SOFT, IVORY DOWN FLOATS THROUGH the approaching purple-black velvet. Children of the clouds and the freeze, they huddle together. Their crystal perfection is a sharp knife of contrast against the grime to which they plummet. As the snow falls, still not sticking to the pavement, dim lights begin to flicker through semi-reflective panes. Soon each house is flooded with warm, glowing radiance. Candle after candle is lit until the City appears a vast, wavering birthday cake. The diminutive flames in each window smile proudly as they dance and flutter for their cool cousins who drop through the air outside.
People bustle and shove in the gaudily lit streets, finishing last minute shopping, hurrying out of town to visit relatives. Some just arriving, relieved, to spend yet another Christmas with mother. A few children weave in and out of the preoccupied adults, marveling at the snow.
The light truly overwhelms the City but for one cranny, which is left black. Most people who had ever been to the City are oblivious to this alley, and very few inhabitants are aware of its existence. It is a dirty, indecent place, and the majority of the City shun it. A very recent occupant increases the excuses for ignorance.
Along one side of the trash-ridden street are bars where harsh, gritty men go to drown their sorrows. Five fights in each bar is considered a good and peaceful night. On the other side of the alley are unmentionable establishments where lush women in scanty amounts of clothing preside. They greet the staggering men who feel somewhat better with sickeningly sweet smiles. A rat scuttles across the scummy asphalt into a gutter. It has a piece of long-ago fried something in its mouth, but now the morsel is covered with a curious blue-green mold. The rat pauses for a moment, sniffing the cool night air. A snowflake lands on the soft, dark fur of its ear, and it flicks it off with a twitch. Still holding the piece of what was once food, it disappears into a gutter. It had thought it had caught a whiff of something even better than the moldy scrap, a creature, almost or just recently dead.
A lady in a rich silk ensemble in which the predominating shades are red and green, and a tan, belted coat with a sable lining rushes past the alley. The only reason she would be caught dead in a part of any city like this is the fact that she is off to a very exclusive party, and this just happens to be the quickest route. Her mind is on the toy sled she had purchased for her son as a Christmas present. The lack of luminescence in the alley triggers something in her mind, but she is pensive about personal purchasing predicaments. She never sees the crumpled heap lying on the corner of the deserted alley. Her beige high heels click as she hurries to her maroon town car. "This is a bad neighborhood," she thinks to herself. The lady with the fancy car and the beige high heels is the last hope, but she races away.
The alley and the rest of the City have switched places tonight; usually this alley is the only lighted place in the City at night. However, everyone needs rest sometimes. The usual providers who worked in the alley are asleep, a necessity that had been deprived for far too long.
As the night grows colder the drops of silver-white fluff start to stick and the stars begin to twinkle. A particularly hot blue star has a personal mission to do away with darkness, and so decides to focus its attention on the alley. The light has to struggle against the pitch, but finally the alley is illuminated. On the corner lies a frozen figure covered with newspapers. Long, dirty hair streams from one end of the clump, and a tiny, blue foot protrudes from the other. If the hair had been cleaned and brushed it would be soft and golden but through many years of neglect appears a murky brown. If she had been raised like others her feet would be covered with black, patent leather children's shoes, yet it is obvious that she will never get the chance. Alas, most of the blood has already drained from her naked foot. She had been denied her Christmas wish of life and had been killed by the wishes of others: the sharp, frozen SNOW..
ALICIA MIZIOLEK, 12 years old, is an eighth-grader at Bryn Mawr School.