The Emperor's Newer Clothes

Once upon a fortnight, in a strange but not-so-far country, there was a fine city.

The city was vast and prosperous. It had high towers, surrounded by a low spread of houses and townhouses as far as the eye could see.

Here and there - in fact, everywhere - were large shopping centres, larger carparks, and a plenitude of petrol stations and drive through fast food outlets.

The city also had a palace fit for an Emperor. And it had an Emperor, to fit the palace.

But the Emperor had a problem...

'I have a wardrobe problem!' exclaimed the Emperor. 'All these clothes... and I have nothing to wear.'

It was true! The Emperor's finery had all been worn before, on occasions of State or to drive to McDonald's.

The Emperor's outfits had been photographed, photoshopped, critiqued, and emulated in satin, sateen and polyester. Copies were available (made in China) from every chainstore in the land. The Emperor had absolutely nothing to wear.

The Emperor, in a wornout dressing gown, declared a state of emergency. The Emperor's council met behind tightly shut doors, so no one could see that the poor Emperor had nothing to wear. And it was his birthday!

His Imperial Majesty needed a royal Birthday Suit urgently.

Perhaps it was coincidence, perhaps it was because the Imperial post office times its deliveries so perfectly, but a solution turned up that very day. A text appeared like magic on the Emperor's phone: 'hpy bthdy yr suit on way xx'.

'I am so relieved!' exclaimed the Emperor.

So the Emperor was rushed to the post office in an Imperial Commonwealth car, well concealed behind its dark-tinted windows. They pulled up in a 10 minute parking zone. The chauffeur went in to wait, and sign for the precious parcel as soon as it arrived.

At last the Emperor cradled the Imperial Birthday Suit, and rode the Imperial Commonwealth car back home to the palace, rejoicing.

It fitted PERFECTLY.

'But isn't it a little - revealing?' inquired the Emperor anxiously. No sooner were the words out, than the imperial smarterphone beeped.

'closefitting style' ran the text. 'multcult gend inclusiv nation luv yr bodyshape urok'

Of course.

The Birthday Suit aced all the Emperor's previous outfits. The Emperor's new dress style would always be unique; yet the imperial apparel was also democratic, because it was FREE. Accessible regardless of income, age bracket or education level - the whole nation could dress like Emperors! What a votewinner.

That night, the Emperor proudly strutted in his Imperial Birthday Suit across the TV screens of the nation. The populace were astounded. The populace were amazed.

They were not speechless. Texts littered the footers of news bulletins and Twitter tweeted. Emails and posts from readers popped up all over news websites and social commentators' blogs.

Everyone brimmed with excitement at the unveiling of the Emperor's new clothes. Happy people rushed to order their own customfit birthday suits.

And they all would have lived happily ever after, except...

You guessed it.

A little child was watching the TV news one night. Of course, it should have been watching an age-appropriate animation, about talking animals who were cruelly treated by wicked stepfarmers.

But its parents were overtired, as parents often are. They were also distracted by a note in their letterbox: there was a parcel for them to pick up!

The little child said, 'That man's got no clothes on!'

'SHHH! Not so loud, Child,' cried the parents. 'That is the Emperor, wearing the Emperor's beautiful new clothes. And you cannot tell if a person is a man, merely from the presence of male genital organs. Everyone in the empire knows that.'

But the damage was done. The words had been spoken. And the little child had a surprisingly big voice.

Neighbours heard. They phoned and texted their relatives and friends.

A passing racebike training squad heard. They raced back and told everybody at the sports centre.

Children next door watching the farm animal movie heard. They posted their little neighbour's outburst on Facebook.

A street security camera with audio picked up the child's voice, and the security company heard. Soon the police, the empire's anti-espionage network and border security forces heard.

Someone told the Opposition. Even the Imperial council heard.

But no one wanted to tell the Emperor. The council met, without their Imperial head.

'This is terrible!' declared the Deputy Emperor. 'We must do something.'

'Yes, and quickly,' agreed the rest of the council. So they did.

They got onto public and social media.

The child's comment was labelled as bigotted, unacceptable, outdated and damaging to the fabric of a multicultural and tolerant society.

Anyone 'liking' the child's words on Facebook was accused of hate crime and denied access to government medical services, welfare benefits and education. A full apology and text of a public recantation were to be submitted to the Human Rights Commissioner for consideration.

Citizens of the Empire who uncovered and reported these Fb atrocities were offered PTSD counselling, and tucked into bed with a free gender fluid teddy bear of appropriate genotype.

Megastores began to sell, 'I luv the Emperor's New Clothes' T shirts, with 'No fascist homophobic bigots here' on the back. Sales exploded.

The child was removed from its parents, who were charged with child abuse and neglect. They were taken off to prison, amid outraged crowds bearing placards, 'The Naked Truth: Child Abusers are Scum' and 'Expose their Shame'. The Deputy Emperor promised a fair trial and maximum sentence.

The child was enrolled one year early in a public school for re-education, and placed with suitable foster parents. Department of Community Welfare officers carefully monitored the child's progress.

And that was the end.

Diane Sutton 2017