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Short Story

Moose Receives a Letter from the Future

Rich Hough


Most people like to share their lives with other people – but some can’t, for various reasons, and end up sharing with a pet. Mr Banks, for example, is an actor who lives with a moose called Moose in Highgate Village. 

Today is Wednesday. On Monday, Moose received a letter. It was written on futuristic silver paper and came wrapped up in a plastic cube. It was the first letter Moose had ever received. He was very happy about it and this is what it said:

Hyper-cable communiqué from Humble, Jerry48 to Moose, north London. Monday July 3rd AD 2006 (Old Calendar).

Dear Moose. 

My name is Humble, Jerry48 and I work for the Ministry of Enlightenment in what you know as Britain and what we call Airstrip One, Oceania. It is my job to record History in a Big Electric Book and I was wondering if you could help me settle an argument? The Divine Emperor of Oceania is due to be born on Friday (your time), in the house next door to your house, in what you know as north London and what we call Top Grande City, Theta. Please could you tell us, for the record, what colour is his front door? No photos have survived, you see, and I think it’s orange but my friend Dave19 thinks it’s blue. 

Yours sincerely, 

Humble, Jerry48, Director of Anti-Future, Ministry of Enlightenment. 

PS Good luck in World War III.


Moose was due to go out that afternoon anyway (to return some CDs he’d borrowed from a cat in Islington). He checked the colour of the front door next door en route and, later that day, wrote back to Jerry48:

Dear Jerry48, 

I’ve been next door and your friend’s right. It’s blue, sort of a dusty twilight blue. I’ve included a crayon with my letter that should give you some idea. One good turn and all that, could you tell me who wins the 2:15 at Doncaster on Wednesday afternoon? A moose has got to eat. And I owe a bruiser a grand. 




On Wednesday, Moose received his reply:

Hyper-cable communiqué from Humble, Jerry48 to the Moose, north London.
Wednesday July 5th AD 2006 (Old Calendar).

Re: The winner of the 2:15 at Doncaster.

Dear Moose. 

We’re not really supposed to do this, but since you replied to my last letter so promptly, I reckon I can afford to bend the rules a little. The horse you want is Toddler’s Firefight, odds of 13–1 (lucky for you) and it will win by a nose. 

Best wishes, 

Humble, Jerry48.


* * *


Near Finsbury Park tube station is a betting shop run by a man called Massive Craig. Not so long ago, Moose borrowed a considerable sum of money from Massive Craig and Massive Craig promised to eat Moose, should he fail to repay the loan by midday today. Why Moose needed the money is unimportant. What’s important is that it’s now nearly two o’clock and, as far as Massive Craig is concerned, his lunch has just attempted to place a bet on the 2:15 at Doncaster. 

‘Five thousand pounds, Moose?’ roared Massive Craig. He leant forward, grabbed Moose by the antlers and hauled him over the counter. ‘D’you think I’m soppy or something?’

‘Um… no,’ whimpered Moose, suddenly terrified. 

‘In case you’ve forgotten and, try as I might, I can’t for the life of me figure out how you could have forgotten, but in case you have, you owe me money! You owe me one thousand sheets – plus interest – and I want paying!’

Moose held up a placatory hoof. ‘Hold on, Massive Craig, hold on! I can pay you. Look. See? I’ve got the money.’ A chucky, metal wristwatch was wrapped around his leg. 

‘What the hell’s this? You nicked someone’s watch?’

‘That’s a genuine antique is that. A 1962 Rolex Submariner, as worn by Roger Moore in the Bond classic Live and Let Die. It’s worth about five grand.’

‘This ain’t a pawnshop.’

‘No. I know. But I thought if you, say, let me put this watch on the 2:15 at Doncaster then, well, if I win – and remember, the odds are not in my favour – then you can have your grand – ’

‘Call it three,’ said Massive Craig.

‘Certainly. Three grand. Plus, I don’t know, another seven for your trouble and … and if I lose, you can keep the watch and turn me into a casserole. What do you say?’

Massive Craig released his grip on Moose’s antlers. ‘Win-win,’ he said. ‘I’ll take the bet. But only because I’m a crook.’


* * *


Mr Banks was about to leave for an important audition, when the doorbell rang. Two men in shiny silver spandex suits were waiting for him on the doorstep. 

‘Oh,’ said Mr Banks. ‘Hello, who are you?’

‘Hello. I’m Julian76. And this is my friend Sandy77. Show him our identification, Sandy77.’

Sandy77 handed over a little plastic cube. ‘That’s me and Julian76. We’re Time Police. Can we come in?’ 

Mr Banks checked his watch and found that he wasn’t wearing one so he looked over to the clock in the hall. There was still time before he had to catch his bus, so he ushered them in to the living room. ‘What’s all this about?’

Julian76 smiled and fluttered his eyelids. ‘Well, it’s about your moose, you see? He’s not back yet is he, Mr Banks?’

‘No. He’s still at the bookies. What’s he done now?’

‘It’s not what he’s done. It’s what he’s about to do. Brace yourself. We’re here to stop him giving the baby next door a sailor suit.’

Mr Banks didn’t know what to say so he said, ‘What?’

‘Mr Banks, you know your moose got a letter from our Ministry of Enlightenment asking about the colour of the house next door’s front door?’

‘I didn’t know that, no,’ said Mr Banks. ‘I tend not to listen to him.’

‘Well he did. He got this letter, mailed a reply, and some silly omi at the Ministry sent him back a racing tip in return. Your moose is about to win fifty-five thousand pounds for the five thousand pound stake he raised by pawning your watch.’

‘He pawned my watch?!’ 

‘Shhh!’ said Sandy77. ‘Don’t interrupt Julian76 when he’s in full flow.’

‘No don’t,’ said Julian76. ‘I’m summarising the plot. So he’ll win this money, all because of the house next door and, in return, he’s going to give the little baby a present. To say thanks, you know? And that’s going to disrupt the future – the whole delicate web of time. Isn’t it, Sandy77?’

‘It is, Julian76, it is.’

‘Forgive my ignorance – ’ Mr Banks began.

‘You are forgiven,’ said Sandy77.

‘But how will giving a sailor suit to an unborn child disrupt the future? Surely, all this money’s the real problem?’

‘No. It isn’t. You can keep that,’ replied Julian76. ‘Buy yourself something nice. Or buy us something nice – we’re not proud. Let me explain…’


* * *


‘And Toddler’s Firefight has won by a nose!’ The commentator’s voice sang out across the crowded betting shop. ‘What a lovely, big horse! You’ve just made a lot of desperate people very happy!’ 

Moose leapt into the air and banged his hooves together in celebration. 

‘Well I’ll be blowed,’ said Massive Craig. ‘Toddler’s Firefight won by a nose! That’s fifty-five thousand pounds I owe you, Moose.’

‘Brilliant!’ said Moose.

‘Lucky you picked that particular race and that particular horse to gamble so much on, I suppose.’ 

‘Yep, it’s just luck. And I studied the form. And I got a feeling. You know the type of thing, Massive Craig? I mean I didn’t receive a tip-off from the future! Hee hee! Wouldn’t that be daft?’

Massive Craig bit his bottom lip. ‘Wouldn’t it.’


* * *


In the future, an Englishman, born in north London, will be crowned Divine Emperor of Oceania. He will oversee a Golden Age of prosperity and the building of a Big Alternative-Past Predicting Computer. This Computer will, one day, find out about the hyper-cable communiqués sent to Moose at the beginning of the 21st Century (Old Calendar). It will predict the Alternative-Past subsequently created and conclude that the Actual-Present is in jeopardy. It will subsequently make a whirring noise and dispatch a squad of Time Policemen to secure the future. What follows is happening now.

Mr Banks met Moose off the bus at the top of Highgate Hill. ‘Something’s come up,’ he said. ‘You’ve got to come home with me. Now.’

‘Hold on. I’ve just bought this from Mothercare.’ Moose pulled a little sailor suit from a plastic carrier bag and made it dance in the air. ‘It’s not for me. It’s for the baby what lives next door – inside his mother’s tummy.’ 

‘No, no, no! You can’t give it to him.’ 

Moose was disappointed. ‘Why not?’

‘Just come home now and … we’ll explain.’

Julian76 and Sandy77 were waiting for them in the living room. ‘Are you Mr Moose?’ asked Sandy77.

‘Yes,’ replied Moose. ‘And who are you? And what’s the problem with me giving my neighbour a sailor suit?’ 

‘In theory, nothing. But, we’re talking probabilities here. Quantum Computing, that sort of thing… I don’t want to bore you with the details – ’


‘Suffice to say, there’s a very good chance that – as a direct result of wearing your sailor suit – the baby next door will fail to fulfil his destiny.’

‘Oh dear,’ said Moose.

‘I know,’ said Julian76. ‘What might happen is this: mum dresses baby like Barnacle Bill because she thinks it’s sweet. Dad suggests doing up baby’s room with a nautical theme. Next thing you know, the kid’s getting model boats for his birthdays and aircraft carriers for Christmas and granddad’s taking him for days out round the Cutty Sark. Children are very impressionable, Mr Moose. By the time he’s old enough to think, all he can think about is the navy. As soon as he’s eighteen, he signs up.’

Moose struggled to grasp the enormity of what he’d just been told. ‘So you have, by sending Mr Banks to stop me from giving a baby a sailor suit, stopped your future leader from running off to join the navy – and, I trust, from sailing the seven seas – thereby disrupting the whole delicate fabric of future time?’

Julian76 shrugged. ‘Something like that, yes.’

An awed hush descended on the room. The four of them took a moment to consider causality and the nature of free will. 

Then Mr Banks asked, ‘Is that it then? Crisis averted?’

‘Oh yes!’ said Sandy77. ‘Our work here is done.’

‘Nice to have met you, then,’ said Moose. ‘Have a lovely day.’ 

‘Thank you, Mr Moose,’ said Sandy77. ‘We’ll certainly try.’


* * *


Tomorrow, Moose will receive a letter, written on futuristic silver paper, wrapped up inside a plastic cube, and this is what it will say:

Hyper-cable communiqué from Humble, Jerry48 to the Moose, north London. Thursday July 6th AD 2006 (Old Calendar). 

Dear Moose.

Hope the Time Police weren’t too beastly. And I’m sorry that Mr Banks had to miss his audition. A pity really. According to The Computer, he’d have got the part and been catapulted to superstardom. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?

Best wishes, 

Humble, Jerry48.


* * *


After he has read his final letter from the future, Moose will put it back in its plastic cube and bury it forever at the bottom of the garden. Moose will do this because he now knows a little foreknowledge can be a dangerous thing and because Mr Banks is his best friend and because Moose is a good moose really.