So we were tasked with writing a short piece of prose which was George Orwell themed. I chose Animal Farm as my theme and tried to make a story as unapologetically political as Orwell was in his lifetime. So without further ado… here it is.
September had arrived with dusky evenings, veils of dampness and the threat of frost on every breath. For the animals of Mellor Knoll Wood it meant it was time to harvest, to conserve and to prepare for the long winter ahead. In the lofty branches the squirrels plucked the last acorns from increasingly forlorn oak trees. Hedgehogs, whose only goal in summer was to become pleasantly plump, were rooting out the juiciest earthworms and Timothy Fieldmouse was diligently inspecting seeds.
It had been over 40 years since the Woodland Winter Management Meeting, and though none of the animals who had attended were still alive, the resulting principals were still adhered to every autumn. Every creature, great or small, was required to give away 10% of their winter stores to create an emergency communal stockpile. Of course not every animal was equal. The hares and rabbits could gather and carry heavier loads and travel further distances. The badgers had strong claws and could dig up root vegetables and the mice? Well, their labour was plentiful, if miniscule. Mice did not require much food or shelter, so they made excellent entry level harvesters.
The trouble began in the midst of an unseasonably early cold snap. One of the voles happened to notice the field mice taking back extra seeds. Full of righteous fury they alerted the otters, who called on the weasels, until eventually it came before the wise old Tawny Owl, who was considered the chair of the Woodland Management Committee.
There seemed to be a problem, when it came to Timothy. After all Timothy was a blind mouse, he could contribute very little to the stockpile and often needed to rely on it more heavily than most of his kind. Though his family tried to explain that Timothy checked the seeds by touch and scent before they were turned over to the stockpile, it was decided that Timothy’s case had to be considered by a higher authority.
A select committee of three hawks convened to examine Timothy’s case. It was considered that because hawks could fly so high, they had a higher level overview than the undergrowth dwelling animals. No one stopped to consider that because hawks had exceptionally good vision, they might not be able to understand the position of a blind mouse.
On the day of the review Timothy arrived with his family, terrified of the hawks who loomed above him on a low lying branch – after all Hawks did not walk on the forest floor, it was unseemly. In order to consider the case they asked him many questions, such as when he found out he was blind, whether he felt this affected his ability to be a mouse and whether he could groom his own fur. After what seemed like hours the hawks came to the conclusion that Timothy was not blind, or at very least could see enough to harvest as much as a normal mouse. Satisfied with their judgment the hawks left Timothy to be consoled by his family, who vowed to try to do more, to try to make up for shortfall in his harvest.
January was the coldest month that any of the animals could remember. The forest floor was thick with glistening snow and the brook chilled to a sluggish crawl. Timothy Fieldmouse curled up in his
threadbare nest, shivering. Given the choice between harvesting food and gathering dry stalks of grass for his home he’d had no choice. Food was more important. Food would get him through this. Food was all he required.
Timothy Fieldmouse was found frozen by the stoat who ate his remains.
The hawks did not care.