The Spirit of the Holidays: A New Beginning
The Spirit of the Holidays: A
Story by Michael Lafferty and Matt Eberle
Illustrations by Rashad Baiyasi
A GameZone tradition continues with this seasonal tale
Daylight faded and the sky slipped towards the silky blackness of night. Snowflakes drifted down, frozen for the briefest of moments in the steady blue glare from its eyes.
There was no movement, no sound.
The snow settled softly, dusting the top of the dome that housed the central processing unit. If one could see inside the small robotic being, one would see the whirlwind of movement, thoughts streaming across processors, computations being made. But without the only sign of life was the blue illumination of the eyes, unwavering, unblinking.
It was not human, not in the flesh and bone sense of the word, but it was very much aware of the surroundings, of the place and especially the time … most especially the time. It did not wish to feel the snow that fell before its primary optics. It did not wish to feel the cold of the winter’s night. It did, however, wish to ‘feel’ the season.
Huddled in the snow, it waited and anticipated.
Words hung in its memory, delivered by a disembodied voice that visited often but never identified itself. “You will be visited by three spirits, robots of Christmas past, present and future. Perhaps you will find guidance in your search.”
The small being had taken little comfort in those words, for it sought knowledge but it had also hoped that the spirits were not scary. After all, it was still a rather young bot. The night drifted along, and already two of the spirits had come and gone. They were more than mere spirits; they were icons, legends of their time and place. The first was so human it was almost scary. Mega Man had looked over the small spherical bot, smiled and simply said, “In this, the most holiest of seasons, it is not a time to look backwards, but rather forward. Hope is not based on the past, but on the promise of the future.”
And then, in a wink, he was gone.
Enigmatic? Indeed, but no more so than the fact that no two snowflakes were identical. How in the eons of time, with all the snow that had fallen, could not two snowflakes have been identical?
‘No,’ it thought harshly, ‘the mind must not drift …’
The second of the spirits had actually been there for some time, also motionless, until the small bot finally discerned its presence. If capable of breathe, it would have gasped. Clank was rather odd looking, archaic in form, but advanced beyond tomorrow in its inner workings. Still …
“I get a sidekick for the second spirit?” the small bot wondered aloud.
There was a whirl of motion, legs extending and and Clank drew closer. There was a glare from its eyes that were more of a warning than aught else. Since the encounter with the Zoni, Clank seemed to take on a persona of self-will, stronger and more intimidating – in a certain sense.
“A sidekick is the relegated designation of those who do not wish to be more,” the metallic hero, and sometimes secret agent, had said. “In order to find out who you are, it is better to not follow the footprints already in the snow, but rather to make your own.”
And then Clank, too, faded into the winter’s night.
The tiny robot waited. The stars danced overhead, spun through the eternal ballet of the heavens. The robotic being tried to sit still. It had to shift now and then, using simple friction to keep its joints from freezing up in the snow. The wind pulled snarls of powder from the drifts scattered about. Thin snakes of icy crystals swept in front of the robot’s eyes. The moon set, leaving the landscape darker than it had been before. The first light from the approaching dawn was beginning to color the eastern skies when the little robot had finally had enough.
The bot stood, its joints making sharp cracking sounds, then turned around and looked back where it had been sitting. The heat from its motors and processors had melted the snow beneath it. When the snow refroze it formed a thin sheet, slightly concave and very smooth. The round little robot leaned forward and looked down at the glistening ice.
The light from a star - bigger and brighter than the rest, and still hanging in the early morning's fading blues and blacks - and the light from the tiny robot’s eyes turned the icy sheet into a shining mirror. The robot looked down at its own reflection in shock. The cracks it had made when it broke its way out of the frozen seat it had formed and tiny imperfections in the ice itself made the reflection flawed. The robot saw its own face, but older. There were scars along the casing that housed its eyes. The frame around its shoulders was chipped and marred.
The robot leaned back and froze. It pondered what it had seen. The reflected face hadn’t been a bad face. It was the face of a robot that had been well used. The imperfections in its body weren’t from carelessness, they were from adventures - the adventures it was going to have, the challenges it was going to face, the excitement it shared with others.
‘I’m going to change,’ the tiny robot thought. ‘I’m going to get to experience things and enjoy things. I will have friends, even close friends. And I will get to share my life with them.’ The tiny robot turned as daylight's glow broke over the horizon. As the sun crept up the bot found itself smiling for the very first time. The reflection was the last of the three visitors, it finally understood.
The three ‘spirits’ had visited it, and the small, blue-eyed bot realized that the gift left behind was one of the more precious gifts that anyone, or anything could receive – a future without limits, without boundaries. Dawn was in full bloom, the distant star was still shining and the far horizon was beckoning with new adventures. And in the chill of that winter morn, a new hope was born.
* * *
On this holiday season, the time when our spirits all shine a little brighter, we, at GameZone, wish that the promise of a bright future, one without limits, is yours as well.