The box in her hand is heavy. She lets it drop to the floor with a thud. Her name is on a white card stuck to the side of it, the wrapping paper green and sparkly red. It was dropped off at her door with a quick ring of the bell. Bailey didn’t get gifts; didn’t get Christmas for that matter. Except the celebrating with a bottle in hand part. But that she did all year anyway. Even now her body revels in the comfort of a gin and tonic.
Bailey rips at the coloured paper covering the cardboard with a little bit of excitement. She pulls the flaps back and looks inside, but there’s nothing there.
Annoyed, she picks it up and tips it upside down. Nothing. She feels along the insides. Still nothing. The card reveals only her name, nothing else.
Frustrated, Bailey takes another drink, then sticks her foot inside, getting ready to tear the box into pieces and send it to the curb. If this was someone’s idea of a joke, it wasn’t funny. Her foot slams to the bottom, but there is no bottom. She tilts forward into what feels like a pool of black quicksand. Her arms grab for the hall table, but miss, as the rest of her body follows her foot into the black abys.
“Here she comes,” Bailey can hear a voice, a high pitched voice, a child voice, but not. The black doesn’t give an inch of light as she continues to feel herself slide down, down, down.
Finally, coloured light shines across her eyes, like a movie screen. There she is, large as life on the screen, looking out at herself. A smile, more like a sneer, angry, vindictive, almost cruel, crosses her face. The eyes are blank, colourless. The vision scares her.
“Who are you?” she screams at the image on the screen. “Are you me?” The black keeps swirling, pulling. Waves of high pitched laughter come from nowhere.
“I could be,” the image answers back, more through thought than words. Bailey starts to feel the change of the cold black to something she finds comfort in.
“Get me out of here,” she calls to the dark. “Somebody help!” Waves of the black move over her now like a blanket, growing warmer, holding her body against its darkness.
“Please God,” her two word prayer floats out into the space around her.
A small simple image appears on the left of the screen. A thin black cross holds the body of a man, laying limp, almost powerless, from it.
“I want out of here,” she says to the eyes that look at her from its tortured position.
“She wants out of here,” the childlike voice mocks her words, coming from behind.
“There is no getting out of here Bailey,” the high pitched voice talks back, still without any image.
“I can leave the same way she did,” Bailey points at the blank screen, her image gone now.
“You did leave that way.” Laughter fills the words now. “And here you are. We’ve been waiting a very long time for you.”
Almost at the same time, the body leaves the stick figure cross. “This way.” His words to Bailey are soft, undemanding. “Just follow me.”
“Wait,” she calls to the man.
“I have been,” He says. Follow Me.”
Bailey feels a warm rush of air, and finds herself on the floor in the hallway.
“I must have fallen,” she says to herself, rubbing the back of her head. The box is still there, unopened. She sits up and takes it in her hands. She doesn’t need to open it now. She knows what’s inside.
A strange incident that let her see where she was headed. And an even stranger intervention.
She never did know where the box came from, who delivered it, or even why for that matter. She ended up tossing it into the garbage a few days later. But ever since, Bailey has celebrated Christmas. Has taken the day and made it into what it means for her. A Gift. A Gift of freedom. A Gift of Light.
And every year she places a cross on top of the tree. As a reminder. The greatest gift isn’t under the tree, for Bailey. It’s in its rightful position, above the lights that shine because of it.
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