Tell A Tale in 500 Words
Jump By Christopher Moore
‘Look out!’ cried the watchful bird, flitting to and fro. ‘You are all in peril, and must jump immediately!’
The other birds glanced up, momentarily roused from their slumber, observing the would-be-protector in the upper layer of the tree, squawking down at them with his dire prediction. But they soon went back to their stupor, rhythmically hunting for food, for sustenance.
The watchful bird peered around nervously, knowing the danger was coming in spite of whether the others believed him or not.
‘The great cat!’ he cried to them, raising his voice in the hope that it might better convince them. ‘It is getting ready to pounce!’
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, encouraged only to work and hunt for food, to be capable of easily changing their habits.
‘You must jump!’ the watchful bird insisted, squawking 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 sit!’
This time, the shrillness of the bird’s warning made some of the other birds look up for longer, something in the tone, the sheer level of panic, stirring something dormant inside them. Seeing this subtle change, the watchful bird took a deep breath, before opening his beak to deliver its loudest warning yet.
‘You must jump now!’ he cried, some of his desired audience glancing up this time even before the detail of the warning was delivered. ‘You must leap higher, get to a place of better safety, of greater independence, before the great cat strikes! If you remain where you are, you are doomed!’
At this, several of the birds remained staring at the would-be-protector, not looking away this time to resume their deadening work. More remained uninterested, still searching for food, but the watchful bird took heart that his message was finally getting through. He opened his beak again.
Over half the birds looked up in alarm, recognising the urgency in the protector’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 huge eyes within their depths, alive with hunger and greed. He summoned more air, and screamed out a final plea.
All the birds who had ultimately listened 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 remaining on the ground were utterly caught, trapped beneath its callous claws. Forever at the mercy of its selfish whims until the day it deigned to put them out of their misery.
Above, however, the greater number of birds leapt to their freedom. Independent and safe. Guided to a higher branch by the one who had been watchful.
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