Advent Train Stories: The Gift
This year I have been honoured to take part in Ari Meghlen’s Advent Story Train. If you have not been reading the previous stories, you may not realise what the story train train is about. Basically, a set of authors have been given the prompt ‘The Gift’ and have one thousand words to write a story (flash fiction length). Each day of advent, one flash fiction story is released. When Christmas 2022 arrives, there will be twenty four flash fiction stories of different genres and different styles that represent the phrase ‘The Gift.’ Links to all of the stores can be found here (some have not been released at the time of posting!). Today (if you are reading this on 7th December 2022) is my turn. My flash fiction story is set almost five hundred years ago and takes the form of diary entries. I hope the idea of ‘The Gift’ is a little different to what you would expect, but that you still enjoy the story. You can read ‘The Gift’ below, or head over to my wattpad site where you will find lots of other stories I have written. Please feel free to comment both positively and with criticism…
18th March 1678
I found the creature whilst taking my morning constitutional. The beast looked in a terrible state, leg twisted back, cuts down its side. I moved closer to inspect, realising it to be some sort of dog, jet black with dark eyes. At first I thought it to be the Devil’s work, some creature from the depths of Hell. Inside its mouth, I saw sharp needle-like teeth. But it did not flinch when touched, and its whine showed it to be in considerable pain. Who am I to leave such a poor, defenceless creature to the mercy of the elements? I scooped it up, realising it to be smaller than I first thought, a tiny babe of fur in my arms. I knew I could give it little, but the one gift I was able to bestow was life itself.
25th March 1678
A week has flown by and the creature has gained strength. It grows at an incredible rate, and I must say I am becoming attached. I gave him no name, not wanting to form a bond, but feel my guard is dropping. The cuts on its side are mere scabs, and it no longer hobbles on the twisted leg. It shan’t be long before I must release him, but I am in two minds. The creature has no mother or siblings that have sought it out. Maybe I could be its family. I never had children, the death of my beloved Sarah too great a weight to bear, thus my reason for living as a sort of hermit in these dense woods far away from civilisation. Could it be this is my time to love again, that this creature has been sent for such a purpose?
18th March 1679
A year has passed since Sebastian came into my life, for that is what I named the dog. He whined and sulked when I tried to free him. I could have left him outside, ignored him for days and he would have gained the message. In truth, I feel I need him as much as he needs me. My heart is fuller than it has been for a long time. His warmth kept me going through long winter nights. He has made me stronger, fitter. No longer can I refuse to take a walk when the frost nips at the ground or rain pours. He does add much joy to such a mundane activity. After Sarah passed, taken by an unknown illness with our babe in her belly, I thought all joy gone from this world. That such a creature as Sebastian can bring me back to life is amazing. Maybe I did not give him the gift, but he presented it to me.
25th February 1680
I checked the cuts on my arm, bathing them regularly in water and herbs. They are healing, but every time I look at them, I dread what will come. Sebastian continues to grow, his height almost above my waist. With the increased size comes increased ferocity. I understand he wants to be here with me, he whines and howls when he injures me, but he also longs for the wild. Yesterday was the first time his play fighting drew blood, I fear it will not be the last. Am I to be alone once more? A hermit imprisoned with only his own thoughts for company. I will put it off as long as I can. The bitter frosts are holding my hand, making sure Sebastian stays by my side next to a roaring fire. Yet, when spring comes, I will no longer have an excuse.
19th June 1680
He is gone, and loneliness engulfs me again. I could take scrapes of claws across my skin, the sharp pain and blots of blood. Sebastian noticed every time, stopping where he was and pulling away with a whine. I know he did not wish to hurt me, it is just his nature. Despite long walks and freedom to hunt small mammals, still his playful side appeared. But just two days ago, he sank his teeth deep within my arm. The pain became unbearable, and I lashed out, smacking him across the head. I cried as he retreated to the corner, his face sullen, how he curled himself up attempting to reduce his size. I could not be mad. It is my fault. I should have let him loose long ago. Even though spring came, I kept hold, grasped too tight. When summer arrived, I had no excuse. It was a small mercy that, as I watched him, I realised it was best I lost Sarah and my unborn child. If this is how I treat a beast, how would I cope with a human life? Fate has a way of showing us our true selves. Maybe it is that I am the beast and not him.
8th May 1681
It happened not far from here, on a path to the nearest village. I have missed Sebastian since he left, yet did not expect to see him in this way. So often I am alone, and when I see travellers, we just walk by. I should have thought the hood covering his face an omen. The knife was out, and he pounced on me before I knew. I do not understand how I stopped the blade piercing my skin, but for a few seconds his weight pinned me down. All my strength was used to hold off the attack. Moments later he was bowled from me, and I heard a deep growl. As I sat up, the attacker turned and ran. In front of me, a jet black dog. The creature whimpered and turned away. I wanted to follow, but knew that not to be the best course of action. So I sat there, understanding that my gift had been repaid. I had once given the beast life, now Sebastian had repaid the favour.
Welcome to the Advent Calendar Story Train, where you can read through 24 stories under the theme The Gift. Thank you for reading today’s story. The next one will be available to read on December 8th, titled “The Gift“. The link will be active tomorrow when the post goes live.
If you missed yesterday’s you can go and read it here.