Posted by Captain Zachariah Cobb (Commanding Officer) in Package Deliveries
Posted by Lieutenant Casela Synthi-er (Counsellor / RTF) in Package Deliveries
Posted by Captain Zachariah Cobb (Commanding Officer) in Package Deliveries
Casela gave him a moment and then approached him. “Santa, there is one more child. She’s been helping the little ones, but we shouldn’t forget her.”
Santa and Zanya returned, having left Vedi and Neltus to contemplate their gifts. There was one child left: Alyssa. This one Zanya had taken a long time to consider. Alyssa wrote beautiful stories. Filled with suspense, beauty, darkness, struggle, and believable characters that conveyed the harshness and the beauty of life. Her characters were believable and her worlds vivid and detailed. Zanya had collected the stories over the years, and Karra had submitted them to Intergalactic Publishing and they had made Alyssa an offer. A proof copy of the book was included. Alyssa was the last child she’d found in the mine, the child whom given her the stick doll wrapped in a tattered scrap of cloth, that still sat on the shelf in her office.
“Alyssa” A human girl, very serious, only 14 years old, but looking and carrying herself as so much more than her age. She walked up to Santa, but before he could delve into his bag she laid a gentle hand on his arm, but her gaze was riveted on Zanya. Her voice was cold and snapped like a whip, but barely a whisper and it cracked with heartache and abandonment. No one other than herself, Santa, and Zanya would hear her. She glared at Zanya, a persona that the girl knew was false, and said to Santa, “You can’t give me what I want.”
“For Casela to love me enough to keep me. I’ve known for years that ‘Zanya’ was just a cover. I’m sick of her pretending with me!” and she turns and leaves the yard, disappearing into the village.
Cobb’s eyes followed the fleeing child, before unleashing a curious glare on Casela. Was there more to this trip than she had been willing to reveal? Would the Leviathan be welcoming another child into its midst? Or had Casela, like Cobb himself, already accepted the shackles of solitude, the denial of a primal longing to care for another, as fitting punishment for her former deeds?
Shifting a few paces away from the others, Zachariah beckoned for Synthi-er to join him. Then once within earshot, he whispered, “Do you intend to go after her? Or should this fake Santa chase her down instead?”
- Santa Cobb
Casela followed him and sat down abruptly on the low wall surrounding the yard. She looked – pale. She looked in the direction of where Alyssa had run off. “I had no idea. I’m not sure she wants to talk to me. There is nothing I can do for her anyway, no matter what I want to do.” She looked up at the sky. The sun was beginning to go down. “I have to go set something up for tonight. I’ll be gone a couple hours. Karra will get you anything you need.” She got up and walked towards the back gate and slipped out looking absolutely shattered.
Zachariah frowned. Clearly the child had pulled on that one, ragged heartstring that refused to spare Casela the pain of vulnerability. He knew better than to try and dig further. He definitely knew better than to follow.
But someone else, he suspected, might just welcome a little following up on right now. Reaching into his sack, he pulled out a stuffed bear made of long brown fur and with a large red heart emblazoned into its chest. With a shrug, he tucked the bear under his arm and then strolled off into the forest, following the direction he had last glimpsed the fleeing child…
- Santa Cobb
Alyssa had not wandered far. In her young teen angst she was hurting. The one woman who she loved more than anything didn’t want her. She had this ability, she always knew the truth. She always figured it was an over active imagination; that she could see all the possibilities of what might happen. Imagination and anxiety. But when she’d heard Ch’otok, the old Klingon hermit call Zanya ‘Casela’ all those years ago she knew something was different, that she ‘knew’ the truth simply by wanting to know it. It scared her, but nothing bad had ever happened to her. She’d stopped at the edge of the forest. She’d learned responsibility from Casela, and Karra had always told the children to stay out of the woods. She was the oldest and so she had to make the example. They looked up to her, and so she didn’t let them down. She sat down in the bole of a tree and cried, silently. Why didn’t she want her? Why did she keep coming back? She had seen possibilities, once and only once, where Zanya, Casela, had loved her and wanted her and had been her mother. Why wouldn’t she do it? Was something wrong with her, Alyssa? She cried softly feeling empty and unwanted.
She heard the foot steps approaching and looked up at ‘Santa.’ She studied him, wanting to know who he really was. Of course Santa was the embodiment of an ideal, so who was the man underneath. Many images chased across her mind, many possibilities for this man’s life. Some beautiful and happy, others much more horrifying than the one he had, and still others where he was still not alive. She dashed the tears from her face and watched him approach.
Zachariah approached slowly, the bear held out before him like a more palatable shield. For a moment he considered maintaining the charade and regaling her with the true, magical tale of Christmas. But she was too far gone for that. This child was just like him. She had seen the edge. She’d allowed it to touch at her toes and risk a glance over the side. And in that moment she had learned, the painful and inescapable truth. Magic. Was not real.
Spotting a fallen log a friendly distance from her own hiding place, the captain settled down onto it and placed the bear at his side. Reaching up, he pulled off the red Santa hat and then, with a chuckle, fitted it onto the bear’s head.
“Sucks, doesn’t it,” he spoke, to the child, to the bear and to no-one at all. “Being abandoned. That sickening, gnawing feeling. Right here,” he thumped at his chest. “That nobody wants you. That you’re not and never will be good enough.”
Alyssa watched him approach. She hugged herself tightly and nodded. But no matter how long she looked at the possibilities she could never find one where Casela did not want her, but she just wouldn’t keep her. She’d studied them all, she tried to manipulate the events, to make it happen, but it wasn’t working the way she wanted.
Steel-toed boots dug into the moss at his feet. A tiny, pathetic gesture of destruction against the world that had rejected them both.
“My father was an adventurer. An explorer,” he continued after a time. “I always thought it was the most wonderful, most exciting thing in the whole world. And he my true hero. Until he wasn’t.”
The girl knew exactly what he meant. He felt sure of it.
“It’s funny, how different everything appears, after the rain. The glitter gets washed away, the lights are flooded and die out. And all that remains is that grey, dirty, rusty shell. Reality. The truth is that, my father was no adventurer. He was a rogue. A deserter. He abandoned his wife and child without a second thought to chase after a stupid and selfish dream. It took me a long time to get over it. A long time to stop wallowing in self pity. But when I finally did, I found buried beneath it the answer. That there is only one person you can ever rely on in this world. Yourself.”
Alyssa loved her fiercely and the picture his words were painting of Casela irked Alyssa. “She’s not like that!” She young face scrunched in anger and fierce protectiveness that only a child can achieve. “She didn’t abandon me. She never promised me anything she didn’t give. She’s not a deserter or a rogue. She saves people! How can you say that?” She dashed more tears off her face. “We all rely on each other here. We’re family.” She loved Karra and her village and every person in it and Zanya/Casela was part of that family, even if she wasn’t always here.
Rising to his feet, Cobb held the bear out before him once again and cautiously approached the tree.
“But I’m going to tell you a secret, Alyssa. A secret that I have never told anyone else in my entire life.” Finally reaching the tree, he fell down onto his knees and began to shuffle the bear ever closer, in playful, dancing steps.
“This is a very special bear.”
The bear’s head ‘nodded’ up and down.
“This heart on its chest is a source of great strength. And when you press its heart to yours…”
It puffed out its furry chest and gave a little jiggle.
“…it will pass all of its strength to you.”
A beat. He lifted the toy and held it out in the hope that she would take it. Would she?
Alyssa took the bear with a childish smile. The man was funny and sincere. She flopped the Santa hat on it’s head back and forth. “I…I thought if she knew I kept her secret all these years she would change her mind. She’d know she could trust me, that she could take me with her this time.” She looks at him. “She’s never brought anyone with her until last time. I looked, I watched all the possibilities. It meant she was safe, or safer. You know her secret.” And her face had the same shattered look Casela’s had as she left. These two loved each other fiercely and had no idea what to do.
“This bear,” he concluded, blue eyes shimmering now with the whisper of uninvited and unshod tears, “holds not only its own strength. It also holds mine. And as long as you have it with you, just know that I will be with you too. I will be thinking of you and I will be willing you to take that strength and to use it for whatever you might need. And I will also know that you are there, just as you will know the same of me. Through this bear, Alyssa, neither one of us will ever truly be alone, ever again.”
- Santa Cobb
She hugged the bear while she listened. She might be 14 but still a child. She reached out and touched his arm, grabbed it, the action swift and sure and reminding him of something Cas would do. She looked at him with eyes that saw far too much. She saw, many things. This man was sad and she wanted to give him the strength to find peace like he was helping her. “If you write to him, he will answer.”
Zachariah frowned, mock-ignorance a barely adequate cover for deep, unyielding shame. “Write to who?” he offered redundant reply, before adding in a whisper, “In truth I would not know what to say to him. I know naught of him or his current life. Nor do I have any right to inquire.”
But somehow, the seed had been planted in that frozen, barren ground. The watering of it would, however, have to wait for another time.
Getting to his feet, Cobb held out a hand to the girl. “I hear Jokoth is rustling up some kind of feast for us back at camp. And I don’t know about you, but I am starving,” he chuckled. “What say we go eat, huh?”
- Santa Cobb
Alyssa watched him, he knew who, but she could tell him, before his birthday, otherwise it was too late. But the the ‘truths’ kept dividing after that date, it might be okay or not, she couldn’t tell. And then she’d have to tell him about how she ‘saw’ things and she was afraid to do so. She’d never told anyone, not even Ms. Karra. “Jokoth loves cooking. Whatever he makes will be amazing. Are you going to take Neltus, Vedi, Mercona, and Julin with you? They are going to have a wonderful home with Mr. Tabris.” But they had to leave tomorrow or they would never make it to Mr. Tabris before he disappeared. Hugging the bear to herself she and took his hand standing up and leading the way back slowly. “Can you talk to her? Can you make her want me?” she whispered softly to the not real, but real enough, Santa.
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