Article Overview:    How did the Beast of Terror come to be?   In the first of a five-part story, find out how the Children of the Land of Vigilance learned to battle the Beast of Terror and enjoy a happy, joyous Christmas.   Go to Part I of V   Go to Part II of V   Go to Part III of V     Go to Part IV of V


Saturday--December 20, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 829
The Legend Of Christmas Vigilance--Part I of V
Cliff McKenzie

GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Dec. 20, 2003 -- Once upon a time, just five days before Christmas, all the children and parents of the Land of Vigilance gathered around a warm, crackling fire to hear the story of how the Sentinel of Vigilance came to conquer the Beast of Terror.

Children gathered to hear the Story of Vigilance

       Christmas trees lined the Great Hall of Vigilance.  Strings of popcorn and bright red and white candy canes dangled playfully from the tips of the bushy fir trees.  The rosy-cheeked children laughed and hugged one another as they entered the Great Hall from the cold, snowy night.

     Each deposited his or her wet boots along the wall and hung their jackets and scarves on wooden hooks carved out of a giant oak and polished brightly with linseed oil.  
       A cup of steaming hot chocolate awaited each child on a long table heaped with cookies of all sizes, shapes and kinds.   Gingerly, the children studied the river of sweets, selecting three pieces each from the choice of divinity, fudge and caramel confections their Mothers and Grandmothers of Vigilance made the day before.

              A large redwood chair, hewn by the village’s most accomplished woodsman, commanded the center of the Great Hearth.   It was fashioned from the trunk and limbs of a giant redwood stricken by lightening many years before.   The back of the chair formed a "Y,"  with each fork climbing up toward the rafters of the Great Hall as though they were hands reaching up to tickle the underbelly of God.
         The arms were highly polished slabs cut from the tree’s grand branches.  The were made strong and wide enough for three grown men to stand upon them.  A chunk of the tree’s trunk formed the chair’s base. it took a half-dozen of the village’s strongest men to carry the chair into the Great Hall.   Were the village to ever ran out of wood to burn during a blizzard, it was said the chair would fuel every family’s hearth until the sand in eternity’s clock ran dry.
        A bright, white sheepskin--thick and fluffy--served as a cushion.  The fleece was so deep that a child sitting in it was often only noticed by the tip of his or her shiny nose and bright eyes.

The Great Story Teller sat in a great redwood throne

          After sipping chocolate and munching candy, the children formed a line in front of the chair.  Each holiday, part of the evening’s fun was to sit in the chair and pretend to be the Sentinel.
        “No more than one minute in the chair, children.  And, be sure and wipe the chocolate off your mouths and the sticky from your fingers,” said one of the grandmothers, holding out a warm damp towel.
         The first little girl climbed into the chair.  It swallowed her as hay does in the summer when the children leapt into it from the lofts.   “It’s like a cloud,” she squealed, waving her arms as though she were embroidering a snow angel.  “It’s so cuddly, like being in the arms of a giant polar bear.”
          One by one, the children took his or her turn.  Some sat silently, eyes pinched shut, dreaming of horizons yet to unfold.   Others squirmed luxuriously, and still others pretended the fleece was a sea and they a playful otter.
        A boy who hated winter and all the cold used his minute to imagine the warm summer's sun kissing the earth, beckoning all Spring’s seeds to burst through the soil in one great explosion of life and spread a palette of color where the wintry blanket had been.  Another boy with red hair bounced against the rawhide slings woven beneath the chair to hold its occupant.
       Once all the children feasted their bodies in the supple softness of the chair's mighty presence, they sat in a horseshoe shape around it.   Hands folded in their laps, legs crossed, they waited for the Sentinel to enter and the first story to begin.

Grandmother of Vigilance, G-Ma, smelled of cinnamon sticks

       The scent of cinnamon sticks wafted through the hall as one of the Grandmothers of Vigilance, her bright red trimmed and white apron spotlessly clean, made her way to the flagstone mantle.  She placed her fingers around a thick strand of rawhide dangling from an ornate brass bell anchored to the side of the hearth.
       She pulled the rawhide clanger gently.  A soft chime resounded through the Great Hall.  The children responded.  "One!"
       She pulled it again, this time a little harder.  The bell’s ring deepened.
        "Two!" The children chorused.
        G-Ma Vigilance, as all grandmothers were known, winked at children’s glistening faces.  G-Ma pretended to heave and haul as hard as she could on the clanger, but no sound replied to her efforts.   She feigned a grimace and pretended once more to pull down, but, alas, nothing.
        "You can do it, G-Ma!  You can do it!"   The children clapped and cheered her on.
       "Help!  Help!"  G-Ma Vigilance shouted, grinning upon the happy faces. A boy and girl, rushed to her aide.   They reached up and placed their hands on G-Ma's forearms.  
       "Thank you, Little Ones. Now, pull," G-Ma said.  "Pull hard."
       The Little Ones pulled at her arms as G-Ma bent downward.  The bell rang loudly.   Children’s cheers echoed through the Great Hall.  As the bell’s clang began to fade, the  Little Ones let out a yelp and began to clap loudly.
     "Ho!  Ho!  Ho!"

The Voice of The Sentinel of Vigilance carrying his Shield of Vigilance roared through the rafters

      The Sentinel’s jolly laugh roared through the rafters of the Great Hall.   He strolled out from behind a large Christmas Tree, a long staff in his right hand.  On his left forearm was strapped a Shield of Vigilance, its gleaming silvery surface embossed with a "S" and a "V.”   Marching along the edges of the curved shield, shaped like two halves of a heart, blazed three words:  "Courage," "Conviction" and "Right Action."
       The Sentinel’s face was carved with deep furrows, etched by time into his forehead, cheeks and neck from countless Seasons of Vigilance.  No one knew exactly how old he was, or where he was born, or from what land he came from.   They only knew he stood night and day, in rain, snow, sleet, sunshine and clouds, guarding the entrance of the Land of Prosperity, scouring the horizon, ever Vigilantly watching and protecting the children and their Children's, Children's, Children's from intrusions by the Beast of Terror.
       "Hello, Little Ones.”  The Sentinel knelt near one of the Shy Ones.   He reached out his forefinger, thick and calloused from eternal patrols along the Land's perimeter and tickled the Little One’s cheek.   She looked up, blinking her eyes slowly, a habit of the Shy Ones.  "Have you a smile for me this great night?"
       The Shy One's lips tweaked upward.   Slowly, the downturn of her lips thawed, melting into a smile.
       "There, that's so much better.”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of hard candy.   "For you, Little One."
        The Sentinel of Vigilance wore long white hair not unlike a lion’s mane but with  dark eyebrows the depth of ebony.   One of his eyes was brown and the other blue, and when he winked at the children, they laughed because he was always asking them what color his eyes were, and forewarning them they had half a chance of being right.
        "Can I touch your Shield?" asked one little boy, his big brown eyes fixed to the gleaming silver and gold surface.  
        "Of course."  
        The boy ran his fingers over the surface of the Shield of Vigilance, feeling the bumps of the letters hammered into the metal by blacksmiths long ago.
        The Sentinel wore a long sheepskin tied about his waist with rawhide like the ringer in the bell.  A tall, pointed cap resembling a chimney stood on his head, bent near the top like the tip of a tired finger.   His knee-high boots were also fashioned from sheepskin, and his leather pants shined from all the miles he walked each day, turning their surface into a mirror that cast the reflection from flames on his legs, as though he were walking in fire itself.

The Shy One gave the Sentinel hot chocolate and cookies

             "Are you ready for your first Christmas story?" 
       "We are!  We are!"
       "Then, let us begin."
       The Sentinel eased himself down into the Great Chair.  He placed his staff inside two rings placed on the high back of the chair and the Shield of Vigilance on the other.  
       "Would you like some hot chocolate, Sentinel?"
       The Shy One approached him with a steaming cup.   He thanked her and took a sip, placing it on the wide arm of the Great Chair of Vigilance.  The Sentinel leaned forward.
       "Once upon a time," he said in a deep, hushed Voice, "there was no Land of  Prosperity, just Poverty.   There was no fire or candy, no cookies, no smiles or giggles.  No!  No!  There was only cold.  Only being afraid.  Only sadness."
        "Why?"   One of the little boys sitting in the front row cocked his head and waited for the Sentinel's answer.

"Once upon a time, there was no Land of Vigilance...."

        "Because the Land of Poverty was ruled by the Beast of Terror."
        "Ooooohhhhhhh..."   The children sang out the response.  They clutched themselves and their friends, pretending to be afraid.    They all knew about the Beast.  The stories of him were taught in school, and woven into all the Principles of Vigilance.    They were not afraid, for they had learned not to Fear the Beast, but to respect his ability to make them afraid.   This was their great defense, their most powerful offense.

         "The Beast of Terror didn't like children.  No, indeed not.   He liked to make them afraid.  He hid under their beds at night and in the closet.   He disguised himself in shadows of the night."
          G-Ma Vigilance brought the Sentinel a candle that was shielded on one side by a piece of metal, forcing the light to shine all in one direction.  She held it out as the Sentinel made a shadow figure with his hands and fingers.   The shadow seemed to walk across the wall, and the children again echoed "Oooooohhhhh."

The Beast of Terror made people sad all over this land

        "The Beast of Terror went around this land and made people sad.   He stole the fruit from the trees and put rocks into the earth so that things would not grow.  There were no fresh vegetables or corn, no tomatoes or potatoes.    People boiled grass and weeds and were hungry all the time, for the Beast of Terror loved to make the children and their parents unhappy, hungry, frightened of him."
         "That's not nice.   Why would he be so mean?"  This question came from a little girl with pigtails.   She shook her head as she asked the question.
         "The Beast of Terror didn't have a Parent of Vigilance.   He wasn't taught the Principles of Vigilance, as you have been.  He didn't know anything except how to be a bully.   He wanted only to make people afraid of him, to cower in his presence, and to think they couldn't do anything about him because he had power over them.  After all, he stripped the land of its trees and blocked the sunlight, and told people they were his servants and he was the king.  He told them they had to think the way he did, and that if they didn't do what he wanted he would steal all their food and fire, and make them even more hungry and cold."
         "What a bad, bad, bad Beast," sang one of the boys.
         "What about people, the parents, grandparents.  Why didn't they stand up to him?"

People gave up trying and became Complacent

          The Sentinel leaned back and took a sip of his chocolate.   "At first, they were afraid," he said.   "They didn't think they were big enough or strong enough to stand up to him.   You see, there are many people in the world who give the power they have to fight the Beast to the Beast.   They think they can't protect themselves from the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency the Beast creates.    It's like when you believe you are sad, you are sad.  When you believe you are lonely, you are lonely.  When you believe you aren't smart enough, or good enough, or as strong as another, or as pretty as, or as handsome as, or as lucky as another, you become what you think.    Well, everyone believed the Beast of Terror was bigger than their beliefs.   No matter how hard they tried not to be afraid, they were afraid.  No matter how hard they tried not to feel Intimidated, they were Intimidated.  And, no matter how hard they tried to change those feelings, it seemed they couldn't, so they gave up trying.  They became Complacent.   And, the Beast laughed at them.  He told them they were nothing, that they were nobody's, and, sadly, the people believed them."
          "But we don't think that.  Why did they?"
          The Sentinel leaned forward and smiled at the little girl who asked the question.   "Because they hadn't yet taken the Pledge of Vigilance, little one.  They hadn't learned and practiced the Formula of Vigilance, or gone to the Plus One Percent School of Thought.  People learn, little one, from experience.  And, these were the first people on earth.  They didn't know yet they had the Power of Vigilance, and that the Power of Vigilance was much stronger than the Power of Terrorism.   They believed the Beast of Terror was in charge of their lives."
           "But, how did they change?   How did they become Parents of Vigilance?  Grandparents of Vigilance?  Loved Ones Of Vigilance?"   

Think of the magic land ......

         "Ahhh, that is tomorrow night's chapter.   But for tonight, we need to all remember just one thing.   That all our Fears, all our Intimidations, all our Complacency, can be changed.   We need to remember that the land of the Beast of Terror can be plowed under, and the fruits of Vigilance can be seeded and sprout and turn sadness into happiness, change poverty into prosperity, and make little children who are afraid and lonely feel secure and loved.

....where you are loved

        When you go to bed tonight, think of the magic of  a land that changed from sadness to happiness, from being afraid to feeling secure and safe, from being unloved to being loved.   Tomorrow night I will tell you how the people and parents of the Land of Vigilance came to battle the Beast of Terror.  About how they learned that Courage was the first step in chasing the Beast away.  You do want to hear how the Beast was banished by your parents, don't you?"
       "Yes.  Oh, yes!"
        Good, tomorrow we'll talk about the Courage it took to make the Beast run away.  But, for now, enjoy another cup of chocolate and we'll resume the story tomorrow.  And, with your parents permission, you can have one more piece of candy."
         "Yea!  Yea!" 
                                                   --end of Part I of V--
                                           Go to Part II   

(For print-friendly version of Part I, click here)

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