Short Christmas' story theme presented to Melilla's Christmas contest, unable to overcome the extension of six sheets on one side.
Inspired by real events.
Cindy's small hands helped her mother knead the gingerbread dough they'll use to snack on that afternoon. Her mother today would have a lot of work preparing the famous stuffed turkey and the rich egg-punch for Thanksgiving dinner, so Cindy decided to lighten her mother's burden by participating in the preparations.
Cindy loved the Christmas holidays, both for the striking city's streets' ornamentation, and for the spirit that was shared inside and outside her home. Through the kitchen window, while chatting offhand with his mother on what form giving to the biscuits, she looked at the neighbors' houses, who had in their majority the facades adorned with multitude of lights and adornments. Except one of the houses that stood two plots to the left of her, on the opposite sidewalk. She wondered who would live in that sad house.
Eyes gazed out at the exterior of the street through the slits of the lowered blinds. Outside, the children ran around and threw snowballs between laughter, dressed in bulky coats and colorful earmuffs.
A call to the landline phone made him startled, as he eased his eyes off the street and headed in the gloom to answer the phone.
Her mother had given her a little break so Cindy took the chance to go out and play in the snowy garden for a while and make the best snowman on the street. A loud sound took her out of the enthusiasm with which she had just settled the snowman's base and as she turned her head to where the sound came she saw an old Ford Crown Victoria beige color, chirping wheels out of the house's garage without decorating, hitting a metal trash bin as he turned abruptly to catch the straight of the street, disappearing later in the distance.
He was on his way to a small interior buildings complex, having passed the military siege and parked the car outside the fencing. An identification card was attached to the card reader on one of the doors of the rough building, and the doors opened. He went to the elevator, and by inserting a key and turning it, he went to the subsoil.
"You have to see this Matt", his second in command told him as the elevator doors opened and he set foot in the living room.
A video wall composed of ten screens on the back wall of the room and ten tables with computers and the rest of the team of people typing and checking data, were distributed on both sides of the room, forming the bunker interior.
In Cindy's warm home, the crackling of the logs in the fireplace accompanied the family's chorus of applause during the carols string that they tried to sing in turns and with the mouth full of freshly made gingerbread cookies.
Matt put on his glasses as he approached the computer that had caught the alert. His operator stepped aside to let the American Aerospace Defense Coordinator review the data. After a few minutes checking the data from the satellite computer number three, he looked back at his second in command with concern and again turned his gaze to the data.
"Check the information with the other satellites and put the information centralized in the video wall", he said as he hurried to the black bakelite desk phone.
The huge golden stuffed turkey was approaching on a pretty tray at her mother's hands to the rectangular table's center' hollow. Distributed on the table awaited the turkey a large sources of roasted corn cobs, mashed potatoes, peas and baby carrots.
As he picked up the receiver and started dialing the president's number on the dial, he looked up at the ceiling to see how the red rotary switches turned on and the alarms began to sound. He hung up the phone and headed for the video wall to watch more clearly if his eyes were not deceiving him.
Five signals equivalent to five Russian intercontinental nuclear missiles were heading toward the United States and a clear message flashed on the screens: <<Nuclear missile strike imminent.» From their posts, his officer and noncommissioned officers looked at him sharing their same convictions. It could not be a mistake.
As all the family members sat down at the table, they looked at the succulent food and the creator of such an abundant dinner, alternately, with a grateful smile on their faces. With a slight nod and some blushing on her face, the mother gave her approval, and then the family members clasped their hands, closed their eyes and began to pray: <<Bless us, Lord, and bless these foods that by your kindness we will take...»
A visible bead of perspiration furrowed his forehead, unhurriedly, seeming aware of the momentous moment and devoting her minutes of glory, while the coordinator watched in astonishment as the signals kept getting nearer and nearer to his continent.
"Sir, we have to notify the President immediately," his officer was suggesting, as he brought him an open briefcasen with a code screen and a large red button covered by a protective cap.
But Matt, absorbed in his thoughts, analyzed the chances that the system could fail five times in a row and that this error was in turn confirmed by twenty different levels of security. It was inconceivable, however, that the USSR, without anti-missile defense systems, would launch a suicide attack without warning. Within ten minutes, the impact was expected to result in an explosion two hundred and fifty times greater than that of Hiroshima's.
<<... Amen.» And the father offered politely to carve the turkey, serving the wife's dish first and then the children's. They tasted the tender and tasty turkey while praising the good technique used by the chef in its preparation. After quenching their appetite, they proceeded to pick up all the dishes from the table, and to keep the leftovers in tupperwares, for the distribution of these surpluses among the indigents during the following days.
"To warn of this situation to the White House would suppose the Third World War, John. It is not possible that they launched this offensive. Such an asshole has not yet been born, not even in the USSR," Matt said.
Immediately, and with five minutes to go, the red rotary switches went out and the sirens ceased to emit the alarming sounds. In the video wall screens the five signs had disappeared.
"Check all the satellites again and trace those signals," the colonel ordered.
But the signals were gone; everything had been the result of a system failure due to a series of electromagnetic alterations produced by a thunderstorm.
His officers and non-comissioned officerss rushed to embrace him, skipping any protocol, and between laughter and tears of joy praised the cold blood and the success of that colonel in the difficult situation.
Matt collapsed on a chair with a shaky body and a sense of great joy.
Cindy proceeded to inaugurate the gift giving with a beautiful bouquet of purple and orange wildflowers that she delivered to her mother. Seated again by the fireplace, they exchanged boxes of chocolates, typical white and red Christmas sweets, and a few small toys, wrapped in bright garnet packets.
Upon learning of what happened, Matt's superiors told him that he would be decorated for having avoided the catastrophe with his good judgment. But the reality was very different. The US could not afford to let the american people, let alone the USSR, to know what had happened, so the events were hidden and Matt was relegated to a lower position and later retired with a lifetime pension that didn't cover his basic needs.
However, thirty years after the incident, a non-commissioned officer present that day in that bunker, made public the data in the press and the American people immediately put face to that hero in the shades.
The snow covered the gardens of that long residential street. Again it was that special Thanksgiving day, and an adult Cindy was on her way from her house two blocks to the house of her elderly parents where she had spent her childhood.
She rang the bell, and her parents, after opening the door and giving her some kisses, proceeded to give her a few presents wrapped in a bright red paper. Cindy turned her gaze to that house that was still unadorned, but this time instead of assaulting her doubts, a smile crept into her pretty complexion and went, with her smile decked and laden with presents, to the sober house door.
A fit of cough made him look away from the lowered blinds slits, and with the use of a cane, he stumbled toward the medicine chest. He returned just in time to look again through the blinds slits as a large group of people approached laden with presents to his door. Cindy headed the neighborhood entourage.
The doorbell rang repeatedly but Matt did not open the door..
"We know you're there, Sir," Cindy said from the other side. "We want to thank you for what you did for our country on a day like today so many years ago. You are a hero, Sir."
A tear ran down the face of that old colonel on the other side of the door.
Every year, by Thanksgiving, many people came to Matt's house to deposit their signs of gratitude at the door, for the humility and good judgment of that man who saved so many lives.
Even after his death, a flowers wreath displayed every year in front of his door, decorating the sober house, during those Christmas celebrations.