He sighed as he threw another log on the fire and peered out the window into the inky black night. No street lights illuminated the scene, and any moon there was lay hidden by a thick layer of cloud draped over the landscape like an old grey army blanket.
Whirling snowflakes darted frantically past the square of warm light his window cast on the icy ground.
It was no frozen idyll outside the small homestead. It was wild winter’s night with nothing but howling winds and biting cold to greet any lone figure that might venture out.
But venture out he must. The livestock needed tending to, and his hired workers were wrapped up as warm as they could get in the caravans and shacks dotted around the farm yard. They were a hard-working group but close-knit and loathe to leave the comfort of their shelter after darkness fell. It was up to him to take care of the animals before shutting up for the night.
Klaus took another swig of the hot toddy from his tankard and grimaced. He needed to steel his resolve before heading out the door.
In a bit. But first, paperwork. He took another swig.
Belching like a bellicose bullfrog, he plonked his ample flannel-clad backside into the chair at his writing desk. The top was littered with countless envelopes from all over the world. Some unopened, some open but unread. Others lay in two growing piles at his feet, after being added to one of the two lists unfurled on top of the mountain of papers.
He rubbed his eyes, smoothed his bushy eyebrows and patted his breast pocket for his reading glasses. Placing them on the end of his nose, he reached for the page on top of the unread pile and smoothed it out in front of him. He was met with an unintelligible jumble of numbers and letters, few of which made any sense to him.
The clues were in the https, the coms, the //s and the _s .
No-one had the time or energy to do more than send links these days.
“I’m too old for this,” he growled as he fought a wave of acid rising in his throat.
Pushing the letters to one side, he reached for a pile of newspapers left unread over the past few weeks, his busiest time of the year.
The headlines didn’t do much for his mood.
Hatred, fear, rejection and discord fought ads and fake sentiment to dominate the pages. Displaced thousands, planes shot out of the sky or raining death on those below. Random attacks on office parties and commuters at train stations. Waves of people fleeing the unthinkable, only to be met by suspicion and stereotypes. Heavily-armoured tanks sitting cheek-by-jowl with twinkling festive lights in city squares, armed police prowling airports, frantic shoppers elbowing their way past the cold and the homeless as they battled to grab the season’s must-have luxuries that would be forgotten before the first brave spring flowers pushed through the cold soil.
Too much stuff, not enough spirit.
Even the Pope had gone on record saying all the lights, parties and presents would be nothing but a charade when the world had chosen hate and war.
“If he’s given up on it all, why should I bother?"growled the old man. “No-one believes in anything anymore.”
Kids were smart and sophisticated enough to talk about URLs, but they’d lost their wisdom. Worse, they’d lost their wonder.
Stupidity, consumption and greed was the new unholy trinity of the age. How else could anyone explain the screaming headline announcing the death of a man after he gold-plated his testicles?
Maybe he’d be better off just sitting at home and drinking his way through the wine cellar this year. If he just failed to report for duty for the annual ritual the world expected from him, would anyone even notice?
…to be continued…