Christmas Village

Jack McCall, Writer

 

Christmas Village

By Jack McCall

 

Deep in the mountains, through many tunnels, there is a town. It has no name.  It isn’t even a town, really. Just a tiny collection of run-down houses next to an icy lake. But this time of year, the village transformed into a tiny Christmas Village. Lights aglow, smiling down on the little brick roads and towers. Yet there was no noise. Not a sound to be heard across the shabby huts and shady alleyways. Not so much as a child’s laugh or the crunching of feet in the abundant snow. Nothing. Even animals strayed away from the ominous feeling of the town. It is said that many years ago, something happened. Nobody knows what. Except for the elders. But the only story they wish to tell is that of a little boy named Eduardo.

Apparently, a very long time ago, there was a little boy who defied his mothers’ orders and went to explore the town. He was never seen again, or so the legend says. My papa, who is quite the writer, likes to add an additional part to the story, about how his screams were heard through the night. Frankly, I think it’s a load of poppycock. 

But “always do as we say,” my parents have drilled into my head. And every time I want to go to that Christmas Village, someone always says “remember what happened to that poor little boy Eduardo.” Like that ever happened. So tonight, I’m going to go to that ghost town and prove to everybody that everything is fine. 

It is quite a long trek, though, so I must prepare. I already have packed a book, some gloves, a pair of wooly socks and a pair of boots. What else do I need? Oh! So silly of me! I forgot a jacket. I went down the rickety wooden stairs to the kitchen, where my little pink parka is hanging. 

Unfortunately, my mama was in the living room reading a novel. “And where do you think you are going, young lady?” She snapped the book shut and stared over her aged glasses at me. 

“To Jessica’s house,” I said without a trace of emotion in my voice. She looked me in the eyes, trying to detect a lie. I stared right back into her weathered stone grey eyes, and she was the first one to break away.

“Okay, but if you are back home so much as a second later than 8:00 sharp, you are grounded faster like that!” She snapped her bony fingers on the last word. 

“Thanks so much!” I bolted out the door before she could even consider changing her mind.
And so the adventure began! I trudged through the whirling snow and the howling wind. I wasn’t bothered. I had to get to town! I went full steam ahead for a while, and felt great! I was a great explorer! I was going to discover the town! 

This mentality clung to me for what seemed like hours. The sun had long faded away and been replaced by the moon and stars. I had completely zoned out from the environment around me about three quarters through the journey. 

And the way I was yanked back into reality was not a pleasant experience. Frankly, it was a miracle I hadn’t gotten hurt before this, as I never watched my step and instead trusted my boots to guide me. But my luck had finally caught up with me, and I stumbled right onto a little angled rock and heard a sharp CRACK followed by a scream that came from my own throat. 

My foot was on fire! It was burning! It felt like something was gnawing off my leg piece by piece and watching me writhe and struggle. Pushing through more pain than I had ever experienced before in my life, I steadied myself. I had to see the damage. But how? What if I hurt my foot more? And what if I couldn’t get the boot off at all? But I had to make a decision soon. I could already feel the frigid snow seeping through every tiny little hole in my once warm and cozy winter wear, which was now ripped and torn beyond repair as a result of hours of trudging through the unforgiving frozen tundra. 

I grabbed the laces of my boot and nudged it little by little. Every once in a while, I would feel a sharp stab if I went too fast or applied any kind of pressure. 

It took so long. I watched the moon shift its position in the frozen sky too many times to count. But finally, I managed to get the thing off. I wish I hadn’t

My foot was shifted at an agonizing angle and I could see a little bloody white thing- my bone! Sticking out of my ankle. This was just too much for me. I leaned over and vomited my breakfast, lunch, and dinner out onto the snow, all the while crying out a river of tears. 

Eventually, after I had cried every tear I could and there was not so much as a grain of rice left in my stomach, I looked around. I was in the middle of the mountains. It was snowing hard, and it was at least 20 degrees below freezing. This was it. I was going to die. I took off my hood and my hat and my gloves and laid down in the snow. 

What a peaceful way to go, I thought to myself. I shut my eyes and let the snow take me.

I thought I had been done in, but something changed. Every animal has primal instincts somewhere inside of them, no matter how domesticated they are, and humans are no exception. And that instinct flared up inside of me like a raging inferno. My thoughts were all overridden except for one. I must be close to the town! 

I propped myself up on my palms and proceeded to drag myself to the hill just in front of me. Sure enough, from that vantage point, you could see some little streetlights glimmering in the distance. I could get some help there! 

Inch by inch, I made a snakelike progression across the snow and through the many trees right up until the run-down buildings were visible, and I was only a few hundred yards away from the closest one, a shabby hut with the porchlight out. I found a branch that had fallen from one of the larger trees and using it as a cane,  I managed to hobble and stumble to the hut. I had no energy left. I was thirsty and starving and it felt like I was going to die. I banged on the door, and cried out for help, and yelled out through the town. The only thing that responded back was the howling of the bitter wind and my own screams echoing right back. 

I had to get into the house, one way or another. I jiggled the rotten wooden doorknob and tugged on it. Sooner or later, it would have to give in. 

And so it did. The whole door gave in, in fact, and fell to the floor with me along with it. But it fell on top of me. It felt like it had crushed every bone in my already broken body. I tried to make a sound, but nothing came out. I had to get out from under this door! 

I had once thought the town was dead quiet. But it wasn’t. 

I heard the crunching of footsteps in the snow. I swiveled my head and saw nothing. 

But oh, I heard something. The screaming. It started out small, like a little buzz. But soon it grew louder and louder. Like a little boy. I screamed with it. 

Mama and Papa were right.