Morning all. These are strange and strained times for everyone at the moment, so it’s understandably hard to commit to anything non-essential. The lack of entrants to our little contest this week shows that people have other things on their minds, and that’s cool. It means a lot to me that people generally are taking part, engaging with the images and words, sharing their talents and growing their creativity. I’ll keep doing these contests because I want to challenge myself to keep writing as much as anything, even in these little snatches. It keeps the candle aflame and builds the muscles of the imagination.
That said, we are officially taking a month off because my family and I are heading off to New Zealand. The next contest will be posted up on Thursday 9th May. Until then, keep plugging with your own creative endeavours. Oh, and here are the entries for this week. (No voting.)
The Death of Sir David Attenborough – by Philip Dibbens
Heston stared out of the window on the thirtieth floor. His office was large, gleaming, filled with curiosities and beauteous wonders of the natural world. Yet, he loved to stare out of his window onto the tumultuous cityscape below. Every car was a beetle, flying incessantly, buzzing, droning its way to somewhere he didn’t need to be, doing meaningless tasks he didn’t have to oversee. These thoughts pleased him. His reverie was shattered by the sudden clang of his office door being thrown open and his assistant stumbling hurriedly into the room, shouting breathlessly.
“Sir! Sir! There’s an ape downstairs. He’s got a gun… He says he wants to kill Sir David Attenborough.”
Heston sighed and took a deep breath before responding. “Not again. That’s the third one this week.”
His assistant, Maurice Evans, shook his head. “This one’s different. He’s wearing a suit. He’s all… Pulp Fictiony… He’s demanding to see the Head of Nature Programming.”
Heston paused momentarily, letting this new information sink in. “It’s him. It will be harder to outsmart this one. I’ll have to see him.”
Maurice’s eyes widened until it was hard to see how his eyeballs were staying put. “You know what happened last time sir?”
Everyone knew what had happened the last time.
“It worked out fine in the end Maurice.” Heston’s eyes softened; his smile was calm and confident.
“Yes but…. Michaela Strachan isn’t here today.” Maurice’s statement did nothing to change Heston’s expression.
“No. But Chris Packham is. Get him in here.”
Maurice’s head tilted slightly to one side, one eyebrow raised. Finally, he replied. “Very well.” The assistant closed the door silently and Heston was alone once more. Almost absent-mindedly, he lifted a precious stone from a display and examined it closely. Every facet was perfect. Well, the closest you could get to perfection. Only the natural world could produce something so precise. Who would want to destroy something that had taken so painstakingly long to produce? Something like this diamond he was now holding, someone like the icon Sir David Attenborough, or the European Union.
“You asked to see me Sir?” Mr. Packham entered the room with a swagger usually reserved for pirates.
“Yes Chris, that’s right. I did. I need you to do me a favour. I need you to pretend to be Sir David Attenborough…”
No More Tears – by Dion Winton-Polak
The Uplift didn’t always take, not in the early days. It was a simple fact of life. Some children would never grow up to become…People. Not wholly. Maia’s fingers worked the oil-cloth as she brooded, independent of their owner’s wandering thoughts and sombre mood. They knew what they were doing, which was more than could be said for that white-furred zoo-keeper. It was clear he loved his charges but his affections were fickle and, like a child, he was easily distracted from his chores. The chimpanzee in the unobtrusive business suit was counting on it.
She pulled back her sleeve to check her watch. Ten minutes. She slid two pieces of metal together, unclicked them again. Smooth action. Her fingers continued their dance within the half-opened briefcase on her lap. A soft breeze blew through the enclosure towards her, and Maia’s nose wrinkled in disgust. The place should have been shut down years ago. Instead it remained open, a political powder-keg, quietly sizzling. It was seen by most as an obscenity, an icon of the shameful past, yet modern society would not— could not countenance the release of the poor creatures inside.
The zoo-keeper laughed as he toiled, fighting off the small furry hands that sought for food or some interesting plaything. They would outsmart him of course, but that was part of the game. Maia’s fingers halted and she turned her left palm upward, cradling her burden. She sat listening to birdsong, at rest for the moment, but not in peace. In the enclosure, young chimps leapt and grabbed, spun and clung. The adults had all been killed in one way or another, martyrs to the perfection of Uplifting. There were just these children left now, prisoners of conscience or convenience. It was all so god-damned sickening.
Maia plucked a grape or two from the paper bag at her side and munched on them absently. Her eyes were straining, trying to pick out the adorably furrowed brow, the damaged ear, the fearless gait, while her nostrils sought his familiar scent. Perhaps… But no. It had been over a year, after all. She sighed. It would make things a little easier anyway. Chimpanzee’s can’t cry, but Maia had seen plenty of humans do it as they died. A clear facet of grief. She cocked the gun. If the past was truly dead, it should be buried with dignity and sorrow.
If You Meet Your Mentor on the Road… – by Zoe Farr
Marcus’ old teacher gazed into the distance, leaning heavily on the rustic bridge that crossed the stream at the garden’s end. Wooden chimes and other garden ornaments clattered and spun in the chill breeze. “I should’ve realised they’d send you. To rub it in my face.” He sighed. “Not that it matters now.”
“It matters to me. I volunteered.” The ex-student’s attention was caught by one particular ornament, a spherical multifaceted crystal set into a butterfly’s centre that caught the setting sun as it spiralled, sending hundreds of miniature rainbows into crazy orbits. He’d bought that one himself eight years ago… he snapped back to the present with mild irritation as his teach- no, his target, cleared his throat.
“I don’t have much time left, so if you could be getting on with it?”
Wait, he was the one who was supposed to be in control-
The old teacher continued: “I’ve always said: ‘no shame in admitting a mistake.’ As long as you learn from it, that is; a shame you didn’t…”
“Now, hang on, you said I was your best student-”
“Theory? Practice? Two different things. I could have taught a parrot the same-”
“Shut up!” Marcus’ fist punched the bridge railing in frustration. “I’m here to kill you, you old coot-”
“Did you think I was waiting out here for the good of my health, boy? That ship’s sailed. Far be it from me, child, to tell you what to do next, but-”
And there it was: the ever-so-slightly condescending mien of an ivory tower academic poking through a veneer of self-effacing humour. Marcus gripped the pistol tightly in his waistband, drawing and firing in one fluid movement.
The body fell in slow motion, kicking up a little dusty soil as it landed in a crumpled heap.
“No, you’re right. You can’t tell me what to do anymore.”
There was nothing for it in the end; to clear the path for a fresh start, he had to become the very iconoclast that had been vilified in all his lessons. Not that he’d ever made an omelette before.
So Dr Cornelius had to go.
However, it dawned on Marcus a little too late – when grappled and disarmed seconds later – that he’d been outsmarted; instead of eliminating the last link to his past, he’d created a martyr.
Okay, that’s it for now. I’ve got packing to do. I’ll still be contactable while I’m away – well, probably – so e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to talk business or grab me on social media to chat about anything else. Byeeeee xxx