There was once upon a time a boy who loved Christmas, and he loved it more than life itself. He loved the snow, and he loved the presents, and he loved the cosy warm fire that his grandma always kept alight through the winter months. But the thing about Christmas he loved the most, and the thing that was, in fact, the little boy’s most favourite thing in all the world, was the North Pole sky.
He had heard stories and read books about the northern lights. He could spend hours thinking about them, imagining what it must be like to look up, breathless, and see the heavens work. He could picture it perfectly in bright, wonderful brush strokes. He could see it when he closed his eyes, and he just wanted to stay there, asleep, in that magical, impossible dream.
The tunnel started slowly, down in granny’s old, dusty cellar. He had a shovel, at first, but it soon broke. He started using the bucket, but when the bucket, too, cracked, and the earth started sifting through, he began using his hands, and then his arms, and then his body.
He knew he ought to stop once his fingernails snapped. He knew it even more when his right arm made a loud clicking noise, and hung loosely by his side. His feet grew blistered and bloody from all the walking, and his skin was stained the colour of the earth. But still he dug his tunnel, and still he dreamt of the northern lights.
He wasn’t at the North Pole, yet, and he didn’t know how far he had left to go. He needed something to eat before he carried on, lest he starve, and he needed a place to sleep. He dug a small cocoon in the wall, and shovelled the dirt down into his stomach.
The next day he felt lightheaded and ill, but he had to go on, because otherwise he would never make it. And so he dug some more, heading further and further away from grandma and her fire, further and further away from the snow and the snowball fights, further and further away from the presents, lovingly chosen and carefully wrapped. He got so far away from it all that it would have been impossible to turn back, even if he tried. So on he went, until he couldn’t dig anymore.
As he struggled with his breathing the boy began to whisper, hoping somebody could hear. “I’m sorry,” he said, but there was no reply. “I’m sorry,” he said again. I’m sorry, he thought, silently. And this time, his words rang true.