At WNO the other night, Katharine distributed cards for “the game” (not to be confused with “The Great Game” (thought it’s a pretty good game)). In “the game” each writer draws a “genre” or “mode” card, a “setting” card, a “character” card, and a “three verbs” card, then sets about constructing a story therewith in the ensuing 15 or 20 minutes. It’s a great exercise. The other night I drew
- Mode (genre) – tragedy
- Setting – Victorian mansion
- Character – Alien from outer space
- Required verbs:
And here ‘s the tale that burbled up in the old grey cells:
Brak-ak-ak-ak-ko-ax-ko-ax landed in a tree, outside the walls of Henchcliffe Manor, just in time to hear the hearty “The King is dead, long live the queen” toast rising from the dimly lit building inside the walls. Brak-ak-ak-ak-koax-koax (“Ko-ax” to his friends) extruded himself from his mangled ship and oozed over the wall in the direction of the sound. On the way he stopped to fly around and worship, then smother, a slug. [NB – previous sentence contains all three required verbs in a complete throwaway, though there might be some interesting symbolism.]
He reached the tall window just south of the entrance and paused as a rustle of footsteps and a flintlock of voices issued from the door under the portico. (Ko-ax of course did not know it was a portico, nor did he have any idea of the nature of the sounds described in the previous sentence).
“I’m telling you it has to be done now,” said a voice that reminded Ko-ax of the sound his ship made just before he crashed.
“Not yet, not yet,” said another, softer and higher-pitched voice. “The time isn’t right.” The first voice muttered incomprehensibly.
A third voice, much higher and lighter than the first two joined. “Oh… how dreadful PaPAH has bitten the dust. Now I must be Queen.”
“Hush child,” said the first voice, “your pop sucked as king anyway, and the chances of you surviving to get the tin hat in the abbey are slim and nil.”
Ko-ax heard sounds of more feet thundering into the conversation, and clingy-clangy sounds like some metal he didn’t recognize, but had an intuition that no good end was intended. He extruded his neck to its full length to peer over the wall. Sure enough, there was a small, young, female earthling looking up at the rapidly descending blade of an item that was – even to his frame of reference from somewhere much nearer to the City Centre of the Milky Way – unmistakably a weapon.
With no time to evaluate, analyze, or even count to three, Ko-ax engaged his FlameSnort and vaporized the house, the walls, and every terran life form within – except for the young female. He vaulted over the wall, extruded his upper left number three arm, wrapped it around her, and headed south, to deposit her on the doorstep of the big stone building he’d heard was called “The Abbey.” Then, lighting his onboard afterburner and climbing straight vertical, he bellowed “Long live the Queen!”
And for a long time since, the sun has never set where there wasn’t someone who was pissed off at what the Brits achieved under her reign.