This week’s #writephoto prompt is fun and fluffy, though what about the response…
The panel stood and waited until the interviewee settled. One, a woman with flamming hair and an unfeasibly black shield that made your eyes turn inside out if you looked directly at it, wiped the front with a hanky, looking at the white smear with something approaching an apocalypse.
‘Sit… er, or would you rather perch, Harry?’ The Chair shifted uneasily, unused to having small feathered flyers inside the Citadel.
‘PERCHING IS EASIER, THANKS. AND SORRY ABOUT THE DEPOSIT, CAROLE. I’M WORKING ON THESE INVOLUNTARY EVACUATIONS.’
Carole War narrowed her gaze and several hoards of slathering killers moved to Defcon 2, readying themselves for mass destruction in response. ‘No sweat Harry. I’m sure it’ll clean off.’ She batted away the man to her left whose snaking tongue oiled its way towards the remaining smear, oozing with desire.
Kevin Famine hissed at Carole. ‘I was only trying to help.’
‘Oh sure you were. You’ve evolved to absorb all goodness out of everything. Licking the Beast will not help it repel every violent attack.’
Kevin sniffed. ‘It’ll look pretty.’ He sniggered and swallowed some airborne protein.
Carole’s eyes narrowed further as she turned her gaze onto her emaciated companion; somewhere in the Middle East two former allies unleashed seven shades of hell on each other for no apparent reason.
The Chair billowed out, causing the room to fill with terror. Carole and Kevin slid apart. ‘Perhaps we can return to the reason for this extraordinary meeting of the Apocalypse Four.’
Everyone straightened up.
‘Right, first Trevor Pestilence sends his apologies but he’s developed a bit of a snuffle and didn’t want to pass it on the the rest of us.’
Everyone murmured their approval.
‘I’ll send him our thanks and good wishes, shall I?’
‘Good wishes? Going a bit far, don’t you think?’
‘Yes, Carole, you’re probably right. Maybe something along the lines of “thanks and rot in Hell”?’
‘Good. Moving onto the substance of the meeting… Harry.’
‘The new look? Can you talk us through it?’
Harry Death hopped from the arm of the chair and turned slowly, displaying its full plumage. Kevin Famine ground his teeth, resisting the urge to swallow the small bird, knowing if he did so the consequences in terms of endless deadly pandemics would bring forth a memo from God, reminding them all of their responsibilities to Armageddon and that keeping Sundays free of mayhem was not negotiable. No one wanted to receive a memo.
‘WELL, AS WE AGREED WE TOOK SOUNDINGS AND, WELL, THE THING IS, THE MILLENNIAL CLIENT BASE AREN’T KEEN ON THE WHOLE “ HELLO, I’M THE GRIM REAPER” FOLLOWED BY A SWICH OF THE OLD SCYTHE AND OFF YOU GO TO YOUR HEREAFTER. SO WE ENGAGED A BRAND CONSULTANCY WHO SAID THE PROBLEM WAS WE WERE MAKING DEATH TOO FINAL, TOO END OF LIFE-ISH AND IDEALLY WE’D EASE THE SOON TO BE DECEASED INTO THEIR NEW STATUS AS FORMERS. THEY WANTED WHOLESALE CHANGES : NO SCYTHING, NO SPEAKING IN CAPS, LOSE THE HOOD, GET SOME FLESH ON THE BONES…’
Carole caught a fly and held it in front of Kevin who tried to catch it in his double dislocatable mandibles. ‘You’ve not lost the booming, Harry.’
‘NO WELL, A MYTHICAL NIGHTMARE CAN’T JUST GIVE UP EVERY DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, CAN ONE?’
Everyone nodded, thinking about what they’d not be prepared to lose.
The Chair steepled his fingers. ‘Becoming a sparrow…’
‘Wren, is it? Becoming a wren is a bit of a stretch. I mean aren’t we supposed to send fear and terror coursing through their veins?’
‘APPARENTLY THE DAYS OF CREATING UNBRIDLED PANIC ARE NO MORE. WE HAVE TO THINK MINDFULLY AND EMPATHISE WITH THE RECIPIENT OF THE MESSAGE WE ARE INTENDING TO CONVEY. THE SUGGESTION IS, IF WE COME ACROSS AS CUDDLY AND CUTE, IF WE PECK RATHER THAN EVISCERATE WE MIGHT…’
‘…As well go back to Hell. Where has all this nonsense come from?’
‘IT SEEMS MANAGEMENT OF THE HEREAFTERS HAVE RECEIVED COMPLAINTS. THEY CARRIED OUT A SURVEY AND THE RESULTS SUGGESTED WE NEED A MORE DISCERNING APPROACH.’
‘THESE DAYS IT IS IMPORTANT TO RECOGNISE DIFFERENCES. WE NEED TO HAVE REGARD TO THE LIFE LIVED IN DETERMINING THE METHOD OF INFLICTING DEATH. TERMINATING A SAINT IN THE SAME WAY AS A SINNER, FAILS TO GIVE DUE REGARD TO THE LIFE LIVED. SCYTHES AND HOODS ARE ALL VERY WELL, SO THE CONSULTATIONS TELL US, FOR MURDERERS AND PHILOSOPHERS BUT SOMETHING LESS OLD TESTAMENT IS SUGGESTED FOR THE CHARITY WORKERS AND THOSE PEOPLE WHO MEASURE YOUR FEET IN SHOE SHOPS.’
‘A wren with a booming voice who pecks you to death? Is that the best they can do?’
‘IT’S ONE OF A NUMBER OF FORMS AND SCENARIOS WE ARE TRIALLING.’
‘And if we stick to the old ways?’
‘THEY’LL PUT THE WHOLE SERVICE – THAT INCLUDES WAR AND PESTILENCE TOO – OUT TO TENDER.’
Carole looked disgustedly at Kevin. ‘What about famine?’
Kevin smiled smugly and licked his anus with a degree of contentment.
‘They’ll disband famine. They think body shaming is working far more effectively. Kevin will become an Influencer.’
Kevin swallowed hard, coughed and spat out his small intestine.
Everyone looked down, unsure they were capable of speaking. Finally the Chair looked at Harry. ‘How are you finding it? It’s quite a change.’
‘WELL, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED IT’S NOT TOO BAD. I’D HAVE PREFERRED SOMETHING WITH MORE COLOUR – I’VE MOANED ABOUT THE BLACK CAPES FOR YEARS. AND NOT HAVING TO RIDE THAT BONY HORSE IS A PLUS; IT’S DONE MY HIPS NO FAVOURS, I CAN TELL YOU. BUT A WREN LACKS CREDIBILITY. A BIT TOO CUTE AND SOMETIMES, THE ELDERLY FIND MY NEW OCTAVE RANGE A STRUGGLE. AT LEAST BEFORE, IF THEY WERE DEAF, THEY KNEW WHAT THE UNIFORM MEANT.’
‘So we should continue the trialling?’
‘I’D SAY SO.’
‘Thanks Harry. Alright. We’ve taken up enough of everyone’s time. We’ll stand over the other items till next time: do we offer Nectar points with each war declared and double points for extending the conflict beyond Christmas; should we petition for climate change to be paused as it’s undermining famine’s good work in non human natural disasters; and while the pandemic was a stunning success, we need to learn the lessons from the unexpectedly quick vaccine response – can we prepare for more and more deadly variants to be released sooner to undermine those efforts?’
‘Right, well if we’re done, who’s time for a pie and a pint. Lucifer’s reading his septic poetry at the Book of Revelations and I promised to pop in and show some support.’