It was Christmas Eve and I had TV on for company while getting the house ready for Christmas. I had taken an extra day off from my very stressful job so that I could do all the household chores, and be nice and relaxed by the time the family came home for Christmas Eve supper. Something on TV caught my attention. This couldn’t be right. It was a comic strip, but I could hear subtle hidden messages in the script. Could anyone else hear them? Plots against our government…….dark messages. Were these messages from the Russians, or some other foreign power? I sat down with a cup of tea. Perhaps I should call someone.
Just then my teenage son came home. I asked him what he thought, but he could hear nothing unusual in the script. He went back to help his dad out at work, thinking I was a little potty, I suppose.
The rest of the day I was mulling over the hidden messages on TV whilst decorating the Christmas tree in the wide window alcove with fairy lights and baubles, spreading polystyrene chippings around the base to mimic snow, and laying the table with our best china and crystal on a red tablecloth, with snowy white and poinsettia flowered Christmas napkins. Everything had to be perfect. Everything always had to be perfect, didn’t it? Everything except my marriage. I couldn’t do anything about that. I had a philandering husband, who had broken my heart consistently over many years. We had been back together for over a year by now, and everything had been hunky-dory for months, but now it looked like he was about to play away again. I had come to recognise the signs well. But I was going to give my family a jolly good Christmas regardless. I would deal with our marital problems in the New Year.
By six o’clock the family were all home and hungry for supper. It was steak – our usual Christmas Eve supper, and need not be cooked until the last minute, but I had prepared the prawn and avocado cocktails. Everyone sat around the table, pulled our crackers and enjoyed the first course. I went off into the kitchen to start on the steak and chips.
Then I heard whispering from our TV in the kitchen. It was those voices again. They were sending out messages even on Christmas Eve night. I went into the dining room and told everyone I was going out in the car to get something. They looked a little curious, but I suppose they thought I had some sort of surprise for them.
I drove out of our town and out into the country to a little wood where I used to walk our dog. On the way there was Christmas music on the car radio. I suddenly realised that there were messages in the words I was hearing. I drove down the dirt track into the centre of the woods and pulled into the clearing, switched off the engine and the radio and listened. All I could hear was the wind rustling through the trees, and an owl hooting. I wasn’t going mad then. There were actually messages coming from the radio, not from inside my head.
I shivered. It was very chilly, which I hadn’t realised when I left my warm home in my party dress. Why hadn’t I thought about wearing a coat?Then I remembered the dinner. I’d better get back home.
On the way back I passed a little village church. I parked the car up outside, and went down the pathway to the church door. It was locked. What, on Christmas Eve? A locked church. Why weren’t the villagers in church for a Christmas service? Disappointed, I got back into my car and drove back home slowly.
When I got home, my family were in a state of panic. “Where have you been?” demanded my husband. “You’ve been away hours.”
“Have I?” I asked, slightly bemused. “No, I only drove to the woods and back. I can’t have been more than half an hour.”
“It’s past one o’clock. You’ve been away for nearly five hours. We’ve had dinner, the kids cooked it while you were gone.”
I was mystified. Where had all that time gone?
“I’ve just looked at the car. It’s almost empty of petrol, and I filled it up before I came home from work. Where have you been?” asked my husband again.
“I don’t know,” I said, bewildered. “I only remember driving to the woods and back, and stopping at a church.”
Then I felt prickles rising up the back of my neck, and felt my knees give way. I was then swimming and swimming in warm blue water. I was swimming with dolphins………I was a dolphin……
I came to in a hospital bed. I was in a nice private room, with a view out over the town and specifically over an illuminated church steeple. It was starting to snow, and everything was quiet. Then I remembered it was Christmas. I sat watching the steeple of the church, thinking about the true meaning of Christmas. I felt at peace, for the first time in years.
Morning came, and a blanket of snow was outside my hospital window. It was a lovely bright morning, and I could still see the church steeple. Just then in came a nurse.
“I have your medicine for you,” she said. “Happy Christmas.”
“Thank you,” I said. “Happy Christmas, I said cheerfully. It’s lovely in here, but why am I here? I don’t remember coming.”
“You’ve had a breakdown, my love. Your family say you have been working too hard lately. You are in here for a rest.”
“I can’t stay here,” I said. “I’ve got to get home and give my family all their presents, and cook the Christmas dinner.”
“Now, you are not to worry about anything, my love,” said the nurse. “It’s all under control. Your daughter will cook lunch, and they are going to save Christmas until you are better and can go home from hospital. They will be here to visit you soon, they are on their way now. Just you stay there and have a jolly good rest. You’ll be here for three days.They have brought lots of things for you to read later.”