The snow fell lazily from the ash gray sky in a graceful, carefree pattern, manifesting a blanket of virginal dreams upon a valley surrounded by protective mountains. From where he was, the young man’s reflection under the dapper moon resembled that of a motherless child in search of a purpose and tracks of a father to follow. In the wide-open field he stood alone. Far off into the distance he could see the brilliantly stanced horse called Prophecy.
Moments later, as he watched, she appeared the worshipped daughter of the sun, her hair billowy clippings of chestnut gold, clad in garments protecting her from the December cold. As she grasped onto the saddle’s cantle and mounted the ruggedly framed animal whose coat was the color of autumn brown, dainty flakes of snow fell upon Prophecy’s forelock, mane and nose.
Benjamin, who was no more than a teen, sighed tremulously as he watched this from afar. For a moment he stood back, thinking how illustriously grand it surely would be to accompany the heiress of flaunting beauty on her mystical, magical travels.
Every evening at this same time he stood out in the middle of the field, there in the unrenowned valley, to witness what was an extraordinary show performed by the silhouetted blond, a woman who had appeared from beyond the mountains, a place that Benjamin had never dared trespass. She would mount her dashing beauty, Prophecy, and then descend from the mountain in a gallant stride. Through the crest of snow she would direct Prophecy’s canter, across the field and then into the phantom forest that’s only path wove narrowly through the towering figures of spruce and pine.
Benjamin never exactly knew where it was she was going. Nor to where that path in the forest led. He didn’t know who she was. He knew not of her name. All he knew was that the horse she so confidently rode beheld the name Prophecy. It had been many nights before when he was summoned out of bed by the neighing of the animal so very close by. Hurriedly he had gone to his window. There he had peeked outside. In his view he had found the most magnificent creature he had ever seen. Upon his land the four-legged animal confabulated and preached, the moonlight seizing its speech. Benjamin was in awe. He had never seen a horse so close before. He knew that many years before; his mother had owned a horse. His father often told him that sometimes on clear, cloudless days his mother would disappear on her horse for hours on end, and no one truly knew where her travels had taken her.
Farther away, standing alone upon the tallest mountain, Benjamin could see the silhouetted blond. In the late night she appeared as an incomplete shadow, a delusion created by the falling snow.
“Prophecy!” echoed her voice.
To Benjamin, as he watched from his bedroom window, her voice seemed to be that of a rousing murmur from an angel undisguised.
Hearing its owner’s beckoning cry, Prophecy, without hesitation, galloped back up the mountain. Once the two were reunited, they sauntered off together beyond the mountain.
Benjamin knew at that very moment that he must seek them again. Prophecy, he was sure, had come to his window on this night for a reason.
Certain of this simple fact, Benjamin stood outside as evening fell the following night. Bundled in the warmest coat, boots and gloves, he patiently awaited their return.
And, indeed, they had returned.
While the noiseless snow rained she rode Prophecy, who trod proudly as if carrying a prize. Sleigh bells were affixed to his bridle so that with his every step the bells jingled and jangled, clang and rang.
They did not take their usual route into the forest, as they had the evenings before. Tonight, upon this wonderful Christmas Eve, Benjamin was aghast with delight to see that they were heading toward him. Anticipatingly, he waited in the center of the wide-open field.
Her smile, as Prophecy carried her near, cascaded into crystals of firelight in his eyes. He was almost afraid to move, to utter a mere word. Was it a dream perhaps? No, no … it couldn’t be. No mask or shadow could conceal such an extravagant aura.
Seated magnetically in the saddle, her feet propped firmly in the stirrups, she leaned over and extended a hand that was as tiny and fragile as that of a child’s. She gestured that this he accept. Her eyes dipping in heavenly blue, sparking the reflection of his secret dreams, she said to him in a manner alluring to the perilous mystery he sought in her eyes, “Come … ride with me on this Christmas Eve.”
Thread deliriously into her persuasive canvas, he mounted the animal. He was almost immediately entranced by the way she requested his devotion in a hush of silence.
They fled under the full, vibrant moon, in its offered path across the snow, and into the wooly, wily, wraithlike forest where the snow adhered softly to the scented pines.
Benjamin hadn’t the faintest idea as to where this evocative goddess was taking him. Traveling farther and farther, avengers on a mystical quest, he felt they were soon to find a place where only solace reigned.
Jack Frost, merry in existence, paraded throughout the very forest where Prophecy sardonically pranced. Descending flakes of snow were eliminating the tracks the animal was leaving on what surely had to be a memorized path.
Before the stars began to appear with any clarity in the night sky, they came upon a small clearing deep in that magically aglow forest. It was there where rabbits fashioned in spiffy suits of winter white darted to and fro. Raccoons wearing masks of black and peppered gold, and squirrels and a fawn gathered together to admire the festive pine which stood apart from all of the others. Its extended arms displayed an array of Christmas bulbs; red, blue, yellow, silver and gold, all aglitter in the winter hue.
Without a word brought about, Benjamin dismounted from Prophecy. Eyes absorbing the motions, he approached the storybook fare into fantasy, entered and felt the realism of the spiritualistic wonder presiding there. His breath, during those first few moments, was lost, taken far away from his reach. Gibbering animals scurried by his feet, undaunted by the intrusion of the human. The sleigh bells attached to Prophecy’s bridle he heard jingle as the blond beauty, as shy—though coy—as the prey of wilderness, dismounted Prophecy. She went quietly to his side. In a gentle manner she took his hand into hers.
He turned his eyes upon her and smiled.
“What is your name?” he asked the intricate stranger.
A smidgen did her lids fall as she afforded her glistening lips of plum to express in quality chords, “Question not, as I possess a name you have always sought.”
In the vast distance –in the valley where lie in brick and stone his home –the church bells echoed a whimsical tune. It careened and buffered through the forest to be heard by everyone and all. It was midnight; Christmas. That’s what the church bells tolled. And above there did begin the flight of the white dove. It reeled and circled in dreamy passion, peace and love.
Prophecy shook his head and murred and neighed, in a happy sort of way. Partridges swooned and soared. The rabbits sat together around the decorated tree. The unafraid lot of raccoons and squirrels did, too. The fawn, however, was impelled to follow through with something of particular interest as it eyed a lone ornament sitting in the snow. Using its nose, the bashful creature nudged the bulb with its nose. Awkwardly it rolled toward Benjamin and came to rest at his toes.
Benjamin was dubious at first. But then he realized that there was a message in the fawn’s adoring eyes, one meant for him. Obligingly, he knelt down and retrieved the bulb. With an acknowledging smile to the animals of folklore he then walked over to their tree and placed the ornament upon an awaiting branch.
When he stepped back, something amazing did he then see. From the night sky a single star suddenly whirled downwards from beyond the moon. Upon the very tip of their Christmas tree it landed. It was here where it would take pride in its unfading, infinite glow. So brightly it twinkled.
The church bells, with persistence, continued to jubilantly wail throughout the forest. Icicles, in harmony, clanged, clattered and crinkled.
Realizing what he hadn’t before, Benjamin wrinkled a brow as he said to the woman who haunted the ivory grounds, “You are my mother. You are the woman who gave me life … the mother I have never known.”
To that she simply bestowed with a raised brow, “Every Christmas I watch you wander alone … and I hear your silent wonder; who I was and who I would have been. Tonight, upon this Christmas, I’ve come to offer you the peace of mind you have so desperately sought. Yes, my sweet child of innocence, I am your mother … the mother that time never allowed you to know.”
Then, on tiptoe, she reached up and coiled her fragile fingers around the edges of the burning Silver Star. The moment she touched it, it dissolved into quick silver in the palm of her hand. Lifting her hand level to her lips she gently blew the soft silver powder into his unsuspecting eyes.
His vision was blinded. But not for long. When the cinders of stardust no longer fogged his vision, he found that they had somehow returned to the center of the field, the very spot where their journey had begun.
Now she was sitting thoughtfully upon Prophecy’s back, whose regal stand defied that of any given mortal man. In the midnight scenario they looked like something an artist would have carved out of the most delicate snow.
She gazed down upon Benjamin and placed a warm hand affectionately to his cheek, as if to adore the mere touch of his flesh.
His heart waiting to explode, he pressed his hand over hers, sighed and closed his eyes. He very well knew he could not say goodbye.
Then suddenly she was gone, just as quickly and without warning as when she had first appeared. Prophecy, that sporting prize, had taken the fair, earthly spirit –a goddess in his eyes –away.
There … there in the distance he could see Prophecy taking her away, riding her fearlessly back up the highest mountain. The fleeting answer to his prayers, to his dreams … it was all rapidly slipping away.
“Wait!” he cried out painstakingly as he staggered deliriously after them through the crest of snow. “Don’t go!”
But Prophecy gallivanted onward and upward, hearing only the church bells roaring behind.
Benjamin stumbled and tripped and shivered audibly in the midnight cold. To his knees he fell. His eyes upwards peered, half expecting to find nothing there. But high above upon that huge mountain, she and Prophecy could vaguely be seen. They were standing still, the snow showering lightly upon them. Against a cool wind that rhymed with the chimes that the church bells in the valley drew, she spoke to him in a tuneful voice, a voice that as a child he knew.
“Be happy … be free. Put your grievance for me at rest, my child of vast wonderment. That is my Christmas message to you. It’s the best I can do. Take very well care and don’t be scared, for in your heart you will find that the love you need from me has always been there. That you must always believe.”
She and Prophecy then vanished beyond the mountain. And it was beyond that mountain where there lain a place that had once brewed sorrow deep in his soul. For it was there where his mother, who had died upon a Christmas Eve many years before, was buried beneath a common stone. But yesterday’s sorrow was now gone. It was gone … almost as though it had never belonged.
How lucky I am, he thought, as he listened to the church bells sing their Christmas song that Prophecy came to me that night when the first snow of winter fell. How lucky indeed.
Text: Cover By Laura J Weatherbee
Publication Date: 04-26-2010
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