Krill Rations

An excerpt from Michael Conley’s Flare and Falter

This story is excerpted from
Michael Conley’s Flare and Falter,
available now from Splice.

Day 1
Using a series of hops, clicks, and honks, the penguins have communicated their desire to be free. We have increased their krill rations. Do not approach the enclosure.

Day 4
We are aware that the penguins’ keening has escalated. Those exposed report uncontrollable sobbing as they are reminded of all their unspoken childhood sadnesses. Earplugs and tissues will be issued to all homes within a two-mile radius.

Day 7
We have treated the bars of their cages with invisible paint. You are reminded it is a capital offence to advocate on behalf of the penguins. Remain in your homes until further notice.

Day 12
All children must be taken to the zoo to see the penguins. Demonstrate how easy it is to come and go freely. Do not be alarmed if the penguins fling themselves at your family: the invisible bars are electrified.

Day 16
The penguins have realised that the concept of freedom is more complicated than they thought and have indicated that they no longer blame us. Administration will be handed back to the surviving zookeepers. Please rinse and return your earplugs.

Day 28
The penguins are completely silent. They lounge like tuxedoed lions and are no longer approaching the place where the invisible bars had been installed. We have recently been able to remove the bars and sell them off as scrap. The revenue we have generated will be returned to you in the form of a small tax rebate.

About Michael Conley

Michael Conley is a writer from Manchester and the author of Flare and Falter. His poetry has appeared in various literary magazines, and has been Highly Commended in the Forward Prize. He has published two pamphlets: Aquarium, with Flarestack Poets, and More Weight, with Eyewear. His prose work has taken third place in the Bridport Prize and was shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize. He tweets @mickconley.