On day 23, we introduce the lovely author Ravon Silvius…..
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The warm mists drew beads of sweat on Aldric’s neck and shoulders, and he put his metal briefcase down on the soft loam. The bark of the enormous tree he leaned against was rough and uncomfortable, and Aldric gave up and sat down, peering up at the sun setting in the purpling sky overhead.
He remembered a time before the war, when the ever-present warm, moist air had been cold and dry. When snow had fallen over treetops that didn’t tower nearly a hundred feet tall. Before the war, before he had been injured. He had loved the cold, and he missed it now.
With those memories, came fantasies. Fantasies of what a perfect Christmas would be like, even in this dying world.
Maybe it would have been nice to be chosen, to be among those living in the stars, on the orbiting ships far above the Earth. Some traditions would be forgotten, since Aldric doubted they had pine trees aboard, but there would still be gifts, still be laughter and togetherness. He could have a meal with Jake, his old friend. Jake had always talked about Christmas during the war. Up there, the food would be savory and fresh, not run through purifiers or left in storehouses the way it was here. He could eat meat and drink fresh water that wouldn’t make him sick.
Or maybe he could go back home, finally stop wandering. His parents were gone, but he could rebuild the house, find some horses, and settle down for a life. A real life. He could visit the old tree his father had used to decorate every year. Aldric smiled at the memory, of how each Christmas morning he had walked through the snow out to the tree to find his presents. Perhaps he could find someone to share the tradition with. A handsome, kind man, someone who wouldn’t judge him for his damaged voice or his injured arm.
Aldric shook his head, restless. Perhaps instead of settling, he could find someone to travel with. Another man who could survive, who had his own strength and skill, and knew not to ask about Aldric’s past. They could travel north, never stopping, until they found a place where it snowed during Christmas like it was supposed to, the air crisp and the cold deadening the scent of explosive growth and decay that was everywhere since the war. They could find a new pine tree, start a new tradition. Just decorating it with someone else would be enough.
Aldric frowned, taking a deep breath and looking once more at the darkening sky, the purple going to black. Maybe he could go to a city, one of the ones that had somehow lasted after the war that had ended the world. In a city, there would be food, maybe even talk of Christmas. There would be people, living their own lives and sharing their experiences, instead of the silence of the forest.
And maybe Aldric could find someone there, someone to spend some time with, or just listen to. A man who would talk about his own memories, his own fantasies, his own dreams. So few people had them now. In a city, Aldric could find someone to spend Christmas with. With the never-changing climate on post war Earth, he didn’t even know when it was, or if it had just passed. But it would be wonderful to be with someone on the holiday.
Most of all, Aldric realized as the night grew dark, he didn’t want to be alone anymore.
As the forest blackened to pitch, mist casting a dark blanket over everything, lights flicked to life ahead. The flashing, intermittent neon lights of a city, almost like Christmas lights.
Aldric stood, picking up his case, and began to walk toward them.