Running With The Bulls
It was the astrologers who benefited the most when Government decided to cancel April and May.
Everyone had agreed that something needed to be done as a result of the climate emergency, but as we struggled for survival, our birth signs had increasingly become our tribes. The Carnivores were the first to see the decree as a conspiracy, getting rid of those months meant we’d lose Taureans, one of the only two red meat signs, but they were always angry so we just ignored them.
Still, my Taurean husband treated it with more equilibrium than me. As a fire starter, I knew Aries folk would always be safe, but it was still a shock to watch Bob open the official letter with his new date of birth so casually.
Just like that I was now married to a Libran. Bob and I had only got together after a month of astrological consultations. It had snowed on the August day we’d married, a favourable sign we’d been told for earth and fire signs. But now that had been changed forever. ‘It may have its advantages,’ Bob said, weighing both sides of the argument. I could already tell this was going to be maddening.
Because of the demand, we had to wait three weeks before we could see a Stargazer about the changed dynamic of our marriage. Around us, couples we knew – even the happiest – were splitting up. Who knew so many placid Taureans felt they’d been in the wrong skin for so long. Our gurus, those mostly white men who spoke softly and at length on our television sets every night, started shouting that only they, their faces getting increasingly redder and redder, could tell us our destiny. Hadn’t we all proved we were incapable of rational decision making?
It was Bob who pointed out that one of the chief gurus had previously been a Taurean like him, but was now a Gemini. ‘And look at their track records,’ he said with all the infuriating self-importance of a new Libran.
I missed my cosy old bull so much, but I had to concede he had a point.
By the time our appointment with the Stargazer had come round, we weren’t the only ones to have lost faith in destiny. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to believe, but more that we were refusing to have our identities controlled. This was when Government played their cleverest move yet. They announced that, before the next election, we had to fill in new census forms. All of us were going to be allowed to choose which one of the existing eleven star signs we wanted for ourselves, the one we felt fitted us best. An underground ex-Taurean group was quickly established, painting hieroglyphics of bulls on every Starbucks window and though Bob declared he was sticking to Libra, I often caught him staring at these paintings nostalgically.
The fluidity appealed to the rest of us too. Who might we be? Self-appointed leaders of each sign held debates enticing us to join them, and we were encouraged to hate everyone who wasn’t us. As the voiceless ones (mostly Sagittarians) at last felt listened to, I veered between Virgo and Scorpio before finally picking Leo. It was a personal choice. Things had been fine when Bob had been a Taurean because he let me do what I want, but now we were continually weighing both sides of every argument, then one of us needed to take charge.
We became both empowered and inflamed as around us the rain kept falling and nights got longer and longer. In fact, there were so many marches and clever banners and fights that Bob and I sat glued to the news every night. At least it meant that we were far too busy to notice when the stars finally stopped shining.
Sarah Salway is a novelist, poet and writing tutor based in Kent. A former Canterbury Laureate, in 2008 she co-authored, with Lynne Rees, the book Messages, which consisted of 300 pieces of 300 words each, and led to the successful international project, Your Messages. She remains passionate about flash fiction and has been published widely. Her novels and poems have been translated into several languages. www.sarahsalway.co.uk
Steven John – Special Features & Fiction Editor