Welcome to the FINAL instalment of Story Soup! Thank you to everyone who voted for how Gregory awakes. ‘Other’ suggestions included ‘curled up in the grass sucking his thumb’ and ‘as a young man who takes control of the situation’, but with 38% of the vote, it has been decided that Gregory will awake feeling decidedly Zonked-out…
Gregory Bedcarrots and the brand new day.
When Gregory disappeared into the dark void, or wherever it was he went, it felt a little bit like the sensation of not yet having been born. Of course, I don’t expect many of you to be able to remember the days leading up to your birth, but if you can, perhaps you will agree with the description of the womb as the ‘happiest place on earth’. Gregory was not aware of who he was or where he had been. He didn’t know whether he was a person, an elephant or a dolphin; he did not even know what people, elephants or dolphins were. He felt fleeting pangs of fear or confusion, but only in an impulsive irrational way; on the whole he was rather joyful. He wasn’t aware of wanting very much, but if he could have put his compulsions into words he would have asked only one thing: “Don’t let anything change.”
Gregory had no idea how long he had been suspended in this marvellous void— perhaps it had been forever— but all of a sudden, and all too quickly, the feeling of euphoria began to slip away, bringing in its place a sense of falling. Somewhere inside of him Gregory was aware that he was hurting, but somewhere outside of him a bright light beckoned. So, not knowing any better, he closed his eyes, shoved a soggy thumb into his mouth and hoped for the best.
When Gregory finally awoke, he became aware that he was standing in a dark hollow space. He squinted in confusion as he ran his hands over the rough corky walls that encased him. He was in a tree trunk. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. As he brought a weary hand across his face he felt something warm and sticky on his lips. The remnants of a pie.
“Oh yes,” he said to himself sleepily. “I remember.”
Gregory leant against the bark and let out a long cool sigh. He felt exhausted. He had just run for several minutes after stealing a pie from his pretty neighbour, Penny Parsnip. Penny was the sort of girl who makes a boy like Gregory spend hours at a time practising his smile in the mirror. For weeks Gregory had dreamt about bringing her to his secret hiding place but when the opportunity had finally arisen that very morning he had simply panicked and bolted.
“Perhaps one of these days I’ll ask her out,” he whispered determinedly. “When I’m a little bit bolder.” He gave a great self-pitying sigh and absentmindedly began to scratch his knee. “Thank you for looking after me,” he continued softly to the tree, wishing for a moment that he were a carefree knobbly tree, rather than a twelve year old boy with acne.
The tree, of course, did not reply, for this is not that kind of story.
Gregory could not help but feel a little bit lonely wedged inside the tree trunk. A secret hiding place is only really fun with somebody to share it with and he was now kicking himself for rejecting Penny so rashly. He felt that if anyone saw him they would think he looked rather pathetic, like a friendless horse pretending to be playing hide and seek.
However, he was not going to stay alone for much longer; something had begun to shuffle through the forest. Gregory’s heart started beating loudly as he strained his ears to listen. Whatever it was, it was grunting and wheezing and sounding distinctly un-human as it came closer and closer. Gregory edged closer to the hole in the tree trunk and waited. He had a funny feeling it was going to be an interesting day.
Thank you to everyone who took part in the story!