Short Stories on Tall And True

You Have Been Warned - a pair of slippers watching the universe on a TV.

You Have Been Warned

  12+  Excuse me, humanity, please pay attention. I have an urgent message for you.

"What? Not in the middle of my reality TV show!"

I'm sorry. I'll be brief. But first, a little background. My message concerns the fate of a pale blue dot in the inky expanse of the universe, a Petri dish containing all the humanity, flora, and fauna that have ever existed upon it. Beyond this dot's fragile borders is vast nothingness.

"Nothingness? Sounds like it's got nothing to do with me!"

Oh, you may be surprised. This pale blue dot, the Petri dish, your world, planet Earth, is a bountiful oasis, although it can be scary. You see examples of this on the TV news, read about it on social media, and experience it on your roads, with motorists raging at each other and cyclists and pedestrians.

"Cyclists and pedestrians shouldn't be on the roads!" 

Ah, I thought you'd say that. But in addition to human aggression, you face the existential threat of climate change, with soaring global temperatures triggering unprecedented storms, floods and droughts. In simple terms, humanity is cooking its Petri dish.

"Give me a break. Haven't you read the news? Global warming is a conspiracy!" 

So you and vested interest lobbyists, politicians, and media say. However, while climate scientists cannot predict precise dates, they are unanimous in their view that humanity and Earth's flora and fauna will suffer mass extinction events in a matter of decades. 

"Well, my newspaper and TV experts reckon that's rubbish!"

Yes, your media, backed by the vested interest lobbyists and politicians, would make that claim. But what if humanity could reverse these threats by being kind to each other and the planet? 

"What? By holding hands and singing Kumbaya around campfires and hugging trees?"

Have you ever hugged a tree?

"No, that'd be weird. And if you say I'm weird, I'll have you!"

You'll "have me" where?

"Well, wherever you are. And I won't be alone. I've joined a group on social media pledged to defend our way of life."

And how will your "way of life" look when you've cooked your Petri dish?

"Petri dish, pah! The Earth's a planet!"

Have you seen your pale blue dot from space? 

"Pale blue dot, my bum! Our planet's huge, and my country's the greatest. And I won't let you steal it!" 

Relax, I'm not trying to steal anything. I'm simply warning humanity to change course and save your planet and yourselves. God doesn't pick winners and losers. But you've won the lottery of life on Earth, and it's time you realise this and protect it.

"You're not God! I'll bet you're an alien planning to invade Earth and take over my country!"

I never purported to be a God. And you must judge whether I'm an alien, my intentions, and the urgency of my message. 

"Look, I can't cope with all this now! Can you give me back my reality TV show?" 

Of course. But remember, you have been warned.

© 2024 Robert Fairhead

Thanks to StockSnap for sharing the TV image and Sinousxl for the Milky Way on Pixabay.

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I wrote You Have Been Warned for the Not Quite Write Prize, run by the Not Quite Write Podcast, in April 2024. Their brief for the competition was:

  1. Your story must feature the word DATE. This word must be used in full, with no spaces or interrupting punctuation. However, it may be included within a longer word provided the original spelling is retained, e.g. dated or mandate.
  2. Your story must feature the action of "picking a winner." You don’t need to use this exact wording, and you can feature the action prominently or simply as an aside. The action may occur before the beginning or after it ends as long as it’s referenced somewhere within your story.
  3. Your story must break the rule "always use said". You can interpret this anti-prompt in whatever creative way you see fit. 

Writers have 60 hours to craft a 500-word story from midday Friday of the Not Quite Write Prize weekend to midnight Sunday. Having brainstormed an idea on Friday, I set out on Saturday morning to write a story titled "What If?". I wrote a solid opening paragraph and developed the story, ticking off the brief and writing 250-300 words by early Saturday afternoon. 

But then I realised the story wouldn't work. It was too much "raw" autofiction, based on a tragic event I experienced earlier in the month. So, I parked that story and started on You Have Been Warned, drawing from an idea I used in another short story about climate change I wrote for a Furious Fiction challenge in 2022, Once Upon A Time

The two stories are different, but reading them side-by-side, you can tell they have the same "father".

PS. The You have Been Warned I've shared on Tall And True is a revised version of the one I wrote and submitted in April. As I explained in a 2020 blog post about Australian Writers' Centre's Furious Fiction, short-deadline competitions like Furious Fiction and the Not Quite Write Prize don't allow writers time to reflect on their writing. So, as I've done with all my Furious Fictions, I edited and tweaked You Have Been Warned before sharing it on Tall And True, while respecting the brief and the 500-word limit.

N.B. You might like to read my January 2024 entry (also tweaked!) for the Not Quite Write Prize, Different Journeys

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Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.

Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.

Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.

He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou

Tall And True showcases the writing — fiction, nonfiction and reviews — of a dad and dog owner, writer and podcaster, Robert Fairhead. Guest Writers are also invited to share and showcase their writing on the website.

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