Because we had so many amazing writers itching to be involved in SantaCLASH, we decided to extend the feature up until New Year’s Day. Today I have for you something very special – Julia Boardman’s first ever online short story. Julia is a real life friend of mine. She’s fantastically sarcastic and witty, and she has absolutely no problem insulting me until she’s blue in the face (which I love.) I just know you’ll all do me proud and support her in her first writing endeavour. This story is AMAZING and I so want to see her turn it into a full length novel. Given the push, she may even end up joining our ranks!
by Julia Boardman
Christmas Eve in the city. Throughout the entire metropolis the streets began to empty and become still as the low winter sun disappeared behind the snow-dusted horizon on the most anticipation filled day of the year.
While the citizens of Higherlark retired to their beds, there was suddenly nothing at all but the delicate glistening flecks falling gently to blanket to city in perfect, crispy snow. As night continued to fall over the towering skyline, the moment I had been waiting for drew closer until it was almost time. An icy gust of wind. And then, silence. I stood stock still in the biting cold for a short moment to allow the completeness of the silence surround me. I took a last look at the city I had called home for almost a year and breathed deeply to submit every subtle smell and feeling I had experienced to my memory.
There wasn’t time to be nostalgic about the burrow that had been my hiding place, now lying empty far beneath the concrete streets of the town. I had to move along just like I always did on this night every year. I couldn’t stay, no matter how much I had grown to love the noisy, smoky city. I had to go. As the last few seconds ticked by, all that was left was the steady beating of my borrowed human heart and the measured flow of breathe in and out of my borrowed human lungs. When I moved on, I would find another host to allow me to conceal myself for at least another year. Every year, the routine was the same. With every jump, I was leaving my past further behind me and I knew that if I could find a way to move faster than I had ever moved before, I may be able to jump across two worlds which would all but guarantee that I would never be found. I would have lost the troupers indefinitely.
But, just like every year, my ability to continue jumping depended on a single moment when a jolly old man and his gold-cast sleigh would bridge the gap between worlds to allow me safe passing. He didn’t know it, but in his task of delivering presents to every population in the entire universe, he was saving my life and permitting me my freedom. Despite my ever-changing form and my ever-altering location across the cosmos, the only thing constant was that man in his big red suit. As long as he continued to fly on 25th December, I would be able to keep running.
Before I knew it, I could feel a gentle breeze against my cheek and I could hear the faint sound of bells ringing from some point way off in the distance. Without so much as another moment of hesitation, I was running. With every stride the sound of the bells rang louder in my ears until it filled my head with a dull, relentless ring. The pathway to the next world was within my grasp and I could feel the jump I had been preparing for building momentum in the soles of my feet and making its way throughout every inch of my body. I pushed myself forward and the chilling air felt sharp and rough on my weak human lungs as I gasped and heaved to just keep breathing. The muscles in my legs began to feel numb as the heat from my sprinting body and the razor cut of the winter air battled for supremacy over my flesh.
Still, the din of the bells was intensifying in a crescendo and it had almost reached its peak when, without warning, the sound began to fade.
“NO!” I managed to scream through the taste of my own blood that had been forming at the back of my throat as I ran. The portal, my only escape, was closing. Regardless, I continued running, tears now gushing down my cheeks and my pace deteriorating as I stumbled on the settled snow beneath my feet. I was going to fail. I was going to be found. After a lifetime of running, I was going to be forced to return to that wretched place. Sobbing and sweating, the sound of the bells became dimmer as the portal became narrower and narrower. Then, silence again.
I froze to let the renewed peace engulf me once more. Shaking with panic and exhausted from the run, I found myself unable to move. Unable to even think. I fell to my knees, not knowing what I could possibly do. I was trapped on this planet in a borrowed body with no way to escape. Then, a familiar gust of wind disturbed my sweat-soaked hair, followed by a sudden rush of heat. I closed my weeping eyes and waited for what I knew was coming. Behind me, the sound of footsteps approaching the place where I stood affirmed my fear. A final deep breath. A pause. A hand on my shoulder.