Gladys Vandelay was once a rising recruit, trained to be one of the most dangerous snipers in an underground society of feminists. She has since defected, and now, she’s being recruited by another secret organization. The problem is, everyone still thinks she’s playing for the enemy. Elliot Chan’s determined to find out for himself whether Gladys is a friend or foe. The one thing they have in common is that both of them lost their fathers to the Swords of St. Catherine.
Elliot Chan: Domestication
All that talk about Gladys Vandelay… Jake had so much hope, so much faith in her. Jake’s not an idiot. Just a hopeless romantic. Who was she? What did she know? What if she knew nothing and all this drama was just a waste of time and stress. They did mention that she flunked her initiation. From my understanding, only full-fledged Swords knew the deepest innermost secrets of the Society’s infrastructure. So what could we possibly get out of this one girl? I had to see for myself.
After combing the enormous estate for most of the afternoon, I found her in the first place I should have checked. I heard she was crazy about guns but damn. By the time I arrived at the underground shooting range, she had already gone through fifty magazines, three sniper rifles had jammed and the gears of an antique machine gun had dislodged from its cogs.
A guy leaving told me that she didn’t talk to anyone and good luck. She just stayed in her lane and popped off rounds. When someone asked her a question, she pretended not to hear them. But still, I approached, pulling up a chair so as to signify that I wasn’t going anywhere.
She threw a glance out of the corner of her eye before unloading on a fresh target sheet 30 yards away. I heard she was twenty-two but she looked like she was still in middle school. Baby blue eyes. Long blonde hair with curls at the ends. From her skirt and stockings, I could tell she was athletically gifted by the bulge of her calves, the way she barely shook from the recoil. Her accuracy was also something else. She hit the X on eight out of the ten shots fired from a fully automatic.
“I’m glad to see your injury hadn’t affected your accuracy.” I said in the pause it took for her to reload.
She didn’t respond.
“You were wounded, weren’t you? I’m only assuming Col. Buchanan isn’t completely off his rocker in bringing you here.”
“Scared?” She asked.
“Terrified.” I grinned.
“You should be. I’m only barely resisting the urge to turn my muzzle your way. Now leave me alone.”
“Are you here to destroy us? Or do you really want to take down the Society?”
She slapped in a new magazine with an attitude that sent chills down my spine.
“If none of you believe me, then why the fuck…You should just get rid of me. It’s so simple it’s stupid.”
“You’re right!” I said, standing up. “It is stupid. However, Jake isn’t dumb and neither is the council. But unlike them, I know all about false hope. I know what it does to a man. They’ll sacrifice their entire lives for that which isn’t true, plunging headfirst in their graves blissfully at peace with the hope and faith that everything will work out. I learned that lesson long ago. Hope, faith, belief, these are like batteries for martyrs. I’m not a martyr.”
“You think I give a damn what you are? Couldn’t care less.” She snapped.
“I heard they killed your old man right in front of you.”
She finally aimed her gun at me but I didn’t back down.
“They killed my father in front of me too. Both of my fathers, actually. The biological and the one who adopted me. Honestly, you bitches make me sick. Initiated or not, you’re one of them. I can see it in your eyes. You all have it.”
“Selfishness. Everyone of you thinks you’re the center of the universe.”
“Please! Grow up! Every one’s selfish! You have to look out for yourself ‘cause no one else will. If all the Paramours are like you then y’all don’t stand a chance. The Swords will carve through you like cake.”
I nodded in disbelief as I walked away, kinda pissed.
“You’re selfish too, you little punk! You’re just too stupid to see it. That ‘correct the course’ philosophy is nonsense! It’s pointless. It won’t change anything. If you don’t kill them! If you don’t kill every last one of them they’ll only multiply and they won’t stop until they get their revenge! And on and on it will go! It’s insanity you fucking blockhead!”
I could still hear her shouting as I boarded the elevator. It’s not that I didn’t believe or understand where she was coming from. But I suppose that’s the difference between the Paramours and the Swords of St. Catherine. The women perpetuate the hate. The men are prepared to end it by laying down their lives. It begged the question, in the depths of my heart, am I really a Paramour?
The next day was colder than the last. I wished it would go ahead and snow already. With my cover blown and the Society hunting me from sea to shining sea, I was confined to Hollow Rock and limited in aiding Paramours in their missions. Of course, in my downtime I still wrote scripts and movie ideas. I was still a film student after all. That passion never faded.
“Jesus!” I shrieked.
I was crouching by a pond with music in my earbuds when I spotted Gladys’s reflection. She was bundled in this pearl white coat with the wooly hood on. That added with the gray overcast, she really did look like a ghost. It was creepy as fuck.
I took out one of my earbuds to see if she had anything to say. My curiosity had dried up from our last convo, so if she didn’t have anything else to add I was ‘bout ready to put my earbuds back in and ignore her the way she did so many others.
“I’m not selfish.” She said, almost in a pout. “You just…You have no idea what I’ve been through. That’s the look in my eyes, that all Swords have. We’ve all been oppressed. We’ve all been antagonized and preyed upon.”
“By whom, Gladys?” I asked with heartfelt sincerity. “And before you answer, consider this. It seems that you’re coming here to plead your case that not all Swords are the same. I know this is a difficult task, but I would urge you to practice what you preach. Whoever oppressed you, whoever attacked you and inflicted you with this eternal pain, the scars you carry with such disdain and obvious spite. Consider that they, even they, are individuals.”
“You’re not making any sense! Then why do you want to end the Society! If you’re just going to treat them as individuals, why do you hate them as a group?” Gladys shouted.
I smirked, rising to a stand. “Is it really so hard to understand? On the battlefield, when you see soldiers rushing at you, doesn’t it make sense to assume that the group of individuals are all coming to get you? But you know what I’m trying to say. Men aren’t the enemy. Just like all women aren’t our enemy. Just the militant ones out to destroy us and reduce us to impotent puppies on a leash. On the same token, I assume it’s the corrupt, abusive men who you deem to be the enemy, right? The ones who still think women are all inferior slaves in every comprehensive way. But that doesn’t denote all and I refuse to believe it applies most. At least not in Western Civilization.”
“Yeah, thanks to women. If it wasn’t for us putting our foot down, forcing civilization to progress we’d still be in the Dark Ages.”
“I don’t deny that, Gladys. None of us do. We may go up against a society dominated by women but every Paramour here will tell you that their love for women is still paramount. The Swords of St. Catherine are evil. That doesn’t mean all women are. Nor does it mean that all agendas backed by women are evil.”
“Then why do you think the Swords are evil?”
“Because they kill, Gladys.”
“Spare me. Like men don’t kill.”
“True, and those men deserve to be punished. In fact, a lot of them are being punished. The prisons are filled with them.”
“So naïve.” She grumbled.
“Maybe. But you know I’m not wrong. And pointing the fingers at other wicked creatures doesn’t change the fact that your little girl scouts are the worse of the bunch. They kill and ruin everyone who gets in their way. They’d rather replace love with hate. If that’s not the zenith of evil, I don’t know what is.”
“You’re wrong. They’re replacing the love for men with love of…”
“Themselves?” I asked. “I don’t think it’s for the love of God or any other deity, Jake would have mentioned it. And if it’s for the love of women, why would they force you or any other woman to commit so many rotten and unspeakable acts. Like sleep with a man to get close to him. Or kill your own father. If you ask me, that’s no different from the so-called Patriarchy, of kings who send the vanguard out to the slaughter just to lure the enemy into a trap. I dunno. I could be wrong.”
Her blue eyes glossed over as the breeze pulled at her bangs. “What do you want from me? I keep asking you guys over and over again. What do you want? For all the stereotypes about women beating around the bush, it’s like, you guys seem to do a lot of pussyfooting if you ask me.”
I chuckled. “Well, I can tell you what I want. I want to see the Society and all the Swords fall flat on their faces. Whatever they got planned, whatever my mother’s up to, till the day I die, I want to fuck up all her operations.”
“Your mother’s with the society?” she asked.
“And you don’t want to kill her? You just want to fuck with her.”
“You don’t want to kill her because she’s your mother?”
“I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thought about it. But she’s a tough cookie. Bite her the wrong way and it’ll break your teeth.”
“What if I killed your mother for you?”
“Geez, kid…What is it with you and death?”
“BECAUSE, YOU DOLT! That’s the only way it ends! That’s what I don’t get. It’s so stupid! Fucking with her plans? What are you, twelve? Don’t you feel guilty for the countless lives they’ll ruin? That they’ll destroy everything because you and your little butt-buddies were too busy twiddling your thumbs, snickering behind closed doors at the plots you foiled like it’s a fucking Saturday morning cartoon? GROW UP!”
Gladys…sure was something else. I could still hear her fuming as she trudged off towards the mansion. Still…she made some good points.
Gladys Vandelay – The Initiation