***COMING summer 2013: Hearts in Exile, Book Three of the stand-alone Tallenmere fantasy romance series.***
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We've got a few more stories for you from our last day of submissions, including this whimsical piece from Joseph Jin. Even when the Christmas story has been silenced by a Scrooge of a ruler, the magic lives on, and two lucky children are witness to it. Read on and please leave a comment...
In the first year of his reign,
King Ebenezer II decreed that Christmas and all the "humbug" that
went along with it would henceforth be outlawed throughout the dominion. But,
being a wise and benevolent ruler, he allowed for a single desolate hill on the
outskirts of the capital to be exempt from his decree. There, anyone could
celebrate Christmas to their heart's content.
But year after year, nobody dared
to set foot on what came to be known as Christmas Hill. Everyone knew that
displaying any interest in the outmoded holiday would result in universal
ridicule, not to mention a significant increase in your taxes which the king
had specified in Article 7 of the Holiday Tax Code, aka The Humbug Tax.
Ebenezer had ruled twenty years by
the time I became ten and old enough to understand the matter of Christmas
Hill. I could see the Hill from the apartment where I lived with my parents and
seven-year-old sister Erika. To my imagination, Christmas Hill was hideous and
seemed to be entirely covered in vulture droppings, so I never would have taken
the trouble to visit the place, regardless of what the king and his many
agree-ers might say about it.
But trouble did come one day. I was
standing on the balcony minding my own business and chewing on some chestnuts
that had been roasted in a microwave oven, when I heard Erika singing a most
“Like the sound of bees in winter,
My voice can still be heard;
On Christmas Hill I’ll gather
The youngest of your dreams;
I’ll sing to you the lot of them
Without a single word."
“Where did you learn that song,
Erika? Certainly not at school?”
She sat on the sidewalk below me.
She said, “the girl on Christmas Hill sings it sometimes.”
“Come on. We both know that no one
lives up there,” I told her. But Erika did not answer, so I went down to see
what was the matter. Normally, she is such a talkative girl.
When I got to her, she was quietly
weeping. “We have to go to the Hill. You have to meet her,” she said.
“Erika, tell me what’s going on.
Why are you upset?”
“I wrote a poem about Christmas at
school today. Nobody was supposed to see it. But teacher took it away from me.
Everyone was laughing and making fun of me. I don’t ever want to go back to
school again. I don’t care. I’m going to live on the Hill for the rest of my
life. When they were laughing, everything became quiet at the same time, and I
could hear that song. I know that song. She sings it to me a lot. But that’s
the first time I really listened.”
“Look, you’re just upset. Take a
little time, and everything will feel better. Let’s go and eat. You haven’t had
lunch yet, have you?” Erika followed me without enthusiasm. At the kitchen
table, she chewed mechanically at her sandwich while her eyes drifted off to
some private microcosm.
Weeks went by like this. And when I
looked up at the hill and looked at Erika, it became clear to me that this was
not just a phase for her. I found myself packing a bag full of food and
clothing and taking her on a long walk - towards Christmas Hill.
We had started at mid-morning and
reached the base of the hill just before nightfall. The slope ahead was dark
and pathless. The air was bitterly cold. I turned to Erika to see if she needed
another jacket, but she only said, “You have to listen.”
All I could hear was the slight
whistle of the breeze. My eyes followed the last sliver of sun, and that was
when it became quiet enough to feel my cold skin vibrating a little. Though the
silence remained, the vibration only grew stronger, until it began to drone
with full force throughout my body. The heat was intense, and I was shivering
from it. There was a sweet consolation which struggled for resonance in the
space which I occupied.
I could feel Erika take my hand,
and I dropped my bag. We ran, or flew - I don’t know - up the hill. Erika’s
face was a blur. She only said, “I can hear her! She’s here now!”
The top of the hill was nothing
like I had imagined. Everything seemed to vibrate and fill itself with light -
like stars orbiting from the inside out. The surrounding kingdom below seemed
to be an endless panorama of abundance and benevolence. And on the highest
point of Christmas Hill was a throne which smelled of pine and was trimmed with
a chain of golden pine needles.
I could see her on the throne, the
girl I think of as Mother Christmas for lack of a better name. She smiled a
little through her eyes, and I felt like I should remember what I had come this
far to ask for. My wish had barely taken form when I saw a little notebook in
her lap. She handed the notebook to me, and I knew that it held the Christmas
poem which Erika had written at school.
At this point, I suddenly
remembered Erika. There was only the slightest vibration left in my heart when
I noticed her sitting on the throne. I said without thinking, “Erika! I got
your poem back!” For a moment, her eyes opened wide in alarm, and immediately
we both found ourselves at the bottom of the hill at daybreak.
I looked at her with the notebook
in my hand. “Would it be okay if I read it?” I asked.
She opened it to the page where she
had written the poem. The page was completely blank.
“It’s perfect. And beautiful,” I
Erika smiled, as if she could hear
carolers and the melody which warms them in the background.
Joseph Jin is a full time pharmacy clerk and dad. He spends way too much time online and would probably starve to death if his wife forgot to feed him.
His interests include spirituality, mythology, analyzing stories for spiritual meanings, and most topics relating to paths of self-realization from an artist's point of view.
Anyone interested in what manner of evil Joe has been up to in the social media sphere can find some satisfaction here: