“You find the human traditions intriguing, don’t you?” Nioll asked as the two ancient beings studied the party happening around them.

“How could I not?” Xiad replied.

A sneer: “I find these holy days primitive. Festivals celebrating a seasonal change based on the tilt of the planet’s axis? Childish.”

“It’s pronounced holidays.”

“An inconsequential distinction,” Nioll answered, dismissing the reply with a wave of the hand.

“And they’re not just celebrating the solstice,” Xiad continued. “At least, not exactly. Certainly they started by fearing the dark and cold, then rejoicing when the days got longer. But that is not what they celebrate now.”

“Oh? Then what is?”

Xiad watched the smiling humans. “Hope itself. The belief that goodness exists in the world and that it can overcome the evils and injustice that oppress them.”

“Then maybe they aren’t primitive, just naive.”

“Maybe. Or maybe we’ve grown too cynical. With all we’ve seen, maybe we need some hope.”

“Noble words,” Nioll admitted. “Worth consideration. Yet they continued to study their companion. “So . . . your love of these festivities has nothing to do with the egg nog then?”

Xiad looked down at the mug in their hands and smiled. “Well, maybe a little.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash


Saul spotted the faint shape in the shadows. “It’s time,” a voice whispered.

“I know,” Saul answered. “I feel weary. Life here has been hard.”

The shape was clarifying. A head tilted. “Then why cling to this life so fiercely?”

Saul sighed. “It’s been too long since you were among people. You’ve forgotten what they’re like.”

There was a face now, frowning. “I’ve watched them interact with you. Small petty things, easily wounded and readily cruel.”

“You misunderstand.”

“Do I? Have they not been cruel to you?”

Saul coughed. “They are brittle, yes. And their broken edges cut deep. But there is more to them.”


Saul looked from the shadowy figure beside him to his family gathered around his hospital bed and now beginning to fade. “Light. They are vessels for it, carrying it inside and shining it into the darkness. Even the broken catch it, glinting radiance like shards of glass. To see a spark of curiosity, to hear music suffused with brilliance, to feel the warmth of a kind touch, these are why I cling to life. Their real tragedy is that they are all so desperate for it, rarely realizing how much they have to give.”

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Story by Gregory M. Fox