“Pearla’s First Christmas”
A short story by Shannon Dittemore
“Pearla’s First Christmas” is a short story, written from the point of view of one of the characters in the Angel Eyes trilogy, and is available as a free download from author Shannon Dittemore.
“PEARLA’S FIRST CHRISTMAS” — EXCERPT
There was nothing silent about that night.
Except perhaps for the boy’s tears. His cloak was drawn tight around his thin shoulders, over his mouth, tears soaking into the cloth. Despite the warm of the night around us, he was cold. The staff in his hand trembled as he prodded a wayward sheep, pushing it away from the outer edges of the flock.
It was the fear that shook him, weighed him down, kept him silent beside the men trading barbs in the night air. The largest of them—a thick, burly man—was relentless in his jabs toward the boy, mocking his size and his youth, poking at him with a rod.
It came in great sticky globs—the fear—through the boy’s clothing and hair. Black and thick, it rolled down his back and onto the ground, pressing its way through the grass, looking for another victim.
I stepped toward the boy, invisible to him of course, my celestial form inherently warm, a deterrent to all things evil. My toes pressed into the vein of fear leaking at his feet. It hissed, sparked, and began to curl into itself. Stifling the spread of fear is easy enough for me and doesn’t violate my orders in any way, but the fear growing in his heart . . . I wanted to stop that too.
A touch from me would ease his sorrow, quell his fear, but I’m a cherubic spy, not a Shield. My job is to observe and report, not to engage. A desperate urge welled inside my chest, working its way to my hands. I balled them into fists at my side.
“Go ahead.” A voice rang inside my head. Deep. Lovely. Kind. It was Michael, Commander of the Armies of Light. “Tonight we bring goodwill to mankind.”
We Cherubs are small, no taller than a human child. One small step brought me face-to-face with the shepherd boy. His gaze was fixed on something beyond the fields, his gray eyes brimming with tears, his lips purple from the chill of fear.
My fists loosened then, the freedom to act—a thrill rushing through my form. I’d not done it before, offered healing to a human. But as my hands pressed into his chest, as I spread my dark fingers wide, I knew Michael was right.
Tonight we bring goodwill to mankind.
The boy’s eyes widened and then fluttered, his lips releasing a sigh of respite. The fountain of fear in his chest gurgled to a stop, but when I drew my hand away, a small pool remained.
“I don’t know why he’s still afraid,” I said.
“And you likely never will,” Michael answered. There was tension in his voice, a strain I rarely heard. My wings lifted me and I turned, rising several feet so I could look him in the eye. His wings dwarfed mine. They arched high above his head, broad and downy white. He was clad in armor now, his helmet covering a head of golden hair that matched his close-cropped beard precisely. He stood with his sword in one hand, javelin in the other, his eyes on the churning heavens above us.
“They’re here,” I said, following his line of sight.
Though the earthly, Terrestrial realm was dark with night, the invisible, Celestial realm was alive with color. Oranges and yellows flooded the world around us, streaked with shimmering gold. Light was everywhere. But as we stared, far above, the heavens changed. From a distance they looked to be nothing more than flecks of pepper seasoning the sky. But they were nothing of the sort.
It was the Fallen. And they were lethal. They could not be permitted to assault Bethlehem tonight.
Michael lifted his eyes to the town in the distance. “Gabriel should be here soon. It can’t be long now.”
But as we watched, the forces of darkness began to take shape, and our hopes of the Father’s Chief Herald making it through them unscathed grew dim.
“He’ll need a guard or he’ll never get through that hoard. Stay here, little one. When Gabriel arrives, tell him my forces and I will keep darkness at bay until—”
“Until the message can be delivered,” I finished.
The message. That was our mission tonight. To see it delivered. To whom, I couldn’t say. Someone important surely. This night’s even was worthy of the grandest audience, but it wasn’t my business to know. I would wait here for Gabriel. I would obey my Commander.
Michael lifted his arms, opened his mouth, and a loud cry rang across the heavens. From the light itself emerged three thousand angels astride their warhorses. Michael’s own steed, Loyal, materialized next to us, a being of cloud and light. With his voice still ringing, Michael swung into the saddle and the two launched into the sky.
I watched as he Commander soared to the front of his forces, as they closed ranks behind him. The Celestial sky above became a sea of white feathers, wind after wing after wing, the brightness of Michael’s forces blotting out the darkness descending on this place.
I turned back to the shepherds before me. To their sheep dozing in the grass and the men exchanging tales. They knew nothing of the battle raging overhead. Nothing of the gift that even now, was being given them.
SHANNON DITTEMORE — AUTHOR BIO
Shannon Dittemore is an author of young adult fiction. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California.
ANGEL EYES was Shannon’s debut novel and the launch of a young adult supernatural trilogy. It was published in the summer of 2012 by Thomas Nelson, followed the next year by BROKEN WINGS and DARK HALO.