"The Scorpion's Tale"
by David Ronayne
Imagine a swirling mass of stars, spinning clusters and constellations circling endlessly around a glowing centre. Move closer and you can see countless numbers of worlds swinging through elliptical orbits around certain gifted suns. Closer ...
To one particular world, not particularly inspiring, but special because of it's history and placement in the grander schemes of other things. Below you the world slowly turns. The cusp of dawn moving over of it's dry central continents. Closer ...
On the banks of the Serengetti a little man sits cross-legged at the waters edge. By his side sits a dog eared book. It is unopened, it does not need to be. With his eyes closed the man can read all the words and see all the scenes just as clearly as he can visualise the ripples of sunlight on the water, the flights of countless butterflies and their descendants, and the tiny disturbance in the sand to his far right. Move closer ...
It is a scorpion. Imagine ... The scorpion scuttled across the river bank slightly more agitated than usual. (Which, as anyone who knows scorpions well readily tell you, is already a fair bit). Looking around he saw a giraffe drinking from the river, so he rushed over and made this frantic plea.
"Oh help me please, I need to get over to the other side of the river for my granny's birthday party, with tea and scones and lashings of ginger beer, and you art' so big and strong and tall and brave, and, oh help, oh bother ..."
But the giraffe had heard stories of scorpions and their dangerous stings (and even worse punctuation) and she ran away, ignoring his request, as fast as her long legs would carry her. (Giraffes were always prone to idle gossip.) The scorpion got more worried, worried and annoyed, until he saw a big elephant (and if you are a scorpion elephants are really big) walking along the river bank, so he rushed over and frantically made his plea.
"Oh please, oh help, I'm late for my granny's birthday party and there will be cake and fizzy drink and bowls of ice cream with cherries on top, and you are so big and strong, could you please help me get across?"
But elephants never forget, (although in all honesty, they don't really have that much to remember. They're not into foreign languages or high density particle physics, such things are best left to camels, cats, dolphins, and other creatures of a more academic nature. By contrast elephants lead a fairly sedate life.) and the elephant could remember tales of treachery, danger, and other scorpions, and the great beast sank back in fear before beating a hasty retreat back into the undergrowth.
The scorpion got more agitated, agitated and annoyed, until, out of the river a hippopotamus appeared, curious to see what the elephant was making all the fuss about. Frantically the scorpion waved it pincers in the air and shouted, "Oh please, oh help, I'm late for my granny's birthday party, and there is going to be cream buns and infeasible amounts of rice pudding, and you are so big and strong, please carry me across the river!"
Now hippos are very stoic creatures, not prone to take risks or putting themselves into danger, but they do have one weakness, a tiny vice that made the hippo stop and think. "Cream Buns?" It said slowly, in the paced and cautious tones that hippos, hostage negotiators, and elder statesmen adopt at times of indecision, rolling the word around in it's mouth, savouring it as if it were the real thing.
"Oh yes," said the scorpion, "and I'm sure if you helped me get there Granny would let you have some ... and some rice pudding too." He addcd for good measure.
The hippo thought for a moment before a look of cautious concern crossed it's face.
"But you're a scorpion," he said. "How do I know you won't sting me as we cross the river?"
The scorpion seemed shocked by the accusation, but pointed out that scorpions couldn't swim and that such an action would leave him to drown in the fast flowing river.
Then followed a brief discussion about mass/weight ratios (or lack thereof), of instectoid exoskeletons, and the sad state of the education system in not providing sufficient water bound physical education training. Finally the scorpion clinched the deal by pointing out some of the cream buns had a jam filling. So the hippo let the scorpion climb onto it's back and started to wade across the river. The scorpion, for it's part tried hard to resist temptation, holding it's breath, crossing its pincers and pinching itself, but to no avail. As they reached the deepest, swiftest part of the river the scorpion scuttled forward and plunged it's sting into the soft flabby part at the back of the hippos neck. The hippo screamed ...
The little man awoke with a start. It had been a long time since he had allowed himself to dream so far. He shook himself off, picked up the book and the curiously shaped umbrella by his side, and rushed back to the blue box waiting quietly nearby, disturbed by what he had seen.
Imagine if you will, a small man in a linen suit sitting alone in an impossibly large control room, his head buried in his hands while in his minds eye the planets fall out of their perfect orbits and crash chaotically into each other. Seven were engulfed by huge fireballs as the suns exploded, as if squeezed by some unknown hand, while deep below the scorpion looked on sadly as the glazed expression on the hippo's face sank beneath the waters for the final time. The pained eyes, both accusing and imploring, stared up as if to simply ask "Why, now we are both doomed?"
"Because I am a scorpion," said the scorpion.
23 hours ago