Friday, 6 July 2012

TerribleMinds Flash Fiction Challenge: Fairy Tale Upgrade

Another challenge is up on Chuck Wendig's site terribleminds, this time to take a fairy tale and rewrite it for the modern age (or any age that isn't medieval in nature). Read on for my effort, which is more of an interpretation than a direct retelling; hope you enjoy!

The Prime Minister's New Clothes

Once upon a time there was great upset in the land. Banks had been taking people's money and flushing it away, young people were walking the street in search of a mythical experience called "work" and many more were finding it harder and harder to pay their bills. The people became angry. Those in power tried to fix things but it just made a bad situation worse. Placards and graffiti were let loose in the street, with some in balaclavas trying to smash plastic windows in shop fronts, before moving on to break into tea rooms that had glass.

"We will not be moved," they would chant, before the police dogs came and chased them off.

Then one day a man promised he could make life better for everyone, that he and his party understood the troubles of the common man (he forgot to mention women, but nobody noticed). He made many speeches, gesturing emphatically, and smiling the brightest smile anyone had seen in a while. If he could smile like that, maybe he was better than the man running the country now, people thought. After all, he must be happy about something, and there's very little to be happy about.

The man who promised better days if he got into power and went to youth centres, nurseries, schools and shopping centres. He knew the people, he was one of the people, and the people liked him. The newspapers also liked him and weekly ran articles about him; his upbringing in a nice part of London, his parents' hard work ethos that led him on the right path, the wise investments he had made to allow him this chance to right what was wrong. In contrast they spoke of the current Prime Minister in tones of derision and pointed out to people how privileged he was, how out of touch and how he had inherited so much money from his parents.

The day arrived when the people could choose their new Prime Minister and it was no surprise to anyone when the newcomer swept into office on a landslide. There was cheering in parks, in houses, in tenements, in pubs; finally a government that would listen. That would make things better.

Half a year later and not a lot had changed. People were still struggling to find work, the banks didn't seem to have stopped misplacing money and taxes were going up rather than down. But the people knew their man would fix it; the paper's said so. Every day on the news he would stand there in good lighting, smiling his smile and promise that this little bit of hardship now would ensure things would get better later, for them, for their children, for everyone.

Another six months passed and a few voices online began to ask what had really changed since the election. They talked among each other, saying that the government were doing their best, and the voices enjoyed their echo chamber. Then someone wrote on Twitter, "He's just the same as the last prime minister. He even looks the same. #NothingChanges" There was a raucous denial, a flurry of blockages, but the idea had escaped the mind that thought it.

A journalist, bored of writing about singers who took their clothes off at their concerts, did some digging into the Prime Minister's background. And what he found was very surprising; the new Prime Minister had gone to the same school as the old one. He had gone to the same University. Their fathers had both worked in the same bank, before each moving on to become CEOs of companies registered in the Cayman Islands. Tracing the companies he discovered they were both linked to a new medical group, researching the latest genetic technology. In a fever he kept himself hidden away, while he did his work.

When his article came out was published online, in a small online publication that no one had heard of, the news went viral, and by supper had reached the desk of the Prime Minister. He had to read it twice. 

"You're Never Alone With a Clone; Especially When They Run the Country"

He read the article with an avid eye. He tried to call his father, but got no answer. Then he read it again. 

The very next day the Prime Minister resigned. His replacement was a much older man, who could confirm that he was one of a kind, though the people didn't believe him.  A public enquiry was called and very little was learned from months of denials and protests, until the Prime Minister's ex-personal adviser was called and grilled for three hours. Finally, in a vent of fury, he shouted, "It's what the people want! They want their leaders like they want their food; bland and predictable!" And the people heard this and got angry. But they also suspected that it was true.

The next Prime Minister to get elected was nothing like the last; pictures of the candidates were mandatory in the election papers to make sure people could check their appearance compared to the last. New policies, that were very different to the ones before, were passed and most people were assured that things would now start to get better. But some still wondered, waiting to see if this was simply the same Prime Minister in a new set of clothing.


  1. Nice blog you've got there. Do read my and share it if you like it. ;)

  2. I liked the interpretation. I wasn't expecting the literal clone angle, but I thought it definitely give it a (modern) fairy-tale spin.