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Donkeys Fed by Lions | Reddit Writing Prompt – 6

This Reddit writing prompt is from u/Mazon_Del

You died partway through a vicious war, and are welcomed to the viewing party by deceased members of both sides.

The barman seems friendly enough.

“Beer, wine or vodka red bull?”

“Got any almond milk?”

“Eh? You do realise what started this whole thing?”

“What thing?”

“This! Or that – that down there. This latest episode of that.”

“That? Oh, you mean war? Healthy lifestyle options triggered the war?”

“Veganism!”

“Eh?”

The barman seemed friendly enough but now I’m confused. He suddenly seems quite agitated. Luckily my ‘Meet n Greet Man’ is back at my side and takes my arm to steer me onward. As we depart, he hisses over his shoulder at the barman. 

 “Leave him alone, that has never been proven. Not yet at least…”

The Meet n Greet man is called Mike, he wears a World War 1 trench-style outfit and seems to never tire of being cheery. His was the first face I saw when I woke up. He’s barely stopped talking since. 

“Gin Den Jake is a good lad really but he always gets the hump when his alcohol is refused – he sometimes forgets we’re all past caring. What’s left to escape from now eh? There’s a coffee counter around the corner – Barista Barry will sort you out.”

“I wasn’t a vegan for long. Hardly ever at the weekend…”

“Don’t worry about it mate – even if it did cause this latest kick-off, and the jury’s still out on that; it wasn’t because the plant-based boys were looking for trouble – it was because the meat producing massive didn’t like the loss of income. Big industry stirred it up not the veg and two veg please crew.”

I tell him I’m not really thirsty at the moment and Mike shrugs then leads me to a space on the gantry. 

“Here, watch a bit of this – its classic Donkeys and Lions.”

I stare down at the battle below.

“Donkeys and Lions?”

“Yeah, that’s what we call it up here.”

“Right… which ones are the donkeys?”

“Seriously? Okay, sorry I forget – you’re new and possibly still a bit naïve – maybe you’re even one of those ‘it was worth it’ types. Never mind – you’ll soon learn. Okay, let me enlighten you a little – it tends to shift a little – the Donkeys don’t always look exactly the same but basically if you look for the more expensively dressed and stood at a safe distance from the action type characters, you’ll get some idea.”

I stare for a while and begin to see. This bird’s eye view and the scrolling facts that accompany it are very enlightening. I turn back to Mike who is watching me approvingly.

“Are there any Donkeys here?”

“Oh, there’s a few. I’ll introduce you soon.”

“And what exactly is this place?”

“Good question. No-one seems to know exactly where we are – but there’s that big neon sign that states we’re in the Lion’s Lounge. And, no-one knows the exact number but there are millions of us. Collectively we’re known as The Fodder Society. If you look in your pocket, you’ll find a card stating that you’re a fully paid up member and entitled to all the benefits. We all arrive with one.”

I’m nodding and trying to take it all in when out of the corner of my eye I spy a man in a pointy hat and German uniform striding towards us. He comes to a halt and pokes a baguette  into my guide’s stomach. 

“Achtung! English Pig-Dog!”

Mike immediately grabs it and takes a bite. 

“Alright Helmut? I watched your boys lose again last night.”

“Oh? I thought we agreed we didn’t view that war anymore?”

“Haha. We did and we don’t. I meant Eintracht Frankfurt.”

“Ha! Yes, you are a funny guy. And you are right – they are almost as useless as you’re beloved Manchester United.”

Mike and the German laugh then high-five. Mike turns to me again then and explains.

“It’s funny really. Us and the Krauts get on very well – bizarre to think that we battered ten bells out of each other on muddy fields every day for years on end. But that’s what we learn up here – it was all a load of…”

“Hoden.”

“Hoden?”

“He means balls.”

“Balls?”

“Yar. Testikels”

“Testicles?”

“Yes.”

“Yar.”

“Oh. Okay. We usually say Bollo…”

“No!”

“Nine!”

“No?”

Mike pats my shoulder and gently explains some more.

“No. No-one swears up here. That’s not necessary any more either. We don’t bother. You won’t after a while too. Its not a rule or anything – there’s just no need. Not anymore. Not now that we’re out of our war. It’s a respect thing too I guess – it’s only the ones still down there who have the need for expletives.”

“Oh. No, I… guess that makes sense…so you watch war all day?”

“You can do. And when you first come you tend to. When we arrived, Helmut and I used to watch the Great War together – and what an ironic title that is – but yes all wars are shown. You watch as much as you need. The proof is all there. Then if you’re still unsure they have seminars and talks and all sorts of exhibitions explaining.”

“Explaining?”

“Detailing I suppose. Revealing how the Donkeys always pull the strings and manipulate the masses. Past and present. Once your eyes are opened your eyes are open if you know what I mean. And I know that’s ironic too considering we’re all deceased but hey-ho. Suffice to say once here our eyes become opened, arguably too late but hey, and if we ever need to remind ourselves we just need to look – we can just pop our heads over the gantry. There’s always something to watch – there’s always something going on somewhere – its 24 hours, 365 days a year – it never ends. War never ends. Hasn’t yet at least. And it’s not likely too. It’s as olden as time. It’s about power and money – ego and greed not honour or need.”

“You talk too much. He has only just arrived. He will learn. But now enough lecture – show him the pen.” 

“The pen?”

“It’s like a prison I guess but is shaped like a pen – it’s to highlight all the deals signed and celebrated after others have shed their blood. After other’s sacrifice. Other’s lives.”

“Yar yar blah blah. Come on, let’s go. It’s nearly time. He will understand when we show him.”

Helmut marches off and we follow. 

“What did he mean when he said it’s nearly time?”

“High Noon. It’s when we feed them.”

“Feed them?”

“Yeah. It’s a bit harsh really, you could argue. If you were feeling very charitable. I mean those rations were barely edible in 1944.”

Helmut is holding the door open and salutes me as we walk in. 

“Welcome to The Pen. That man over there is Old Bailey.”

Mike coughs into his hand to disguise a giggle.

“I told Helmut that was his name 80 years ago and he still believes it. It’s actually a bloke called Clive who used to call the Bingo before he got called up.”

Old Bailey (Clive) is wearing a lionskin cloak and sombrely addressing a gathering of well-dressed prisoners.

“Which of you here stirred up hate for your own gain?”

All hands shoot up.

“Okay, I can see this may take some time – I’ll do my best to narrow things down – which of you here lied to their followers – which of you here attempted to divide…”

The hands go up, some sheepishly some defiantly, all desperately vying to receive whatever might be on offer.

“Who here instilled fear and distrust – who here promised changed – who here named and blamed others – who here bred discontent – who here held back facts – who here manipulated belief – who here spread propaganda – who here despised their own people…”

A woman in an RAF uniform enters with a tray of rusted tins and paper scrolls. Mike nudges me.

“We call this next bit ‘Pinning the Tale on the Donkey’ – they confess their truth and are then provided with ample opportunity to contemplate and consider.”

“How so?”

“It’s ingenious really. At the same time as they receive their rations, fact sheets detailing their crimes are stapled to their chests.”

“Wow. Like a kind of macabre medal?”

“Exactly! You’re starting to catch on.”

I think I am. And I think I might like it here. It’s surreal but fascinating. Enthralling but thoroughly exhausting. I tug the sleeve of Mike’s tunic.

“I’m ready to meet Barry now.”

H. B. O’Neill is a London born writer inspired by the City and its myriad opportunity for comedy, pain, drama and adventure. He is a prize-winning poet and short story writer, a screenwriter, playwright and author.

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