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The Wait of the Emperor

by Tallulah Deeks

The Wait of the Emperor

Read by Emilio Doorgasingh from the BBC Radio Drama Company.

Was I ready? Too late, she was off. As her foot disappeared below the surface of the water it was as if all light had drained out of my body. Would she ever make it back? She had left me with the white package, tucked away, balanced between my feet and my belly. The last hope made its way calmly down to the horizon and then total darkness. The cold was back again and as it crept over my head and then down my body it was like my worst nightmare had begun. The wait had started!

Terror for my wife and I took over my body as the blizzards started and the sea churned. Me and my black and white army of friends huddled so close and squeezed together so tightly that we couldn't even see our bellies. Every one of us had been left with a white package which we had tucked away safe and warm out of the raging storm. The wind howled loudly, like a wolf warning its enemies that it was near. White powder swirled around the floor, settling and forming a pearly blanket.

For weeks, the storm raged on!

We all shuffled around reluctantly, hoping not to be the next on the outside yet getting further away from the middle of the group. What would she say if I lost the precious package? My feet had become quite numb. As I tried to move them suddenly the package rolled off and tumbled down the pearly blanket. A jump and belly slide and I was off, racing down the hill at top speed. I swerved, avoiding a small snow drift, I was nearly there! The package was just in reach. Got it! I waddled back up to my friends and made my way into the centre of the group. It was safe. The package was safe.

The swirling winds eased, and our courage began to return when the hope rose and stretched its arms out and wrapped around me. All about, white packages were starting to crack open and joy filled the spring air. Suddenly my own package cracked. It's our turn now, this is really happening! It cracked a little more. Would it be okay after all? It was open! A fluffy bundle of happiness rolled out and into the cold powder. I quickly tucked him in my front pocket so he wouldn't freeze. His baby blue eyes stared up at me, at his happy daddy.

Winter had passed and spring had finally come. I was thin, tired and hungry but joy still filled my body as our chick was here. There was a splash in the water as the first wife re-joined its partner. There was another splash and then another and another. Then there she was - big and round, her eyes anxiously searching for me - she saw me and squawked with happiness. She looked down at my feet, saw the little black and white bundle of joy and sighed with relief.

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