Caleb never had trouble sleeping, yet here he was at 2 o’clock in the morning tossing and turning in his bed. It was like he had been on Christmas Eve when he was still a child, except he wasn’t a child anymore and it was still five days until Christmas. Also, instead of a feeling of happiness, there was a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach, almost as if something terrible was about to happen.
Giving up his mad quest for sleep, Caleb got out of bed and headed downstairs. The wood floor was frigid on Caleb’s bare feet, and he wished, not for the first time, that he had slippers to wear on occasions like this. The temperature was considerably cooler than he cared for, and he briefly considered returning to his room for a sweater. After a moment he dismissed the idea; the cold wouldn’t kill him.
On the ground floor of the house, Caleb moved quietly past his father’s bed room and toward the kitchen. By this time his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and he was able to navigate the kitchen without using lights. After getting a glass of water from the tap, he headed toward the front of the house.
The windows in the living room offered a perfect view of the street, and Caleb stood looking out at all of the lights and decorations that filled his neighborhood. He liked decorations as much as the next guy, but it saddened him to see how many of them were not related to Jesus’ birth. Reindeer, Santa Clauses, even a Grinch or two, but nativity scenes were few and far between. Whatever had happened to Jesus being the focal point of the holiday? Apparently that had been disbanded a long time ago; now all that people thought about was getting presents.
Caleb turned away from the window and went to sit on the couch. Grabbing the TV remote from the table beside him, he turned it on low volume and sat watching late night programing. This stuff was so bad that it had to be designed to put you to sleep. After flipping through a few channels, he settled on one that was showing “The Christmas Story.”
As the minutes ticked by, his eyelids began to get heavier and heavier. Soon he was struggling to stay awake until he realized that sleep was exactly what he wanted. Just as he closed his eyes and abandoned himself to the blackness, his eyes shot wide open and he sat straight up on the couch. The bad feeling was back and stronger than ever.
Caleb got up from the couch and looked around, scanning the room for anything out of the ordinary. Everything appeared to be in its place as far as he could tell. With the push of a button he turned the TV off and stood there in the dark, listening for something, anything, that would explain the feeling that he had in the pit of his stomach. A minute passed, then two, and nothing presented itself. Caleb realized how ludicrous this was of him, but the feeling still wouldn’t go away. He took a swig of water, but it didn’t help.
Slowly he walked back to the windows and looked out onto the street. Decorations and lights still covered the lawns and houses of the neighborhood casting odd shadows all over the place. It was in one of these shadows that Caleb noticed something that he had somehow missed before: a black van was parked in one of the deepest shadows directly across the street. It was so obvious to him now that he didn’t know how he could have missed it before. As he looked closer at it, it seemed almost as if…There was no way that he could tell for certain, but it looked like it was the same van that had been hanging around the neighborhood the day before.
Caleb continued to examine the van, looking for any distinctive markings that he might be able to identify it by. Light flashed down the road as a car turned onto it, heading out of the subdivision. Caleb’s eyes darted towards it. This one he recognized. It belonged to one of the younger couples who lived in the neighborhood. The car passed and Caleb turned his attention back to the van. He saw a face behind the front window, and it appeared to be looking at him. Caleb shrank back from the window; he was seriously considering calling 911.
An engine roared to life and the van’s headlights came on. With a growl it pulled away from the curb and rolled down the street. Caleb was certain that he really wouldn’t be able to get to sleep now.