Beyond the Tree Line – Hugh Cartwright

 

It’s our first Christmas adrift in the stars.

And Molly’s first egg.

“Can I break it now?”

“Be gentle.”

Molly’s just four, the youngest of our tiny community. She taps the egg with fierce concentration, as if it’s the most important job in the Universe.

Suddenly the egg shatters and a glittering shape unfolds from among the fragments – a silver Christmas tree. It would weigh a handful of feathers on earth; here in deep space it floats effortlessly.

The tree glides quietly through the cabin until I tie it down with red ribbon. Our little group of 19 gathers round in a circle, linking arms and singing carols.

On 12th night, Molly helps me shepherd her tree into the airlock and we set it free. It glides behind the ship, not wanting to leave. But, as the hours go by, it gradually falls away, dissolving into the star-strewn sky.

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Our 27th Christmas; it will be the last before we reach our new home.

Molly is unwell, but she is our talisman; she must crack the final egg. A shimmering, golden tree emerges, capped with a crown of sparkling stars.

Our group now numbers 22. We gather around the tree for the final time, holding hands and singing carols.

On 12th night, Molly, whose memories were of nothing beyond our ship, is dead; she is the first to die.

27 trees drift behind in a soundless, invisible line, watching over us as we rush towards a world that Molly will never see.

 


Hugh’s not really a writer. His career has been spent in Universities, working at the interface of artificial intelligence and physical science. Now retired, he has begun to write occasional stories, some colored with elements of science fiction, others being just a little odd. It helps to take his mind off his impossible project: growing citrus trees in the Canadian climate.