'What's this story called?'
'It's called THE THREE LITTLE PIGGIES OF THE APOCALYPSE.'
'How does it go, Mummy?'
'Once upon a time -'
'It's a story. That's the way stories begin.'
'I want to know exactly.'
'Ten o'clock,' 'A.m. or p. m.?'
'P.m. Once upon a time, at ten o'clock in the evening -'
'It says here the world is in grave peril from atomic doom and I am an all-action superhero and I and only I can save the world, Mummy, is that true?'
'Hastings twenty miles. We're not nearly there yet. I've got a roaming multidimensional death ray. That's better than ancient knights of old, they only have a short-range stationary castle ray. Mummy, what do you get when you cross a parrot with a centipede? A walkie-talkie! What day of the week was it once upon?'
'It comes after Sunday. If you don't like it you can walk.'
'Look Mummy, zebras'
'They're having their breakfast. I love you, Mummy. Do you love me too? Is that a tractor?'
'Yes, I love you too, and yes, it's a tractor, and that's why we're going at ten miles per hour.'
'What sort of tractor?'
'It's a flaming red tractor. Do you want to hear this story or not?'
'I'll tell it, Mummy.'
Once upon a time, there was a witch named Eve, and she was unhappy and bitter and dried-up because her dreams had been stolen by vicious little devils.
So one dark and stormy winter night, accompanied by her prizefighter demon giant psychorabbit Black Roger, Eve climbed high into the snowy mountains to visit a wise Monkey.
The wolves howled in the valley below, and Black Roger sweated under his big black wig and swore, and at last, where the winds whistled a wamintr thev came to the Monkev's cave.
'It'll cost you,' said the Monkey.
Black Roger threw a bag of gold pieces before him.
So the Monkey went to a cupboard and pulled a long spill from a blue hot-water bottle and lit a cigar, and sat before his fire and spat and muttered and chattered, his red face gleaming, stalactites dripping behind him, and peered through his Grannie's bifocals into his major red book of magic; then he smeared white cream on his face and put on his apron and a pointy black hat, and fetched his wand, and a jar of Labrador blood; and they climbed rope ladders to the desolate granite summit, mist swirling about their feet, and the cold chilled Eve's fingers; distant jagged mountains were awful to their gaze, and the sea beyond, and the twinkling stars above and all around; and while bats flitted and squeaked and cats prowled, and Black Roger cursed, the Monkey cast his spell:
'By the seven King-demons and by Puff the Magic Dragon, whose time is worth $1000 a minute, and by the disintegrating energy of the alpha emission, hear me, Earth, Ocean, and Heaven,' cried the Monkey, 'and send me dreams for my client!'
Lightning flashed and thunder crashed and the Monkey gave a satisfied smirk; and as the Moon rose, he brought to life three dreams for Eve:
And the first dream, says the Monkey, has the theme RELIGION WON'T SAVE ADAM, and is as follows:
Once upon a time [said the Lion, King of Beasts, who was drunk], there was a mouse named Heebiejeebie, and he thought himself a great storyteller, and in fact, never stopped talking, Hic. One morning, he got into conversation with a talking dog, in the foothills of this beautiful land, which I created, personally, myself, from nothing -
'Actually,' said Adam, accompanying the Lion to church, 'it was your Father, The God of Unconditional Love, who created the World.'
'Unconditional fiddlesticks,' snarled Lion. 'I have a dream!' he roared, and fell into a ditch, and was sick down his front, vomiting antelope bits.
Adam, a handsome adolescent, sighed, and sat upon a treestump, and read Nuclear Physics for Beginners. The Lion snored.
Presently, a talking mouse happened by.
'What's your name?' it asked.
'Adam,' said Adam.
'Really,' sniffed the mouse. 'The famous Father of the Human Race, I suppose?'
'Oh yes,' said the mouse. 'A likely story. Been reading the comics. And that mangy old torn sleeping it off is King of Beasts, feared by the White Witch and throughout the land?'
'Yes,' said Adam. 'And what's your name?'
'Heebiejeebie,' said the mouse, turning to go, with a twirl of his whiskers and a shake of his sword, 'and I'm not listening to another word of this nonsense.'
'Tell me a story,' said Adam quickly.
'Very well,' said Heebiejeebie, 'This story has the theme A WOMAN WON'T SAVE ADAM, and is entitled EVE'S SECOND DREAM.'
Once upon a time there was a man named Adam, and he was fortunate enough to be living at a time of grim international crisis; and one night, Adam, shedding bitter tears, and accompanied in the passenger seat by a lifesize blowup Marilyn Monroe latex doll, was driving back to New York from the very moving upstate funeral of his longtime companion Spot the Dog, when suddenly, the night tore apart with a soundless scream. One moment, the road was clear in his headlamps, and the next, white light, all-pervading, intense beyond description, flooded the world.
'Golly,' said Adam. He slammed on the brakes and the car screeched to a halt. The light took on the false tones of a photo negative. In the distance a monstrous, boiling mushroom stalk was rising at incredible speed into the sky.
He got out of the car. New York was fifty miles away. Adam knev; he was watching the nuclear incineration of millions.
Luckily, just at that moment, Lassie the collie dog bounded out from the roadside bushes, and rushed up to greet him.
'Hello Adam,' barked Lassie.
'Hello Lassie,' said Adam. He gave Lassie a great big hug, burying his face in the warm fur, and the dog's red tongue covered his nose; 'I dove you, Dassie.'
'I love you too, Adam.'
'Lassie, I'm feeling a bit down,' said Adam.
The gamma rays hit them. From the car, there came a long-drawn-out squeal followed by a muffled pop. Marilyn had exploded, '
Tell me a story,' said Adam.
'Woof,' barked Lassie, excitedly. 'Once upon a time -'
But Lassie was interrupted as a herd of zebras, manes and tails singed and smoking, rushed at incredible supersonic speed from the south up the road and upon them, and in their midst was Adam's friend Greed-Is-Good Rupert, riding Champion the Wonder Horse.
'Adam!' cried Rupert, reigning in Champion, 'what do zebras have that no other animals have? Baby zebras! Baomboom! Have I told you the epic of one man's hunt o'er the seven seas after killer monster quackquack Moby Duck?'
'I don't think so,' said Adam.
'Sorry,' said Rupert, 'no time now! We'll do lunch! Soon!'
And they were gone, and within seconds the sound of hooves had faded from the air.
'Fleeing Manhattan,' said Lassie. 'They graze in Central Park.'
'But it's only two minutes since the bomb exploded,' said Adam.
'When agitated,' said Lassie, 'they can travel at 2000mph, thus circumnavigating the globe twice a day.'
All at once, Lassie threw his four legs in the air and shuddered and died.
'Lassie!' cried Adam. But it was no use, and his hot tears splashed on the road, 'Damn!' he said. 'Everyone seems to be dying! Many without apparent motive! I hope I'm not next! Now who's going to tell me a story?'
Just then, psychobunny Black Roger flew down from the sky and landed a Adam's feet.
'Hello Roger,' said Adam,
'Hello Adam. This story is entitled THIRD DREAM,' said Black Roger, 'and it has the theme LOADSAMONEY WILL SAVE ADAM, and its moral is IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED, GET LOADSAMONEY.'
Once there was a King, and one morning, he summoned Ranulph, his man, to bring him his broth -
'Mummy, it says here that one day, Dr Watson, provoked beyond endurance, skewered the wicked lady on a fourteen-inch knife, and scattered her remains to the beggars in the marketplace,'
'Don't believe everything you read,'
'Kings ought to be a vegetarian, He should set an example.'
'Yes, well, he didn't have time, because he was too busy chopping the heads off horrid naughty little boys.'
'Reverend Sweet says anger blocks out the sunlight of God, Mummy.'
'Reverend Sweet can go -'
'What King was it?'
'Arthur. So King Arthur called for his man Walter and bade him saddle Destrier, his favourite Arab charger, that he might ride to see the marvel.'
'He had a lot of men.'
'I've mentioned two. Oh, thank God for that. At last. Is two a lot? Haven't they taught you to count yet at that school?'
'Bvroom! There's no call to be horrid, Mummy. You talk too much, Mummy, You should just drive, Are we nearly there now? How fast are we going now, Mummy?'
'Eighty miles per hour. With any luck we'll crash and be killed.'
'Mummy, are you dysfunctional?'
'No, you are. That's why we're going to see the child psychiatrist.'
'So what was the marvel?'
King Arthur rode Destrier far, far into the north, through ice and frost and howling winds, across tinkling becks and enchanted bridges, through tangled brakes and over lonely tors, through bogs of loathesome green slime and valleys of utter despond, and he had to fight giants and goblins and hags and spites and warlocks and werewolves and trolls; and one morning, he met Death, who rose from a stinking quag grinning, red weeds and thorns and berries dripping on His skull and shoulders.
'Ha!' cried Arthur, 'I am King! Every second I refashion myself! The aging process does not affect me! I can do anything!'
And with that, he swung Excalibur, and the sword screeched, atoms flying from it, and he walloped off Death's head, and rode on. And at last, high in the mountains, he came to the cave of a beautiful lady named Eve, who gave him meat and drink, and oats for the horse; and when the King had eaten and drunk his fill, she wheeled forth, from the shadows at the back, a plutonium radiation shock-therapy apparatus, with a little boy strapped into it, a wicked little monkey with a big scarlet sticky bandage muzzling his mouth, and a Valium drip in his arm, and his nasty twitchy hands, the hands that itched to press the big red button and destroy the world, tied beneath his feet; and Lady Eve irradiated the boy until he glowed golden, and the light from the boy lit the cave walls, illuminating the paintings of bison and bear, and bear and bison danced -
'What was the boy's name, exactly?'
Three Little Piggies
Recommended at Cambridge Writers Short Story Competition 2013
'What's this story called?'