The Twelve Dreams of Christmas

December 2017 Christmas Dreams Story Contest Entry

[24th December 2011, Helmand Province, Afghanistan]

The special forces soldier spoke quietly into his radio,
“Leopard One to Lion, come in please?”

“Lion receiving,” came the reply.

“Leopard One is waiting for the Antelopes at 951.”

“Roger Leopard One. Lion out.”

The radio went dead.

The soldier shifted his position slightly and peered out into the gathering doom of Christmas Eve.

He was in a very heavily camouflaged bivouac. This was to be his home for the next twelve and a bit days. His position overlooked a known Taliban supply route from the south. His job was to observe and to report any movements along the road below. There was snow on the ground and the clouds rolling towards the position indicated that more snow was about to be dropped on his position. This was just what the soldier needed. It would cover the tracks he’d made getting to his position just before dawn that day.

The promised snow came a little after dark. It dropped around 100mm in a few hours. Then the skies cleared as it approached midnight. As if by magic, a shooting star appeared in the sky a few minutes after midnight. It disappeared off to the west in a matter of seconds. There was no wind, no sounds at all. The ‘sounds of silence’ was perfect for the time.

Soon, the soldier cat napped. His training stopped him from sleeping more than a little over two hours at a time. He had some sensitive microphones pointing at the road below. Any vehicle coming along it would cause an alarm in his ear-piece to buzz. Then he’d scan the road using one of the two pairs of binoculars he’d carried up to the position. One pair was for night use. He was sure that he could see a mouse move with them. All it needed was for something to move. Nothing was moving that night.

That first night, the soldier dreamed of life after the Army. He saw the woman of his dreams looking fantastic attending the premier of a new blockbuster film.

The days passed. No vehicles moved. It seemed that even the Taliban were taking some time off from their war on the foreign invaders and infidels. Each night, a fresh covering of snow fell but the soldier never left his hideout. He was used to living like this. His Regiment were world experts in covert reconnaissance operations. Along with the fresh snow which provided the soldier with fresh drinking water, his dreams became more vivid and realistic. He didn’t mind them in the slightest as they provided something else to think about during the daylight hours.

He spoke to no one. Radio Silence was observed. He would only break it if there was something to report and there was nothing.
Every eight hours, he would send a short highly coded transmission to his base via a satellite link. The burst was less than half a second and it was done. No reply would come nor was it expected unless it was the order to decamp.

The soldier’s bivvy was small but it was large enough for him to at least do some stretching and the copious supply of rocks were easily put into use in his daily exercise regime.

New Year came and went but the dreams didn’t stop. Each night, they became more and more vivid and lifelike. They gave the soldier something to think about during the seemingly endless days.

Nothing moved. Not even one of the many wild Camels appeared in the Valley. His only company was the odd Eagle or two circling high above in their endless search for their next meal.

On his last night, the dream was so realistic that it seemed that this woman was actually sitting in his hideout with him. The woman spoke softly to the soldier. Her words were full of hope and comfort. He woke feeling good. Not only was the new day his last before recovery, he knew what his next move was going to be.

Just before dusk and twelve long days since his arrival, he left his hideout and made his way to the pickup point.

When he arrived at the location, he switched on his radio.

“Leopard to Lion, ready for extraction. Point Alpha.”

“Lion to Leopard. Extraction in 30. Out.”

Twenty minutes later he heard the thump, thump of a Chinook heading his way.

The Chinook didn’t land for more than 30 seconds but that was enough for the soldier to heave his now much lighter pack onto the aircraft and clamber in after it. He watched his former home disappear into the gathering gloom. He was looking forward to sleeping in a bed that night after a long hot shower and some decent grub.

The flight back to the base in Kandahar was uneventful. The soldier felt both happy and sad. Happy that he was going home. Sad that he’d rather fallen in love with that particular part of Afghanistan and would never be returning.

His de-brief was short because nothing of relevance to the fight against the Taleban had taken place. He did not mention his dreams but quietly announced to his CO, that he was done with the Army. No one questioned his decision. After all, he’d done three tours and there were very few who had done more than him.

[21st December 2016]

“Crystal! Earth to planet Crystal?”

“Eh? Oh, sorry, I was miles away,” said the model.

“You were on another planet,” said the Photographer.

“Sorry Miles. I was…. On another planet, well almost.”
Crystal had been thinking back to ‘before’ and her old life. This one was very different but ironically more stressful at times. This was one of them. There were times when she really missed being alone on that hilltop in Helmand all those years ago.

“Are you back with us or do you want some more time?”

“No Miles. I’m ready,” she replied with a forced smile.
The director for this shoot was a prick of the highest order. They’d already done at least half a dozen perfectly good takes that could be edited together but he was in charge so…

“Good. Positions everyone. And… Action.”

Two hours later the video shoot was over. Crystal returned to the trailer that was her dressing room and sat down with a slightly weary expression on her face. It turned into one of relief when she took off the shoes that her feet had been stuffed into for the past eight hours. Her thoughts were working out the most devious and excruciatingly painful method possible of killing the ‘dresser’ who’d yet again arranged for the wrong size shoes to be sent to one of her shoots.
She was literally spoilt for choice. However, she soon put that to the back of her mind as she got changed and left the set and headed home.

Two hours later, she was back at her Chelsea home getting ready for the evening. Her dress for the event had been delivered during the day direct from the designer. Her wardrobe was full of designer originals. She had not had to pay for any of them. The deal was that she’d wear them and get her picture in the papers and glossy mags and the dress was hers. Such were the sacrifices of a top fashion model.

This evenings event was the premier of a Christmas Musical. It had been delayed for a couple of weeks due to an outbreak of chicken pox amongst the cast but as the saying goes, ‘the show must go on’. So tonight, it was going ahead.

The problem was that Crystal hated Musicals especially Christmas ones. This had been the case ever since she had been dragged to see a musical version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ as a young child.

She had tried really hard to get out of going to this one but her Agent had insisted. This evening was going to be a long one. She’d have to grin and bear it for two and a half hours of the performance and then there was the after-show party and yet more photographs to be posed for. There were a million other places that she’d rather be but the training from her previous career would let her manage the time and not let on that she was bored to tears.

The musical was as boring as she’d imagined. Crystal soon tuned out half her mind and remembered that fateful Christmas in her past. A Christmas spent alone but at one with nature. A Christmas that made her decide on her future. The dreams of that time were never far from her thoughts. Sitting there in the Theatre with all the songs of happiness echoing all around her, she wished that she was back in Helmand on the top of a hill with all the snow around her.

In reflection, that was one of her most memorable Christmases. It was her last as a man.

The dreams that appeared each night had foretold the future, her future.

The vision of the future that came to her while watching the Musical was just as life changing as the dreams from Afghanistan some six years earlier.

Her mind suddenly became clear and she actually enjoyed the second half of the show.

[8th January 2017]
Six years to the day after her old self told his Commanding Officer that he was done with the Regiment and the Army, her picture was on the front of many newspapers especially the ‘red tops’. This time, it was for the last time.

The headlines all said ‘Crystal Quits’.

There was intense speculation about what she was going to do next. None of those mentioned were even close to the truth.

Her final dream from Afghanistan was again directing her life and future. Her third career dawned, one of a sheep farmer. She could not wait to be alone on the hillsides with her dogs, the sheep and the wind.

It was just as her final and twelfth dream of Christmas had forecast. She was the woman in those dreams. Eleven of them had shown her in wonderful outfits as befits a ‘super-model’. The last and by a long way, the most vivid dream showed her on a Cumbrian Hillside with two sheepdogs and a flock of Herdwicks grazing contentedly.

The dream had repeated itself during the Musical. This time it went a lot further. The new revelations showed her sitting on a dry-stone wall high above a Cumbrian Lake. Sitting alongside her was her husband to be, none other than her former Commanding Officer.

They had met up again at a ‘Remembrance Day’ event in 2015. She and a number of other models were helping the British Legion sell Poppies at a famous London Railway Station. The bevvy of glamorous models arriving to help sell Poppies had made the day for the Veterans. The trip had been Crystal’s idea and once the press had come and gone, they enjoyed themselves.

No one in her circle of friends and associates knew of her past. She wanted to keep it that way so she was surprised then her former C.O. came up to her and said, ‘Lion to Leopard, how is life on the top of Hill 951?’

Once she’d gotten over the shock of seeing him again, they became friends and then lovers.

She couldn’t wait for the third phase of her life to begin. She knew that she would be ‘yomping’ her way north with him very shortly.

Those twelve dreams of Christmas were indeed the stars that had guided her life. Afghanistan might have happened years before but the images of those days lived on in her eyes. Together, they had made her as a person, a happy and contented person all thanks to the ‘twelve dreams of Christmas’.

[The End]
[Authors Note]
The Herdwick is a breed of sheep found in the English Lake District. Very hardy and ideally suited to the terrain.

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