Unbound Christmas Consequences
White Christmas Part 3
By David Quantick, author of The Mule
But he had to stop talking; everyone had to stop talking, because the sky was on fire.
“Look! There’s a light in the sky!” said Mark.
Ali squinted. “Is that what it is?” he said. “I thought I was in your brain and you were having a stroke.”
Mark hit Ali and Ali let go of the sheep. It wandered away, bleating, which is what sheep do, thought Ruth. She supposed bleating was a sheep’s default setting. Whatever happened to a sheep, whatever it did, whatever it thought, whether it spent its life eating and pooing on a hill or formed a band, it was a sheep and it would always bleat.
“The Bleatles,” she said, and wished she hadn’t. Ruth was always saying things she wished she hadn’t said. “Ewe 2.” Oh come on, Ruth thought (for once), if you’re going to blurt stuff out at least make it cool.
Mark and Ali waited for Ruth to stop blurting. They knew her sudden outbursts came in threes. “Ram Direction,” she said suddenly.
The sheep wandered over to her, and she put her arm around its neck. It felt like a very dirty jumper, which in a way she supposed it was.
“Can’t we just take it back?” said Ruth.
“No,” said Mark, and shivered. Mark was the youngest and scared of stuff. Ruth had found her grandmother stiff in her chair and wasn’t scared of anything except her own mouth.
“He doesn’t want to go back that way,” said Ali, nodding at the estate. “So we can’t go back to the city farm.”
“Maybe tomorrow, when it’s light,” said Mark.
“It’s light now,” said Ruth, and they all looked up. The incandescence in the sky hadn’t gone away. Something up above was illuminating the paths and walkways for miles around.
“It’s moving,” said Ali.
For a second Ruth thought he meant the sheep, then realised he meant the light in the sky. Ali was right: the light seemed to be heading away from the estate, leaving edges dark again, while illuminating –
“The flyover,” Mark said, and shook. He really did shake, Ruth thought, and she would have put an arm around her little brother, but she already had an arm around the sheep and besides Mark was eight and wouldn’t have liked it.
Ali was nine and all his family worked at night and he wasn’t scared of anything.
“Let’s follow it,” he said.
“But it’s going over the flyover,” said Mark, and he shook again. Ruth pushed the sheep towards Ali. It bleated.
“We need to get rid of this sheep,” she said, “and we need to go home.”
“I’m not going home,” said Ali. “I’m going to follow that light.”
“What about the sheep?” Ruth said.
“Mark? He’ll be fine,” Ali replied.
“Piss off!” said Mark and charged at Ali. Ruth rolled her eyes as the two boys tussled on the ground. The sheep bleated at them. Ruth stepped in and separated them.
“He called me a sheep!” shouted Mark as Ruth dragged him off Ali. Ali had a split lip, which surprised Ruth as Ali was about 25 centimetres taller than Mark.
“Go home if you like,” said Ali, indistinctly.
Ruth made an executive decision.
“We’ll go and look,” she said. “But we won’t cross the road. We’ll watch from over there.”
And the three children and the sheep walked across the road to the central reservation.
“Alison?” said Rabbi Joseph Meyer, as he opened the door.
The Reverend Alison Whitley stepped into Rabbi Meyer’s house followed, to his increasing surprise, by Imam Hussein. Hussein shrugged as Meyer closed the door.
“What is this, a pub joke?” said Hussein, looking round Joseph’s house like he wanted to buy it.
“Open your curtains, Joseph,” said Alison. For a moment Joseph was annoyed – who are these people coming round my house at this time of night criticising my sleeping habits and telling me what to do with my curtains? – but something about Alison and Hussein made him do as she said.
Instantly the hall was suffused – that was the word – with bright, silvery light.
“What the – ” said the Rabbi.
“My self-censored thoughts exactly,” Hussein said.
“No idea what it is,” said Alison, who Joseph felt was oddly pragmatic for a Christian, “but it’ll help us find the children.”
“The children?” said Joseph, and felt his heart lurch.
“Ruth and Mark Salter and Ali Hussein,” said Alison and nodded at the Imam. “His son.”
“The police are all beggaring around trying to control the crowds,” said Hussein. “Nobody cares about three kids.”
“Let me get my warm coat,” said Joseph.
“That reminds me,” said Alison as they headed out the door. “Someone told us they saw three kids about an hour ago. With a sheep.”
“A sheep?” said Rabbi Meyer.
Part 4 will be released next week
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