Jump

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‘Look out!’ cried the watchful bird, flitting to and fro.  ‘You are all in peril, and must jump immediately!’

The other birds glanced up, briefly roused from their slumber, observing the caller in the upper reaches of the tree, squawking down at them with its dire prediction.  But they soon went back into their stupor, rhythmically hunting for food, for sustenance.

The watchful bird peered about nervously, knowing the danger was coming, whether the others believed him or not.

‘The great cat!’ he cried to them, raising his voice in the hope that it might better persuade them.  ‘It is preparing to pounce!’

Once again, the other birds took only momentary notice of his prophecy, before going back to their work.  They had been in slumber for too long now, conditioned only to work and hunt for food, to be capable of easily changing their habits.

‘You must jump!’ the watchful bird insisted, screeching in distress that his warning was falling on deaf ears.  ‘You must leap to a higher level, or the great cat will trap you all where you stand!’

This time, the shrillness of the bird’s warning made some of the other birds look up for longer, something in the panicked tone stirring something dormant inside them.  Seeing this subtle change, the watchful bird took a deep breath, and opened his beak to deliver his loudest warning yet.

‘You must jump now!’ he cried.  ‘You must leap higher, get to a place of greater safety, before the great cat strikes!  If you remain where you are, you are doomed!’

At this, several of the birds kept staring at the would-be-protector, rather than instantly resuming their deadening work.  Many more remained uninterested, still searching for food, but the watchful bird took heart that his message was finally getting through, at least to some.  He opened his beak again.

‘JUMP NOW!’

More than half the birds looked up in alarm, recognising the urgency in the sentry’s voice, the truth of it, the utter terror of the situation they had sleepwalked into.  The protector glanced to the bushes in the near-distance.  Stared at the eyes within their depths, blazing with hunger and greed.  He summoned more air into himself, and screamed out a final plea.

NOW!’

All the birds who had listened in the end spread their wings and leapt from the ground in unison.  The great cat sprang from the bushes, propelled by its lust for food.  The birds still on the ground were ensnared, trapped beneath its callous claws.  At the mercy of its selfish whims until the hour it decided to put them out of their misery.

Above, however, a greater number of birds leapt to their freedom.  Airborne and safe.  Guided to a higher perch by the one who had been watchful.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

The Perfect Destination

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The sun is starting to feel like fire on my face as I wake up, and at first I assume it’s the blistering heat that’s stirred me out of my dreams.  But then I start to hear the groans, low, pained, strangely defeatist, and I turn on my sunbed to find a sight that startles me up and on to my feet.

Everywhere I look, by the pool, on the beach, as far as I can see across the whole resort, tourists are in some kind of distress, many burnt a frightening red by the afternoon sun, as though someone has accelerated the slow lethalness of the rays to deadly proportions, skin steaming and mouths open in contorted screams, mostly silent as the result of fried vocal cords.  Elsewhere, I see other figures disturbingly emaciated, scantily-clad youths riddled with some ailment, covered in sores and hives, crawling across the tiles and reaching out to no-one in particular.  Others still are trapped on their beds, stomachs bloated to almost ridiculous proportions, bellies hanging out over the sides and hands clutching at their chests as trickles of beer run out of the cans lying knocked over at the base.

I stumble away from those nearest me, moaning and crying and reaching out for me, and start running, desperately, flitting an eye up to the sun every few steps as if anticipating the moment the orb will start to burn through my own skin with sudden speed.  But it doesn’t happen.  I make it down to the beach, to the edge of the water, and on instinct, perhaps simply to get as far away from what I’ve just seen as I physically can, I plunge in, wading through the surf until I’m fully in the sea, head immersed and the waves crashing over the top of me.  I look down at the seafloor below, and my mouth falls open in fresh, disbelieving horror.

Across the ocean floor, more souls, much older, are making their way along, shuffling, struggling, most clad in heavy, drab coats, almost all with bowed heads, eyes dead and disappointed, all optimism apparently crushed from them.  Some are wheeling themselves along in chairs, others depending on crutches, some carrying shopping bags in both hands as tears of isolation flow down their cheeks.  Some, in concentrated groups, line up in queues, waiting in single file for packages being handed out.

A few, the ones with the barest traces of hope still on their faces, look upwards towards the surface, eyes searching as though wondering if things are better up there.  On instinct, I glance up and see brief flashes of legs and arms moving through the water, muffled laughter of children, and I make for the top, swimming my way to the surface and breaking my head above the surf.

The resort is a scene of bliss- sunshine and fun, holidaymakers enjoying the best of summer escapism, splashing in the water, laughing and playing on the beach, drinking on apartment terraces.  Glancing down, I find no sign of anything beneath me, nothing on the sea floor, no movement of lonely souls below my floating feet.  I open my mouth to question, to speak, to ask someone, anyone, if I’m losing my mind, when I feel the burning heat of the sun on my face, and my vision goes blank.

I open my eyes, blink, and find myself stretched on my sunbed.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

Smoke and Fire

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There is no smoke without fire.

Most take that to mean no rumour without truth or scandal lurking close behind it.  We take a different meaning.  We make a different meaning.

To us, the phrase means ensuring substance behind our threats.  Making sure our targets, our puppets, our victims if necessary, know that we will deliver on any promise we make them, on any warning we choose to give.  Guaranteeing that our names, our image, the very concept of us, is synonymous with dominance over, and if required, retribution against, those we seek to influence.

So, if an election appears not to be going the way we wish, we make sure we have the fire of media hostility behind the smoke of ideological criticism.  If corporate rivals become too big for their shoes, too arrogant, too quick to believe they can get away with causing us displeasure, we ensure we have the fire of front-page exposés behind the smoke of shadowy blackmail.  If the public prove temporarily brave enough to challenge the politics we wish to see implemented, we make sure we have the fire of punitive measures behind the smoke of denouncing civil unrest.  If churches embark on misguided objections to our social policies, we make sure we have the fire of hidden skeletons behind the smoke of secular ridicule.  And if rogue nations opt not to play their part in the shaping of our desired world order, we make sure we have the fire of scorched-earth warfare behind the smoke of whipping up and manipulating public opinion.

This is what is required to be effective pullers of strings.  To be quiet rulers of countries without the knowledge of their populaces.  To be the power behind thrones, behind corporate desks and presidential chairs, behind newspaper headlines.  The absolute, unbending will to ensure that, whenever our enemies recognise the warning sign of smoke drifting their way, the fire of their destruction is already sweeping rapidly behind it.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

The Coming

WHAT ARE THEY?

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  • World in grip of extra-normal horror as governments urge calm
  • Nature of invaders still unknown
  • Biological dangers being investigated at global level

 

The world was in shock last night as an unknown and inexplicable phenomenon began to engulf the entire planet.  From Britain to China, Russia to the US, Brazil to South Africa, world governments are issuing pleas for calm as reports of civil unrest and mass panic begin to emerge from major cities.  At approximately 3pm yesterday afternoon, apparent tears in the fabric of space began to open across the planet, apparently in similar concentrations from country to country, through which unidentified, translucent, often barely-visible entities began to crawl through, often evident only by their eyes, which observers have commonly described as bloodshot and lacking pupils.  Unconfirmed witness claims suggest the portals through which the creatures stepped, revealing nothing beyond but almost unbearable light, may have been cross-shaped in form.  No reports have been made of the entities emitting sounds or making contact with the public, and indeed since yesterday afternoon, all but a few seem to have disappeared to locations unknown, only a select number still visible on hillsides or places of height in major urban areas.  Unverified reports are suggesting the concentration of those still lingering in public sight is at its highest in the Holy Land: this is still being investigated.  Where the gatherings are still in evidence, local military forces are cautiously stationed in these areas, assessing the nature and intent of the creatures.  Some members of the public are reporting experiencing sensations of extreme shame or distress upon gazing at the entities’ eyes for too long, or of crushing sorrow over past mistakes or misdeeds.  Most notable of all are reports of agonised, mournful screams issuing from within major faith centres, with prominent figures such as the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and eminent Jewish and Muslim leaders, reportedly locked within their private quarters sobbing uncontrollably.  Further reports of flora and plantlife across the Middle East breaking out in thorns, and in some particularly disturbing instances, seeping a blood-like substance, remain completely unverified, and it is unknown what, if any, link exists between the phenomena.  Whatever is occurring across the globe, however, one thing appears absolutely clear: the world has never seen anything like it, and what it bodes for our immediate future remains frighteningly unclear.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

The Bridge

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You watch as he keeps peering over the edge, your nerves fraying with every inch closer he leans.  His hair, long, dark, falling further to his shoulders than it ever used to, is swept up and ruffled by the steady breeze, billowing out at intervals to reveal the diamond stud earring in his left ear, glinting in the late winter sunlight.  You can see a rogue muscle dancing and twitching in his neck, noticeably bare against the February chill, an odd contrast with the smart winter coat the rest of him is wrapped in.  His face, as he keeps peering down at the surface of the river, is a mask of tension and stress, hurt and weariness, all combining into one toxic, apathetic mix, a tiredness creeping over his very spirit.  Even from ten feet away, you can feel the turmoil raging inside him.

‘It wouldn’t really take much, would it?’ he asks, mostly to himself.

‘Just…come away from the edge,’ you say, tentatively, carefully.  ‘We’ll go get a coffee, talk about it.  Then we’ll go home.’

He scoffs at the word.  ‘You make it sound so domesticated.’  You ignore the rebuke.  You have to.

‘I know what you’re thinking,’ you say, a little firmer, as firm as you dare.

‘You do not.’  He throws you a withering look.

‘You think this would be an answer.  An escape, a way of ending the pain.’

‘You know damn all,’ he mutters, eyes fixed once again on the surface of the river.  The hard, cynical edge in his voice cuts through you.  Causes you worse pain than his fists and kicks did after the funeral.

‘I know the person I used to know would never consider this in a million years.  Would never contemplate leaving people behind this way.’

‘You of all people should know things change,’ he retorts.  You take it.  It’s a deserved criticism, after all.

‘Come back with me,’ you plead.  ‘This isn’t the answer.’

‘It’s too late,’ he answers, and the deadness in his tone terrifies you.

‘No, it’s not,’ you urge.  ‘You still have a choice.’

He didn’t, though, did he?’ he snaps, spinning round and glaring at you, his verdant eyes more furious than they’ve ever been.  ‘He didn’t get to say ‘‘No thanks, I don’t fancy shuffling off in my twenties’’.’

‘I know that…’

‘What is there really to stay for?’ he demands, turning back to face the river.  ‘What’s to stop me just letting myself fall over, right now?’

You pause, a question forming in your mind on sheer instinct.  You swallow.  Consider the implications for a few seconds.  Then realise it’s something you’ve wanted to ask for years.

You ask him.

He turns.  Stares at you.  Processes it.  Hesitates.  Casts his eyes back toward the river.

And you know, there and then, whether he’s going to jump or not.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

Apocalypse

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She stood there, rooted in place, as the wave advanced further and further across the sky.  Almost with the speed of wildfire sweeping through a dry, choked wood, the shelf cloud rolled towards her, crackling with electricity and darkening the world around her.  Lightning danced across her eyes, her expression hardened in the face of imminent destruction.

All around her, people ran for their lives, simple souls instinctively fearful of death, of meeting their end.  Riddled with concerns impossible for her to empathise with.  They saw the approaching storm as their doom, an oppressor, a judgment come to hold them to account for their sins.

What sheep.

She held out her arms, as wide as they would stretch, her head hung back to savour the change in the atmosphere, the sizzle in the very air that sent each hair on her head flowing out, reaching into the gloom like tentacles, testing the void for a sense of when the strike would hit.

Soon.  Very soon.  She could feel it racing towards her, almost as though homing in on her, ignoring the fleeing cattle and seeking out the one defiant figure standing in its path.  Except it wasn’t defiance.  Defiance would imply the desire to stop what was coming.  This was a willing plunge.

Lightning flashed again, and with it, images and memories, some repressed, some having never been possible to purge.  All of them danced across her vision like luminous ghosts.  The laughter and jeering of a classroom of peers.  The disappointed frown of a stubborn father.  The stinging crack of a lover’s slap.  The platitudes of a regretful employer.  The plaintive moans of a slow-dying mother.  The tear-stained note of an unhappy daughter.  The last memory printed itself onto her eyes as though floating in the air right before her, and her lungs released a wailing howl, an enraged shriek against creation itself, every tiny hair on her arms standing bolt upright, static shimmering over her body like a robe.  She screamed at the sky, demanding it do its worst, urging it to.  She called down her own doom and shut her eyes forever against the world that had destroyed her.

The air crackled.  The cloud rumbled.  The wave rolled over her, eclipsing the rest of the sky, and everything, for one perfect, drawn-out second, went utterly still.

Then she was bathed in light and fire, and everything came alive for the final time.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris

Doubt

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Adequate.  Okay.  Unremarkable.

This is how he feels every day of his life.  No matter how much someone challenges the idea (if they even know he’s feeling that way to begin with), no matter how much his friends reassure him, or strangers praise him, or his enemies show that he’s anything but unremarkable by the depth of their hatred, he always returns to that same feeling once he’s alone, once he’s by himself again at the end of the day.  When all the friends, all the strangers, all the enemies, all the latest lovers, have all gone back to their own lives, he’s left standing in front of the bathroom mirror, still smeared with yesterday’s rogue spurt of toothpaste, half-fogged from the steam of unnecessary evening showers.  And he’s left with only his own eyes to refer to, his own expression, his own silent judgment.  And he always finds himself wanting.

Perhaps it was the ill temperament of his family that left him feeling on an inevitable road to a low-turnout funeral.  Perhaps it was the failure to secure the next stage of his life after graduation, and the subsequent years of drifting.  Perhaps it was the failure to see his friends any more than sporadically.  Perhaps it was the high turnover rate of people in his bed, and the subsequent emotional desensitisation.  Perhaps it was simply the advancement of age, and the impossibility of seeing the same sparkle in the world that, as a child, he once took for granted.

In any case, the face in the mirror casts nightly, melancholy, almost bored judgment on him, and he wonders what he’s done to deserve it.  Or maybe what he actually wonders, is what he should do in response.  Because it doesn’t always feel like an irreversible decline.  There are still little moments of wonder.  The desensitisation is more like a trapped switch needing to be released, than something wholly unchangeable.  But the problem is, as the years go on, and the means of releasing that switch continue to elude him, the glue hardens and sets, and he starts to wonder if he’ll ever be able to make it come loose.

 

Christopher Moore

@Moore_27Chris