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Published 17 September 2013

"Femworld" - a late (1979) tale by A. E. van Vogt

This stark and very frank portrayal of the struggle of the sexes in an Orwellian world utterly dominated by females - thanks to aliens, chemicals and above all optics - was never reprinted after its publication in the June-July 1979 issue of Galaxy magazine.

It is well worthy of your attention, in our humble opinion [1].

e-book versions of Femworld are available for downloading below.

FEMWORLD

PETER GRAYSON, PH.D., physicist [2], vice-president of Haskett Man­ufacturing Laboratories, Inc., heard the peculiar tiny clicking sound twice in rapid order.
Ping. . . ping.
The print he was reading blurred.
Grayson shook his head impa­tiently and drew the contract closer to his glasses. Spots danced over the page. He sighed and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he saw the problem.
In each lens of his spectacles, there was a crack horizontally across the "glass" exactly at pupil level.
He was startled. Both lenses bro­ken within a half-second of each other. Being statistically oriented, he considered• the probability of si­multaneous breakage. The figures that leaped to his mind were as­tronomical, and of course impossi­ble. He gave it up.
Silently, now, he removed the derelict spectacles, and laid them on the desk. Next, he searched in one of the drawers, and found a spool of transparent tape — naturally, man­ufactured by Haskett Laboratories. Obviously, he would use it only until he could obtain a new pair.
He replaced the tape in the desk, the glasses on his nose — as the door opened and Miss Haskett walked in.
It was her usual vital entrance. She smiled, and said, "Do you have a moment, Doctor Grayson?" Her repertoire gone, she sank onto a chair and waited with an air of death.
Grayson studied the owner of the Haskett Laboratories from behind his glasses and an astonishing thought passed through his mind. He ought to feel guilty about Miss
Haskett. Her lonely life cried out wordlessly for love and affection. And who should answer that call but the man she had confirmed as chief scientist when she had inher­ited the business from her late aunt? Theirs was an office relationship. But it had involved most of her adult life.
Grayson cleared his throat, un­easy at the thoughts he was having. He was so intent on that he didn’t notice the incongruity of what he did next.
He said, "Uh, Miss Haskett."
What he did not realize was the assertiveness of his tone. As if he were the employer, and she the em­ployee. And she was evidently not thinking either, or was daydream­ing. For she said in an absent tone: "Yes, Doctor?"
"What’s the name of the eye specialist we use for our male staff?"
"Burr. Doctor Burr."
His thought shifted back to Miss Haskett. "What do you do in your spare time?" he asked.
"Oh — various things." She seemed alert, suddenly.
"Do you read?"
"Sometimes."
"Go to the movies?" "Occasionally."
Grayson hesitated. An awareness was coming about what he was do­ing: Asking personal questions of his employer. He had not done that in all their previous association. He was startled.
Inside him, the withdrawal pro­cess was beginning.
At this point the woman volun­teered, "I live in a condominium complex."
Grayson was startled by the im­port of the information. "Alone?" he asked.
Color came into her cheeks. She straightened. Then: "Alone," she said firmly. And did not look at him.
Grayson was silent. She had de­liberately roused herself out of thirty-eight years of shyness to tell him that she had the facilities for an affair.
Grayson sighed. He was married, however drably. And he couldn’t take the risk of his analysis being wrong. It would be ridiculous if he lost his job or got his face slapped, or — worst of all — was hauled before an Utt commissioner.
Thinking of that, shaken by that, he said urgently: "Miss Haskett, I seem to have damaged my specta­cles. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that for a male nothing is more important. So if you’ll just hold what you were going to tell me —"
Haskett stood up. "It can wait." Suddenly brisk, vital again, she added, "Why don’t I have Miss Broman call Dr. Burr, and make an appointment?"
"Uh, thank you." He spoke absent-mindedly because he was watching Miss Haskett as she went to the door. It occurred to him for the first time in their long business life that she had an excellent figure.
As the door closed, he realized that he had a forbidden male-type feeling; and that he should be experiencing strong guilt reactions.
But what he actually felt was a fear of being found out.
Trembling, he sat there in his private office in the scientific administrative section of Haskett Laboratories and began to feel bet­ter, because he decided that he was not really in danger. The dialogue of Miss Haskett and himself was gone into that voiceless universe of all the forgotten — because un­recorded — conversations between people.
She lives alone with her servants, he thought. So she will never men­tion it.
And I won’t.
His anxiety began to fade.
His momentary lapse was behind him, receding further into the past with each instant.
He suspected what had happened had to do with the cracked lens of his spectacles.
The possibility was genuinely amazing to Grayson. Could it be that the Utt females were right? . . . On their arrival on earth forty years before, the matriarchal Utt had surveyed the human condi­tion, and had diagnosed that the problems of mankind were all trace­able to the male.
From the height of total superior­ity, their female rulers decreed that every male must take a certain drug at puberty. This drug rendered the male near-sighted.
Whereupon, qualified profession­als, following Utt specifications, fit­ted men with spectacles. Something must have been in them. Because the lens, it was said, barred tiny portions of the visible spectrum from stimulating the male optic nerve.
Aside from requiring that all property be owned by women, plus certain transport limitations, and that women were not allowed to take scientific training — an unexplained restriction — that was the only direct Utt female interference in human affairs.
What bothered Grayson was that he had secretly dismissed the Utt analysis. He rejected, in short, the Utt concept that men were the villains of earth’s tormented history. It all seemed far-fetched — made up.
Suddenly, he wasn’t so sure.
He was still thinking about it when Miss Haskett knocked and entered. An unfortunate thing occurred. She gave him information about his appointment. But Grayson heard only the sound, none of the words.
He was intently observing the fact she was a good-looking wom­an. Absorbed, he watched her leaving the room. It was only after she was gone that he wondered, what did she say ?
He was alarmed. The situation which he had thought solved, had had an unsuspected after-effect. It could — it seemed — repeat with each visual contact.
It occurred to Grayson there was a simple solution. He must avoid seeing, particularly Miss Haskett, but possibly all women — until he had his new lenses.
Satisfied, he clicked on the inter­com. "Miss Broman, will you re­peat that about my appointment with Dr. Burr ?" The appointment was for the next day. Miss Broman added quickly, "And Dr. Grayson —"
"Yes?"
"Miss Haskett asked me to tell you that the address of her con­dominium is 1818 Mendelian Drive."
Long pause. Finally: "Uh, Miss Broman, cancel my appointments for the day," Grayson croaked. "And tell Miss Haskett I’m going home this afternoon. I don’t feel well. I’ll go by the rear exit."
After a while, he was pleased to realize that he had kept his wits about him. First, deciding so promptly to go home, and, second, going out the side-door, he would evade passing Miss Haskett’s office.
On the bus — one of the Utt trans­port limitations was men were not allowed to drive; an automobile was considered by the Utt females to be a violence potential instrument — he realized that his situation was not good at all. In his mind’s ear, he kept hearing the seductive female sweetness in Miss Broman’s voice.
One hope remained. After the lenses were ’repaired, his ability to hear the female voice with such re­sponsive sensitivity would diminish again.
In short, he would cease to be vulnerable to the unsuspected mad­ness which, he realized, had been lurking inside his skin exactly as the Utt females had unerringly observed in human males at the time of their arrival on earth.

Mila, his wife, was not in when Grayson entered the house. Which surprised him vaguely. He’d always had the impression that she never went anywhere during the day.
Probably out shopping, he thought. Satisfied, he put considera­tion of his wife out of his mind.
He went straight to his bedroom, placed his glasses away in his night table, and lay down. Utt law re­quired a man to wear eyeglasses even while in bed — but, obviously, to do so with broken lenses would be tempting further damage to them, so . . . .
He slept. And awakened to a dis­tant door opening and shutting. Mila, he presumed. There was si­lence. He pictured her looking at his hat and cane in the hall, aware that he was home. He visualized her instant unpleasant reaction.
But it was an hour before the door opened, and the rather tall, but slightly stooped woman who had been his wife for over thirty long years, came in and stood over him.
"And what is it now?" she said in her attacking tone.
It was eight years since his last illness and twenty-two years back to the time he had stayed home after hurting his hip in a severe fall — and in each instance he had remained in bed exactly one day. Yet he per­ceived that in her mind the interven­ing years were nothing compared to the mental anguish of his unwanted presence during those two twenty-four hour periods.
For the first time he had a glim­mer of the enormous effect the Utt had had on wives. When man had been named as the Earth’s trouble-maker, every woman be­came Ms. Unchallengeable.
Hastily, Grayson described his glasses breaking — then became aware of a strong chemical odor. He wrinkled his nose in distaste.
An amazing thing happened. His wife’s shadowy figure, which had towered above him, sank down. Though it was difficult to see, Grayson had the impression that his
wife was on her knees beside the bed.
And the odor was — if possible — even stronger.
Grayson sat up. "Mila! What’s the matter?’’
"Don’t hurt me! " It was a whis­per.
What stopped all immediate re­sponse by Grayson — his impulse to leap out of bed, his confusion, his feeling he must instantly go to her aid for some reason that wasn’t clear — was the realization that the odor was a human body smell.
Mila’s !
Memory wafted a startling expla­nation from his early laboratory ex­periments with animals. A female animal in heat had several times af­fected him unpleasantly. So much so that, finally, realizing that glan­dular exudations were actually too much for his sensitive nose, he had abandoned his primary’ interest in biology, and had gone over to the objective world of physics.
This smell now was like that animal smell then.
A woman in a profound state of sexual stimulation —
He lay back . . . She sees I’m not wearing the glasses that keep a man tamed, he thought.
Because his brain worked rapidly, he waited, curious. If he told her after such a delay, there was no knowing what berserk state she would go into.
Then, he recalled the theory of such matters. A few minutes after a man took off his glasses, their ef­fect wore off. His experience with Miss Haskett had certainly proved that.
He was assuming, of course, that broken lenses were the equivalent of no-glasses‑
A male without glasses, said the legend, became progressively more aggressive, unreasoning, capable of violence.
To Mila, after an afternoon of no glasses, he must seem to be in some final stage of male insanity.
For Grayson, it was startling — he realized how strongly women of the old days must have responded to their men.
The woman beside the bed spoke again, in a whisper, "What do you want ? I’ll do anything you say. Don’t hurt me."
"Take a bath," said Grayson, wrinkling his nose again, "and of course you won’t be hurt as long as — " he hesitated, startled by his own temerity, but the words came involuntarily — "as long as you do what I say."
The woman came to her feet with alacrity. Her walk was not steady. There was the somewhat prolonged moment when she opened, the door itself. Then the door closed.
Her bedroom was on the far side of the house, a choice of location she had made long ago. He assumed that she would now have time to recover her good sense. He recalled, uneasily, that a woman who felt herself threatened by a man could ask for instant help.
Yet when the door to his room opened again, he wasn’t sure what state she was in. She wore her robe; that he was able to detect even with his weak vision. But — what else was not clear.
She came over to the bed, took off her robe, and lay down naked beside him. For long moments the surprise of that was a blankness. Then he felt himself automatically resisting.
For this woman, there was no re­sponse in him. Thirty years of abuse tightened his heart, and put a cold lump in his gut — Grayson was surprised at the intensity of his re­sistance. Normally, he didn’t feel this strongly. He recognized that he was aware for the first time of his true feeling.
I could probably strangle this woman, he thought.
That shocked him. Male violence really does exist, he admitted to himself.
He fleetingly recalled their sexual past. Several times each year, Mila would go out with some female companions, and they would all get drunk. About two A.M. she would show up, an obscene creature with a tendency to throw-up, and demand that he engage in sex.
Naturally, and anxiously, he had always come through while she laughed, belched, and on occasion spat in his face.
In the morning, she showed no apparent memory of the event.
—But he didn’t want her at such times, and he didn’t want her now. - "Has Rosie said when dinner will be ready?" Grayson asked stiffly.
"She said we could eat any time we wanted," came a small voice from the bed.
"Oh!" said Grayson. He lay for a long moment, bracing himself. Then he got off the bed, turned on the light, went around to the night table drawer, got his glasses, put them on, and walked to the door.
There he paused, turned. "Better , get dressed," he said gruffly, "and let’s eat."
He went out into the hall.

By the time they sat down at the table, his wife’s sallow face was red. She stared at her plate and did not look at him. That was disap­pointing. He was — he had to admit it — curious.
The truth was, he realized, he was ignorant and distrustful of Utt judgements, and craved information on which to form his own conclu­sions.
On the surface, it looked like men had caused all the problems. Be­cause, after the Utt came, women changed.
A married woman, unpursued by her husband, was . . . normal­ly . . . not interested in sex. There were reports (from certain salesmen) of exceptions. But the ordinary situ­ation was drab. Usually a wife would have a child or two — no more. Since only women were al­lowed to own property, married women lived confidently. Grayson brought home a good salary from his job, all of which he handed over by law. She had household help. Her clothes and house were always neat, clean, and she herself well-groomed. Sane, healthy, stable, she was the embodiment of a high standard of human being.
Except for one thing: the average wife was as easily angered after the Utt came as before. Only now she really felt free to express it. It was the one disturbing factor in a world where men were hard-working, peaceful, and kept sexually apathet­ic by a physiological method that was the law of the planet. For an unknown reason men in such-a con­dition were never angry —
There was a sound at the other end of the table. Grayson’s mind jumped out of its reverie. Mila was glaring at him. She spoke sharply, "Why weren’t you wearing your glasses in the bedroom?"
He explained about not wanting to damage the cracked lens. "But of course, I kept my eyes closed. I was very careful not to upset the internal balance."
"Oh!" Some of the color faded from her cheeks and her lips com­pressed. The old signal of an imminent flare-up. He spoke hastily, try­ing to head off the explosion.
"What you did," he said, "tells us a great deal about pre-Utt rela­tions."
There was a noticeable relaxing of anger as she said, "How do you mean?"
"Evidently, women offered sex to men out of fear."
"What are you talking about?" The sharpness was back.
That startled him. Was she pre­tending? Or was it possible she didn’t remember?
Forgetfulness. Blankness. Her old pattern. As if it hadn’t happened? That could be it.
But he was still curious, he re­alized, therefore frustrated.
"Has the fear faded?" he asked.
She had the expression of some­one who intended to deny it. Then: "It was strange," she said, a fara­way look in her eyes. "I suppose I should go to see the doctor."
Terror could have a profound physiological effect, Grayson pre­sumed, correlated with shock.
"There I was," his wife con­tinued, "suddenly faint and half- hallucinating." She added a ridicul­ing laugh. "I actually fantasized myself taking off my clothes, then coming into your bed, naked." She laughed again, and made an angry gesture with one shoulder. "A re­gression to my child-bearing state. We’ve had our children and our re­ason for copulating is twenty-five years behind us."
So it was going to be forgetful­ness and denial, Grayson thought.
How amazing! In their courtship days, she had pursued him like a sex demon. The vitality she offered promised his enforced apathy. would be completely overwhelmed by her inexhaustible need. Before mar­riage, she forced sex as often as three times a day. Afterwards —
Two days after the ceremony that, by Utt law, bound them to­gether forever, Mila let him know that marriage was for com­panionship and bearing children.
Probably, gentler women like Miss Haskett lost out in the struggle for marriage because they were in­capable of the insane premarital in­tensity which absolutely over­whelmed males subjected to it.
— Too soon to decide anything about that. Yet he felt a hardening inside him, which was a decision of sorts, barring Mila from his life.
After dinner Grayson went back to bed, and in his fantasies vis­ualized Miss Haskett in various exot­ic manoeuvres. There was a thought in his mind that said there was no danger now of being found out.
He could stand it no longer. He dressed and went out. His wife was sitting, knitting another of the interminable sweaters which she sent Mart, who was at college.
"Uh," said Grayson.
She did not look up, which was par. She had ignored him most of their married life and she was obviously not about to change.
"I’m going for a walk," said Grayson. "perhaps you’d like to come ?"
That was his final hope of defeat­ing the urge that moved him to what was obviously a forbidden adventure.
Something must have penetrated; she looked up, showed surprise. "Where are you going?"
"For a walk," he said.
"Oh!" Then: "No, thank you."
It seemed to satisfy her, for she settled back to the sweater. The last picture he had of her was of her sit­ting in the chair rocking back and forth.
Outside, the air was fresh, and he walked along with gathering confi­dence. A bus pulled up at the corner, and because he knew where he wanted to go, he climbed aboard without really considering the fu­ture.
He phoned Miss Haskett from a drugstore. "I happened to be in the neighborhood." he said, "and wondered if you’d care for coffee."
She sounded breathless. "Why, yes, Mr. Grayson. I —" She broke off. "Why don’t you come up to my place?" She said, suddenly. "I’ll have Joanne put the coffee on. No, I’ll put it on."
When he got there he had no problem. Large trees, dim lights. An ideal place. From where Grayson stood on the porch, he could not see the entrances of the
adjoining apartments.
A single buzz was answered in­stantly. A vision in white stood in the doorway.
"It’s nice of you to drop by, Mr. Grayson," she said.
Grayson blinked. It seemed to him she had made a quick change since his call. Or else he had mis­judged this whole situation. "Were you on the way out ?" he asked.
"Oh, no, I always dress up for myself at night," said Miss Has­kett.
She held the door wider. Grayson walked in.
They drank coffee. Silence fell. She sat, empty cup in hand, on the couch. The long skirt of her dress was drawn up primly against the leg nearest him. Grayson placed his own cup and saucer on the coffee table, and took a deep breath. It was either time to go or time to do.
His heart pounded, his eyes blur­red behind the mended glasses. He found himself reluctantly agreeing: men really were the villains. He was clearly in a state of raging de­sire.
Abruptly that shamed him. Un­steadily, he came to his feet. "Uh," he said, "uh, Miss Haskett, I- want to thank you for this delightful —"
At that point, she set her cup down so quickly it hit the table and fell forcefully on its side in the saucer.
The sound was startlingly loud in what had been intense silence. Both the man and the woman involuntar­ily leaned forward to straighten the cup. His head brushed lightly against her hair. It was not real physical contact, but in his whole adult life, Grayson had only touched one other woman. And she had made that such misery — and so rare, that he no longer wanted to touch her.
It was several decades since he had been close to a desirable wom­an. His hand reached for hers, al­most knocked the cup over again — but got hold of her fingers. Then he tugged her along from be­hind the coffee table.
It was a long coffee table and by the time he had her, his consciousness — conscience — surfaced. He let go.
"Very delightful," he muttered gloomily, stepping back, "but I imagine I’d better —"
Miss Haskett caught his sleeve. "You must see the rest of my home."
Grayson stiffened inside, he was a supremely analytical person and he saw this as a gesture of goodwill on her part. They toured the fluffy, very feminine make-up room. She explained things about it that Grayson did not hear because he was bracing himself. She took him into a huge bathroom. Special fea­tures required Miss Haskett to con­tinue chattering. He did not hear what those special features were. Something about an unusual method of maintaining the bath water exactly at blood heat. . . got through to him.
And that one he promptly forgot as they came to a closed door. Grayson never remembered af­terwards who opened that door. Did he leap forward or was he frozen in his single-track thought — feeling ­intent ?
Whichever — the door was opened. The bedroom, large and expensive. Fluffy feminine atmo­sphere. A queen-size bed he couldn’t help noticing.
Then they were standing beside it. Her voice, which had been virtu­ally unceasing — ceased.
"Where’s the light switch?" Grayson asked into the sudden si­lence.
"Over there." She pointed.
"Do you mind?" asked Grayson.
"Over there," she said, voice coming up in pitch, a stricken sound in it.

In the darkness, Grayson encoun­tered the nude form of Miss Has­kat, enthralled. Moments glided by. Body touched body. Lip pressed lip. Moments lengthened to sec­onds, seconds to minutes. Grayson told himself that Miss Haskett was in a class by herself. Most impor­tant, she was accepting him without any apparent reservation. Which, he had to admit, was pretty tolerant.
After all, she was offering him a nubile, slender, well-formed, good- looking body. In return, she was having imposed upon her a spare, gaunt male type with an ageing face which fortunately was hidden in the darkness. Still, she must know what it looked like, and had made her peace with it.
He decided to tell her how grate­ful he was for her goodwill. He re­moved his lips from hers, intending to make the non-kissing extremely brief, just long enough to say a few kind words that would fit the occa­sion.
Momentarily, he paused. And,because he was always careful in his use of English, the moment grew long. And, abruptly, the awful realization that his gratitude had diverted him and he was in serious danger of losing his ability to per­form the act. Instantly desperate, he fought to save the situation. There was no question about that either. It was a fight.
"What’s the matter ?" Miss Has­kett whispered.
What could he say ? He had virtu­ally wrecked the moment by letting his mind wander to an unfortunate reality: he was no longer a young man.
As he had that despairing realiza­tion, he made a final, desperate ef­fort to salvage the affair. And in a limp fashion, at first, succeeded fi­nally to his satisfaction with one so comely — and to his own surprise, apparently to hers.

It was 11:32 as Grayson climbed aboard the bus that would take him home. At first, as he settled into his seat, the exhilaration and frustration of the evening alternately pulled him- up and pushed him down.
But somewhere during the jour­ney came his moment of confronta­tion:
He had taken an irrevocable step.
He waited for the shock of disas­ter to move through him.
But what he felt in its place was irritation. He was a grown man, who didn’t need advice from a Utt female or any other living person.
The hostile reaction stayed with him all the rest of the way to his stop.
The emotion had faded a little by the time he entered his house. Yet the prospect of running into his wife did not really shake him. And that was awesome indeed. A new thought. The idea of a man standing up to a woman’s anger with anger of his own was . . . well. . . there was no clear, reaction that he could produce.
But he had seen her on her knees. No matter what happened, he would never forget the implications of that.
Despite his strong attitude, he moved silently. And as he came to the final stretch, where there was no carpet, he took time to remove his shoes.
After all, he argued with himself, why force problems where none need exist ?
In his bedroom, with its door shut, he undressed hastily and slip­ped into bed. As he lay there, then, reviewing the night’s events, he re­alized that he was having still another and different kind of thought.
Part of his mind was busy plotting.
He was remembering what he had once read in one of those "awful example" stories, so common in the magazines in the days after the Utt females came.
This story had depicted a fifty­-year-old managerial type much like himself. In the pre-Utt era — the story had stated — such a man would have had half a dozen mistresses by his age.
Grayson found himself feeling blank. The story (after his near dis­aster) seemed untrue. Miss Haskett, all by herself, almost had been too much for him.
Would he ever again, now that he knew he might fail, dare take a chance of disgracing himself ?
With that . . . moral . . . thought, he must have slept.

The following morning Grayson ate breakfast alone as usual. The maid served him his usual meal and he ate hastily, worried his wife might get up and ask questions.
I’m not afraid, he told himself. Let’s just not have problems.
Because he’d gulped his meal, he could catch his regular bus with time to spare.
The bus stop had its average scat­tering of sad-looking males. Ev­erywhere Grayson looked reflected light from spectacles glinted back. Eyes appeared distended behind thick lenses. It was very shocking to him now, for some reason.
As Grayson walked into the lacklustre group, an automobile starting from the curb fifty feet away pulled up opposite Grayson. The large, middle-aged woman in­side leaned through the open win­dow and said, "Miss Haskett sent me to pick you up, Dr. Grayson."
With unusual strength for a wom­an, she leaned all the way from the driver’s side and pushed open the passenger door from inside.
Grayson was taken by surprise. "Miss Haskett — oh!"
He was appalled by his em­ployer’s indiscretion. Many of the men waiting here for buses were neighbors. He hoped they hadn’t heard what the muffled voice from inside the car had said. As he scrambled in, his one thought was to get on their way before another word was spoken.
"Well, that was easy," said the driver. Only now he spoke in a man’s baritone. "Welcome to the revolution, doctor !"
The car moved rapidly through traffic, which was light at this hour, consisting essentially of unmarried women going to work.
Grayson ’s shock at realizing he was in the presence of a male dis­guised as a female subsided. And he began gaining data that would enable him to assess his situation.
"How long have you been driv­ing a car in this disguise?" he asked.
"Long enough," was the reply. "Never stopped for a traffic vio­lation?"
"Once." The big "woman" shrugged. "Had to shoot the officer. Too bad — " The speaker broke off. "Which reminds me. That will be your first assignment. Getting yourself a pistol."
Grayson scarcely heard. He had realized that he was asking the wrong questions. And that, in fact, he had somehow been avoiding the crux of the matter.
He said now, boldly, "What is Miss Haskett’s role in this?"
The large, pasty face with its arti­ficial cosmetic coloring — to give it a womanly look—grinned. "You were at her place last night, right ? We’ve been keeping an eye on you ever since we cracked your glasses with that high-frequency — well, never mind." Again the grin. "You made it with her, too, didn’t you ? That’s what I meant — welcome to the revolution, doctor. When a po­tential recruit goes after a mistress within forty-eight hours — and has the gumption to carry it through — that’s good enough. You’re in, and there’s no escape."
A pause. Mostly blankness. Striv­ing to grasp the cruel implication.
It was painfully obvious that the other’s hearty, jovial way of speak­ing concealed a chilling determina­tion, which Grayson found himself automatically resisting.
He drew a deep breath, after all he had a certain inner power. He was a PH.D., and a working scien­tist. He said, "Let’s not be too hasty. If you want my goodwill I suggest you try persuasiveness, and reason, and an end to threats."
Having spoken, he considered what he had said, and found it good. "That’s my statement," he concluded.
The driver shook his middle-aged, womanly head, "Sorry, Doc, if you’ll think about it, you’ll see that we can’t operate that way."
"You’re already talking better," urged Grayson quickly.
The man ignored his interruption, "We can’t operate that way because we’d have people who’d try to suck up to the Utts. So I have to tell you. If we lose confidence, we kill you." He added quickly, "I don’t have any feeling yet that we can’t trust you, Doc. So don’t be alarmed. But," gently — "We don’t take chances. When in doubt —" He made a quick gesture across his throat with his finger. "You see how that has to be, don’t you? You’re a logical man."
And still Grayson resisted. He was like a man who had accidently walked into a thieves’ hideaway,
and as they very reasonably pointed out, they would have to kill him because they couldn’t afford to have an outsider know. The logic was perfect. He just didn’t wish to be a victim, or — in this instance — involved.
His reverie ended abruptly as, be­side him, the man held out a card, and said, "Any time you want to reach us, here’s how." When Grayson hesitated, the man shoved the card into his coat pocket.
Moments after that, the car drew up at the curb. "There’s the Haskett factory. Okay, doc — out!"
Grayson climbed out, then turned, and said protestingly "Look ! — "
The automobile gave a lurch. The "woman" leaned across the seat, pulled the door shut; and, as the machine picked up speed, waved —
In the course of the morning, the receptionist put seven calls through to Grayson. "Dr. Pudget on the phone —" she would say. Or, "The factory superintendent on the line —" "Can you speak to the buyer for Reid, Leigh, and Ufflegay ? —" And of course he always could. Because the woman knew very well who he talked to and who could be, or should be, re­ferred elsewhere.
He handled each call by making an initial effort to calm himself, and each time spoke in his usual practi­cal fashion.
He began to feel a lot better.
He was aware of a hardening of his resolve. The truth was, he had been shown a way out from under Utt control, from under female con­trol. And he had experienced the willing feminine body of one who seemed to welcome his attentions.
And both of these he would never forget.
Women and Utts had oppressed men too long.
Now it could be man’s turn again.
There were grievances to be paid for; wrongs for them to atone.
So he was a member of the rev­olution after all !


Femworld - Kindle version
Femworld - ePub version

Notes

[1an overview of Femworld can be seen elsewhere in this section.

[2We note in passing that Dr. Grayson was also the name of the brilliant scientist who invented a powerful atomic engine in the 1943(!) story The Great Engine.