The Neverend.

On the first day of Christmas, my papa gave to me an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Christmas eve was the only night Sammy ever willingly leapt into bed. A comforting ritual between him and his aunt took place that night, and the creaking of stairs meant that it was about to start. Auntie opened the door and made her way to his bedside, gently cradling a somewhat worn book to her bosom. Her eyes twinkled with a kindness that Sammy adored, and as she opened the book her sweet-smelling perfume wafted towards the boy. She began, “T’was the night before Christmas when all through the house…”. Sammy shimmied his duvet up to his shoulders and listened intently. Before long, he was snoring. The gentle woman kissed his forehead and left the room.

“Hello everyone, and thank you for inviting class 3B to sing a few Christmas Carols here at St Nicholas’ Nursing Home,” spoke Mr Barclay in honeyed tones, “The children have been practicing very hard, so this year I’m sure you’ll enjoy something extra special.” He went on, calmly explaining the efforts of his class as they sat crossed legged on the floor. Chunk, or Edwin to his parents, pressed his finger firmly to his lips to show he was being extra good in front of the geriatrics. Santa could see him always.

On the second day of Christmas, my papa gave to me two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy leapt into bed. Auntie opened the door and made her way to his bedside. Her eyes twinkled as she began, “T’was the night before Christmas…”. Sammy fell asleep, she kissed his forehead and left the room.

“Okay, 3B, please quietly stand in your places”, smiled Mr Barclay. Christmas was Chunk’s favourite time of the year. The lights, tinsel and the cold teasing a white Christmas in front of everyone’s noses filled him with joy. And singing to the Wrinklies, as he called them, swelled pride within him too. Regardless, each year one particular and morbid concept always followed him to the carol service. An overactive imagination, mother said.

On the third day of Christmas, my papa gave to me three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy leapt into bed. Auntie opened the door and made her way to his bedside. Her eyes twinkled as she began, “T’was the night before Christmas…”. Sammy fell asleep, she kissed his forehead and left the room.

“The child is a King, the Carollers sing, the old has passed, there’s a new beginning…”. The Wrinklies beamed as the falsetto choir embarked upon a Sir Cliff Richard classic. Some, Chunk noticed as he strained to sing louder than everyone, were vacant-faced and barely able to smile. Probably from a stroke, like nan had.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my papa handed me four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy leapt into bed. Auntie opened the door and made her way to his bedside. Her eyes were intense as she began, “T’was night ‘fore Christmas…”. Sammy fell asleep, she kissed his forehead and left the room.

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed”. The children continued, and so did Chunk’s curious thought. His bespectacled eyes landed on one of the old dears who had fallen asleep in her chair. What if, he grimaced, one of the Wrinklies popped their clogs during the concert? The songs were quite long, maybe enough for someone to shuffle off their mortal coil. Would an orderly notice and stop the concert, or leave them there until the children had gone? At that moment, the old lady’s head slumped.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my papa threw to me five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy leapt into bed. Auntie opened the door. As she arrived by his side, Sammy noticed that she looked quite haggard. She began, “T’was the night the night the night before Christmas…”. Sammy fell asleep, she kissed his forehead and left the room.

“Bless all the dear children, in thy tender care”. Chunk looked around at the room. No one had noticed the ashen woman. Chunk sought eye contact with Mr Barclay to no avail. So Chunk awkwardly concluded Away In A Manger and nervously eyed the old dear. At which point, the tiny lady’s body rocked forward as she chomped into the shoulder of the gentleman in front.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my papa threw at me six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy was about to leap into his bed when a crashing stopped him. He cautiously slipped under the covers. Auntie bundled through the door. Something about her walk, no, her posture reeked of sickness. Her wrinkles resembled peculiar vines and her skin was discoloured. She slurred, “Hevura kep childro nestled all sn-snug gurba Krismau…”. Auntie placed her lips on his forehead. They were cold and sharp.

“Fear not, he said, for might dread had seized their troubled mind”. Had Chunk actually witnessed that? He couldn’t have mistook it. He’d been watching her intently since she’d snuffed it. The bitten man made patting grasps at his shoulder, before slumping sideways on a neighbour who didn’t quite appreciate the gesture. And he bit her.

On the seventh day of Christmas, papa dropped on me seven large dollhouses, six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy was standing in his room. Something bugged him, but he wasn’t sure what. Auntie stumbled in, smelling rotten and backing Sammy to the bed. A toothier smile than normal spat “Shoogar pluhms Krismau terk tat khai”. Flaking blue lips pressed to his forehead.  Sammy shrieked as their skin fused together. He fainted.

“…All meanly wrapped in swathing bands, and in a manger laid”. The Wrinklies were shedding their wrinkles in favour of a rapidly decaying grey. He had heard of Dickens’ Christmas tale and Scrooge’s festive turnaround, but this was an entirely new festive infection. By now, the entire audience were hissing through missing teeth in the otherwise silent room. Silent. The choir had stopped. In fact, Mr Barclay and the rest of 3B had vanished. In Chunk’s palm was the choir’s crumpled sheet music.

On the eighth day of Christmas, papa covered me with eight tubs of lego, seven large dollhouses, six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy clutched his head. It ached, but why? As the door burst open, he remembered everything. But now the breath, the teeth, the stature of his Aunt was more imposing than before. Her hand lunged to his throat and she carried him, as he choked, to the bed. Sammy kicked her, but she held him down. And shot for his head.

“Nnnerghhhh…” Chunk backed slowly towards the giant wooden door as the mass of undead geriatrics groaned and stumbled about their chairs. He reached for the handle.

On the ninth day of Christmas, papa smothered me with nine furbies crying, eight tubs of lego, seven large dollhouses, six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy remembered it all. He searched his room for something to block the door. The chair. He forced it under the handle as it began to furiously rattle, but it slid away and Auntie broke through.

“Come on…”, Chunk barely muttered as one attempt failed. He slid the sheet music into his armpit, and tried turning it with both hands. It wouldn’t budge. And one of the crones had noticed.

On the tenth day of Christmas, papa drowned me in ten blow up paddling pools, nine furbies crying, eight tubs of lego, seven large dollhouses, six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

The pain hadn’t left Sammy. He had to act faster. All furniture were pushed and crammed to the door, which groaned and pulsed. The thud increased and furious screams shook the walls as she battered. And punched. And clawed. And stopped. Sammy quietly placed his ear close to the wall. When he heard the beast’s remaining footsteps echo away, Sammy burst with relief. Then the window opened. Sammy’s shoulders fell. The last thing he heard was something likening a harpoon.

“Come ON!”, Chunk willed in a panic, rattling the lock of the door as he pulled. The dragging of slippers edged closer.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the pipes burst and drowned me.

The Captain intensely traced the movements of his Lieutenant on the screen, only breaking to dart a look towards the cockpit’s entrance. If he could get one man out alive of this shit storm, his captaincy would be worth remembering. He pressed the console, turning off power as the Lieutenant raced through one door to redirect it to the next one ahead. He was transfixed on the task; the tiny green blip on the monitor had blind trust that he would be led to safety. The Captain jolted and his vision ran dark purple. His skull sharply gave way, speared to the short circuiting, brain splattered console.

“Open! Jesus Chr- come on!” The Lieutenant shoved his shoulder into the metal doors as the corridor flooded with pulsing red light. The ground lurched, throwing the C.L.A.U.S drive to the floor with a clang. Edwin sharply turned towards the sound. The drive’s survival was more important than his own. His body could be unrecognisably shredded, but that drive needed to make its way into the escape pod. They needed to know what had happened to the ship, the memories inside C.L.A.U.S would stop this ever happening again. Precautions could be made. He lunged for it as a pustular vine-ridden claw shot for him.

On the first day of Christmas, my papa gave to me an ugly Christmas Barbie.

 

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