The Christmas Miracle, a short story by Richard Prime at Spillwords.com
Ralph Nas

The Christmas Miracle

The Christmas Miracle

written by: Richard Prime

 

A winter night, but I felt no cold. Mist and a light drizzle but I was dry. Standing on the junction between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, I could see my home at the corner of the junction. A warm, pebble-dashed house surrounded by a tall hedge. I tried to move, but my legs were frozen. A few steps, I thought, and I’d be home. Warm fire. Hot coffee. Reading bedtime stories to the girls, then mulled wine with Wendy, my wife. I couldn’t move. Why can’t I go home? I wondered. Then I sensed someone beside me. I turned to see my father. Long dead, but there and very much alive. He said, “Come with me.”

Before I followed, however, there was a scurrying around me. Dogs, I thought. Looking around, I noticed several small black creatures darting forward and back, each reaching for me, trying to grasp my legs. The creatures were small as an average dog.

Suddenly, without moving, I followed, as if drawn to him like a magnet. We crossed the road, passed swiftly through the gate, and then it was like the scene shifted and I was home, but not the home I knew. It was the home I recalled from my childhood. The huge open fire. The tattered carpet and furniture. My mother was seated in her chair by the window, soft light from the standing lamp beside her illuminating her form. Seated also were my grandparents, both maternal and paternal. Long dead, but there. Right there. Uncles and Aunts were seated about the room, some on stools, some on table chairs. A dream? I wondered. Dead relatives welcoming me. A nightmare, perhaps. No, it was a good dream. I will wake in a moment, but I didn’t wake. Instead, I was outdoors again, standing in the winter rain. Street lamps like pale orbs lined the roadside and, in the distance, the fields where I used to play. Houses glistened with Christmas lights. Silhouettes moved behind illuminated, curtained windows. I could hear music, Christmas music, but I didn’t want to dance. I wanted to go home again. Sit and embrace my Mother. I couldn’t move. I grew anxious – what is happening to me? I wanted to cry. I wanted to shout. Then the scene shifted again.

Daylight. From the angle of the sun I guessed it to be mid-day. I was standing in the main shopping street in town. Shop windows were decorated with Christmas bunting and snowflakes, Santa in his sleigh complete with Reindeer. Women milled about the street carrying bags. Men followed them, carrying boxes. Children trotted beside them, hurrying to keep up. Where is Wendy, I wondered, and the girls? Then I moved. I didn’t walk, but seemed to drift, moving like air among the shoppers. Then I saw them, Wendy and the girls in the distance. I called to them but they moved on and were gone. I tried to follow but was somehow pulled against my will into a shop. Shoppers were buying ribbon and Christmas paper. One young woman, serving at the counter, looked directly at me and smiled. It was a soft smile of understanding. She placed her hand to her heart and nodded. I don’t think I returned the smile. I had so many questions, but then the scene shifted, like a blur, and I was standing in my daughters’ bedroom.

Wendy was reading a bedtime story, a story of happiness, something to help conjure nice dreams. The girls were settled in their beds, sheets rucked up beneath their chins, eyes sleepy and drowsy. Wendy closed the book and, saying goodnight kissed them both, turned out the light, and left the bedroom. I felt myself being pulled after her. A surreal sensation. No movement but drifting. The telephone rang in the lounge. I stood beside Wendy, listening to the conversation.

“It’s been five weeks,” she said, “and he’s still unresponsive.”

Her sister, Cheryl, replied in a voice muted by the phone, “He might still wake.”

“It’s been so long,” Wendy’s voice seemed filled with resignation. “The girls keep asking when Daddy’s coming home, and I’m afraid there are no more excuses.”

“How much longer will they keep him on life support?”

Wendy began to cry, clutching at the telephone. “I don’t know! The doctors are forever reminding me of the cost, I don’t know… I really don’t know what to do.”

I tried to place my hand on her shoulder to offer comfort but the scene shifted.

I found myself on the main shopping street again, but the shops were closed and veiled in darkness. The girl I had seen in the shop stood before me. “I knew I’d see you again,” she said. “You are in my dream.”

Confused, I asked, “Dream?”

“Yes, that’s how you communicate with the living now. The world you inhabit is now dreams and memories.”

“I’m dead?”

The expression on the girl’s face softened. “Not yet, you are a transient, a ka, caught between one world and the next. Somewhere, you are lying unconscious, in a hospital, in your home, and you are dying.”

Still unclear, I responded, “Ka?” I was quite afraid, having no memory of passing out, almost dying, or anything, for that matter, that had led me to this situation. “How long will I be here?” I asked, “And how do you see me when no one else can?”

“I am one of many who can see the spirit world,” she replied. “Call it a gift. The Ka is the living spirit. You are nowhere, really, and everywhere, and eventually, when you see the light, you will be drawn to it and move on.”

“So, when I see the light I am properly dead, is that right?”

“I know this is confusing,” the girl said, “sometimes that is the way it happens, but if it’s not your time, you might be drawn back into yourself and will survive.”

“I haven’t seen any light yet.”

There was a sudden scurrying again and I felt something grip my leg. The girl waved her hands and it was gone.

“Agents of the Dark,” she explained. “They’re everywhere, trying to capture the Ka and drag it away to the Dark. Avoid them!”

Then she was gone. At that moment, I wondered, might she be rubbing her eyes and thinking, what a strange dream!

I could see myself lying in a hospital bed, there was a tube in my mouth and wires trailed from my body and into an electro-cardiogram machine. The machine went blip and a spike emerged from the line across its screen. Wendy was talking to the doctor.

“The tests we’re making continue to promote no response,” said the Doctor. “We are feeding him food and water, and oxygen. I’m afraid he is relying totally on life support to keep him alive.”

Wendy’s hands were clasped together as if in prayer. “I’m grateful,” she said.

The Doctor continued, “It’s a very expensive process, Mrs. Rhodes. There will soon come a time when…”

Wendy cut in abruptly, “I’m not going to turn his support off! He might still wake.”

“At this time,” the Doctor replied uneasily, “the chance of that is remote. There are counselling services you can talk with, they may help ease the burden of making a decision.”

I shouted, “Don’t turn me off!! I’m here, look! I’m here!! I’m alive!”

Neither Wendy nor the Doctor heard me. The scene shifted.

Darkness. I didn’t know where I was. There was a door ahead of me, and beyond the door there was light, a brightness that seemed to wash away the darkness. I found myself drawn to it, as if pulled by an unseen force. Then a hand on my arm.

I turned to see my mother. Smiling, she said, “It’s not your time, John. Go back. Go back.”

“Mum?”

Again, she said, “Go back, John.”

The distance between us was suddenly great and she grew smaller and disappeared into the light.

There was a bitter taste in my mouth when I opened my eyes. I reached up and withdrew the tube from my mouth. It was a ghastly experience. The nurse was there, peeling away the ECG lines from my flesh and removing the catheter from my hand that had been feeding a drip of sorts into my bloodstream.

The Doctor towered above me and from behind his well-coiffured goatee he said, “Welcome back, Mr. Christmas Miracle.”

***

Christmas Day. The girls were all over me, climbing over my armchair with their freshly unwrapped presents.

“Be careful,” Wendy warned them. “Daddy’s still very weak.”

Wendy kissed me lightly and said, “You are the best Christmas Present ever.”

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