I opened my eyes.
At first I could see nothing distinctly, but the general impression I had was one of coolness. Deep blues and greens and aquas and ultramarines filled the space before me and penetrated deep into my consciousness. I lay back and let the freshness of the colors wash over me.
At length my vision grew clearer. I sat up and studied my surroundings intently.
It was morning: a morning as fresh and fair as the first morning of the world. Between bands of radiant white clouds the sky shone a clean and vivid blue. Looking around, I realized that I had been lying on my back in clear, shallow water with little rippling waves lapping gently over me, not far from a beach of sparkling white sand. Just beyond the narrow strand rose a forest of deep green pines. Rank upon rank the trees marched down nearly to the water’s edge, their dark boughs stirring faintly in the breeze and flashing in the morning sun.
Turning my head at the sound of a happy cry, I noticed yet another curious thing about this lovely place. It was filled with little children. Some lay or sat in the shallow water, as I did, while others laughed and splashed and played along the shore. Some floated on their backs out in the deeper water, while others walked or crawled in small groups up the sandy beach. All wore robes of purest white, and the very hair of their heads seemed to glow with a rosy light.
Now there came a tug at my robe – for I, too, was clothed in the same bright raiment – and, looking up, I found myself staring into an oddly familiar face.
“I am glad to see you,” said the small voice that came from the little mouth. Had it not been for the lamp, the basket of apples, and the sky-blue cloak that partly covered his white gown, I might not have recognized him at all. The boy was even smaller and younger than he had been on the other side of the sun-gate, and he had changed in other ways as well. His face and hair and hands were all faintly radiant. Behind him in the distance a gentle red sunrise was just peering over the horizon.
I stared down at my own hands – the hands that, when last I saw them, had been bathed in ribbons and streamers of flame. They were now the hands of a newborn infant. Raising them up before my face, I thrust the fingers into my mouth and sucked at them contentedly, marveling at their delicate softness.
“Do you see?” cried the boy, lifting me in his arms. “We’ve arrived at last! Christmas morning has come in – or rather, we’ve come into Christmas morning!”
Cradling me gently in the crook of one arm, he waded with me through the shallow water and up onto the glittering shore.