Merry Christmas

Christmas Presents

Christmas Day.

At lunch, the little boy squirms, impatient to escape from the dinner table. He pesters and pleads with his father until at last, worn down by the endless complaining, his father sets him free.

His gleaming new toys beckon him from underneath the Christmas tree, and the TV guide lies open, slyly showing all the marvellous movies that are currently on. The boy ignores them both.

He sprints upstairs, switches on the clunky computer and goes on Skype.

As promised, she is online, waiting for him. He double clicks on her name and her face fills the screen, smiling at him from the other side of the world. He hasn’t seen her for seven months.

Her khaki uniform is covered in dust. She smiles like a star in a distant galaxy, distant but warm.

“Merry Christmas, Mommy!”

One Swing Too Far

The little boy swung backwards and forwards on the swing, urging it higher and higher. The trees flashed past, then the leaf strewn ground, then a patch of clear grey-blue sky. Backwards, forwards. Fast enough to make his head spin. So fast he couldn’t tell which way was up anymore.

He kicked out with his legs, using them to pull, to push, to pull himself further into the sky. If he went far enough, he could forget everything. If he swung high enough, he would be free. He could slip off the swing, up into the grey-blue sky, and fly like a bird. Up, up, all the way up. In the grey-blue sky, surrounded by nothing but empty air, he might finally find peace.

He pushed himself higher, swinging in a great arch. His wide, happy blue eyes reflected the sky. Higher and higher, back and forth. His head was up in the clouds, his soul lost in the vast emptiness of the heavens.

At the highest point of his arch, he slid off the swing. His small body flew up, just like he imagined it would. For a brief moment, the happiest of his life, he was truly free. He was suspended in the heavens, arms and legs spread-eagled; like someone had paused him mid-way through a star jump. His young face wore an expression of pure joy.

But everyone has to come down to earth sooner or later.

Gravity dug its harsh claws into his body and dragged him back down to earth. He tumbled over himself, falling through the air like a puppet with its strings severed. The look of joy turned to fear and then horror as the rock hard ground rose up to meet him.

He bounced once and then his body lay still. One of his arms was bent back at an unnatural angle. He lay on his back, his blue eyes were wide open… and his soul still floating in the vast emptiness of the heavens.

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