FIVE MINUTE FICTION
This is the story of an almost true event which happened to a friend of a friend of a friend of mine’s cousin.
It was not your typical white Christmas. Mostly because it was in Australia, a country so far under everywhere else, it almost hides amongst the ice of the south pole. But not quite. It’s a little too large for that. Tasmania, however, is often dwarfed by wayward icebergs.
No, this particular Christmas was in the heat of the Australian summer. Scorching 40-degree days and steaming 30-degree nights were an everyday encounter when it all happened. The home where it occurred was on the South Coast of New South Wales and the name of the little girl who experienced it was Ella.
On the first day of December, Ella’s parents took her and her little brother, Danny, to the Pine Tree Farm out the back of Albion Park, a good twenty-minute drive from their home in Warilla. Every year, they’d go there as a family and pick a tree together, cut it down, and take it home. To Ella, it was all exciting – cutting the tree, the smell of pine throughout the house, and the nettles falling around the base onto the presents and carpet, which would stick to her bare feet when walking around the tree, were all part of their family tradition to her.
Together, they walked around the farm for an hour, pointing out trees, shaking their heads and moving on to the next. Finally, they came upon the greenest pine tree any of them had ever seen, right in the middle of the plantation! It had the strongest pine smell they had ever smelt, and it had the pointiest top a pine tree could ever have! They all looked at each other with nodding heads and grinning like cheeky monkeys. Ella’s dad cut the tree down and with the help of all four of them, managed to get it to the car and onto the trailer.
Getting into the house needed just as much team work. Once it was in the lounge room, they put it in the pot base and stood back a bit to look at their new fresh tree. Truly, it was a beautiful tree! Almost too beautiful to decorate. But not quite. No Christmas tree is too beautiful for decorations.
Danny and Ella were let loose with the Christmas box to decorate however they liked. If you’re cringing at the thought of your kids throwing things anywhere and everywhere and imagining tacky hangings of tinsel around the room, tinsels falling apart over everything and a mess like a cyclone hit, then your cringing here is not wasted. Indeed, it was a sight for sore eyes, but that was part of the fun. Lots of tear wiping from all the laughing. In the end, it was more about love on show than a tree on display!
That night, after drinking cold milo with a spoon to eat the crunchy floating powder on top of the milk, Danny and Ella went to bed. Danny being only five years old, still slept with a night light. But not Ella. Being ten meant she was too old for that sort of thing. Instead, she kept a torch under her pillow….just in case.
The whole house was dark when Ella heard it. A noise coming from downstairs in the loungeroom. It wasn’t Christmas Day, so she knew it wasn’t Santa. Bravely, she grabbed her torch and walked to the door. Opening it slowly, she noticed a light shining in the stairwell from the floor below. It must be her parents, she thought.
A few other soft noises were heard, a bit like birds chirping. Curiously, Ella walked to the stairwell railing and looked down. She could only see blurry shadows which she couldn’t make out, but were moving around making the light flicker a little.
Then voices were heard. “Is that mum and dad?” she thought. Fear now gone, Ella headed down the steps to see what they were doing. Whatever they were doing sounded extremely interesting. Little tinks and chinks here and there made the desire to find out grow.
However, when she got the bottom of the steps, she didn’t find her parents. Instead, she found a forest! And not just a forest, but creatures, elves and fairies too! Right in front of her was a bit of a clearing.
Wide-eyed and with her jaw sitting on the floor, Ella stared at the incredible sight, in shock. The family’s Christmas tree was featured to the left of the clearing, still colourfully, and lovingly decorated Ella-and-Danny style. But it looked different. It appeared to be glowing. And there seemed to be possums crawling, and fairies flying, around in its branches.
The light which was shining in the stairwell was coming from little flying lights – fireflies. There were so many, it was almost daylight. But not quite. More like having a lamp on.
Ella realised the cause of the strange shadows was coming from the elves moving in and out of the tree. Some were dressed in green and some were dressed in red. Unlike normal elves, these ones didn’t wear the stockings or the floppy-looking hat and shoes with bells. No, these elves wore singlet tops with stubbies, thongs and an Akubra hat with corks on strings hanging from it, also known as the swaggy’s hat. The elves trademark ears pointed through the strings. As one came out, another went in, mumbling something inaudible in the passing.
“What were the elves doing?” Ella thought. When an elf appeared from the tree, she stopped him and asked. But the answer was in some goobly-gook language which Ella didn’t understand. Confused but in awe, she sat in the clearing right in front of the tree, and continued watching the spectacle in her lounge room.
Other creatures were observed in and around the family Christmas tree that night – a kangaroo, two rainbow lorikeets, an emu, an echidna, a frill-necked lizard, two magpies and a kookaburra.
Eventually, the fireflies grew dim, the work of the elves and fairies died down, and the creatures’ activities dwindled to a stop. Ella felt her eyes growing heavy. Not wanting to leave yet, she laid down on a cushion……
Ella woke up with a start. She found herself in her own bed in her own room. “Did I dream all of that?” she wondered, rubbing her eyes. Running down the stairs, the lounge room was just as it was left the night before. Nothing appeared to have been moved.
She heard her parents talking in the kitchen and excitedly ran to tell them all about her wonderful experience. Danny was sitting on his booster seat on the chair next to her dad. They were amused by her colourful story. Ella insisted she hadn’t dreamt it but her parents assured her it she had. “There’s no such thing as magic trees.” They said.
After breakfast, Ella went to the lounge room to admire their beautiful, real, richly pine-scented Christmas tree. Looking towards the angel at the top of the tree, Ella noticed something fluttering down. She picked it up off the floor.
What she held in her hand was a black and white feather…… a magpie feather……which soon turned into a pen.
And that is what really, truly happened.