Every year, at the arrival of the winter festivities, there came a call for the bravehearts—the warriors of hope, the heroes of peace, and the defenders of faith. A call that was sent to the chosen few—a call that came as a raven, perched on my window sill. Little did I know, being chosen meant that Christmas would never be the same again.
“Mum!” I called from my bedroom. “There’s a bird on my window. And it won’t fly away.”
I was an ordinary nine-year-old, who had just attempted to shoo the feathered creature with a pillow. Alas, it stood stock-still with unwavering determination to accomplish its task.
“What bird?” my mother replied as she strolled in. After a quick glance around the room, she headed to the window to pull it shut. “How many times do I have to tell you to close the window before bed?”
“The bird,” I merely replied.
My mother shook her head as she turned toward me. Believing that she had dealt with the raven, I slipped under the warm comforter—ready to call it a night. Alas, night had only just begun. Once my mother bade goodnight, flicking the lights off as she did, I heard an echo of a deep raspy caw. It sounded almost ghost-like—not of an actual bird. And when I couldn’t ignore it any longer, I sat up and looked at the window.
There it was—on my window sill with an illuminating purple gem between its beaks. It bore no gifts earlier and I hesitated. Was it safe to approach the creature? But as a curious child—who still believed that there was magic in the world—the glowing stone was the perfect bait. Slipping out of my bed, I went to the avian messenger to unknowingly accept my heroes calling.
That night, the cut and polished stone determined my fate. For the next three years of my life—on the fifth of every December—my raven would return. I would take the stone from its beak and glimpse into the chaos of the world—the invisible monsters with life-sucking fangs and soul-crushing claws that sought to destroy the remaining hope of the year. These otherworldly beasts roamed the streets and entered homes in search of unsuspecting victims. And it was my mission to stop them from destroying my slumbering neighbourhood.
Who would have thought that a child could be a hero? I was nine-years-old when I was gifted the light—the radiant and blinding amber of hope that beamed from the palms of my small hands. It was the light that kept my family and friends safe. It was the light that made me the unsung hero. And though it meant that Christmas was when the monsters of my nightmares came to life, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. For when I turned thirteen, the messenger went to another child.
At thirteen, I knew that my quest was over. Still, I couldn’t forget. And every night since, I would wonder about the shadows of humanity—was there an eldritch spectre outside my bedroom door? Unfortunately, it was no longer up to me to save the day. Another hero had been chosen—a reality I had accepted until my own child spoke of a bird on a chilly December night.
“Dad!” she called from her bedroom. “There’s a bird on my window. And it won’t fly away.”
“A bird?” I asked as I entered her room. Turning to her opened window, where I saw no avian creature, I frowned. “What bird?”
“There.” She pointed at the vacant space within the window frame. “It’s just… looking at me,” she added.
It had been over twenty years since my own encounter. And I would have shut the window—just like my mother did mine—if not for the strange inkling to keep it open.
“Dad, can you close the window?” she prompted. And therein, I remembered.
“It won’t hurt you,” I said. Crouching by the side of her bed, I continued, “But if it has a stone in its beak, you have to take it.”
“There’s no stone,” she stated.
“Not yet.” I winked.
“Okay. But what does the stone do?”
“It makes you a hero,” I replied. “It’ll make you brave. And even if the monsters scare you, you’ll be strong enough to destroy them.”
“Goodnight, Hope,” I said.
Flicking her bedroom lights off, I could only wonder if it were all true. I had grown to doubt. Still, I found a hint of belief. And if there was one gift I could offer my child this Christmas, it was to help her uncover the superhero within.
12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)