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3. Cork Life 5. Pilot Light

August 5th, 2020

Sprout Wars

Glossy white ships, with deep, round hulls sail on the soft white sea which stretches out to the edges of the battle-field world where a great war is to be fought. Like the dead souls of Valhalla, who wake each morning to fight and die, only to rise again, this annual feast for the hideous creatures that prey with near-insatiable hunger on the assembled will be repeated for many years to come. Two in the afternoon on the holiest day of our Lord, his birth, the various armies stand rank upon rank, in battalions of oil and salt, steam against roast, surrounded by the high seats of their would-be-arbiters. In the centre of the field, piled high, still steaming from their long stint in a heavy-bottomed tray, are the fat golden troops of Potato, famed for their solid armour, impervious to all but the sharpest or heaviest blows. Beneath that hard exterior, however, they are the softest of the lot, and would be easily brought down by the liquid weapons of those who dared harness the power of Gravy. Beside the heavy shells of Potato are their close compatriots the Parsnip, who for years have attempted a similar crisp outer layer, but more often than not stand, waving their blackened tips in a poor attempt at caramelisation. On the table-top mountains other side, far from their close relative the Parsnip, and their rival Potato, nestled amongst protective Broccoli allies, the army of Carrot lie in wait, split into two de facto governments of sliced and chopped, one unit ready to slide, softer than the crunch of their disc-like companions. The Broccoli themselves, act as great blossoming shields, with little regard for their own safety they bloom above their more pliable teammates, sacrificing their outer fronds even as their trunks root into the bed of buttery orange below. Carrot, and Potato form the core belligerents, with the others taking sides, and some striking out independently, for their own sake, or under the banner of chaos. One such individual people are the Sprouts. Their insular battles have been waged against the rest of veg-kind for decades, with new strains attempting to break away from their hereditary hatred. A new genetic mutation may have provided a more generally accepted sweetness, but that doesn't stop the most hard-core of the Sprouts claiming independence from any and every veg that might come their way. Their only allies are the humble Peas, who are little more than slaves in the great war games that wrack the dinner table, acting as little more than cannon fodder on all sides for their larger, more well respected peers. On the side of Potato, along with Parsnip, sit the sludgy remains of the once hulking giant Swedes who, in small numbers are easily wiped out, but come together to from great structures and palisades, with mashed Turnip attempting something similar on which the Carrots fortify. Green beans, after campaigning for many years to be distanced from the pea underlings act as a universal arbitrator amongst the factions, using their slim stealth to maintain some sense of decorum when the infantry come clashing together with the tremendous din of knife scraping towards fork. Horseradish remains impartial, their fiery temper making them hard to ally. Likewise mustard sits ready on the sidelines of the war, prepared to set alight any foolish veg who strays into battle unguarded. There were talks of other Sauces joining the fray, but they seem to have hidden, perhaps from fear, perhaps from tradition, from today's battle. So the stage is set, with every vegetable standing with passionate readiness to fight to the last biting soldier. Suddenly a great clamour rises up from the distance and with heralding coos another ship, larger than the rest, with a huge hull and strong lip comes sailing through to rest at one end of the great table. All around the vegetables begin to quiver and sweat as their leaders attempt to keep peace as the arrival of a great sizzling beast stirs fear in the weaker hearts of Carrot, Potato, Pea, Bean, and Sauce alike. There can be no mistaking the rasping shrill sound that accompanies this new untraditional force. The vegetables quickly reform ranks, the commanding Potato looking across to the Carrot's two governors, and seeing in their eyes the same fear that grips his troops. White flags are raised all around the table, coming to rest as the vegetables form an alliance agains this new horror that between them they cannot hope to face. Evil follows evil and, when all seems lost a new combatant, in two high walled ships that land amongst the others, the signs of liquid already dripping from their lofty spouts. There is a pause, a high, ringing note, then the sound of death in a prayer from above. Without another second to loose, hell is unleashed upon the quaking soldiers and war begins. The battle itself is swift, and the casualties great. The Parsnips are wiped out in the first bout, having no resistance against the Gravy onslaught which carries with it many squealing peas, the heads of parsnips, and detached Broccoli limbs. Potatoes are opened at their weak points and crushed in a tide of thick nuttiness. Carrots are speared and cut clean in half, with the indecency of finding themselves dipped into the cloying Sauces that edge the battle plates. Even the late arrival of some crisp Puddings can't save the forces of Vegetable who are quickly overwhelmed by the pure brute force of their seared enemy, who, with a tender, yet unyielding power, resist any attack from even the Potatoes' offensives. In a great surge the Red Meat finds victory and is destroyed at once, leaving the survivors of the conflict terrified, at the mercy of the god-sent mediators above. The aftermath resembles a dripping nightmare; the survivors cling to life, solitary Peas half drowned, the mangled body of a Potato with their former enemy, a Carrot, lying badly wounded beside them. The clean-up is swift, and the remains of Sauce washed away by the sea, those with wounds that heal given haven, only to be murdered in the coming days. In the end, none survive. But wait till next year, when the war-games will begin again, and the huge armies will form, gathering round to take on whichever Duck, Goose, or Turkey will set themselves before them.

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