Alfred Fox Presents "When The Lights Go Out"
When The Lights Go Out
After witnessing the riots first hand in my hometown of Lewisham, I was left speechless at the mayhem that had quickly unfolded around me. I was angry, annoyed, yes! But if I am completely honest with you, I was also left feeling a tad excited, a rush of adrenaline flooding through my veins that I had never experienced before. Finally the people were fighting back against the government, as for what kind of people they were, I didn't really care. I never gave it any thought at the time. My enemy's enemy is my friend and all that. It wasn't until after the riots had ended and my excitement had subsided, that I began to question why the riots had taken place? Why during such bad times, had I experienced such feelings of excitation? Was the government really my enemy? Did I agree with the mayhem?
So what did I discover?
Did I agree with the mayhem? Yes, I have to say that I did. A whole generation of people had been crying out for the government's help, only to be ignored, time and time again. How else were they going to be heard if they didn't finally throw their rattles out of their prams.
Was the government really my enemy? They didn't listen to people, they certainly didn't do what was best for the country, but I wouldn't go as far as saying that they were my enemy. We need the government more than we don't need them!
As for my recent excitement, that didn't stem from any kind of wickedness on my behalf. Like many others, I had simply been excited to see people finally take a stand. No longer wanting to be ignored, certain individuals had taken it upon themselves to take a stand against the government. Great! Maybe they didn't make that stand in the right way, but it was a stand none the less.
A lost generation of people that the government had failed, because they were too busy helping others in the world with their wars and their poverty. Spending Billions on helping them and only pennies on helping the people that put them in power. The people that they were supposed to govern!
So who were the lost generation?
Were they people of the same race? No
Were they people of the same sex? No
Were they people of the same age? No
Were they people of the same class? YES!
Not all the people who rioted were part of the lost generation, some just mere trouble makers with nothing better to do. Some of the lost generation opting to stay at home and not taking part in the riots at all. The majority of those that had rioted however, were of the lost generation, the underclass, banished from society for no other reason than the govenment's failure to do what was right by them.
I decided to title the book "When the lights go out" because during the three days of rioting, it was during the night that the riots were at their most fierce. I also wrote the story as a fable, using animals to tell my story instead of people and using a London garden as the stage. The characters split into classes,
The Crows - Upper Class
The Humans - the Government
The Dogs - Upper Middle Class
The Cats - Middle Middle Class
The Squirrels - Lower Middle Class
The Hedgehogs - Working Class
The Foxes - Underclass
If you ever get a chance to read my book, please come back and visit the poll above and register your vote. Also please feel free to leave me a comment below. Thank you!
The sun had been resting on his back for what seemed like an eternity, as if trying its best to burn a hole, straight through him. Walking for hours, he had tried to stay out of people’s way, he couldn’t remember ever feeling so scared, so thirsty. He knew that he needed to find shelter fast, somewhere to rest and lay his head, away from the tiring heat, away from the strange people and their attempts to grab him.
He remembered his mother, his siblings, his name, but nothing else, apart from the regret of climbing out of that window, falling to the ground. Not being able to reach the window from the outside, he had tried in vain to find another way in, by walking around the back of the gardens, hopefully able to gain entry to the front of the premises. By the time he had reached the nearest corner, he was miles away from where he had started. Every street, every building looking the same, he had tried to turn back, but it was too late, he was lost, never to return to his family again.
Finally finding a room that looked safe, he curled up in the corner, falling asleep almost instantly as soon as his head hit the cold stone floor. At some point throughout the night, he woke to the sound of rain hitting the tin roof above him. The room, cold, dark, damp and the overwhelming feeling of hunger, he thought about getting up and looking for food, but he was too weak. Beginning to weep, he fell back to sleep again, alone in the darkness, he dreamt of his mother.
Waking to the sound of a woman’s voice in the early hours of the morning, he could feel her soft hand stroke the top of his head.
“Ben, what are you doing here?” she spoke softly, she knew his name, but he didn’t recognise her. She had kind eyes and he sensed she meant him no harm. He could hear her call for somebody, and not long after, a man appeared through a doorway at the back of the room.
“What is it? What are you doing in the garage?” the man asked.
“This is Ben …” she replied. “I think we should take him inside, he’s very weak.”
As the man lifted him up, he sensed that the man was kind also, so he didn’t struggle; he didn’t have the strength even if he had wanted to. As he let the man carry him through the door, he could barely keep his eyes open as he floated through the garden towards the back of the house.
The kitchen, the dining room, the corridor leading to the flight of stairs all seemed familiar to him but it wasn’t home. As the couple put him to bed, he fell asleep before they could feed him. He didn’t care about the hunger, the thirst, he was just happy to be back in the warmth.
Late that evening, he woke again to the woman’s hand stroking him gently. Following the woman down the stairs, he stopped for a few seconds to thank the same man that stood in the hallway. The woman led him into the kitchen where she pointed to a tray of food and water. The food tasted good, the water refreshing, his belly now full, his thirst now quenched, he could feel his strength growing back by the second. Opening the back door, she ushered him outside to the garden; the sun was setting but it was still relatively light. Closing the door behind him, he looked back and prayed that he would be allowed back in.
“Don’t worry, Ben …” came a voice from over the fence. “They will look after you, you’re safe now.”
Looking up over the fence, at first he couldn’t see anybody, it wasn’t until the black cat on top of the shed stood up, stretched and sat back down again that he realised that she was there. Her black silky fur was well groomed and she smiled like she had got the cream.
“Who will?” he asked.
“The masters … they will look after you and make sure you are well fed. That’s what they do, it makes them feel good, gives them something to do, it does,” she replied before raising her paw and giving it a good clean. “Oh, yes, the masters will look after you. You have nothing to worry about, Ben, relax and enjoy the sunset, it will be dark soon.”
Humans - The Government
The government controls everyone and everything. They don’t, however, control the upper class if anything, the upper class control the government. The majority of the government is made up of an older generation of white British men from both upper middle class and upper class families. In this story, the government is portrayed by the humans, known also as The Masters.
“How do you know my name?” Ben asked, stepping forward towards her as she sat perched on top of the wooden shed in the adjacent garden.
“Because it’s written on your collar, silly …” she laughed “Most dogs have their name written on their collar, your last masters must have given it to you.”
“My last masters?” Ben inquired.
“Yes, the people you ran away from.”
“But … I didn’t run away … I fell. I fell and couldn’t find my way back in. I didn’t want to fall, I just did,” Ben whimpered.
“Well, that doesn’t matter now, dogs are always getting lost, but the masters, they always take you in. They will feed you, give you water, shelter, they will even take you for walks. The masters love your kind and they will always offer you help. Your kind are the masters’ best friends.”
Dogs – Upper Middle Class
The upper middle class were born on the land and like to think that they are in control. The government, however, has orders to make sure that they never gain full control, orders sent down by the upper class. If the upper middle class try to become higher in status, the upper class will do everything in their power to stop them. The majority of the upper middle class is made up of an older generation of British people, portrayed in this story by the dogs. Seen through the eyes of a male dog named Ben.
“But I don’t need anybody to take me for walks, I can walk on my own just fine, nobody has taken me for walks before,” he fretted.
“Well, your masters will not let you walk on your own, they will walk with you, it’s one of their rules; it gives them the control, you see. Your last masters probably didn’t take you for a walk, yet, because you were too young, you can’t be more than what, three months old?”
“I’m not sure how old I am,” answered Ben. “How old are you? Are you a dog?”
“No …” she chortled. “My name’s Sarala and I am a cat,” she announced proudly in her Indian accent.
Cats – Middle Middle Class
The middle, middle class have been on the land for many generations, an older generation mainly made up of people with Asian backgrounds. They have been part of the system for many years and are happy with the progress that they have made. They don’t try to compete with the upper middle class and are found to be happy with the class assigned to them. In this story, the middle, middle class are portrayed by a female cat named Sarala.
“Do the masters look after you, Sarala?” Ben asked as he watched her continue to clean her paws.
“Yes … to a certain degree. My masters look after me, but I am treated a little different than your kind. For one, my kind have to clean ourselves, whereas the masters will wash your kind. We also get kicked out at night, but my kind are looked after well, we have it good too …”
“Kicked out?” Ben blurted.
“Yes … my kind is often kicked out at night. It’s the master’s way of punishing us, I guess, probably because we are not so easy to control. They don’t think we are as loyal as your kind because we like to do our own thing, oh yes, we love to do our own thing alright” Again, she let out a small cackle. “Either way, like I said, we have it good; we have nothing to complain about and even if we did, we don’t like to complain about things that are out of our control.”
“I’m sorry to hear that they kick you out. I hope you don’t get too cold at night.”
“No, I have the garden to keep me warm with plenty of bushes for shelter. You see, Ben, the masters can be very confusing at times. While some may seem better than others, deep down, they are all the same, that’s all you need to remember. Your last masters may have looked and sounded different than your new masters, but they are all the same, mark my words. It doesn’t matter what masters you live with, they can only offer you the same as the other masters, no matter what they promise you, nothing more and nothing less.”
“Do your masters take you for walks?”
“Oh no, we come and go as we please. Like I said, we like to do our own thing.”
“Why do they control the way my kind walks then, is it our punishment?” asked Ben.
“Not the way you walk, silly, just when and where you walk. I guess it is a kind of punishment. The masters just want you to know that they have control over you. If you live in their house, eat their food, drink their water and were then to be allowed out on your own. Then you would be equal to them and they don’t want your kind to be equal. I guess by walking you, they get to keep hold of some of that control of theirs and the masters are all about control. Remember, Ben, they’re your masters, never your family.”
“Well, I have a family … I have a mother and three sisters, when will I see them again?”
“It depends if your new masters bother to look for them. I wouldn’t get your hopes up though.”
“Why not?” he scolded.
“Because, unless there’s something in it for themselves, the masters really won’t bother. I miss my family too, Ben, but families come and go. The masters, however, they will always be here for us, and without the masters, we would all be in such a terrible mess. Remember, Ben, no matter what you think about them, we need the masters more than we don’t need them.”
“Well, I think I like the masters. So far they have all really helped me, but I would love to see my family again, they will be really worried about me.”
“I know, but the older you become, you will learn to miss them less. In fact, it was only going to be a matter of time before you left your family anyway, Ben. That’s what happens, you see. Everybody moves on sooner or later. The best you can hope for is to bump into them from time to time when you go for your walks. As for your masters, of course they have helped you, you are a dog after all. It’s the other animals that I feel sorry for.”
“The other animals … what other animals?”
“There are other animals that they don’t help, the ones that they have forgotten about. Like I said, the masters can be very confusing, Ben, kind to some animals but horrible to others. You see, it’s all about control, Ben. The masters don’t like change, they want everything to stay the same. As long as everything stays the same, they can stay on top, and the only way that they can stay on top is if they can control everyone and everything.”
“I … don’t … understand,” drawled Ben, beginning to get frustrated.
“Look, some say that there are way too many animals for the masters to control, others say that it’s because the masters only need a certain amount of animals to control to make their plan work. Either way, there are some animals that the masters don’t help. They are referred to as the forgotten … because the masters have forgotten about them. Maybe it’s because the masters have their hands full, or maybe it is because the masters already have plenty, either way, the forgotten are growing by the month and they are fed up of the masters doing nothing to help them. If the masters carry on the way that they have been, if they don’t do something quickly to help the forgotten, trouble will be brewing, oh yes, Ben, trouble will be brewing, mark my words.”
“What can the masters do to help them?” Ben asked, finding the subject interesting.
“By letting the forgotten come into their gardens, for one, and giving them at least the basics that they have gone without for so long. Some animals, Ben, have even resorted to eating out of the master’s bins …”
“My last masters didn’t really bother with me either, they just left me alone with my mother and siblings and my mother didn’t teach me anything of what you have told me, she was always tired, too tired to talk.”
“If she had four little pups to feed then of course she’d be tired. Most mothers are tired when they have little ones nipping at them day and night. As for your masters, it wasn’t that they weren’t bothering with you, they just wanted to give you some peace and quiet to feed from your mother. Trust me, Ben … the masters will always bother with your kind … and mine to a certain degree.”
“Listen to her, she knows what she is talking about,” came a voice from amongst the trees at the back of Sarala’s garden.
“Who was that?” asked Ben, startled, he began to look around.
“It’s ok, that’s just Dorek, he’s been working around here for a few months now. I am sure his wife Pela is around here somewhere too,” answered Sarala, putting Ben’s mind at rest.
“I certainly am, Sarala …” shouted Pela as she jumped down from the branch and ran along the top of the fence that separated Ben and Sarala’s gardens. “My husband isn’t usually right …” she panted, “but he is when he says Sarala knows what she is talking about. Sarala is a very wise cat.”
“Well, thank you, Pela, that’s very kind …” replied Sarala before being interrupted by the sound of an obvious fake cough coming from the back of the garden. “And thank you too, Dorek.”
“You’re welcome, Sarala,” shouted Dorek from on top of the branch as Ben giggled down below him, finding Dorek’s quirkiness quite amusing.
“I see you have a new friend.” Pela chuckled as her husband came running along the fence to join her.
“Yes I do, yes I do. This is Ben, he’s very young and he got lost, but he’s going to be alright now, aren’t you Ben?” Ben didn’t speak, but instead nodded in agreement as he watched Dorek begin to wobble on the fence. “And Ben, may I introduce you properly to the Squirrels, Pela and her husband Dorek.”
“Hello, nice to meet you both,” Ben finally piped up.
“Nice to meet you too,” answered Pela.
“Yes, nice to meet you Ben,” shouted Dorek, who, struggling to keep his balance on the fence because he wasn’t as slim as his wife, had no choice but to turn around and run back quickly towards the trees before leaping back into them, disappearing out of sight.
“I can only apologise for my husband. He doesn’t like to stand around and natter.” Pela informed them.
“That’s ok … where has he gone?” asked Ben.
“He’s working and I’d better get back to it as well. You see, we have a lot of work to be getting on with, work is very important to us, it’s our number one priority.”“What kind of work do you do?” asked Ben.
“We collect nuts and all sorts for our future. It’s hard work, but, to us, it’s well worth the reward,” answered Pela.
“Can you not get help from the masters so you don’t have to work so hard?”
“Oh we do, Ben. The masters not only let us collect from their trees, but they even help us out by throwing nuts onto the ground for us to collect, some of the best nuts we have ever tasted. If it wasn’t for the masters’ gardens, we wouldn’t even be here. Anyway, that’s really enough talking for one day, we really do have a lot of work to be getting on with and it will be dark soon. It was really nice to meet you, catch you later Ben, bye Sarala.” As she jumped back up into the tree to join her husband, Ben shouted farewell to her, but Sarala didn’t answer and instead sat muttering to herself as she cleaned her tail.
Squirrels – Lower Middle Class
The lower middle class are usually visitors to the country, the majority of them don’t plan on staying long as they have already built lives for themselves back on their home land. The lower middle class just want to make as much money as they can by travelling to where the money is at its most valuable. The lower middle class automatically surpass the working class and the underclass because of the skills that they have been taught in their homeland. Skills that the working class and underclass have been deprived of. The lower middle class are well on their way to competing against the middle, middle class. In this story, the lower middle class are portrayed by two Polish squirrels, Dorek and his wife Pela.
“They seem nice, I like them” Ben stated as he watched them jump from tree to tree, disappearing into the distance. He was aware that Sarala was being curiously quiet, as if biting her tongue.
“Yes they are very nice and they work very hard, too hard some might say,” Sarala replied, sounding mysteriously bitter.
“Yes, they take the nuts from the trees, the nuts from the ground left out for them from the masters, but they have also been known to take the other food in the garden.”
“What other food?” Ben queried.
“Food that wasn’t really intended for them. Seeds, cones, fruits, fungi, vegetation … be careful if the masters put your food out in the garden, the squirrels will even have that away, given any chance.”
“I don’t mind?” said Ben, seeing no harm in the squirrels’ actions and sensing Sarala may have been over exaggerating somewhat.
“Well, you wouldn’t mind, you’re a dog, you have plenty. However, some say that it’s unfair that the squirrels take so much because there isn’t always enough to go around for the others. Some get a little angry when they see the squirrels burying their food because they have so much of it. There are also those who say that the squirrels are taking up too much room in the trees, and that the squirrels have even taken the other animals homes. Don’t get me wrong, Ben, I don’t think these things but it does seem silly to me sometimes, when I see them squirrels working so hard, especially when they already have so much.”
“But surely there is enough to go around?” Ben softly contended, trying his best not to sound like he was disagreeing with such a wise cat.
“Well, one thing is for sure, like Pela said, the squirrels’ main priority is to work, and work they do. They work so many hours throughout the year so that they can relax during the cold months, sometimes leaving no work for the other animals who end up going into the winter with nothing. My kind are okay and so is your kind, we get looked after by the masters. But there are some animals who have been in these gardens for years, and they don’t take too kindly to the squirrels passing through and taking all the food. You can see why so many animals get annoyed with them?”
“I guess,” said Ben, still not quite seeing the harm.
“Anyway, Ben, time for me to ask my masters for some food of my own, before I get kicked out for the night, maybe catch up with you tomorrow if I am around. See you later, sweetie.” Abruptly ending the conversation, she jumped down off the shed, onto the fence, and then onto the floor, feeling a sense of guilt for the words she had spoken.
“Will I not see you tonight, Sarala?” shouted Ben.
“No, of course not, silly, you’ll be let back in soon, you’re a dog remember, it’s too cold for you out here at night,” she shouted back.
“But I want to stay out, I really enjoyed talking to you and I want to learn more,” he begged as he heard Sarala begin to scratch at her master’s door.
“That’s very nice of you to say, I’ve enjoyed talking to you too, Ben, but I’m afraid it’s not your choice. The masters decide when and where you go, like I said, they have the control. We will speak again tomorrow though, Ben, until then, try to keep positive.”
“But if I speak to them, Sarala … then maybe they will agree.”
“Speak to them … Ben, you really are a silly billy, have you not tried talking to the masters yet? When you do, you will see what I mean.”
“I don’t understand, Sarala,” Ben hollered on hearing her master’s door open.
“They won’t understand you, Ben. They can hear you, but the masters, they won’t ever understand what you are saying.” he heard her yell before disappearing inside her master’s house.
Ben, sensing that Sarala was gone, sat and waited. He didn’t know what he was waiting for, but it wasn’t long before the masters opened their door, and ordered him back inside.
Again, but this time with a full belly, Ben fell asleep in his bed, warm, secure and feeling the master’s love.