Commander Roderick looked out the window of the colony ship, eying the desolate, inhospitable landscape of the planet they were stuck on. He still remembered how they were once going to become famous, founding humanity’s first colony on a planet outside the solar system, until a freak accident caused their ship to crash land here. It had now been eight months since the crash, and the Commander had not heard a signal from Earth. The colony was on its own.
Thankfully, their colony vessel shielded them from the toxic air, and provided them with enough food to keep the survivors alive for ten years, through careful rationing. However, with everybody confined to the vessel longer than they expected to be, conditions were bleak, and morale was low.
The commander looked at his calendar. It was December 22, or at least, it would be if they were on Earth. It was three days until Christmas, but in light of everything, nobody felt like celebrating.
As he reflected, is assistant, Caleb, entered the room.
“Commander,” Caleb said, “here’s the reports.”
He handed the commander a tablet computer. The commander took it and began reading it.
“Thank you, Caleb,” he replied.
“We’ve got to do something about morale, sir,” Caleb said, “It’s never been lower.”
“I know,” the Commander replied, “but with us being here for eight months, and there being no signals from earth, everybody feels there is no hope. We can’t expect people to be cheerful in this predicament. I haven’t smiled in months either.”
They both sighed.
“And to think,” Caleb said, “if we were on Earth, this would be Christmas. We’d all be celebrating.”
“True,” the Commander said, but then he paused. He had an idea.
“But maybe we could still celebrate Christmas here,” he suggested, “organize a party. Get everybody to celebrate. Maybe if we can bring in the Christmas spirit, we can improve morale.”
“I don’t know,” Caleb said, uncertain of the plan, “there are no presents to give, no trees to decorate, in fact, there are no decorations at all. It doesn’t feel like Christmas.”
“Then we’ll have to make it feel like Christmas,” the Commander said, “we can borrow a tree from the hydroponics bay. Sure, it won’t be a pine, but we can decorate it just the same. We can just use some old trinkets we find as decorations.”
“Still,” Caleb said, “I doubt the people would feel like celebrating. If you want to give it a try, though, I suppose it couldn’t hurt.”
“Then let’s get some people to help,” the Commander said, “we’re going to have a Christmas party on Christmas Eve.”
So, on the morning of December 24, Commander arranged to have a tree from the hydroponics bay moved to the main hall, began decorating it for Christmas, using various odds and ends he was able to find throughout their ship. As he decorated the tree, Caleb walked in.
“I asked around to see if anybody was willing to help,” Caleb said, “couldn’t get any volunteers. Nobody’s in the mood.”
“Then we’ll have to do it on our own,” the Commander said, “right, Caleb?”
“It’s not like I have anything better to do,” Caleb said, “so, there’s this old green hose that got replaced a couple weeks back. If we string it up along the wall, it might look a bit like Christmas garland.”
“Then let’s see it,” the Commander said.
“I’ll go get it from the junk room,” Caleb said, running out to get it.
With that, Commander Roderick and Caleb decorated the main hall for Christmas with all the makeshift decorations they could improvise. When they finished, they were surprised at how festive the hall looked, despite having been just thrown together with whatever they could find.
Soon, it was the evening. The people on the vessel may not have been in the mood for the party, but they had to come anyway. The main hall was where they typically ate their meals anyway. They noticed the decorations, but ultimately didn’t pay much attention to them as they went to get their food. Commander Roderick and Caleb sat in their back table. The commander sighed as he saw the people weren’t smiling.
“Nothing’s happening,” he said, “I guess you were right, Caleb. Nobody feels like celebrating at a time like this.”
“Christmas is about joy,” Caleb said, “and where we are now, there is no…”
But before Caleb could finish his sentence, he and the commander heard a voice, singing. One of the children, Tommy, had started to sing Jingle Bells.
“Wait,” the Commander said, “listen.”
As Tommy continued to sing, another kid joined in on the song. Then, one of the adults joined in as well, and then another, and another. Before they knew it, almost everybody in the main hall was singing along.
“Well what do you know, Commander,” Caleb said once the song was over, “it did work after all.”
The Commander smiled at the fact that his plan was working, and as he looked around the room, he saw the others were doing the same, many for the first time in months. Then, they started to sing more Christmas songs: We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Deck the Halls, Joy to the World, and many more. As they sang, all their worries about their predicament faded, at least for the night.
Then, while they were singing, another man burst in. It was Lou, the man who maintained their ship’s communications systems.
“There was a ship nearby!” he cried, “There was just a ship passing by!”
Everybody went silent, turning to face Lou.
“A ship?” the Commander asked.
“Human!” Lou said, “From Earth! Not aliens. I wasn’t able to send a transmission, but I intercepted one of theirs. They’re searching for us!”
“They’re looking for us?” Caleb asked.
“A search party,” Lou explained, “Earth’s sent a search party to track us down. They’ve been looking for months, but since they’re beginning to search this sector, it’s only a matter of time before they find us, or we can get a signal to them.”
With that, their hope was renewed and everybody cheered.
Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):
I know, it’s late. I wanted to get this one up for Christmas, so I put it off a day so I could review it a bit more. Revision is important!
Regardless, I wanted to do a Christmas story, but at the same time, I usually like science fiction or supernatural stories rather than realistic, and an Evaira version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” would be a bit unoriginal. Eventually, I came to this idea…celebrating Christmas in a very bleak setting, deep space, stranded, in a vessel without hope.
I wanted the celebration to symbolize the hope and cheer of the people stranded on the station, and the glimmer of hope at the end of the story when they learn about the search party symbolizes this. I don’t really have much more to say on this, but Merry Christmas!