Page 24 - Scene Magazine 45-12 December 2020
P. 24

  A Fictional Story By Rick Chambers
Hope of
Tinsel Twilight
      Christmas would be Hope’s last day.
She made her choice as the sun slipped behind the snow-dusted moun- tains. The waning daylight splashed lingering clouds in shades of saffron,
as if God had peeled a nectarine and stretched its skin across the sky. But the Christmas Eve sunset, stunning as it was, didn’t change her mind. The valley sank into darkness, dragging Hope with it.
Truth was, her descent began months earlier, when Brenner toasted the new year by asking for a divorce. Weeks later, Hope’s company decided to relocate without inviting her along. Spring and summer were a blizzard of unanswered resumés and past-due bills. By the time autumn fell, Hope faced a drained bank account, a shaky Chevy needing replace- ment, and a disdainful daughter on the cusp of her turbulent teen years. The latter, and the growing distance between mother and child, hurt worst of all.
Rena was gone now, spending the holiday with her father. Hope sat alone, despondent in spite of the cheery glow from her Christmas tree. The six-foot Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir stood proudly, laden with lights and ornaments slapped upon it minutes before Rena left.
Rather than lift her spirits, the decor amplified Hope’s misery. She’d con- cealed her self-doubt and anguish for many years; now they were too much to endure. In the storm of her despair, Hope saw no other option than to relieve the world of her presence.
Her choice would be hard on Rena, a fact Hope couldn’t bear to face. But the girl must cope, for Hope no longer could.
She gazed sadly at the Christmas tree. Striking as it was, it wasn’t finished. In her lap lay six, narrow, rectangular packages.
Age-faded red and green tinted each one, and a label adorned them with an unruly mix of ornate script and fat block lettering: Tinsel Twilight FIREPROOF ICICLES.
Opening the first package, Hope pulled out a thick card laced with long, silvery ribbons, each a fraction of an inch wide. These weren’t the wimpy Mylar icicles of modern times; these were made of yes- teryear’s metal, forged from tin-laminated lead foil. Hope’s grandmother hoarded them in the early ‘70s before the menace of lead poisoning killed off Tinsel Twilight and its peers. Her mother later inherited and used them, but Hope had been cau- tious, applying them only after Rena was old enough to leave them alone.
Hope freed the silver strands, slender yet hefty, from the first card. She picked out one with her fingernails and draped it on an evergreen branch. It hung heav- ily, like a real icicle, sparkling under the vibrant lights.
She continued her work for over
an hour, carefully arranging the icicles. By the time she finished, the tree was transformed. Long ribbons cascaded from the boughs, glowing with a celestial shine that splashed colors upon ceiling and walls. Hope stepped into this aura, wondering for a moment if it might lift the darkness from her soul. Fixing her eyes on one icicle, she saw her face reflected in its shiny surface.
So was something else. Something behind her.
Something that moved.
She turned and screamed. But no one was there.
Her heart trip-hammered for a good five minutes as Hope scoured the house, certain she’d seen something move in the
icicle and just as certain she hadn’t. While she didn’t believe in ghosts, she couldn’t conjure another explanation.
The impossible demanded an answer. Swallowing her fear, Hope eyed the tinsel once again.
Something was there! Shapes shifted, like people wandering in a fog. Still fright- ened, she moved to touch the icicle with a quivering finger –
“It’s your turn,” said Grandma, pushing a package toward her.
– then yanked her hand away as
if burned. She staggered backwards, glancing frantically around the room. But Hope was alone, as before. Grandma wasn’t there. She couldn’t be; she’d been dead for 20 years.
Yet Hope had seen her.
Hope knew about hallucinations, but knowing and experiencing were two different things. The illusion had been so vivid – every sight, every sound, even smells. What’s more, it had been a genuine event, one of Hope’s most pre- cious memories: a few hours alone with Grandma on what proved to be her final Christmas.
How did touching a decades-old strand of tinsel recreate that moment?
And what would happen if she dared to try again?
Holding her anxiety at bay, Hope grasped the tinsel –
Grandma curled her legs beneath her and leaned close to the Christmas tree. A menagerie of glass ornaments, lights and icicles hung about her head, spreading across the green boughs like a holiday halo. Her jubilant smile turned in Hope’s direction.

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