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Second Prize: Ready or Not

Second winner of our Short Story Competition

Who's been waiting anxiously for us to get our act together and finally post the second story of our Short Story Competition on the topic How permaculture can help us in an uncertain future?

I'm sorry for the delay, life has been busy for the three PEAs, but here it finally is. We love this story and disagreed on which was the winning entry to our competition. The last story by Sharon gave us an optimistic picture of permaculture ways saving the world. You can read this story here. This story is different. It shows us a world that has become difficult and dangerous, but in which permaculture helps us accept those changes and live a happy life nonetheless.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Ready or Not

by Tim Darby


On this enchanted morning, the sun shines like a smile. And the flickering shadows dance with the dewy footprints of five young children (2 boys, 3 girls) playing in amongst the long grass and dandelions down by the creek.

The first hour of the first day of their first school holidays. Summer stretches endless ahead, the colour of hope and smelling of dreams.

The warbling call of a magpie mingles with their laughter and the whispered secrets of their favourite game – 99, 100… coming… ready or not!


Some time’s gone by and the five friends meet again, older now, with children of their own. Like an echo of the past those summers come and gone, and come and gone… each now a little hotter than the last… and it seems a little longer. Last year the old creek ran dry.

There’s talk of food riots in Mexico, somewhere another famine, somewhere another drought… but it’s only talk and that’s all so far away. They fill their bellies and ward off those worries with another bottle of full-bodied red… move, just a little too quickly, to more pleasant things… a new lounge from IKEA, a fascinating documentary on gypsy flamenco, another trip overseas.

Later, amongst the clatter of empty bottles, the sun slides earthward and in the failing light they huddle closer to the last glowing embers of their BBQ. Their back like wagon trains form a circle, keeping safe from something, not quite seen, not understood. Something changing out there in the half-light… coming… ready or not.


Some time’s gone by and summers come and come, and never seem to go. One is still alive. Alone… and she’s hungry. Always hungry.

Her fingers, once so adept on a keyboard, now feel clumsy as she holds a spear made from an aerial and a piece of broken glass.

Her world is simple once again.

She moves carefully and quietly. Listening… for anything that moves… anything to eat, anything to steal.

She’s a survivor… only just. She’s quiet, careful and cunning.

Somewhere to her left, a tiny sound. A twig snaps. She turns. Coming… ready or not.

3b – An alternative ending

Some time’s gone by. They meet again, as five for the last time.

The youngest is dying.

She rests, not in a pristine white hospital bed, but in the dappled shade of an orchard she planted, with her own hands. Blossom turning to fruit.

No flashing lights or wailing sirens. No miracle drugs or last-minute reprieve. Death comes too easily in these times. A fall, a wound, poison blood.

It pays to be careful. And so they are – careful. Is that a bad thing? To be full of care? To savour clear water when it rains and husband brackish when it doesn’t? To mend a torn coat and snuggle in its warmth. To nurture a plant from seed, to seedling, to fruit?

Her life has been short and hard… but sweet. And her passing will be sad but not tragic.

She closes her eyes.

“My time is coming… and I’m ready.”

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