The Venus Virus - Cover Reveal
New London, 2067, and a diminished Britain struggles to preserve what remains after the Great Flood. Whether this planned city is a hard-won utopia or an oppressive dystopia is likely to depend on your gender.
Cerys and Gloria want to change the world. Two young women with very different dreams and a common enemy. Forced underground, a small group of female scientists engineer something that could change society forever. Who is willing to support their radical solution?
The Venus Virus is due to be released 20th February, 2020.
Inside the football stadium, the amalgamation of male voices sounded like a roar. Hair bristled on my arms and legs. This was it. I clutched a duffel bag, hiding myself behind its bulk as though it was my battle shield. In the midst of all these men, many of whom were already drunk, I felt more vulnerable than ever.
Grandma said I had the heart of a lion inside the body of a mouse, and I was certainly a diminutive looking woman. Twenty-one years old and still, to my mother’s despair, unmarried. I wore my dark blonde hair, cropped short, and hid my freckled face behind metal rimmed glasses. I was no beauty queen. Men didn’t fall at my feet. I just had to hide my fear and they’d leave me alone. Fear was the ultimate aphrodisiac to the men who surrounded me on every side as I stood rooted to one spot on the metal trimmed stairs that led towards the pitch. So many dangerous men. Individually they made me quiver in fear and there were thousands here.
The smell was the worst thing. The air stank of sweat and musk. An earthy, salty, vinegary stench that made my nostrils burn.
This was madness. I couldn’t do it. Every instinct told me to leave. Only loyalty kept me there. They were relying on me, the other women in my group. I would not let them down. Not now we were so close.
I could already taste the freedom our victory would bring. It hadn’t always been like this. Grandma’s youth had been different. She raised me on subversive bedtime stories, recalling a different time, back in the twentieth century, when women’s rights were gaining momentum. Women had the vote, they had careers, albeit the most powerful heads of industry were still male. There was a joke that there were more male CEOs called John than all the female CEOs put together. It was almost funny now, that joke. So much had changed that to think of women in business suits, with well groomed coifs, was a joke in and of itself.
The change hadn’t happened overnight. It had taken decades and a global disaster to bring women back down to where they felt blessed if they had a family and two bedrooms. Mothers were the lucky ones. The ones with social status. Everyone else found it much harder. I found it much harder.
Unwilling to give up, some women worked together in secret. One of those secrets was waiting in the duffel bag that dug painfully into my ribs.
Servants, that’s what women were now. That’s why we didn’t stick out amongst all these sports fans waiting for the football match to begin. Women served: the burgers, the beer, the souvenir t-shirts, the air horns, like the ones in my bag, that would be used by fans to deafen each other in celebration of a goal. As if these men weren’t deaf enough already. They heard nothing apart from their own self-congratulatory posturing. They certainly didn’t listen to their wives, their mothers, their sisters. Those voices were silenced. They didn’t hear the Please no’s, or the I’m sorry’s, or even the I love you’s.
Would things change quickly, once it was begun? Would it go to plan? The virus and the delivery system had been thoroughly tested. Sacrifices had been made along the way, all in secret. Maybe soon those sacrifices, the heroines of the revolution, could be celebrated. Would I be one of many martyrs to the cause?
Five other women were here, working stalls. Air horns at five credits a shot. Some suggested giving them away, but it was quickly decided that would attract too much attention. The State-issued license had been difficult to obtain, but we had it now. We were licensed sellers of 200ml air canister horns that would blast sound and virus simultaneously. Now it was time to sell them. The ones in my duffel bag were painted in Chelsea colours. It was a Chelsea vs Manchester match and it was sold out. 10,000 football supporters gathered to cheer on their respective teams. Ancient history had its gladiators. Men today had their football teams.
A lot was riding on this event. Trains had delivered the Northern fans to the New London stadium. In the mid twenty-first century it seemed strange that such an effort be made. Only sports and singles events kept the mainland’s cities connected. Without cars or aeroplanes, few people travelled outside their districts, let alone their city.
“Hey mouse. What have you got for me in that huge sack?” a muscular man, sporting a shaven head, leered at me. His neighbour, a younger man with pimples, touched my thigh. A normal greeting, but it filled my stomach with acid. There was nothing I could do to stop it. No one I could complain to. No legal recourse. The law wasn’t there to protect single women, only to keep them in line.
“Chelsea air-horns.” I forced an ingratiating smile that I hoped didn’t look more like a sneer. Chances were it wouldn’t be noticed. They hardly glanced at my face.
“How much?” the skinhead asked.
“Five credits.” I pulled a cannister out of the bag.
“I’ll take one,” the first man said.
“Me too,” his neighbour agreed, reaching into his jeans.
Credit notes were passed and my fingers were squeezed. I’d anticipated this power play. It didn’t make the bone crushing grip any less painful.
I stuffed the currency into a zipped compartment. Paper money. Only men carried it and only for the luxuries their wives and mothers couldn’t purchase at the supermarkets. It was yet another example of the relative freedom of men compared to women. Every purchase a woman made was taken from a family fund, allocated on a day to day basis and spent via a chip in the palm of her hand. Chip and handprint were matched and the information as to who bought what and where could be accessed, in real time if desired, by the government. Men could convert part of their wages into paper notes that allowed them to spend anonymously. I could accept them as payment but, outside the black market, no woman could spend them. How it could be converted into money we could use was thankfully not my problem. It’s likely the group never intended to spend it.
I reached into the bag for a second horn. It had begun. I descended the steps to the next row.