Sleigh Bells in the Snow

Snow. It means so many things to so many different people. It speaks of magic and Christmas and the sound of children’s laughter; it speaks of cold and darkness and death.

People forget about that part of it. They sip cocoa by their nice warm fire as snowflakes gently fall outside their window, or skate with their lover on the frozen-over lake or laugh as their children struggle to roll a snowball big enough to create frosty the snowman.

They forget that snow also kills; that while they sit, warm and safe, by their fireside, some homeless guy is freezing to death outside; that, as they glide gaily over the ice, some child is drowning beneath it; that, at the very moment they are revelling in the sound of their child’s laughter, some family is quaking with fear at the roar of an avalanche burying their car, with them trapped within it.

They forget that the most beautiful things in this world of ours are often the most deadly.

Or, perhaps they don’t forget. Perhaps they simply don’t want to think about it; don’t want to ruin their holiday spirit. I don’t know. And, if I’m honest, I’m not sure I want to know.

I crouch here in this old, hollowed out tree with my arms wrapped tightly around my drawn-up knees. I think about other children my age.

I picture them laughing with their families as they sit down at a table laden with turkey and peas and mashed potato. Afterwards they gather round a beautifully decorated tree surrounded by brightly wrapped parcels and sing Christmas carols, while sipping hot chocolate and nibbling on gingerbread. As the children begin to get drowsy, their father carries them to bed and their mother tucks them in and places a gentle kiss upon their brow as they drift into dreams filled with laughter and dancing sugar plums.

I wonder which would make me feel worse? That they have forgotten? Or that they just don’t care? Am I so insignificant as to be beneath their notice? Or am I truly unworthy of love?

The night is getting darker and the breeze is like ice through my veins. My stomach is complaining loudly about its emptiness.

I think about the song I heard a little girl singing when I stole a hot loaf this morning. Something about some guy who leaves gifts for good children and has a list. I wonder if stealing bread gets you on his naughty list? I suppose it must. I’ve never seen him, after all, or received anything that could be remotely considered nice.

I suppose he doesn’t care about children like me, either. Or maybe he’s just forgotten.

I feel strange. Sleepy. My body is no longer shivering. I’m kind of warm, like I’ve just drunk a big mug of hot soup. I can no longer hear my teeth chatter. Instead I hear something off in the distance; sleigh-bells, I think.

I catch a glimpse of red as something large rushes past my tree and I wonder who would be out this late, and in such a hurry. I wonder, briefly, if it is the man from the song.

My mind flits from one thing to the next, like a butterfly unable to settle. My eyes are so heavy, they close of their own accord. I am babbling, nonsense falling from my lips like confetti.

Can we go home now mother? I am so sleepy. When will father come for us? Where are my gloves, the snow tickles me so?

People forget that snow carries death within those pretty, delicate flakes. Or, perhaps, they just don’t care.

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This week’s writing prompt is “Off in the distance, I heard the sound of sleigh bells. …” from Unique Teaching Resources.

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