Silent Night

by Crackerwriter

© Dec 2008 by Crackerwriter

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there...'

© Clement Clarke Moore

And that was the problem. It was too quiet. It was only ten o'clock, and there was hardly a soul around. Sure, Christmas lights flashed in patterns from windows high and low.

Little Tim was just about tall enough that he could see in some of them. A lot of the rooms revealed nothing except perhaps a few decorations; the odd Christmas tree with what must be presents piled underneath it, and even sometimes a real fire with guard around it to prevent falling ashes escaping.

Just once or twice he saw actual people sat in chairs or on sofas dozing in front of a television which was keeping itself company! In none he saw any sense of 'togetherness' or 'family' feelings. That made him somewhat downhearted. Oh well, he might as well hit the bright lights down town.

As he made his way through the icy streets, he did come across the occasional individual. Some he saw coming and hid in a shop entrance or side street. They were the ones who would harm you; force you to do things you didn't want, or worse still, force you to let them do things to you, which left a feeling of guilt as well as disgust. It wasn't easy when you were small and not able to defend yourself or summon help.

Tim didn't have such a great life. He'd run away from the orphanage, but at least most of the time he was making out better living rough, than living under the so called 'care' of the orphanage, which he figured was probably worse than a Victorian workhouse. He'd often been beaten up by some of the older boys; he hadn't a clue what they achieved by doing that to him. Since he was much smaller than them it would be a hollow victory indeed. They were fools, but he had decided it was something he wouldn't put up with anymore. So he had run away to the comparative warmth of the big city. The home had been an isolated place, deep in the countryside. He had made it to a town and had secreted himself on a train bound for the city. He'd found a few friendly faces at fast food outlets, who took pity on him and gave him some scraps to eat. A couple had realised he had a problem, and had even given him a little money when they saw him, to get a hot drink, apart from what they gave him in a plastic or paper cup at the time.

Once there, he came across quite large numbers of others seeking warmth and shelter, but he soon realised that he was too young to get admission to a hostel. The people who ran the hostel would inform the authorities and he would be taken away and returned to some children's home or another. He certainly didn't want that again, so he joined the occupants of the 'cardboard city'. There were several of these places located under bridges and flyovers, which provided shelter from the north and easterly winds. When the wind came from these directions, the temperatures dropped to below zero, even in the warmth of the city.

Still, it wasn't as great a problem as just surviving. He had learned what words were in the orphanage, and understood some of them, but most were still a total mystery to him. His world was very quiet, like tonight, too quiet. He didn't talk to people because he couldn't talk properly, not knowing how. Like every night of the year, this was a silent night. Timmy was deaf.

There was one man who ran a café and had his flat over the premises. He would wash his clothes, feed him sometimes, and allow him a shower, as long as he was allowed to shower with him, and wash Tim thoroughly all over, and that meant very thoroughly.

He wasn't so worried about the fingers that probed his bottom 'to clean it completely', as he was made to understand by the gestures of the man. He didn't mind the fact that the thing between his legs had to be cleaned by rubbing it up and down with the skin pulled back as well to get all the stale sweat off it. That was actually quite nice, as the man did it quite gently really. In fact it made him feel so good that he did it himself sometimes now. He didn't much like the feeling of whatever it was that pushed hard at his bottom between the two halves where his hole was though. He wasn't allowed to look round at what the man was doing, but he was sure he was trying to push something too big inside him. The man always put some baby oil on his bottom and his willy after washing it; 'so it doesn't get sore' he had tried to explain to him.

In return for food, he had sometimes been required to sleep with the man in his bed. That was usually a weekend on a Saturday night, when the café was closed the next day. He was required to sleep naked, on his side, and with his little bum against the man's huge willy. It was when he did this that he eventually figured out where the stuff like curdled milk came from. His bottom always got wet with it, and the man would cuddle him tight. He didn't mind that, or even the sticky wetness, as long as the man didn't hurt him trying to push the stiff thing into his bottom.

Once, the man had held him so tight against him that the thing had hurt him as it almost pushed itself inside and something went inside him as the man trembled and gasped. It felt sort of warm and slippery. He knew what it was though, because normally it went all over his bum and ran down his slim legs as the shower water washed it away. It was sort of white and lumpy looking like curdled milk. He was quite curious how it got there though.

He'd not been totally deaf all his life, but his hearing went completely quite suddenly, when he was nearly five, after all the trauma of life at home. He had no memory of that time now; his brain having shut it all away to stop him going mad. Now he was almost ten, and he was stone deaf, although his brain compensated and he was more aware of things around him and often sensed when danger was present.

It was getting bitterly cold and little Timmy shivered uncontrollably. He knew he'd better find shelter soon, or he'd likely freeze to death tonight. The café and all his other regular haunts seemed to be closed, apart from one that was catering for late-night last minute shoppers. It wasn't that busy, and he wondered if he dared sneak in and hide in a corner for a while so that he could get warm again. He checked the place over. There didn't seem to be any side or back door that he could access, but there must be somewhere where deliveries were made. In the end he gave up and just snuck in behind a couple that were arm in arm and laughing about something or other. Once through the door, he darted into the corner and sat down on the floor out of sight, next to a nice warm radiator, that he sensed rather than saw straight away.

The next thing he knew, he was being roughly shaken awake, and the manager was waving his arms at him to get out. He'd dozed off with the comfort of the heat. Everyone in the place was staring as he was bodily thrown out of the door and landed heavily on the freezing pavement. He whimpered as he tried to scramble to his feet, the cold biting into him where he'd landed heavily.

He saw one man remonstrating with the owner, it seemed because of his action. The man came out and dropping to one knee, took hold of him. Timmy knew by the movement of his mouth he was saying something. He made gestures and managed to make the man understand that he was deaf. He was lifted to his feet and helped back inside to a table where the man had been sitting with a woman. They put him as close to a radiator as they could get him. Evidently he spoke to the woman, because she suddenly looked most distressed, and yelled in the direction of the manager, herself. He went red with embarrassment.

The man got up again and went to the counter. More words were said and some money was handed over, then the man returned and sat down again. Timmy just sat there soaking up the heat and getting drowsy. He started, realising the man was gently shaking him. He'd slept, just sitting in the chair because he felt exhausted. Suddenly he became aware of the food on the table in front of him. A steaming full bowl of delicious smelling hot soup, a bun with a massive burger in it, and a tub of fries. The man was gesturing that it was for him. He could hardly believe his luck, and tears ran down his face as he lay his hand on top of the man's own. The man and the woman smiled and gestured for him to get it down him.

The soup was so hot in fact that he had to leave it a bit to cool or it would have scalded his tongue, so he had a few fries first and a bite out of the bun, having dunked it in the soup first. It tasted so delicious to him, he tried to mouth a thank you to the man. It seemed he succeeded after a fashion, as the man patted his arm and smiled. Thereafter he proceeded to demolish it all slowly.

At last he was full. That relatively small amount had filled him completely, because his stomach had shrunk so much. He sat back while the man and woman continued with theirs. Again, he was asleep in seconds, and then just as quickly it seemed he was being woken again. They were leaving. The lady had picked up some of the parcels, and the man had taken off his thermal jacket and was holding it open for him to put on. Timmy could hardly believe his eyes and looked uncertainly at the jacket. The man shook it and it was obvious he meant for Timmy to put his arms in it, so he turned around and backed himself into its depths. The man wrapped it around him and made the front secure with the belt. He couldn't possibly have done up the zip, as the two halves overlapped by about two feet!

They took him with them, stopping for a moment at an apartment to drop the bags and parcels off. Then they were off again. He felt better now, and definitely much safer now that he was with a couple of adults, so that he had a chance to have a good look around. They were making their way right through the centre of town, where normally it would have been far too risky for him to be on his own. He sensed rather than saw looks from some of the deep black shadows. Evil stares from those who would have abused his body horribly.

It didn't take long though to get past that area, and on a little towards a safer part of town. Timmy became aware that there were quite a few other groups of people who were walking in their general direction too. There were an increasing number of them the further they went. A clock not far, chimed the three-quarter hour. Then he realised; they were headed for the old cathedral.

They rounded a corner and the ancient building loomed before them. Timmy looked up to the tower soaring high above, a spotlight illuminating the cross right on top. The building had lighting set in the grounds and the whole building was floodlit from end to end. Somehow in the silver floodlighting it looked kind of eerie, and he shivered involuntarily, though not through the cold. Perhaps he could find somewhere warm inside and sleep sheltered from the cold night, because he doubted the wind could penetrate this massive building. It was after all, the wind which made him coldest of all, stealing the last of his body heat from his bones as well.

They approached the huge building at the west end, where massively solid-looking doors stood open, in a welcoming fashion. There were smaller inner glass doors as well, which prevented the now almost howling wind from getting in as well. Inside, a man in a black cloak greeted them and handed them some books, but the fellow he was with handed the third set back, evidently explaining Timmy's deafness and homelessness. The man in the cloak looked down at him sadly, and gently laid a hand on his head, saying something else to his benefactor. For some strange reason that made him feel very calm. His fellow put a hand on his shoulder and guided him up the long aisle to pews not far from the front of the nave, and they sat down, with Timmy next to the aisle.

From there he could see everything. A short distance away, there was a massive altar adorned with richly decorated drapes around the front and sides, and a spotlessly white cover on the very top. A huge golden cross was placed in the centre of it and massive, tall, ornate candlesticks stood either side of it. A row of ornate silver cups stood on the altar and he could just see if he stood on tiptoe, there were silver plates as well. They were sitting there for some time, as the cathedral gradually filled almost to overflowing. Timmy started to realise this was obviously a special meeting time.

Timmy was looking all around him. It had got so full that people were standing in the side aisle now; every seat, even all the spare extra ones that had been stacked, was taken. An elderly lady, leaning heavily on a stick was searching in vain for somewhere to sit. She was struggling, and she paused, leaning on a pew to get her breath back. Timmy saw her plight and shot to his feet and dashed to her aid. He guided her back to where he had been sitting, and she gratefully slumped into the seat. Timmy grinned at her and squatted down on the floor of the aisle, right beside her. His slightness of body meant he hardly took up any space at all. Most of the bulge into the aisle was purely jacket! The lady was elderly and frail, yet had been determined to come if she could make it. The fellow and his lady were quite taken by surprise at Timmy's kindness to the elderly woman. They murmured between them, and now they waited patiently for the service to start.

Eleanor Briddlescombe had nearly not come to tonight's service. The tragedy that had befallen her was still fresh in her mind, even after these last five years. It had been Christmas Eve five years ago that it had happened. A devout Christian, her belief had been shattered that night, and her grief gripped the whole family. Two years later she and her husband had split and divorced. As she went to pieces, he had taken the children and looked after them himself, afraid that her fragile mental state would affect them. This year was the first since then that she had clawed together enough emotional strength to return to the cathedral. She sat alone, surrounded by strangers, hoping for some blessing which would give her enough strength to get on with her life. Maybe the family would even be reunited someday; only God knew. She was sat on the end of the very front pew furthest away from the side that the fellow and his lady, the elderly woman and Timmy sat, right next to one of the side aisles. She knew no one could turn and look around and see her tears, and took some comfort from that.

But someone could see, and was watching.

It was time. Unheard by Timmy, the choir began to sing, and everyone stood up, as they processed in for the service. Timmy clambered to his feet, wondering why everyone had suddenly stood up. When he looked around behind him, he saw the procession coming towards him. Fortunately it was a wide aisle and he wasn't in the way. He saw the boys, dressed in their scarlet gowns and brilliant white top covers bear down on him. All their mouths were moving the same way and in time together. He realised they must be reciting the same thing, or... singing? That was it surely? For the first time he felt grief for himself that he could not hear them. The men following them, wearing similar costumes were doing the same, so he was fairly sure now that they must be singing. There were others in the procession, wearing all sorts of finery, and then suddenly he saw the man who had rested his hand on Timmy's head. He smiled at him, and the man smiled back. Almost last came a man dressed in a strange hat that was pointed at the top, and bore a long wooden stick with a strange big hook at the top. Two men followed side by side at the end of the procession.

It was a strange sight to Timmy, and he was somewhat fraught, not understanding what was going on. Suddenly he clutched in terror at the pew front to his side, as a vast tremor hit him. Naturally, he didn't understand that it was just the organ bursting into life with the opening bar of the first hymn. He didn't so much hear the low pitched vibration as felt it, but since it was the first thing like this he had ever experienced, he was scared until he realised that no one else seemed to be worried and all were doing the same as the boys who had processed past him a few moments earlier. He cried. He knew he was missing some wonderful moment, only because he couldn't hear it; it hardly seemed fair.

The service progressed, with Timmy curious but saddened by his inability to participate himself. It was the Midnight Communion service, and it came the time when people filed up to the rail in front of the altar and knelt on little plump cushions. Several of the men wearing costumes took either a silver plate or a silver cup, and gave the people there a thin, white, circular disc, which they placed in their mouths and swallowed or allowed them to sip a little dark red liquid from the cup. They then arose and made their way back to their seats. There was already quite a queue, so the little group including Timmy remained seated for a while, since there was no rush. Everyone was getting a turn.

Eleanor Briddlescombe clutched her hands to her tear-stained face and stayed in her seat. She didn't feel worthy to go and take communion since she'd missed for five years.

An usher eventually worked his way to the pew where Timmy and his friends were seated, and bid them go to the rail. Timmy got up and stepped aside to let the others out. The usher took hold of the elderly lady's arm and helped her stagger the short distance to the rail, where she remained standing in order to prevent hurting her knees trying to kneel on the hassocks. The fellow whose jacket he had on allowed his lady to go first and then taking Timmy's arm, led him to the rail. Timmy knelt down next to him. There were still a few more people to take their places before the priests started serving again. The priest who'd smiled at Timmy was having a word with the priest in the funny pointed hat and hooked stick.

The other priest, much to the surprise of some of the kneeling communion-takers, and shortly thereafter the whole congregation, came over to Timmy, and, placing his hand firmly on Timmy's head said some words and made The Sign over him. Timmy felt suddenly calm, and a warm feeling spread through him, but he was suddenly aware of two other things. Firstly his ears had begun to tingle. Secondly he jumped to his feet and turned around, and even at the distance involved, looked into the pale blue eyes that looked directly at him.

The man had his head covered by a sort of hooded cloak, as he slowly walked the length of the aisle. His hair was long and black; his beard straggly and unkempt. But the eyes were a cool, clear, blue and commanded attention. The bishop froze, his attention inexplicably riveted to him. All eyes now moved to the stranger approaching the communion rail. A few yards short, he stopped, and bending down, removed his sandals. Then he resumed his journey until he stood in front of Timmy. Timmy had never taken his eyes of him the whole way, and the gaze had been returned.

Then his eyes swung up and met those of the bishop, while he took hold of Timmy gently. Timmy began to cry, seeing the injuries on the man's hands, and held one hand to his face. Realisation dawned in the bishop's eyes as he slowly sank to his knees. He'd seen the hands for himself, and the scars...

The stranger took a small cloth bag tied with a leather strip and loosening it, removed a piece of dried bread from it and broke it, giving a tiny piece to Timmy, which he placed against his lips, and which Timmy then took in his mouth and swallowed. His ears were buzzing now. Then the man took a small flask, made from animal bone and sealed with a type of wood stopper. Removing the stopper he said a few words in a strange language, and raised the bone flask to the boys lips. For the first time, Timmy tasted wine. Putting the stopper back he replaced the bone flask in his belt, and took Timmy's hand. He kissed the fingers and placed them on Timmy's mouth, while he covered each ear with a hand. Timmy heard his voice in his head.

"My son, you are well again. I have removed the block your mind created when you were a little boy, after all the trouble that went on around you."

Timmy coughed and then croaked out a single word, "Father?"

The man smiled. "In a way, yes. Follow me."

He led Timmy to where Eleanor knelt, crying softly. "Daughter, why do you cry? Your son is safe with our Father, and now you must care for another of his children for as long as he needs you, for he is great need of a mother."

Eleanor's eyes lifted to his. He gave her a piece of the bread and some of the wine, just as he had to Timmy. She looked, and suddenly all was clear to her. She understood who the very special stranger was.

"The child is Timmy, the same name as your own son. He has been deaf since your son died, until a few moments ago. Give to him the love you would have given your son. Timmy, go with her, and be a son to her, for she has suffered greatly."

Tears still ran down Timmy's face, as he lifted the stranger's hand. In a clear voice he said: "You've hurt your hands?"

"A long time ago, Timmy, a long time ago..."

Leaving Timmy with Eleanor, he turned and went and picked up the sandals, then walked barefoot down the aisle and out into the silent night.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead