Once Upon A Time At Christmas
Once upon a time at Christmas, families gathered to reconnect after dinner and gifting. They gingerly offered observations, hoping to pin down their sense of anticipation:
“That Christmas roast!”
“Oh, the kids’ faces!”
Amidst gentle sentiments, some retreated contentedly into their own musings. The cat purred as she rocked to and fro in grandma’s lap. The dog, sated on clandestine table scraps, slept in front of the fire, occasionally thumping his tail in time with his dream.
Outside, cold air settled over yards silenced by thick, sparkling snow. Stars twinkled overhead. Even wildlife remained hushed and hidden, not disturbing the evening’s tableau.
Into these idyllic scenes, a bell sounded. Its deep gong reverberated across towns, through walls. The first sound was barely noticeable, a dull resonance. It persisted, the ringing more insistent, pulling folks from their hearthside reveries with a steady dong, dong, dong.
Some slowly, some quickly ventured outdoors, the peal becoming progressively louder and deeper. They could feel the sonorous beat, thrumming, humming within, vibrating with the world around them. The more who joined, the more varied became the bells’ song. The single slow note was soon embellished with harmony, then melody. The pleasing consonance called forth others, enhancing the strains.
Families emerged from their holiday cocoons, gathering in wonder as the carillon rang out more complex refrains. Dong, dong, ding, dong, ding, ding. The song dancing on the edge of familiarity, unnamed.
Neighbors streamed into the nighttime sound, milling together mid-street, murmuring greetings and curiosity. Perplexed, they searched for the source of the tintinnabulation, strangely unworried.
In the surrounding hedges, wildlife came to attention. Wolves, rabbits, and songbirds listened silently, so engaged in the sound that they abandoned instinct and ignored one another.
Teenagers tried to share online, but their devices would not record; cosmic ecstasy overwhelming their mortal machines. Phones aside, they engaged unmediated.
Young children echoed the bells, rocking back and forth, yawning but alert at the end of their long day. Adults swayed foot to foot with the beat.
As the crowd undulated, the chimes swelled to a stunning crescendo. As one, the assembly looked skyward to a single star pulsing in time.
Starglow filled the evening with light. The music climaxed as light exploded into a brilliant chain reaction as tendrils of light burst sending their own cascades of light across the sky.
When the interstellar display exhausted and rippled away, the bells faded and stilled. The gathered faces smiled. Whatever had happened, they knew it had because they had seen it together.
Each in their own sacred or secular tradition reinterpreted the night’s events: God’s love in troubled times. A new scientific phenomenon. Nature’s preeminence. Others simply bore witness.
All who had heard the bell choir and watched the starlight parade found peace; they re-found community in shared experience. The collective consciousness restored, empathy infused their interactions with others.
That night, a new day dawned. Henceforth, all would proclaim that once upon a time at Christmas, hope renewed.
Christy Kunin is working on writing fiction and getting her worlds out into the world. She lives near Seattle, near a lot of wine. This is usually a good thing. She’s married with two kids. This also is usually a good thing. She had another career as a legal executive in the tech industry and now writes for fun an pleasure. This is definitely a good thing. Cheers to all.