The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. It pressed on its creaking rusted wheels, forcing the white earth to tremble. A blur of white, flickers of yellow and the sound of speed, as it raced past the endless steppe. In the distance the moon peered onto the emptiness, lighting it up for weary visitors such as our young traveller.
He watched the train go past him, suddenly conscious of his decision to walk the lands instead of flying through them. He let his eyes follow the trail of sound, until the train was indistinguishable from the pallid snow. He clutched his backpack, and trudged on over the silent rocks, and under the brooding bridges. It was a long way from home and a long way to his destination.
In the distance he could see the lights of the timeless city light up the horizon; dancing stars that spoke of the spirit of man. Distinct from the stars in the skies above, these spoke of tales, of the taming of the flames, of conquering the darkness, of life itself. But our traveller was too young to know any of this.
His eyes darted across the landscape hoping to capture it all. He had walked to the end of the earth to experience it, to look at the city at the end of the world, and to be with the man who had made it possible.
He ran his fingers on the scar on his bald head and was surprised to not find blood on his fingertips. He took in a deep breath, once again smelling the familiar musty scent, sweet and fruity, so unlike the cold winter air back home. He closed his tired eyes and felt the cold winds envelope him.
He plodded on towards his destination beside the tracks that were still warm. He looked up at the skies, and in the distance saw snow clouds.
He increased his pace. He didn’t have too much time.
The clouds moved faster than he had hoped. The sky went darker, though the moonlight still streamed through the white wisps of snow. Snowflakes, every one of them unique, only to touch the ground, melt and become one with the earth.
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
He increased his pace, tripping over the ice and rocks. He had to reach him. This was all that he had wanted for this night. This couldn’t end. Not yet. The old man wouldn’t let it.
He stumbled and tripped, his backpack flung into the darkness, now enveloping the landscape. He tried to get up, but found his legs unable to move. He gasped for air as he felt a pain shoot up his legs, up his spine and to his heart.
“We’re losing him!”
“Get the ...”
“His heart’s stopped beating...”
“The defibrillator! NOW!”
The white light shone on table, an aura around faces covered in sweat.
In the blur of snow, he saw a familiar dot of red.
A letter sat on an empty table, in an empty room. The chilly moonlight shone through the window.
I have been a good boy this year too. I promise.
I don’t want anything this year; just take me away from here for a little while. I don’t like being alone here on Christmas. I heard the doctor tell Mum that I might not make it. I’m not scared, but I would like to spend this last Christmas with you again, but at your home for a change.