by Elena Sichrovsky
The first angel on the tree was a gift, albeit an accidental one. Part of the choir ascending after the birth of God’s Son, she was but one of many when her wings happened to be struck by the crown of lightning that descended to rapture the Heavenly hosts. Falling between the eaves of sky and down to the earth, she landed on the tip of an evergreen and her back was stabbed through by the point of the branch. From her splintered spine blood trickled down, white like snow, every droplet frozen in the unforgiving winter and whispering away in a flutter, delicate flecks dusting the pine needles and spreading to the uneven ground below.
The last vestige of her dying aurora illuminated the tree, haloing it in a glow that drew the worship of men, women, and children everywhere. They gathered round that day to bow before the pierced corpse and offer their worship to a God who had imparted the gift of one of His own, no doubt to bestow blessing on their coming year.
From that day forth, to honor the reverence of His followers, God deigned for such a sacrifice to be sent down to the people of that hallowed ground every Christmas. But so that Heaven’s own would not be taken for granted, He passed on instructions to the priest of the village, rules that must be adhered to in order to earn the yearly angel.
Each year, in the last month, twelve angels will be sent down, children of Heaven who hide among the forest for the children of men to hunt them down. Twelve descend, but only eleven will return to their Father. One child is destined to be caught and impaled upon the tree. It is an annual game of disguise and hunt, and only the human skilled enough to detect the unearthly beings will be worthy of obtaining the celestial prize.
The blade used to kill the child of Heaven must be purified, made of gold refined and dipped in sacred water to slice through the unearthly skin of the child’s throat. The angel must be embalmed in robes of linen, diamonds crystalizing her godly light. Her eyelids must not be closed, for her sightless gaze should remain open to face the glory of Christmas Eve. On that holiest of days, when she is hoisted on the shoulders of the strong and carried to her final resting place, all will behold her and the purity therein.
She will be lifted up to the iron spike which has been fixed atop the tree. Over the years the brittle black metal has become crusted white from centuries of blood spilled, of angel’s bone and marrow split by the sharp needle. When her body is speared to the crown of the evergreen she will stand tall, her head bound by gold ribbon to gaze up at the light and framed by her lifeless wings, their frozen feathers flapping in the winter cold.
And all will gather by the light of candle flame to watch her bleed out. Her blood, righteous from God’s touch and unspoiled in the innocence of her youth, will flow forth, as snowflakes that waft through the branches, dusting the wide-eyed children dancing around the tree in angel snow.
Elena Sichrovsky is an Austrian citizen currently living in Shanghai, China. She’s a student there at the Shanghai University of Engineering Science and also a member of The Shanghai Writing Workshop. Her short stories and poetry seek to portray the beautiful and terrifying, and she is currently working on finishing her first novel.