Escape from Ala Spuria

The orphans of the Ala Spuria’s Shelter for Strays were never allowed to interact with one another or go outside. On Christmas Eve, however, Martha Burlington – the very strict and stern shelter’s supervisor – considered the rule might as well be broken that one time.

Outside blew a cold winter wind which made the sturdiest trees tremble. The snow gathered about in great fluffy heaps, just waiting to be trodden over. Miss Burlington lined up all the orphans in the courtyard, and with a reluctant heart, allowed them to play in the snow.

Miss Burlington went on about her daily business, keeping an ear open to whatever was going on in the courtyard. As expected, boisterous sounds of laughter, crunching snow and the occasional yelp resonated through the thick walls of the Shelter for Strays, so Miss Burlington sat in her cosy chair, savouring a moment without any pestering children. The fire sizzled and popped, filling the sitting-room with warm shards of orange light.

She woke up with the jolt, startled by the sudden absence of noise, and with her heart in her throat, she pulled the curtains aside. A blizzard raged on, shrouding everything in a mantle of white satin. In the distance, she could barely make out the silver outline of a few stationary children.

‘Course they’re there, humph! I hope they freeze to death!’ Miss Burlington exhaled with relief, and returned to her slumber. Minutes turned into hours and Miss Burlington’s eyes jumped open. She found the children playing in the exact same position she had left them.

‘What d’ya know? Those lil’ devils DID freeze, heh, heh,’ she licked her lips with relish. ‘More paperwork for me, I guess. Well… better start shovelling ’em up.’

She stepped into the courtyard, a shovel on her back, and reached out for one of the clothed shapes. Its hand fell off, glove included. Miss Burlington picked up the detached limb, and the snow fluidly tumbled out of the glove. In a fit of rage, she knocked the winter cap off one of the frozen statues, only to reveal a round, snowy face with coal for eyes. Miss Burlington quickly pushed her glasses upon her hooked nose. The silver figurines were no frozen children at all, but an army of snowmen in children clothes. As for the orphans, they were nowhere in sight.

‘Paperwork indeed,’ whispered Miss Burlington in her fist, and angrily made her way back inside.

- Louise Blackwick

Advent 2017