You’ve been sleeping fitfully for a while now, right on the edge, and far from rested. Something has kept nagging away at you, but you’ve no idea what it was until the phone wakes you up. Even as you reach for your phone in response to the alert, you realise what’s been bothering you is the persistent buzzing of your phone. You glance at it before answering the call and see that the number of notifications is off the chart.
“Garrett” you bark into the phone, shaking away the final vestiges of sleep. A voice you recognise but which doesn’t identify itself, says “Do not look at the moon!” Before you can question them, the line goes dead. You check the source of the alert and it is Them, so you know the message isn’t some random drunk playing a prank.
Fully awake now, you wonder what it’s all about. Your bedroom is still clothed in darkness – unsurprisingly as you’d invested in curtains with black-out linings to improve your sleep – and you can’t think clearly. You decide to go to the bathroom and whilst there, you take a look at those notifications – they all seem to be talking about it being a beautiful night and how gorgeous the moon is. There are so many notifications, you quickly realise that most of them are from total strangers. Then you notice one is opening an image and you quickly close your messages. “What the hell is going on?” you exlaim to yourself.
Deciding you need an injection of caffeine to work it out, you head for the kitchen. But as you reach your bedroom door, you stop, your palm still gripping the handle. Did you close the living room curtains before going to bed last night? If not, there’ll be a clear view of the night sky through your windows. Edging the door open a crack, you’re relieved to find not a chink of light coming through; it looks like you may well have closed the curtains. Still, you go back to your nightstand for a torch – just in case. You decide you’re not going to be turning on any lights and you’ll use the beam of your torch to navigate your way across the almost certainly cluttered living room floor. If you keep your eyes assiduously turned to the inside wall, you should be safe, even if there’s a chink in the curtains. The kitchen, once you get there, will be fine as it’s all interior walls. You’d not been keen on that aspect when you bought the flat, but it seems like a positive bonus now.
Going through the routine with your Moka pot, you think through what you know. The alert was brief, so they were probably having to make a shed-load of calls. As you’re more of a grunt than a heavyweight, they must be getting to the end of their call list soon. Hmm … with luck that would mean either a second call, or an opportunity to call in and get some answers. As the pot did it’s thing on the stovetop, you cautiously check the living room curtains through the kitchen doorway. Although not black-out lined, they appear to be thoroughly drawn, so you decide there’s no reason not to take your coffee into the living room, where you can switch on the laptop and see if They have sent anything out to support the alert.
They had. It wasn’t much though. What they knew was anyone who’d looked at the moon that night had gone loopy – not aggressive or zombie-like, more silly, out-of-control happy, like on some sixties drug trip. So far as they could tell, people who’d only looked at electronic images appeared unaffected, but probably still best to avoid if possible – TV news feeds in particular, so best to get news from the radio. Finally, the instructions were to stay indoors and to stay alert and available.
Finishing the first – much needed – cup of coffee, it was time to re-fill and start brewing the second one, and to take the opportunity to get dressed, re-check the grab bag and your weapons. Working on automatic pilot, you smoothly get those tasks completed, before taking a quick look at supplies – food, water, batteries, camping gear, fuel in and for the back-up generator. All that done, you toast some old bread and cook a couple of eggs and bacon for an early breakfast. Sitting down with your third cup of coffee, you check for messages again. This one’s more detailed. It seems to be just the US being targetted, although all operatives are being encouraged to reach out to any reliable international sources they have for confirmation. It seems completely unfathomable that the moon in their skies was having this impact, whilst the moon in other skies was not. Neighbouring countries were suffering the same issue – although patchily – places like Canada, Mexico and parts of the Carribbean. Whilst easy to come up with candidates who’d want to put the US in such a state, figuring out the “how” was proving to be a real headache.
The message closed with a list of personnel who were to report once the sun rose, although with reminders to avoid looking up into the sky – just in case – whilst those not on the list were to remain at home and indoors. Sighing to yourself, for you’re in the remain at home and indoors category, you ponder on one final odd touch – the message closed with a “Be careful out there”. You recognise it as a line from Hill Street Blues – a line which hasn’t been used since 9/11. Clearly They were not just rattled but genuinely worried.
You decide to take a nap. The fitful night wouldn’t help your level of concentration and readiness, so your best option is to get yourself into peak condition for when you are needed. One final check that the flat is secure, and you get your head down on the sofa, quickly switching off and falling asleep.
The next few days follow the same pattern. You sleep, eat, exercise – all indoors, all with the curtains tightly drawn. You get regular updates by message from Them. News filters in from overseas assets and there’s been the usual little spat with the Russians, but no-one seems any closer to knowing what the hell is happening. Scientists working long into the night came up with goggles which filtered out the harmful effects of the moon. Key workers get drafted in to manufacture the goggles in bulk. They arrange for the goggles to be distributed around all Their people – with a spare set in case of breakages. Eventually the technology is made available more widely, although it’s likely that someone, somewhere was making a financial killing – Them probably. But that’s how They operated, how They ensured they always had an unlimited operating budget.
Either way, you’re grateful the self-imposed purdah is over. Your goggles on, with the spare pair safely stowed in your backpack, you go out for the first run in weeks. Despite the strenous exercise programme, your legs feel stiff, and your relish the ability to stretch them fully. You reach your destination where Viktor is waiting. You wonder what he has for you as he catches your eye while holding up a cup of coffee. Just as you sit down, you realise his goggles are of a different design to your own. Had they been made before? And if so, how … and why? “You’ve lots of questions to answer Viktor …” you say as you take a sip of your coffee.
© Debra Carey, 2019