Peace Among the Stars by Mikel J. Wisler
Merry Christmas! We have a very special installment for you on this special day! For all you who love the Christmas season, this will is an amazing and uplifting read. And for those for whom Christmas is difficult, this story reminds us of the good in humanity (and alien-ity). Here is the next installment in our Space-Y Christmas short story series, "Peace Among the Stars" by Mikel J. Wisler. Be sure to check out the author's profile at the end of the story. Enjoy!
Lissy Avila cracked the knuckles on her short fingers for the fourth time as she swallowed back her nerves at being summoned by the new Secretary-General for the Council of Earth Nations, or CEN. Her thoughts wandered down paths she did not wish to tread, so she took a deep breath and practiced emptying her mind, separating her awareness from her fleeting emotions. The door slid open and Jack Anderson, tall and blond, strode in. Avila stood, ready to welcome him. A tall young woman followed him in.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, reverend,” Anderson said and smiled as he reached out a hand.
“No apology necessary.” Avila shook his hand. “And no one around here calls me reverend. I’m simply Lissy.”
“I see. You’ll have to forgive my propensity for formalities. This is my lead administrator, Ms. Gwen Martin.” He indicated the young woman. The woman brushed back a lock of red hair and nodded slightly, and the three of them took their seats around the conference table.
“I’m going to be forthright with you, reverend—or … Ms. Avila,” Anderson said. “I’ve been led to believe you appreciate someone who gets right into … things of substance.”
“You’re not wrong,” Avila said, raising her eyebrows.
“I’m new to this position. Barely a month in. And … things are far from ideal between the Ossil and the CEN. In fact, the delicate peace we’ve enjoyed these past five years is on shaky ground.” He smiled. “You’ll have to forgive me—I’m afraid my metaphors are still quite Earth-based. I’ve been told the ground in Alliance does not shake.”
“Not usually,” Avila said. “It just spins.”
He laughed. “Thankfully, my inner ears have finally adjusted. Though, I must admit the higher levels are not for me. I like to stick as close to 1 G as I can.”
“I can relate,” Avila said. “So, tell me, why do you want to talk to a lowly chaplain when obviously there are more pressing issues on your mind.”
He flashed a broad smile. “You’ve made a friend.”
Avila took a breath in and back out before responding. “Ekrahm,” she said. “Yes, he is a friend.”
“Wonderful. Friendship between humans and Ossil is rare. And especially at a time like this, it is important that we hold those closely. I want to learn from you, Ms. Avila. I want to better understand the Ossil.”
“Is this quest for understanding … done in the name of peace?”
“That is my goal,” Anderson said.
“Since we are being forthright, Mr. Secretary-General,” Avila said, “I want to remind you that my role here is neutral. My allegiance is to truth, peace, and prosperity for all people. I’m here as a servant of love, not of war.”
He raised his manicured eyebrows. “An admirable position. I mean that. My responsibility is to represent the best interest of humanity. The Ossil have come into our solar system. They mine our asteroid belt, harvest elements from Jupiter’s atmosphere, and now seek to journey closer to Earth to reach Venus, though they won’t share with us what they want with Venus. They possess technology and scientific knowledge that makes both interstellar travel and life extension possible. How they power their ships is a complete mystery to us. Could their energy source be made into a weapon against humanity? My aim is the protection of our people.”
You mean, what if it could be exploited by humanity, she caught herself thinking. But Avila reminded herself to pause, to not react. Reaction is the enemy of free will, she repeated to herself. She looked into the effectively earnest eyes of the Secretary-General. Was he sincere?
“I’m happy to share with you what I have learned of Ossil culture if it will help you better understand them, appreciate their point of view, and be open to constructive dialogue.”
He pursed his lips and nodded once.
Wonder who they have lined up to replace me, Avila thought.
“I appreciate your position, reverend. All I ask is that you keep in mind your duty to protect your fellow humans. To protect your homeworld. Ideals are a wonderful thing. But don’t let those ideals cloud your judgment.”
He stood, and the administrator stood as well.
“Thank you for your time, Ms. Avila. I hope we can speak again soon.”
Avila’s door clicked behind her and she stared at the nook on the station she had called home for the past four years. At her desk, a bonsai tree reached out to the lamp that simulated sunlight. Slumping down on her bed, she stared at the metal ceiling and tried to sort her thoughts and feelings about what had just transpired.
Was she really being asked to spy? Or at least, to pry?
She breathed a silent prayer for clarity. It was dinnertime, but she had no appetite this evening. Were things so tenuous between the Ossil and CEN that war may be imminent?
Avila sighed and tried to clear her head. She was not about to solve this nor would she formulate how to further respond to the Secretary-General’s request in her current state of mind. There would likely be no need to respond any further, anyway. She’d never met a Secretary-General before today, and given how that interaction went, she figured she’d be handed her ticket for the next transport back to Earth. Never mind the separation that should exist between CEN politics and a civilian chaplain such as herself. They could drum up an excuse.
The best she could probably hope for now was to see the Christmas holiday through. That was her biggest responsibility now—the Christmas Eve service. This one would be unique. Ekrahm became keenly interested in understanding the significance of the holiday to Christians aboard the Alliance. It had been a significant part of their recent discussions. Until tonight, the Christmas Eve service had been the most significant thing occupying her mind.
Grabbing her AR glasses from her nightstand, Avila decided it was time to read. But the latest book she’d been working her way through was a dry slog through some less-than-helpful systematic theological. She wanted to clear her mind, so she scrolled through her fiction titles.
Being cooped up in a space station between Mars and Jupiter made her long for something old and earthy. So it was that she found herself staring at a digital copy of The Hobbit, wondering if she was up for another jaunt through the old classic.
"The Ossil who had reached Earth’s solar system were all biomechanical machines with infinite lives, as long as they kept their regimen of plant-based food and regular bodily maintenance."
A thought bubbled to the surface of her mind. Tolkien had been a devout Catholic and close friend to atheist-turned-theologian C. S. Lewis. Among his lesser-known bits of writing, Lewis had penned an essay on the theological implications of encountering alien life. Part of the reason Avila had gotten the posting out here was her adoption of Lewis’s openness to the possibility that human religious systems, even his own Christian worldview, might not apply to intelligent alien life, which may have a wholly different relationship to the Creator.
She wondered if Lewis and Tolkien had ever argued over the possibility of alien life while they huffed their pipes over a pint of ale. What would either think of her predicament?
Meanwhile, she had an alien friend actively seeking to learn as much as possible about her way of life, her religion, her culture. Historians and philosophers had much to offer, sure. But often, storytellers were the ones imagining the most complex and nuanced realities of encountering those so completely other. What would these two old storytellers do in her shoes? She was trying to not assume anything, per Lewis’s recommendation. But what else?
Avila sat up suddenly, pulling off the AR glasses.
Tolkien and Lewis may or may not have ever discussed aliens, but there was something Tolkien could offer her.
“Eucatastrophe,” Avila repeated.
Ekrahm ticked his head to the right, as he always did when contemplating something new or intriguing. It had taken Avila a long time to learn what subtle mannerisms the Ossil used to communicate emotion and intellectual stimulation. While they were humanlike in some basic ways—standing on two legs, having two arms with appendages, and a head at the top of their torso—the Ossil were a deeply augmented people. Generations ago they had moved past reliance on strictly biological bodies. The Ossil who had reached Earth’s solar system were all biomechanical machines with infinite lives, as long as they kept their regimen of plant-based food and regular bodily maintenance.
Ekrahm, like all Ossil Avila had ever met, didn’t have eyes in the way humans and Earth-native animals have them. In their place, a single thin dark line encircled their head. Apparently, they constructed a 360-degree picture of the world around them. Likewise, they had no visible ears. Their mouths were only a small orifice near the bottom of their head. It remained closed except for when they ate.
“Why does a word created by a legend-maker matter to the central holiday of your religion?” Ekrahm asked, his voice emanating from some device in his body capable of reproducing a whole range of sounds. Being mostly machine meant the Ossil could learn languages quickly. They were constantly soaking in their experiences, analyzing them, and running simulations and algorithms to grasp how to apply what they had just experienced in new contexts.
“Eucatastrophe is a combination of two words from an ancient human language, Greek,” Avila said. “The eu means good. Catastrophe means to overturn. It’s like flipping something suddenly. Eventually, people started using it to describe when something terrible happens.”
“A good-bad thing?” Ekrahm ticked his head to the right again.
“Yes. It’s a paradox. Something may seem only bad at first but turns out to be an essential step for something wonderful.”
Ekrahm shifted in his seat and tilted his head back, a sign of serious thought. The Ossil’s legs bent in the opposite direction as humans, and they lacked buttocks. Instead, they folded their legs beneath them when they sat. As a result, meeting rooms shared by Ossil and humans resembled ancient Japanese homes with mats on the floor and low tables. Avila sat on a mat across from Ekrahm, her legs crossed.
She wondered what the Ossil levels of the station looked like. The Ossil and humans met in the middle for both political and practical reasons. The homeworld the Ossil had left behind was much denser than Earth. For this reason, the Alliance Station had been built as concentric rings extending out from a center point. The rotation of the rings around its center offered every level a constant push toward the outside of their circle, their “floor.” The Ossil occupied the outermost two rings, as those rings could achieve 1.8 times Earth’s gravity, which was what the Ossil were built for. The meeting floors were in the middle to offer a compromise. Still, it meant that after a long session on a meeting floor with up to 1.4 times earth’s gravity, Avila felt rather tired.
“Then it should be re-categorized as something good,” Ekrahm said at last.
Avila laughed. “Maybe it should. But Tolkien’s point in creating this word was to say that these two ideas sometimes exist at the same time. Something is both tragic while also hopeful.”
“Legend-makers have a way of defying categories,” Ekrahm said, bobbing his head in a sign of jest.
“That they do.” Avila smiled.
“So this legend-maker gave your people this word as a means of understanding the central event of your religion?”
“Yeah. He was looking at it as a storyteller, no doubt,” Avila said. “But I think he was really observing an essential reality of what we celebrate at Christmas. The idea that the Creator would submit to becoming a creation and be born into a broken and violent world is both absurd and horrifying.”
“We can agree with that,” Ekrahm said. “None of our Silson deities would ever submit to such an act. But your Creator did. And it was an important step, as you’ve suggested.”
“Yes,” Avila nodded. “The most important step, according to Tolkien. It was both horrifying and also the most hopeful thing that could ever happen to our world—that the Creator would submit to being a mere creation to live and breathe our reality and ultimately make a way for everyone to access the Creator. Tolkien saw the birth of Jesus as the central eucatastrophe in human history. And his death and resurrection was the central eucatastrophe of his life.”
“So your religion is anchored on eucatastrophe,” Ekrahm said.
“Yeah. The two most critical moments we celebrate—Christmas and Easter—are eucatastrophes. They are things that at first glance appear pretty terrible. But they are essential to the work the Creator was doing. They were needed for good to happen—for good to win.”
“A bad thing that is essential for good to win,” Ekrahm ticked his head to the right. “We faced this in many of our wars.”
Avila swallowed. She’d worried about this.
“But the bad part of the eucatastrophe,” she said, “it was not bad for others exactly. It was bad for the Creator.”
Ekrahm tilted his head back and wobbled in place. “Yes. I see what you’re getting at. For something to be a true eucatastrophe, it has to be something bad for the Creator.”
“Well, Tolkien’s point was that small eucatastrophes happen all the time to people. That when someone puts themselves in harm’s way to save someone they love, that’s an eucatastrophe. That even losing something we thought was so important to us can, in fact, turn out to be the very thing we needed to grow and become better. He used this idea in the stories he created. The thing that at first looks like it will destroy all hope turns to be the very key to hope.”
Ekrahm tipped his head back and sat quite still. It had taken some time for Avila to appreciate that this was a posture of deep absorption. Ekrahm was truly considering what was being said, taking it in, and examining it carefully.
“I had a mate once,” Ekrahm said.
Avila blinked. Ekrahm had never spoken of a mate, and Ossil mating was something shrouded in a veil of deep emotion and mystery.
“Long ago, our people had a conflict. A faction wished to return to our homeworld and seek to become part of the Ossil we’d left behind, the Ossil who were destroying our homeworld. They had grown tired of life among the stars. So they fought us and set off. Sometime later, we received a distress call from one of their ships. My mate volunteered to serve as a liaison between them and us. We no longer trusted them and we suspected they could not maintain the needed supplies to reach home. But they also would not wish to give up their quest for a return home. While they spoke of rejoining us, we couldn’t be sure of their intentions. Rather than resort to immediate open war, my mate proposed a different approach.”
Ekrahm hung his head forward. Sadness.
“My mate set off to meet with them, knowing there could be real danger. He was determined to ensure the safety of my people. So he was prepared to broker peace but also to ensure our safety. When the intentions of the traitors became clear, he made sure we got the message to remain on guard and not let them near our ships. They killed him for this.”
Avila swallowed back the lump in her throat. “Ekrahm, I’m sorry.”
“His sacrifice ensured the hope of my people. We learned of the traitor’s true intentions. We knew they could not keep up with our superior fleet. We were able to avoid war and devastating loss to the Ossil still committed to seeking a new home among the stars. I guess that makes it an eucatastrophe.”
Avila nodded even as a tear slipped down her cheek.
“Thank you for sharing this with me,” Ekrahm continued. “Are you warning me of need the for another such eucatastrophe?”
Avila blinked. “Not like that. No. I wanted to tell you because it’s been such an important part of how I’ve made sense of my faith. And I know you expressed an interest in understanding my religion. You’re coming to the Christmas Eve service, and I wanted to give you some sense of the importance of this moment for me and others. And maybe it could offer you hope in the tension between our peoples. After all, the message of peace is a core idea we celebrate at Christmas. Peace of Earth, as we always said on our world.”
“Do you think your Creator would seek to establish peace among the stars?” Ekrahm said.
“Yes, actually,” Avila answered. “And the more we understand each other, the more we appreciate each other, the more likely peace becomes. So I’m glad you are coming to celebrate this important moment with us. I hope it can be a means for our peoples to become more comfortable with each other. Not all of us from Earth see the Ossil as a threat. I hope that peace will win here.”
“Not all of us see humanity as a threat,” Ekrahm replied. “And many also desire peace.”
Ekrahm rose with remarkable fluidity. With the lower gravity than he was used to, his movements were as ethereal as flowing silk. Avila stood as well, though she felt her muscles strain against the higher gravity for her.
“Thank you, my friend,” Ekrahm said. “You have given me much to examine. I must go now and speak with my leaders. I look forward to Christmas Eve.”
Avila’s mouth dropped open. Never had Ekrahm closed one of their discussions so abruptly or expressed the need to speak to those in authority over him. She hoped she had not somehow stuck her foot in her mouth. Her heart raced as Ekrahm left the room. Perhaps she should have kept her mouth shut after all. But she’d wanted to give Ekrahm a sense of why Christmas was so personally meaningful to her. She wanted to help him see that even in very dark situations, hope could still find a way. But had she done that?
“He’s speaking to his leaders,” growled the Secretary-General. “This is bad.”
“You were spying on me,” Avila said, trying her best to keep a flat tone.
Jack Anderson shot her a glance. “You don’t appreciate the precarious nature of our relationship with the Ossil.”
"A deep stab of shock and insult cut through Avila, and she blinked at the man. How dare he think she might do such a thing?"
“Maybe you overestimate the precariousness,” Avila said, eyes firmly locked on his. “The Ossil are not a conquering force. If they wanted us obliterated, they could probably do so easily. But they haven’t.”
“Yet. They haven’t yet. You’ve been pulled in.” Anderson shook his head. “Your judgment is clouded by affection for the Ossil.”
“If empathy clouds my judgment, perhaps it should be clouded.”
The Secretary-General stared at her for a long moment. Finally, he said, “Reverend, I look forward to the Christmas Eve service. I hope you will not see it as an opportunity to play politics.”
A deep stab of shock and insult cut through Avila, and she blinked at the man. How dare he think she might do such a thing? Instead, she swallowed and said, “You’re coming?”
“Of course. We are hosting an Ossil guest at this year's service.”
“Then I ask the same of you. Do not transform this holy moment into a political stage.”
“You are not in a position to ask anything of me,” the Secretary-General said in a low but firm voice. “Do your duty. Enjoy the holiday. Ms. Martin will make arrangements for your return to Earth in the new year.”
He turned and left the conference room, followed by the redhead.
“Welcome, Ekrahm,” Avila said. “I didn’t know you were bringing guests.”
“I hope it is not an intrusion.” Ekrahm lifted a hand to his chest as in a sign of sincere regret.
“Not an intrusion at all,” Avila said. “All are welcome.”
“This is Retraham, our Lord of Knowledge,” Ekrahm said and indicated the Ossil to his right. “She is our guide in all areas of scientific advancement.”
Avila joined her hands and tipped her head to the right, the Ossil gesture for a formal and respectful greeting. Retraham did likewise.
“And this is Galsil, Load of Ossilam.” Ekrahm now gestured to the person at his left.
Avila had to keep herself from dropping her jaw in shock. She gestured her respectful greeting to him, and he did likewise.
“I am humbled and grateful for this wonderful surprise,” she said. “I hope your time in our lower gravity is not too uncomfortable. Unfortunately, no chapels were built in the mid-level.”
“We thank you for hosting us and look forward to witnessing this meaningful ceremony,” Galsil said. “It is an honor to be accepted at such a holy gathering.”
Before Avila could say anything else, Secretary-General Anderson stepped into the chapel. He approached the three Ossil and Avila.
“Lord of Ossilam, Lord of Knowledge, what a pleasant surprise,” Anderson said.
Avila excused herself, as it was nearly time to begin the service and she had no desire to take part in the exchange of political platitudes. The lights dimmed in the small chapel and the people entering or gathered about found their seats.
Taking her place at the front of the chapel, Avila welcomed everyone and began the service. As far as Christmas Eve services, it was a rather humble affair. The Alliance Station had no children’s choir, but one of the peacekeeping officers who regularly attended her services played the keyboard with remarkable skill, offering simple but elegantly executed Christmas carols that spoke of the miraculous birth and the longing for the fulfillment of peace on Earth.
Avila then offered her sermon, a reflection on the humble beginnings of Jesus’s life on earth. She left out her own academic misgivings around the mythology of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem given that no census would ever call people back to a place they no longer lived to be counted, nor were there any records of a Roman census around the birth of Jesus. The point that night was not to deconstruct the mythology that had risen around Jesus but to be reminded of that essential call for forgiveness modeled by Christ.
At last, it was time for the sacraments. She delivered her usual explanation of the significance of holy communion as established by Jesus on the night of his betrayal. She broke the bread and poured the wine into a simple challis, reflecting on their symbolic connection to the bodily sacrifice of Jesus. With that, she called any who wished to receive to come forward.
A line formed in the center aisle. Her focus on sharing the elements with each person one at a time kept her from paying too much attention to the line. She shared the bread and offered the wine to person after person, present only to each moment before her, each precious individual. So, it was a great shock when she looked up to find that Ekrahm stood before her.
“I humbly request to partake in this ceremonial celebration of eucatastrophe,” Ekrahm said.
Avila smiled, her eyes blurring with tears. She offered Ekrahm the bread and said, “The body of Christ, broken for you.”
Ekrahm took it and brought it to his mouth, which opened for the first time in Avila’s presence. He slipped it in and closed his mouth.
Lifting the challis of wine, she said, “The blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Ekrahm took the challis and lifted it to his lips. He sipped the wine. Avila couldn’t help but wonder if Ossil bodies were equipped to take in substances like bread and wine. But Ekrahm acted unconcerned. He returned the challis to her and clasped his hands together, leaning his head forward in a gesture of profound gratitude.
Following Ekrahm, Jack Anderson stepped forward. Avila reminded herself that it was not her place to cast judgment on anyone, regardless of how she felt about them. She gave him the bread and wine as well, and he took them before returning to his seat.
When all who wished to partake had been served, Avila closed the service with a prayer for peace, her potentially most risky moment of the evening. The lights came back up and people stood to leave or greet each other. The three Ossil and the Secretary-General approached her.
“Our guests would like a word with us,” Anderson said to Avila.
Avila tried to remain impassive even as her concern spiked that this might yet be hijacked into a political stunt of some sort. But Ekrahm stepped forward and spoke next.
“I have a gift to offer you, Lissy. And I have asked your Secretary-General, my Lord of Knowledge, and the Lord of Ossilam to witness the offering of this gift.”
Avila nodded, feeling like she was being pulled into some ceremonial formality she was not familiar with. Her first thought was to refuse the gift since it was unnecessary for Ekrahm to give her anything. But the nature of this exchange clearly went beyond the personal. They might take her refusal as a severe slight.
“Thank you, Ekrahm,” she said. “I’m afraid I didn’t come prepared with a gift for you.”
“You have already gifted us a wonderful experience this evening. Now I wish to offer to you a special gift I am only willing to entrust to you and you alone. For I know you will do what is right with it.”
Ekrahm produced a small cube and held it out for her. The moment he did, the Lord of Ossil and the Lord of Knowledge jerked in reaction and emitted shrill sounds that were most definitely not English. Ekrahm remained focused on Avila.
“Please, take it,” He said, thrusting it forward.
Avila took it, even as the Lord of Ossil reached out to grasp Ekrahm’s arm.
“What is happening?” Avila said.
“I have committed treason,” Ekrahm said with an absurdly matter-of-fact tone for such a statement.
“Please forgive me for the distress I’m sure this causes,” Ekrahm said. “The law forbids sharing of secret Ossil scientific knowledge with an outside community. But this is the best way forward. You hold in your hands a small version of an energy core for our ships. As best we can tell, this technology is roughly three hundred years ahead of your current science. You will need Ossil help to understand it and to not destroy yourselves. If this is mishandled, we will also be in grave trouble. Therefore, it behooves us to help you understand this science both for your safety and ours.”
“But treason?” Avila’s voice rose in pitch.
“I had to force our leader’s hand,” Ekrahm said. “Now the faction of us who believe in full cooperation with humans has a genuine chance to make that work. And the faction that sees humans as a threat is now best served by helping you understand this technology rather than risk their own destruction.”
“Ekrahm is giving his life to entrusted me with this key bit of technology. He wants me to share this scientific knowledge and allow us to learn from the Ossil."
The Lord of Ossilam shrieked something at Ekrahm.
“I must go now,” Ekrahm said.
“But,” Avila stammered. “Treason. They’ll kill you.”
“Yes,” Ekrahm said. “It has been an honor to know you, Lissy Avila. You have taught me much.”
The three Ossil turned and walked out of the chapel. Avila watched them go even as tears filled her eyes and the small cube in her hand poked into her fingers and palm.
“Did he give you a power core?” Anderson said.
Avila glanced at him, only then remembering he was there to witness this too.
Anderson stretched out an open hand. “I’m going to need you to hand that over.”
Even as her knees shook and her head spun, she knew what she must do next. “I’m going to need to speak with your top science officers right away,” Avila said.
“You will hand it over,” Anderson insisted.
Avila looked around now, realizing that the rest of the chapel stood in silence, and dozens of people still present watched intently their exchange. Anderson’s administrator stared at them.
“Ekrahm is giving his life to entrusted me with this key bit of technology. He wants me to share this scientific knowledge and allow us to learn from the Ossil. Until I can safely hand this over to our xeno-scientific research unit with your publicly expressed assurance of cooperation with the Ossil so we can learn how to properly use this thing, I’m not moving from this spot.”
Anderson looked around, realizing too that they had an audience. Jaw clenched, he nodded once. He turned on his heel and marched out of the Chapel.
“Get Dr. Lange down here,” Anderson barked at Ms. Martin.
Avila gasped as a sob escaped her. She collapsed to the floor. What had Ekrahm done? She clenched her eyes as the tears flowed. Even as the grief swallowed her, a small sharp thought cut through the tsunami of emotion.
Ekrahm found his own path to hope for both his people and hers. He’d made his own eucatastrophe.
Meet Mikel J. Wisler
Mikel J. Wisler is a commercial and documentary filmmaker by day and science fiction author by night. He’s a sincere believer that good science fiction can help us save the world. Through his writing and podcast Exploring Tomorrow: Meaningful Science Fiction and Life’s Big Questions (anchor.fm/mikeljwisler), Wisler explores how we encounter and wrestle with meaning-of-life questions in the stories we love. He’s the author of two novels, Unidentified and Sleepwalker, with a third on its way. He’s also written and directed several award-winning science fiction short films. Wisler was born in Brazil, South America, where he spent most of his childhood. He now lives on the south shore of Boston, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter.
To learn more about his work, please visit www.mikelwisler.com.
Thank you for joining us on this amazing ride! We loved all the great stories we received from Hazel Dains, Mae Postings, JS Wiig, Pembroke Sinclair, Trenton Earley, Mikel J. Wisler, and myself. Stay tuned—an anthology is in the works. And if you're interested, let me know—we'll be considering additional stories for that publication.
Finally, I would like to thank my very cool co-editor Lyndsay Stanley of Stonecreek Editing Services (www.stonecreekediting.ca). She makes so much of this possible.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!