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Giffpayper

Every Alician dawn is the same as every other. The searing diamond of Vega strikes like a physical blow to the senses as he rises above the flat, almost featureless plain of ochre-coloured rock. But, to a ten year old boy, even the harsh landscape of Alicia seemed somehow different on this special morning. The scene from the small view-port seemed somehow softer and – could it be? – was there movement in the silicaforms near Seth’s dome? No, perhaps not. But it was pleasant, momentarily, to think that he might have been the first to notice the rare event; he looked every morning.

He put off joining his parents in the family room as long as possible, allowing the ecstasy of anticipation almost to overwhelm him. He knew that, this morning, he would be allowed to see the crystal tree, the tall, green lattice of minerals that his grandfather had found on Farside before he was born. Its twelve brittle arms (it had once had sixteen) would have hanging from them a present wrapped in some of the fragile giffpayper that his mother said was old when she was a child. He hoped with a dreadful longing that his present would be wrapped in the white giffpayper with the red spots and funny green ‘leaves’ that his mother had called holly.

The choice of giffpayper was more important than the present – he knew it would be either a singball or a smetchcock and he didn’t care which. It was a fifty-fifty chance either way but there was real uncertainty about the giffpayper. He had first seen it years and years ago when he had been five (or was it four?), when his mother had told him the ancient tale with the strange words: stay bull, kamels, shepperds, flox-by-night and aynjuls. What could they mean? And how could the three gurus have followed a star? Everyone knew that stars don’t move, but his grandfather had said this was one of the most important parts of the story and, one day, when he was ten (TEN!) it would be explained and he would understand.

He remembered so well the first time he had heard it. It was soon after they had moved into their own dome. He had listened, enraptured, as his mother talked. There had been singing and bright lights and colours. Yes, the lights! How they had shone on his mother, raising glints of colour against the almost black skin. His mother was the prettiest of all the mothers – and he felt a sudden surge of pride.

He entered the room and, yes, it was his special giffpayper! But, suddenly, the giffpayper didn’t matter – only the story.

“Long, long ago, my little Guito, nearly at the beginning of time, Joseph and Mary were called to visit the little town of Bethlehem ...

******

More than a hundred trillion miles away, the cinder that had once been Earth circled its dying sun. There was no one to know that on a million planets across the Galaxy there were still children who woke to Christmas mornings.

 
Word Count: 515
 

This is my favourite short story on this web-site. Even now, I cannot read it without a lump coming to my throat as I read the final paragraph. I hope other people are similarly affected. But I have a problem and I almost decided not to include it in this site because, over the years, I must have read thousands of science fiction stories and I can hardly believe that I have written something I like so much. Have I stolen the idea from some, better, author? I hope not. I believe all the narrative is mine and the title doesn’t appear in my internet search engine but if any reader recognises the source, I would be grateful to be told so that I can contact the original author.

Thank you.

 
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