Emma had grow up in the valley, and she knew she would spend her whole life there. Everyone did. The valley was a couple miles long and a quarter mile wide. It was surrounded on all sides by cliffs that could not be scaled. A high waterfall was the start of the stream that ran through the valley, and on the lower end it disappeared under the ground.
They were all descended from the same two people, her great-great-great grandparents Elijah and Patience Smith. The two had been part of an expedition of 20 men and 12 women to South America in search of a new home. Their supplies were on mules, while they walked. Progress was slow over rough terrain. Their path blocked by a steep ridge, the group fanned out, trying to find a way through. Patience stepped forward through thick growth and the ground crumbled beneath her. She gave a cry, then fell and landed hard. Elijah heard and ran to investigate. He saw Patience far below through the gap in the earth, scratched and bloody and holding her ankle. He fancied Patience, and while trying to find a way down to her, the ground gave way beneath him too, and he landed next to Patience. He was bruised and scratched. Their cries went unheard by the rest of the party. He carried her down to a shady area by the stream. As Patience's ankle healed, Elijah explored up and down the valley for a way out. But there was no break in the cliffs, no way to get up. Weeks turned to months, with no sign from the rest of their party. They were stuck.
They were also in a paradise. The weather was mild year-round, the trees were always laden with fruit. Potatoes grew wild in abundance. A cave provided shelter until huts could be built.
As they really grasped that they were stuck, their thoughts turned to the future. Though there was no preacher to perform a ceremony, they swore marriage vows to each other. Patience bore children, one by one, 15 in all. With no other mates at hand, brother had married sister, and more children had come, generation after generation. And so by the time Emma Smith married Ebenezer Smith, they were a community of twelve hundred souls. They were all Christians, because that's what Elijah and Patience had been, but as time went by and children asked what that meant, the adults found they didn't really know. The legend told of bibles, other books, and writing, but there was none of that in the valley.
Emma had been nervous on her wedding night, but discovered that sex was not painful. It was strange at first but pleasant. Within a couple weeks she thought it was just wonderful. Ebenezer thought so too, and they fulfilled their marital duties to each other morning and night. Emma looked forward to being a mother, but for three months they had no success.
Then Hepzibah Smith came down with a cold. Sneezing and coughing marked the progress of the malady through the community. Such colds were a common enough occurrence, and recovery from this one took only a couple days. But after Ebenezer and Emma had both recovered and they lay together, kissing and caressing each other in preparation for the act, his penis remained soft. Night after night the organ refused to come to attention. He confessed that he also just wasn't interested in sex any more. He still shared Emma's enthusiasm for children, so he tried his best, but nothing happened.
Like women everywhere, women of the valley confided their private difficulties to their friends. All of Emma's friends' husbands were affected the same way!
Before Emma married, Stephen had shown an intense interest in her. He was deeply disappointed when she chose Ebenezer as her husband, and she still recalled the lustful looks he gave her. Surely if any lust was strong enough to weather this affliction, it was his for her. He was not yet married, and she went to him secretly. He was friendly enough, but there was no spark. He seemed unusually oblivious to her hints about sexual availability, and when she finally asked him directly, he blandly said he had no interest. He recalled that he used to, but he didn't any more.
Weeks went by, and not a husband in the community could get an erection. Teen boys couldn't either. Not a single penis in the entire colony was capable of an erection.
Soon all the adults knew. Some enterprising souls hoped to make creative use of the sticky secretions of wet dreams, but there were no wet dreams. Some women confessed their sexual frustration to their closest friends. It was plain that if nothing changed, they were doomed to extinction.
But it was not an imminent disaster. Five years passed. Discreet attention was paid to the boys who grew into puberty. They became muscular and hairy and seemed normal in every respect -- except they had no interest in sex and could not achieve erections.
Maintaining their lifestyle in the valley required no special exertions by anyone. Up until that time friendships, love, and marriage were on people's minds as much as ever in human communities. Now the men reported a peace and contentment they had never known before. They lazed around, admiring nature. Aside from the most basic functions of eating, drinking, and elimination, they moved little.
The women still cared about the children, the future, and each other. They felt their men slipping away and becoming alien creatures. Each sex found the other tiresome. Most marriages evaporated, and men preferred to live peacefully with other men. More and more it became a society run by women. They watched their sons emerge from puberty with the tranquility and indifference of their fathers, and then the young men went to live with the older.
Six years after the emasculating cold swept through the colony, a strange man stumbled into the settlement. When he spoke it sounded to them like gibberish -- certainly nothing like English. Although scratched and bruised from his fall, he was basically OK. Emma noticed that he was definitely handsome. Taller than the hundreds of Smiths, with broad shoulders and a square jaw, somewhat darker in complexion, and with dark brown hair. His eyes were a color they had never seen before -- brown! She could tell from their glances that the other women also found him attractive. The women were excited and debated what it might mean. He might well be able to impregnate all the women who wanted children.
The new man sought out the men of the valley. But in response to his attempts at communication, they just nodded and smiled serenely.
The women actively engaged him in the hunt for gestures and signs to convey meaning. He brought them to where he had landed and pointed far up the steep slope to show where had come from. It was the same place Elijah and Patience had come from. The man wanted to return to the world above. They casually conveyed that this was not possible, but he did not seem to get it. Of course no one could leave -- they had all known that for generations. But they recalled that Elijah and Patience had assumed they could get out somehow to return to their companions, so this man would as well.
The Smiths vacated a hut for his use, and he was content to share the food they offered and spend the night.
The next morning he set out confidently, accompanied by a shifting audience of curious children and women. As he walked around the edges of the valley they saw his confidence turn to doubt and then alarm. As he returned to his hut after a day of strenuous exploration, a couple enterprising young women spent time with him, smiling and flirting, sitting close, even leaning up against him. He seemed to understand their meaning, but he shook his head. The next day he began a more thorough investigation of the valley walls, picking a section a day and exploring every foot of ground. The women tried again to pique his romantic or sexual interest, thinking he had perhaps been too tired at first. Then they thought perhaps he had particular tastes, so more young women were encouraged to come visit, including the most comely, the large and small in each and every dimension, and the shy. But he showed no sign of interest. This was disappointing. Unlike the men of the valley, he definitely had will and spirit. But he was just like them in displaying no sexual interest. The women wondered if he was capable of an erection. There would be time to find out more.
Except there wasn't. He went to sleep the sixth night after his arrival and never woke up. He had simply died in his sleep, and none could recall him looking sick or complaining of any unease the night before. The valley was generally a healthful place, with no life-threatening illnesses and few unexplained deaths among the young and healthy. With sadness they interred him in the burial ground alongside their hundreds of Smith forebears.
The women wondered about future possibilities. If one man came, maybe more would. The first man's death was probably a fluke -- but they wondered if there was anything they had done that might have caused it. Any unusual plants or animals in the section of valley wall he had been exploring that day? And then there was the question of sex. Did he refuse their advances because of no interest, or perhaps moral concerns? Perhaps he was married to someone in the vast world above? Some thought they had seen a special sparkle in his eyes as he tried repeatedly to engage the young men in conversation. After all the speculation, there was little to be done. Life returned to the normal they had come to accept over the preceding six years.
Two months later, another man tumbled down into the valley. He had badly twisted his ankle, and it was his cries that brought some nearby Smiths running to help him down into the settlement. In coloring and build he was similar to the first man.
.... There is more of this story ...