A few weeks earlier, he had been up on Hurley Ridge and had tasted the cold snap on his tongue. This was his first sign that the time of travel was upon him again – and if he was being honest, the only time that he lived for, and the only time in which he felt completely alive.
The dark days had come and gone, yet it had taken most of his life for them to disappear. It wasn’t only him, it was the same for everyone. All of us who had lived through the Life Drop and come out the other end, had wondered if we were the lucky ones or just the remnants of a once great existence.
The origin of Life Drop had started long before Cran had been born, long before his grandparents even. It had probably started in those winters when the snow first failed to appear. People talked of the missing snow in nostalgic stories of childhood but the snows never came again. There were themed parks set up to show the younger generations what the old days had been like; but it wasn’t the same.
The seas grew saltier, the rains came less and in the end it wasn’t disease or war which brought things to a stand-still but the Earth itself. The Life Drop started one spring and lasted almost a generation; the crops failed, the wells ran dry and the world wept.
Yet now there were still surprises to be found, like the berries which grew on the highest of mountains. It was up here that Cran would forage and harvest, and it was up here that Cran would like to think of the old stories that had been passed on to him by his parents.
The one that really stuck in his mind was the story of the old man. A man who had worn red and once a year would visit all the children of the world bringing gifts and, most of all, happiness. Now there was a word that was ever-changing: ‘happiness’ – ever year it was devalued by a few smiles or a joke, until happiness only really meant getting through a day.
Cran had dyed an old piece of cloth with some of the high-ground berries until it looked like what he considered red. He made it into a cape since he wasn’t quite sure what the original old man would have worn.
He remembered his mother telling him that the man had a name – ‘Santy’ – he was sure that was what she had called him. So Santy it was. He had dressed as Santy for a few years now – always when the cold winds blew from the north. He’d spend any free time he had over the previous seasons making gifts from twigs, trees, old bottles – anything he found on his travels and the children always appreciated them.
Santy and his red cape would travel the old path (apparently this path had once carried motorised chariots but now it was just a broken up landscape – one that Cran used as a source of stone). In each settlement he would present the leader with a few gifts for the children and in each settlement the people would thank him and give him shelter for the night.
He would hear stories which he would tell the other settlements and they would always look forward to his coming.
And now that the cold winds had started to blow again, it meant that Cran was ready to go and be Santy once more.
As he set off carrying his gifts, he sang a tune his mother had taught him and this kept him company all the way into the hills.
bobby stevenson 2016