Unbound Finale: It Was Alright On The Night!
On Monday 27th August our writers took on the challenge of completing on stage the story that started here six weeks before. With the help (or hindrance) of the audience on the night they created something rather special!
Prompts chosen by the audience on the night...
First word: Scunnered
An object: A pitchfork
An unusual job: Drain counter
Last word: Unicorn
'Scunnered,' muttered the Health Minister, and died.
The body had been lying there for hours when a man in a dark suit came out of the building and up to the barrier, waving an envelope and calling for Shirren.
She took it back to the group. 'I'm in,' she said.
'They're all ready and waiting back there,' Merven said, pointing behind them into the heart of the wasteland. 'On you go.'
Their people knew the rocks better than anyone, but it had still taken months of night work in the quarries to be ready for this. It had taken even longer to infiltrate security in the building, but now everything was in place.
The suit led Shirren to a debating chamber on the second floor. Ten men sat regarding her with amusement, and behind them were TV camera crews, massed along the wall beneath the frosted security windows.
'You can take your wings,' she said, slowly tearing the envelope to pieces, 'and shove them. By the way, I find your use of gender paradigms extremely patronising.' (Shirren was a very earnest type of person).
'I think we'll just have those cameras off for the moment,' said the President. 'Oh, my dear, you look so very sad.' He was coming towards her. 'Let me give you a hug.'
She backed away, but there was nowhere to go. His arms were around her, and now the tail, sliding around her waist, growing tighter and tighter so she could hardly breathe. She felt for the flint in her pocket and wriggled her hand free, pushing it hard into his thigh.
He howled out and released her. 'I was trying to show you love, you miserable creature!'
Shirren checked the clock on the wall, and began to speak.
When you tell the story of what happened that day to your children and your grandchildren; what sort of story will you tell? Something as small as an inflection or a stress could change your meaning; a word could mistranslate between the generations. Will you talk of a mousey, downtrodden bureaucrat who woke up and roared, of the beginning of a revolution? Will you describe in awed tones how she spoke for freedom, and spoke so passionately that she began a new era?
Or will you snigger at wretched ghoul of the underclass, chip on her shoulder, mouthing off. Will she come to be a comic figure in your pantomimes, a slobber-mouthed grotesque from a family of perverts, a bogeyman to scare your children to sleep with?
Perhaps you won’t talk of it at all. Perhapsyou’ll never even hear about it.
Fortunately, the real hero that day was a young television cameraman called Oscar. Maybe he was new in the job and didn’t really know how to switch his machine off: he’d trained as a drain counter, you see, but the job had grated on his nerves and there had been a flood of applicants to replace him. On his leaving night, he'd got guttered. Anyway, here he was now, and didn't know which button was off, so the live link set up to record Shirren Inver’s metamorphosis and submission instead beamed out her voice. It wasn’t a great speech, although you may tell your children it was; the assembled ministers laughed and sniggered at her faltering diction, at the turns of old tongue phrasing she lapsed into.
‘You’re not even using language now, are you?’ scoffed the Education Minister.
‘I don’t think she can, poor thing,’ agreed the Justice Minister. Was it getting darker in there? His eyesight hadn’t been right since the last operation to open his gills.
She spoke simple truth, though, and people heard her, and were awakened through their screens (even as they tapped them: why did the picture keep getting gloomier?). She was right! They’d lost their language and their resources; their statehood and their rights. Their-
‘Now just you wait a minute, young lady,’ The President spat the words out, and began advancing towards her, arms open. ‘You are our children. We only want to give you what’s best for you. Silence. Peace. We want to enfold you in our love–’
Shirren almost laughed. President? It was like dumping a clingy boyfriend, this.
‘Mr President, it’s not you; it’s us. We’re just not ready for your kind of love. The people of this country- (-here the Education Minister let out a high-pitched snort of laughter) just need some space.’
The tail pursued her across the floor, sinuous, muscular. She backed away.
‘We want different things, Mr President.’
Suddenly, a pitchfork was thrown into the room and skittered across the floor.
‘I hope we can still be friends!’
She ran, stumbling and exhausted, Two feet ahead of her stood the new wall. Merven was holding open a steel doorway, and she rolled through it. He pulled her away, locked the door, and they both stared up and smiled as the last stone of the prison crashed into place above them. Such beautiful, beautiful stones, in that country. Such lovely buildings they made.
The President moved like an insect across the stones, probing for leverage. He found a tempting cleft. Touching it briefly with a finger he found a slick of algae to ease his way. His tail slid into the gap and he imagined pushing it further and further until it reached the thickest girth and smashed the barrier aside. But the rocks did not budge and the President managed to insert only the first three or four inches of tail.
The cabinet bickered like children, especially after the rebels had rescued the camera crews and undermined the pleasant hierarchy they’d had going. There was not a scrap of silence to be had. The President begged for solitary confinement, but their jailors would not allow it. He was forced to address the problem himself. It took days. There was a little cannibalism in the meantime. Nothing much to speak of. He got peckish; it was hard work.
Finally though, only The President was left alive.
He could hear no sound.
The dome was so thick nothing could penetrate from the outside.
With the death wheeze of the last cabinet member had come silence.
The President smiled in the darkness.
At last able to fully appreciate.
The Loving Hum of the Universe.
Outside, the people's first act was to reinstate the word 'country', and then they began building the best one they knew.
He moved in the darkness and felt his way into the mouths of the dead cabinet members, pulling their teeth. He wanted to make himself one last enhancement. It was one he had always wanted, but had been too embarrassed for people to see. But now if he could find himself some glue, he might be able to fashion himself a magnificent horn, like a unicorn.
Big thanks to everyone who took part on facebook, twitter, and of course, on the night!