A Gift from the Universe

A Gift from the Universe

As Jodie slid the window open by a few inches, the cold December air wafted in, chilling her to the bones through her old flimsy sweater. But it also carried the scent of freshly baked cookies and muffins, that instantly warmed her heart. She could see the colourful lights adorning the houses in the neighbourhood. And she could hear the little children practicing those familiar Christmas carols. She sighed. It was another Christmas eve, but Christmas hadn’t been the same for little Jodie since she lost her family to a freak car accident three years ago.

Mumma, your favourite season is here, but it feels empty without you. Jodie’s eyes welled up as she remembered the last Christmas she had spent with her family. Her dad, Ben, would always pick up the largest, fullest tree. Her mum, Sally, would start baking the Christmas goodies way in advance. “Jodie, always remember Christmas is a festival of giving.” The corner, bereft of the Christmas tree was just like her life – empty!

The ten year old young girl moved in with her Grandma after the accident that changed her life forever. Grandma Mary was a very kind lady and a perfectionist. She had a passion for traditional crockery. In fact the intricate curie of glass on the corner of the living room boasted of her collection. That evening Jodie was feeling restless and pacing up and down in her room. Could it be Grandma’s chicken pot pie in supper which was causing turbulence in her tummy.

The whiff of cool air that was supposed to refresh her stuffy little room and ease her nausea had brought in memories instead. She slid the window back, but not before catching a glimpse of the bright star that glittered exceptionally bright in the dark sky. Was the evening star supposed to be this big? Or was it Santa on his sleigh? Jodie smiled at the possibility. Too wise for her age, was what granny said about her, for unlike children her age Jodie had stopped believing in Santa Clause since the last three years.

“I hate Jodie, she is such a bore!” Her friend Nick’s words rang in her ears. He had been going on and on about Santa , gifts and all. Jodie couldn’t listen to all the nonsense, and had stormed out of the class. Stop it Nick, grow up already! Her classmates had snickered at her, and no one had noticed the tiny drop sparkling in her eyes.

Even before she fully shut the window close, the bush of the red roses in the garden caught her eye. The magnificent roses of grandma’s garden were shining bright. She made a plan for the morning to go check them out.As she took her favourite book to read which was also Nick’s favourite, she heard a strange sound. She realised it was the window which was not properly latched. After doing that, she headed towards the kitchen to fetch herself some water.

The kitchen smelled heavens. Inspite of the culinary extravaganza that was happening here since a week, not a bottle had moved an inch. Too much perfection for a sixty-year-old imperfect life, she thought. The cracking bones needed a complete skeleton. Here were just two of them, celebrating Jesus knew what. “Jodie darling where are you? “

Jodie turned to see her Grandma at the kitchen door. She’s amazing, thought Jodie. Her slight hunch, a walking stick, glasses and that silvery mop of hair made her look much older than her sixty-three years. But the sparkle in her eyes, her huge, perpetual smile and high pitched voice showed that she was no more than eighteen at heart.

“What are you in the kitchen for? Come here, I’ve got something to show you.”

“Something special, grandma?”

“Yes, My dear. When I was ten and rummaged through the gifts Santa supposedly left for me, I found this.”

Grandma had a silver, shimmery crystal orb. It was a breathtaking sight.

“I have always believed it’s presence was special… “

Jodie’s eyes sparkled, just like the orb. “What’s that? I’ve never seen this before! Grandma, can I hold it?” She held out her arm, a sweet smile lighting up her face. “mmhmm, not so easily my baby,” grandma chuckled.

“All my childhood I have waited for Santa to reveal the secret behind this gift, promise you shall treasure it too.”

Jodie held the orb in her little palms and felt a burst of energy within her. She was besotted by the sparkling crystal. Was it just a Christmas ornament or something more, she wondered.

Jodie placed the orb carefully on the mantle and observed it. Suddenly she saw flashes of light emanating, “Jodie!” called out her grandma,

The orb stopped sparkling.

Jodie stood aghast at what just happened. She felt unsure of what she had seen and decided to give another try. Once again she lifted the orb gently and as soon as the warmth of her palms touched the crystal, bright hues of light emanated. She carried the orb towards the patio and called out, “Grandma….look!”. Before grandma turned around, the lights had disappeared, leaving the orb like an ordinary crystal ball. “Wow! Magic”, is all that escaped her pink lips.

Jodie discovered a new friend. Her secret pal who added cheer to her otherwise lonely existence. She placed it safely inside an empty fishbowl so that it doesn’t roll off the table at her bedside.

“Jodie! It’s time to help your old granny bake some gingerbread, dear.”

“Coming grandma,” she admired her special gift and skipped towards the kitchen with a spring in her step.

The orb started shimmering.

Though Jodie was with grandma, her mind was still on the orb. How did it glow? And why did it stop glowing in a blink? Does it run on a battery or solar or something? “Jodie, What’s wrong with you girl? You seem to be lost”, said grandma, her eyebrows knitted.

Jodie was confused. On the one hand she had stopped believing in anything magical, on the other hand what she had witnessed a while ago was nothing short of being magical. But after the tragic accident, she had started questioning everything. She was eager to find the reasoning behind the glowing orb. Amidst all this Jody spilled the can of sugar. Nothing could have been more devastating for the Grandma at that point.

“What’s all that noise…?” came a grumpy voice from the guest room. Uncle John must have woken up from his afternoon nap that had stretched well into the evening. Uncle John, gran’s younger son, had arrived this morning to ‘spread some Christmas cheer in their mundane lives’ or so he’d said. But he had done nothing to help since morning except getting drunk and sleeping. With all the sugar spilt, thoughts about the sparkly orb took a backseat as Jodie was on the verge of tears. Even grandma, the perfectionist, stood tutting in displeasure for a while. But she recovered soon, “What a waste! But we can still do with honey.”

“Miss Clumsy Hands, I suppose.”

Jodie, who was on the floor cleaning up the mess. She looked up to see Uncle John at the kitchen door, bleary eyed.

“John,” admonished Grandma. “She’s just a little girl. She’ll learn.”

Jodie smiled and silently admired her Grandma standing up for her always, no matter what.

Grandma was the lighthouse in Jodie’s life, steering her through the emotional upheavals that rocked her tender world. The sugar mess cleaning though not all that fun, did take her mind off the mysteriously sparkling orb. Some mysteries become deep rooted in the subconscious, only to give that prick in the mind off and on. This was probably going to be one such thing. Uncle John kept watch as Jodie cleaned the mess making an odd comment here and there to make sure his presence was felt all the time. Jodie always despised him for his presence always caused a flutter of some nature.

“Oh John, not here” grandma scowled as Uncle John took out his cigar. With a callous shrug, he cut its’ tip and proceeded to light it. Jodie coughed as the strong smoky air mingled with the warmth of the room. “See, I told you. Look what you are doing to the little girl. Out NOW!”

“This is my home too, I shall do as I please. This ill fated, cursed whiff of a girl spells trouble. I wonder how she survived the accident that claimed my brother, the one who took care of all of us.”

Jodie, couldn’t take it any more. This guilt bore her down. She flee his agonising presence, sobbing for the Christmases she had had before.

She ran to the garden and went towards the rose bush she had adored a while ago. A giant Concolor fir tree stood there, tall as if guarding the entrance. From the side of her eye she could feel something shining. At the same instance she was reminded of the orb. Was it the orb again? This time she was wrong only to find a bright white star shining bright on top of the fir tree with the rays coming from her room.

Jodie froze, baffled at this happening. Being a Harry Potter buff added to the mystical aura of the situation. “Could there be a connection between the orb and the bright light from the sky? She wondered. Retracing her steps towards the patio she was startled to feel the light from the star illuminating where she stood. She rushed inside stealthily making sure not to wake up Grandma and Uncle. No sooner did she unlatch her room that the bright light from the orb lit up the room as well.

And it was focused in one particular direction, the direction of the fir tree outside. She followed and found the star missing above the tree she had just seen. She pinched herself really hard to make sure she was not hallucinating. But the light still shone bright. She gathered the courage to go near the table where the orb was kept and… ‘blurp’, she heard a sound. It came from inside the orb.

She picked the orb up in her hands carefully, looking for a battery or an LED in its translucent interior. There was none. But to her utter disbelief, the sphere started to pulsate, with a faint hum, as if… as if it were breathing! She squeaked and dropped it on the floor. But right then, little Jodie saw a flash of light coming right at her. Maybe grandma was right about Santa… or was it something else?

The orb started flashing images. A ten year old dainty girl dancing around the Christmas tree, her smile revealing a crooked tooth, just like her grandma. The crystal kept swishing images, a lady dressed in breathtaking wedding ensemble clinging onto a gentleman. Raucous laughter of kids prancing around, her dad! Her mother’s ethereal beauty when she entered her father’s life, a tear trickled down her eyes. And, then SHE… and reverberating sounds of cries and screeching tyres.

Jodie grabbed the orb and raised her hand high in the air, and in a flash of rage was about to smash it on the floor. She sat there weeping as the images she saw were making her angry and sad. “Why, you silly orb, are showing me all this?” She screamed at the orb while it lay lifeless on her lap. She wanted to smash it, break it into thousands of pieces as it brought her back to the unhappy memory. A tear trickled down and landed on the surface of the orb only illuminating bright blue again.

And then something happened, making Jodie stop crying and stare.

The moment the tear fell on the orb, the horrible images stopped. A shape of something Jodie couldn’t identify, seemed to form inside the orb.

Jodie’s eyes grew wider and wider as the shape became clearer and clearer. It now looked like a human face.

But who was it?

The voice said, “How are you doing, my dear Jodie?”. She was taken aback. She cleared the tears from her eyes to take a clear look. It was his grandpa William. William was a brilliant astrophysicist of his times. She had never met him but heard a lot of stories of him trying to connect with the outer world.

“Grandpa is that you?” She cried in surprise. “I can see you. Hear you. Is this all real? Are you alive in this orb?” She asked feeling all confused.

“No, I’m not your grandpa, Jodie. In fact, I’m not even human. I took William’s form so as not to scare you, and also because he is one of those few humans that we got to talk with.”

Was the booming voice coming from the orb… or was it outside?

“That sphere, that you’ve been calling the ‘sparkly orb’ actually holds the key to life on ‘our’ planet, it’s the heart of Rhefus X.”

Jodie was finding it hard to process… wow, aliens?

Jodie can’t be more fantasied. “Are you really an alien?”Jodie was a bit scared too. “And what do you want from me?” Grandma! Grandma! As Jodie was about to shout, the figure hushed her. “Shh….little girl it’s not what you think. I am here not to harm you!”

“If this is the heart of your planet, why is it here on earth?” Jodie challenged.

The voice sighed, “Fifty years ago, our planet was under attack from another planet in our galaxy, the Deleufus. They had destroyed our neighbouring planet, and set their greedy eyes on ours. On our quest for a safe refuge, we found Earth, and placed the heart of Rheufus X here. We were sure it would be safe here, the few compassionate and intelligent humans that sought us out sealed our faith in Earth. Alas, Earth’s not the same anymore, and we’re here to take our sphere back. “

“You mean the heart of your planet. This orb or sphere what you called it. But why leave it here with Grandma out of all the places on Earth? And why didn’t see or hear you? Or was it Grandpa who had this?” All these questions kept popping into Jodie’s mind one after the other.

“Your grandfather Will, as we fondly call him, had a heart of gold. He was an amazing scientist and an amazing human being. But he always looked stressed whenever he was not at work. Work was, thera…ugg..what you humans call it..?

“Therapeutic”, cried Jodie in an excited tone.

“Yes that is it..work was therapeutic for him.”

“Will was so kind and giving.” The orb continued to speak in a mechanical voice. “He was the one who motivated us to trust you Earth people. With him, we felt Rheufus X would be safe. Am I confusing you little one? The voice paused, waiting for a dumbstruck Jodie to revert.

“No Mr Orb, I am fine, missing my grandpa.” Lamented Jodie.

“So was your dad , a man of honour,”continued the orb, “however, change is permanent and so Morpheus, the cunning opposition predator found out about our little secret and tried to extract it from your father. Apologies my child, that accident was a sacrifice your father made to save our planet.”

Jodie was aghast. “What is it that you want now?” She cried.

“We hurt as much as you whenever an innocent life is lost”, the voice seemed to grieve. “How does that matter to me…..i lost my childhood and of course the rest of my life too”, Jodie spoke accusingly. “Under the garb of the accident the message that was transmitted to the perpetrators was that the heart of our planet, the Orb is destroyed. This gave us time to rethink our strategies for countering their continuous attacks.” The voice continued. “Is Grandma aware of all this?”, Jodie continued.

The voice from the orb was silent for a moment before continuing, in a soft, hesitant voice.

“My child, I’m afraid, yes.”

Jodie froze. So what her Grandma said, about receiving it as a gift at the age of ten, was a lie after all.

The revelation about the accident and Grandma’s lie, all at once, made her dizzy. Suddenly, she saw black everywhere and felt the orb slipping from her hands..

When Jodie opened her eyes next, her heart skipped a beat.

“Mom? Dad?”

No, they only had her parents’ face, their disproportionately long thin bodies ended in equally thin and long limbs. Jodie knew the aliens had assumed her parents’ form. But where was this place? Everything seemed to be covered in a white fog, and tiny little LEDs adorned what appeared to be a big dome-shaped ceiling.

“Where am I? What is this place? Are you guys for real?” Jodie couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She rubbed her eyes, her heart bouncing between disbelief and hope. “Mum, dad…

“Are you there? Am I with you guys now? Please say all this is real. Don’t leave me.” Jodie desperately wanted to believe what she was seeing. Yet all this wasn’t making her any sense.

“Welcome Jodie, the progeny of Will Gray, to our planet Rhufussaria, the home of Rheufus X.”

“Will, had always been our ally and then his son, so when it came to seek help from an earthling, you were our natural choice.”

The dome shaped metal encasement echoed with the orotund voice.

“I will do my best, however I don’t know how I can be of help, why me?”

“Our core of existence The Rheufus X can be brought back only by a pure soul whose life is without malice and hate. Help us Jodie, or we shall cease to exist.”

Despite several doubts looming in her mind, Jodie suddenly felt important. It was quite natural, when all her life she had preferred to be in a cocoon, hesitant to face the world. Today, as she heard big words like, pure soul, entrusted with the task of saving a planet, she was unsure of how to react. Surprisingly she felt an inner strength which she had never in all these years. She stepped forward, fear melting away, her voice echoed, “You shall carry the core to the planet crossing the four spheres.” “Well that sounds simple, I can just run inside and get the orb”, Jodie thought it wasn’t that difficult after all.

She could feel sun rays trickling over her face. And the cuckoo clock called seven times. She found herself sleeping near the window. Was it her dream or did something really happened? Suddenly she heard sounds of argument coming from down below. Were grandma and Uncle John arguing; and what could be the reason behind it?

Jodie tried to eavesdrop. “Its all because of you that we have to have this little brat here. She reminds me of my useless brother”, John said irritated. “Hush boy! “Don’t forget you are talking about your deceased brother”, Jodie heard her granny voice and thud! the flower vase on the table Jodie was leaning to fell. Jodie froze at the moment when her vision was again hazed by the bright light. In a blink of eye,she found herself in her room totally aghast and confused.

There were a million questions swimming in her mind and not finding answers would definitely drown her emotionally. One thing was seemingly clear that she was the custodian of the heart of the planet RheufusX. She was the one who had to carry it across if the planet had to be saved. She was determined that she would do it for the sake of her Grandpa and Dad. She was also determined that Uncle John and grandma did not give her the right vibes so she would stay away and plan. For that she had to find a away to connect to the  voice.

Jodie quickly fledged before grandma came out to check in the corridor. She needs a secure place to talk and plan things further. But where she can do it. “The terrace.” She thought. Afternoon will the best time when grandma takes a nap and Uncle will be gone out.

The following afternoon, she waited for the right moment and then sneaked to the terrace. The orb was securely in her hand and the hands behind her back. She dashed to her favourite spot, the wooden bench right behind the air conditioning unit. Despite placing both her hands over the orb, moving them around, closing her eyes, she tried everything possible but no connect was established. “What could be wrong?” She waited, tried again and again, but all in vain.

Jodie tried and tried, but nothing happened. She first got impatient, then angry, but just as she felt like giving up and smashing the orb, better sense prevailed.

She returned to her room with the orb and tried again, in vain. She gave up.

Her thoughts remained on the orb for the rest of the day and it was a challenge to keep a straight face in front of her Grandma. Not to mention the revelation last night that Grandma herself had lied to her about the origins of the orb – was that true?

As Jodie was about to give up, the bright light from orb illuminated again. Jodie stood there dumbstruck. But before she could comprehend something, the inside of orb turned completely black and then she could only see the reflections of someone attacking the planet. And it was blank again. “Jodie dear! I thought you’d help me with kitchen”, grandma called her. Jodie swiftly went to her room,hid the orb and went out,completely oblivious to what was happening inside tiny ball.

“It’s Christmas Eve and we have a lot of things to do,” Grandma said cheerfully. Jodie just nodded in response. “Jodie dear, I know you have got a lot of questions on your mind. I also know you heard what your Uncle was talking. But believe me, child it is all for your good. When the time is right, I will tell you everything”.

Jodie was only half listening. Her mind was on the orb.

“Grandma, I’m tired,” she said and retired for the night after a quick supper.

As she lay on her bed in complete darkness, a wave of confusing thoughts swirling in her mind, she suddenly saw a light shine.

She looked towards the source of the light and almost squealed in joy. The orb was shimmering again!

The blinding light illuminated the room , everything starting twirling. Jodie was sprung up in air, pirouetting on the waves crossing dimensions and with a final thud she found herself in the metallic dome again. Constant whirring indicated rapid movement as if brushing against roiling asteroids and solar rocks. She could feel energy emanating within her.

“Jodie, you shall be encased in a noble metal wear as you won’t be able to bear the heat and argonised air. Delta, will take you to the mount Olympus.”

Jodie wore the Nobel metal wear and was on the way to Mount Olympus with Delta at her side. The view was breathtaking. And she was trying to absorb everything. Who knows what happens next. But she was now prepared. Ready to serve her purpose – protect the planet.

The metallic dome hurtled past planets and stars and satellites and various other objects dotting the outer space. Though Jodie could see that it was travelling at an extremely high speed, she couldn’t feel it – it was calm inside the dome.

After some time, the dome slowed down as it approached a planet. Jodie watched in awe as it landed on the top of a mountain.

Jodie and Delta stepped out, the ten-year-old carefully holding the orb in her arms.

It was dark.

Jodie’s mind was catapulting thoughts, her sci fi knowledge was based on imagination.

However, what she saw tore her heart, “What happened to these beings, Delta? They seem like your fellow comrades, why are they writhing in agony and pain?”

“Jodie, when an individual denies nature’s basic rule of living and let live, this is what happens. Our peace loving planet, due to some people’s greed and lust was handed over to the vicious Morpheus. This is what he imparted to our natives; greed and killing each other for power, ultimately this hunger starts killing you within.”

Jodie was heartbroken to see all this. There was uncanny resemblance to what was currently happening on her very own planet, Mother Earth.

Delta made an announcement that now their pain and misery was going to come to an end as they had found a pure soul from Earth who will put the orb back.At this moment, one of the creatures exclaimed, “Earth! But how can you trust anyone from Earth to save us as their fellowmen have joined hands with the cunning Morpheus. They are going to face the same fate as us very soon.” Jody couldn’t believe her ears.

Then it dawned upon her, The Orb! Whosoever has it, has the power to control the existence of this planet as the orb is its essence, its elixir.

All things fell into place, a sudden visit by Uncle John and appearance of the orb, which grandmama unknowingly handed to her as a Christmas ornament.

Jodie’s resolve grew by leap and bounds, she has a lost against evil destiny once, not again. She will uphold the dignity of her grandfather and her dad and not let uncle John tarnish the trust Rheusfasria had entrusted her family with.

No wonder Uncle John repeatedly admonished her and she in turn felt negative vibes emanating from him. The question that loomed now was that if Jodie puts the Orb back in its rightful place, how does it help her own world down there and more importantly her own life. “Delta, does anyone around him have the knowledge about the power of this Orb?” There was an uncanny silence from the other end. For a moment Jodie thought that her question hadn’t been understood. “ Delta, hey….. I’m asking you if anyone around me knows that I’m on the possession of the Orb?”

“I am not hundred percent sure, but…”, stammered Delta.”Don’t be afraid buddy. Just speak up of what you know.”

“Your uncle must be knowing by now that you have it. Only your grandmother can stop him , him being her blood. We need to chalk out a plan of action to save both your and my planet.”

As this conversation progressed spheres away, the sight on Earth appeared quite peaceful. Grandma and Uncle John lay in deep slumber. For them it was supposed to be a dream, vague and unimaginable. Delta looked Jodie in the eye and said, “ Time is short and a lot to be completed so lets get going. The orb has to be placed in our temple on the night when the stars of the the Andrea galaxy become visible to the naked eye. That will happen exactly 2 Rheusfasria days which in Earth language is three days.”

The rocky terrain of Rheufasaria wasn’t easy to tackle with extreme gravity that Jodie had trouble dealing with. Each treacherous step got them closer to mount Olympus. Scalding heat, howling winds, mount Olympus was a seething with anger, with its core on fire.

“Jodie, now it’s upto you, from here only your heart shall speak to his through the orb. The moment your pious hands place his soul, this crystal orb in his core, he shall breathe argon again all shall gradually become fine.

Jodie felt a pull towards Olympus, she felt as if her ancestors souls were too burning in this fire and she had to free them and in turn herself too.

“I have to do it,” she reminded herself and moved forward. She looked back and saw Delta still standing. “I am right here till you return.” That felt reassuring as she balanced herself and took small cautious steps. Within a few minutes, the path that led to Olympus lit up, bright orange flames on both sides. It seemed like the energies around were converging to lead her up there.

Determined Jodie didn’t let her pace lag until she confronted a fuming gaseous crater. The moaning crater had lost the battle against Morpheus, who had poisoned its inerts. Olympus had held the planet for as long as it could but not anymore, it required its elixir. Jodie dodged the roiling rocks and gaseous sprouts and and slowly placed the orb as an offering,

“Accept this estranged love, again as thine,

Let peace prevail in your world and mine.”

The orb danced and twirled in the waves and pirouetted snugly its womb.

A resplendent blue halo floated above the orb as it slowly descended into a mysterious cavity. Jodie stood awestruck at the sight in front of her. Never had she imagined to be this courageous where she would be responsible for saving a planet far away from her own existence. The light from the halo moved towards her and soon it blinded her. She shut her eyes tight expecting an explosion or something worse. But there were much better things waiting for her. Yes…..the blinding light transformed into a streak of thunder and Jodie opened her eyes in the cozy bedcovers of her bed.

Jodie found refuge in her bed as she needed time to comprehend her thoughts and accept the truth. Grandma sensing uncle John’s presence and vindictive behaviour, had handed the orb to Jodie calling it a Christmas ornament from Santa, thereby making it trivial item before Uncle John. Grandma was the real saviour and Uncle, like citizens of Rheufasaria was taken over by greed of power, however, all was well now, Uncle John would too mend his ways.

Jodie, had stuff to do and start life afresh, free of guilt, she rushed towards the Christmas tree where grandma always placed a gift, yes,it was CHRISTMAS!

Thud! She fell head over heals, her pajama got caught in her foot, “Strange, I must have stepped over it.”

Her sleeves dangled in air as she pulled her bedroom door open and gasped at the sight of the living room decorated stupendously just like … by her mother.

It was regalling in wintry whites. Orchids and lilies, her mum’s favorite flowers were shining in glory. The Christmas tree was decorated with lots of sparkles, tinsels, gifts, chocolates, balloons, and lights. A huge wreath above the fire place caught her attention. Her mum had made it years ago, and it had been missing since the last three years. She blinked and pinched herself, “ouch! I am surely not dreaming.”

“Jodie, where are you?”

Jodie jumped, startled by the voice. It sounded just like.. just like her mother!!

Jodie had by now realised that she wasn’t dreaming. But then, why was everything so strange – almost as if it was not the present, but some time in the past?

And how did her dress grow so big overnight, she wondered, just as she came face-to-face with the full-length mirror in the hallway.

“Hey Sally, get Jodie ready in time. Remember we have to go to Mom’s house for Christmas supper.”

“Ben you know I haven’t been feeling well lately. And your brother would also be there. I dont feel comfortable with him around.”

“Sally, my dear I know what’s causing all this nausea and trust me I will try to keep John away from you.”

Jodie was shocked at the sight of herself in the mirror. It wasn’t that her clothes had expanded; she was tinier – and shorter than the mirror, while she had been as tall, till the previous night.

Then, as her eyes fell on the digital wall calendar, realisation finally dawned on her, that she had time-travelled three years back in time and her parents were, maybe still alive! Her joy knew no bounds.

“Jodie, wake up,” called out Sally, even as she wondered how her little darling would react when she was told they were visiting her Uncle John. Jodie found him absolutely repulsive.

“Momma, Papa…” she uttered haltingly in disbelief looking at them.

“Merry Christmas my baby girl, come to your dad, hurry we have to visit grandma and why are you wearing such an oversized night suit?” He said catching her in an embrace.

A visit to grandma’s house, it all came back like a flash of lightening. A sudden blizzard, their car caught in its funnel, turning turtle and then silence, as if nothing had happened.

“No, no I wouldn’t let that happen, even if this is a dream, I wouldn’t let it break.” She resolved.

“Papa! My tummy hurts…ouch… can’t stand.. I feel puckish like momma… do I also have a baby in my tummy?”

“Haha..naughty girl, no you don’t, however yesterday’s ice cream binge can cause this, off you go to the bed and be rested for the evening.” Declared her momma.

She winked at her husband, “ I think we should postpone our visit and stay home, both kids are troubling today.”

He relented and Jodie saw her dad go to his study and place the same crystal orb in a metal box in the safe, “I wanted to give it to momma, but seems it’s destined to be here with me. Maybe it’s for good, John is not trustworthy, will keep the orb safe in a secret place.”

“The orb!!” Jodie suddenly realised that all this was being made possible through the orb. She had saved their planet and it had given her parents back to her!!

“So if I got my parents back, there’s something in this – maybe that I should not lose them again; this is my opportunity!!”

Jodie waited for Ben to leave the room, after which she stealthily entered. She had watched her father use the combination to the safe, so she could open it and take the orb in her hands.

Jodie’s mind was racing, that crystal orb was their responsibility for the safety and well being of Rheufasaria.

Suddenly a memory struck her, the orb had embedded itself in the rocks, Will it do so on our planet. She held the orb and raced to her favourite Fir tree,

“My friend you have been my partner in crime, keep this secret safe until the it’s right time.”

Jodie embedded the box in earth, where all the it’s light and reflections were absorbed.

“I shall share the secret with papa when the time is right, this was the only way to cut off all its connections with outer space by embedding its emissions in earth’s womb.”

Jodie rushed back inside the house, satisfied.

Satisfied because the orb was safe. Satisfied that they were not going to meet Grandma and so they wouldn’t pass through that tunnel and the accident wouldn’t happen. She felt joyful.

But what next? Jodie wondered.

A car swished into the snow covered driveway. A shining red Merc. ” Mumma, someone’s at the door,” she rushed to open the door, screaming with excitement. Her joys fell flat when her eyes met the visitor’s. “You? What are you doing here? ” At the door stood Uncle John, a strange smirk away his face. Jodie ran inside, a tear stinging her eye and threatening to drop down.

Ben came to the door.

“What an ill-mannered brat you’ve got there – can’t she invite her Uncle inside the house?”

“Don’t say anything about my girl, John – she knows you only too well,” came the firm reply.

“Ah, well then, she won’t be seeing much of me anymore..”

Ben gave his brother a questioning look, even as Sally and Jodie watched from behind the safety of the kitchen door.

“Foolish people , dreamers wait for Santa, I have designed my destiny myself. All my deals which you deemed shady have materialised and I am certain you can see the spoils of my victory.” Said Uncle John addressing Ben and gesturing towards his new car.

“I am so happy for you John,”

“Oh! I know you a teeny bit jealous, but I am certain you shall see better days as well, just came to wish you all for Christmas as I wouldn’t be able to attend the lunch at mother’s, got a drive to New York. Merry Christmas family!” And with this he zipped away.

Ben was half way across the door, trying to see him off, but John couldn’t care less. Turning around Ben smiled, “Come on girls! Guess it is time for our long due group hug.” He rushed towards Sally and Jodie’s open arms and drew them close to his heart. “No treasure in this world can equal the satisfaction of my family. Mom, we miss you, wish you could have cut short your friends’ get together and been here with us.” The three of them smiled at Grandma’s picture on the mantle. They were almost inside and the doorbell ran again. “Who’s it now?” Said, Ben aloud and went back to answer the door. At that moment, on the door, Jodie saw a flash of light coming towards her – dressed in red, a tingling cap, long snow beard, and a joyful smile he said in a melodic voice, “Ho, Ho, Ho. Merry Christmas!” Jodie thought “Santa” she cried aloud. But she was in for a surprise. “Delta, my friend” cried, Ben and hugged him. Friendships go beyond realms and they leave imprints that are palpated by them and their loved ones as fond memories. Santa’s friendship is one such legend celebrated across dimensions.

Your Santa can come in a sleigh or on a spaceship twinkling in the sky, it’s for destiny to decide, but gift he certainly gets.

Jodie closed her eyes safely ensconced in her mother’s lap, hearing the friendly banter between her dad and Uncle Delta filtering from the living room. Santa had indeed come and gifted her life back to her, it was indeed the best Christmas ever.

Jodie dozed off, with her eyes on twinkling star, her Santa’s sleigh and wished Merry Christmas!
Contributed by: Sonali Prasad, Sakshi Bhatnagar, Amruta Wadekar, Saravjot Hansrao, Aparna Salvi Nagda, Shweta Mathur Lall, Chandra Sundeep, Sanjukta Ghoshal, Archie Iyer.
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