|The Transformation Story Archive||The Visionary Saga|
Lewis knew something was going to happen tonight. Tonight of all nights. He was content to wait for it to happen.
He had always been a patient man.
He sighed again as he sat in the window of his small, darkened apartment. The snow fell lightly outside the window. It silently fluttered to the ground collecting in soft, untouched piles that glowed red and green from the holiday lights in the storefronts below. He saw a couple walking slowly down the street arm in arm, each feeling the warmth of their love for the other.
Lewis rubbed his hands together lightly. He felt the chill of the cold night through the thin glass, but it didn't bother him.
He felt the loneliness of the season, but that didn't bother him much either.
For most people like him, this was a hard time of year. That time of year when everyone's thoughts are on family, and he had none. His parents were long dead. He never had any siblings. As far as he knew, there were no aunts or uncles out there for him. He had never married, there were no children to pass on his name.
But still, it didn't bother him. He still had the world. Despite a life of pain and tragedy, Lewis was still the eternal optimist. The glass wasn't only half full, but more milk was on the way. When the glass was full again, he was as likely to give it to a total stranger who needed it more as he was to drink it. It was just the kind of man he was.
But tonight, he couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of melancholy. It was the one night of the year that he wished he had a family to go home to. It was also the one time of year that he felt that he hadn't done enough. Lewis lived for helping other people when he could.
He'd spent most of the last several weeks working all over town. A freelance photographer by trade, he could set his own hours. He'd been a bellringer for the Salvation Army, worked at the nearby shelter and helped transport long term care patients to the hospital though the snow filled streets.
This was a night that he usually spent on some project, somewhere. But, he had felt compelled to take this night off. Somehow, he knew something was going to happen. It was a feeling deep in his bones. He looked out over the silent city and wondered: What were all the people doing? How were they spending this magic night? This Christmas Eve?
There was no change in the room, no sound to announce a newcomer, but suddenly Lewis felt a presence. He waited a moment, wondering if the newcomer would break the silence first.
He did not.
Without turning his head from the window, Lewis said, "I was wondering if you were coming."
A voice, soft and gentle, came out of the dark room, but did not approach. "I may sometimes be late, but I never miss an appointment. You, it seems, need me tonight as much as I need you."
Lewis slowly turned his head toward the sound of the voice as the speaker stepped into the dull silver glow of the full moon coming through the frosted window. The man was older, but not old. The pain of years of traveling was evident on his weathered face, each line sharply defined. The dark fedora, pushed back on his head, hid nothing. A white feather in the headband seemed to glow iridescent in the moonlight, offset by the dull reflection of a feather of dark, mottled colors. Lewis surveyed the man a moment, musing that he looked like any number of people you saw in a day. There was nothing about him, no feature, that stood out. No feature, that is, save one.
Kindness seemed to flow from him. The love and devotion that he had, for whatever it was he had it for, was evident to anyone who paid attention. Lewis knew that this was the event that he had been expecting. Or, at least, that this man, who was obviously more than a man, would lead him to it.
Lewis motioned to a chair at the edge of the shaft of moonlight and the man gratefully sat down. "Do you know why I'm here, Lewis?" he asked.
Lewis looked away and back out over the city. "No, I don't. I knew that you were coming, though."
The man was nodding as Lewis turned his head back. "It happens sometimes. There are few that can feel me before I arrive. I'm glad that you could, my friend, for it tells me that I have made no mistake in coming here tonight."
"Can you make mistakes? I thought that you. . ." Lewis felt his voice trail off, suddenly afraid to finish the thought.
The man seemed to finish it for him. "I'm not him, nor am I related." He said with a smile. "I was born in a different season, to far different parents."
"Who are you?"
The thin smile never wavered, "What did the Bard once say? 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'"
Lewis realized that he wasn't going to get a more direct answer, so he simply said "Hamlet, act one, scene five."
"You are well read."
He sighed slightly, "I've had a great deal of time. Shakespeare, Kipling, Cather, Homer, Emerson. . .I've read them all."
The man smiled briefly, then his face got serious. He leaned forward and looked Lewis right in the eye. "Tell me Lewis, what do you want for Christmas?"
Lewis looked a long time at the man without speaking. He thought back to the last time that someone had asked him that question, and felt the lump of emotion rise in his throat. His father, laying quietly on the hospital bed, fighting the cancer eating away at him with ever fiber of his being. A proud man, he wasn't going to go quietly into that good night. Though tortured breath, he managed to look lovingly at his fourteen year old son and asked him that question.
Lewis had started to cry then, as he was now. His father had never liked it when he cried, but he indulged his son that moment of emotion. "I want you to get better, dad."
In a way, his father had fulfilled that request for his son. He passed quietly into the ether as the sun rose that glorious Christmas morning.
Lewis shook his head a little, remembering that he wasn't in that sterile hospital room. That was years ago. But. . . the memory had seemed so real.
"Lewis, I am here tonight to do something I so rarely get a chance to do. I am here to ask for your help."
"Me?" he asked incredulously. This old man seemed to have a lot of power. Lewis could frankly feel it. "What kind of help can I give you?"
He leaned back in the soft recliner. "You are a rare sort, Lewis. You are a giver, a true giver. You never ask for anything in return. The simple gift of giving is all that you need. It is all that you want. I am looking for a person like that for tonight."
The man stood a moment and walked across the dimly lit apartment to the fake mantle. There were a few decorations there, mostly what he had left from his childhood. The man fingered the plaster statue of Santa Claus set on the center. It was a cheap knickknack, hardly worth saving. The paint was chipped and one hand had broken off at some point. But it had been a gift from his mother to him three years before she died. Lewis treasured it. The old man picked it up, treating it with all the care a mother treats a newborn, and smiled at the jolly, painted smile. "You might say, my young friend, that a certain spirit needs a little assistance tonight. Are you willing?"
Lewis looked out over the softly covered cityscape once more. He felt a deep sense of calm, but also anticipation. He knew that there was only one answer to give to this man. "Whatever it is that you need, I'm willing to help."
The man nodded and stood. Lewis stood out of the windowsill.
A moment later, he was no longer in his apartment. He realized that he was no longer even in the city. He looked around quickly, but realized, somehow, that he was somewhere that wasn't on any map of the world. It was a vast snowy landscape, flat as far as the eye could see. The sky was absolutely clear, and even the dimmest star seemed to radiate with a brilliance never before seen.
He heard the crunch of snow as the old man took a few steps away. Lewis looked back in that direction, and for the first time noticed the other man. He was standing, his back turned, and seemed to be looking over some large bags. Hearing the sound behind him, he turned, and Lewis clearly saw his face for the first time.
He was old himself, but for every line of weathering on the man in blacks face, this one had a line of joy. Lines that seemed to be heightened by his snowy beard. It looked like he wore the same wide, genuine smile all year round. As dour as the old man looked, this one look cheerful. A look of happy surprise filled his wide features as he saw the darkly dressed man approach. He held out his arms and they hugged. "It has been a very long time."
"Too long, my old friend."
"Have you returned?"
"You know better than to ask."
The smile widened, "It never hurts. I miss having you around."
"And I, you."
"You could come more often. When was the last time?"
"I don't recall."
"You do, you just don't want to admit that you've been away so long." He motioned toward Lewis, but still spoke directly to the old man. "You knew?"
"Something like this? Of course. He's here to help."
Lewis looked around the scene some more as the pair approached him. As he realized where he was, and who he was seeing, his mind reeled. He bowed down his head in respect at that moment realizing his role for this magical night.
He felt the black leather mitten first on top of his head, and then it moved below his chin, raising his head up gently. "Please, you do me no honor by bowing your head. Tonight, of all nights, we are partners." He looked back at his weathered friend. "You do beautiful work."
He took another step forward and ran his hand lightly along a heavy antler. "Sometimes the beauty is already there. All I do is help express it."
He sighed and looked up to the heavens. "It is nearly time. I must be going. Lewis, if you please."
The man in the red fur suit put the buckles and straps into position, and moments later Lewis was hitched with the seven others to the sleigh. He felt a sense of nervous anticipation as the order was given to go forward.
There was a brief thunder of hooves against the tightly packed snow which abruptly ended in silence as the mythical vessel lifted into the sky. It circled the dark figure on the ground once, twice, and then flew off toward the brightest star in the heavens.
The old man stood on that silent, ethereal plane for a long moment, looking after the departing vessel until it was no longer visible. Quietly, and with a waver in his voice, he said "Merry Christmas, Nicholas. I'll be home, someday."
In the distance, he heard the response of happy laughter fade slowly off into the night..
I take the title of this story from one of the most famous editorials of all time. On Christmas Eve, 1897, a letter from a little girl named Virginia O'Hanlon appered in the New York Sun. She asked if there was a Santa Claus, and the responce from the editor included the line "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." If you have never read the letter, easily one of the most timeless pieces of writing I have ever seen, you can get the full text of it at:
I really recommend reading it.
Yes Virginia... copyright 1997 by Brian Eirik Coe.
|<< A Land of Fire and Ice|