In the coldest place on earth, where little else survived, lived an enormous waddle of penguins.
Over several years, two such penguins, Dave and Jane, had been trying to raise a hatchling to adulthood with little success. Their first chick had starved to death in a winter where food was scarce. Their second had frozen to death when the temperatures fell too low. And their third had wandered off, lost in a snowstorm never to return.
Then, one spring, tragedy once again befell their fourth.
Lawrence, a genial and rather portly penguin had been catching a nap whilst he incubated his egg, waiting the long wait for his partner to return. And as two penguins squabbled nearby over which exact spot was theirs to stand on, one of them bumped into poor Lawrence just as he was drifting off to sleep. Down went Lawrence and down went Dave like a big furry domino.
As the two clumsily scrambled to their feet, the broken yolk beneath Dave’s feet told the story of the woe that had befallen him.
The light in Dave’s eyes went dark. And though Lawrence tried to apologise, as penguins so often do, the terrible damage was done.
Dave squawked at his neighbour with all the penguin rage that had exploded inside of him.
“Know this, penguin: justice will find you. And when it does it shall teach you pain and grant you punishment the likes of which will make you pray for the sweet release of death!”
Lawrence swallowed hard, for penguins were not much used to such tirades, and he tried to waddle away to remove himself and his egg from all the tension.
But Dave came after him. Down Lawrence went again, and his giant egg slipped away from his body below him. Dave leapt nimbly into the air and down he came, crashing through the egg that splattered into a thousand pieces.
Lawrence lay there helplessly, hoping that Dave would grant him mercy. But none was forthcoming.
“GO!” Dave screamed.
“But where?” Lawrence mumbled, “And how will my partner find me, for she only knows from where she left!”
“I care not.” Dave then declared.
So nervously Lawrence shuffled away into the distance, turning around every now and again to see if Dave had stopped pursuing him. Sadly, for Lawrence, this would never come to pass.
When Jane returned, she was distraught at the loss of yet another child. The tale of Lawrence’s banishment did little to allay her grief and she too was possessed with a thirst for revenge.
That night there was a snowstorm and the penguins huddled together, as penguins do, for warmth.
With terrible timing, this also coincided with Lawrence’s partner’s return. Abigail wandered haplessly towards the crowd of huddled penguin backs. She searched despairingly amidst the throng for her partner but found him nowhere. Then, as she tried to squeeze her way into the sea of shivering bodies a sharp beak poked her away.
“Do not seek your shelter here, murderer!”
Abigail was shocked and demanded to know what had transpired to make a fellow penguin hate her so.
“Your choice of partner killed our child. And so you must now live with the consequences of that choice!”
Abigail tried again and again to get access to the warmth of the huddle but again and again Jane snapped and chased her out of the safety of the group.
And despite her begging and pleading, by the calmer weather of morning Abigail was no more.
On discovering her body, a solitary penguin stopped a while and shed a trickle of solemn penguin tears.
Dave and Jane confronted this penguin and demanded to know what cause they could have to weep for her so.
“I am Hugo,” the penguin replied, “And she was my mother.”
“Then you too are our enemy!” Dave replied and flapped his little wings in a threatening show of aggression.
But the poor penguin looked more confused than scared and this somewhat dampened the violent cravings that Dave and Jane had felt.
“What good does that do?” he meekly replied, “nothing you can do to me will bring back the egg that you have lost. Nor will it help you lay or hatch or protect another. Surely, only you can do that?”
There was a silence as Dave and Jane attempted to absorb what had been said.
Then they heckled and pecked and squawked until Hugo, like his parents, was exiled from the waddle, never to return.
Time went by. The atmosphere calmed and the penguins returned to their everyday business of laying and hatching eggs. And with their vendetta at an end, Dave and Jane finally returned to where they began.