the boojum

A boojum had appeared in the skies over earth, darkening the minds of many of its inhabitants with terror.

The end is near! they cried to one another. They spent time in desperate conferences arguing about what should be done: try to forestall the end, meet it with stoic dignity, or barricade themselves in a cellar full of supplies and hope it overlooked them somehow.

Interestingly enough, however, most of the inhabitants of earth were unable to see the boojum. This appeared to be the case at least in part because they covered their eyes tightly with their fingers or dark glasses and jammed small devices in their ears that played soothing music nonstop.

Meanwhile, as the boojum hovered overhead making dreadful noises and stirring up gargantuan storms that swept houses into floods, piled snow to the rooftops, and tore up the land, plunging it into darkness for extended periods, most people went on with their usual activities. And most people died as they had before the boojum arrived: from illness, accident, age, or at the hands of other people.

Those who could see the boojum kept waiting for it to do something definitive that would reveal it to those who could not or would not see it. But the boojum seemed to be utterly indifferent to their desires and, in fact, to their existence. It didn’t have an easily definable shape; it would morph oddly or fade away at the edges whenever they tried to look straight at it or take pictures of it.

The ones who kept looking the other way whenever anyone else pointed at the sky went on about their lives with relative ease, clucking their tongues at the TV news when it showed another house floating on storm waters, great fires burning unchecked in distant forests, or cars piled up for miles in a blizzard. They worried instead about the usual monsters with which they were more familiar: criminals, and People Who Stop You from Getting Ahead.

By the time the boojum left again, a thousand years had passed. In the quiet eons that followed, a small number of people (there were, in fact, not so many overall as there once had been) tried to figure out why it had come and what life had been like before it arrived. But it must be said that most people simply didn’t want to know. One thing they had learned was that regardless of whether reason was awake or asleep, it seemed to breed monsters. Another thing they had learned was how to lace their fingers over their eyes just tightly enough so that the sun still shown through, and to be apologetic and polite when, as often resulted, they bumped into one another as they walked.

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