This is one of my increasing number of submissions to r/writingprompts. It didn’t get that much attention or feedback, but that might be because the prompt wasn’t that interesting to viewers so no one really saw it, or that I didn’t invite feedback.
Or it’s bad.
Anyway, here is my short story from the prompt “A Crack Appears in the Moon.”
Midnight in Hyde Park. The hour for couples to wander aimlessly, whispering sweet nothings while clutching hands beneath the sparsely placed street lights, or predators to prowl around the fringes waiting for an unsuspecting victim – but not tonight. I stood, crushed shoulder to shoulder among a crowd of hundreds, thousands. There were no fights, no arguments, no movement. We stood there, locked in place not just by each other but by the sight we had come to behold. We were one of hundreds of other groups that had gathered across the world. Tonight, six billion people from all across the world turned their gazes upward. Not towards the heavens, not towards the stars; we stared at the moon, and the crack spreading silently across its pale, eerie surface.
I’d been walking Wellington, my dog, two hours ago when I’d seen a small group of people standing on top of a small rise, necks craning and looking up at the sky. They seemed crazy, all standing there in silence, passing bottles of water between them occasionally. I’d had to investigate. Wellington hadn’t liked that idea – he’d kicked up a massive fuss, barking and scratching and fighting me every step of the way towards the group. One of them had hurried over, a young woman wearing a good quality for suit, and had asked in hushed tones what I wanted.
“I just wondered what you and your mates were staring at. Is it some kind of bird watching thing? Or owl watching at this time, I guess,” I’d said back, joking around to compensate for my nerves. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I felt uncomfortable around the woman.
“You mean you don’t know? It’s…the greatest eclipse of all time!” The woman’s whisper became excited, and a wide smile spread across her face. It held all the warmth but awkwardness of a Mormon missionaries’. “Would you like to join us?” “Yes, I suppose,” I said. I suddenly felt a weight on my shoulders, oppressive and cruel. I reasoned it was late, I was just tired. But I couldn’t miss this just because of a little first world exhaustion.
“Fantastic! We’ll be happy to have you involved!” The woman’s choice words seemed at odds with her tone, but I reasoned that she was slightly odd to be out this late to watch an eclipse in her suit. Wellington didn’t like her at all, and had hidden behind my legs for the whole conversation. “You may want to tie your…dog up somewhere. This kind of…event upsets them.”
“How long will it take? I don’t want to leave him out here too long, even in sight.”
“Not long, but we can’t be sure. Who are we to be impatient with celestial entities?”
“Yeah…right.” I took Wellington to a copse of trees, about fifty metres from where the group stood but in easy sight. He’d calmed down a lot but started barking again as I went to join the group.
I’d lost sight of him now, but somehow I hardly cared. I had to stare at the moon, at what was happening. The tiredness had intensified but it didn’t feel so bad as long as I looked upwards. The crush had started about half an hour after I’d arrived, and it had pushed me firmly into the original group. The blonde woman had taken my hand not long after that, and was clutching it with the intensity of an excited lover. I spared a glance at her face and saw complete rapture there – whatever was going on, it was important to her. Hell, there was a frigging crack in the moon; whatever this eclipse was, it was important to everyone on Earth.
“Friends! Humans! Fellow followers of the divine!” A voice echoed around the park and a shiver ran through the crowd as people were awoken from their reveres. Next to me, raised on the shoulders of the blonde woman and three other suited figures, was an older man similarly dressed but in a much finer style; golden silk edging, intricate patterns tattooed across the chest and sleeves. He held a microphone in one hand while the other was raised in greeting. The group must had expected this turn out – and who could blame them, knowing what they knew – and they must have set up some kind of speaker system. I turned towards the man in the eccentric suit and, along with many others, listened to his words.
“Tonight is a not just an eclipse for humanity, but a new dawn for greater things, great powers beyond our imagining! There are things that we do not understand – that we cannot understand – but we can still bask in their glorious presence. Tonight is a night for exactly this! Tonight we learn that we are not the mightiest species, the most powerful force in the universe, and we shall be left humbled and trembling before the sleeper that has awoken!”
“Who are you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you some kind of religious nut? It’s just the moon!”
“Oh, no, not at all!” The man chuckled into the microphone. His words didn’t get any less cryptic, “That’s no moon! That is a prison, a cage that became an egg, a womb, for the greatest power in the universe.”
“Is he talking about God?”
“He’s crazy…just ignore him.”
“Ignore me if you will, it makes no odds.” The old man chuckled again as a wave of disinterested watchers turned to face the sky again as the crack grew, reaching like a twisted, jagged finger across the face of the moon. Others still listened though, myself among them. “And what we will see tonight is not some petty, childish god born of human thought. Tonight, when the veil is torn asunder, we will see the true majesty of an awakened divinity!”
Crazy sounded about right. But wherever he got his ideas wrong, he had been the first one here. From the enraptured look on the blonde woman’s face, and on the faces of the other members of their group, they believed him. Maybe they were Mormons – they believed in aliens and space ghosts or something, didn’t they?
My musings were interrupted as some kind of disturbance broke out around a tree not far from where we stood. Someone appeared to have climbed it and had thrown a speaker – presumably the suited groups’ – to the ground, smashing it completely. It looked like a couple of people might have temporarily interrupted the speaker’s journey to the ground, and they weren’t happy about it.
“The interlopers! Quick, bring him forwards!” The eccentric man hissed, half into the microphone and half at the men carrying him. He was lowered to the ground and then I was grabbed by two of the men who had supported me.
“Don’t worry, this why you’re here,” the blonde woman said, planting a delicate kiss on my cheek. A sudden chill ran through me and while I still didn’t understand why Wellington had been so agitated around these people. I didn’t want to move into the centre of the ring they formed but my body was numb and I couldn’t figure out how to get it to fight back.
“What? Why am I here? I was walking my dog – where’s Wellington?” My mind was clouded and thinking had become difficult too. I flailed weekly but the suited people trapped me between them, making me stand on some sort of stone slab I hadn’t noticed before. There was a design on it, lines twisted like brambles in wicked and cruel patterns that my stomach roil and something primal in my recoil from them.
A shudder and a collective gasp ran across the gathered, crushing crowd. People began pointing and my gaze was dragged upwards. The crack across the moon had met another two which had circled from the other side and a spider web fracture rippled out from where they met. A second later the spider web grew, and then again. Something was trying to break free; despite the excitement of the suited people around me – or perhaps because of it – I felt a very unsettling dread rest across me, and the oppressive tiredness of before began to weigh me down, physically pulling me towards the slab I stood on.
“Not long now, don’t worry. The King will soon be awoken!” The blonde woman said with a smile that had traded warmth for mania. Her hand on my shoulder felt impossibly heavy and I began to sink to my knees. In the distance there was another crash of a speaker. Above me, through the thicket of faces that lent over like a claustrophobic canopy, I witnessed something that twists my insides to this very day.
Part of the moon’s surface had been forced upwards and outwards, like part of an egg shell being lifted away. From inside a pale hand began to protrude, elongated and distended, at the same time elegant and grotesque. There were seven fingers with a thumb to either side, all normal to the first knuckle but after that they twisted and swung bonelessly, like an octopuses tentacles. They thrashed about as they reached for purchase, another spider web fracture appearing without warning before a third joined it. But what held my gaze, what froze the blood in my veins and turned my thoughts to panicked, gibbering squeals, was the eye.
Lidless, it stared; red, bloodshot in a prismatic forest of veins, it had two pupils and both bore down through the void towards me – not Earth, not England, not London, not the gathered, chattering crowd around me; me. Shadows danced at the edges of my vision and no matter how hard I gasped and fought air refused to enter my lungs.
It was my fault. Everything. That baleful eye made it clear I was guilty of every crime, every single sin that had been committed and I deserved to suffer the doom its owner had wrongfully been afflicted. Cold stone greeted my hands as I fell to my knees, and I could only sob as frozen roots began to creep up over my fingers, my arms, pulling me further and further down to suffer instead of the King.
Darkness engulfed me and I lost sight of the moon, but the King still saw me. I felt His gaze, divine and malefic, reach through the darkness to find me and damn me. A chant rose about me as screams echoed across the crowd as I felt the chill grip of destiny take me, “The King awakes, terrible in his majesty. The King awakes, terrible in his majesty…”