The Cave: A Christmas Vignette

A hermit sits in a cave, waiting anxiously for the evening to fall into true night. The cave is cold and his thin, worn-out overcoat is no comfort. It is ruddy brown from years of being unwashed and unchanged. And it has become too big over the years, no longer hugging his once round body the way it used to. It looks ridiculous on him and it stinks of human feces and urine. His eyes and cheeks are dug heavily on his face and his belly, which lost its fire long ago, rumbled in fatalistic hope for a scrap of something edible. His long beard is gray and unkempt. The only comfort he has is a small fire that’s slowly running thin and will die soon enough.

The world moves except in his cave.

He thinks of times past even as he glared at the stars dancing and flickering outside his cave. Once, he laughed. A famous laugh. A laugh he made perfect, a laugh that once was his and only his. And his belly was as round as the moon, and it jiggled. He faintly remembers toys magically created by forces even he can’t understand. They are his duty to distribute to a world of children who only knew him for that. But they knew him. They believed in him.

The world moves except in his cave.

Standing up, bones a-creaking and snapping, his back like a hundred needles pricking, he goes outside his cave. There’s no light since the moon has abandoned him tonight and he can only see a few feet’s distance but he knows snow covered the entire landscape. Not even a pine tree in sight. Pine trees, now there’s an imagery he’d sooner forget. Weary and moving like a snail with a broken heart, he looks up at the stars again, the only ubiquitous thing he knows, perhaps hoping faintly with the last drops of hope he can still muster from his broken self.

The world moves except in his cave.

To keep his mind off his rumbling stomach, he remembers a woman, also in red, also stout, also cheerful, teeth all a-glittering. She wore spectacles because her eyes weren’t what they used to be. She made great Chocolate chip cookies, which he would finish in one sitting with a tall glass of milk or hot chocolate. No, please. No memories of food. Not tonight. Those days, they needn’t worry about finances and household maintenance. They lived in a great big factory, filled with half-made dolls and unpainted bikes and work-in-progress building blocks. They had many servants and there were many rooms, all spacious, many of which weren’t even explored. Their home had a stable that housed nine reindeers. What were their names again? He couldn’t recall any, not one.

The world moves except in his cave.

He coughs. Three times. The third cough was wet and red. He wipes his hands on his coat. His knees become wobbly in hunger and, reluctantly, he finds himself kneeling on the cold snow. The wind seeping through his thin overcoat, through his skin, biting his bones with a hurt so strong he cannot think anymore. He lets out a hoarse cry, one that would have frightened not only babies but mothers as well. It was a cry of a broken heart, of a broken man. And he can not die. Not ever. Not yet. Not while people believed. But he could not live the life he once had because people didn’t believe enough.

And wearily he goes back to his cave; time moving through the night, untouching him.

And the world moves except in his cave.

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