Here I am more than a year later… I certainly didn’t manage to get 12 craft projects done last year. HAHAHAHA what am I, Wonder Woman? I’ve barely done any writing. But in a burst of procrastination, I put off doing some admin to search for a writing prompt I liked the look of for a short piece. This is what I found:
The persistent chime of an unread message notification eventually drags me out from under the duvet. My phone screen is flashing. Text after text Tetris-slides onto the display, lighting up my desk like a miniature rave. I reach for it, forgetting that I have it plugged in, and it drops from my hand as I lift it beyond the stretch of the cord.
I try to keep my eyes half-closed to protect against the insidious power of blue light. I really do not want to be awake longer than I have to. Even as it lies face down against my discarded clothes I can see the screen flicker. It takes a few seconds to focus on the device I have managed to fumble up to my face. Three a.m.?! Anything less than World War Three; this phone is going out the window.
Now that I’m staring at it, I can see one message is fixed at the top of the screen, even as more jockey for position below it. A text from my brother slides out of view, bumped by one from an incoming number I don’t recognise. Then another.
The fixed message pulses, as though it is continuously resending itself. No number, but an all-caps address: UK GOVERNMENT EMERGENCY ALERT. Swiping down to get a message preview tells me DO NOT LOOK AT THE MOON. I blink, reading the text again aloud, even as I lift my head towards the curtains covering the window. It might as well say DO NOT PUSH THIS BIG RED BUTTON.
The phone in my hand continues to receive messages, almost too fast to process. Automatically, my thumb twitches to open the next text to pop up. It’s from my boss, Christine. She isn’t usually one for small talk at any time of day, but definitely not in the middle of the night.
It’s a beautiful night tonight, she’s sent me. Look outside. So… the opposite of the emergency message. In my inbox, at least fifty other messages tell me the same thing: LOOK OUTSIDE. GO OUTSIDE. WOW THE MOON IS AWESOME TONIGHT. Only the government text alert, fixed at the top of my messages, tells me not to do this. I flick up and down the messages, thinking. I nearly drop the phone again as it shows an incoming call. My mother.
The knock at the door comes at the same time I throw the phone away from me as hard as I can. Mum has been dead for a year. The visitor gives me a great excuse to leave my phone flickering to itself, cradled in the curtain fabric that pools on the floor; new messages being received all the time. The knocking persists, moving from a polite staccato to a thundering assault. It’s so light in here, even with the curtains drawn and the lights off, I barely remember it’s the middle of the night.
“Coming!” I yell in the direction of the sound, as I stumble into some sweatpants and pull a crumpled t-shirt from the laundry pile. A new voicemail alert sends a chill down my spine. I ignore it, shuffling down the dark hallway towards the flimsily chained front door. It sounds like someone is taking a sledgehammer to it; the jambs rattle in the wall. Do I want to open this door?
It sounds like there is more than one person out there. Barely audible through the punishment my house is taking, is the shuffling of feet. And voices. Low, insistent voices. Look up. Come outside. The night is beautiful. Look at the moon. I can’t tell all the speakers apart, but there has to be at least three.
My bare feet stick to the laminate as I hesitate in the hallway. The droning strangers urge me to open the door and look at the wonderful night outside. The knocking has stopped, for now, since they clearly know someone is home. For once I am glad neither the dingy hall nor the front door itself has a window. To the left is the open doorway into the kitchen, where a luminous oblong of moonlight is slowly colonising the shadows. I must have forgotten to pull down the blind.
More fevered knocking, accompanied by the scrabbling of fingernails. The stars look so bright. Come outside. Outside. My eyes are fixed on the patch of silvered light on the floor. It’s just the moon. What’s the big deal? I have to cross the doorway to get to the door. The chain is jingling against the- look at the moon say the voices outside. It’s so beautiful.
My toes inch forward. Some part of my brain registers this as a problem. It’s just after three in the morning and my phone is going crazy. The government has activated the extreme crisis universal text override! I should be barricading the door against whoever is out there, not letting them in! The shimmering light from the kitchen blooms. It stretches across the entire hallway now. I have to admit it does look beautiful.
The door is beginning to splinter. It won’t be long before it caves in entirely. I should retreat; lock myself in somewhere. It takes more effort than it should to begin edging backwards down the hallway. I need my phone. I should call the police! People are trying to break in. Crazy people! Turning to take the last few steps back in to my room, I hear the door crack. Someone must be taking their shoulder to it.
It bursts into a rain of chipped paint and chipboard dust and two figures loom in the space, framed by the hyper bright light from outside. I barely get a glimpse as I fling myself into my room and slam the door. Where did my phone go? It chirrups helpfully. Footsteps in the hall and a new assault on the only door that stands between me and something violent. I can’t keep my back against it for long, but I can’t quite reach my phone from this position.
Each mighty thud on the door rattles my teeth in my head. LOOK. Thud. AT. Thud. THE. Thud. MOON! I am juddered off balance by the force of it; pitched towards my phone and a nano-second of hope. The door is booted in, taken off one hinge. I have to grope blindly for my phone in the curtain beside me. As I scoop it up, the fabric twitches just a little, and a stripe of moonlight hits my hand. It’s warm.
I can’t help it. My eyes flick up, just as the intruders grab me by the shirt and pull me to my feet. They’re right. It’s a beautiful night outside. Looking into their eyes, I see the moonglow that I know is also in mine. Of course it was stupid to be scared. I have to tell others not to be scared. We should all see the beautiful moon. The strangers in my house are not strangers. We are all the moon’s children. They release their grip on my shirt, satisfied that I am with them, one of them.
Where is my phone? I need to tell everyone the good news. Ah! It’s in my hand. I smile at my own ineptitude as I open the messaging app.
LOOK OUTSIDE. IT’S A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT TONIGHT.
Send to all.