his genitals exposed to the world. First one testicle was shot with Novocain, or whatever they used, and then a sharp clip on his side where an electrode was attached. After that what he remembered was the stuff of horror movies. The surgeon cut the vas. The cauterizing was done with electricity, an arc forming between the skin and the end of an insulated metal rod. This was where the clip on his side came in. That was the ground. He was a human battery. Although there was no pain he could hear the sizzling of bacon and knew, just knew, that if it the anesthetic ever wore off he would be stuck to the ceiling like that cat in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. When it was all over his testicles swelled like a blackened grapefruit and a week later he went to work. Now twenty years later it was back to haunt him.


“What problems,” he asked.


“You have a history of testicle cancer,” the woman said, trying to be gentle.


“My father died of complications brought on from radiation therapy. He had testicle cancer.” Kevin expected the same fate.


“Military vasectomies cause a lot of scar tissue. That leads to a predisposition of cancer in patients with a medical history of such.” She smiled a little. Her white teeth looked unnaturally bright against her burned skin.


“And that’s the good news?” Kevin shouted.


“No that’s the very good news,” the doctor said soothingly. “We now know what to do. As I was saying since you caught this in time there is an almost one hundred percent chance of beating it. We are getting very good results with Premarin, an estrogen used for hormone replacement therapy. It shrinks the scar tissue to become manageable, thus reducing the chance of neoplasms, I’m sorry, cancerous cells, getting a foot hold.”


After more conversations Kevin left the office with a prescription for drugs and something to help him get over the flu, which he was coming down with. If he stayed on the dosage for six months he should be able to avoid any of the long term effects of the hormones, but he had a wife and twin boys of six, and whatever it took to keep him healthy he was willing to do it, even if it meant growing tits, as he said to the doctor on his way out. By ten thirty he was back at work, running electrical wire at the nursing home, looking forward to the overtime from picking up the slack from three other electricians who didn’t make it in that morning. Washing down four of the yellow oval pills, which he would take twice daily for the next six months, he thought ‘it would be a long day.’


It was a bleak sight that Ron saw when he drove into the corporate parking lot of Tanner, Smith, and Carter. The brokerage firm employed eighty five people from a high rise south of the city. Today there were less than thirty cars in the lot and his was the only one in the executive portion closest to the building. His secretary met him with a cup of tea when he walked in and she was not smiling.


“Did you hear the news?” she whispered. “Stanton died this morning from the flu.”


Nick Stanton had been Ron’s mentor when he first signed on two years ago. They had been friends in college before Ron went on to get his MBA. They played golf during the summer and skied every winter. How could the flu kill someone who never had a sick day in his life?


“Send flowers to Maggie,” Ron said, taking up his messages. There was nothing else to say at the moment.


When he pulled up CNN for the latest stock reports he saw a death toll from the flu. This was the first time he heard it was getting epidemic. Reading the article it said there were widespread outbreaks throughout the world with the heaviest in the former Soviet State of Moldova. In some areas of that country the entire male population had died. The World Health Organization has dispatched doctors to the area but they are becoming spread too thin in Europe and Asia, the article concluded.


‘Shit’, Ron thought. ‘What have we done this time?’


By Friday three more in the office had passed away. All flights were cancelled from Europe and Asia and the CDC in Georgia was telling anyone who didn’t need to be at work to stay home.
Kevin didn’t have that luxury. They were so short handed at the job site he was working double shifts to get the nursing home finished in time for the contract. Popping four yellow pills and a pair of Tylenol for a headache he grabbed his tool belt, kissed his wife goodbye, and jumped into his truck. The boys were getting fussy but he couldn’t stay home with them. Denise would have to take them to work with her at the bank and deal with it. Since Wednesday she was the only employee in lending not sick so there was plenty of room to let the twin four year olds play.
“Kevin, it’s for you,” the architect yelled across the empty ward to the electrician on the ladder. “It’s your wife.” He said holding up the phone.
“Kevin,” Denise was crying. “They died.”
“Who died?” the man asked, trying to understand his wife over her crying.
“The boys. They just died a few minutes ago.” She was getting hysterical. “I don’t know what to do.”
It took close to an hour to drive thirty miles. There were accidents everywhere from abandoned cars and trucks. By the time Kevin reached the bank there was nothing that could be done. He found his wife with their two boys in her lap, crying on the floor of her office. In the glass enclosure next door was a man slumped over his desk, not moving.
As he sat with her he heard someone slam against the outer wall. It began to look like a war zone, or one of those science fiction movies where aliens let loose an invisible gas that kills everyone, but not everyone was dying. There were men that stayed healthy through the entire ordeal. Men like Kevin and a guy from the work site that had adult acne, and another one in his neighborhood with asthma. There was no rhyme or reason to it the man thought.
By Christmas the deaths had stopped. Over ninety percent of the world’s male population was dead. Those left in the health profession isolated the disease as a virulent strain of influenza that attacked anyone not having a certain level of estrogen in their system. This explained the women and those that took estrogen derivatives for various illnesses. With the New Year a new world began; one that was centered on cooperation and domestic qualities. War was gone, as was hatred and bigotry. In a matriarchal society there was no room for any of that.
Ronnie came out of the OB office a little after nine that morning. Her heavy wool skirt a protection against the snow predicted later that afternoon. As she passed the older man with dark, thinning hair and a thin mustache, the kind you see in Spanish movies, she smiled. Her face was framed in a long shag of dark brown hair, accentuated by a perfect smile and almost porcelain skin.
For a moment the other man stopped to say hello, but realized he didn’t know the woman although she looked vaguely familiar, and then proceeded into the inner offices. This was his last month on Premarin. He’d be glad to get off them. He found the hot flashes and uncontrollable crying a pain in the, well, he would be glad to be done but he was also thankful. What he had thought a curse from his father had in the end saved his life.
Denise was pregnant with a little girl. She had buried the boys in a mass grave with ten thousand others in a park west of the city. There were hundreds of such parks now: a testament to the strength of Mother Nature. The world was a kinder and gentler place now but the price had been so high.

If you enjoy this type of fiction I recommend my web site at: http://claire_daniels.tripod.com. Here you will find more short stories and the prologs to my transgender fiction and research books.


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Comments

The following comments are for "Last Man Standing"
by gypseys

A Matriarchial Apocolypse
I liked this short story, though I found the swiching back and forth between the two main characters to be a little straining. I think it might help immensely to double space passages where character-narration shifts, and to begin these passages with more telling detail so that the reader can see the character switches coming. The ending also seemed a little odd, as everything ended too neatly, and the idea that eveyone would feel "Wow, that appocolypse gave us one nifty solution to some of our worst modern problems, though the price was really a bit too high" seemed like a big stretch in the department of believability.

Overall, these aren't story-wrecking issues, and I really did like your twist on the apocalypse genre quit a bit.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: February 18, 2004 )





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