It’s cold outside – freezing, actually, and you’re terribly happy to stay inside. It’s warm, there’s a fireplace, and there’s gingerbread cookies. It’s nearly Christmas, and it’s time to decorate the tree.
There’s all the usual tinsel and white fairy lights, and once you’re done, your living room looks exactly like a perfect movie scene. It’s the very image of warmth and happiness, a safe haven from the cold and snow. A perfect White Christmas. Only the star is missing, so you decide to head up to the attic, where you keep it every year, after the tree has been taken down.
The attic is your favorite place in the house, because it seems to speak to you, promising you a world of potential. It’s an old house that you live in, and the long line of owners before your family has contributed to it. No one’s ever bothered to clear it out, and the room is full of things left behind. Every time you open the door, old hinges creaking, you’re faced with a rather large space, with relatively low, sloped ceilings. There are crates and piles and piles of crates, and an old wardrobe or two. It’s all, of course, covered in layers and layers of thick greyish white powder: dust that’s accumulated over years, maybe decades.
This time, it’s no different. There’s a small bulb on the wall that weakly flickers to life when you pull a hanging beaded cord, each wave of feeble light slightly stronger than the last, finally illuminating the room in a dim yellow glow after a minute or two. Granted, you might have said this is your favorite room in the house, but even you don’t come up here too often – maybe a few times a year to get something you need. Everything else is too dusty, and the crates are probably swollen tight after all these years. Of course, no one can ever bring themselves to clear this place out, so the things here remain, there, but not really there.
The star is in its usual place, on top of an ancient carved mahogany wardrobe. The wardrobe is probably majestic, but it’s hard to notice the details or the varnished wood carving, because your gaze is drawn immediately by the large, five-pointed lump of gold resting against the wall on top of it. It isn’t really gold, or a star, obviously, but it’s so much more fun to pretend it isn’t actually a piece of discarded cheap wood from the local carpenter, covered in plastic, and plated with sparkly brownish-yellow wrapping paper.
You reach up to pluck it off the wardrobe – you’re only just tall enough to do it without having to hunt for a stool to stand on – but as you bring your arm down, you knock your wrist against a corner. Luckily, whatever box you knocked against isn’t actually sharp enough or heavy enough for the blow to sting, but there’s a smear of dust left against your sleeve. You transfer the golden star to your left hand, and wipe the dust off your sleeve with your fingers, not forgetting to pull the light cord when you leave, and closing the door behind you. The dust falls in a tiny pile on the floor.
You don’t see the bulb on the wall slowly glowing to a halt, but as it dies, there’s a little singular patch of reflected light that falls on the dust you wiped off your sleeve. It’s coming from a tiny mirrored corner of an unknown object on top of the wardrobe, alone in the darkness of the room.
– Manya Bharadwaj 11 AICE P