Monster #FlashFictionForay #FFF31

The Flash Fiction Foray is upon us again, and the song The Book Blogger has chosen this week is “Monster” by Imagine Dragons.

In case you don’t know the rules, the challenge is to write a short story of fewer than 100 words based on the song title or lyrics. A challenge indeed! This week I have managed to keep my word count to fewer than 170, which is better than the monster (ha-ha, see what I did there?) offerings of, ooh, nearly 500 words I’ve submitted in the past, but the magic 100 word story still eludes me.

*****

Freddie was sitting on the stairs late at night, listening to Mother gossiping with the neighbours.

“The boy’s father,” exclaimed Mother, “is a real monster!”

“Monster. Monster,” agreed her companions.

Glowing with excitement, Freddie sneaked back to his bedroom to pack his meagre belongings. His dad was a real live monster – just wait till the bullies at school heard about that! Mother never did anything when Freddie came home in tears on a daily basis, other than telling him to grow a pair of balls. How was he supposed to grow balls? Why couldn’t she buy him some from the toy shop?

“Do you remember the awful things he used to do to Freddie?” Mother was saying, deaf to the front door clicking shut behind her small son. “I swear he’d have killed the child…”

Freddie didn’t hear these crucial details about the monster who’d fathered him. He was already on the streets, a bounce in his step as he set out to find his hero.

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#MayDay Mayhem Part Two – Let The Carnival Begin!

“It is my pleasure,” boomed Lord Lah-di-Dah, “to declare the Bell End May Day fête…OPEN!”

“Oh, Your Lordship, Your Lordship.” Mrs Sanctimonious simpered around the minor aristocrat as the opening ceremony drew to a close, virtually clutching at his sleeve in a bid to ingratiate herself. “Please, allow me – I mean, it would be my honour to show you around…”

“What, what, what?”

“Show you around, Your Lordship. Perhaps some refreshments first?”

“Splendid, a bevvy or two sounds like a blahdy good idea. And there’s no need for the Lordship malarkey – yer can call me Rupert.”

Mrs Sanctimonious’s laugh positively tinkled. First name terms with an aristocrat…

“Yah, got stripped of me title a year ago. Spot of bother on Clapham Common.”

“Ew,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, a little deflated. “Well, er, how’s life at Lah-di-Dah Hall?”

“Sold it!” The former Lord Lah-di-Dah slapped Mrs Sanctimonious on the back and gave a bark of laughter. “Gambling debts, what?”

“Ewww.” Mrs Sanctimonious looked all of a sudden as though there was a nasty smell under her nose. “Well if you want refreshments, Rupert, might I suggest you’d be more at home in the pub?”

“The Drover’s Arms? Jolly good idea. Spent many a night in the barmaid’s arms, what?” The disgraced aristocrat guffawed unrepentantly. “Tally ho!”

Her mouth tighter than a duck’s arse, Mrs Sanctimonious watched him go.

“Common as muck,” she muttered. Feeling a tap on her arm, she painted a smile on her face which faded the second she saw it wasn’t anyone worth cultivating.

“Mrs Downtrodden.”

“Mrs Sanctimonious, is there anything I can do to help? Only Farmer Rosy-Cheeks seems to have everything under control in the refreshments tent…”

“Farmer Rosy-Cheeks is meant to be manning the produce stall.”

“The only produce he’s brought along is his apple juice,” replied Mrs Downtrodden. “It’s going down a storm. No one wants tea.”

“Oh, for goodness sake, woman, you’ll do anything to get out of working,” snapped Mrs Sanctimonious. “Go and see if Justin’s elephants are ready for the maypole dance yet.”

Feeling self-righteously superior as Mrs Downtrodden slunk away, Mrs Sanctimonious started walking across the village green to see how the raffle tickets were selling. She didn’t get far.

“Mrs Sanctimonious?” A woman holding the hand of a confused looking small boy stopped her in her tracks. “Mrs Sanctimonious, that man you’ve put in charge of body painting is, quite frankly, inappropriate!”

The last word came out as a scream and the small boy started to cry.

“Show the lady, Tarquin.”

Tarquin held up his hands. Painted across his small knuckles were the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’.

“I wanted a Spiderman face,” he wailed.

“Mr Wouldn’t-Say-Boo-To-A-Goose did that?” asked Mrs Sanctimonious in disbelief.

“Mr Wouldn’t-Say-Boo-To-A-Goose is running backwards and forwards to the refreshments tent,” snapped Tarquin’s mother, “getting an endless supply of Farmer Rosy-Cheeks’s apple juice for…”

“Oh dear God, no!” exclaimed Mrs Sanctimonious, clapping her hands over her face as the unmistakable roar of motorbike engines cut across the tranquillity of the spring afternoon. Squinting through the gap between her fingers, she saw her worst fears had been realised.

The local Hell’s Angels had turned up in support of their leader, Horace, who was currently engaged in painting nipples on to a five-year-old girl’s chubby cheeks.

“Horace!” Mrs Sanctimonious summoned her courage and stormed over to the large and hairy man. “You…you…what are you doing?”

“Tattooing the kiddies, Mrs S,” replied Horace affably, draining his mug of apple juice and sending Mr Wouldn’t-Say-Boo-To-A-Goose scuttling off to the refreshments tent for a refill.

“But”, Mrs Sanctimonious laid her hands on the shoulders of the baffled looking five-year-old, “this is highly inappropriate…”

“No it ain’t, Mrs S.” Horace gave the nipple adorned cheeks a friendly squeeze. “Just givin’ the little ’un a fine pair until she grows a fine pair of her own.”

“Jolly good show, man,” roared the former Lord Lah-di-Dah, glass of apple juice in hand, clapping Horace on the back. “Can’t have too many titties about the place, what?”

“I thought you were in the pub,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, rubbing the bridge of her nose wearily.

“Came back with the Morris dancers.” The former Lord Lah-di-Dah clinked his glass against Horace’s. “Mighty fine apple juice, eh?”

“Oh heck,” groaned Mrs Sanctimonious, “the Morris dancers…”

Jingle, jingle, jingle, clack! Jingle, jingle, jingle, thud! Thud! Raucous laughter. The Morris dancers, complete with a splendidly toothy Reverend Benign and an equally toothless Mr Wolf, were gathered outside the refreshments tent, giving an impromptu display – of falling over.

“Justin!” shrieked Mrs Sanctimonious. “Justin, where are you? Get the maypole dancing going, now!”

“Can’t,” replied Justin.

“What do you mean, you can’t? You’ve had an hour to train the children…”

“Yeah, and things were going swimmingly until Mrs Rosy-Cheeks instigated an ‘eat your body weight in burgers’ competition.”

“And,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, looking over to where the children were now slobbing out around the maypole, electronic tablets in hands, “I hardly dare ask, but did any of them manage it?”

“No.” Mrs Sanctimonious’s relief was short lived. “But only because there aren’t enough burgers in the country. Once they’d finished Mrs Rosy-Cheeks’s supply – in record time, I might add – they started on the…”

Justin was interrupted by a scream from the raffle stall. Mrs Downtrodden was staring in horrified disbelief at the empty stand where the magnificent prize cake, the weight of which eager fairgoers had been paying a pound a go to guess, had once sat.

“Once they’d finished, they started on the cake,” murmured Mrs Sanctimonious, feeling a little faint. Someone shoved a glass of Farmer Rosy-Cheeks’s legendary apple juice into her hand and she drank a healthy slug before continuing. “And what, pray, are the not so little darlings doing now.”

“Dancing,” replied Justin as chubby fingers whizzed over tablet screens. “They’ve all downloaded ‘Killer Zombies’ Dance of Death’ and they’re bloody brilliant at it.” Grinning, Justin produced an iPad from his man bag. “It’s great. The zombies dance round the maypole, binding the living with the ribbons, then they feast on brains. I’m on level two.”

His finger already busy, Justin returned to the maypole and disappeared into a sea of fat and ribbons.

“It’s all going wrong!” wailed Mrs Sanctimonious. “Give me strength…”

Taking another gulp of apple juice, she discovered her prayer had been answered. An inner strength she didn’t know she had came to the fore and she regarded the mayhem around her with a new appreciation.

“This stuff’s delicious,” she said, draining her glass. “Any chance of some more?”

“Ish nectar from heaven,” slurred Reverend Benign, draping an arm round her shoulders. “A gift from almighty…wash ’iz name again? Ooh,” his teeth turned in the direction of the newly crowned May Queen, Miss Pretty-Young-Thing, closely followed by the rest of his face, “don’t mind if I do.”

Reverend Benign scuttled off rather unsteadily in pursuit of Miss Pretty-Young-Thing, accompanied by wolf whistles and an accordion rendition of the Benny Hill theme tune courtesy of the Morris dancers. Meanwhile at the body painting stall, Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village was sharing a large roll-up with the former Lord Lah-di-Dah while Horace showcased his artistic talents on her Leanne’s face.

“Is that a…” began Mrs Sanctimonious, looking bleary-eyed at Horace’s artwork.

“Nah, Mrs S,” replied Horace with a grin. “Dirty mind you’ve got, lady. It’s just a nice picture of meat and two veg.”

“What a relief,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, turning with a beaming smile as Mrs Downtrodden appeared at her side.

“Mrs Sanctimonious,” said Mrs Downtrodden, her voice quavering, “it’s a disaster.”

The Morris men were back at the refreshments tent, singing a collection of bawdy songs at the tops of their voices, their bells jingling frantically as they swayed to and fro, while random declarations of “Brains” from the direction of the maypole heralded more victories for the zombies. Giggling and rustling coming from a nearby bush, punctuated by the occasional “Glory be to God”, suggested the whereabouts of His Reverence and the May Queen, and the large roll-ups appeared to be multiplying at an astonishing rate as Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village got increasingly mellow with the local Hell’s Angels chapter and the disgraced aristocrat.

“Disaster, my arse,” replied Mrs Sanctimonious, linking arms with Mrs Downtrodden and leading her in the direction of the refreshments tent and Farmer Rosy-Cheeks’s glorious apple juice. “It’s the best fête ever!”

apple-cider-vinegar-and-honey

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*****

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#MayDay Mayhem Part One – The Calm Before The Storm

Mrs Sanctimonious surveyed the hive of activity on the sun-drenched village green with satisfaction. It was rumoured far and wide that no village threw a better May Day bash than Bell End, and this year’s fête was shaping up to be the best ever.

Looking around, Mrs Sanctimonious frowned. Something wasn’t quite right. She had spent the last six years organising the village fête committee to within an inch of its lives, so why, oh why, did someone always see fit to do their own thing? And why, oh why, did it always have to be the same someone?

“Mrs Downtrodden,” she snapped, sashaying over to the jumble stall. “Mrs Downtrodden, what did we agree at the last committee meeting? What did we agree, hmm? Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village is dealing with jumble, you’re meant to be in the refreshments tent.”

Mrs Sanctimonious paused. There was an obvious flaw in her plan.

“So, where exactly is Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village?”

“Er, she went to see if the blue dress would fit her Leanne…”

“The blue…” Mrs Sanctimonious spluttered, turned an alarming shade of crimson, then tried again. “The blue Gucci for kids dress? It belonged to my Sophia until she wore it the once and got bored with it. I can’t have it gracing the slums of Gutter Street.”

Beckoning Mrs Downtrodden closer, Mrs Sanctimonious whispered, “Did you know – Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village doesn’t even know who her Leanne’s father is? Or her other seven kids’ fathers, for that matter. The woman’s never heard of marriage.”

“Or contraception,” murmured Mrs Downtrodden.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said, isn’t it time for the maypole inspection?”

“Ah yes. For once you’ve come up with a worthwhile idea. And now,” Mrs Sanctimonious added as Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village reappeared through a cloud of cigarette smoke, “you can return to your duties in the refreshments tent.”

“Di’n’t fit,” said Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village, chucking the Gucci dress unceremoniously back on to the jumble stall. With a moue of disgust, Mrs Sanctimonious moved off in the direction of the maypole, thinking that if Leanne Wrong-End-Of-The-Village’s daily diet extended to something more healthy than burgers and pizzas, the dress could have fitted a treat. Or perhaps if she got a bit more exercise. Mrs Sanctimonious’s Sophia was forever active, out and about in the saddle, training for gymkhanas, following the hunt…

“Mr Wolf!” she snapped as the village’s oldest resident hobbled past, making his ponderous way with his equally ancient Yorkshire terrier towards the refreshments tent. “Get that dog out of the full sun. Really, I can’t abide cruelty to animals.”

“I was…I was just…Mrs Sanct…” Mr Wolf attempted to wheeze a reply in his defence, but Mrs Sanctimonious had already moved on.

“Justin!” she called, summoning the self-appointed choreographer. Unbinding himself from the maypole’s ribbons and tottering over (his bright pink trousers way too tight to allow for anything resembling a normal walk), Justin launched into a furious tirade before Mrs Sanctimonious had the chance to speak.

“Where are they?” he demanded. “Where are the little angels? How am I supposed to turn them into a posse of Wayne Sleeps if they’re not even here?”

Glancing around, Mrs Sanctimonious saw that Justin had a point. There was no sign of the local children she’d bribed with endless bags of Haribo to dance round the maypole later that day. There was, however, the Reverend Benign approaching from the east, hands clasped in prayer, eyes no more than slits in a face dominated by bottle bottom glasses and prominent front teeth.

“God bless you, my children,” he intoned.

“God bless you too, Your Reverence,” purred Mrs Sanctimonious, a pious smile upon her face.

“A maypole? A little, er…” Reverend Benign lowered his voice and inclined his head towards Mrs Sanctimonious, “pagan, don’t you think?”

Mrs Sanctimonious trilled with sycophantic laughter.

“Justin,” she said, “perhaps the maypole isn’t appropriate for a Christian environment. You should just nip off home…”

Reverend Benign had other plans for the overtly camp Justin.

“Oh Heavenly Father on high,” he chanted, making the sign of the cross in Justin’s face. “Forgive this filthy heathen for succumbing to the sins of the flesh…”

“You what?” said Justin. “I’m in a monogamous relationship, you holier than thou hypocrite.”

Reverend Benign adopted an expression of serene piousness, but Justin hadn’t finished with him yet.

“I’m not the one who spends his afternoons chasing after Miss Pretty-Young-Thing…”

Serenity forgotten, Reverend Benign glared at Justin.

“I’m grooming her,” he snapped.

“That’s about right!”

“For holy orders…”

“What, in her bedroom?”

“The children have arrived, Justin,” Mrs Sanctimonious cut in, sighing with relief at the timely distraction. A fleet of four by fours had indeed pulled up at the edge of the green, the vehicles’ suspension audibly creaking and groaning as a hefty child got out of each one. Reining in his temper, Reverend Benign recovered his dignity and turned to Mrs Sanctimonious with a contemptuous sniff.

“I’ll let you and this…this…”

“Fairy?” suggested Justin helpfully. “Queen?”

Gentleman,” hissed His Reverence as though that were more distasteful than either of Justin’s suggestions. “I’ll leave you to get on with your pagan rights. I suppose you’ll be telling me you’ve hired Morris dancers next…”

“Oh dear,” said Mrs Sanctimonious as the tell-tale jingle of Morris dancers’ bells carried clearly on the spring breeze. His piousness fully restored, His Reverence clasped his hands in prayer once again and made his way to the refreshments tent.

“Oh dear,” echoed Justin with a cheeky grin, which faded abruptly as the first substantial child slouched over.

“Hello, er, little boy. What’s your name?”

“Chubby.”

“Fabulous,” murmured Justin, turning to the next child. “And you are?”

“Chunky,” she replied.

“Don’t tell me,” said Justin, turning to the third child. “Tubby?”

“Nah,” he said, cramming a large piece of cake into his mouth and spraying Justin with crumbs as he spoke, “Sumo.”

“Delightful,” said Justin, rolling his eyes at Mrs Sanctimonious. “If a butterfly’s wings can cause an earthquake on the other side of the world, I shudder to think what damage this lot dancing will do. Come on,” he added, shepherding the children towards the maypole, “grab a ribbon each and let’s get started.”

The smug ball now firmly back in her court, Mrs Sanctimonious smiled sweetly as she surveyed the last minute fête preparations going on around her. The crowds were gathering for the grand opening, everything was in place, and even the bank holiday weather was being uncharacteristically kind.

What could possibly go wrong?

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*****

Join me again on Monday to find out exactly what could go wrong…

Flash Fiction Foray – Jealous #FFF30

This week’s Flash Fiction Foray challenge is to write a short story inspired by the song “Jealous” by Labrinth.

I’m not even going to attempt to capture the raw emotion of Labrinth’s singing in my offering, so instead here’s a light hearted view of jealousy itself. Once again, please accept my apologies for going way over the word count.

*****

Jealous

“Daaaaahling,” trilled Singer, kissing the air above Actress’s shoulder, “I’m sooooo thrilled about you Bafta nomination.”

“Mwah, mwah, Singer, I just know you’re going to sweep the board at the Brits this year.”

Model tottered through the door on impossibly high heels. “I simply adore your new single, Singer daaaaahling. Take no notice of those awful accusations in the Current Bun – we know you sing on all your records. Mwah!”

“Mwah!”

“Mwah!”

“Model, daaaaahling, your hair extensions are divine. No one would ever tell they’re not real.”

“And your Botox treatments are going sooooo well, Actress. Who wants a face that moves anyway?”

Snatching up a plate from her dressing table, Actress would have looked outraged had her over-Botoxed face been capable of expressing emotion.

“Catering!” she screeched. “One lettuce leaf, not two, you moron. How can I maintain my beautiful size zero figure if you double my daily calorie intake?”

Catering stepped out of the shadows where she’d been waiting quietly with Hair-and-Makeup and Wardrobe, grabbed the offending lettuce leaf and stuffed it in her mouth.

“FAT COW!” shrieked Singer, Actress and Model in unison. Dancer pirouetted into the room and burst into tears.

“Daaaaahling, what is it? Have you been sacked from Strictly? We all know you didn’t really sleep with the politician you partnered last year…”

“No!” wailed Dancer. “Far worse than that – you called me fat!”

Singer, Actress and Model giggled prettily behind perfectly manicured fingers.

“Not you, daaaaahling. Caterer. Stuffing her fat face on lettuce.”

Dancer’s crocodile tears vanished in an instant. Smoothing her hands over her Stella McCartney dress, she looked over at Wardrobe and sneered, “What are you looking at, you jealous bitch? This dress cost more than you’ll earn in a lifetime.”

“Mwah, mwah, Dancer, you’re sooooo funny.”

Trademark pouts in place, surrounded by surly bodyguards, Singer, Dancer, Actress and Model sashayed down the hallway, the clack-clack-clack of Jimmy Choos gradually fading into the cheers of a thousand fans and the click of a thousand press cameras. Catering, Hair-and-Makeup and Wardrobe watched as the heavy doors closed behind the four celebrities who currently had the world at their feet, then fell about with helpless laughter.

“Jealous of them? Really, daaaaahling?”

Sooooo thrilled for you – and everyone knows they hate each other.”

“And everyone knows they’re jealous as hell of each other.”

“If that’s fame and fortune, you can stick it.”

Catering looked at her healthy size ten figure in the mirror and smiled approvingly. Turning to her two dearest friends, she draped her arms around them and said, “Come on, ladies, that lettuce leaf’s given me an appetite. I hear the local Italian restaurant’s giving away free garlic bread with every bowl of pasta, and I’ve got a fat cow reputation to maintain.”

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Short Story – The Race

Following my first attempt at short story writing last week, I received plenty of feedback. Some was favourable, some not so, but it was all constructive, so thank you for that.

One comment that got me thinking was that I’d hardly stretched my imagination. OK, hands up – I admit I went for the tried and tested short-story-with-a-twist formula, and I don’t do formulaic. I’m a confirmed panster, for heaven’s sake!

For short story number two I’m going back to what I know. I have a title, a thought or two for the start (which may well change), and not a clue how it will end.

So here goes – roll up, roll up, it’s time for ‘The Race’…

*****

The Race

“The Race is the stuff of myth and legend.”

Walking up a steep grassy slope in the company of the slimiest man I’ve ever met, I find myself wishing the stuff of myth and legend would confine itself to myth and legend.

“You are our honoured guest,” Slimeball continues. He sounds as though his mouth is full of – er – slime, I guess.

Then he smiles.

I wish he wouldn’t do that.

“Or should I say, Competitor?”

That’s got my attention.

“Oh no. I’m not competing in anything, mythical and legendary or otherwise.”

Slimeball looks baffled. One of his chins disappears into the sweaty pulp masquerading as his shirt collar.

“But it’s the Race,” he says as if that explains everything.

We crest the brow of the hill and I stare about in astonishment. There are crowds and crowds of people gathered either side of a deep canyon, mouths agape in anticipation. A collective “Ahh” goes up as we appear.

Slimeball spreads his fleshy hands wide and booms, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Competitor!”

In perfect unison, the crowd cheers. I crane my neck to see into the canyon. There’s a fast moving river at its base. With rocks. And…crocodiles? Not sure, but there are certainly teeth down there.

If that’s the Race Track, I want no part of it.

“No way.”

I turn on my heel and walk back down the hill.

Up the hill.

No, I’m sure I should be walking down it…

Why am I not surprised when I end up back at the canyon? The crowd cheers as if my walkout is all part of the fun.

Slimeball is waiting for me. I really wish he wouldn’t smile.

“My name is Slimeball,” he says.

“Yeah, I guessed that.”

“Now, the Race…”

“Look, Slimeball, what part of ‘no’ do you not understand? I. Am. Not. Your. Competitor.”

“Of course you are,” replies Slimeball complacently. “Oh, you’re worried about racing. You won’t race the Race…”

By George, I think he’s got it.

My relief is short lived.

“…The Race races you.”

“Slimeball, I really don’t want to do this…”

“Ms Competitor, may I ask you to go and stand on the bridge.”

My eyes follow the line of his fat pointing finger to a flimsy bridge spanning the canyon, groaning and quivering under the mass of sheep – I mean, spectators jostling for a prime spot.

No, I do mean sheep. They’ve all turned into sheep.

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather watch from here,” I say. “In fact, I’d rather go home, but as you seem determined I’m to stay for this poxy race…”

“Poxy race! Poxy race!” chorus the sheep on the bridge. They’re ever so loud all of a sudden. Oh, that’ll be because I’m on the bridge with them.

“The Competitor has taken her place.” Slimeball’s voice echoes around the canyon. A greenish drool rolls down his chin. “Let the Race begin!”

I have a split second to realise the bridge is going to collapse before the bridge does just that.

There’s no sensation of falling. It’s more that the river races up to greet me, but by now nothing is surprising me in this topsy-turvy world. As the water and I meet, I realise the railing onto which I’m clinging so desperately still has a plank from the bridge attached to it. I have my very own water scooter. Woohoo!

OK, I can do this. Gripping the railing firmly with both hands, I successfully negotiate my way past the first of the rocks. Lean left to bear left, lean right to bear right. Easy peasy.

The river carries me at a speed I don’t even want to consider, but at least I am moving forward – something in Topsy-Turvy Land is actually doing what I expected it to do.

Relaxing into my race, I allow myself some time for reflection. The Race races me? Yeah, right! Watch and learn, Slimeball, watch and learn.

Hang on a minute, though, weren’t there teeth involved too? Glancing over my shoulder, I notice I’m the only competitor left in the Race. The starting line is clear – flotsam litters the water marking the exact point at which the bridge collapsed – but there’s no sign of the sheep. The teeth are there, though. Grinning.

Looks like the teeth consider lamb more of a delicacy than human.

I don’t have time to grieve for the sheep. Turning to face forward again, I see a colossal rock looming in front of me. Right in front, that is. In fact, I’m riding up the side of the wretched thing.

A jumble of instructions races through my brain.

Lower your centre of gravity.

Do what?

Crouch down, you dolt! Hold on tight. Do not, I repeat, do NOT fall off…

Scream!

I shoot up into the air, hollering my lungs out, then hit the water on the other side of the rock with perfect balance.

Cool!

The sheep on the banks go wild. I raise a hand in triumph. At this moment in time, I’ll take any encouragement.

Hold on, rewind a little. The sheep on the banks? Sure enough, the forbidding rocky canyon has given way to grassy banks on either side of the river. Flowers are swaying in a gentle breeze. Sunshine sparkles on the water. Birds are tweeting. Sheep are tweeting (#competitorskijump).

I steer my water scooter to the left and drag it on to the bank with me. Slimeball is there, and he’s not smiling any more. (Small mercies, eh?)

“What are you doing?” he yells. “The Race has to carry on until it’s won.”

“Fine,” I reply, posing for a selfie with a group of young sheep (#competitorretires), “I’m withdrawing my entry.”

“You can’t withdraw your entry! The race has to carry on until it’s won.”

“Yeah, you said. So I must be the winner, being as everyone else has been eaten.”

“Tell her.”

A woman (or is it a vulture?) with shoulders hunched up to her ears and thin hooked nose is perching at the side of the river. I wonder if any carrion has managed to evade the teeth.

“I will, Ms Vulture.”

Slimeball turns to me, his expression grim. “The winner is the last competitor to die.”

“So that’s me then.”

Ms Vulture glares at me. I’m clearly far too alive for her taste. In fact, I seem to be far too alive for Slimeball’s taste too.

“No,” he spits. Literally. “You are not the winner until you die.”

“So as long as I’m alive, the Race is still going on.” I start to laugh. “Well unlucky, Slimeball, because I have no intention of dying in the foreseeable future.”

Slimeball turns to Ms Vulture for help, but she’s too busy scooping something unmentionable from the water.

“Have you ever thought of having a live winner?” I ask.

“#livewinner, #livewinner,” tweet the sheep.

Ms Vulture’s disgust is palpable.

“A live winner,” she hisses, “is against the rules.”

“And who makes the rules?”

“The Winner, of course.”

Slimeball looks at me as if I’m simple.

“So how can the Winner make the rules if the Winner’s dead?”

Back at ya, Slimeball.

“A live winner is unprecedented…”

“#livewinner.” The sheep aren’t giving up.

“Shut up,” roars Slimeball.

“Livewinnerlivewinnerlivewinner…”

I love the fact the sheep are defying Slimeball, but it’s getting a little difficult to hold a conversation.

“Could you perhaps drop the volume a touch?” I ask them. #livewinner continues on a loop, but whispered.

The significance isn’t lost on me.

“Looks like the sheep are doing as I ask now, Slimeball.”

“Impossible.” Fat a-rippling, sweat pouring, Slimeball again looks to Ms Vulture for inspiration. Personally, I’d rather not risk seeing whatever it is she’s chewing on. “They only obey the Race Winner.”

“So how come they were obeying you…ah, you sneaky sod! A live winner isn’t unprecedented at all, is it.”

I beam round at the sheep.

“OK, back to full volume, guys. What do we want?”

“LIVE WINNER!”

“And who is that Live Winner?”

“YOU AAAAAAAAARE!”

All of a sudden, Ms Vulture’s very interested in proceedings.

“Race rule,” she caws, waddling over from the riverbank and licking her lips at Slimeball, “number 5,048, as set by Slimeball in 1755: should the occasion arise that a new Live Winner is crowned, the previous Live Winner shall pay the forfeit…

“Forfeitforfeitforfeit…”

“And the forfeit is?”

“His life.”

Did I really need to ask? “Careless, Slimeball,” I murmur.

“Din-dins,” says Ms Vulture, whipping a large napkin from her bag and eying Slimeball hungrily. Revolting though he is, I don’t actually want to see Slimeball die, and I certainly don’t want to witness what Ms Vulture has in mind.

“Hold on a minute. I’m the new Live Winner, so I make the rules. Scrub number 5,048. In fact, scrub the bloody lot of them. Two rules from now on. One, no one dies!”

Ms Vulture looks furious. A few teeth who have drifted over to listen in are clacking their dismay too. I fervently hope they stay in the river.

“Two, only willing competitors compete.”

Slimeball can’t contain himself any longer.

“That’s preposterous! No one will compete voluntarily. The Race will never be run again!”

“Jolly good, that means my rules will stay in place forever. The last Race has been won.”

Immediately #lastrace trends on Twitter.

Slimeball’s shoulders sag in defeat. Ms Vulture I’m sure would have voiced an opinion, but she’s foolishly trying to wrestle a piece of carrion from the teeth. There’s only likely to be one winner in that particular contest.

“Can I go home now?” I ask.

“Not until you’ve chosen your prize,” replies Slimeball with a sigh.

“Anything?”

“Anything.”

“Simple,” I reply with feeling, “I never, ever want to see this place again.”

As Topsy-Turvy Land plunges into darkness and the slurping, chomping sounds coming from the riverbank take sinister to a whole new level, I wish I’d thought a little more carefully about wording my request.

The Race sheep image twitter.motifake.com-

Photo courtesy of twitter.motifake.com