I keep moving against the cold, never stopping my steady, ponderous progression. My body is warm – almost too warm actually, bundled as I am in heavy furs – but winter’s chill still bites at my nose, and my feet are tingly and numb.
It is rapidly becoming dark, and the snow is glittering with the reflected colours of Christmas lights that are just starting to come on. It might cheer the soul, if you were strolling along hand in hand with your lover, or heading home to your children. To me this day is always the saddest of the season.
They start to hang the lights earlier nowadays, though they have largely forgotten the reason. Some people have them up for the entire month of December, small points of cheer and defiance against the darkness. But today is December 27th, and soon they will all be gone. All the build up, all the belief, all the energy that built to wake me is slowly ebbing away. I feel myself weakening already. It is becoming harder and harder to maintain my stride, my breath wheezing now in asthmatic gasps.
Every year I hope that I can bring enough light and joy and cheer to last through the dark season. Lately it seems like the dark period has a tighter hold. It doesn’t seem to matter how much peace and hope I pour into the world, there is never enough in the hearts of men. If ever there comes a time when people no longer raise their voices together in song, when they no longer set aside old pains for one day of peace and plenty, I wouldn’t have enough energy left to sustain myself at all. I fear for mankind if that day comes.
I collapse onto the bench in the bus shelter, my energy spent. At least I still have the children. They believe with a fierceness I can taste, especially the under 5s. There may come a time when there isn’t enough belief to sustain me, but it won’t be next year. Next year the mince pies will be left as offerings, the children will pray for blessings, families will feast. I will manifest again. I will spread joy and laughter and as much togetherness as I can muster, and I will hope against hope that it is enough to see you through.
My final thought, as I die in the snow, is that hope is the greatest of gifts.