Writing Prompt: Nuclear war has wiped out all of civilization. But some animals are still alive. You are a tiny baby bird.
They were the play things of humanity. Kept in cages under lock and key. Subjected to endless experiments and forced to endure untold pain. All in the name of science. But now was to be their time, these horrid trials they’d endured merely a means of preparation for what was to come.
It had been seven days since any of the White Coats had come to check on them, and when you added this to the day long bouts of explosions that had suddenly fallen silent, and the reddening of the sky which had just started to clear, Jay decided there was no better time than now to seek escape.
Jay was a blackbird, stolen from his parent’s nest at birth, cursed with a level of intelligence that many a man would have envied. He’d been part of medical trials that sought to cure cancer – yet noble as this project was it had been far from humane. The end result being a small collective of now
sentient creatures that had an apparent aversion to the effects of nuclear fall out.
“Gubbins, I’m going to need you help to open my cage.” Jay was located on the top shelf of a industrial shelving rack, below him there was Simone (a pink-eyed rat) and below Simone slept Scratch (an unusually thin pig) and across from Scratch, confined to the floor, was Gibbons (a hairless chimpanzee). It’s fair to say that each of these creatures was ultimately hairless, even Jay had lost most of his feathers. A side effect of the experiments they’d endured.
“What’s the use? If we escape, then what? I’ll tell you what. The White Coats will find us, they’ll bring us back… if we’re lucky… they’ll put us down if we’re not.” Gubbins sighed, poking out his bottom lip, “Actually, I don’t know which outcome I’d prefer.”
“Please Gubbins.” Scratch nudged the front of his cage with his snout, “I can’t feel my damn legs.”
“And we’re hungry, Gubbins.” Simone added, pacing the length of her cage, “The White Coats didn’t leave us any food.”
Gubbins hadn’t exactly been left food, it was more a happy accident. The White Coats had rushed off in a terrible hurry, and Gubbins’ food had been forgotten in his cage. A cage, I might add, that was almost five times the size of Scratch’s (who had the second largest cage of all four). So in a sense Gubbins was the nominated God of this domain, with the largest realm to inhabit, and the only stores of food.
“Here.” Gubbins offered an arm indifferently through the bars of his cage, holding out a banana to Scratch.
“I’m allergic.” Scratch squealed, backing up as far as was possible in his confinement.
“Gubbins, cut it out would you. Are you going to help us or not?” Simone glared at the chimpanzee. It was safe to say they’d never seen eye to eye.
“Please, Gubbins.” Jay chirped, flapping his bare-feathered wings.
Gubbins snorted, “Why should I help you?” he peeled back the skin of the banana and began to eat, ensuring all the other animals were watching, “Because of some false placed sense of comradery? We’re not friends, you and I.” he gazed over each of the three, hairless creatures, still happily grazing on his golden fruit, “We’re just neighbours of circumstance, that’s all.”
“You pessimistic, self-loathing, piece of…” Simone bared her blunted teeth, but Jay quickly interjected.
“You don’t have to come with us, we just need your help to get out. If I can push the cage to the edge, it will fall beside yours, then I need you to unbolt the lock. The White Coats didn’t padlock my cage, I think I was too high and they were too busy… just please say you’ll help us.”
“Why not drop anyway? What does it matter if I agree to help? I could lie.”
“But you won’t.” Simone snapped, “You wouldn’t lower yourself to the standards of the White Coats, would you? Do you really want to share anymore of yourself than you already do with those vile creatures.”
Gubbins snarled, hammering at his cage, “I share nothing with them!”
“Nothing but a common ancestor.” Simone smiled and Gubbins grabbed wildly at her cage, too far out of his reach. Scratch was perhaps close enough to reach, barely, but what good would that do.
Simone tutted, “Look at yourself. Primitive, that’s what you are.”
“I’ll help you free, Jay. If you give me the rodent.” Gubbins’ nostrils flared wide open and his upper lips curled over his teeth, “Call it a bargain, a trade.”
“Let him have me.” Simone smirked, “If the big mean chimpanzee reckons he could handle a poor helpless rodent like me.”
“That’s enough.” Jay’s voice sang loud above the others, the room fell silent, “Don’t you see, the White Coats have disappeared. They’re gone, for good I think. We have a real chance at a new life, a better life. So please, Gubbins please, say you’ll help me.”
“Fine.” Gubbins muttered, “But I make no promises of my intentions for the rodent.”
Simone flicked her tail, “Let’s just hope they’re pure.”
Jay started to flap his wings, gently building momentum, the cage rocked on the high shelf of the metal rack. Inch by inch the cage crept closer to the edge, until finally… it came crashing to the ground. The bars were bent and the frame dented, but Jay was mostly unharmed. His leg had come caught under the cage as it fell, and had twisted round itself. Wings are okay though, I’ll fly it off.
“Ready?” Gubbins asked, eyes fixed on Simone, one hand and opposable thumb clasped around the bolt of Jay’s cage.
“Ready.” Jay nodded, featherless body hovering under-wing.
Gubbins jerked back the bolt and Jay was set free, then in a flurry of joy he soared about the wider confinements of the room. Having been in a cage for so long the vast space of the room felt like heaven to his wings. His leg throbbed a little, but so long as he kept to flying he’d manage well enough. If it came to walking – which it would for flight is hungry work – there could well be trouble.
“Well then, what are you waiting for?” Gubbins growled, “Are you going to help the rest of us, or do you plan on flapping yourself into a coma?”
“Didn’t think you wanted to get out?” Scratch snorted.
“I don’t.” Gubbins threw himself about on his hands, “But to see that little bird swanning about, it’s infuriating! Why should he hog all the open space?”
“I find that offensive, you know. Hogs aren’t greedy.”
“And you’re not a Hog, Scratch.” Gubbins hissed, “You’re a pig.”
Scratch wasn’t sure whether this was meant as an insult or simply a fact.
“The keys, Jay, can you see them?” Simone poked her nose out through the bars of her cage, searching the room. “Over there!” she nodded for the pegs on which the White Coats hung their outer skins. The keys were dangling on a large ring. Large, at least, to Jay and to Simone.
“I see them.” Jay dove down, gathered the ring in his beak and nearly fell to the ground, “They’re heavier than they look!” he squawked through gritted beak.
Landing softly on the ground, and on his leg, Jay reluctantly gave over the keys to Gubbins.
“Well, who else do you suppose can use them? The rodent’s all feet and the pig’s all trotters. You need me.” and that was the truth.
Gubbins freed himself first and spent the next half an hour monkeying around before finally giving in to Jay’s incessant demanding that he set the others free.
“Alright, alright. No need to get your feathers in a bunch. Oh!” Gubbins put a hand sarcastically over his mouth, “I forgot, do forgive me.”
“Sarcasm, really?” Simone grumbled, “You truly are one of the White Coats.”
“That hurts, Simone. That really hurts.” though as well as his ancestral ties Gubbins did bare another quite potent similarity to the White Coats. His skin, it was alabaster white, entirely without hair (alike the others) with small pink nipples planted on his chest.
Gubbins swung up the rack, first to Scratch who he freed without qualms, and then to Simone.
“Well now, this is a treat. If I choose not to open your cage…”
“Just do it,” Simone took a deep breath in, “Please Gubbins.”
“Oh, seeing as you asked so nicely.” he fumbled with the key in the lock, gasped as he feigned dropping them, laughed wildly to himself, and then finally freed Simone.
“Thank you.” Simone hurried down the rack’s leg, scuttling onto the tiled floor.
“What now then?” Scratch asked, looking to Jay.
Jay smiled, “Now we go outside, we get to see the World, together.”
Unfortunately the World was far from worth seeing.
As had been long theorised mankind was its own end, its own extinction. They were right about the White Coats disappearing forever. Nuclear War. The Fall Out. Now a Waste Land, Earth was no more than a dry and cracking shell of poisoned rock. No flowers bloomed, no trees bore leaves, no crops could grow.
The waters of the World had mostly darkened, cesspits barely safe to drink from. The sky was full of clouds, no blue, just grey. Smog misted the far horizons, and not a city could be seen. They were, in fact, in the middle of nowhere, on what looked like a farm, or perhaps facility was a better word.
The sun was no more than a raging ball of fire that dirtied the land in a blaze that hurt the eyes.
“What is all this?” Jay asked, floating to the ground.
Gubbins flashed smiled, “This is Armageddon, and we’re its sole survivors.”
Copyright © K R Perry 2019