This story is by Denis Joseph and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A series of strident ‘Shut-Ups’ echoed through the valley, and the gaggle of conversation amidst the attending delegates slumped into a murmuring buzz, before petering out into silence.
It was the final day and the final hour before the summer break in the Parliament of Fouls. Yes, it was time for the Queen’s centennial Speech of the Year 1621. This was a special occasion that commemorated the anniversary of the first ‘landing’ of the indigenous Mauritian Pigeon Foul; an event that was celebrated every century over the past 26 million years.
From her cozy nest on a high ledge, Ms. Lutwidge, the reigning Queen, cleared her throat of the remnants of a frog and addressed her avian congregation. They numbered a mere two hundred or so, scattered on the sides of a narrow Mauritian valley that sloped gently down to the tempestuous waves of the Indian ocean.
The Queen was an imposing figure, who for the past sixty years had waddled and flapped and pecked her way, back and forth, across her domain of Mauritius. ‘Waddled’ because she looked and walked like a duck; ‘pecked’ because she had the scratch-and-feed similarities of a chicken; and ‘flapped’ because, try as she could, her short wings failed to support a lift-off.
These avian characteristics blended into the formation of a royal personage which, through a quirk of natural history and gross over-feeding, ballooned out into a three-foot-tall waddlingpeckerflapper. While Ms. Lutwidge was not exactly dumb (considering she had a loud squawk), she was plain stupid; having inherited that trait from her ancestors who welcomed hungry Dutch and Portuguese sailors with, tragically, short-lived enthusiasm. It was but natural for these European colonizers to name the clumsy, gullible bird ‘Duedo’, abbreviated to ‘Dodo’—a rather emphatic synonym for ‘stupid’. It is a word that has outlived the original dodo creature, having gained traction 500 years later to describe conspiracy theorists of a political bent who populate the Earth.
Ms. Lutwidge was the queen of her diminishing flock not only because of her size but also by virtue of being clairvoyant. She had a knack for looking past over her shoulder and catching glimpses of the future with prophetic accuracy.
“I have had a premonition” she announced to her attentive audience, “and it’s not good news. This is the Last Speech of the 17th century, for we are faced with extinction. For the past one hundred years, we have been ravaged by guttural pirates and colonizers roasting us, with ‘yo-ho-hoes and bottles of rum’. We have suffered the cyclones, the deforestation of our paradise; and the dogs, pigs, and rats that accompanied these invaders have devastated our nesting grounds.
Yes, my people, our noble and rare species will come to an end this year in 1661, the year that will forever be chronicled as the Year of the Pfftt.”
A slightly hysterical murmuring swept the crowd, with eyes glazed in fear and necks bobbing up and down like periscopes.
“However, I sense a change, a change full of promise,” said the Queen reassuringly. “That, like the phoenix we shall rise again transformed. But the seeds of a new generation must be sown now. It shall be an anniversary to be repeated for centuries to come. With the pinnacle of glory in 2021. However, I cannot tell what genetic traits and DNA will characterize the new species. Only the séance will reveal all.”
The squawking amongst the fouls rippled through the valley, gathering momentum; enlivened with an air of expectancy of a bright future.
“Let the séance begin,” trilled the Queen, standing tall on her tippy toes. The squawking frenzy rose to a crescendo and split the heavens, unleashing billowing clouds of red haze, streaked with lightning bolts, as the earth fissured and cracked with deafening booms.
The bottom fell out of the valley as the fouls scattered and waddled up to higher ground. Fire and brimstone erupted like geysers from the giant crevice in the valley floor. And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, the hiss and gurgle of steam poured forth as if the Earth in thick fast pants was wheezing. And disgorged a mighty cauldron with a thunderous burp.
“The Vision is invoked… the Vision of Kubla,” shrieked the Queen. And the chant of ‘Kubla! Kubla! resonated and bounced back and forth across the valley. Shafts of fire streaked forth and burst into stars of scorching sulfur that blanketed the surrounding terrain beyond the valley. So fearful were these omens of dread that the sailors, rats, dogs, and pigs stampeded towards the anchored ships for safety. In the gripping silence that followed, the chant of Kubla! Kubla! was amplified into an ancestral Voice prophesying destruction… and rebirth.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, the mighty cauldron rose above the flaming crater in the valley. Fear pulsated through the legions of the fouls, as the cauldron bubbled and spewed out great writhing, scaly tentacles, gleaming like scummy wet leather.
Exultation turned to despair. The fouls gabbled in fearful realization. “The cauldron is the Sign. Our goose is well and truly cooked.”
“No!” snapped the Queen with a thunderous squawk. “This is the day of rebirth. We shall evolve and be born again. And we shall rule the world in countries across the continents and hemispheres. Prepare for the oracle of the séance!”
As the crowd lapsed into hopeful silence, the Queen spread her tiny wings, and intoned, “Abracadabra! Answer our prayers, O Enchantresses of the Underworld.”
With a loud bang that stunned the audience of fouls, the bubbling cauldron lifted into the air and froze, in suspended vibrancy. Three gigantic puffs of cloudy mist ballooned from the cauldron and dissipated, revealing three cackling Gorgons from Scotland. In unison, they shrieked and warbled in rhyming verse.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair.
Who doth call us from our Scottish lair?
Is that you, @#$% Billy, Billy Connolly?
Where is your banjo, you bearded turkey?
Ahha! By the pricking of our thumbs
Who doth this way squawks and comes?
You’re not Billy, who might you be?
Oh! a waddling dodo, fiddle-de-dee!
“It is I, Queen Lutwidge of the dodo clan. We are on the edge of extinction unless you can save us, so that future generations of our species will survive in some form or the other.”
Choose the magic word and repeat it thrice:
With that magic word, we will add the spice.
Hocus-Pocus! Jabberwocky! or Gobbledygook!
Pick the word to let you off the hook.
“I’ll go with ‘Jabberwocky’, enthused the Queen. “It sounds so wacky. So human.”
She turned her beak to look over her shoulder, into the future. “Ah! I see a whiffling and burbling humanized shape from the year 1871. And it is created by a dodo. A Do-Do-Dodgson. I get a strong vibe that we are related.”
Your wish is granted in a trice, Ms. Wacky
Coming up! One king-size Jabberwocky.
Grab the tentacles, sisters, and pull its thatch.
Arrh! The jaws that bite, the claws that scratch.
He is worse than the frumious Bandersnatch.
And they hefted the scaly-skinned Jabberwocky out of the cauldron and gift-wrapped it for the queen. And all the dodos cheered as Queen Lutwidge snuggled up to her newfound love and they went galumphing off, silhouetted by the light of the silvery moon.
Extract from an op-ed in the Washington Post dated 23rd May 2021.
New species of Homo sapiens adds to global warming.
Scientists and climate change proponents have warned that the greatest danger to planet Earth is hot air, and they have identified a new strain of Homo sapiens as the definitive source of the problem. The Report details an unusual characteristic of this species that trumps the brain into paralysis, giving free rein to what scientists define as ‘asinine mendacious loquacity’, or Dodo Jabberism to quote the colloquial rendition. Scientists have also expressed concern that this mutant is primarily political in nature, and collectively generates millions of tonnes of hot air worldwide, with possibly catastrophic consequences.
In a related study, ancestry genealogists and anthropologists teamed up and conducted extensive research on the origin of this species of Dodo Jabberists.
With a sample size of close to a hundred million worldwide, the study revealed that such humanized mutants figure prominently in heated filibustering, twittering, and propagation of alternative facts, on news channels and social media. The findings also suggest that this genetic anomaly can be traced to a mystical seance on the island of Mauritius in 1621, but details are scarce if not obscure.
An appendix to this report suggests that a mythical creature called the Jabberwocky might hold a clue to the DNA of this reincarnated species of waddlingpeckerflappers. Experts have grudgingly endorsed this theory, citing as evidence the description of a ‘wonderland’ Jabberist in 19th-century doggerel by Charles Lutwidge Do…Do Dodgson.
And thereby hangs a tale.