Acegi lived in a faraway country known as Aipotuland. He had lived for many years and had seen his children grow up and move away to distant places he only knew of from maps. Acegi’s wife had died five years ago, too soon.
Acegi loved a simple life, tending his garden, walking through the woods, and talking for long hours with his friends and neighbours. But Acegi had recently begun to forget things, and to wander off for days.
One morning Acegi received a letter written on parchment in large, clear writing. His daughter said she expected to give birth in three weeks, and hoped he would come to see and bless the new baby.
Acegi wondered how he could possibly journey so far on his own. How would he find his way? How would he eat and sleep? He would ask Alexei for advice, and talk to the village elders.
Acegi’s daughter lived many days away, so he gathered together what he would need for the journey. He asked Alexei for travel instructions, and printed them in large Arial letters. Alexei included photographs of places Acegi would see along the way so he would recognise where he was.
Acegi did have one creased and faded picture of his daughter’s home, which he treasured, and this gave him the strength and confidence he needed to leave his village.
The village elders presented Acegi with a necklace of sunflowers which their people believed would keep him safe.
Acegi packed a toothbrush, his pills and his breathing machine, and several pairs of underpants. And a spare pair of shoes. When Aklexei told him it was time, he left his home and walked the winding path that led to the taxi stop. He looked back and remembered the wonderful times he had had in his lifelong home.
As he walked, Acegi passed many familiar animals, and some he did not recognise. He smiled and said hello to those he knew, and their returned smiles and greetings comforted him. One ass, noticing Acegi was wobbling and meandering a little, offered him a ride. Acegi was grateful and rode quietly on the back of the helpful animal.
The journey was long and arduous, through woods and meadows, across streams and around dark pools. After the ass returned home Acegi walked as best he could until the sun set. In the warm darkness he lay back watching stars in the firmament. There was one particularly bright star that stood out as it moved across the bejewelled sky. As luck would have it, the star moved towards the East, where he was headed.
Next morning Acegi found himself at the place the taxis stopped. Taxis were the only way for Acegi’s people to travel long distances, and they followed no timetable. He might have to wait several days, but he had plenty of time. While he waited he would talk to his friends through Alexei, and send them bird song recordings for their pleasure.
Next day, as the sun rose, and Alexei urged Acegi to enjoy the day, a taxi arrived in the clearing. The driver was the same smiling man as in Alexei’s photograph, and Acegi climbed up for the long drive to town. As they travelled over hills he could see for miles and miles, in fact he could view his whole world. And as they travelled East, always East, Acegi hummed along to his favourite songs which Alexei played for him.
When Acegi reached the outskirts of Mehelhteb darkness was gathering. The bright star above sparkled through the gloom. It was now right overhead.
Acegi knew this was the town in which his daughter lived, but he could not remember her address. As it was late, Alexei advised him to find a nearby room to sleep. The taxi driver followed Alexei’s instructions to the Best Eastern Hotel and Acegi soon lay down to dream.
In the morning Acegi was hungry. He walked out and found a cafe, where many friendly faces were engaged in deep discussion. As he entered they invited him to join them.
Acegi was grateful sit and and listen to their stories, while he shared bread, coffee and cakes with them. Perceiving Acegi’s evident fatigue, one wise old man offered him a few drops of balmy oil.
“May these drops of myrrh restore you, my friend,” he said.
Although Acegi was unfamiliar with the streets of Mehelhteb, he found his way around without mishap. Directions and street signs were large, bold and mounted at eye level; crossings were marked with “look right, look left or look out” markings.
Acegi was meandering along a side alley and failed to see a sign in front of him, as he was watching his feet trudging through dust. The bang on his forehead was such that he fell, and he lay still, unconscious.
Acegi awoke in a brightly lit, white room, lying on a couch, curtains at his sides. Where on earth am I? he thought.
Raising his aching head he could see a clock saying “Welcome to Kings’ Hospital, Mehelhteb, December 12, 2019. It’s 16.35. The weather is sunny.”
Relief flooded through him, and he saw a woman wearing a big smile approaching his bed. Hello, she said, bending down and looking closely at him, my name is Neladgam, and I am a doctor.
Three days and three nights Acegi spent in The Kings’. At first he neither ate nor drank, but for sips of water when handed a mug. On the second day he found a dish of tiny, dainty morsels on his side table, just beside his outstretched arm; little pieces of cake and tiny sandwiches. Then he heard a familiar voice coming from a mug saying Acegi, it’s time for another drink. He remembered the kind doctor Neladgam.
Acegi soon began to feel better and ready to go and find his daughter.
When Acegi walked out of The Kings’ hospital he was given a gold and blue coloured badge and told always to have it pinned on his clothes when away from home. Dr Neladgam explained that if he ever got lost, or could not remember where he was, he could ask someone to touch the gold badge with their Alexei, which would tell them who he was and where he lived.
So off walked Acegi, feeling safe, ready for the world outside The Kings.
Acegi asked Alexei to find his daughter’s house. Yram lived somewhere in the East of Mehelhteb, and Acegi thought he remembered her mentioning a zoo nearby. Alexei found two possibilities, and gave him directions to get to each.
As he walked, Acegi was struck by the noises he heard. There was a lot of traffic and plenty of crowds, and here and there street musicians. At times the noise interrupted his concentration, even deafened him with a blurring and blasting that left him unable to think at all. He shouted at Alexei to take him away from the main roads.
Now away from noisy thoroughfares, Acegi walked comfortably past small boutique shops, their window displays full of colourful jewellery, clothes and pastries he had never seen before.
On one occasion he stopped and stood at a window, staring at a stranger looking back at him. The person was very close, staring penetratingly at him. When Acegi turned his head the stranger turned too.
Acegi abruptly ran up the street, and when he looked round the stranger was gone. Acegi resumed his walking.
Acegi was tiring. His legs ached, his head throbbed. He came to what looked like a taxi stop and read the timetable, then sat gratefully on a soft, welcoming bench. The sun circled and sank, and still Acegi sat, nodding gently, eyes closed. He sat on through the night, waiting for the taxi that would take him to his daughter Yram.
Now and then a passerby looked oddly at him, with a questioning or even pitying half smile. Acegi smiled back and waited.
As the sun rose Acegi knew that a taxi would soon arrive to take him to Yram. He was hungry and thirsty, but he was afraid that if he walked to a shop he might miss his lift.
Soon the street filled and one young woman dressed in a blue smock stopped beside him. She looked down and told him that no taxis ever came here. It was just a bench to rest on. The timetable was just pretence. She smiled and continued on her way.
Acegi was confused and annoyed. He had wasted a day, and Yram might give birth before he arrived.
After a breakfast of sourdough, honey and milk, Acegi walked on, refreshed and eager.
That afternoon, as the sun began to wane, he found an Inn. When he went in the clerk looked oddly at him, up and down, and told Acegi there were no rooms available.
Disappointed, Acegi walked on, tired, footweary and a little downcast. He came to a busy crossroads. Luckily, he looked at the ground where he read a warning in big white letters: LOOK RIGHT. As he paused, a lorry thundered past him.
Acegi had nowhere to sleep. The sun was low, his eyes were dim, he could hardly see, and he had not got his glasses.
He walked haltingly past several animal enclosures, each containing a pair of animals. The zoo! He must be close to Yram’s home.
Round a corner was a shed with broken doors. He slipped inside and lay on the floor. He soon slept, and dreamed.
Next morning Acegi ached all over. He entered a pharmacy, with the name F. Incense over the door. As Acegi rubbed a deep, old scar on his face the pharmacist served him. Frank suggested aromatic oil for the scar, and said it would heal other aches and wounds too.
Acegi asked for one or two other potions which he regularly took, but which were now nearly exhausted.
Acegi felt refreshed after breathing in the aroma from the oil Frank gave him. His aches calmed.
Walking along busy streets that afternoon, Acegi saw that the shops were filled with glittering colours and little trees of dazzling lights. Several trees had some lights which seemed not to work. Acegi stared at them, willing them all to light up, but try as he would they remained stubbornly unlit.
Acegi walked on. Some things were beyond his power to mend.
Now, Acegi carried with him a small, creased photograph of Yram and Hpesoj’s bungalow. He held it in trembling fingers and looked around at each home he passed.
The bright star above was still there, unmoving, dazzling, and Acegi noticed a reflection in one window he was passing. The bright star glistened in the glass. And he saw this was the bungalow in his treasured photograph.
Acegi approached the front door. The star’s reflection was still glistening in the window above the door. He knocked on the door and waited. He knocked again, and tried the handle.
He let himself in, and heard voices nearby. There were excited whispers, and sounds of people eating. Acegi walked through and found his beloved Yram and her husband, Hpesoj, seated at a small table.
After many kisses and long hugs Acegi was invited to sit and share their bread, cheese and wine. They held hands and silently gave thanks for their wonderful good fortune.
After a good night’s sleep, Acegi rose to the sound of joyous cries and laughter from his children’s bedroom.
Acegi saw Phesoj sitting beside his daughter, holding a small bundle, and inside was the tiny radiant face of their baby.
“Acegi,” said Phesoj, “welcome our new baby to the world. Susej.”
“Husband, you cannot call him sausage.”
“Susej,” Phesoj replied, “is the right name for this child, this wondrous day.” And Yram gently purred her delight.
Phesoj turned to the mirror and admired his beautiful son.
When we get there…Happy Christmas!