The Writers Voice
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'Excuse me, can you help? I seem to be lost.'
The voice was that of a stranger's, yet it seemed familiar. She had heard the
same voice - or something similar - on the radio as a doctor selling pain
tablets, on the television as a dentist warning of the dangers of tooth decay, a
nutrionist on eating indulgence and a policeman on drunk driving. The same voice
welcomed her into the airplane before she flew to Sydney and had instructed her
to wait until the pedestrian lights had changed to green before stepping on to
The voice was deep, authoritative, masculine, yet kindly. It was the voice of an
older brother - a reliable and loving family member. It suggested gentle
strength. One couldn't imagine such a voice raised in anger. It was also a
somewhat inhuman voice, which was why it sounded odd to now detect a note of
She looked up from the book she was reading and felt predictably irritated by
the man's appearance.
Girvans! she thought dismissively.
It was of course unfair. He hadn't chosen his thin, perfectly shaped nose,
tanned skin, clear eyes, thick hair or tall, muscular frame. 5,000 women had
chosen those features for him thirty years ago.
It was those women, the Institute claimed made up a statistically representative
sample of Australian females, who had patiently sifted through computer images
of thousands of handsome men from around the globe, selecting desirable elements
- eyes from one, ears from another, hair from a third. A nose here, fingers
there, legs and that cleft chin, clearly stolen from Cary Grant ('how do you
shave in there?'). Finally, when the perfect man was put together into a
composite picture and voted on, he was produced by genetic replication. They
weren't clones but a Girvan was instantly recognizable.
Who were these 5,000 women? Taylor wondered. Airheads, she felt sure. It was all
so chauvinistic and demeaning. No woman she knew, certainly none of her friends
- independent, savvy individuals - would agree to take part in such a stupid
study - much less agree on such a banal standard. It was such 2020 thinking.
It was also weird. The Girvan who addressed her was the sort of man who her
mother would have secretly longed to bed - or marry her daughter. He was
undeniably perfect - or as perfect as a panel of imperfect humans were likely to
choose - but he was also in some indefinable way, slightly old fashioned.
Taylor remembered the excitement when the first generation Girvan child was
enrolled in her school. It was a little girl - blonde, athletic and ferociously
intelligent. Everyone, including the teachers was in awe. It was rumored that
her biological father was a leading mathematician, while her mother was a five
gold medal winner in Olympian track events, neither of who would ever meet.
First generation Girvans had biological parents. Second generation Girvans were
produced from the weaving of many genetic strands. They had many mothers and
fathers, each of whom contributed one or more ideal elements
Before long, others joined the Girvan girl - a dark-haired girl, a curly haired
boy. Taylor remembered the fierce pride of the children's adoptive parents at
school presentation nights as Girvans scooped up academic or sporting prizes. In
time, the achievements of non-Girvans became suspect. Surely, they had cheated.
How else could anyone compete with a Girvan?
Like school, society was for a while infatuated with the idea of a Master Race.
Taylor recalled articles in women's magazines showing the weddings of attractive
women with Girvans. Articles challenged girls to shape up physically and
mentally for that 'all important first date with a Girvan guy'. To describe a
baby as being 'handsome as a Girvan' was, for a time, high praise.
But then it changed.
Gradually, people began to resent Girvans. More and more asked how any normal
human could compete with a scientific concoction. Non-Girvans had one gift
denied the perfect species - power. Increasingly, they changed the rules to
favor themselves and marginalise Girvans.
Once ugly people were shunned. Now it was the perfect that suffered. Many
normally attractive people had taken to apologizing for their appearance - 'I'm
not a Girvan, you know.' -but doubts persisted. Could Girvans have infected the
'What do you want?' Taylor snapped.
The Girvan flinched. 'I'm sorry,' he apologized. 'I know people hate us to
address them, but I'm lost.'
'Where's your GPS?' she demanded, looking at his bare wrist.
'I didn't put it on,' he blushed. 'I hate the thing.'
Taylor nodded. She sympathized.
Global Positioning Systems had been streamlined into paper-thin devices worn on
the wrist. Punch in details of your destination and the device would map out the
most direct route. It would also emit an irritating shriek if you wandered off
course. Coupled with an electronic diary, it made missed appointments impossible
in 2050. But police and other authorities often used GPS information to track
suspects. Already legislation was in Parliament making it mandatory for every
citizen to wear a GPS day and night.
Taylor understood its value in tracking terrorists and criminals, but part of
her rebelled against a Nanny State where shadowy authorities knew where you were
and who you were meeting every second of the day. 'It won't be long before we're
all carrying electronic identification implants,' a friend had told her.'Commit
a crime and they'll disable your movement like a car, before they come to arrest
The Girvan nodded at her wrist. 'You're not wearing one either,' he pointed out.
'So, where do you want to go?' she asked irritably. Girvans were meant to be
unfailingly polite and discreet - not point out unpleasant truths. I could
report you for that, she thought, surprising herself with the sudden spurt of
Then, feeling ashamed, she took the small, crumpled map he held out.
'This isn't a complete city map,' she objected. 'It only shows several streets.'
'We're not expected to go anywhere other than they say.'
Taylor learned that the Girvan lived in an apartment block off Martin Place with
fellow Girvans. He was not allowed to work, but reported twice daily to a
fertility clinic where he contributed semen that was stored in a vast genetic
'The market for Girvans other than in specialised areas such as the military has
almost collapsed,' he confided. 'Many say that we're an experiment that failed.'
'What's your name?'
'Andrew. Andrew Girvan. We're required to keep our surname in honor of Dr.Peter
Girvan, founder of The Girvan Institute of Genetic Excellence.'
They shook hands.
Andrew looked sad. 'Can I ask you something that's always puzzled me? Why do
non-Girvans hate us so much?'
Taylor reflected. 'I suppose it's because we think you've been given
opportunities most of us will never have. Not many of us have either physical
beauty or outstanding intelligence. To have both seems unfair.'
'But you made us like that,' he protested.
'I know it's not logical, but it's a human reaction.'
'A non-Girvan reaction anyway,' Andrew concluded gloomily.'You have no idea how
much I envy your kind. What's the value of intelligence if you're not allowed
any challenging work? What's the point of beauty if it only makes people shun
you? You can travel where you like. Work without restriction. Life is becoming
harder for Girvans every day. One day, we'll probably be herded into ghettoes
and finally eliminated.'
'Oh, that's nonsense!'
The Girvan shook his head. 'They've stored as much genetic stock as they need.
Why would the government support people who can't pay their way? It costs
millions to keep us idle and people hate to think part of their taxes are spent
on us. The violence has already started. There are increasing numbers of youth
attacks on Girvans. These thugs are the shock troops of society. You'll never
see the crime figures because the authorities fear it might make decent people
like you feel sorry for us.'
Taylor glanced around Circular Quay where she had been waiting for a ferry to
take her to the seaside suburb of Manly.
It was a perfect summer day. The sun shimmered on the waves. Sailboats could be
glimpsed in the distance, while the small green and cream painted ferries
carried passengers to and from the city. Long ago, the ferrys' noisy, smelly
diesel engines had been replaced by electricity, but records of these old
engines were still played, adding nostalgic atmosphere to the trip. A group of
giggling Japanese teenagers passed Taylor. They entered a Pleasure Dome and
could be seen through the transparent walls. The Dome closed the hatch and the
passengers were whisked up into the sky that was thick with silent airborne
craft. On such a day, it was hard to believe in the dark world that Andrew
described. Girvans were supposed to be genetically programmed for optimism and
easy control. They had made a serious error in his case. Taylor felt inclined to
dismiss his comments until she noticed the poisonous looks some people passing
through the terminal cast Andrew and herself.
A Manly Ferry nosed into the ferry and was tied up. The metal gates swung open
with a clatter and the passengers filed out.
'That's my ferry,' Taylor said, then added impulsively. 'Would you like to come
'I'm not supposed to,'Andrew said doubtfully. 'I'm already late for my
appointment. They're probably searching for me.'
'Suit yourself.' Taylor stood up, pushing her paperback into her bag.
He hesitated, then smiled.
'I'll come. Where do I buy a ticket?'
They sat outside toward the prow. People kept their distance, frowning at the
couple. The small boat past the Opera House, various islands, then Rose and
Double Bay. The captain told his passengers that some of the fine homes they saw
would now reach over a billion dollars on the market.
Sydney with its tall buildings and distinctive bridge gradually faded in the
blue haze. Within sight of the Heads, the boat swung in a long arc and they
docked in Manly.
It was a wonderful day. They bought fish and chips, as popular in the mid
21st.century as ever, and found a quiet spot away from stranger's eyes where
they watched the waves breaking gently on the shore. A few Pleasure Domes spun
past, but the sky was almost empty. Seagulls screamed and squabbled over the
fragments of chips that Taylor and Andrew threw.
Toward 4.00 pm, the weather changed. Thick clouds rolled across the horizon and
the temperature dropped.
They enjoyed each other's company and it felt natural when he kissed her. They
walked hand in hand back to the jetty.
Two men were waiting for them.
'Come with us, Girvan,' one sneered.
Taylor was about to protest, but Andrew whispered, 'Don't say anything. It'll
make it worse.'
Turning her back on the men, Taylor took a card from her bag and scribbled on
'That's my address in Melbourne,' she said softly. 'Memorize it and destroy the
card as soon as you can. I live on a farm about two hours from the city. You
could hide there while we figure out a way to make you look less like a Girvan.
Some burns or scars might help. Please come.'
'I'll try,' he promised, slipping the card into his pocket as the two men
Then he was gone.
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