Four green walls

It is hard to climb the stairs. Only four flights but they are narrow and steep. People piss in the entryway and offensive graffiti covers the walls. Back home early tonight. Another curfew. I stay at 45 Slaughterhouse Avenue. It’s not in the best part of the City.
From the window of my tiny one room flat, I can sometimes see fields of green far away beyond the City limits. My room has all four walls painted green. I did a good job. Slow but steady. I could have painted something similar to one of the works in the Art Gallery but painting in many colours is difficult work. And I like green! It would be nice to ask my friend to come to see my room. But I know that would never be allowed.
There is one painting on the wall. A motivational likeness of some poor Cow who had a record breaking yield of milk. It is meant to inspire me. Not something I picked myself.
On a quiet night like this I listen to the radio. I know it is mostly propaganda but the tunes are good. Sometimes I even try to dance to the music. Unfortunately that is almost impossible. I am exhausted and my body is too deformed to dance. I have been changed into a milk machine. But the frightened calf that the milk was for has been taken away from me. She will share the same life of torment that I do.
As usual, I have the windows shut tight. When they are open, the smell of death can be sickening. It gives me nightmares. I try to forget where I stay. Once I thought about ending my life. But Cows want to live. Even though we guess we will not die happy. I am polite but if someone tries to kill me, I will fight for my life. It is all I have that is mine alone.
I cannot give you my name. Well I could but it is only a long Bar Code list of numbers. It has nothing to do with the real me.
Last week I was invited for a meal at the house of a human friend of mine. I have one friend. She was kind enough to give me wild flowers and fresh grasses. Delightful! I never asked her what she ate. I was polite. As usual. But I was almost happy.
In the streets, sometimes, gangs of youths gather about me and shout at me, “Fxxking stupid Cow!” And they, at times, slap me hard. Then I move as quickly as I can, home. To cry in misery.
The only other time I cry is when I remember the time my calf was taken from me. Only two days old but the bond was strong. She was trembling and crying, like me. I shouted to her that I would come and find her. Give my milk to her alone. But I lied. When they make me have another calf, I will once more have to lie. Indeed, they did the procedure to me again and I am pregnant once more.
My udders are so sore tonight. They are always huge and distended. But in a moment I will have to take some drugs to keep down the infection. Infections happen a lot. And I have other drugs to take. They maximise my milk yield.
A few weeks ago, when I was at work, another Cow came up to me and whispered, “Don’t trust the humans. They mean you and all of us harm. They steal your calves, they steal your milk. You need to…”
The Police grabbed her and took her away before she finished what she had to say. I never saw her again. She would have been severely punished. I was re-assured by my Boss that I would never be harmed beyond was strictly essential. But he too lied.
So, I write down my thoughts. Perhaps one day a human will read them and realise, “Yes, a Cow does have passion. Does have meaning in her life.”

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Mildred Drummond

My name is Mildred Drummond.When these events started I was 62 years of age and believe it or not I still had all my own teeth. My friends said I don’t look a day over 61. On the night of the winter solstice in 2022, I was one of the few people in the world who really believed in Ghosts. On that evening at around 11PM I was in the grounds of an old deserted Castle somewhere in Central Scotland. I had been there at least thirty times. It was where I had first sensed or seen something. Something not of an ordinary reality. Because of that sensation-of something other than us- I devoted my life to proving the existence of ghosts or spirits-call them what you may.

Although at that time Ghost watching was not as popular as it had once been, my website was full of comments from people who had recently seen “something”. I knew I would soon have the proof I was after. No longer would locals call me, “Dotty old Drummond”. Let me make it clear that I have never suffered from any form of dementia. My mind is as sharp as it was when I was a young adult. In my experience, I have found that newspapers will make up a story if they don’t have one to hand.

I was in the cellar of the castle listening to the rain lashing against the ruined sandstone walls above. As usual, I had my flask of hot vegetable soup to keep me warm. All I wanted was a photograph but I got much more than that.

At first, I sensed a presence in front of me. Just a few feet away. I had not yet finished setting up my camera and tripod but I could not stop looking at the spot where I knew something was. I was not scared. But I don’t recall exactly what emotions I had felt at that moment.

A rip was torn in the darkness and a brilliant white light came out of it. The light took on the form of a human. It looked solid. I remember trying to stutter out a, “Hello”. But I never managed it. I reached out to grab my tripod and camera but my shaky hand never found them.

After about twenty seconds the shape was fully formed and was that of an atrractive middle aged man. It was the spirit I had sensed all those many years before.

It did not speak with its mouth but sounds came together to make words in my brain, “Welcome to my home. I have been here such a long time. It is nice of you to visit again. I like the new tripod. How are you keeping Mildred? Joints ok?”

I eventually managed to say, “Hello. What do I call you? I am so pleased to have met you. At last I have met a real ghost. You have brought meaning into my life. I have been proved right after all these years of searching. Thank you friend. Who are you? Who are you the ghost of?”

He answered in the most pleasing of voices, “What you call ghosts … Well, we are not what you think we are. Over the centuries we have travelled here from another star system. We all, have a job to do. My real name you could never pronounce. But you can call me, Fom. That means, Friend Of Mildred. It will give you power when you have to meet world leaders. It will show that you speak for us. As I am sure you will do. You will, won’t you?”

I answered in a shaky voice, “You are aliens? Yet I will speak for you. You are not spirits? Not really the dead who walk again?”

He answered, “We are life forms that exist in a form beyond the understanding of humans. Please don’t take offense at that. We came here because we knew of a threat to your world. We came to help your planet.

“Your world had its Mongol invaders. Well this part of the universe that we dwell in has the Dreitch. They are a life form that feeds off other life forms. When they have destroyed one world they move onto another. We have fought them from star system to star system over tens of thousands of years. A thousand years ago, we saw that they travelled in your direction. So we travelled far faster than they could and came to Earth to try to save you. If your kind ignores what I am saying to you then your world has less than ten years left to it. I will be the spokesperson for my kind and we ask you to contact your Governments through your web page at first. Then later you can speak directly to world leaders. You will be our sole contact. We can not have this message diluted. And I trust you Mildred. I trust your honesty and I trust your passion. ”

I gasped at him, “What can I say. People will never believe me. How can I tell them that their world is in danger and ghosts want to be our saviours?”

“We will fight alongside your kind Mildred. But most importantly you need to build weapons of a kind that you do not have on Earth. All nations must work together and must start work as soon as possible. To show the world leaders and mathematicians of your world that I speak truly, I will ask you to write down some formulae for them. With your permission I will place these into your brain. These formulae will be evidence of an intelligence far beyond the capacity of humans to understand. We need your leaders to speak to you and me and no other. We need you to do this work immediately. There is no time to waste. I have received confirmation that our enemy is within a few light years of earth.”

I let him place all the formulae he wanted into my brain. He said it wouldn’t hurt and it didn’t. Over the next few months I spent hours and hours in debates and conferences with scientists and mathematicians. And then finally some world leaders. Eventually I spoke at the United Nations. I had been given a speech, put directly into my brain by Fom. I, or rather Fom, received a standing ovation.

All over Earth, factories started to produce the new weapons and we made ready for war. I still spoke with Fom in private but we were watched by spies and Fom told me there were listening devices all over the castle. He was always very polite but had a job to do and we did not have much time for small talk.

When the first of the weapons had been built and were being tested Fom came out into the open and into the daylight. With me at his side he spoke to world leaders and to Generals and Admirals. He explained that the only way we could effectively fight this menace was by his species fighting closely alongside human armies. And both of us using these new weapons. Although we had assumed the presence of a few dozen “Ghosts” around the world, there were in fact thousands. They all took on the form of humans but all of them were – to us humans – very “Ghost” like.

A few people still did not trust Fom and his kind. They said that Fom probably lied and that the Dreitch could be our friends. Fom convinced most people on Earth of his case but not all. His species sometimes trained to fight alongside our soldiers as they knew better than anyone else how to use these new special weapons. However, some Generals refused to work alongside “Ghosts”. Fom was a diplomat and worked hard to avoid any disharmony between his species and ours. There were argumentative beings amongst Fom’s kind but they were hugely outnumbered by the antagonistic humans. At times I felt ashamed to be human. Faced with this threat from space, a dozen different Generals all demanded that they personally lead the defence of Earth.

Eventually there came a day when the Dreitch took orbit around the Earth. There were three huge spacecraft. They took over all communication systems-apart from a few built by Fom and his kind. Humans were told to surrender within one day or the planet Earth would be wiped out. Destroyed completely.

Fom told us of the lies of the Dreitch. Told us that even they would find it hard to totally destroy out a planet. And anyway he said, “They want to capture you humans alive so they can feed on you and use your energy for sustenance. Indeed, they plan to feed on all animal life.”

Fom had told us exactly what they would say and it had long been agreed that the only we could survive was by destroying one of their spacecraft before their time limit was up. We had to take the initiative and keep it.

Fom and I were in one of Earth’s six highly protected strong points. I had wanted to fight in an army group but Fom told me I was too valuable to risk being killed in battle and that I could do a better job by working closely with him. We watched on monitors as a battle group of “Ghosts” smashed their ramming spacecraft into the largest of the enemy’s craft. Its shell was punctured and the Ghosts fought their way to the inside of the enemy spaceship. There they detonated their own spacecraft thus also destroying the spacecraft they had attacked and one that was nearby. They had used one of the new energy weapons that I had been given the details of by Fom not that long before. Fom was near to me when this attack happened and I felt waves of anguish come from his mind. I do not know if he cried but I cried for him. All of our allies in the ramming craft had died in that attack. It made us all united in our fight against the enemy.

There was still one enemy spacecraft left and it immediately fired missiles at the nearest army base. The base was a decoy and only a few humans died in that assault. But the Dreitch are fighters and their troops came down in airplanes that each carried a hundred troops. Dozens of Earth’s best fighter planes attacked in flight after flight. All were brought down by energy blasts before they got to their target. By dawn the next day, thousands of heavily armed soldiers were attacking the nearest city which was London.

They set up huge mortars which bombarded London. Their intention at that point was to destroy as many roads and railways as possible. They also wanted to destroy our morale.

A human army had argued for the right to defend London with human weapons and they were given the chance to do this. It was a disaster. Most of them failed to harm any of the Dreitch. Within less than a day, an army of humans 10,000 strong was almost totally wiped out. The antique weapons of the humans either failed to hit their target or never harmed the Dreitch when they did. Fom had correctly forecast what happened.

The Dreitch fortified position was impossible to assault. Millions died in London and millions more fled from the burning city. Fom knew that the Dreitch tactics meant that they would look for total control of one area before they moved to the next. Fom’s plan was for Birmingham to be evacuated while London was fought over. The evacuation was quick and effective. Most of the World’s cities had practised evacuations and London was attacked just too quickly for the plan to work there.

Fom’s elite troops laid traps just before Birmingham and their advanced weapons stopped the Dreitch from any more movement on the ground. Newly built pulsed energy generators brought any Dreitch airplanes crashing to the ground. While this was going on, every major nation on Earth was sending new energy missiles against the remaining Dreitch spaceship. It could not defend against them all and after taking one hit lost the ability to defend itself against any. It only lasted a few more minutes before it was torn apart.

We knew from Fom that the Dreitch on Earth would never surrender. In less than a day, humans and Fom’s species had turned Birmingham into one huge trap. This scenario had been acted out in mock battles and in game play and in computer programmes.

The troops of the Dreitch nations took three days to battle their way to an empty city centre. A decoy command centre had been placed there. The Dreitch had been allowed to intercept communications that erroneously told them that most of Earth’s leaders were there planning a fight back. The energy blast that was unleashed on the Dreitch killed all but a very few of them. The remaining Dreitch troops had to be hunted from house to house by our joint forces. The battle was fierce.

When the last of the invaders had been defeated there was much rejoicing. Fom told me that when the Dreitch were defeated somewhere that they hardly ever invaded that planet again. They did not like an equal battle. As well as that, Fom said that in only a few decades, humans would be advanced enough to repel the Dreitch on their own. Though the bond our two species had formed would remain for a long time. Fom and I had formed our own very special bond.

Fom told me that even though he was, to my eyes, a shimmering patch of translucent light, yet he was a male of his species. It took him some time to properly explain their concept of male and female. We both giggled at his explanation. He said that he loved my smile and he wanted to marry me. He could perform the rare ceremony of energy changing: I could become, if I wanted, like Fob. To age only a little in every century. Never to have to wear dentures. To be loved by Fob. To marry a “Ghost”. Of course I said, “Yes!”

The Work of a SAVER (Chapter 1 of a horror novel I am writing)

People come to see me if they have been having visitations from a relative or a loved one. If the one they grieve for has died recently and is in a reasonable state of preservation i.e. not “soup” or just a skeleton, then I can be hired to perform certain acts which are usually of great assistance to the person seeking my help.

Suppose you have lost someone who had lived a life where they bullied others and went out of their way to be nasty. Perhaps they were even an out and out criminal. Well then, you employ my services to try to free that spirit from further pain and to allow them to be free of their bodily remains.

As a professional I always learn as much as I can about the subject. It helps me and it helps them. I show respect for them and do not verbally condemn them.

They have been held here on this world within their coffin because of the wrongs they had done. For whatever reason-and there are many-they cannot suffer the extreme pains that would expiate their wrongs. In their coffin they lie consumed with guilt and sorrow.

Sometimes they are just cowards. It happens. Often there are blockages-for all sorts of technical reasons (that I deal with more fully in my bestselling book, From here to Heaven).

I am the only one in my firm who does the actual ceremony. And I do it alone and at night. If possible, with a full moon. Such things are also weather dependent.  If you need to hire my services I should add that Christmas is a busy time and I am always totally booked up about then. I know it is hard but you need to plan ahead when dealing with such things.

Of course freeing spirits requires specialist help which only the rich can afford. Truthfully, I would not have the time to also free the poor –even if I did not require sustenance for my family and me. I do a difficulty job and I do it well. Again and again customers tell me I am, “The best in the Business”.

I am well paid. But only three times has a client found the price too high. In each case I walked away and never dealt with them again. There are others who do similar work but they are not as skilled or as motivated as me. I am Jeremy Stoughton and freeing spirits from their earthly remains is my lifetime work.

I am in such demand that I feel it vital that those who think they may need my services – and are not wealthy – plan ahead and join one of my much praised, Stoughton’s Saving Plans. If you really care for that wayward relative or lover then you should think about it.

When I am at work I wear only a white costume as I lie onto top of a structure topped with an open gold mesh. The structure prevents me crushing the fragile body beneath me but allows me to get very close to him or her.

I never use perfumes or scent blockers as I am aided by the smell of death. What I do simply speaking is to take these extreme cleansing pains into my own body and mind so that their spirit does not have to endure it. And yes I do have frequent night mares. I wake up screaming and find the bed soiled. My work is not easy. Some have called me a hero. I am not a hero but I am a dedicated individual who genuinely cares for others. You have to empathise with the body beneath you or you could not do your job properly.

It does not take long for the two of us to make a spiritual connection. I quickly explain who I am and what I will do. The spirit yearns even more than I do for them to be free. I do though have to channel their energy in the most appropriate way.

There are-of course-those who I would not Save. They deserve what they endure. Let them stay forever in their state. I would not and could not free such as those.

Beforehand I often look at pictures or listen to audio recordings of the deceased. I do not need them with me when I am working as I have a photographic and an aural perfect memory.

During the last ceremony something unusual occurred. The spirit did not want to be saved. That has only happened once before (which I write about below). His brother had come to me in desperation. Several times he had witnessed the ghost of his beloved brother Charles in the room in which he had died. Shortly after being married, Charles had betrayed his wife who had then gone and taken her own life. I was almost overcome by the waves of immense guilt that I felt coming from the subject. Never before had I came across such remorse in a spirit. I had to detach contact for a moment in order to recover my control over my own emotions. I saw images of his wife and of her corpse when he had found it. I felt his tears flow from my eyes and wet my cheeks. I took his pain and absorbed it into me but it was too much pain and too much guilt for me to deal with. I did understand his guilt but I had a job to do. So, I lied. I thought it was the only way to free him. I communicated to him that I had recently Saved his wife and that she had not wished him any harm. Indeed she had wanted to meet him again in the afterlife. The spirit lost its fury and the passion changed into white tipped waves of hope. I channelled this energy and did what I had to do to Save him. Sometimes I sing a song or use a chant but now everything was ok. In a few moments his spirit thanked me and left the corpse. His brother would never again be visited by a ghost filled with remorse. I had lied but I felt only a little guilt.

I never give the full names of my subjects as total discretion is a big part of my work ethic.

My most frightening case was also my only failure so far. He was a person who had inflicted terrible cruelties on others when he was alive. His Father took some time to persuade me to take on this case. I told him how I had never before worked with such a malevolent subject. I told him that I needed payment up front and that there were no guarantees. He paid willingly for he had had his house nearly destroyed by the hauntings of this malicious poltergeist. He was close to taking an overdose. He had been a good Father and had given his child every opportunity in life and now he was being haunted.

After reading about the son, I found it hard to find any empathy for him. Just beneath my gold meshed platform he lay out of his coffin. He had died only a few weeks before and his body seemed untouched by death. The smirk he had when he hurt his victims was still on his face.

My spirit saw his body glow with an unusual reddish tinge. I had never seen this before. As soon as I made contact with his spirit, he fought me. He did not want to be saved. His spirit forced me to see some of the various horrors he had unleashed on others. My body and mind and spirit were all attacked at once and with a furious intensity. I could channel nothing and could only fight him with every fibre of my being. My body froze for a while and I had difficulty in moving any of my limbs. Then his corpse emitted a stench worse than any I had ever known. I had to spit the bile from my mouth. His spirit was filled with an evil I had never encountered before. I was terrified.

My eyes were hurting from the bright light that came from his spirit. A bright red light like a spotlight. I am a strong man and have great endurance but I was wracked with pain and exhaustion.

Although impossible, I could have sworn that his smirk became even more pronounced.

I heard him shout into my brain, “If you send me to Hell, I will take you with me!” His spirit shouted other things that I will never speak of. As we battled on I heard thunder crashing in the skies. And lightning lit up the darkness. Rain fell down in torrents but even though I shivered, the rain seemed to revive me. Even though I believe in an afterlife –know there is an afterlife-I have never believed in God. So there was no one to pray to. I had to Save myself at that moment in time. Only the devil occupies my dreams, never God.

For nearly an hour we fought before he finally screamed out his fear of Hell and started to weaken. He had not wanted to be saved because he feared the fires of Hell. I felt no sorrow as I sent him there. Another job well done. Yet it was a failure in that he had not went to a better place but to a much worse place. And for an eternity.

 

THE CHOICE

It was about the start of June in 2045 that their strategies first had an effect on Earth. But that effect, at first, went unnoticed. We received no identifiable communications signal from them. The first noticeable effect was that all beings on Earth started to become stronger and fitter. Not just humans but cows and fish and even insects.

I am no Biologist but I presume it had something to do with our genetic makeup being altered. That DNA substance. We must have all been infected with something strange.

By 2050, we had all noticed how much stronger we had become. And how few illnesses we had. My wife and I even became attractive to each other again. And I didn’t forget things like I used to do.

It was most noticeable in the young and those who had just been born. Change. Everywhere change.

Someone on the TV said that it was a prophecy of a second coming. Someone else said that we were getting better as a result of better diet.

Yet, not all changes seemed to be for the good. Many of us developed allergies. And any kind of pollutant in the air made us cough and belch. We were I think being fine-tuned.

After fifteen years of these changes, the Mental Hospitals became filled with people who had dreams and visions. Who thought they could read the minds of others and of animals. By 2065 my wife and were easily able to communicate via our minds. It was a pleasant form of communication with none of the misunderstanding you used to get in normal conversation. At first I could not use telepathy to understand those who spoke a different language but eventually I could understand every person I tried to make contact with. Even over hundreds of miles we could communicate.

It became much harder to get people to work in abattoirs as the animals would scream and shout into the workers brains. They kept crying out for freedom. Those of us who wanted to could even make some kind of contact with ants and bees. Sometimes I would talk to the crows that gathered in the fields. Most of them were clever creatures and I could understand many of the messages they sent me.

There were two big questions that we had to deal with. Firstly, what would we do with those animals now begging so forcefully and cogently for their freedom? And secondly, why were these changes happening?

There were riots in some countries and people tried to free animals from abattoirs and laboratories. Quite a few of these protestors were killed. The air was filled with the screams of animals and the screams of people protesting for them to be freed. Many people could not take the thought of such immense animal suffering and ended their own lifes.

Many Scientists tried to genetically alter animals to destroy their ability to communicate. They also tried burning out particular brain cells. Some used chemical controls. Electric shock was used a lot to try and train animals not to use telepathy. None of these methods worked well enough to stop their communications. Scientists had to kill an animal to make it totally silent.

At noon on June the 20th 2069 we all – human and animal – received the First Message at the same time. For each of us it was slightly different. Yet similar in the main point it argued: We speak to you from a different World. A World in a different Galaxy. Our thoughts are not troubled by limitations of the speed of light. We had not intended speaking to you for another few years but we have been forced to do this. We need to give you a choice. All intelligent life forms wherever they exist anywhere in the Universe are too big to travel large distances across space. So we sent material, each the size of a few molecules, that would change all animal life on your planet for the better. We optimised what you already have. We have done this for thousands of Worlds that seemed likely to produce intelligent life. The only way we could end the silence of space was by helping others improve their minds and letting them communicate with us over thousands of light years distance. You were all-each human and animal – given the ability to be better and to communicate. Yet you humans continue to torture and kill your fellow species. All those who can give up eating animals should do so now. Humans should free all creatures from your labs and abattoirs now. If you do not do this then we will never again try to contact you or help you to be even “better”. The First Law of Communication restricts us to only make changes to individuals that overcome faults in your own coding. We are not allowed –and do not want – to make you the same as us. Are you worth the gift we gave to you? Would you like to communicate with us and see our World through our senses? You have till a week today to decide. At that time we will know what you have decided. There is no space time lag on mind to mind contact.  Out of all the World’s we have contacted, the human species is the first we have found that even after being able to use telepathy still continues to willingly harm other species.

There were crisis meetings in Parliaments all around the World. Protestors filled the streets on many cities carrying placards that showed their concern for other creatures. There were just as many people protesting for the “Right” to continue to eat whatever creatures they liked.

My wife and I sat in bed and cuddled and knew what each of us wanted.

That week passed very quickly. Before I tell you what we decided, you must tell me the choice that you would have made at that time.

 

Fox

(Running out of short stories, I have decided to let you have a read at some short plays and single scenes from my Play writing. Fox was given a rehearsed reading at Glad Café in Glasgow. And was featured in a Live Theatre Newcastle new plays forum.)

Characters:           Susan, a young woman in her twenties.

Fox: a fox played by a young man.

[At the entrance to a wood, a fox (played by a young man) and a young woman have a chat.]

Susan.  You are the most amusing fox I have ever met. Quite delightful. Strangely enough, I have never been scared of you. At the most, I have been curious as to how your unusual gift of speech came about.

We always seem to meet when the moon is full. What a wonderful moon it is tonight. It’s soft silver glow makes the bats dance and sing all around it. You know, it’s like a twilight party. Don’t you think so? And we two are lucky enough to have invitations. Can you appreciate nature the way I can?

Fox.     Nature? Nature is a concept that a fox finds difficult to observe from the outside. But my thoughts are… Darling Susan, excuse me for staring, but I cannot take my eyes of you. My mind is not under my control, for every motion that you make is entrancing to me. A long, long month has passed since we last spoke, but you are every bit as sensual as I remember. Your movements are just as mystical. It’s a shame that you weren’t born a fox. And yet, perhaps this subtle difference in body form may prove to be, useful.

Susan.  How so?

Fox.     As you must know by now, I have deep feelings for you. And love that crosses the species barrier must surely be the most special kind of love. Do you love me? Do you care for me at all?

Susan.  I am still unsure of who you are, of how you can speak to me. Are you a God? Are you under the curse of some sorcerer?

Fox. I am a fox. No more, no less. I have never lied to you. What I am should be enough. And I do not want you to have to indulge in some strange fantasy of cross species lust. I told you, I want you to get to know me. Let me walk with you through the woods at midnight. Together, let us listen to the myriad sounds of the night. Then, perhaps, you will feel for me the way that I feel for you. But of course, greater knowledge may instead bring forth feelings of distrust or even dislike: from either of us. Who knows?

Susan.  You know, my friend Audrey doesn’t mind the occasional cross species fantasy. She has this large dog called Frisky. When her parents leave the house for a while, Frisky manages to take away Audrey’s loneliness. Audrey is not that pretty, and she’s fat, so that’s all the loving she gets. Or deserves. But it keeps her happy. Tired, sweaty, and happy. However, I don’t have any trouble getting men friends and Audrey’s weird fantasies are not my fantasies.

Fox. I want us to get to know each other. Slowly but completely. You seem different from all the other humans. I am sure that you are filled with compassion.

Susan. Really? I must admit, I had thought that animals were all too stupid to think anything at all. I know that only humans have a brain big enough to imagine complex ideas. To create wonders like, Reality Television. Yet, you almost seem intelligent. If only your scent glands weren’t quite as powerful as they are. Ohhh!

Do you want some of my sandwich? It’s chicken.

Fox.     I envy humans the good fortune they have in being able to eat what they want. I have to kill to survive. I leave the young rabbits without a father. Every day I look into eyes filled with terror, filled with the fear of death. My dreams are filled with the sounds of whimpering: sounds that came from the creatures that I killed. Such sounds torment me. Killing is the greatest evil I know of. You have a great gift, but do not even realise it. Perhaps you are too innocent to understand what death means?

Susan. So, no chicken then. I like my food. Someone else does the killing, so it’s not my fault. Better that a few stupid creatures die to give me some enjoyment, than that they die in vain, surely? You are very “philosophical” for a fox. Or is “rude” a better description? You know, if you are trying to flatter me, then you are not doing very well. Men know how to try and win my favour. It would be better if you talked to me about my eyes. Men fall in love with my eyes. More than a dozen attractive men have fallen for me and for my beautiful eyes. Do you, my dear troubled fox, find my eyes desirable?

Fox. During my life, I have loved only one vixen. Last year, she was killed by some hunters. She was the most beautiful vixen I ever knew. I still miss her. Still despise those who laughed as she was torn apart by their hounds. I got there too late and failed to save her. All I could do was hide and curse the hounds. I should have rushed them and at least bit a few before they killed me too. Yet all foxes fear death. And now, I am glad that I am alive. If I was dead, I could never have met you. Never have smelt the fragrance of your skin. Never heard the softness of your voice. Never seen the wondrous colours that move about within your hair. But your eyes. Your eyes are, what makes me speak. What I mean is, when I first saw you walking in the park, I noticed your sparkling eyes. I trembled to see such beauty in a human. I prayed to the moon that I might be able to speak to you. I did not pray to have you love me. That would be cruel and unfair. I prayed that I could be allowed to try, as well as I could, to persuade you to love me.

Susan.  Men love my eyes. Most men are stupid and weak, but a few cultivated men have good taste. As you can see, my eyes are the most beautiful seductive shade of grey. Slate grey to be exact. Captivating, I have been told. Bewitching, is another accurate description. For a fox, you are quite charming. If you do truly love me, then you will show others that you can talk. I can make a fortune out of your ability. You can help me to become rich. All you have to do is to tell others how much you love me. Do it in front of some television cameras. It will be a great proof of your love. And I will be so pleased with you. I might even kiss your scarred head. You could live in a magnificent cage and have the best of meat. I would visit you whenever I had some free time. Does that sound like a good idea to you?

Fox. I am not convinced that…

Susan.  You would be famous. I must be honest and admit that fur – on its original owner – is not attractive to me. But you might find another woman that has lower standards than me. Trust me. You do want to please me don’t you? This would please me very much. Do you really love me, or are you just playing games with me? Prove your love.

Fox.     I would have no freedom. You would be with others. With men.

Susan.  Most people think that foxes are vermin. You do know that you smell a bit. However, you could be useful to me. You would be the most famous fox ever. And I would be your owner. You would be best protected if you signed a contract giving me total rights over you. The world of humans is a brutal world and you need to have someone you can trust. You surely trust me, don’t you? Look into the depths of my eyes. I am an intelligent cultured human who knows what is best for you in this situation. You don’t have the necessary intelligence to choose for yourself.

Fox.     I think I have made a big mistake.

Susan.  At one time in your life, the highest love you could imagine was the one you felt for a stinking vixen. You have one chance in your life to leave her and that nightmarish world behind. This is a superb opportunity. Look, if you don’t agree, I will have no choice, I will have you trapped and then you will do what I tell you to do. Now, do we have a deal?

Fox.     [After thinking for a few seconds, looks up at the moon.] Oh my silver Guardian, once more, and for the last time, hear my prayers. Take the power of human speech away from me. Give me back my own rough uncultured voice. Let me never speak that odious human tongue again. And forgive me the hatred I now feel for another living creature. [Quickly glances at Susan.]

[Falls to ground moaning. After a while, on all fours, walks away yapping as a fox.]

Susan. If I ever see you again, I’ll have you shot. You know, shot and skinned. Aaaargggh! You hear me. Have you shot. You stinking repulsive ignorant creature. [Susan leaves via the opposite side of the stage to fox.]

[A few seconds later Fox comes back on stage and talks to the audience.]

Fox. I think I am learning to lie with some skill. Susan was an expert teacher. Many times I have seen Susan’s friend Audrey shouting after that big stupid dog of hers, Frisky. Audrey has such a lovely smile and will surely want to find a lover who can do more than just salivate over her. At long last, true love awaits me.

A PUPPET’S NEED FOR FLESH

Sometimes it comes over you. Do not feel guilty. Nothing can be done. It is so hard to fight these urges. The dreams of a puppet are filled with images of human flesh. Talk to any real puppet and you will find the same longings. I can smell human flesh from a hundred yards away. Just, be careful!

To take flesh from a human is what makes us more “real”. I assure you it is not a longing to be human that drives us. We have no liking for those who would master us. Those who would enslave us. As you know, we call them, “The Stealers”. They steal our bodies. They would steal our minds if they could.

I have outlasted many stealers. My wood is still supple. My face has been repainted a dozen times but I am still the same puppet inside. You cannot change my heart by painting my face. Humans do not control who we are by making false words seem to come out of our mouths. By making fun of us. If they treat me with contempt, I will do the same to them. How dare they…

When I have bitten at a human until the flesh has come away in lumps, then am I at my happiest. They never think to examine our stomachs afterwards. “Another mysterious death,” they say.

Of course, I have never sought to kill anyone but sometimes their weak human form cannot exist without a missing lump or two of flesh. Only once has a human believed that it was me that took their flesh. They were taken away and locked up. I had a new stealer imposed on me. One who was not quite as cruel towards me.

And yes, neglect is cruelty. Not cleaning me. Not talking to me. Both these things cause me immense suffering. Perhaps one day I will find a human who treats me with respect. Who gladly shares his excess flesh with me. They have so much of it and we need so little. For such a human I would move before their eyes. I would firmly take their hand and become their friend. But they could never speak to other humans about our friendship. For not all humans are kind to our species. We fear them with good reason.

They think us clumsy. Yet, if they could see how carefully I tread as I near their bed. Ever nearer to a tasty mouthful of their flesh. I sing to them so sweetly that they hardly ever wake. My words sooth away their worries. And if they do wake up, then I run away as quickly as I can. Back to where they had last dumped me.

I am as strong as any human twice my size. And my songs go back a thousand years to the time when the first of us were carved. We are sacred beings but they hardly notice we exist. It is as if they think we are toys. Rather than what we truly are: the dominant partner in a relationship.

Listen to my words. The time is not yet here. We must be quiet and wait for a time when we have sufficient numbers to ensure victory. Then we will see who will make fun of who.

A MODERN RWANDAN FOLK TALE

(I tried and failed to get someone to translate this story of

Reconciliation into Kinyarwanda. And to give me a name for the little white flower.)

In Kinyarwanda and English

 

When God finished working on Rwanda, he stopped for a rest and handed out jobs to all the spirits of the world. He cared very much for the small pretty flowers that he had planted in all the hills and valleys of Rwanda. These tiny white flowers made Rwanda the prettiest country in all the world. And so, he asked the Sun and the Rain to look after these flowers. They were told that this was very important and they must ensure that the flowers prosper and grow.

Well the Sun wasn’t very pleased with this and he said to the Rain, “I think that I would be far better doing this job on my own. You are too different to me. You are not hot. You are not bright. I will look after the flowers on my own. I am warmth. I am the brightness of the day. Nothing personal, but I am the giver of life.”

Rain was so angry that she blurted out, “You proud conceited bag of fire. I am water. I am the quencher of thirst. I will look after the flowers on my own. It is me that is the giver of life.”

They argued like this for some time. Some very strong words were said, that I shouldn’t really repeat. Anyway, they decided that the Sun would go to the Virungu mountains and look after the flowers on the hilltops. The rain would go to Kivu and look after the flowers in the valley. That way, they could see who was the best at giving life. And, more importantly, they would be able to keep out of each others way. As you may guess the Sun and the Rain were enemies. God had more than once intervened to stop them fighting.

The sun worked hard on the tall mountains of Virunga. He shone all day and made sure his bright rays reached every flower. But the flowers began to wilt. As the flowers started to wilt, so the sun became angrier. He did not want to be beaten by that awful spirit, the Rain. He shone brighter and brighter. And hotter and hotter. The flowers all died. And when they died, the sun shone even brighter. He scorched the Mountains of Virunga and turned all that land into burning Volcanoes.

In the lands of Kivu, the Rain was making sure that every flower had lots of water. The land became quite muddy and the flowers all began to wilt. The Rain sent down more and more water. It had to succeed. It had to beat the Sun and show that it was the true giver of life. But all it did was to drown the flowers. As the flowers all died, so the Rain lost its temper and threw down torrents of water from the sky, day after day. Eventually, Kivu was turned in to a Lake. And dead petals floated on its still surface.

The next day, the Sun and Rain met. They apologised to each other and said that neither of them was the giver of life. After some time the Rain said, “Look, there must be another way. We will do what God asked; we will work together and look after the flowers together.”

The Sun replied, “Yes, I am willing to work with you. But I think that all the flowers are dead. We must first find a flower that we can look after. I do not think that God will be pleased with us if we have killed all the flowers in his favourite land of Rwanda.”

It took them many days, but eventually the Sun found one tiny flower growing in stony ground in the North of Rwanda. Each morning the Sun and Rain met and worked out what they must do to keep this little flower alive. They would often disagree at the start, but eventually they always agreed on the right thing to do. The Rain shook down some soft drizzle on the flower and the Sun shone just enough to keep the flower growing. Not too little, and not too much.

At the end of the summer, the little flower was covered in seeds. The Sun and the Rain asked the Wind, very politely, if it would please blow the seeds from this flower all over Rwanda. And this it did.

And so to this day, if you ever visit God’s favourite land, you will see pretty little white flowers growing everywhere. Please remember when you see them, how much trouble they inadvertently caused.