Tell A Tale in 500 Words

No Depth By Jessica Woodward

The day had arrived and you had no option to miss it. There were posters on the inside of every toilet door so that you had to remember it even at your most solitary moments. There were flyers on the coffee machine and tread-proof stickers on the stairs. Work had become one great advertisement for one sole thing and you could not move from one end of a room to another without reading the words 'TODAY, LARA'S VOICE WILL BREAK.'

It was to happen at 2:30pm precisely, in the Staff Common Room. Lara would be administered with an injection so strong that her vocal chords would instantly rupture under the strain and you would never again hear her gentle soprano tones, because she would sound like a man for the rest of her life. You had paid for this to happen, as had everybody else, under the obligation of visibly contributing to the Good Cause.

You edged into the Common Room, your insides tingling with a mixture of pain at the sacrifice of a beautiful thing and guilty fascination at getting to see what it looked like, the way some people feel before they sit down to watch a horror film. You manoeuvred through the intrigued crowds so that you could get a clear view, and then wondered if you would be more comfortable shielded a little. Before you could think anymore, it began, the white-coated doctor approaching with the needle, the suspenseful asking of Lara whether she was sure she wanted to go ahead, the insertion of the drug while Lara sat there beaming.

She spoke her first words as a bass and you felt as if some innocent part of you had been stabbed. People wanted to know more about the cause she was promoting and she responded with what would once have been a giggle. “I don't really know much about the charity. I was doing it more for the CV, actually. I've already updated LinkedIn. You guys should make sure you have a charitable sacrifice on your list of achievements, it's a competitive world!”

That afternoon, the payslips came round. You sat at your desk, gazing down at that Private and Confidential list of figures and knowing that they weren't real, thinking of the slice that would come off them when the direct debits kicked in - those hard-earned donations you privately made to causes that mattered to you. And you thought of the creatures you never ate and the fuels you never burned and you sighed, because you had made quiet efforts to do right, even in a world where people thought being noticed was the same thing as making change happen.

see more submissions for the Tell A Tale in 500 Words click here