December 15, 2016 – January 4, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “A Christmas Tale”

This post is for STORIES related to the Contest theme: “A Christmas Tale.”

The link to the LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

Please note: In December the Flash Fiction Family will be taking a Christmas Break from Dec 17th to Jan 4th, 2016.
Any questions, email us at: LIFlashFiction@gmail.com


This post is for STORIES related to the Contest theme: “A Christmas Tale.”

Requirements:

  • a star
  • an angel
  • a baby of some kind (Animal, human doll)
  • NO Profanity

Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

New:

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be less than 1500 words.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Phil Town per the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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7 thoughts on “December 15, 2016 – January 4, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “A Christmas Tale”

  • December 16, 2016 at 8:43 am
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    A Christmas Story

    By Dean Hardage

    “Come on, Hector. How much longer?” Antonio demanded.

    Hector looked up at his shipmate and shrugged.

    “As long as it takes, man. We aren’t going anywhere until I get this thing fixed. What’s your problem, anyway?”

    “This is an interdicted system. We’re not even supposed to be here.”

    The courier ship “Angel” was in a high polar orbit over a small, inhabited planet near the rim of the galaxy.

    “Who’s gonna’ know? The inhabitants of this place are one step up from bear skins and stone knives,”

    “But there aren’t any suppressor fields here. Our drive flare will be visible and the time dilation effect will keep it that way for a couple of years local time.”

    “So they’ll have a new star for a while. Most of ’em won’t even notice and any that do will just chalk it up to the supernatural,” Hector quipped, then mumbled quietly to himself.

    “What?”

    “I said but we shouldn’t have broken down in the first place.”

    Antonio looked puzzled as he asked, “What are you talking about?”

    “Look, these transducers are foolproof. They’re basically just a block of quasiridium, power goes in and comes out phase matched to our drive coils. Foolproof, see?”

    “Well this one certainly wasn’t.”

    Antonio scowled so darkly that Hector finally had to ask.

    “What else is on your mind, man?”

    “Where we broke down. It’s stranger than why.”

    “Now what are you talking about? You’re this bucket’s astrogator.”

    “I know, but we just shouldn’t be here. Our course shouldn’t have brought us within fifty parsecs of this star.”

    “Then how the devil did we get here?”

    “I don’t know, man, I just don’t know.”

    “Well, we’ll be out of here soon enough. Hand me that circuit isolator, will you?”

    A couple of hours later the ship’s drives energized, twisted space and time and propelled the small courier craft on its way. Hector, however, had been wrong.

    On the small planet below the new star flared in the night sky just as a child was born in a primitive stable.

    “And there were in that same country, shepherds watching over their flocks by night.”

  • December 16, 2016 at 10:01 pm
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    HOME SAFE

    A ball of tumbleweed blew down the dusty main street, pausing near the battered brown boots of Big Jake McAuley as if sizing him up, before skittering away towards its mysterious destination.

    The hard, rutted street was deserted but for Big Jake and his two brothers, Slim and Bobby, acting as wing men. Both were holding Winchesters, Slim confidently, Bobby awkwardly, as dictated by their different ages. Jake nodded his head to the left, an order: Slim sauntered to the wooden boards lining the street, positioning himself in front of Mack Ellison’s funeral parlour. A nod to the right from Jake and Bobby scampered to the boards on the other side of the street to Slim, stopping outside Mrs Schilling’s hat shop.

    “SHERIFF GODLEY!”

    At Jake’s bellowed call, a number of crows lifted off from the roofs of the street’s wooden buildings and flew instinctively to safety. There was movement at windows as townsfolk, previously pressed inquisitively against them, retreated to the rear of their rooms, acting on instinct as primordial as the crows’.

    A deathly hush fell upon the town. Even the breeze that had brought the tumbleweed died. Jake turned to Slim, who shrugged his shoulders.

    “SHERIFF GODLEY! THIS HERE’S JAKE MCAULEY AND HIS BROTHERS. WE’S HERE FOR YOU, SHERIFF, ON ACCOUNT OF WHAT YOU DONE TO OUR PA!”

    The silence resumed, but for a fleeting, ghostly echo of Jake’s words. Jake turned now to Bobby, who shot a nervous look and grin back at him. The big man took two paces forward, kicking up small clouds of dust.

    He filled his lungs, ready to reiterate the call, but a noise made him check: a gentle, rhythmic, tinkling jangle from up ahead. A figure appeared from a side-alley and strolled to the middle of the street before stopping, his spurs falling silent. He turned towards the brothers; the white duster he was wearing resembled a gleaming robe in the bright midday sun.

    “The McAuleys.”

    The voice was calm and quiet but carried well enough to be heard by the three men.

    “Now, boys. I don’t want no trouble. And I’m sure you don’t neither, ‘specially in this season. So why don’t you– “

    “We’s here for only one thing, sheriff, and that’s to kill the man what killed our pa.”

    Jake had dropped his voice in line with Sheriff Godley’s and there was a wavering that caused Slim and Bobby to look over, momentarily concerned.

    “Now, Jake. You know I did that in self-defence. You was there. Your pa was drunk as a skunk and drew on me for no reason. It was him or me.”

    “My pa couldn’t hit a barn door when he was sober, and you knew that.”

    “That’s not true, Jake. Slim. Bobby. Don’t listen to your brother. Go on home and enjoy the day with the rest of your family.”

    Jake nodded to the left and right, and the three men began to edge up the street towards the figure in the white coat.

    “I’m giving you one last chance to back down and get off home, boys.”

    The sheriff pulled aside the front of his coat, revealing the silver badge pinned to his waistcoat and the Colt 45 slung off his left hip. Bobby faltered but took up his brothers’ pace again immediately. They moved to within 20 yards of the sheriff and halted when Jake did.

    “It’s a shame to kill you on this holy day, sheriff, but…”

    Time stood still. Jake held his hand above his right hip. His brothers had their rifles half raised. The sheriff’s hooded eyes took in the options; he must wait for them to move first, but he must know the order.

    It happened in a furious instant, as these things always did. Jake drew. The sheriff drew. Slim fell. A bullet whistled past the sheriff’s head. Jake fell. Bobby wrestled with his rifle. The sheriff pointed his Colt at the boy.

    “No, Bobby. That’s enough. Go on home.”

    Weeping now, Bobby dropped his gun and flew back down the street to where the horses were tied.

    Townsfolk began to emerge from the buildings, buzzing with commentary. Mack Ellison was already bending over Slim’s corpse.

    Sheriff Godley holstered his gun and returned to the side-alley, climbing with heavy legs a flight of wooden stairs to a door bearing a colourful wreath. His wife rushed to him as soon as he entered.

    “Oh, darling, darling. I was so worried. I heard the shots…”

    “I tried to convince them, I really did.”

    “But you’re safe. And Thomas still has a father.”

    The sheriff went over to the crib and peeked in at the sleeping infant, for now oblivious to the horrors of the world. The parents stood arm in arm for several precious moments, proudly admiring their beautiful work.

    “Do you feel like finishing off the tree, darling?”

    The sheriff seemed lost in his thoughts but broke from them, smiled and kissed his wife on the brow.

    “Why not? Now, where’s that angel.”

    .

  • December 22, 2016 at 6:07 pm
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    Mediocrity in Love Rejected
    Or, an Alien Nativity

    ‘You’re determined to go through with it?’ I asked.

    ‘It is my destiny,’ she replied.

    ‘And what about us? Are we not soul-mates?’

    ‘Yes, soul-mates. We cannot be more.’

    More than soul-mates? I did not understand.

    Then she was gone.
    ****

    Without Tzilka, my life became obsessively empty. Though from incompatible species, we had connected as lovers at the deepest level. Intelligent, cultured, instinctively attuned to the needs of others, she was the most compelling being I’d ever met.

    Her every mannerism was imprinted on my affections. How her eyes – all of them – betrayed the subtlety of her emotions; how the skin around them quivered with affection or amusement. How the spiracles under her ears puffed in gentle pleasure, emitting the lightest of seductive fragrances. If only she had loved me more, I thought, or not at all.

    Our lost future together was not the whole reason for my restlessness. For she was leaving to sacrifice herself, her career, our love, on an alien altar of superstition.

    Tzilka had tried to explain. ‘It is the highest honour to be chosen for the Birth and Elevation.’

    ‘You can refuse. Live as thousands of others of your species do. And we can be together.’

    ‘It would dishonour my family so, as well as me. And deny me the chance of Elevation.’

    ‘You will bear children for others, then cease to exist.’

    ‘No. I will become something else, something more.’

    ‘You would not know me.’

    ‘Our souls are connected. That will endure. You must not be sad, but pleased for me.’

    ‘Pleased that you sacrifice yourself and will be consumed by another being?’

    ‘You do not understand.’
    * * *

    In the end, I went after her, without entirely understanding why. I tried to see her, but no one would not let me near her in her ‘days of preparation’.

    The temple was packed with Tzunians eager to see the Maternal Conjoining Ceremony. I bribed my way into an upper tier, reserved for non-Tzunians representatives. In the central arena of the temple below, choirs sang and dignitaries made rousing speeches.

    Then silence as Tzilka was led on stage with a retinue of attendants. In a white, gold and turquoise gown of finest Tzunian organza, she radiated ecstasy. The hair of her head, neck and back were swept up and clasped together by a jewel-encrusted comb. Her eyes gazed heavenwards, where a thousand Guardians hovered in attendance. She believed she would become one of these extraordinary twelve-winged creatures who live in the air, watching over the Tzunians (so they believe).

    Now the Emtelze, or Carrier Mother, was led on. Much larger than Tzilka, her upper parts seemed more plant than Tzunian woman. Such was the ‘third sex’ of Tzunia, who carries a Chosen Mother to her elevation, then bears co-generated offspring on her behalf.

    The moment arrived with a crescendo of voices and cymbals. A giant split rent the front of the Emtelze. Tzilka threw her head back in rapture. As her attendants removed her robe, a dozen tentacles emerged from the Emtelze to pull Tzilka inside the gaping maw. The crowd cheered in unison, chanting ancient blessings as the several limbs of the Emtelze worked to seal the fissure in her front. Hundreds of tubules emerged to secrete a silken thread to weave a cocoon around her.

    ‘It is well done, is it not?’ said the Tchulian envoy beside me. I nodded, but could barely keep from vomiting. ‘Most auspicious,’ he added. ‘In forty-five days, we will see if it has taken.’

    During those forty-five days the cocoon remained on the dais, surrounded by flowers and garlands. Citizens came to make offerings and to keep vigil. I wandered the streets, trying to come to terms with my loss.

    At last I entered the temple to pay my respects and keep vigil by the cocoon. In my thoughts, I prayed for the soul of Tzilka, and for myself – that devotion to her memory would replace the vulture hopes of my jealous love.

    On the forty-fifth day, the cocoon cracked. Out of the top emerged an insect-like figure looking to the skies, wet wings struggling to take form. A host of luminescent creatures gathered overhead, each with a dozen overlapping wings that changed colour as they swarmed. Four descended to raise their new companion up, then the whole sky swayed with their rhythmic movements around the newcomer.

    Down below, the Emtelze was being comforted in her last moments. At her feet, the broken cocoon revealed thousands of turquoise, translucent spheres held together in a shimmering jelly: her – or Tzilka’s – eggs. A column of chosen parents processed solemnly up onto the dais to collect them one by one, bowing to the Emtelze and offering a garland.

    Throughout the incubation I’d wrestled to control my hate for this ‘Carrier’ who had consumed my Tzlika. Now as she breathed her last, I could hate no more. Was she not a victim of this birth as much as Tzilka? Yet all those around me saw no victims. Instead they clapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘It is well done, is it not?’

    I spent my last day on Tzunia visiting Tzilka’s ancestral village. I walked in the hills where she used to wander and dream of flying to the stars. As I looked across the lush valley at sunset, a cluster of Guardians flew past. They seemed to be playing, ascending and descending on the wind currents and vortices caused by the valley’s strange configuration. Then one broke away from the group, and came down before me. It hovered close by, its twelvefold filigreed wings beating like a charm of hummingbirds. It stared at me for several seconds, then tipped its head to one side before flying off to rejoin the others.

    A family of Tzunians walking in the foothills rushed to my side. ‘You have been very blessed,’ they enthused. ‘Very blessed indeed.’

    I smiled and thanked them, thinking all the while, ‘Have I?’

    [997 words]

  • December 23, 2016 at 1:04 pm
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    666. (A Christmas Story.) 1340 words.
    by Ken Cartisano ©2016 December

    It started with an advertisement in the paper. ‘Prison Guard for Hire. Must be trustworthy.’

    I called the number and was instructed where to download an application, how to fill it out and where to send it.

    I got a call a few weeks later. They wanted to interview me. But the prison’s location, they said, was a secret. So a guy came to see me, a big guy. He asked me a battery of questions and then left.

    Another month passed and I got another call, the man said I qualified for a follow up interview, but with a different interviewer. This second man came to visit and he was slightly bigger than the first man. He asked me more questions and then left. He was vague about my chances going forward.

    Still more weeks passed and I got another call. They wanted a third interview. Another guy came, more questions.

    I was getting a little irritated when I learned that he too was passing me along to his superior for my fourth interview. This process continued for a couple of months. By the sixth and seventh interview, I just told them, “Look, don’t waste my time with your questions, just pass me along to your superior.” Which they did.

    When the eighth guy showed up I said, “I don’t want to see your superior. I want to see the boss, or to hell with you and your job.” He left without asking questions and the next day I got a call from the boss himself. This time, he gave me an address and a time to appear.

    I walked in, sat down and said, “Well? Am I hired or not?” There was an extended silence so I added. “Surely you know whether I’m qualified or not. Just give me a simple yes or no, and I’ll be on my way.”

    He said, “You’ve got the job.”

    They committed me to a rigorous training program. It lasted for almost two years. I was paid a small stipend to compensate for my time and commitment. Not that it mattered, I have more than enough money to live well on, just like everyone else. And just like every one else, I only sought employment because I was bored.

    On the first day of training, the instructor handed me a book. ‘It’s a bible,’ he said. ‘Read it: all of it. Especially the Book of Revelations.’

    I probably don’t need to confess that I was fascinated by this bible book. The concept of a dark prince of evil, a deceiver who lured people to commit sinful crimes against one another intrigued me. He had many names: Lucifer, Satan, The Beast; and was said to be an appealing and seductive liar who couldn’t be trusted. It seemed hard to believe. For the world is at peace and has been for many, many generations. Energy is free, we get it from the sun and the wind. Scientific advances have produced protein-based substances that can be molded, at the molecular level, to look, feel and taste like any kind of food we like. Hunger is a thing of the past. The human race may be complacent, but we’re happy, and peaceful, and have been thus for a very long time.

    My training was rigorous and thorough. I received instruction in psychological warfare, and was subjected to an endless array of mental evaluations. Then I was trained in the art of self-defense, combat and killing: skills that were virtually lost and unheard of. I became an expert in hand-to-hand combat, proficient in the use of knives, axes, swords and sabers. I could trigger an explosion using household items, or handle highly unstable materials in the use of massive demolitions. I was able to demonstrate a high degree of competency in the use of firearms, especially automatic weapons, and was assured that many of these weapons would be provided to me upon the assumption of my duties. At some point in time, I realized I was capable of killing anyone or anything on the planet. And I certainly was not bored.

    One day, the instructor said, “I wish we could continue your training, but I’m afraid that’s all the time we have.” And with that, the training ended.

    I was given a metallic golden card, with a specific address engraved into its face, a silver star embossed onto the glossy surface and identification chips and codes embedded into its material. I accepted the card and reported for duty at a hi-tech prison which more closely resembled an advanced and impressive research facility. All the more impressive because it contained only one prisoner: an extravagant waste of resources even in this day and age, where prisons are virtually obsolete.

    I got my first shock when I realized that there were nine gates to pass through before I reached the prisoner’s cell. Each gate was manned by a single being, I call them beings because even though they looked human, they all had wings. Each of these winged beings provided me with last minute instructions and encouragement as they passed me along to the next gate. When I finally traversed the ninth and final gate, I met the last gatekeeper, a being who was more than seven feet tall. He too had wings, in fact, they all resembled angels. I asked him if that’s what he was and he said ‘yes.’ My intense biblical studies prepared me for this peculiar fact.

    He asked me if I was ready to perform my duties. I solemnly accepted the chore. “Yes sir, I’m ready,” I said.

    He escorted me into the final cell block where I was confronted by a solid, impassable wall of steel and concrete.

    “Where’s the prisoner?” I asked, “Behind that wall?”

    The angel nodded.

    “There’s really not much to do here then, is there?”

    “In truth, there will be, soon enough. You are to provide an escort to the prisoner upon his release.”

    “His release?”

    “His thousand year sentence is finished. The prisoner is being released shortly. Your job will be to escort him back through the nine gates.” I was stunned. I looked behind me and saw a wall draped with weapons of every shape and variety.

    Trained in their use, I asked about their purpose. “What are those for?”

    The angel shrugged. “If it were any one of us, we’d kill The Beast at the first opportunity. But we’re not allowed to be present. So we’re hoping that you’ll—you know, utilize your training.”

    “You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t stand a chance against a creature like this. What’s to stop it from killing me?”

    The angel put his hands on my shoulders and assured me very convincingly, “It won’t kill you.”

    “How do you know?” I pleaded. “I don’t think this is a very good idea. Especially for me.”

    The angel released my shoulders and smiled. “It won’t kill you. It could, but it won’t.” After a moment to let that sink in, he said, “Our hope, our one hope—is that you’ll kill it before it passes the last gate. It would spare the world an awful lot of grief.”

    I was at a complete loss for words. Never-the-less, the angel wished me good luck, bade me farewell and was gone in a flash of light. Before the circumstances of my situation had fully sunken in, a terrifyingly loud clanging and grinding began, signaling the lowering of the great walled gate. I ran to the weapons wall and seized an axe, and a shoulder fired grenade launcher. Then I turned and stood frozen with apprehension as the gate gradually receded into the floor, revealing the form and nature of the evil creature I was trained and sworn to accompany through the gates. Or kill, if possible.

    And there, lying on a wooden bench, wrapped in soft black linen, was a baby. A sweet, innocent baby who reached for me with white, chubby arms.
    What could I do? What would you do?

  • January 1, 2017 at 11:58 pm
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    Star Dust

    There are no medals for the coward. Often the coward – the person who runs from conflict – is the bravest person, for they do not conquer their fear, but run with it to survive. They live to fight another day.

    It was a grey misty morning in the forest. She had woken because she thought she had heard something close by. Months of living rough had honed her senses.

    Shana’s fingers scraped the rough fabric of the yellow star sewn onto her jacket. She had wanted to rip it off. However it had been on her jacket in all weathers for some seven months now. When she had unpicked a corner of the cloth star, she realised that the weather had faded her jacket where the star had been sewn on. So now she simply turned the jacket inside out. The star had become something she rubbed methodically unthinking, when worried or stressed as she was now. It was too cold to go without her jacket in the approaching winter. December was half done. In barely a week there would be Xmas Day.

    Six long months since her mother had pushed her from the open doorway of a train that jack booted soldiers had herded all the Jewish people of her town onto it. Six hundred plus people with their families, bundles of possessions hurriedly gathered. Shouting soldiers with barking dogs and wielding rifle butts terrified women and children clustered together, old men with shaking hands putting black fedoras over their kippas as they shuffled out of the shule, brave young men holding in fear, trying to protect their loved ones, not sure how far they could push those armed men,; the rabbis who had pored over tomes of holy books – gentle men who lived by the law, passionately breathed Torah and studied its commentaries on laws daily were taken at gun point from their study house and marched down the road to the forest that surrounded the town and ran up the mountains to the east.

    There in a clearing they were forced to dig a trench. Then they stood at the edge of the trench and were machined gunned down to fall domino-like into it. The trench was then filled in by cursing and later, joking soldiers who tramped off with their guns slung over their shoulders, dogs loping besides them on leads. The blood stained shovels had been loaded onto a truck which drove off up the road to who knows where. Possibly another village where vile work would again be done.

    Shana had heard the volley of shots intermittent in the distance. The stattacco sound had sent shivers up the spine of the group of women and children waiting by the little railway station for a train that was not normally due at this time. When it arrived it was a train of cattle trucks filled with people from surrounding towns that had one thing in common. They were all Jewish or married to Jews.

    The door to the truck had not been closed properly. Shana’s mother had pushed her from the train as it was picking up speed through the forest. Several other young women took their chances and jumped. One broke her neck and died there besides the tracks. Of the other three, another broke an arm. They decided to separate. Thinking that alone they stood a better chance of being taken in, they separated.

    It had been hard. Living off berries, stealing raw vegetables and sometimes offering herself as a casual helper for a meal here and there at isolated farm houses. Those who would help her risked their lives, but still some did. Others threw food at her and told her to get away, and still others set their dogs on her. From the latter she would run. She had become gaunt and fit. Toughened by her life of survival, she learnt to take what she needed when she came across it. Clothes hung out to dry, allowed her to change her wardrobe occasionally. Vegetable gardens left unattended at night allowed her to eat when no one would give her food.

    There was one family who had sheltered her for nearly three and a half months. The young peasant wife Aneta had taken pity on her. She told her she could stay so long as no one knew. No one knew she was Jewish including her husband Janek.

    Aneta was pregnant and having a rough patch with her first pregnancy. She was nauseous most of the time and sometimes fainted. That was how Shana had come across her passed out in her garden. Seeing as they were alone, she had gone to the well and brought water to revive the young woman. Towards the end of the pregnancy despite Aneta’s pleas, Janek gave Shana food and told her that she must go.

    “You need to go. I need to look after my family.” Shana looked at him as he spoke. His eyes were fixed on the right side of the jacket. Shana’s fingers instinctively felt the lapels of the jacket and pressed down that side of her jacket behind which the yellow star was hidden from sight. She knew he must have guessed. She wanted to ask why but thought better of it. Since then she had lived alone in the forest and slept under logs or trees in the forest, curled up in a great coat she had taken from a dead soldier.

    She had been dreaming of an angel in the form of her mother. In the dream she understood that her mother was no longer alive. The sound came again. She followed it.
    There in a clearing she found Aneta and Janek shot dead. Aneta was huddled over a bundle of clothes that wriggled and moved.

    Cautiously Shana lifted the edge of the cloth to reveal chubby cheeked month old girl baby. Lifting her from her dead mother’s arms, Shana began to cry for the first time.

  • January 4, 2017 at 1:27 am
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    Tassy

    Tassy decided to run away. She was tired of being treated like she didn’t exist. She would wait for the right moment tonight and slip away.

    Tassy remembered hearing to look for the brightest star in the sky; it will lead you home.Well, this was no longer home, but maybe the star would show her the way to a new home.

    Getting away was easier then Tassy thought it would be, walking alone in the cold dark night, scarier too. It was becoming increasingly harder to keep moving one foot in front of the other; Tassy was thinking about giving up on this journey. Lifting her head to the sky in search of the star Tassy spotted a bright light in the distance. With renewed vigor, she trudged onward.

    Tassy found a Shanty covered in straw, in the center stood a small wooden pallet. The light Tassy followed shone upon that bed. Tassy stepped into the light and found its warmth just what she needed. Inching closer to the platform Tassy was shocked to find a babe all alone inside. She, herself was cold this child must be frozen. Tassy snuggled up close trying to give what little heat she had left, hoping between the light and her body it would save a life.

    A new brightness shone in Tassy’s eyes. The sun came up warming her and reminding her of her empty stomach. Tucking some fresh straw around the baby, Tassy headed out to find food for them.

    Tassy found a row of shops and followed her nose to some delicious smells. She scrounged around in the bins for nourishment, staying in the shadows as much as possible. Tassy wondered what she should take to the child. She spent most of the day roaming the streets. When Tassy returned to the dwelling, she noticed two figures deeper inside. She stayed quietly out of sight, watching. Soon the light came on, and the two seemed to disappear.

    Tassy approached the crib; the baby was still there, a blanket placed at its feet. Tassy did her best to spread the cover over the child, then crawled under it, to once again offer what heat she could.

    Each day Tassy seemed to develop the same routine. Stopping by the same places, she found the people to be friendly, often leaving her a little something extra. She never got close except at the one shop with the old cook. He would sit and watch her and speak soft and gentle. At night when she returned to the shelter, she found a gift left for the child. The babe still had not moved, but Tassy was sure she saw it smile.

    On the seventh night, people from town gathered around the outside edge of the light. They sang songs, cheered and even danced a little. Tassy stayed where she could see but not be seen.

    The dark of night fell, and all became quiet again. Tassy crept next to the stall to find a peacefully sleeping baby. Tassy took up her usual spot and was just dozing off when she caught a strange odor that did not belong. Looking about Tassy could see and feel the heat from the licking flames near her favorite stop. She raced to the old cooks making as much noise as she could knocking over the garbage cans and rolling them around. Suddenly there was much commotion, people dashing about everywhere, spraying water and calling to each other. Tassy did her best to assist. She found the old cook and brought him help.

    The next morning on her rounds, some called Tassy a hero and made sure she received extra treats. Tassy saved her favorite stop for last. She figured no one would be around after last night’s excitement. To her surprise, they were there cleaning up. When the old cook saw Tassy coming, he motioned for everyone to be still. The old cook sat down and held out his hand and cooed to her. Tassy was so excited to see he was alright she forgot to be shy and walked right up to him.

    The others cheered and called her the town’s Angel, which made Tassy feel good. Tassy guarded their special baby with gentle care and last night saved them all from terrible desaster. Tassy thought she had been out of sight, but her angels, the old cook, and the baby had seen and looked out after her. The gifts left beside the child each night had been gifts for her as well. The star had led her home.

    The old cook gathered Tassy in his arms and promised her a forever home. He rubbed her head getting a look at the collar. He whispered in her ear; “You, Tassy girl, are my Christmas angel, my miracle.”

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