Challenge #00206: What All Girls Should Know

Begin with: “Honey, what I’m about to tell you is what all responsible mothers should tell their daughters on the night before the haze begins…”

“Honey, what I’m about to tell you is what all responsible mothers should tell their daughters on the night before the haze begins…”

Danny finished sneaking up on the dining room from her exile with Dad. She’d tried to tell her family that she was a girl, too, but her pleas fell on deaf ears at the best of times. At the worst of times… well, it got painful.

She had a plan, though. Work hard. Save. Invest. Get enough money to get out and get the surgery and become an all-over girl and just maybe never talk to her parents again.

Janice was an all-over girl. A through-and-through girl. A girl with all the girl parts naturally installed, as it were, on manufacture. Danny was a girl with defects who had to pretend she was a boy until her inevitable self-deliverance.

But right now, Danny was concentrating on listening without getting found out.

“Don’t go out after dark, especially if you’re menstruating,” said Mom.

Ha. No worries, there. Even with the best of medical intervention, there was no way the doctors could install a uterus that was never there to begin with.

“If you have to go out after dark, you can make a flamethrower with a lighter and a can of hairspray. It can save your life. Don’t worry about hurting your hands. They’re very good with burns, these days. Better a little pain than what They’ll do to you.”

They. Who were They? Danny caught the ominous capital. She had heard about Them, in hushed whispers between other, ‘real'er girls before they noticed her presence and glared her away.

Nobody would talk about Them with perceived boys.

Danny worried that They were boys. That one night during the haze, the question of her reality would be finally, horribly, answered for once and for all.

“It’s not about keeping women under control,” said Mom. “It’s about keeping women safe. Apart from haze season, we have as much freedom as any man.”

Except women couldn’t be members of emergency services. Or go mining.

“What is the haze, exactly?” asked Janice.

Good Janice. Ask the question we all want answered

“It’s complicated,” said Mom.

“That’s a very funny beer you got there,” said Dad.

Fuck. Danny put on a cocky smile as she turned. “You know me, Dad. Can’t stand the chicks knowing secrets.”

“It’s women’s business, boy. Nothing we need to know.”

Damn. At least beer dulled the pain of existing as a Daniel.

The haze was due in three days. Both she and Janice were of the age. In three days… she would know.

It was the second-worst seventy-two hours of her life. She watched Janice laying in supplies. Making sure she was ready. Watched her and Mom taping up the windows and blocking the chimney. Dad checking the air filter and circulation system and making Danny hose out the black gunk from last year.

Some supplies were a mystery. Pure silver jewelry. A headpiece, two bracelets, two anklets, and a long chain Janice told her was to go around her waist. Five whole garlic bulbs, set in her bedroom window to sprout. A brand-new set of Diva cups, a little cauldron made of gold, and a live rosemary plant in a pot made to look like a cat.

And then it was time for the haze. Mom and Janice stayed in the entertainment room with their things. The exact centre of the house. Which had a trapdoor under the middle rug to the basement.

Dad handed her a flamethrower with a backpack for fuel and said, “We gotta protect the womenfolk. It’s our duty.”

Dad lead her out by the mud room, into the night. The houses were all dark from the outside. Even the street lamps were off. The entire suburb was bathed only in moonlight. The silence was ominous. Not even a dog filled the air with its barking.

Dad showed her how to keep the pilot light going on the flamethrower, and how to aim the fire down the abandoned street.

Almost abandoned. Every father. Every son of the age. Were patrolling yards in guarded silence. There was no talk. Just wary watchfulness.

Danny kept up her pretense. Walk like a man. Stand like a man. Watch the dark skies like a man. Keep a firm, white-knuckled grip on the flamethrower like a boy on his first night guarding the ladies from the haze.

“There is is,” whispered Dad.

It looked like a cloud coming over the moon and blotting out the stars. Like any other cloudy night. Except the nights were not cloudy during the haze. Clear summer nights. That’s when the haze came.

The cloud came down, blotting out distant features. Blotting out closer features. Lit from below by bursts from other flamethrowers.


They came down the street. Not in a roiling chaos cloud. But an arrow. Coming straight to Danny.

They knew. They knew she was really a girl.

She aimed the flamethrower and squeezed the trigger. Trying desperately to fend off the creatures as they went around the flame. Closed in. Started biting…


She woke up in hospital. Soaking in fluids meant to help her skin grow back. Wet cloth covered most of her face. Alive hurt.

Dad was sitting by her bed. Worried.

“I told you I was a girl,” she managed. “I told you…”

Next year… next year she would find out what all that stuff was for.

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