Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Day The Teddies Convicted Me As A War Criminal

The next prompt from the daily writing challenge is this.

35. War and Peace: Write about a recent conflict.

A recent conflict.  What to choose?  Syria, Iraq, troubles in Israel and Palestine, Kashmir, Afghnistan, South Sudan and so many more places experiencing conflict and full blown wars.  Even in the United Kingdom there is conflict.  We're not (officially) at war but each year members of our armed forces die in combat situations.  And conflict isn't just war.  And peace isn't just the absence of war.  Hate crimes are increasing and today's news sees a local mosque daubed with the slogan "MUSLIMS OUT!!!"  Three exclamation marks.

By the time this is published - in three days time - there might be another war.  It's possible.  There may be more conflicts too as the far-right, the neo-Nazis, the political extremists, the religious extremists, the far-left and so many others with their varieties of bigotry and hatred and greed act to further their cause.  With ISIS on one side and Trump on the other maybe the innocents must stand in the middle, afraid.  Maybe it's time for each one of us must lift both of our hands, to left and right, and boldly proclaim that enough is enough.

So which conflict to choose in these days of uncertainty?  What to write about considering all the unhappy things happening every day?

This conflict:

Amethyst: A pacifist. Not part of this tale.
The day the soft toys went to war I was not even there.

Though I was later blamed for the whole thing and convicted in the Teddy Tribunal I do not believe my actions were enough to lead to the destruction of that day.  I was acting just like any respectable leader and I didn't behave in a way that would be misunderstood by any bedroom owner.  I say it again.  I wasn't even there.  How can it be my fault?

They said I was an unjust bedroom owner.  That I had treated my soft toy friends unequally, given some of them extra rights and taken away the rights of others.  They said I created a stuffed animal underclass who had to fight even to get noticed while I'd turned other toys into aristocrats who got to live on my bed.  They pointed out that I'd even exiled some of the friends to another room entirely.

Wouldn't any person act the same way with their toys?  Don't we all have favourites who sleep with us, toys who get cuddled and who we deem to be more important to us than others?  That's only natural.  Any friend of the friends would agree I'm sure.  It would be a rare person to create a soft toy rota and switch around the friends in strict rotation so over the course of a year each would spend the same number of nights on the bed.  In any case, my giant dog Samantha doesn't even fit on the bed with me.  Well she fits, just not with enough space around her for me to sleep.

And if we have as many little friends as I had, wouldn't it make sense to start separate communities throughout the house?  For one thing it eases overcrowding.  I wasn't dumping Gerry and Buttons and lots of others in a ghetto.  I was trying to give them a better home.

And then the bed toys complained too.  They said their life wasn't good.  They said they wanted to be able to spend more time with the other friends rather than being stuck on the bed and having to shout out to them if they wanted any chance of being heard.  They put in an extra complaint against me at the tribunal too.  They moaned that it was all very well being cuddled at night but it wasn't a satisfactory life because I would let go of them in my sleep and push them out of the bed.  They said I should have made arrangements so that they wouldn't be able to fall to the floor.  It was James in particular to testified to the tribunal about the health and safety regulations I was breaking through my terrible treatment.

The bed friends, the chair friends, and the lounge friends raised their voices against me in closed session.  The judge was a friend too - a bear called David who had once been a treasured bed friend but who was now forced to live among the chair friends, some of whom treated him less than well.  They were jealous that he had ever been a bed friend even though he too had fallen out plenty of times.  And the jury?  They were soft toys.  Small soft toys.  There was Merghost, Little Dog, and Ram.

I didn't stand a chance.  I should have been tried by my peers.  Not by a bunch of soft toys who, I believe, were only trying to deflect the blame from themselves.  As I said, I wasn't there.  When I left everything had seemed so peaceful and very tidy and I'd told them all individually that I loved them.  Given every one of them a big cuddle.  "See you next week," I said.  "Be good."  I didn't do anything wrong.  I didn't.  I swear it.  It was their doing and they got it all wrong.  A human court would have quashed all charges, thrown them out and laughed that anyone could ever have thought to call me a war criminal.  I'm not a criminal.  I loved them all.  The bed friends, the chair friends and the lounge friends.  All of them.

It's not as if I was treating them badly.  I never threw them around.  I never forced them into compromising situations or arranged forced marriages between them.  I had learned the hard way not to do that when, as a small child, I had forced an orange and a brown bear into holy matrimony and then forced them to adopt a small bear and a giraffe.  You could always feel the tension in my bedroom.  The material was imbued with static electricity and every time I touched the orange bear I'd get an electric shock.  Eventually I had to legally dissolve the family and allow my toys the privilege of forming their own relationships.

It was Erica whose actions started the war.  Not mine.  And it was all the rest who chose to enter into battle.  Blame Erica, not me.  She's the one whose words led to dissent and she had been speaking secretly for a while.  She was a chair friend.  A unicorn who could become a cushion.  I confess that very often she had other friends piled on top of her.  A few times she had me on top of her.  I don't think that's wrong.  She's a cushion.  That's what she was made for.  But she was an argumentative unicorn and I know she wishes she could have impaled me with her horn.  If I'd known what trouble she would be I would never have fallen in love with her and brought her home.  Never.

She began a campaign for teddy social justice.  That's fair, in teddy terms.  Unheard of in human terms.  We struggle to give equal rights to each other.  Why do they think that toys deserve better than I was giving them?  Erica had her views and found they were shared by most of my friends.  I keep calling them my friends even now although they're really not.  Old habits.  If only Erica had known what tact was and how a campaign could be organised that might have led to results.  Like, if the toys had told me there were problems?  They didn't tell me a thing, preferring not to break the "pretend to be inanimate" rule.  They've broken it now though.  Bloody toys, prepared to break any rule when it suits them.

Her language wasn't charitable.  She believed herself to have suffered greatly under some imagined tyranny and her words were hate filled.  She talked of me as if I was Satan and I'd turned heaven into hell.  She talked of the bed toys as if they were despotic overlords forcing the chair toys into slavery.  She even found ways to preach hate against the lounge toys because they got to watch television sometimes.

Erica converted all of the chair toys to her cause, a set of toys outnumbering all the others put together.  They waited patiently until I went away.  I didn't have a clue that anything was wrong.  I thought I was running a happy home filled with happy soft toys.  How terribly mistaken can a woman be?  Once I'd said my last farewell and left for my holiday Erica didn't waste any time.  She rallied her troops and went to war against the other toys.  They others fought back bravely and Percy did his best to call for peace talks.  The lounge toys heard the commotion in the bedroom and they soon arrived and joined in the battle.

It was terrible.  When I returned my bedroom had been destroyed.  All the bedding ripped up.  The springs of the chair were embedded in the ceiling.  My mirrors were smashed, my clothes shredded, my books torn to pieces and the shelves lay on the floor.

Four bed friends had died in the war.  Two lounge friends.  And seven chair friends.  Erica herself was fatally wounded when my bedside lamp fell on her and the light bulb shattered.  It was carnage.  I thought initially I'd been burgled but Percy decided it was time to speak up.  That surprised me greatly because I hadn't known that he could speak to me.  He gasped, "There was a war," and passed out.

I was blamed for everything.  Erica was hailed as a martyr to a cause and the soft toys swore they would never again be downtrodden or forced into an arbitrary class system.  Nobody would be exiled to other rooms of the house.  From that day on toys would be allowed to live wherever they wanted.

I was convicted of course and sentenced to be treated as I had treated the teddy population.  Sometimes I would be allowed to sleep in my own bed but on the condition that part way through the night the strongest soft toys would push me out onto the floor where I'd have to sleep for the remainder of the night, without a duvet even in winter.  Otherwise I'd have to sleep on the chair - covered in toys just as Erica had been - or I would be forced out of the bedroom entirely.  In a matter of leniency and mercy I would be allowed to sleep on the cushions of the sofa rather than having to perch on the back of it.

That's my life.  For now.  Subjugated by a bunch of teddies I thought were my well treated, much loved friends.  I have a plan though.  I'm going to empty my house of teddies.  All soft toys, gone.  Next week I'm getting help from some of my human friends.  I've explained the situation to them as best as I could and though they think I'm quite insane that have agreed to visit together and bring eight big sacks with them.  Then we're going to bundle all my ex-friends into those sacks.  In whatever order happens.  Each sack will then be taken to a different charity shop, none of which are in my home town.   Even my most beloved friends would be disposed of.  If they wanted to protest, who could they protest to?  If I was more strict we'd be taking the sacks to the rubbish dump.  Let them live out their days there.  But no, even after all they've done to themselves and to me, I can't bring myself to do that.

I will show more mercy to them than they showed to me.  They're going to charity shops.  Even though that brings a risk that they will take rebellion to other houses.  Perhaps to your house.

I will be free.  I'm very sorry if one of my old friends brings ruin to you and your household.

Very sorry indeed.  I just want to be free.

[1793 words plus introduction]

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