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The men showed us the clothes. The younger ones “oh” and “ah” touching the flimsy fabrics but the rest of us, the older ones, the ones that remem¬bered, watched the men’s faces. We watched their faces, wondering and remembering the rumours. The rumours of the men watching TV. Most TVs and movies have been destroyed.
We were on the men’s side. The compound that held the science depart¬ment, the cooking department and electrical department were all for the men. We were not allowed to be in here but this was a momentous occa¬sion: the clothes. Our clothes. Designed by these men.[private]
“This is the Dress World,” they claimed and we clapped in support. We never went again. On that day we chose the dresses that would be ours for the rest of our lives. We took our two dresses home to our compound that stood east of the men’s. They also gave us complimentary silver sandals with long straps that had to be wrapped tightly up and around our calves.
The two dresses were in different styles. The first dress was a traditional style of the late 1800s. We called them the “Anna Karenina” dresses. Cor¬sets were offered, we took them home, but we never wore them. The second dress was short and flimsy; a futuristic style reminiscent of the 70s when Jane Fonda and Logan’s Run were popular. The dress was a one-piece thigh-length tunic in a light mint green colour, with short sleeves that hung low and billowed out a bit.
Almost all of us chose the traditional style for everyday use. We walked around in the gardens in our large dresses. We sweated and panted while working in the gardens. We wore them when we played volleyball or swam in the man-made oceans, with our dresses floating around us like large jelly fish, threatening to drown us.
The men gave us many things from the science department. They gave us these things to keep us busy. They told us that it was a protection to be busy. Our favourite was their latest project: resurrected Sabre Tooth tiger kittens. They played at our side and pawed us. We adored them until they got too big, their paws and teeth tearing large gaps in our dresses. When they got too big, we put them outside the fence.
The fence was also for our protection and along the top of the chain-link fence were bells. As we worked in the garden we watched the men dig holes in the ground and erect the fence, and attach the small bells to the top. “What are the bells for?” we asked.
For a moment the men seemed lost, and they looked around among themselves for an answer. Finally, one of them shrugged and smiled: “For music,” he said. “Yes,” they all said, agreeing. “For music.”
The only time the bells moved was when the Sabre Tooth tigers got too close to the fence. We could see them, the Sabre Tooth tigers leaning against it, their fur poking through as their fat bodies bulged the chain link. In the heat we smelled them and sometimes we ventured near to have a look and we were surprised to see how big they had become, how strong they looked, their long teeth pointy and sharp but we never got close enough to touch them and we never called them by their names to see if they remembered us.
We saw her sprinting through. We were in the garden working and we saw her. It was hot and she was running through the gardens toward the fence. We waited in silence, watching her long hair flowing in the air, her mint green thigh high skirt blowing up, her sliver sandal boots tied tightly around her calves.
Her sliver sandals began to unravel until she shook them off and con¬tinued barefoot. Her bare feet pounded the ground as the dust spiralled up behind her. She took a jump like a gazelle and landed on the fence. The bells tolled. We watched the muscles of her legs flinch and briefly saw the white briefs she wore underneath her flimsy, too-short skirt. Her strong arms pulled her up and over the chain linked fence, the bells tolling all the while.
She was on the other side and we heard her running still, saw the thick green vegetation thrashing as she forced through the jungle leaves, until we heard more bells go clanking around the entire garden’s exterior fence. We heard the roaring.
We waited for the scream, but she didn’t scream.
We put our hands back into the ground, digging and pulling, fiercely pushing away the baby Sabre Tooth tigers that pawed at our skirts and fingers; hitting them with an intensity that shocked us.[/private]