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Elegy for a YellowjacketTim Kiely

Tim Kiely
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This story was shortlisted for the Writers Rebel Flash Fiction Competition.


The first day after his life ended, Martin Willoughby simply lay full-length on the kitchen floor staring at the ceiling, clutching his bright yellow safety vest.

The walls were now a few eighths of an inch thicker with the insulation that had been installed the day before. He imagined them closing in on him, crushing him. He found himself oddly disappointed when they didn’t.

Sunlight spilled indecently over the floorboards. Outside it was quiet enough that the new air-source heat-pump could be heard, pulsing gently away, making his stomach turn.

He remembered the smiles on the faces of the technicians who had come to install it, wearing their own vests so like his own, except theirs had been issued by the Government – and that was what it was, no matter whether it now called itself ‘The People’s Assembly’, no matter whether some bunch of hippies had filtered themselves in and ‘voted’ for it, it was the Government, and it was sending people into his home, putting bike racks on his street, telling him how to live his life.

“Morning mate – come for the climate-proofing!”

Martin’s response had caused some confusion. The technician had tilted their head.

“Really? Weird. We did a survey, everyone on this street picked a day.”

Then they shrugged.

“Must have defaulted to one. Anyway, it won’t be long mate.”

At first he had wondered whether he should bar the doors. Had he taken down all those ULEZ cameras, driven his white van in the Freedom Convoys, stood staunchly against the Great Reset for so long, only for the Enemy to just walk into his home?

But then, he had wondered for a moment too long, and once they were over the threshold something died in his throat as they got to work. Every objection dissolved away almost as soon as he thought of it: he wouldn’t have to pay for it; they’d be done that day; and his house would be warmer and cheaper to run by the end of it.

“All change round here, mate!”

The technician’s grin had disarmed him completely, as his house transformed around him.

As they worked, the team had uncovered an old wasp’s nest somewhere under the floorboards. Sometime over winter there had been a dying-off, and now it was just there, taking up space. For a moment, Martin imagined the throng of yellowjackets, their angry buzzing suddenly silent.

And then the technicians’ work had been done, and the day had ended, and with it his old life.

Martin didn’t know how long it took for him to get off the sun-dappled floor and look out over the back garden. In the months of fighting against the Change he had let it grow wild. Somewhere he thought he heard the droning of bees among the new growth of bluebells. It began to dawn on him that there would be many more days after this one.

Martin Willoughby took in the new world for a minute, then put the kettle on.


Tim Kiely is a criminal barrister, writer and Green Party campaigner based in East London. He is the author of three pamphlets of poetry: ‘Hymn to the Smoke’, ‘Plaque for the Unknown Socialist’; and ‘No Other Life’, ( @TimKiely1 (Instagram and X.) 

Tim writes: “I was trying to imagine what it would be like to have spent so long standing in the way of any moves towards to a greener, fairer world (for whatever reason) – but then found that this world had happened anyway. I like to think the story is optimistic!”