I wrote this story for the Carol Challenge on the Holy Worlds Christian Fantasy Forum, and the carol that inspired it was "Carol of the Bells". Thanks to Aubrey Hansen for some helpful suggestions.
The thunk of Joshua’s axe biting through the bark of the tree was followed by a strange ringing sound. He raised his head, listening intently. His gaze roved around the dale, through the snow covered forest, towards the hills and mountains that surrounded his lonely valley.
A few birds flew overhead, but no bird had ever chirped such a sound as he had heard.
A squirrel watched him suspiciously from another tree, as if wondering if its home was about to be cut down, but no squirrel had ever chattered such a sound as he had heard.
A strong wind swept through the valley, constantly changing direction, but it howled rather than rang.
Joshua knew the sound could not have been caused by a person. He had no family or friends to visit him, and no stranger had any reason to come to his lonely valley. For just a moment, he felt a weariness that was almost overwhelming, but he pushed it away.
When the sound did not repeat itself, he shrugged and swung his axe again. His left hand stayed firm at the base of the handle while his right hand moved down towards his left.
The axe bit into the tree.
He raised his head and looked around. This time he thought he recognized the sound. A bell? He set his axe down and waited to see if the ringing sound would come again.
The birds flew on by.
The squirrel decided its home was safe and disappeared into a warm nest woven in the fall.
The wind continued to howl.
Slowly, he smiled, realizing what the sound was. The church in the little village in the next valley was ringing its bells, as it did every year at Christmas time in celebration of the Savior’s birth.
Normally the sound would have never carried through the pass to his valley, but the same wind that howled like the hounds of hell one moment was bringing him the sounds of heaven the next.
He glanced towards the sky, glad to be reminded that he was never truly alone. Then, his heart a little lighter, he raised his axe.
(c) 2010 Jonathan Garner