‘Two hundred and forty million years in power,’ Tony grumbled at the TV. ‘It’s time for a change.’
‘They’re still popular,’ observed his wife, Kate. She took some trilobites out of the oven, slid them on to a plate and sat down on the sofa next to Tony.
‘Not with me,’ Tony said. ‘It’s one rule for them and another for everyone else. I’m sick of it. Remember the swamp plague? To keep everyone safe, we were banned from leaving our homes, while they were living it up at the tar pits.’
Kate offered him a trilobite, but he shook his head. ‘Tar pits are overrated,’ she shrugged. ‘Too sticky.’
‘That’s not the point,’ groaned Tony. He swiped at a giant mosquito which was thirsty for his blood.
‘Well, I’m not going to vote for them, if that makes you feel any better,’ Kate said, ‘but the other party are just the same.’ She deftly plucked the mosquito out of the air and ran over to a pot which was bubbling on the stove.
Tony fixed her with a frown. ‘The opposition are not the same. They’re a different species!’
‘Same principles,’ Kate said, as she stirred the insect into the stew. ‘The rich get the best swamps, breeding grounds, gourmet trees, et cetera, while the poor are given the muddiest watering-holes.’
‘Shh!’ Tony said. They looked at the TV screen, where a tyrannosaurus rex was speaking into a microphone at a press conference. She wore pearl earrings, despite having no ear lobes, and a matching necklace. A leather handbag dangled from one tiny arm. Her clawed feet were forced into enormous court shoes.
‘I am Margaret Cruncher. Vote for Dinosaur Party,’ she growled, wrapping her enormous razor-toothed jaw around the syllables with difficulty. ‘Dinosaur Party help you buy swamp. Renting swamp is for losers. Dinosaur Party go to war with pterodactyls. They not real dinosaurs. Dinosaur Party tackle cost of living with one free boulder for each household. Cut tax for watering-hole owners. Dinosaur Party support climate change by making it hotter. Cold weather no good for dinosaurs. Vote for Dinosaur Party.’ She let out an almighty roar, which blew away the front row of the audience. As they picked themselves up, she adjusted her handbag and grinned. ‘Or you get eaten,’ she added, licking her lips.
‘Eloquent and stylish as ever,’ Kate said. ‘The Daily Tail-Spike will be praising her on the front page.’
Tony picked up a trilobite, examined the unfortunate creature and put it back on the plate. ‘I wish there was something else to eat,’ he sighed. ‘I’m fed up of subsisting on insects, arthropods, tree bark and old-age pensioners.’
‘Waste not, want not,’ recited Kate. ‘I have to agree with you, though. If the opposition were offering different food, such as woolly mammoth, dodo, or salted caramel brownies, they’d definitely get my vote.’
‘Let’s hear what they’ve got to say.’ Tony gestured at the TV, where a man had confidently stepped up to the microphone. He wore a smart loin-cloth, a striped tie and shiny loafers. His forehead was beaded with sweat in the high humidity. The air was always hot and damp in the jungles of Britain.
‘Vote for the Human Party,’ he said in a bold voice. ‘Humans have been treated as second-class citizens ever since they first evolved, two million years ago. It’s time for a fairer and more equal society. A society where there is decent education, healthcare, housing and transport for all, regardless of whether you’re warm-blooded or cold-blooded, sapiens or sauropod. The Human Party will increase taxes for the wealthy and spend more on public services for a society which benefits everyone. Vote for the Human Party and you are voting for change. Vote for -’
Suddenly, he was gone. The tyrannosaurus rex worked her jaw furiously and swallowed. Then she spat out a loafer. ‘Dinosaurs don’t want change,’ she said. ‘Vote for Dinosaur Party.’
‘What a pity,’ commented Kate. She went over to the stove and turned down the heat of the lava. ‘He sounded good.’
Tony switched off the TV, disgusted. ‘This is not a democracy. Someone needs to stand up to these arrogant, bullying, elitist dinosaurs.’
‘Stand up and be devoured,’ Kate said.
‘That’s the problem,’ Tony said, angrily. ‘You can’t speak out for fear of becoming dinner for a megalosaurus or a carnotaurus.’
Kate carried the plate of trilobites into the kitchen. ‘What about the vegetarian dinosaurs?’ she wondered. ‘Do you think they would help depose the carnivores?’
‘I doubt it.’ Tony gave a mirthless laugh. ‘They’re happy that humans are around. We’re the ones who get eaten, not them.’
‘So what can we do?’ Kate said.
Tony thought about it. He paced around the house, huge millipedes swerving from beneath his feet. A dragonfly, almost as big as him, batted its wings outside the window, buzzing loudly. Cursing, he drew down the blinds, wishing that insects would evolve to be smaller. They were a terrible nuisance, especially when they crept into your bed.
‘Option one,’ he counted on his fingers, ‘is to wait for some natural disaster to occur which will be fatal to the dinosaurs and not us, but that might never happen. Option two, engineer a disease which will wipe them out, but I don’t know how to do that.’
Kate interrupted. ‘You didn’t say you wanted to kill the dinosaurs, just to stand up to them.’
‘That’s right,’ Tony said, ‘we don’t want to stoop to their level.’
‘We need to be smarter than them,’ Tony said. ‘Dinosaurs are more intelligent than they used to be, but they still have relatively small brains. It’s mainly their size, ferocity and physical strength which make dinosaurs the leaders. I think we should harness the power of social media.’
‘Really?’ Kate was sceptical. ‘What good will that do?’
Tony got his phone out of the pocket in his loin-cloth. ‘Pretty much all of the dinosaurs are on Lizardbook, Saurogram or Roarer. It should be easy enough to create some fake accounts and some fake news. We can bring down that ghastly tyrannosaurus and discredit the Dinosaur Party.’
‘You can try,’ Kate said. ‘I’m not getting involved. If you get eaten, don’t say I didn’t warn you.’
To Tony’s surprise, his plan worked amazingly well. No one had ever thought of using the internet for political purposes before and soon his posts were going viral. Tony smiled to himself whenever he heard dinosaurs gossiping to each other about the latest revelations. Margaret Cruncher kept a stash of her own unhatched eggs in her famous handbag, as snacks on the go. Her policy of waging war on the pterodactyls was only because her pterodactyl husband had left her for an ichthyosaur. She had a lot of shares in the trilobite farms, while most of the Cabinet had lucrative contracts with boulder supply companies. Collectively they claimed a billion pounds in expenses last year, so the taxpayers had forked out for items such as champagne parties at the tar pits, luxury swamp spas and saurian speedboats. Worst of all, a private paper had been leaked, on which Margaret Cruncher had scrawled, in huge letters with a crayon gripped between her little arms, the dinosaurs she hated the most. Triceratops were at the top of the list, because their armour looked stupid and they had no sense of humour. The triceratops community were very angry indeed and everyone kept out of their way even more than usual.
By this time, the Human Party had gone through about five or six leaders, while Margaret Cruncher had enjoyed some good meals, which was the same thing. The Human Party were starting to gain some sympathy even from dinosaur voters. Tony wasn’t worried about his social media manipulation being discovered. IT technicians were always humans, as dinosaurs had no patience with computer coding. He was certain that if any humans did suspect him, they wouldn’t tell. This was all so new that the dinosaurs in the government were slow to react and of course they didn’t like change. As the election approached, there was definitely a buzz and it wasn’t just the mosquitoes.
‘I think it’s had a significant impact,’ Tony said, peering at his phone. ‘Some of the fake news isn’t even mine. It’s like lava rushing down the sides of a volcano, sweeping up boulders as it goes.’
Kate smiled. ‘Will it be enough to topple the mighty Dinosaur Party? Stay tuned!’
A week later, they were in front of the TV, again with the mandatory plate of roasted trilobites.
‘Not for me,’ Tony pushed the plate away.
‘They’re not bad if you add a lot of salt and pepper,’ Kate said.
Tony looked intently at the screen. ‘Quiet, it’s time!’
As the first results started to trickle in, he felt deflated. A victory for the Dinosaur Party, then another, then another.
‘Told you so,’ Kate said. Tony didn’t have the heart to reply. He kept watching as result after result declared a triumph for the dinosaurs. Kate went to bed while he remained slumped on the sofa. Every so often, he felt an insect crawling over him, but he wasn’t bothered any more. Nothing seemed to matter. He was about to switch off, when the next result came in. Incredibly, a win for the Human Party at last! Tony sat up and paid attention. Now he realised that the constituencies which returned their results first were primarily dinosaur residences. Those areas populated mainly by humans or by a mixture of species would be more likely to vote human.
‘Yes!’ he punched the air. ‘Come on, humans!’ He couldn’t wait to see the grin wiped off that terrifying tyrannosaur’s face when her party lost. The election was pretty much neck and neck, but the constituencies still to declare had a lot of human voters. What a fantastic night! This was exciting, this was unprecedented, this was history in the making.
Tony never got to find out who won the election, because that’s when the asteroid hit. His last thought, as the air filled with toxic dust, was that this was the end of Margaret Cruncher and, even better, the end of roasted trilobites.
I originally wrote this story a few months ago for my new book, A Strange Belief: Weird Stories. It didn’t quite fit into the collection, so I present it here for your enjoyment. Image of ‘Margaret Cruncher’ created using free vector graphics of a T-Rex and a handbag from Pixabay, with my alterations added in MS Paint.