The Statues Speak to Me

I have no idea what disease I have, but it can't be good to see things that aren't there. That aren't actually happening. I would seek a doctor, but it's Christmas Eve, and most are on vacation.

Besides, how could I afford medical help?

I wander the streets of the town. I have lived here my whole life. I am familiar with its people, its structures, its air, which is chilled now, as it is nighttime. The cold bites through my shirt, and I realize I should be heading home. Well, to the park. My bench.

The streetlights cause a shadow to follow me. A friend. I look down at the black silhouette of myself, and it waves back at me, though my hand doesn't move. The doing of the disease.

I've heard people say bad things about the park at night—that it's dangerous. But it has never been home to them. They don't see how inviting it can be to have a nice bench to curl up into. The cold of the wood slats and metal bars often feels nice, even relaxing. When I finally do reach the park I lie down on the bench, and instantly feel happy. A blanket wraps itself around me without my doing anything. I know I must be imagining it, but I like to believe the soft fabric—soft like mother's sweaters—is actually there.

I look all around me. The trees spring up from the ground, tall and arched. Their branches are mostly bare, except for a few crusting leaves that hang precipitously from the top.

The trio of statues across from the bench comes to life. They are dragons. "Hi, Paul," the one in the middle says. In past discussions, I have learned that her name is Nessie. Norbert and Beowulf flank her, their three tails intertwined.

The bell tower in town tolls, signaling the beginning of a new day.

"Merry Christmas," Norbert says, and the other two chime in. That's when I notice that the three dragons have Santa hats atop their scaly heads. Or are they stony heads? I sometimes forget that they are actually statues, mere figments of the illness ravaging through my mind.

"Yeah. Merry Christmas to you guys, too," I say halfheartedly, and I sigh. I pull the blanket I'd like to think is there closer to me, but it doesn't stop me from shivering in the cool of the winter day.

"C'mon. Chillax, dude," Beowulf says. "It's Christmas Day."

"Whoopee." There is no life in my voice.

"Dude," Beowulf says. "You just need to get in the holiday spirit."

"The spirit of giving," Nessie chimes in.

"The spirit of happiness," adds Norbert.

Why must my hallucinations be so insensitive? I wonder. "What do I have to give anyone? Who do I have to give to?" I say, spitting on the ground below the bench. "What have I to be happy about?"

"Learn to live life to the fullest, my friend," Nessie says. "Make the best of what you have."

"Yeah, man," Beowulf says. "You gotta just learn to embrace the positives. Be thankful for the good things in life."

"I don't have anything! There are no positives to embrace!" I find that I'm screaming, but I don't care if I wake little kids in the buildings and houses nearby. Perhaps they shall find their parents setting presents under their Christmas trees. Perhaps they shall learn that there is no Santa Claus. That they've been lied to all along. That things aren't as they seem.

"Of course there are things you have," Nessie says, her angelic voice piercing through the dead of night like sharp knives.

"No, I don't!" I roar. "I'm fucking homeless!"

I bang my fists against the ground until I feel my knuckles are bloodied and I can't bear it anymore. I instantly regret what I've done—I shall need my hands to search for food.

"What about that Nutragrain bar in your pocket?" Beowulf suggests. "That's something. That's a positive, right?"

I had forgotten all about it, but now that Beowulf has mentioned it, I dig into my pocket and pull out the fruity bar that I had begged for earlier. Before I know it, I have devoured the entire bar, and my insides growls. The small amount of food I have given my stomach makes it yearn for what it has been deprived of.

"Wasn't that nice?" Norbert says. He smiles, showing all of his pointy teeth. "Now, I think we should sing carols."

"A splendid idea, Norbert," says Nessie.

Beowulf nods. "I dig it."

"Don't you dare sing," I warn them.

"Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh," they start.

"Stop!" I scream, but they continue.

"O'er the fields we go, laughing all the way!"

"Sing it to my face!" They don't approach me though—they know better than to move. They know I'd hurt them. If I weren't so tired, I would go over to them right now and punch them until they beg me to stop.

"Bells on bob tails ring, making spirits bright . . ."

I begin to cry, and the dragons stop singing, looks of concern spreading across their faces—faces that look completely gentle, not like they could unleash fire. But even though the singing has ceased, the song still reverberates through my mind.

. . . What fun it is to laugh and sing a sleighing song tonight! . . .

Images flash across my mind. I try to push them back, out of my memory, but it seems I have no control over my mind these days.

. . . Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells . . .

My mother. Father. Sister. Gathered around the tree.

. . . Jingle all the way . . .

Singing. We're all singing. The fireplace warms the house. The same fireplace that took the house and my family a few years later.

. . . Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh . . .

Gifts. Lots of gifts. Elaborate wrapping. I smile. My sister smiles. My mother and father smile. We're all smiling.

. . . Jingle bells, jingle bells . . .

I rip open my presents. My mother tuts. "Paul, let's try to save the paper." "Yes, Mom," I answer.

. . . Jingle all the way . . .

It is just what I had wished for. I beam and rush up to my parents, giving them each a hug. Their bodies are warm. Their arms are secure around me. I am at home.

. . . Oh, what fun it is to ride . . .

Yes. Home. This is home in their arms. The arms of my parents. The strong ones of my father. The dainty ones of my mother.

. . . in a one horse open sleigh . . .

My sister joins the group hug. I nestle my head into my mother's shoulder. Her soft sweater. It tickles my cheek.

. . . Dashing through the snow . . .

The scene changes. I'm in the fire. No, I'm not in it. My parents are. My sister is. I'm outside watching. The flames eat away at my house. My house is gone. My parents' arms are gone. My home is gone.

. . . in a one horse open sleigh . . .

No one comes to help me. Flash back. I'm opening the presents again. My mother tuts. We hug. We all hug. But the hug is eaten away by the fire. The fireplace. Sucked into the fireplace. I am alone.

. . . O'er the fields we go . . .

The song dies out. It no longer reverberates through my head, no longer shows me things I would rather forget.

And that's when I begin to bawl. Tears streak down my face, wetting my tattered shirt. It's completely uncontrolled, and I find myself gasping for air between weeps. It's minutes later before I can compose myself enough to turn towards the dragons. But they are just statues. No Santa hats are atop their heads. I shiver and try to pull my blanket up, but that is gone, too. I clutch in my hand the wrapper of the Nutragrain bar. It is the one thing I have.

Perhaps I should just sleep.

*****

A thin layer of snow covers me when I wake up. First I wipe off my face, before standing and shaking the flakes off my body. That is when I notice them sitting at the end of the bench. They are huddled together in a big hug. Their faces look the same as they did when they were still alive. Just they are pale now. They all look like angels, wearing white robes as the snow dances around them.

I can feel the tears threatening to come again, and I will them to not.

"Why don't you join us?" my sister asks. Her voice is sweet as an apple.

I sit down on the bench, leaving a foot of space between my family and me. For I fear that if I come any closer, the illusion will be ruined, and I will realize that they aren't here. They will fade away.

"Oh, please do scoot closer," my mother says, though. "We shouldn't want anyone to think that we are a disjointed family. Come. Sit here on my knee."

I can't say no to my mother, so I get up and approach her. I take a deep breath, before slowly sitting down. I can feel her beneath me, and I lean back into her. Every member of the family puts their arms around me. I can see through their transparent arms to my clothes. But it doesn't matter. I know they're here. Why would they not spend Christmas with me? I am their son, and families should be together for the holidays.

I smile—it's the first time I have genuinely done so in a while, and it feels great. I let my eyes close as I embrace my family members, my head resting on my mother's shoulder. Her robe is as soft as her sweater. I am happy for what I have.

"Dude, that's the spirit," I hear Beowulf say. I wonder if he is wearing the Santa hat, but I am too happy hugging. I shan't look up. For I fear my family members shall disappear if I look away.

And it would be too painful to lose my home again.

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Author's Note: I really hope you enjoy this. I used the following picture as a prompt to write the story:
www(dot)asofterworld(dot)com(slash)index(dot)php?id=138

Please leave a review to tell me what you think.