Christmas was the other social high point of school life at Donegal Academy. And there was always so much work to do. Around Thanksgiving, Mrs Rosso had conferred with Mr Johan about one serious matter. Both had agreed that, during the holiday season, Little Sammy must be kept as busy as possible. So, in addition to cleaning his room, the responsibility of his schoolwork, and his monthly detail, he would also assist in decorating the Great Hall.
Today, this moody, brown haired, bespsctacled boy was hanging garland with red ribbons on the Grand Stair-case. Little hidden tacks were stuck just under the railing to hold it fast. The end was to be secured around the railing-post topped by an owl clutching a book. As he wound out the end of the garland, Sammy reached up to brace himself by holding on to the top of the wooden book. He felt the carven binding cords against his palm as he stretched to complete the task.
Being alone is one thing, but being lonely is something else altogether. Sammy had enjoyed being alone until he met the one person in all the world who seemed to have the key to unlock him. Now she was gone and her absence left a big empty place in his heart. As he pulled himself up, this dark shadow of loneliness continues its awful work in twisting his deep sadness into anger.
Then a most amazing thing happened: the wooden book broke away from the owl. Oh no! He had damaged one of the school's well-known treasures! But when he looked up, that clever owl was still holding his book! Then what did he have in his hand? he went to sit down in one of the overstuffed chairs to examine it.
A sky blue book, about three inches by five, an inch or more thick, with gold edged pages lay in his lap. But how had he gotten it? Where had it come from? "I wish I knew more about this," he said to no one in particular, thinking out loud because he once had someone there to hear him.
A strange soft light began to fill the room, emanating from the owl atop the railing post. Sammy stood up, as out of the light a form was taking shape before him. At first he thought he might have passed out and Mr. Johan was coming to help him, but as the figure drew closer, he saw that it looked uncommomly like -- Santa Claus!!
"Who..who are you?" asked the boy, preparing to run at the first opportunity.
"You have the book, don't you know?"
"No--I didn't mean to..I mean I don't want the book."
"But you have taken it. And still you don't recognize me, after all I have done to protect you."
"Then you are a guardian? And this book is...is..."
"Magic...yes. Magic for you to use as you...aah, but I see you have already made your choice."
"What do you mean? I didn't..."
"Now you realize, of course, that such a wish will use all of the magic at once. Most people who find the book use the power more selfishly of course. But what you want can be done."
'Wait! I still don't know what you mean."
"And you realize that you are making a choice for another person. That can be tricky, and may not produce the results that you desire."
"But I didn't choose anything!"
"Your heart has made the choice. When you see the light, speak the words that will come to you. I wish you good luck, and do not forget that this will use all of the magic. I won't be able to help you again after this... " and his voice faded away.
He was gone. In fact, everything was gone, all except a doorframe. Sammy walked slowly toward it, and as he approached, a strong feeling grew within him that all of his loved ones were just there, on the other side. If he passed through, he could see them again! Be with them...
But he couldn't do it. He had to stay here...she needed him. Suddenly all was enveloped in a warm blue fog. He stood on a little hill -- the sun rose behind him with enough strength to clear away all the shadows and darkness. The words came to him: ALL RETURN -- RESET.
He felt his body pulled back through time--his life flower rapidly backwards as he re-experienced it. He saw himself being seen--as others saw him. But he could not speak or change anything.
Finally, Sammy fell out the other end and was..was nowhere. But all around him he felt that everything was alive and that he was a part of it--he was it! Overwhelming his senses were all the living voices of the sky, the earth, and under the earth, as contained within the sphere of all time, past, present, and future.
With one blink he stood again at the cross-road where they had first met. Was this that very day? Why here? And if this were that day, would she even remember him? Would they--would she have to re-live everything all over again? He ran ahead to the apple tree. He saw the blonde haired girl almost asleep under it. And then. as he stepped on a twig, she got up, dropped the little sky-blue book with gold edged pages that she had been reading, and said, "Sammy! I've been waiting for you!"