QuirkyTales Banner






A Christmas Miracle

Andrew woke and lay for a moment just staring at the ceiling. His hand automatically reached for his phone even though it had stopped working long ago. He sighed. It was strange how old habits endured despite circumstances rendering them useless.

He checked the calendar on the wall beside his bed and smiled grimly. Christmas Day. It hardly seemed possible. Five months and three days had passed. Sometimes it seemed like mere minutes. Sometimes it seemed like eternity.

He pushed himself up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, stretching and yawning. He rubbed a hand through his long hair, then pulled a band from the pocket of his shorts and tied it back.

He stepped outside and looked up at the clear blue sky. Although it was pleasantly cool now, he knew that within the next two hours the temperature would rise rapidly. No time to waste. He boiled some water and set about preparing. He would celebrate Christmas, no matter what.

Once the feast was cooking on the spit, he made himself a rare coffee then sat down at his desk. He noted with some alarm that his bumper A4 pad was now over three quarters filled. He forced himself to write every day, no slacking, even today. He worked all morning, pausing only to check on the food. Before he would allow himself to leave his desk he checked his work, making corrections and scrawling notes for tomorrow.

At last, he finished. Peering out he could see the sun was high in the sky. The aroma of the food filled the room and his stomach rumbled in anticipation. He checked the slowly roasting bird, then dropped vegetables into the pot of boiling water.

He sat by the door staring out, his mind meandering. Last Christmas could not have been more different. The whole family had gathered at his parents' cottage. They had duck and a goose, and mother's homemade pudding, and his father's sloe gin. And she had been there. He blinked, stung by the memory. She had been there, her hand finding his beneath the table, her smile, her tumbling golden hair. He shook his head and rubbed angrily at his eyes.

No good came of reminiscing, he knew that. His appetite had gone with the memory. That was no good either. He had to eat. He had to acknowledge the day. To surrender to emotion was pointless.

He took care over serving the dinner, trying to carve the way his father always did, to arrange the vegetables as neatly as his mother did. He stood back to admire his handiwork. Of course, there were no crackers, no party hats, no sloe gin. Scowling at himself for reflecting on the negative, he sat down and devoured his feast. All in all, it had turned out pretty well.

Later, as the sun passed the zenith and the temperature slowly cooled, he took a long walk, stopping at the top of the hill to admire the view. It was a sight that never failed to enthral him. He sat a while, gazing at the vast forest to the east, the climbing mountains to the west. There was not another living soul around. The view was his, his alone. He was suddenly overcome with longing for someone, anyone, to share the moment.

He stood, brushing the dust and leaf litter from his trousers. He was dwelling again. He supposed it was natural on such a day, but it was to be avoided. He turned to walk home but something made him look back. Something was out of tune, something alien, something not in place.

He frowned, straining to see the horizon, his head tilted to tune his hearing. There. There it was. A sound at the limit of his reach. He glanced at the tree line, then back at the sky. A dot, no more, just a dot, moving over the forest.

He edged towards the trees, his eyes scouring the ground for fallen timber. He found a sturdy branch and picked it up. He waited, searching the sky. Where was it? The droning sound broke and surged as the wind carried it. It was still there, somewhere. Would it turn away or head towards him? Heart thumping he returned to the clearing, his free hand searching his pocket for his lighter hoping it might have one last strike left.

The sound grew, less disrupted now by the wind. And then he spotted it, soaring towards him. It was a helicopter, getting larger by the second, until he could see the faded circle of its rotors. He knew he should be doing something, but he could not think straight.

He was standing in the one clearing in the great jungle for at least a hundred miles. It seemed unlikely the crew would not have seen him. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, battling surging emotions.

Within less than a minute it was above him, forcing him to a crouch, his free hand raised against the flying dust. At last sense returned and he scuttled back to the tree line, still absent-mindedly clutching the branch. He cowered behind a tree as the helicopter landed in a cloud of debris.

The door opened and a man stepped out, signalling to the pilot as he pulled his headpiece off and dropped it on the seat. He looked back at the trees and smiled, his arms stretched out to the side. Andrew shuffled into view, staring back at the man.

'You're Andy? Andrew Gilligan?' said the man.

Andrew swallowed. The man had an Australian accent. He nodded and shuffled a little further from the trees.

The man let out a bark of laughter. 'Well, what are you hiding for, mate? You got any idea how long we've been looking for you?'

He turned back to the helicopter and raised a thumb. The pilot replied in kind and spoke frantically into the radio. Andrew belatedly realised he was still holding the branch and dropped it, blushing in embarrassment.

'There's a certain young blonde woman who's going to be damned glad to see you,' grinned the man. 'Truth be told, she's been riding us blokes pretty hard,' he shook his head. 'She wouldn't have any talk of giving up either. Said if anyone could survive a plane crash it'd be you.'

Andrew staggered. 'Kathryn? Kathryn's here?' he stared into the helicopter, as though she might suddenly appear.

'Back at base, mate, running the search op. Come on. Let's get you out of here. Should be back in time for Christmas dinner.'

Andrew allowed the man to guide him to the helicopter. As they took off he looked down at the jungle that had been his home for the last five months and three days. Tears formed as they circled over the hut he had built. By the time Kathryn's voice came over the radio he was crying so hard he was unable to speak to her.

'It's a bloody Christmas miracle, mate, and that's the truth,' laughed his rescuer, slapping him on the back.


© 2014 Kay Lawrence.


Leave a Comment

: (required)
: (required, but will not be published)