Welcome to the Zoo, Miss. So-and-So. Come in.
Take your coat off, you’ll be much more comfortable. Yes, that’s it.
He’s got big blinking lizard-eyes, and spotty reptilian skin.
He’s sat in a bookcase, cross-legged like a Caucasian Buddha. Asexual, he’s
Looking at his fan of papers, reviewing my sentence and planning a full-stop before I’ve
His colleague, blocky and square-faced, sits down, silent.
The lizard won’t stop blinking or talking.
Would I like a glass of water?
Would I like a cup of bleach?
Would I like a live eel to chew on?
I’m alright for now, I say, sure to be gracious and humble and thankful. It begins, and I’m
smoother than windless water.
LIZARD: Tell me about Book No.1: Volume No.1.
LIZARD: That was terrible. Tell me about Book No.2: Volume (Irrelevant)
LIZARD: You’re answering the question wrong. No matter. On to Book No. 12.
I think that’s enough for now, Dr. Lizard (Phd.) That’s his colleague speaking.
He’s pig-eyed and beary, an animal-turned-circus-master
Lizard obeys, slinking into his bookcase.
Now, Miss So-and-So. It’s time for some fun.
He prowls to his own bookcase and, with a flourish, pulls off the curtain.
Out falls a woman (Ooooo! A woman!) and she’s a carcass, foul and punctured and
patched with gossamer fish-skin. Moths fly out of her in a clump of wingéd fury. (The
lizard eats them before they can go any further.)
This, Dr. Ringmaster (Phd.) says, is Sappho.
With trembling hands, I reach into the musky lead crumble where her face should be.
She is bloodless, just as I expected. Her ribs have burst into mothballs at somebody else’s
careless touch. There is a scroll of parchment where her liver once was.
Who has done this to her?, I cry. Who?
The Zookeepers are smiling. Their faces are blindingly white now, like masks of eggshell.
We did, Miss So-and-So.
We have a lovely gold bookcase for you.
Will you come in?
We interviewed Devki about her entry, and you can read the interview here.
The theme for the 2020 Orwell Youth Prize has been announced. For more information, including details on how to enter, visit the Orwell Youth Prize website.