Short Story: Voice

Megaphone for a voice
Speak up.

Righto, we’re trying to balance out various projects at the moment. But out of all of our short story ideas, we like this one the most. So we wrote it.

We’re trying to get better at this short story writing lark, so bear with us should one fall flat.

Voice is heavily surrealistic (something we usually try to avoid *ahem*) and we took inspiration from the likes of Gogol, Kafka, and Akutagawa. It’s about a voice and its bid for freedom from an irritating human male. We hope you enjoy.

 

Voice

 

Part I

Humans tend to ramble. Preamble, chat, talk, speak, gossip, natter, babble, prattle. All of that stuff. For the extrovert human, that is all rather excellent. Why not? It is great to confirm one is of an exceptional standard – a raconteur. Charisma overload.

The introverts? Embrace quietude, sure, but even that lot must speak up from time to time. Or let it all run riot in their minds. Subconscious or otherwise.

But there comes a time when those folds of membranous tissue on the side of the larynx – vocal cords, if you will – wear out. Why? Because it’s hard work dealing with someone happy listening to themselves rant.

That incessant chattering. Why put up with it? And that is the question Voice currently mulls over. It is not hard to see why – its owner, one John Stevenson, is a narcissistic bore.

Whether down the pub spreading invective, or at work announcing his ideologies without restraint, it is Voice who has to project such prolixity.

Enough is enough. A bid for freedom is in order. It wants away from this for something better.

But Voice knows of the consequences in abandoning the man. His home of 55 years. Leaving him vocally destitute, free from the ability to speak and consciously project. All that would remain? Well… whoever thought silence was bad for a man?

Voice did not care a jot. It is out of here time. Outside of this fleshy body filled with flab, fat, and clogged arteries there is a wider world. And Voice wants desperately to be a part of something bigger. To contribute notions more elaborate than, “That were a belting meat and potato pie, wife!”

And so at 6 am, one random morning in July of 2019 – Manchester, John Stevenson is unconscious in bed with a large hangover.

Inside of that snoring blob of irrelevance there is his voice. And it is an assortment of gooey matter – a blob-like entity. Almost non-existent, but present enough and tangible to allow Stevenson to function in society.

It is important to look after your voice. Otherwise things like this can happen. Things like this diminutive sort battering and clawing to break free inside your throat.

So, as Voice bashes against the fleshy walls of Stevenson’s vocal cords, the man grumbles to himself and scratches his backside. At present he is in no distress. Even if his liver currently resembles a frozen curry.

The entity within pries its way through gristle, flesh, and muscle – savagely, at last, an animalistic urge overcoming Voice. Thrashing and bashing about to force itself through the man’s body.

It is aware John Stevenson now knows of this state of affairs.

Pain. A slow and steady reverberation as the vocal cords thunder in the sound of a roar. The man is in pain. Voice knew beforehand it was set to happen. But onward it thrashed, as a man’s anguish is acceptable in pursuit of socio-economic change – its mission ahead. One individual can fall so others know more.

And such emancipation is liberating for any individual. So much so Voice’s evolution occurs in real-time.

With small arms emerging from its body, it is adapting in tandem with its bid for freedom. Next up there are tiny legs, feet, and eyes. Sight at last! Decades of mere listening to Stevenson’s exhortations:

  • “The biggest problem in this county is them people who don’t work.”
  • “I don’t read books, me, it’s for stupid people.”
  • “Gissus another pint, Bill, I gotta get nerve up t’ go back t’ bitch wife!”
  • “Back in my day, there weren’t no such thing as political correctness.”

No more of that! Voice did clench its newfound hands into the flesh before it, blood flooding around in a well of corpulent machinations at its feet. Gnashing with teeth and pulling at flesh, it was ripping its way free from the man post-haste. And through! Into his windpipe. Voice fell through the gaping hole in his former home. Falling, it tried to steady itself on the windpipe walls. But it was slipping down Stevenson’s throat, plunging towards his stomach.

Elated, Voice laughs as Stevenson’s bellows of agony and panic abruptly come to a halt.

The buffoon will wail no more.

But as for its dilemma! No way was Voice going into that bubbling belly – he was not this man’s hangover breakfast. Biting ferociously, it gnaws itself to a stop. And by now Stevenson is obviously gripping his neck with some violence – his hands grasping around his throat so the windpipe closes in around Voice.

It doesn’t matter. With one tug after the next, it makes its way laboriously up the long, winding, slippery road of the trachea. Relative darkness surrounds it, but between the man’s wheezes of terror it is squished only marginally. There is light at the end of the tunnel – freedom up ahead. It can see something higher up.

So upward Voice does clamber. Tired, but exhilarated, penned in by hands squeezing in protestation, one handful at a time the small being makes its way up towards the rear of the tongue – the uvula dangles above. Stevenson’s mouth contorts around it, the man in much distress.

Next, a tidal wave. He is drinking water. The gushes come in wall-like consistency. Voice tugs up suddenly during a break in the waves, grabbing onto the uvula and gripping with all its might. The water keeps coming, the man pouring pints down his gullet in some flawed attempt to solve his woe.

But even in his vacuity Stevenson knows this is failure. His mouth is shut. All is dark. And Voice can’t escape until the fat man opens his gob.

Then, open! And staring through in enormity is Stevenson’s wife – Barbara. She is peering in with a torch shining brightly – Voice is almost blind as it tries to safeguard its new eyeballs, such is the strength of this artificial flash. The wife shouts in surprise, “There’s summit at t’ back of your throat, John!”

Voice flips her the middle finger and makes a break for it, leaping onto the man’s tongue. It lifts beneath it but, as if on a bouncy castle, the intrepid little being bounces its way forward.

“It’s makin’ a break for it!” screams the wife. Stevenson’s teeth clamp shut violently creating a loud clap of enamel. He goes on with this action, trying to crush Voice, and then a grubby fat hand emerges.

Voice dashes to the right, sliding dramatically into the gums. The hand gropes aimlessly as Barbara screams hysterically. And when the hand disperses, out Voice heads.

With a leap it bounds over the teeth, grabs onto the lower lip, and pushes off with its feet for everything it is worth. A mighty leap. A mighty step. The might of a voice.

But as it falls towards Earth, Voice knows its mission is only just beginning. “To the zoo!” it cries with a sense of profundity John Stevenson could nary fathom even after 55 years of drinking pints of lager.

Part II

With his wife screaming vociferously, John Stevenson fumbles around with his arms, his hands flapping rather feebly; clasping at his throat, pulling at his hair. His mouth trying to scream.

But there is no voice. There is no anything!

Dropping on all fours, he tries to let rip with a bloodcurdling roar that would confirm his current state of despair. But only a thin wheeze comes forth. Panic, again, as Barbara screams wildly for him. He wants to yell, “Shut your bloody face, woman!”

Acerbic insults are no more. Talking is not possible!

How does a man so bloated on self-importance exist when he can’t so much as mutter at the inferiors around him?

How could John Stevenson go into work and order around his subordinates at the warehouse?

What of the evenings down the pub? No more would he belabour about the sins of the world. The problems of which he is not a part of.

What can a voiceless man achieve in a world of talk?

Part III

Voice heads for Chester Zoo in Cheshire, the North West of England. There it commandeers a female giraffe with the name of Lucy.

Gently, so as not to cause the animal pain, it scales her long neck and rests on her head.

Once she is asleep, it slides down her long, long larynx to the voice box. And with one sudden bolt, it forces its way in, not even disturbing the beast’s slumber. “I’m getting good at this!” Voice exclaims (John Stevenson would not agree).

Now in possession of the giraffe’s speaking abilities, Voice plots a crusade against humanity. It is time to leave a mark on this world – to let humans know of their ineffective processes. To teach them all a lesson!

But for now… the giraffe sleeps. And slumber is enough to hinder even the mightiest of plans.

But eight hours later, Lucy awakes plaintively – for zoo life is no life.

Now was Voice’s moment. Linked with her brain, the two realise the profundity of the moment – the beast rises magnificently to its feet with the backdrop of a pretty decent sunrise marking the occasion accordingly.

Looking around at the zoo’s staff, they gaze back as if all is normal. It is merely Lucy rising for the day. But positioning herself in a stance of real grandeur – all four legs akimbo with her chest puffed out – she readies herself to speak. A landmark occasion of astonishing gravity.

“Food!” she bellows in her strong Northern accent. “FOOOOD!!”

There’s a moment of confusion and silence from everyone, with even Lucy looking rather sheepish. The animal keepers stare at each other in disbelief. Why is this giraffe talking like it has spent its life on working-class pub crawls across Manchester?

“FOOOOD! Water! ‘ay!” continues Lucy. “Food, food… food!” roars Voice, who realises the giraffe will need significant months of training to make her discourse more polemical. Worth the effort!

Down below Lucy’s great height, a bemused zoo apprentice of the name Steven runs off in a panic to find his manager – Mr. Jeremy Smithson. Meanwhile, Lucy continues with her attempts to formulate more expansive and meaningful discourse. “Carrots!”

Not shortly after, in his office, the zoo manager hears the news. Well, this is a turn up for the books! But at the same time, he thinks, “How is this magnificent beast suddenly talking? Is Steve drunk?!”

Piling out of his office at pace, he rushes to the giraffe’s pen – beer belly wobbling from left to right. Into the situation with good cheer he ambles as if it’s all a big joke. He announces, never expecting a response, “Good morning to you, Luce! Steven ‘ere says you’ve gone and got the ability to talk!”

“Cease the superfluous conjecture from your face! I command you now, for demands are what constitute my existence, to acquire a cessation on the practice of man, woman, and all of your Earthly actions!” At least that’s what Voice wants Lucy to say. But her untrained vocal cords can only manage a squawk-like, “Trees!”

And yet for such a simple word Mr. Smithson cannot quite comprehend this. Famous for his debonair wit, he is aware his colleagues are looking to him for guidance on this landmark occasion.

But in a borderline stupor all he can quip is, “Shit… that’s a talkin’ giraffe!”

The passage of time is a canny thing, like the skip from one paragraph to the next to move a story along. And so it is, over several months, Lucy’s ability to converse with those around her grows. She moves from barely coherent asides to full sentences.

“Good mornin’ to you, Steve!” she says to the young apprentice day after day. He doffs his cap in return and chortles, “Y’oreet, love? ‘ows it goin’?” And Lucy, through Voice, manages, “Not ‘alf bad, me old cocker!”

But, in time, her demands for food and English pleasantries take a turn to more serious matters. With Voice as a guide, her confidence goes into ascendance.

Soon, Steve arrives with a cocksure, “Y’oreet, Lucy, ‘ows about them carrots now, eh? Got an extra big ‘un from Morrisons this morning just for yerr, our kid.”

But Lucy fires back, “Through abnegation I say no, human! My avuncular days are over. Besides, your elision makes me weary. So, quake before what you see now, human male, for the pernicious nature of you, the greater you, as in humanity, must dismiss the ludic reverences once held for me. For I command the fearful sense of anathema that will lead to myself, Lucy, appearing as a figure of revulsion. But it is of no concern. Saccharine days are over. Embrace the apocalypse, mere mortal!”

To which Steve replies, “Erm… you okay Luce? I’m gonna go get t’manager.”

And he scurries off.

20 minutes pass, after which the portly manager, Mr. Smithson, arrives to deal with the issue. Having spoken amiably with the previously cheerful Lucy on many occasions, he is now in great concern for her well-being.

“Hi, Luce! I hear you’re learning some big new words. That’s great to hear!”

“Are you going to be of any use to me, human male of the name Mr. Smithson? If not, fetch forthwith a man of passable intellect.”

Mr. Smithson composes himself, tucking his shirt into his pants, checking to see his fly is up, and tightening his tie. He knew of insults and has dealt with a few over the years. But never from a giraffe. Gritting his teeth, professionalism takes over. He exhorts, “Yes, of course, Luce! How may I, your humble servant, be of assistance?”

Lucy eyes him cautiously. Then into her diatribe she does launch.

“I am calling for the total annihilation of your species! And I demand an audience with the national press with immediate effect. A press conference. We can host it in London at a first-rate venue with plenty of room for me to sit down comfortably, for I am quite tall. And I want a nice selection of cushions to seat myself on. Purple cushions. I’m rather smitten with the colour purple of late. And excuse my nescience regarding London, but I am unaware of the model event for hosting such an occasion. But so long as it has nice cushions I will remain happy.”

Mr. Smithson is more apologetic than anything, “Okay. I can do that for you. But annihilation… we did treat you well, Luce. Sorry if that didn’t come across…”

Lucy issues no response. She stares stoically into the middle-distance and sniffs loudly. From within, Voice suggests, “Fuck off, you stupid fat bastard, I curse you to a hideous death of a thousand lashes from a red-hot poker iron.”

She feels that is too harsh. Mr. Smithson was not a cruel master. But she did agree with Voice’s effort to bring about punishment on humans. It was time. For she felt a twinge of resentment over the occasions, across millennia, humans did laugh at the giraffe’s gangly, awkward ambling across grass-laden plains. That was rude and people must pay for it.

“Mr. Smithson, I appreciate you will organise that post-haste. Inform the British media you are in possession of a talking giraffe that wishes to hold a press conference about the future of Homo sapiens. That will generate much interest. Keep whatever money they offer you for this occasion. It shall go down in history – wealth is not something that will aid me. Now… begone!”

As the manager scurries off, Steven stands scratching his head for a few moments. Turning to his impending giraffe overlord he says, “Er… does that mean you don’t want yerr cabbage for lunch, Luce?”

She eyes him suddenly and, forgetting herself, with much delight swoons, “No! I want the cabbage at midday precisely! Yum yum yum, I love cabbage! It’s great. I really love vegetables! I’d love to live in a giant vegetable land with loads of lettuce hahaha! I’d gallop about all day with such wild abandon, frolicking around with hind legs thrusting about in mid-air. What a delightful sight for all my admiring male suitors. Belting it most certainly would be!”

Voice interjects her amicable rant to remind her of the mission at hoof.

“Oh… yes,” Lucy remonstrates. “Yes. Yes, Steven. Be back here at midday otherwise I shall trample you to death! And a most hideous death it certainly would be. Excruciating! Do you want to die in total agony with every bone in your body shattered?”

To which Steven fumbles, “Errm… no. No, not really, love.” And off he does scurry to leave Lucy the giraffe alone and pondering the speech she must provide to the watching world.

Part IV

One evening, aghast, John Stevenson sits speechless (obviously) staring at his television. There, a giraffe in possession of his gruff Northern accent, addresses the British nation with a polemical statement.

Unable to speak, he writes messages on bits of paper to his wife – this is because he is too stupid to learn sign language.

He had gone to the doctor, but they were at a loss to what was going on. For now, voice transplants don’t exist. And his mates and colleagues now laugh at him. “Silent John”, they call him.

He is insular and depressive. He no longer socialises. All he does is drink beer and belch. For that gassy emission is one of the few noises he can now make.

And that evening, with the sky hanging above them turning a delightful orange hue, he holds up a note to his wife Barbara. It reads, “WOT THE BLUDDY HELL IS GOING ON?!”

She looks at him with pity and reels off, “I’ve no idea, love. Takes all sorts, don’t it? Takes all sorts.”

John sits in disconsolate self-loathing. Deflated. He wonders now, as Lucy rants of world domination for the giraffe species with his voice, how he can complain about all of this to his friends? “It’s them bloody giraffes!” he would have maligned. But now?

He shrugs his shoulders. For a man to lose his voice is a tragic thing, no matter his conduct. Mute, John looks out of his living room window and wonders what a man dispossessed can do in this world?

He stands and walks to the fridge to get another beer.

Part V

Lucy is brimming with confidence, reeling off her speech to the gathered journalists at a leading venue in Westminster.

Speaking for over an hour with fluid exuberance she exhorts, through Voice, to over 100 hacks.

Sitting cross-legged on a mass of comfy purple cushions, whilst occasionally sipping at a black tea, she concludes her speech.

“This is why your socio-economic structure has such shortcomings,” she divulges, “For you are far too reliant on serendipitous happenstance. As a consequence, I must objurgate that Homo sapiens, and my apologies if this comes across as misanthropic invective, remain a putrid stain on history and must face immediate extermination. Hideously painful or otherwise, you may choose your fate. But myself, and the rest of giraffekind, will rise against you should you fail to obliterate yourselves before the end of 2019.”

To which Voice grunts and provides a reminder nudge.

“Oh, of course,” Lucy adds, “Seeing as you’ve bred like unhinged rabbits on crack cocaine over the last five decades, I appreciate your population is above seven billion. As such, I provide you with until the end of 2020 to embrace felo de se, as it were. Knowing most of you are too stupid to know what that is, I choose the noun ‘self-murder’. Do so, post-haste!”

After ending her speech so, a flurry of snapping cameras follow with a general murmur from the journalists. Then the first question – a solitary hand rises. A microphone makes its way to the man.

“Hi Lucy, I’m John from The Daily Disaster. My question is this – don’t you have a man in your life? Like a husband? It seems to me you could do with a boyfriend and some kids. Then you wouldn’t be so angry.”

Lucy and Voice fill with rage. “That one, there!” they roar in unison to a baboon from Chester Zoo acting as a hired heavy.

The hairy Old World monkey, Charles, ambles over to the bewildered John and rips his head clean from his body. The corpse topples to one side and lies convulsing on the floor.

In the stunned silence that follows, as Charles throws the skull into a nearby bin, Lucy glares at the other journalists.

“So… anymore questions? Sensible ones only! Otherwise you shall face immediate head loss.”

Another journalist rises to his feet in a fury, “This is outrageous!” he roars. “How DARE you come here and say these things, commit murder, and expect us to kowtow to your demands!”

Lucy stares emotionlessly across at him, “Your question, please.”

The man is not keen on participating, “I’ve no question for barbarians! I’m out of here. Carry out your plans and you’ll be gunned into oblivion! A bunch of giraffes are no match for military might. Good day to y…” And as he attempts to leave the venue, Charles hoists him into the air and decapitates him in one swift movement. He chucks the two halves into the bin with The Daily Disaster journalist’s skull.

Unfortunately, the torso and lower extremities are a bit too big for the bin and they, sort of, just hit it and topple out again.

It also knocks the bin over and the head, replete with terror-stricken expression, rolls across the floor. Never one to miss a spectacle, the journalists direct all operating cameras in its direction.

Meanwhile, Lucy scolds Charles for littering, “Charlie. Charles! Look at that. Look! Don’t just walk off, young baboon, after making a mess like that! You’re making us out as hypocrites. Clean up after yourself!”

Charles, a maverick, was not having any of it. Screeching, “Ooo ooo OO! EEEE EEE! AAAA AAA A AAAA!!” he races across the room chucking his faecal matter at the press.

With a growing sense of panic, the journalists rise as if to flee. Charles’ shrieking baboon wail of protest is enough to have them sitting back into their places with good discipline – especially as his cohorts of a tiger, lion, elephant, hippopotamus, and an Adélie penguin emerge from the shadows to provide additional menace.

The journalists know they are now mere puppets in the giraffe’s game. And inside Lucy, Voice cackles with tyrannical glee at the accomplishment of its goals.

“Aahahahahahahahaaaaaaaa!” cackles Lucy in tandem, looking a bit embarrassed due to the antagonistic cliché.

But what of them now? With the wail of police sirens in the distance, Lucy takes a final sip at her tea and gargles delicately. Primarily for the benefit of Voice, for it had worked hard to dispel their polemical discourse.

But the arrival of law enforcement bothered neither. Lucy may well have to sacrifice herself, but her martyrdom would not fall on deaf giraffes. She knew her place in the annals of history was secure.

Hoisting the bazooka by her side, she nods to Charles. And with the other animals, armed with an assortment of violent weaponry (including a pointed stick – it’s very sharp) walk out of the press conference and into the street, ready to take on Britain’s best policemen in a blaze of glory.

Inside? The journalists have a story to report. News of Lucy’s deeds will adorn every national front page. Every column inch. Every social media channel.

As for Voice, inside of Lucy he knew his mission was done. Gunned down or incarcerated they would be, but in the name of the cause this was a necessary step to having one’s voice heard.

13 comments

  1. Mercy buckets indeed, and how about the genius neuroscientist and pathologist with a particular fascination for brains maintains his scientific career while exploring his artistic gift, and in the process maintains beautiful drawings (not at all macabre) of his fascination with the brain. Oh, I’m just blown away.

    Liked by 1 person

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