This is our penultimate Advent Short of 2015. It’s sad to think that this journey will be over tomorrow, but I’ll save those emotions for then.
For now, I offer you peace & love & joy.
The man sleeping on the hospital bed was close to death but you would never have been able to tell by just looking at him.
A look of pure serenity and acceptance held his features in the perfect impression of life. Despite this illusion, the truth was that Gabriel Evans had less than forty-eight hours to live.
Two chairs flanked the right side of his bed, both occupied. The first supported his wife, Marianne, the second their son, Jordan. They slept too, though their expressions were far more conflicted, far less at peace.
“You sure this is the guy?”
Elias gazed down at the dubious figure beside him, his blue eyes twinkling with certainty. “Yes.”
“He’s kind of young, isn’t he?”
“Too young.” Elias turned once more to regard Gabriel’s prone form. Only thirty-five. “To be dying.”
“I know it’s sad and all, boss, but you can’t choose on emotion alone.”
“And I’m not, Joves. I felt drawn to him before I even saw him. You know that I’m right. Remember when I was first chosen. You made my life hell.”
Joves shrugged, his curly purple hair bobbing up and down with his shoulders. “You were a stubborn fool.”
“I still am.” He smiled, but it was half-hearted. He still remembered when Peter had come to him all those years ago, a man standing on the side of a bridge, ready to jump, ready to die. He had been given a second chance at life, a gift he had learned to embrace with everything he was.
Joves pursed his lips together, still not convinced.
“Do you not trust me?”
“That’s not it…”
“You don’t want to lose another,” Elias sighed, understanding the dejected look in his eye; his issue was not with the man he was choosing, but that a choice had to be made. “How many now, Joves? Three? Four?”
“You’ll be the fifth,” Joves whispered, his voice burdened by the heaviness of sorrow. “And most definitely not the last.”
Elias bent down and clapped the elf on both his shoulders. He was the eldest of the brood, his second-in-command. “You carry the hardest load of all, living as each of us passes on. I never asked before: do you still feel the grief of each one?”
Joves could not meet his eye. Downcast, he stared at the linoleum tiles.
“I am sorry.” Elias drew him into a tight embrace, wishing that he could bring him better comfort.
“I don’t always feel it,” Joves told him when at last Elias released him. “But when it comes time for the Passing, I remember each, and I suffer anew. But don’t worry about me. I’m not the one who’s going to die.”
“Death is harder on those left behind,” Elias mused. He glanced once more at the mother and son sleeping against each other; it was a bittersweet truth that would soon be revealed to them.
He rose up with slow intent and tiptoed across the floor to Gabriel’s side.
His hand fell on the young man’s shoulder and Gabriel’s eyes flew open. Those hazel orbs betrayed the true weariness of his soul, even as surprise flitted through them.
Elias nodded. “Hello, Gabriel.”
“That’s a pretty good costume.”
“It’s been in my family for five generations now.”
“Wow. Compliments to your Dry Cleaner.”
Gabriel turned his head towards his family. “Hey, Marianne. Did you send the Santa?”
“She won’t be able to see me. Only you.”
“Cause you’re the real Santa, is that it?”
“Yes.” He nodded then towards Joves who waggled his fingers at Gabriel.
Gabriel blinked once. “Angel of Death taking a break today?”
Joves laughed. “Actually, I think I will like this one.”
Elias chuckled too. “Let’s have a little chat, shall we?”
Elias and Joves waited in the hall, permitting Gabriel the privacy he needed to say his final farewell. He had understood that his family could know, but that they could not come with him. The spirit of Saint Nicholas could only grant new life to one person.
He heard tears and felt the wave of mixed emotions that surged from the room; there was disbelief—that was the most poignant—but there was also hope.
At last, Joves pulled on pant leg. “We need to get this done soon. It’s nearly midnight.”
Elias allowed them a few more seconds before sweeping back into the hospital room with Joves on his heels. He approached Gabriel’s bed, visible only to his eyes.
Marianne’s face was lined with tears as she held to her husband’s hand; Jordan’s face was contorted with confusion. They did not know what to think or say as Gabriel followed Elias’ entrance with his eyes and addressed him. “How does this work again?”
“I’ll say my line and then you’ll say yours, and the rest is magic.”
“And what happens to you?”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ve lived longer than I ever should have.”
“Four hundred years,” Joves piped up. A sob followed the factual statement.
Elias turned away from Gabriel and knelt on the floor once more. “Thank you, Joves. For all that you’ve done. I hope you know that I have adored every moment together.”
Joves could only throw his small arms around him, holding him close, squeezing him tight. Words could never have expressed as much love and grief.
Blinking back the tears in his eyes, Elias stood once more and reached for Gabriel’s hand.
He kept one hold on Marianne, passing the other to Elias.
“Gabriel, what are you—“
“Just watch, Marianne,” he told her, his voice a soothing one that she deigned to follow.
“Father Christmas, spirit most pure, I have been your servant, I have fulfilled your will. At last I pass this mantle to the next, ready for eternal rest,” Elias recited, his tone strong, his words clear.
“Father Christmas, spirit most pure, make me your servant, let me fulfill your will. Pass onto me this mantle, I am ready for this quest.”
Their words echoed about them. A light glowed about their clasped hands, growing in brightness until it consumed them all.
“Sleep in peace, Elias Kent,” a soft voice uttered.
Elias closed his eyes and sighed one final breath. He felt the spirit depart from him and knew that it entered Gabriel then, sweeping away the illness that had conquered his body, to grant him new life, to gift onto him the duty of Santa Claus.
May inspiration flow like ink upon your quill,
© 2015. Faith Rivens.