As I am feeling brave - chuffed by being shortlisted in the Fish Short Story competition(results not out til 17th March but pleased anyway to be shortlisted) I thought I would post this piece of Flash Fiction for any of you to critique. A bit political this one. Not a load of fun. Sorry.
by Jeannie van Rompaey
At first it was the cloven-hoofed animals that were affected. The symptoms - foaming at the mouth, lameness, general debilitation - suggested another outbreak of foot and mouth. After a flight of geese nose-dived from the sky, shedding feathers as they fell, and whole shoals of fish were found floating like cardboard cut-outs on ponds, rivers and oceans, the original diagnosis had to be reviewed. Rumours abounded as to the cause of the phenomenon, but were never verified. The disease remained nameless. To label it would make it more shocking, more credible. Nothing to worry about. Before long, scientists were certain to come up with a cure.
In the coldest month of that dark year, April, the fields lay barren. Herd after herd of cattle and flock after flock of sheep had to be culled. Pigs and chickens too. The stench of burning carcasses hung in the air, a pungent fog that refused to disperse. Gasmasks, reminiscent of past wars, appeared. Soon these protruding snouts were seen everywhere, their wearers seemingly a new species of animal.
It was perhaps a coincidence that, during the same period, a flu epidemic among humans caused the highest percentage of absenteeism from work ever reported and led to an unprecedented number of deaths.
On television, the Prime Minister addressed the nation, uttering these memorable words: ‘I want to make it absolutely clear that there is no connection between the disease that has infected the animals, birds and fish and the current outbreak of influenza within our workforce. The virus that has ravaged the natural world cannot be transmitted to human beings. I repeat, human beings cannot contract the disease that is destroying the animals. You have my word on that.’