[Another dystopian feminist flash fiction story. See Fallow Lands for slightly more detail. 2/5]
She could feel her dream slipping away as she lay on the stretcher, taking deep breaths like the paramedic had told her to. She could still hear the roar of the crowd as the ambulance pulled away from the stadium.
Today was meant to be, had been, momentous—the latest in the whirlwind of firsts that was her life. The story had begun 25 years ago, when geneticists discovered a microscopic kink at the end of the X chromosome. Straightened out, they theorised, it would enhance the physical prowess of the human race. Women stood to gain more, with the male Y chromosome apparently kink-free.
Of course her parents, progressive as ever, had been among the very first to sign up. She smiled at the thought of them, then winced as a fresh wave of pain ran through her. Nine months after treatment, and just five years after the initial discovery, they’d given birth to Valerie. They’d picked a Latin name meaning ‘strong and brave’. Prophetic.
It had been clear from early in her life that Valerie was different, though her exceptional drive and intellect came from her parents anyway. Despite her academic prowess, her parents, and her father in particular, had always encouraged her sporty side, being ever available to kick or throw in the back yard. Looking back, it was obvious he was testing the geneticists’ hypothesis.
They were right. Of all the sports she excelled at, soccer was the one that stuck. She was running rungs around her peers, male and female, by age seven, and she turned pro at fourteen. Her US national team debut followed later that year, with everyone in the know predicting a bright future for her.
They had no idea how bright. At just over six foot, and with a muscular, yet feminine frame, her speed and power made her simply too good for the women’s game. She dominated matches with ease, and had soon—too soon— won everything there was to win, so she asked to play with the men. They said no, predictably, and the world was split between ridiculing her and defending her.
And then the Italian Football Federation said yes.
When Sampdoria signed her, the world spoke again, the move written off on social media as a publicity stunt. The nation’s cameras nevertheless turned out in force for her first training session with the club’s under 18s. She took them to pieces.
The world’s press assembled for her first match with the reserves. She scored five goals.
Despite calls for her immediate promotion to the first team, she was sent on a short-term loan to a second division side.
“The world’s not quite ready for you, strong one, but score a few more and they will be,” her manager had told her.
And so to today, her professional debut in the men’s game. She’d won over her teammates in training and had her new manager’s faith—it was only the opposition that couldn’t believe her.
Her debut lasted eleven minutes. Her every touch was cheered and jeered in equal measure by the split opinions in the stands. The opposition fullback had stamped on her and called her a whore. She’d nutmegged him twice the next time she got the ball, and as she’d turned back to face him again, a grin on her face, he’d lunged in and snapped her tibia in two.