Community Stories

The Children in the Lights - Writes of Winter

December 19, 2023

The Red Deer Arts Council and The City of Red Deer are pleased to announce the winners of the Writes of Winter contest!

We invited Red Deer writers of all ages to share with us a tale of winter and/or the holiday season in Red Deer, under either Poetry, Short Story (Fiction) or Short Story (Creative Non-Fiction) categories.

Winning story – Best Short Story - Fiction

The Children in the Lights - by Jeremy Robinson

It all started when I took one of my lonely walks down to the city centre. Loneliness was not my choice, yet it decided to tag along wherever I went. The streets were dim with only a few citizens scattered among the sidewalks waiting for life to present itself. It had been this way since most of the local stores had to close due to an epidemic of poverty, inflation, and any other economic instability that grew from the clenched bowels of our once prosperous town. For solace, I turned to the city garden. This was the epicentre of cheer, the valley of shared dreams, the last refuge of relief. While it is true nothing grows in the garden in mid December, there were signs of life. For it is at this time that the city leaders declared the Christmas season open by illuminating the streets with a wondrous display of lights. They shined with the colourful optimism that had been lost in our grey desolate streets. One could not look directly into them for fear of blinding themselves with Christmas delight. I knew that if I were to visit there, my own dismal feelings towards the holidays might dissipate just for a moment. Yet what do you think I found when I arrived? The lights were on, but no one was there. It was silent and still. There were no families, no couples, no children, no wonder, no laughing, no joy, no peace, just darkness among the light. Christmas had been abandoned. An overwhelming sadness came over me. The cheery feeling I was longing for had been replaced by a hopeless crater. The brightness of the lights no longer held any meaning, and were therefore transformed into an extravagance. Each bulb became a reminder of the city’s wasteful energy, which was fed by the pockets of taxpayers' money. They were cheap trinkets of sentiment, and they made my eyes hurt. I looked away in disgust and I ached for humanity. But as I turned to walk into the darkness,I heard a faint sound coming from the lights. It was soft, and distant, but it was enough for me to pause. I drew closer wondering where it was coming from. As I moved in, I could hear it more clearly. It was the sound of giggling, like a tickle to the tummy. The high pitch of this giggle became apparent that its owner must be a child. I inched closer perhaps hoping to see a silhouette of a young person within the blinding lights. Were they lost? Were they alone? Then it dawned on me, the laughter wasn’t coming from inside the garden, but inside the lights. Then suddenly every blinking, illuminating bulb gave way to enormous laughter. There were children inside happy, warm, peaceful, and loved. I doubt anyone will believe me if I told them what I saw. Children living in light, away from the bitter cold, the harsh world, and the uncertain future. Inside was pure joy. For every blinking light, there was a beating of the heart. And I knew how important it was to keep them on, and hope for the world that it will never be turned off.

Thank you to Jeremy and all Red Deerians who submitted a story to the Writes of Winter contest! To read more story submissions, visit the Red Deer Arts Council’s contest page for full details. You can also find out how to submit your own entry to the “Winter Blues” category, due January 15, 2024.

Enjoy reading the top stories on coffee cups at Café Millennium (4909 49 St) through December 22.