The Visitors

The sound of voices outside the door was muted, but still it woke him from his sleep. He had been listless since they stopped. His travelling companions lay asleep on the makeshift bed, which kept them from the cold floor. The space was dark, with only the very small amount of light from the starlit sky, seeping in through the small window in one wall. The cold air sill held the aroma of other occupants that had only recently left, but that he knew were to return. He had not been keen to make the journey, knowing how dangerous and arduous it would be and he felt guilty that this place was the best he could find for them in which to rest. They had discussed the option of waiting until the weather improved, making the journey more bearable but the weather was unrelenting and they had an appointment to keep. No-one was supposed to know they were here; could it just be someone else hoping to share their space. Not everyone on their journey had been friendly towards them, they were outsiders and he was wary of who might be there, at the door.

The voices had stopped. He had not been able to make out what they had been saying, their accents were strong, and different, not ones with which he was familiar. The silence was palpable with only gentle sighing sounds coming from those who still slept. Suddenly the peace was broken by a knock at the door. Well, door-like structure that was set into the wall opposite the small window. He had noticed, even in the poor light when they had been ushered in by the man who met them, that the door was roughly made and held closed only by a piece of rope attached to a peg. It could be opened from either side. And yet the un-announced visitors had knocked. If they had meant harm, would they not have just quietly opened the door and entered? The murmured sounds of hushed conversation started again. He felt certain that the visitors would not be leaving until they gained entry and he decided it was best to place himself between them and his companions, and confront them while they remained outside.

The door was covered by a heavy curtain which had helped to keep the chill air from entering the small room through the gaps in the door. He had considered using it as a blanket when he first curled up on the bed but it seemed to be effective where it was. Taking a deep breath and preparing for confrontation, he pulled the curtain aside and was immediately surprised by the light that shone through the gaps in the door. The visitors must be carrying bright torches. There was now enough light to enable him to see the makeshift sleeping arrangements. The bareness of the space made him feel even more depressed about his inability to provide something better. Lifting the rope that held the door closed, he took a deep breath and pulled it open and was blinded by the brightness of the light that shone from behind the three figures that were now silhouetted in the doorway. They were well dressed but he could not guess from where they had come, his eyes could not make out the style of their clothing.

The tall figure on his right spoke, in the accented voice he had heard earlier; “We know you have a child in there.”

The smaller, darker figure in the centre said, in a calm, gentle soothing voice; “We have come from afar, bearing gifts.”