Thursday, 23 January 2014

Wasp Attack

This year I've been continuing my workshops with St Augustine's C of E in Kilburn, and this week I got them to imagine being really small and to write about an ordinary experience. There were some lovely results, including a kitchen adventure and an uninterested Barbie in a toy shop. I got a bit carried away by it, and wrote this little piece, which I thought I'd put up here. The picture on the left is by Slinkachu, who makes wonderful pictures of little people in the city: website is here.

by Philip Womack

It had been a long Wednesmonth, and we were nearing the middle of it. I’d managed to persuade father and mother that we had almost enough food for the long dark month that was coming up – and so Mindy and I were allowed out of the complex for a bit of fun. We’d scrambled through the tunnels, and nodded to Paul the old porter.
“Coast is clear,” he said, and grumpily opened up the gate for us. We stepped outside, I holding my spear, and Mindy with her little catapult that she was just learning how to use. It was a time of the month when the Nameless Ones seemed to be going about their business in their weird buildings, and so it was relatively safe to venture into the black plain. 
I needed to get out of the complex, anyway: all that darkness, all that walking through tunnels.
            Mindy ran off immediately to the old lake, and started splashing about joyfully. I scanned the vast black desert. There was nothing to be seen. I put down my spear, and relaxed, breathing in the cold wind. It filled me with excitement.
            I could see all the way up to the stone wall, above which the Nameless Ones sometimes trampled. There were the strange tall trees that didn’t put out leaves, stretching up and up to the outer sky.
            As Mindy shrieked and yelped and splashed, I caught the scent of something – that odd, sweet-salty tang that meant some store of food was about. They were so careless, the Nameless Ones, always discarding things that could feed us for months.
            I looked about, and there it was. As big as the entrance hall to the King’s chambers. A thick container resting against the stone wall, and it was half full of the hard loaf that, despite its tastiness, the Nameless Ones must hate, since they threw so much of it away.
            Did I have time to get it? I wondered. It was a fair few minutes’ hike. I saw Mindy’s tiny figure wading about in the edges of the old lake and thought – she’s old enough to take care of herself for a bit. That prize is good enough. It’ll last the tribe for ages if I can drag one of those loaves back.
            So I picked up my metal spear, and set out across the black plain, past the yellow road that ran in double lines, that led to the centre of the Nameless Ones’ city, a place so terrifying we never went there. I scrambled over boulders, keeping the smell of the loaves in my nostrils. I was salivating. I began to feel adventurous. I imagined the scene: sweating, dirtied and bloodied, I would heave the loaf into the complex, and be met with the praise due to a returning warrior, and the King’s daughter would smile at me and maybe later we would dance.
            The smell was almost overpowering now. I was nearly there. I caught Mindy’s happy squealing on the wind. High above me towered layer upon layer of the thick, crunchy loaf. I considered the prospect. I’d be able, if I tried, to pull one out from near the middle. I grabbed hold of its thick edge – my hands smarting from the sharp white rocks of salt that covered it – and began to pull.
           Then I heard it. Mindy. She wasn’t yelling with joy. That was fear – worse, horror. I whipped round and saw Mindy splashing as fast as she could out of the old lake.
            Whirring angrily above her, its heavy wings clashing, its vicious weapons glinting, and its eyes, its hideous eyes, was that terror of the plains, in all its black and gold striped glory.
            I ran. What else was there to do? I left behind the prize, my tribe’s sustenance. I sprinted over the black desert, waving my spear angrily. The monster was making long, lazy circles around Mindy. She looked so small and frightened, she might have been a doll.

“Help!” she screamed. “Garmond, help!” She took shelter behind a boulder. The monster spun its cruel circle, and I took aim. Mindy yelled. I hurled the spear with all my might, hoping it would reach its target.
            “Run!” I cried. It didn't seem to take any time at all, and yet it felt like forever. I watched as my spear hit the thing sideways, not piercing its armour. It wobbled, knocked a little off course. Mindy was running back to the gate. The noise had caused the porter to open it, and he was peering out anxiously. Mindy neared the entrance.
            Weaponless, I ran, the monster’s fearsome buzz filling the skies. My sister’s face, white, staring at me. The porter’s mouth, open. His arms outstretched. The shadow of the monster on the plain. I tripped, and fell, and rolled over onto my back, and saw the creature, its sharp sting extended, making straight for me.
            Death. I closed my eyes. What would it mean? We all lived out through the months, from the Moon’s to the Sun’s, seven months a year. Some of us lived to 120 or so. I’d reached 24. I had so much left to live.
            I braced myself. The noise was too much. I heard the monster’s wings, and I heard it preparing to strike.
            And then a thump. A thud. 
The whirring stopped, and a low buzzing, fitfull and quiet, replaced it. 
I opened my eyes.
            The monster was on its side, a gash leaking out some horrible liquid. It was twitching, angrily. But it was dying. My sister was waving me in. She’d shot the beast with her catapult, and the porter had followed it with a spear. I cried out my thanks.
            They carried me inside. That night, at the feast, I caught the eye of the princess, and she smiled at me: the boy who’d faced a monster, and lived.

1 comment:

  1. What a nice story, thanks for posting! This is one of those classic short stories that's worth sharing.

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