Archive for December 23rd, 2011

23rd December
written by amber

King Wenceslas

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen, when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.

No, dammit, you call that ‘deep and crisp and even’?

It was true that Jorge had had a last minute impulse to act out the old carol, inspired by his absent son’s suggestion that he do something fun ‘like we used to do’, and it was true that his neighbours didn’t want winter in their part of the asteroid, but what good was personal climate control if your snow wasn’t deep and crisp and even? He stomped a few steps into the yard. The snow was maybe six inches deep, hardly crisp and as uneven as the surface of the moon used to be.

Fix it, he commanded his house, then cued the song to begin again.

The second stanza was disappointing, as he’d expected, since true night never descended on his side and the lunar illusion was obviously fake, but when he stepped outside again, the temperature was indeed ‘cruel.’

You’re supposed to be inside when you see the old beggar gathering firewood, the house reminded him, so he went back inside, curious to see how the house would manage to create the two subordinate characters in this pantomime.

The poor man, shuffling through a sudden flurry of snow flakes, was remarkably convincing, as was the young man dressed in medieval garb who appeared at his side. The man waited silently, then cleared his throat a couple of times before Jorge remembered that the next line was his.

Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou knowst it telling. Yonder peasant, who is he, where and what his dwelling?

Even though the page was already standing next to Jorge, he made a delightfully subservient bow, and made his reply, to which Jorge answered.

Bring me flesh and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither. Thou and I shall see him dine –
He couldn’t recall the rest of the line, but the page was hurrying off to do his bidding, so it didn’t matter.

Since the weather truly was cold and the blizzard raging harder than before, Jorge stood in front of his closet and commanded, Warm coat, then reached in and removed the garment.

When he got to the door, the page was dressed as before, but carrying two large canvas bags full of logs, wine bottles and cracker boxes. Jorge resisted the temptation to poke the page and see if he was hologram or hasty construct.

Let’s go, Jorge said abruptly, and stepped into the storm. This wasn’t as much fun as he’d anticipated. He’d play it out, but he wanted to get it over with. A slap of wet snow collided against his face, but he stomped off in the direction he’d last seen the beggar, the page struggling along behind with realistic sounds of strong exertion in the difficult footing of the drifts, which now were indeed crisp.

Jorge’s part of the asteroid didn’t cover a large area, but in the blinding maelstrom and the deep snow, it took them a long time to come up against the fence, and they had not found the peasant.

He must be over there, Jorge said, and veered back in the direction where he thought his house must be. If they didn’t find their quarry, he was going to call it off. After a long time, they still had not reached the house and the page was panting heavily.

Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger; fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.

Jorge recalled that this was the part he’d been most eager to act out. Back on earth, when he did it with his family, the magical effect of the saint’s warming footprints had not been possible, but here – even if the man he saved was artificial, it would be satisfyingly real as the ground heated up to melt the snow from beneath the drifts.

Mark my footsteps, my good page.

Good, my page, the fellow muttered, not my good page.

Okay, mark my footsteps good, my page. Tread thou in them boldly. Thou shalt find the winter’s rage – the man hadn’t moved. He was moaning. Jorge commanded, get up.

I think I’m too cold, Dad. Surprise, I came home for Christmas. I think you’d better have this blizzard turned off right away.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.