The Men: Demons

Post hidden under the cut due to graphic depiction of self-harm and childhood sexual assault. Please mind the trigger warnings.

I had planned to go over at least two more topics of social justice concerns to me (race representation and survivor representation) but in the break after posting my first set of notes it became clear to me that a lot of folks have questions about the demons in this story, questions that I didn't adequately address the first time through. This is a fair ask, and the only explanation I can give is that this is what Gendercide books are like now: the second-to-last gendercide I read (Sleeping Beauties) had literal Eve from the Christian creation causing the gender plague, so when creatures escaped from a Hieronymus Bosch painting show up as demons in this one, I just sort of took another bite of peanut butter sandwich and nodded sagely. But questions about the demons are relevant here because they pertain to whether the Y chromosome really does contain all the world's "evil". So let's begin.

To begin with, there's not a lot to go on regarding the demons and the demon world: as I mentioned previously, the glimpses of the demon world only fill about ~15 pages of this 270 page novel. Those pages are between-chapter breaks that seem to take the guise of some sort of "found footage" documentation that I initially took as government research, though I'll admit that feels strange now in light of the reboot ending where time is wound back and the event didn't happen, therefore the documents should not exist to be read. Outside of these pages of found documents, our only glimpses into the demon world occur when the characters watch "The Men" live-stream videos in their narrative sections.

[TW: Suicide] The first character to hear about "The Men" website is Alma, who receives 10 email messages from her mother's email account. Alma's mother has died by suicide on the same night of the event, which made me briefly wonder if she was supposed to be one of the Burning Girls as a narrative link to the mystery of the lost women, but we are later told how she died and immolation was not a factor.

On day eight, when the lights and water came back, Alma took a shower while her phone recharged. She came out and checked the phone, and her hands were trembling despite herself. Nothing from Billy or Evangelyne or anyone. Just ten identical emails from her mother’s email address. She would never know for certain if her mother had sent them or if the email had been hacked. Although she didn’t know it yet, her mother was dead. The email messages all contained a link to the same website: The subject line was: Baby crees que e verdad.

Our first of the found documents follows and shows the men getting up and leaving their places on earth. I'll admit I find this very confusing because the disappearances have previously been described as a sort of Rapture: all women felt a moment of pure bliss, then looked around to see their men gone. Being in mind of a Left Behind rapture scenario, it was strange to learn that the men instead walked out of their homes into hell. Even presuming the demons (the strange bird in #3 is one of the demons) unlocked the prison doors or caused the men to phase through material concerns like prison bars, how would walking like this work for disabled people who can't walk? people in comas? actual fetuses in wombs? Are we to understand that a second trimester fetus just phased through the womb walls and walked off? I do not know.

THE MEN (8/27 5:15:03 GMT) 1. The first clip on the website shows the dusty street of a favela in São Paulo: weather-beaten houses, litter, one edge of a graffitied wall. There’s no sound. It’s one continuous shot and the angle never changes. The image is poor and the colors are strange, too bright. Some parts of the screen are obscured by glare. These features will be constant in all the clips. As this clip begins, men and boys are already flooding from the houses and walking down the street, all heading to the left. Their movements are languid and labored, as if they’re walking underwater, but the fluttering of their clothes and hair in the breeze is normal. The men never look at each other and no one speaks. The camera remains trained on the street as they dwindle until the road is empty. Another thirty seconds pass and one last man walks by with a baby in his arms. 2. A man and woman sleep intertwined in a bed flanked by nightstands with matching lamps with conical shades. The furnishings are so generic it’s impossible to tell what part of the world they’re in. It’s possibly a Hilton or a corporate apartment. Again, the colors are off, the darkness an oversaturated mustard yellow with splotches of black. The couple lie unmoving for a full minute. Then, with no apparent transition, the man gets out of bed and walks out of frame. The woman sleeps on undisturbed. This clip had a second life as a reaction GIF on social media, used to suggest someone leaving in disgust when a line of stupidity had been crossed. A woman who claimed to be the woman in the clip went through a futile legal process, attempting to stop people from posting it.

3. This clip is an aerial view of a prison with watchtowers and a perimeter fence. As it begins, a seemingly enormous fluttering creature passes the lens. It’s all white feathers: a fluffy, festive thing like a quinceañera gown. Closer to the ground, a flock of such creatures flaps past in a little pale stream. In a much slower stream on the ground, a line of men is leaving the prison. They move laboriously as if wading through mud. This clip goes on for several minutes. The camera angle never changes. The men flow from the prison and out of frame. 4. A dozen nude men stand in a field of tall grass. Their mouths move, but each man seems unaware of the presence of the others. On more careful inspection, their mouths aren’t making the movements of speech but the jerky, stylized speech motions of Claymation. As in all the clips, there is no sound, so it’s unclear if they’re vocalizing. The men stop “speaking” and kneel. On their knees, they are perfectly, unnaturally still. Another figure enters the shot. Its face appears human, but its body is feline. It’s covered in short, pale fur. It walks on all fours queerly, like a human on hands and knees, if such a human were preternaturally graceful. It’s roughly the size of a horse. It towers over the men. In the background, several larger shapes parade along the horizon: blurred, lumbering figures seemingly too large to be any earthly creature. A lilting, sinuous movement suggests an elephant’s trunk; perhaps they are elephants. Their exaggerated gigantism could be an optical illusion or an artifact of the film equipment being used. This clip is followed by credits. These consist of a simple list of names in three alphabets. The names are in no apparent order: 802 male names.

Chapter 6 opens with people discussing The Men so we can see a glimpse of what an internet forum thinks of the footage. This is noteworthy in part because we are still in the short 10-day window in which the world briefly suffers energy shortages and gasoline rationing because of the disastrous effect of half the world's labor being raptured overnight. Yet everyone still has unlimited social media access and video streaming capabilities--as well as the time and inclination to discuss the newest online "prank".

the_men_fan2 I love it but its so fake tho. There like Muppets. Its Actors in cgi suits. Or Actresses even, which makes the most sense. QueenLeesa83 My sons are with God, not in some exploitive tv show. Whoever made this crap is sick. Jilly_Sarsparilly 1. how could they make it with actors? use your head. they had to know before the men left and make this whole freaking film with thousands of people. 2. and it can’t be women because how do they make the naked ones? boobydabad With deepfake now you could make that whole thing and have it all be naked Nic Cages lmao

BBandthebean WHAT ARE THOSE ANIMALS THO? And the flying things. If that’s all a fake? Like it’s a freaking entertainment product? WTF? boobydabad crazy right? It’s like the moon landings BarbIsCancerFree I think it’s real. With all due respect to skeptics, it’s just too complex to be fake. I know it’s difficult to accept because it means we live in a very strange cosmos, but if that’s the only reason you doubt, ask yourself, how is that more unbelievable than the very fact the men disappeared? PippiIsTripping I dont believe any of you realy watched the footage, realy watched it. Those are *women*. It’s just pads and binding and fake bears. My sister does costumes at a theater and they make stuff like htat all the time. Look at their “naked” skin in this thing and you can tell its fabric or plastic. boobydabad It’s fake bears folks PippiIsTripping Fake BEARDS. I’m talking about the “Men’s” beards. It’s a typo for Christ sake!! Jilly_Sarsparilly fabric and plastic don’t even look alike pippi crayon4Killa i saw my dad. i know it’s him. he’s even wearing the same clothes.

We never learn why Alma clicks on the spam email message from her mother; she thought it likely that her mother had been hacked, and having the message sent 10 times seems suspicious, but I guess having your personal information potentially stolen seems less of a threat in the apocalypse. Alma begins obsessively watching the footage. The mechanics of this are unclear; she's described as watching the site "all day, every day" which would suggest a live feed (like a zoo-cam) but the videos are described as discrete and separate drops with "credits" each time. When another POV character (Blanca) sees the site with Alma, they realize that the "actors" are real.

The footage was all alike: men marching or standing in groups, mouths opening and closing in unison. When they walked, their feet moved with an odd chugging motion and landed wrong, so it looked as if they should just fall over. Weird animals appeared: enormous panthers, pumpkin-headed elephants, beakless birds with human torsos. After every fourth clip, there were credits, a list of names in various alphabets, several of them new to Alma. The men were infinitely varied but their movements all the same. Once in a while, a trans woman appeared among them, and Alma was always outraged. Here was a person unjustly condemned, was the feeling.

“So could I look at the Burning Girls site? I could tell you the URL, if you don’t like people touching your computer.” Alma’s throat hurt. She wanted to launch into an explanation of why The Men was the important thing, not the Burning Girls. You couldn’t just look at The Men and move on. But before she could put it together in her head, the kid said, “Wait. You said this isn’t real?” Alma said carefully, “No, I think it is real. I think.” “Are they in Texas?” “Texas?” Alma laughed uncomfortably. “Why? Is that what Texas looks like?” “No, it’s just, I’m from Houston, and I know two of those kids?” Blanca pointed at the corner of the screen. “Those boys go to my school.” There was a beat where Alma’s heart went batshit. Then she said in a different voice, “Okay. That’s good. Do you maybe know their names?” “Michel and Cooper Williams. They’re brothers.” “Cool. That’s really cool.” The clip changed, and it was just one man, walking through a forest. Behind him was one of the cat-things, prancing the way they sometimes did. The kid was still watching with the silly expression of trying not to smile. She said, “What kind of animal is that?” “No one knows. It only exists in The Men.” Then the credits came up, and Alma wanted to tell the kid to watch for her friends’ names, but there they were at the top of the first screen: Cooper Williams, Michel Williams. Alma pointed to them, and Blanca stiffened, amazed, as if Alma had made them appear by magic. She turned to Alma and laughed in pleasure, her eyes alight with what this meant. She said, “Damn. My

Between chapters 6 and 7 we see that "the men" are being forced to walk under the piercing eyes of their strange captors. They appear to be in some sort of hypnotic state which a single trans woman will briefly shake herself slightly out of, but I don't believe this is ever repeated in the novel so the significance of the scene is lost on me.

THE MEN (10/16 22:01:20 GMT) 1. An enormous procession of naked men moves gradually, rocking from foot to foot, through a jungle. They are visible only in glimpses through the dense foliage, and their passage doesn’t disturb the leaves. It’s as if there’s a tunnel cut into the foliage whose shape we can’t perceive from the vantage point of the camera. On branches above perch strange, broad-shouldered white birds. The birds crane down their necks and turn their heads 360 degrees like inverted periscopes, inspecting the rocking men. They are jarringly identical in size to the men. The behavior of these creatures is avian; they half unfold their wings in response to the men and step from one claw to the other in excitement. However, they have no beaks. When the men have passed and the birds retract their necks, they appear completely headless. 2. This is the last of many clips that are perfectly black with no image at all. In this “black” clip, at the very end, a tiny locus of blackness begins to disintegrate and give way to light and color. It flashes, appearing and disappearing, then abruptly grows and becomes a hole leading to the outside of some subterranean darkness. We see a man silhouetted as he is suddenly revealed by light. Then confused shapes: a cat-thing pulling itself out through the hole, two men, a jumble of extremities. Soon the mass of them blocks the light so it’s impossible to tell them apart. In the final frames, a spark of brighter light like a camera flash briefly exposes a man above, holding a baby. Both are nude and entirely begrimed with earth. 3. This is an early anomaly clip. It takes place in a moonlit grassland that will later be identified as the area immediately adjoining the

riverbank. The men are in soiled clothing, proceeding at a faster pace than usual, heading diagonally past the camera. There are roughly a hundred, and in their midst is a single trans woman, one of the first recurring characters. She’s appeared in two previous clips and, by the time this clip was first posted, had been recognized by her wife. Her name is Giovanna Fini. In previous clips, Fini exhibited the same automatic behaviors as the other characters. Here, as she enters the shot, she’s already hurrying ahead of the others, jigging erratically, both arms stretched stiffly forward. As she reaches the center of the shot, she stops. The impression given is that she senses the viewer and is shocked by the realization. She raises both arms in the air and rocks back and forth in apparent distress, though her face remains blank, her eyes unfocused. The flood of men parts around her as the clip ends. This clip was often used to illustrate The Men in media coverage, perhaps because of its cinematic character, or because trans people were a popular preoccupation in those first months. The Men community reacted with fury, feeling this choice encouraged several misconceptions: that trans women in The Men behaved differently from men, that anomalous behavior was typical instead of being a rare exception, that people in The Men were aware of the camera’s presence like actors. The online abuse of journalists from some watchers was one reason for the sparse media coverage of The Men in the early months. 4. This is the first clip of the riverbank sequence. It begins with an aerial shot of the grassy bank of a broad, slow-flowing river, seen in moonlight. Eight men, emaciated and in tattered clothing, trot toward

the water. A few yards short of the water, they stop all at once and fall abruptly still. They remain there unmoving. Something breaks the surface of the water, a creature too large and complex to be a fish. It undulates, flashing what looks like a silver elbow, and is gone. After two minutes of stillness, a second group of men trots into the frame and halts at the same distance from the water. All the men stand unmoving as the clip ends. As usual, after the fourth clip, there are credits: 182 male names. Here, for the first time, several of the names are followed by an asterisk.

Chapter 8 begins with another POV character (Ji-Won) who has become a volunteer trucker. The opening to her chapter is interesting because it is the only mention of violence in the "world of women" that I can recall, excepting the scene where the trans man is attacked in the wake of the rapture. We read: "The roads were still hazardous. Through Nevada and eastern California, there were towns with no food supplies or water, and some truckers had been ambushed and killed."

Ji-Won first heard about The Men at a truck stop in Battle Mountain, Nevada. It was October, and she was driving a mail route from Kansas City to L.A., in a truck she’d been given in those first months, when a trucker was anyone who volunteered, when the training was one long, grueling day, then they gave you a route and you left the next morning. The roads were still hazardous. Through Nevada and eastern California, there were towns with no food supplies or water, and some truckers had been ambushed and killed. Now everyone carried a gun, and trucks traveled in convoys of a dozen or more. Rest areas and truck stops were guarded by the military. The truck stop where it happened was also a food distribution point, where locals came to receive potatoes, onions, blocks of government cheese. When there was cheese, people came from miles around. This was a cheese day, and Ji-Won and many other truckers were in the

What does this mean? Well, one possible explanation is that evil doesn't in fact dwell on the Y chromosome and the demons (or Poppy) were mistaken (or lying) when claiming that this event would remove evil from the world (or perhaps that the author draws a meaningful difference between the manly "Evil" taken to hell and the womanly evil left behind). On the other hand, these incidents as so vague that it's hard to be sure that "evil" is the best explanation: it sounds like people are ambushing the truckers for *food and water* and I'm not sure where that action falls on my personal morality meter. Moreover, it is entirely possible that this is just another world-building tangle in a book full of them: Ji-Won is proud of her "unlimited gasoline permit" in a time of gas rationing, but Jane and Evangelyne will later be able to charter a private plane when their commercial flight is canceled for mundane reasons. There are a lot of these snarls, such that I found it a real struggle to tell what was rationed, what was utopianly plentiful, and what was merely normally available.

When the woman was gone, Ji-Won went to her truck, got out her phone, and watched The Men. She missed the next two convoys watching it. Then she went to and spent another hour looking through the classifieds. In the house share section, there was only one room available on Ji-Won’s route. It was the photos of the mansion that decided her. She’d never lived in a beautiful house. She took a selfie of herself with the truck, then added a photo of her unlimited gasoline permit. The subject line of her email was: Good at fixing things, never at home.

But I digress. Ji-Won is given a flyer informing her of the existence of "The Men" and another woman urges her not to get caught up in what she believes to be an exploitative cult. The woman is a caricature: she's casually racist, she doesn't understand art techniques the way Ji-Won does, she thinks the men on the screen are women in costumes. Ji-Won gets hooked on the site and becomes part of the online community.


“No, serious. You don’t believe me?” Then the fuzzy-slipper woman got out her phone as if she and Ji-Won had agreed this was what should happen. As she tapped at the screen, she said, “Some people say it’s made by Russia. There’s lots of conspiracy theories, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a scam. If the government wasn’t so effed up, they’d find the people doing it and shut them down. It’s evil. I lost my two sons, and if I thought I could see them again? That’s how they suck people in. And the people who are into it, it’s like they’re hypnotized. It’s like an old-time cult.” Ji-Won should have made an excuse and left, but instead she waited, struck by the strange conviction that this was the solution to the mystery of why she’d come here, although there was actually no mystery to why she’d come here. It was her job to come here. She’d been standing in line for cheese. “Okay,” the slipper woman said, “feast your eyes. It’s supposed to be a film of where the men are now, but it’s just these actresses doing nothing, with a bunch of screwy CGI animals. I think it’s actresses, anyway. Some people think it’s real men. I don’t.”

Several men were shown kneeling in a grove of trees, all staring directly ahead. Their mouths moved in an uncoordinated way, silently gnashing at the air. In the far left of the frame was a gargantuan beast with the general appearance of an elephant, but with a rounded head and bright blue eyes. It was so large, Ji-Won thought it was a painted statue until it shifted its weight and shudderingly sighed. What struck Ji-Won was not the image itself—a lot of video art was equally strange—but its quality. It was blurred, but only in patches, as if it had been filmed through a smeared pane of glass. The elephant-thing was much too big, but everything else was normal size. All the colors were off. The men’s clothes and the sky had a Technicolor garishness. It had the extravagant palette of certain kinds of folk art—lime green, turquoise, chalk white—and was fraught with the bright melancholia of that art. Ji-Won should have known what kind of photographic process she was looking at. She’d lived among artists all her adult life and was familiar with every kind of video equipment. She’d even helped one man turn his van into a pinhole camera. She’d worked in dark rooms and had altered photographs both manually and digitally. This image made no sense to her. The best she could come up with was that someone had doctored the image piecemeal, painting it in places and creating the elephant separately with animation software. But the men were men, not women or CGI. She couldn’t see them as anything but men.

Then the clip changed abruptly to a lone man walking toward the viewer across a poison-green lawn that seemed to bulge with light. As he approached, his face came briefly into focus. Ji-Won was startled into speech. “I know him.” The woman flinched and hunched toward the phone screen, squinting. Then she scoffed and said, “You couldn’t. Think about it. How many Chinese people are there? Like a billion? For that to happen like that? Plus you can tell it’s a girl dressed up like a man. Look how delicate she is.” The man was Vietnamese. He had lived in Ji-Won’s apartment building in New Hampshire. The woman must have read resistance in Ji-Won’s face, because she said, “I guess you better join those people, then. One more cracker for the cracker barrel!” She laughed angrily, then frowned back at the phone as if it had wronged her. The clip had changed again: two small boys were walking away from the camera laboriously, up to their knees in swamp. “Okay,” Ji-Won said. The woman turned off the screen and said, “I got to watch the charge. We don’t always have power here. Sorry what I said about the cracker barrel. But you don’t want to get mixed up with those people.”

The next set of "The Men" clips are even harder for me to interpret; I freely admit to being too autistic and literal-minded to pierce the gnomic imagery here. What is apparent is that the prisoners are being tortured by the creatures and that time is passing much differently from time on earth: they are forced to stand, hungry and unfed, for days on end while waiting for...something? They are skeletally thin but cannot die.

THE MEN (12/12 8:01:35 GMT) 1. This is the last of the “leading edge” clips. We start with an aerial view of the river, its mustard-yellow water bulging against its shallow banks. One shore is now covered with standing men, all motionless, facing the opposite bank. Only at the far left edge of the screen an empty patch remains. From our vantage point in the air, it’s clear that the men are gathered in discrete groups. Each group, whether of four or twenty, centers around a child. The men stand evenly spaced in rings of roughly ten feet in diameter, encircling a child but facing the river. Filtering among the men are animals: lurching elephants, creeping cats. A swirl of white birds circles above. In the water, a creature occasionally surfaces, a pallid thing of indeterminate shape whose bulk extends massively, deforming the water. This scene continues unchanged for several minutes. At last another group of men jogs into the last empty patch and halts, already in its bull’s-eye pattern. 2. We’re on the riverbank among the men, in a section where everyone is naked. They’re all oriented to the opposite shore, at which they fixedly stare. One tiny infant, surrounded by four men in a neat quincunx, is on all fours with his head raised but unsettlingly still. Among the frozen humans, the horse-sized felines stalk restlessly. An elephantine behemoth switches its tail and turns its head as it daintily picks its way through. Even where the riverbank seems most crowded, the animals move unimpeded, inspecting the men with an air of anxious industry. The shadows of misshapen birds above cross and recross the image.

By the time this set of clips appears, the riverbank sequence has been playing uninterrupted for weeks, and the sense of tedium and paralysis is overwhelming. The only apparent development is that the men have grown visibly thinner. When they’re clothed, the clothes hang loose, and in nude clips like this one, ribs can be counted and pelvic bones jut. Among the skeletal people, the health and sleekness of the animals strike the viewer as ominous. The impression given is that the animals are somehow feeding on the men. 3. As this clip begins, a grayish object rises from the surface of the water. At first it appears to be a rock that has uncannily begun to float; then two lumps on its surface move in tandem and become distinct as eyes. The object is a face, crowned with protruding eyes but otherwise featureless. A moment later, another head rises near the first. Then another and another, until the river is pocked with floating heads. On the bank, the cats, birds, and elephants have fallen still. They stare at a point in the air, the same point toward which the aquatic eyes have turned their slotted pupils. The men are angled, equally rigidly, toward a different point. Once all have fallen still, the image rapidly darkens until the screen is almost black. It sweepingly brightens again, then darkens. This repeats in phases that take about two minutes each. When it’s dark, a pale moon flies across the sky; this appears to be our moon. When it’s light, we see the shadows of the men and animals turning, lengthening and shortening. At the end, the men are visibly thinner than they were when the clip began.

4. This is the first “tsunami” clip. It begins unremarkably. We’re among the men and animals, who are all stiff with attention. The darkening and brightening have stopped, and a minute passes with no change. The only movement is the trivial stirring of grass in wind, the slight changes of light on flowing water. Then the group breaks into frenzied motion. It happens so abruptly it takes a second to see the human beings aren’t involved. The men remain as still as furniture. Only the animals are on the move: cats springing and bounding past the camera, birds taking flight, an elephant charging with a hurried flounce, the water agitated as the aquatic creatures dive. In thirty seconds, the animals have all vanished. The men remain as rigid as before, all staring at the opposite bank. In the riverbank series, fewer people appear per clip. The credits are correspondingly short: between fifty and a hundred names. About a fifth of the names are followed by asterisks. By the time of this first tsunami clip, it’s been determined that the asterisked names are those of children.

The interlude before chapter 10 introduces a major plot element which I will describe the best I can. A research group wants to identify the missing in the videos, but apparently doesn't think to use image recognition software against volunteer-submitted photos. Instead, they enlist volunteers to watch in individual sessions or group viewing teams to see if they recognize anyone. The study found that the group viewing sessions were more productive than the individual sessions (which seems like normal economics of scale to me? but?) leading to the conclusion that the clips are actually somehow magically showing viewers who they want to see, with larger demand having more weight.

Examining three strategies for recognition of individuals in The Men Banu Ghoreishi,1 Nahida Siddiqui, Caitlin Allbright, A. G. Sanchez Introduction The existence of The Men constitutes an unexplained phenomenon, assumed to be related to the events of August 26–27. In this study, 366 Men watchers in the United States and Canada were monitored for a period of fourteen days. Participants were recruited through online advertisements placed on the website. All agreed with the proposition “My primary aim in watching The Men is to see my loved ones.” Each participant provided researchers with a target list of loved ones they hoped to see. The appearance of these targets in The Men was recorded for each participant. The researchers identified three watching strategies: viewing strategy (n = 101), group strategy (n = 45), and name strategy (n = 221). Viewing strategists watched The Men for as many hours as possible. Group strategists collaborated in groups of five or more to watch for one another’s loved ones, maintaining twenty-four-hour vigilance. Name strategists did not watch The Men but relied instead on the lists of names that appear periodically in the footage. Name lists have been shown to reliably correspond to people shown in the video (Antin et al. 2020; Siddiqui & Antin 20201). Both major

Men websites maintain searchable lists of names, with links to the corresponding footage. These three strategies were predicted to be equally successful at finding people on The Men. This study demonstrates for the first time that this commonsense expectation is wrong. For name strategists and viewing strategists, no targets appeared on The Men in the two weeks covered by the study. This was unsurprising, given the few individuals shown in that time: 382,201, or .001% of all biologically male humans alive on August 26–27. For group strategists, however, 115 targets appeared. The researchers were unable to suggest an explanation for this remarkable discrepancy. Participants in the study also submitted to two medical examinations. No significant medical changes were detected in participants that weren’t attributable to the extended periods of physical inactivity undergone by some watchers of The Men.

This is important because if the demons are running Eurovision: Hell Edition where "more attention" means "more screentime" for specific men (specifically the men missed by our protagonists) then we have some support for the author's claim that "the book is about women who can't let go of the men they've lost, and devote their lives to getting them back." It's just that the "devote their lives to getting them back" means that the women sit around and watch the live-stream from their couch all day, whereas I was expecting something a little more active.

Moreover, if Poppy is when she says that Lot's Wives looking back with pity on the men will draw them to the door back to earth, then we may speculate that the demons are tailoring the video feed on purpose to the most piteous viewers. Why? Do they want their side of the bargain to hit the contract catch so that evil is back to run free on earth and the Burning Girls die in vain? Or are they disinterested alien observers who just want to see what happens?

[TW: Child Death, Racism] Alma learns of the findings of the research paper and hosts an open house slash viewing party at her mansion and people walk, drive, and fly in to Los Angeles for the event. This puts all the POV characters in the same room when the men are forced (?) to kill and eat a child in order to satiate their hunger. The narrative takes pains to note that the first group to feed are Black men.

“I’m Jane.” Ruth was about to introduce herself when Ji-Won spoke for the first time. “They’re shaking. Look, the men are shaking.” Her voice was almost inaudible, and Ruth took a moment to understand. She looked back at the screen but at first couldn’t see it. There were men in a circle as there always were. The clip changed, and there were different men in a circle—but in this clip the animals were already gone. Ruth felt their absence like a missed step in the dark. And yes, these men were shivering and twitching. Blanca gasped and sat forward. The tall girl looked quizzically at Blanca, then back at the screen. Ruth was thinking how to explain why it was surprising when everything changed. The men leaped. They moved so fast the image blurred, and they landed all together in a heap, as if sucked to one point by a powerful magnet. On the ground, they tangled, clawing one another, limbs hammering together in a frenzied mass. Without her eyeglasses, Ruth couldn’t see details. She was leaning forward, heart pounding, telling herself it didn’t have to be a bad thing. An area was darkening around the pile, as if a leak had sprung in the image, and still she told herself it could be good. Then the screaming began. The screams came from the walls, as if the house were screaming in a dozen feminine voices. Both Ji-Won and

Blanca rose to their knees. Ruth might have understood then, but at that moment, two hallway girls barged past, leaping over the rope and standing right in front of her. Ruth swore and got on tiptoe, trying to see. “What’s happening?” the tall girl said. “Is this new?” Blanca snapped, “Yes, it’s new. Are you kidding? The men haven’t moved for like a month, and now they’re—what are they doing?” “They’re attacking the kid,” a hallway girl said. “Can’t you see? They’re tearing him apart!” The tall girl said in a solicitous tone, “So it’s not always like this?” The clip changed to a new group of men, still in their circle on the riverbank. Once again the animals were already gone, and the men were trembling from head to toe with slight spasmodic jerks of the arms. Only the child was as still as before. By contrast, he looked tranquil. Now the tall girl cried out suddenly. She stepped convulsively toward the screen and tripped on the rope, falling forward on hands and knees. One chair toppled, hitting Blanca. She cried out angrily. By then, the tall girl had risen onto all fours, her face so altered that for a moment Ruth thought it was really a different woman. By the time Ruth looked back at the screen, the new men were in a struggling pile. Only one remained on his feet in the foreground, shivering against a milk-white sky. Another scream came from the depths of the house. A door slammed, and Ruth heard the rich, familiar voice of Evangelyne Moreau, surreal outside of the context of the news. “Jane? Are you still here? Jane!” as the tall girl clutched her face and screamed: “What is this? Please! What is it? Can somebody tell me what they’re doing to him, please?” Ji-Won said, “I think she knows someone.”

Jane, who has never seen "The Men" feed before and is here on a political campaign stop with her girlfriend Evangelyne, is distressed to see her son eaten by men--and each of the men are ones she has met at least once in life.

THE MEN (2/15 22:13:00 GMT) 1. This is the last tsunami clip. A group of fifteen men are in a circle on a riverbank, all facing in the same direction. At first I can’t tell they’re in a circle; the angle of the camera makes it unclear. The men in this clip are wearing soccer uniforms, but the child is a toddler in a faded onesie with a bumblebee appliquéd on the chest. The most uncanny thing in the image is the baby’s ability to stand unsupported, absolutely still, for three straight minutes. There are only two animals here, both cats. This was the first Men clip I ever saw, and the cats were what appealed to me. I wanted the show to be about their adventures. I knew The Men wasn’t about them but wondered if the makers of The Men would be open to making a spin-off. At this point I still assumed it was made by a studio with a comprehensible financial goal. 2. In this clip, there are no animals. At the time, I didn’t know this was unusual. I only hoped the cats were coming back. Two adjacent circles of men are shown from the vantage point of the river. Shortly after the clip begins, they begin to tremble violently, vibrating like a plucked string. Only the two focal children are as still as before. There’s a peculiar impression that they’re causing the vibration. 3. This is the first of the massacre clips. It shows one circle, most of whose members will be eventually traced to Paris, though they’re ethnically West African. It begins with the men vibrating, then all the men spring onto the child. The area around them darkens, speckling and dimming the luminous colors. When I first notice this, I think, That’s meant to represent

blood. It’s too maroon to be real blood, and the effect is darkly comical because the men all rear their buttocks in the air. It’s like a spoof of nature programs in which wild carnivores feast on a kill. This makes it more macabre, not less. Still, I’m startled by the extreme reaction of the other women— gasping, screaming, fighting to see. There’s always been violence on television, and it’s strange to respond so dramatically even to a scene involving a baby. I assume this must relate to some development in the ongoing plot. Perhaps a much-beloved character has been killed; perhaps someone has shockingly betrayed him. 4. In this clip, the child at the center is my son. He’s in the shortie pajamas he wore to sleep on August 26. Although this isn’t visible in the clip, I know they are Avengers pajamas, and on the front of the shirt is the slogan EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES ARE STRONGER TOGETHER. Leo stands in the foreground, in the boxer shorts he wore to sleep. In the ring around Benjamin are twelve other men. I recognize them all. Since there are so many, once they fall on Benjamin, nothing can be seen of him but blood. Here the blood is obviously real, perhaps because it is my child’s. Only Leo does not attack him. Throughout, Leo stares into the air, trembling violently. At the time, no one knows this behavior is unusual, that in most massacre clips where a father is present, he will take part in eating his son. When Leo does break free, he doesn’t move to rescue Benjamin. Instead, he lurches into the river just as the water’s surface erupts in splashing, heaving movement. In the final seconds of the clip, we see that this is caused by the sudden arrival of dozens of huge aquatic

creatures. In the last frame, the river has entirely vanished, replaced by a wall of seething tentacles. I didn’t watch the credits at that time. When I did comb through them later, I found what I already knew. Three of the men in the clip of Benjamin’s murder were boys I’d fucked for Alain, now adults. Another was a juror from Alain’s trial. Another was a pharmacist who’d filled a prescription for me once at a CVS, and another was my ninth-grade homeroom teacher. Two more were waiters from restaurants I’d eaten at, and three were men I’d seen around Santa Cruz but never spoken to. The twelfth man was my father.

The massacre clips all appeared to show the same two minutes at different points along the riverbank. The shadows were always the same length. The bright, cloudless weather was always the same. The aquatic creatures arrived exactly forty-two seconds after the adults sprang onto the child. In most clips, all adults took part in the killing, but every now and then, one person abstained. Then the aquatic creatures surged above the water; the abstainer fell into their reaching arms. If the clip continued long enough, we saw the tentacles surge back, bearing the little human figure across the river. They moved in concert, handling the person with what seemed like care. I was still at the mansion on February 18, when the man carried over the water was Ji-Won’s friend, Henry Chin. Two days later, I was there when it was Blanca’s father, Alejandro Suarez. I was there when Ruth’s son Ethan was torn apart by a group that included her husband, Tom, while her other son, Peter, stood by trembling, then took to the river a little belatedly, stepping straight into a tentacled mass. I was there on May 17, when Billy McCormick was the last to be borne across the river, and the images changed and those who’d crossed were shown sprinting over a cracked dead plain. It was never clear how many crossed the river. What was clear was that the footage now focused on the loved ones of dedicated watchers. We saw our own men all the time. They ran in a landscape where not a stick was alive, not a floating seed. The air was thick with dust or rain that glinted like cartoon radiation. There were forests of shattered, leafless trees and wetlands denuded of vegetation, where the water was thick with plastic trash.

Evangelyne leaves the viewing party and declares the site a hoax that must be ignored at all costs. (She suspects the truth due to the letter she received from Poppy and fears undoing the event, knowing that the event saved her life from impending police violence by rapturing away all the policemen at once.) Jane moves in with the other POV characters and they begin the "Netflix marathon" segment of the novel. The hellscape slowly changes to a vision of the ruined world that mankind is destined to create if men are allowed back into the world. (Note: the "guards" are there to protect Jane from people Evangelyne falsely claims created the child-death clips specifically in order to terrorize her girlfriend.)

And in a way, we were just watching television through the fall and rise of civilizations, as many other people do. We watched The Men while North and South Korea were unified, while the first female cardinals chose the first female pope. The day Evangelyne first drew ahead of the Republican in a three-way poll, we were watching The Men, and we were watching when she made the “For the Children” speech that cemented her position in second place. There were wildfires in Canada and drought in South America; refugees fled from cities where infrastructure had failed without male workers; and we watched men running through the dead land. Power plants and oil refineries closed worldwide from lack of skilled workers and diminished demand, and a climate agreement was reached that reflected these new, more permissive realities. Fish populations rebounded in the Atlantic and moose appeared in the streets of Moscow. People talked unironically about Gaea, Themyscira, Eden. We five watched our screen. Spring turned into summer, and now our ComPA guards ranged freely throughout the house. They cooked elaborate feasts in the kitchen, fucked in the beds, spoiled the dog with treats. Laughter rose outside as they splashed in the pool and ran through sprinklers, young and cloudless. It was as if a new, pure generation had arisen in the months since we’d started watching. And we were watching when an objectively different generation was born, the first human beings conceived without sperm—babies born without men, without sin.

In a few clips, a half city stood on the horizon, a skyline of partial buildings that appeared to have been gnawed by fire. Some places had entirely lost the contours of our world. There were sculpted fields of orange dust that rose in puffs at every step; there were dunes composed of trash and bone. Once a black palace-like reef collapsed into whirling soot as a boy ran by. We understood: this was a future world in which the men had never disappeared. It was the hell to which we would have been condemned, the Earth they would have made. We watched until it was real, until the room around us dissolved and became a figment. I would wake from sleep knowing Leo was coming, he was coming like a catfish swimming blindly up to the glass of an aquarium, and I stumbled out of bed, compelled, down the unlit stairs that gleamed resentfully by moonlight, and came in behind Ji-Won and Alma where they watched on the sofa with a quilt on their laps, as the clip changed and it was Leo. He ran among the thin, blackened trunks of a forest that had burned. The trees posed with a scarecrow air against a streaked yellow sky. Leo trotted, his face blank in an unfacelike way, blank like a demon’s head.

Though the women cannot stop watching their men, they confess to each other in the tense nights when they are hot and tired that they don't actually want their men back.

In The Men, soot, dust, and scalding air. And we talked sometimes in the worst of the night. Blanca talked the most, about her father and the house they’d had in El Paso with a tall dog gate around the kitchen, where Blanca would lurk and wait for her father to come home with women late at night. He always spotted her and ordered her to bed, but let her shake hands through the bars. She never saw the same woman twice. They were tired, annoyed women wearing too much makeup; nice women who asked her questions in Spanish but kept looking uncertainly at her dad; teenage girls who giggled soundlessly, carrying their beat-up shoes in their hands. One white lady flinched from the sight of Blanca, saying, “What’s that?” and her dad just laughed. Blanca had always thought her father was rich; then she went to a private Catholic school and found out that was wrong. He would have been rich if it weren’t for Blanca’s medical bills, he’d said once; then he corrected himself and said he was rich, because he could afford her care. Once Blanca had a colostomy bag for months while she healed from a bowel resection, and her dad wouldn’t hug her all that time. But he always came to the hospital and wore his lucky sweatshirt. It wasn’t his fault she was born a mutant. She should want him back. And Alma said she now resented her brother, though it wasn’t his fault he was the prince of the family, the chosen one who could do no wrong. Maybe he hadn’t stood up for her, but they were kids when their mother threw Alma out, and with his gentleness came a kind of weakness. He bent whichever way the wind blew. It was true that, in Alma’s many rock bottoms, he never let her stay at his house. But he drove her to AA meetings and rehab. He wouldn’t give her money, but he talked her down from ledges. She should want him back.

And Ruth talked about how Peter had consumed her life, never gave her a break from pain. She was getting old and had a young son, but Peter still had to be the star of the show. He would lose his job and get kicked out in the street and find some lowlife to break his nose just so Ruth would come and kiss it better. All the phone calls from hospitals, the suicide threats; he had to make everyone who loved him hate him. She wanted Peter safe with every cell of her body, but she didn’t want him back. And Ji-Won remembered a night she’d been driving to Henry’s apartment, and just as she pulled into his parking lot, he called to say she shouldn’t come. At that moment she saw a boy—a shining, beautiful, deerlike boy—get out of a pickup truck and sprint up the building’s outside steps to the second-story balcony. Before the boy reached Henry’s door, it opened. In the lit doorway, Henry still had the phone in his hand. He was wearing a flowered shirt Ji-Won had found in a thrift shop and tailored for him, and he was transfigured by joy. He hung up without saying goodbye.

[TW: Detailed CSA] I haven't gotten into this before because it's pretty heavy and I was saving it for the survivor rep I wanted to talk about, but it has to be mentioned now for the scene to make sense: Jane was sexually groomed as a young teenager by her ballet mentor (Alain). He made her seduce younger men, lay on a bed, and let them fuck her while Alain watched and masturbated later. When Alain was finally arrested, the FBI arrested and charged Jane as an adult accomplice in order to force her testimony against him. She had been 18 years old at that time; the youngest victim had been a 13 year old boy.

[TW: CSA] The trial is a major part of Jane's backstory and the ruin of her life. She is put on a sex offender list and is hounded by what I can only describe as a ludicrous version of "cancel culture" for the rest of her life: people recognize her in the street and threaten her as a regular part of her daily life, especially after the newspapers are pressured to stop running her innocent childish mugshot and replace it with a photo from the ballet troupe where Jane is wearing thick stage makeup. People attack her online and when Jane tries to explain that she comes from a poor family (rather than the fact that she was a child victim like the other victims???) she is hurt when tiny violin gifs receive 1,800 likes in response to her heartfelt explanations.

For roughly a year, Alain and I were the most famous sex criminals in the United States. Every day, the press came out with new horror stories, many of them false. They were mostly based on the assumption that Alain had raped all the boys with my assistance, an assumption most Americans shared. At first my name and image were only posted occasionally on the internet, but once it was announced that I was being tried as an adult, the media decided I was fair game. A mug shot of me with no makeup, looking shy and vulnerable, smiling childishly, was initially used by news outlets and caused an outcry: Why was this image used for a pedophile? After that, the photo everywhere was of me in sex mode, caked in Walgreens makeup, looking gargantuan and somehow middle-aged, looming menacingly over Alain. Longer articles often described me as the daughter of a banker, and one enterprising journalist dug up a photo of my father posing with a Porsche. In reality my father was a bank branch manager who fixed up sports cars as a hobby, paying for the hobby by reselling them. In the background of the Porsche photo, you can see the mobile home we’d lived in since selling our house to pay my mother’s medical bills. All his friends were from the local Baptist church, to which he tithed 10 percent of his income, except for two years when we received tithe money. I once tried to explain all this to someone who was attacking me online. She responded with a picture of a man playing the tiniest violin in the world, and it got 1,800 likes.

[TW: CSA] Jane married her husband (Leo) when she was 19 and he was 38 because he seemed safe and protective and didn't blame her for her past, and that seemed like an escape to her. Now, watching "The Men", she realizes that while she never hated her husband (no, not even when he quietly cheated on her during her emotional affair with Evangelyne in college) she now resents all the men in her life for never protecting her. Okay. But then Jane reveals that she resents the younger-than-her boys that she seduced for Alain but who didn't defend her "when I was prosecuted for rape".

I had never hated Leo. He had been there when I had no one else, and it’s hard to forget that kind of love. We’d fucked so many hours, days, weeks. We had a child, and that child was Benjamin, who cried when Pinocchio turned into a donkey, who was frightened of trees falling on him but believed if one of us stood beside him, we could stop the tree. My son had Leo’s face. There’s a thing that happens when a man lifts a child in the air, and the child screams ecstatically because it’s safe. Leo Casares could be that man, not only for Benjamin but for me. But in these weeks, my feelings changed. It was the clip of Benjamin with men swarming over him, painted in blood—and not just Benjamin, but three months of men tearing children to pieces, painted in blood. Not one man fought. Not one saved a child. Perhaps this was compulsion or automatism—but what in life is not compulsion and automatism? When was I free from compulsion and automatism? Still I am my life. A real man would have saved his son. That was what men did. So I’d been taught. So I’d fatuously believed. It was instinctive in a man to defend the weak, to protect the ones he loved. My father and Leo had kept me safe—so I’d been told. So I’d believed. But I watched those murders and considered my life and found not a single instance of a man protecting me, only countless instances of men who talked about how they would protect me: Leo saying he would like to beat Alain to a pulp; my father wishing he could be there for me in Spokane; all the boys who had said they would fight for me, but they’d fucked me for Alain and said not a word in my defense when I was prosecuted for rape. All the world of men was a vast Spokane, where women

[TW: CSA] What a difference passive voice makes, because really that sentence ought to be written as "said not a word in my defense when I was prosecuted for raping them when they were thirteen and I was eighteen." Look, I'm a survivor of rape and childhood sexual assault. I don't blame Jane for being groomed and abused, and I'm not going to say that victims can't have complex, ugly feelings about what happened to them. But this is a hell of a thing to say in a novel that posits the question of whether men are capital-e Evil, this idea that a thirteen year old boy is Evil because he didn't defend his rapist.

[TW: CSA] We live in a culture which does NOT take rape against men/boys seriously when the rapist is a woman, and this kind of thing is not helping. Jane has had a lifetime to come to terms with the fact that while, yes, she is a victim of grooming by Alain, she is still guilty of seducing and raping children who were incapable of consent. Her youth and circumstances should be taken into account when considering how society should respond to her, yes, but NOT when considering how her *victims* should respond to her!

[TW: CSA] Oh, and to add to the muddy racial dynamics in this book, Jane is a white girl and many/most of her victims were boys of color that were foreign exchange students to the ballet troupe so that Alain could send them back home after the rape and avoid detection and prosecution in the United States for as long as possible. These are the victims that she's now angry wouldn't "fight" for her, to protect her. But they are given no space to be angry that Jane didn't fight to protect them, neither then nor now.

Back to the live-stream, the missing begin to reach the Door that they have been drawn to by the force of the attention shown to their videos. There is a curious implication in #1 that when the men step back into the human world their corresponding watcher(s) disappear at the same time, which suggests that the women are themselves in a dream world and that the return of their men wakes them up before the event, as Jane does later. But this doesn't really seem to go anywhere, as Jane is the only one who remembers the event when she wakes up.

THE MEN (8/26 22:41:03 GMT) 1. This is the first of our homecoming clips. By the time we see it, a hundred watchers around the world have already vanished, erased as their homecoming clips ended. In some cases, a family member or friend came in to find the viewing room empty. In some, there was a visitor in the room at the time who went into a fugue state in which they were dazed by euphoria. When they came to, they were alone. Henry Chin is first seen a long way away, approaching the camera in real time at a leisurely walking pace. In the foreground is a shopping street in Durham, New Hampshire, a few blocks from Henry’s old apartment. It’s identifiable by the remains of signage, though none of the storefronts is intact. The road is overgrown and littered with trash, scattered bones, and the rusting heaps of military vehicles. Henry negotiates this terrain with the usual blank unconcern of the men. His clothes are still soiled with the dust of the journey and spattered on one side with a child’s blood. 2. This is the last clip I saw of Leo. He approaches the camera through the black masts of a burnt forest in a violet dusk. The light is poor, and the feline creatures walking beside him shrink and grow like shadows. At a certain point, all the feline shapes peel away and he is left alone. Still the clip continues. He comes closer and closer, until his face looms startlingly into the screen. I’m intent as if I need to understand his expression; there’s something threatening about his face. When the clip ends, I want to think about this, but Evangelyne is still speaking. I’m trying to hear Evangelyne.

3. Here Alejandro Suarez is shown from above, walking in ankle-deep water on what was once a three-lane highway. Cars are scattered across it as if hurled there at random. Some are crumpled. Some lie on their sides. Again it is night, and Alejandro walks effortfully, unsteadily, like a drunk staggering home from a bar. Occasionally one of the bird-things passes by, its wings spread stiffly, crossing the screen with startling speed. Gradually we notice the surging of the shallow water, the odd impulses of light that cross it in waves. A large piece of metal like a car fender cartwheels down the street. The silence of the image has fooled us. We are watching not a drunken man, but a man walking in a gale-force wind. Smaller scraps of wreckage fly past his head, but Alejandro continues undeterred, not ducking or flinching from the storm of debris. There’s a doggedness in his movements. We feel the great distance he has come. 4. This clip is very brief. It shows Peter Goldstein swimming in an oilslicked canal that flows between tall mounds of rubble that sparkle with shards of glass. His dark head surfaces for a moment, then dips again and he’s gone. Behind him a wave recedes—a surge of tentacles that seethe, then submerge, leaving only shivering moonlit water. There’s something poignant about the clip’s brevity. It’s one that would often come to mind when I thought about The Men in later years, when we could no longer see the videos. 5. This is the last clip we saw. It shows a patch of brown land strewn with burned debris. At its center is the crisp outline of a rectangular pit, filled with trash and murky water. The skinny trunks of three burned

palm trees are identifiable by a fourth unburned tree in the same line, its waving yellow crown looking softly colorized in the hazy air. The background of the scene is lit by the blackish orange of fire still burning. Specks of soot fall constantly through the air. For a moment, the shape of a gargantuan elephant fills the frame. Its hide is smeared with soot, and its outsized humanoid eye seems swollen. Then it’s gone. In its wake, the earth is suddenly green with healthy grass. A change of light strikes the pit. All the trash disappears, and the pit is glowing and sweetly blue, the underlit blue of a pool. At the corner of the image, where there was previously a litter of woody trash, there is now a dainty white cabana—the same cabana visible from the window of the room we’re sitting in. As we grasp this, Billy McCormick walks into the frame.

We get an extended flashback from Evangelyne about Poppy, most of which you already know. Here are her descriptions of the demons and the Door and the deal again, just to have all the metaphysics in one post.

It contained roughly fifty pages of psychosis. At first glance, this looked just like the letters Poppy had written her in prison. Evangelyne started to leaf through rapidly but almost immediately stopped at a drawing of beakless birds labeled DEMON FREINDS. She’d never seen a drawing of Poppy’s demons, and she started to read the writing below. It was about how Poppy was fated to burn to save the dying Earth. She was the first sacrifice required by the demons of earth and sky. A thousand other women would burn with her; their names were written in light. The sacrifice of the Thousand would open a Door to the demon realm. “Then the Evil will be pulled through that Door and the demons will Take them for their Keeping. This is the Second Sacrafice, a Sacrafice as aweful as the time of Noah.”

Evangelyne almost stopped reading then. She had wandered into her kitchen and glanced at the trash can. Still she didn’t throw the letter away. Instead, she sat down at the table and turned on a lamp. She read on about how, through the grace of the demons, the world would become a haven of peace, ruled over by wise queens. Pollution would be cleaned up, and the “genecide of Earth” would come to an end. But the Door would be left open, and some “Lot’s Wives” would look back through it, feeling pity for the Evil Men. The Evil would sense them there and start to march toward the Door, “like dogs on the scent.” If the Door wasn’t closed, these Men would find the opening into the world and flood back in. Then everything would go back to before. The Thousand would have burned in vain. Poppy was writing to ask Evangelyne to remember this letter and close the Door. Poppy would tell her how, and it would be easy for someone as smart as her. The time was not yet come; all Poppy asked was for her to read this and remember. Everybody else thought Poppy was crazy, but Evangelyne was raised in the Ancient Wisdom. She knew sacrifice was real. Her people had— Here Evangelyne turned a page and found a crude drawing of a group of men on hands and knees, who seemed to be tearing apart a child. One of the child’s arms had come away, and streams of blood were shown in red ballpoint.

At the end of the flashback, Leo emerges from the demon world. The world fades around her and then Jane finds herself back at the very moment before the event, her husband and son safe at their campground. By allowing the men to return--by giving them womanly attention in order to draw them out of hell--the deal has been broken with the demons. The Y chromosome victims will not be taken after all and the Burning Girls have died in vain; they will not be resurrected, which means 1,000 mentally ill women and girls are now dead in the background noise.

Of course, all the time she spoke, we watched. We watched strangers arrive in shattered houses, dead woods, flooded streets. We watched one man reach home and the land come to life all around him and the sky turn blue. We watched Henry Chin on the street outside his apartment building in Durham, New Hampshire. We saw Leo walk back to the campsite and Alejandro Suarez struggling back to the hospital complex where Blanca was having surgery. We watched Peter Goldstein swimming in the flooded street of a shattered New York City. And as Evangelyne asked me to choose her, Billy McCormick stepped on the dead earth outside our window and it shimmered and grew green. The water of the pool clarified and became bright blue. A coyote ran past. Behind me, Blanca got to her feet. The colors on the flat-screen TV silvered. I saw this even as I looked away. They were the colors of the room, where the light had changed. It was dusk. I couldn’t see Evangelyne. Time might have passed. I would never find out. I would never learn more about that world. Ji-Won had gotten to her feet. I got to my feet. Ruth and Alma got to their feet. The screen had gone tiny behind me, and all around the forest was jarring green. It was spangled with dew and moonlight, and the hushing sound of trees was oversewn with the cries of insects.

Were the demons right? Are people with Y chromosomes evil and destined to ruin the world? Jane seems to think so, to think that without Evangelyne "the dead lands in The Men" would be the fate of the world. But does Jane know that as a fact? Is Jane a reliable narrator? We don't know, and that's all I have in terms of textual clues.

inevitable. When it went to voicemail, I couldn’t speak. I hung up and dialed the number again. This time I prayed silently, moving my lips. I was promising to work here as I’d worked there, to help Evangelyne to power. If I started driving now, I could be with her by morning. Some brilliant people need a wife; maybe everyone, to optimally function, needs a wife. I could end her problems with the HOA in a day. I could be at the door if cops came. I was thinking of the dead lands in The Men. We had to act or the oceans would die, the temperatures would rise until terrestrial life died, plastics would accumulate in our lungs and blood until all life was gone. I was back by the grace of real gods; surely that must have some meaning. All resistance to us must fail like a failing wave that crumples against a shore. She had to be there. We could still save this world.

My personal read: I believe we are supposed to take the "world of women" as a soft utopia, by which I mean there are still some individuals capable of wrong, some powers capable of evil, some natural disasters capable of destruction and death, but that Good now has the power and weight to come out on top. I believe we are meant to see the removal of "The Men" as a sort of efficient route to paradise, that once "The Men" are out of the way and obstructing progress, "The Women" can knuckle down and get things done. When the disappearances are described in chapter 1, we get this: "Too few women on this committee. Another board of directors with no women. Men making decisions about women's bodies."

Too few women on this committee. Another board of directors with no women. Men making decisions about women’s bodies. Gentlemen’s clubs. Men’s rights. Women’s magazines. Feminism. Gone. Watching a boyfriend play computer games. Laughing at a man’s story, then another man’s story. Bracing yourself when he shows you something he made; the relief when it’s not bad. The girl act. Putting on a little-girl voice. Wearing flat shoes to make sure he’s taller. The big hand on your shoulder. Him telling you it’s going to be okay. “You’re beautiful,” said with that authority. Letting him take over. Letting him drive. Letting him decide. Him carrying you to bed. The rush of being sexually helpless before it. Being an object of desire for men. Gone. The suffocated feeling of being talked over. A man putting on a high voice to mock you. At a party, a man’s eyes passing over you to find a younger woman. Him answering your question but addressing it to her. Two men talking for a young woman’s benefit; she mutely attends as if judging a contest. You say something and all three wait impatiently for you to finish. No one hearing you because they don’t want to look at you. Standing at a mirror in a public restroom and seeing what they see. Him getting scary. Him punching the wall. Keeping your head down and letting it pass. Being ashamed you set him off. Being proud you didn’t. The moment you realize you’re not in control; all the magical thinking falls away and you’re a body being killed. Or just coming to a group of men at a street corner. Them falling silent and staring as you pass. Not at your face. Footsteps behind you in the dark. Big hands on your throat. Not being able to stop him.

I believe we're meant to see the disappearance of "The Men" as a vacuum of power into which "The Women" can finally step. The idea that *women* are just as capable of "making decisions about women's bodies" as men are does not seem to occur to the author, nor does it play out in this world; after a few setbacks of natural disasters and labor shortages, the world improves just as the book teaser promises. The world becomes better without Y chromosomes in it, just as Poppy envisioned and the demons promised.


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