Blue Christmas

It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,

only one creature was stirring, too big to be a mouse.
To the cheese fiend looking up at this orange furred beast,

the creature was huge and had just finished a feast.

Its tail was striped, with black like it’s back,
But the face was a boy’s, no big old fierce cat.
As he stirred his hot cocoa, watching the marshmallows sink,
Snuck up upon him, his father, the slink.

Turned to his Pa, his face filled with glee,
His Dad’s returned smile, as proud as could be.
“Come on then, Tigger,” the Dad said to the lad,
“Let’s watch a movie before we hit the sack.”

The Two wandered off, the mouse in pursuit,
Into the living room, with cookies and fruits.
The plates were placed gently, for Santa and co,
Though with a wink from Dad, two cookies did go.

As they sat through the film, all snuggled and warm,
The mouse could sense something, some unseen storm.
The father grew anxious, as the film came to close,
And he looked as his boy, with cream on his nose.

“Will she be here this time?” The boy asked quietly,
The dad feigned a smile, “you’ll have to wait and see.
Now let’s get you to bed, before we intrude,
On Saint Nicholas’ night shift, we don’t want to be rude.”

And so the ascended, the old wooden stairs,
The boy he seemed hopeful, the man seemed more closed.
The mouse took to the tree line, only one in sight,
And lay down his small head, bidding all good night.

It was later that evening, as everyone slept,
That a light pair of feet, on floorboards they crept.
The mouse did stir this time, and looked up in shock,
To see the small boy, in dressing gown and socks.

He snuck to the chimney, and took a quick look,
He came back disheartened, his belief slightly shook.
When all of a sudden, a hearty boom,
As a warm belly laughter, filled the room.

“Santa, you’re here!” The boy shouted with glee,

and ran over to cuddle the man by the tree.
Mr Claus picked him up and took him to sit,

“You shouldn’t be awake, what time even is it?”

“Santa, I’m sorry, I needed to wait,

I have a big favour, and I was worried I was late.”
“Settle down, sweet lad, what bothers you dear?”
“It’s my Dad and I, we’re lonely this year.”

“Lonely?” Santa chuckled, then looked around,

all pictures had three but no third stocking was found.
“My mum, she’s gone sleeping, that’s what Dad said,”

the boys eyes looked aged but youthfully blinded.

“Oh, son, I’m sorry,” Santa’s face dropped.

“My letters are many, and sometimes get crossed.”
“But you can help us?” The boy asked with hope,
And Santa breathed heavy, rummaging in his coat.

He pulled out a snow globe, and handed it forth,
“Take this to bed with you, and dream your big thoughts.”
Rushed back to bed, with a kiss and a bow,
And the lad slept with a smile, no hint of a frown.

It was early next morning, as Dad panicked awake,
His hand moved to her pillow, then pulled away before his resolve could break.
He stepped onto the landing, dropping his voice to a drone,
“Tigger, it’s Eeyore, it’s time we went home.”

Bouncing out of his bedroom, up onto dad’s shoulder,
The Two headed downstairs, to the presents like boulders.
But taken aback, as the pair came in to,
A woman was waiting, with hair brown and eyes blue.

Her arms were outstretched, the pair stood as if stuck,
The mouse he watched on, as the family closer drew,
“Mum, you’re awake!” The little boy ran to her,
“Santa really did it! The snow globe, it worked.”


It’s beginning to look a lot like December…

Well it’s been a hell of a month. Over the next day or two, we’ll be shouting about the wonderful pieces the gang have written for November’s Time challenge. If you’ve already read them, head on over to the Voting Page and vote for your favourites!

With that being said, it’s time for Steve to avoid Christmas as it’s better than simply playing Whamaggedon. So as these pieces are being handed in by the 31st of December, let’s talk Resolutions. This month, the writers are challenged to write on the subject of Second Chances. Not managed to do that thing you promised yourself last year? Well this year’s resolution will be easy to think of. For bonus points, because I’m a pain in the ass music nerd, if you can mention Halley’s Comet in some way, I’ll give you a bonus vote on your December piece; but don’t let that lead you from what you want to write…

Don’t worry, the 2000’s Alternative/Hard Rock fans are loving it.

So, Merry Crimbles from all of us here this year and I’ll be sharing a Christmas story somewhere in the month for bonus content. And now for the example piece…


“I’m telling you, it’s tonight! I know it!” Ellen said excitedly to Sophie as they sat next to one another on the bench in their back garden. The trees lining the perimeter of the yard were tall enough to keep the neighbours from prying, and the couple had taken this advantage to create their own secluded getaway; just on the doorstep.

“I know, sweet. I know,” Sophie sighed as she leaned in and rested her head on Ellen’s shoulder. “Every 74-77 years.”

“That’s like an entire lifetime just to briefly glance across the Earth.” Ellen’s voiced brimmed with fascination and awe. She had always been like this, it’s one of the reasons Sophie had fallen for her; once Ellen was invested in something, she was invested 1000%. This had been a problem in Ellen’s youth, as the goth phase meant her flowing brunette hair was tarnished with obsidian black hair dye and her brown eyes stencilled with thick eye liner. She had returned to her natural beauty many years ago, and Sophie was so glad for it. Being the blonde haired blue eyed girlfriend of a goth chick had meant a lot of standing out because you accidentally wore a dark green with your navy blue jeans.

“It’s the poster child of second chances.” Sophie lightly chuckled and turned to kiss Ellen but stopped short as she saw that her face had dropped. “Ellen, you okay?”

“Why would you go and say that now?” Ellen’s voice had lost its warmth, reminding Sophie it was mid-autumn coming into winter.

“Ellie… I didn’t mean anything by it,” Sophie smiled and her eyes softened, trying to convince her that it wasn’t a barbed comment. “I thought we were passed this?” The two sat in an awkward silence for a moment before Ellen turned back to the sky and took a sip of her thermos. Sophie, in yet another contrast, looked down to the floor and nervously started rubbing her hand up and down her forearm.

The two had recently had their 18 year anniversary, also the 15 year anniversary of their wedding; Ellen had been most impressed with herself landing the wedding day on the anniversary of them getting together. The two had got surprises for one another, had a reservation at the restaurant they went to every year, had even got dressed up for the whole shebang to remind one another that they had more than just work clothes and pyjamas. As they sat beaming at one another, they fell into their usual conversations they followed when dining; some current affairs mixed with some silly nothings to keep from getting serious. It was one of these silly nothings that caused the rift that had appeared. Sophie had accidentally taken the silly conversation too far and Ellen had given her the usual light telling off, before trying to bring it back to the normal conversation; Sophie tried to brush off the comment but this one seemed to hurt. So it was all but an outburst when Sophie blurted out:

“Can I ask you a serious question for once?” Her hand slowly moving to the other so she had control of her twitch.

“Of course, Soph, what you thinking?” Ellen said with a smile.

“Am I good enough for you?” Sophie asked slightly louder than she intended. Ellen sat in shock, so Sophie took the opening. “It’s just that more recently than not, you’re telling me off for the things that you said you love about me. You’ve grown more distant when I try to show you affection. The other day I made the mistake of telling you I had missed you after the shittiest day…”

“Sophie, language!” Ellen averted her eyes, trying to sink into the chair.

“Oh, grow up, Ellen, we’ve both sworn hundreds of times. I didn’t realise I had to pass a certain amount of time before I’m allowed to miss you. Have you ever thought that maybe I just needed the comfort I find in you after dealing with Tom’s shit yet again? And yes, that’s still a thing. I go to work everyday worrying what I’m going to have to deal with both in and out of work. If it isn’t his bullshit flirting, it’s your accusations that I’m going to leave you for him, and both of you seem to forget I’m a fucking lesbian! What is going on, Ellen? What have I done to deserve this slow Japanese torture method of your persecution?”

A silence fell over the entire restaurant. People awkwardly leant into their tables trying to eat still without disturbing or drawing attention of the volcanic eruption on table 14. Ellen cleared her throat, steadied her breathing, and levelled her eyes on Sophie.

“I have cancer, Soph. I have been trying to work out how to tell you for weeks. I just didn’t know how to tell you that I may have to break a promise I made.” And she stood up, and left…

Back on the garden bench, Sophie took a deep breath, picked up her stupid grin she wore when she was trying to fix things, and turned back to Ellen.

“You know that you’re pretty hot when you’re frowning, right?”

Silence, but for a moment, then like an old Transit Van with something stuck in the exhaust, her laughter rose into the cool night air; Sophie’s laughter twinned it shortly after.

“It’s not easy, being silly when your body is trying to kill you,” Ellen chuckled breathily as the laughter subsided. She took her handkerchief and coughed into it violently.

“I know, baby, you have no idea how hard it is trying to kill you when you’re already dying,” Sophie said with a wink. “I can’t keep paying the Russian down the round for plutonium.”

“Wow, your gallows humour is in full swing once more.”

Sophie looked at Ellen, taking a moment to replay what she just said in her head. The beaming smile coming across Ellen’s face allowing her to see the warmth returning to her face and voice once more. The two embraced and kissed, before both looking up to see Halley’s Comet soar through the night sky. Ellen coughed gently once more before getting up to head back inside. Sophie took her hand and they took the longest stroll they could back to the house.

“I guess I can die happy now,” Ellen said with a heavy breath. Sophie turned, the look of panic in her face flashed before she tried her hardest to hide it; Ellen smiled softly. “I got to share a once in a life time experience with my best friend. If there’s nothing else left for me, looking at you will remind me how good it was.”

“Felt a little anti-climactic, if I’m honest,” Sophie laughed nervously.

“Oh Soph, we’ve only been together 18 years, the climax is yet to come…”

And with that, they went home.

The Rookie

Fiddletips sat on the green plastic chair in the assignment room, hands clutching his knees tightly. This was it. His first day. His first assignment. He’d never been so excited. Or so terrified. A handful of other agents sat in the other chairs, their expressions ranging from boredom to something akin to Fiddletips own.

The door to Departmental Commander Tinsel’s office burst outward, knocking the closest chairs flying. Fiddletips let out a squeak of surprise, then clapped both hands over his mouth as a glowering figure strode out of the Commander’s office. Fiddletips’ eyes widened as he recognised him; it was none other than Sergeant Socks.

Socks was a legend among the agents of the Goodwill Department. A field agent for more than thirty years, with some of the most impressive Harvest Optimisation scores on record, Socks had refused promotion eight times. The only thing more legendary than his field record was his temper.

The living legend looked particularly cantankerous at the moment, Fiddletips thought as he stared at the older agent. Socks was frowning down at a small green card; his work assignment from DC Tinsel. The Sergeant cast a baleful glance about the room, and Fiddletips became very interested in his own knees, as did everyone else present.

The sergeant’s voice cracked across the room, and brought Fiddletips instantly to his feet. He stood to attention and gave a sharp salute.
Sergeant Socks strode over to stand before the young agent, and stared down at him, taking in the slight frame, the bright green boots, his Christmas jumper showing a grinning polar bear holding a knot of Christmas lights… As Socks stared at him Fiddletips felt like he was shrinking smaller and smaller, until finally Sergeant rolled his eyes and sighed.
“You’re with me,” Socks said wearily. “Let’s get to it.” Without another word he strode out of the Assignment Room, leaving Fiddletips no choice but to follow.

* * *

As they drove to their first assignment, Fiddletips tried to gather his thoughts. New agents were always paired with an experienced veteran on their first job in the field. A rookie agent’s first assignment was a shadowing job; learning the ropes. But Sergeant Socks was the greatest agent the Goodwill Department had ever had. Why on earth should he be partnered with–

“We’re here, Rookie.”
The Sergeant’s voice was quiet, but it cut through the younger agent’s thoughts instantly.
“Ve- Very good Sir,” he stammered, and Socks sighed again.
“Socks, Rookie. Just call me Socks.”
“But Sir, regulations state–”
“Look kid,” the Sergeant growled. “We’ll get on a whole lot better if you don’t start quoting Regs at me, okay?”
“Okay Si- Ah, Socks.”
To Fiddletips amazement, the older man grinned.
“That’s better. Right then. Let’s get suited up.”

The two agents slid out of their seats and moved to the back of the vehicle, where their field harnesses were hanging in suspension racks. They slipped into them, and stood side by side at the back door. Socks turned to Fiddletips and raised a questioning eyebrow. The rookie field agent pressed the button on his jumper, and as the Christmas lights the bear held began to flash in bright colours he met the sergeant’s gaze and nodded. Socks rolled his eyes and shook his head as he thumbed the door control panel.

The doors of the glide-car slid back, and Fiddletips took his first step into the Human Plane. The air was chill and the sky grey, fat drops of rain slicing through the afternoon to splat on the ground. Fiddletips shivered as some of the drops passed through his body; his field harness tuned his body’s vibrations to a level just beyond the Human Plane, but close enough to allow the minor interaction required for their work.

Sergeant Socks stepped down beside Fiddletips and pointed towards a house a short way off.
“That’s us.”
As they moved swiftly over to the house, Socks spoke quietly.
“Remember, Rookie, you’re my shadow, nothing more.”
“I remember,” Fiddletips said, and the veteran nodded.
“Then let’s go.”
As he spoke, Socks stepped forward, passing through the brick and glass of the building and moving inside. Taking a deep breath, Fiddletips followed. He stepped through the wall, feeling every particle of glass and brick and mortar as he passed through it, and emerged gasping on the other side. His breath caught in his throat, however, as he took in the room before him.

It was filled with warm light, and populated by a number of items Fiddletips recognised from his training sessions; a sofa, an armchair, a television… But dominating the room was something he knew well; it was, arguably, his reason for being here. From his first day in the Goodwill Department, Fiddletips had been drawn to the Christmas Division. There was something about Christmas that called to him, just made sense.

Fiddletips suddenly grew aware of Sergeant Socks beside him.
“First time on the Plane can be a bit of an overload,” the older man grunted, and Fiddletips nodded. “You’ll get used to it though.” He nodded again, and watched as Socks moved about the room, passing through furniture where necessary, examining the layout of this household’s generator. Each system was different, varying from household to household, holiday to holiday. The components of a Hanukkah system were different from a Christmas system, were different from a Holi system… But the effect was the same; the system harnessed goodwill, which was then redistributed to the household over the following months. Goodwill Field Agents had the task of ensuring that a household’s goodwill system was working most effectively, regardless of the system being used.

Fiddletips watched Sergeant Socks as he worked. The system was basic, but an effective one; a real tree, wrapped in a spiral of twinkling lights and red and gold tinsel. Beside the tree a woman stood, deftly hanging red and gold decorations about the tree. One the sofa sat a small boy in dark clothes. Upon his head, however, sat a bright green hat topped with a silver bell, and his eyes followed the woman as she decorated the tree. His tiny fists were clenched, and his gazed strayed often to a collection of mismatched baubles pushed to one side, away from the tree.

As Fiddletips watched, Socks moved close to the tree, peering closely at the arrangement of the lights and tinsel. He turned to Fiddletips and spoke quietly, though the woman and child could not have heard him.
“What do you think, Rookie?”
“The system is… Ineffective,” Fiddletips said, and was delighted when the veteran gestured for him to continue. “There is too much order, too much structure. More… Randomness is needed.”
“And why will that help?”
“Because true joy will grant the greatest goodwill, and true joy is wild, unstructured.”
As he spoke, Fiddletips’ gaze drifted back to the small boy, who still glanced at the rejected decorations…
“Very good Rookie,” said Socks, and moved to the young woman. He placed his hand upon her shoulder and whispered some words the younger agent could not make out. The woman paused in her placement of a decoration, and with a small smile she tugged at the tinsel, pulling it into a more haphazard, unstructured arrangement. Socks nodded to himself as though content, but Fiddletips frowned. It wasn’t enough…

Once again he felt his gaze drawn to the young boy on the sofa, and suddenly he was filled with a quiet certainty. He knew what was needed, Fiddletips was sure of it. Before he could even think was he was doing, Fidddletips had crossed the room and had placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“Don’t be afraid,” he whispered. “You know what it needs.”
Fiddletips felt the boy’s body tense, but then a solid, powerful hand grabbed him by the straps of his harness and propelled him forcefully through the side of the house.

Fiddletups stumbled and fell, his face landing in a puddle that he could not quite feel. He rolled onto his back and looked up at Sergeant Socks, who stood staring balefully down at him.
“You’re supposed to be a shadow. Nothing more.”
The sergeant’s voice was cold with anger, and Fiddletips paused. He slowly rose to his feet, brushing at the water which had not stained his clothes, before finally facing the veteran agent.
“Don’t say another word, Rookie,” the veteran growled. “Just get back to the car.”

* * *

Socks slammed his harness into the rack and stomped into the cockpit. Fiddletips hung his own harness carefully and followed. He lowered himself into his seat and looked over at the older agent. Taking a deep breath, he spoke quietly.
“I’m sorry, Socks. I was supposed to be shadowing you, but–“
The older agent stared at him, but Fiddletips looked away.
“But I couldn’t help it. I saw the boy… He was so desperate, so afraid… But he knew, Socks. And as soon as I saw that, I knew that if I just nudged him…”
“That he’d speak up, and his mother would listen.”
Fiddletips forced himself to meet the older agent’s gaze.
Finally the older man nodded, and thumbed the ignition on the glide-car.

Neither spoke as Socks piloted the vehicle into the air and on toward their next assignment. Finally, after a long while, it was the older agent who finally broke the silence.
“You were right, you know. It worked.”
Before Fiddletips could respond, Socks spoke again.
“You weren’t assigned to me, Rookie. I requested you.”
Fiddletips’ mind reeled backward in shock, almost unable to process the words.
“You remind me of myself. But what I’ve learned over years, you know. You know, Fiddletips. You have it in you to be the best Field Agent in the history of the Goodwill Department. That’s why I requested you, Rookie; I can help, I want to help. What do you say?”

Fiddletips stared at the older man, the veteran field agent who knew so much, and grinned.
“I say it would be an honour, partner.”
So Socks and Fiddletips flew on through the rain and cold, toward their next assignment…

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.


Why The World Needs Santa Claus

In hindsight, it was obvious for a long time, I just didn’t want to see it. By the time I confronted my parents, it was frankly embarrassing. Was Santa Claus real? I knew what they were going to say, but I was still upset. I was upset at them for lying to me, but really I was upset that this figure I believed in wasn’t real. Trips to see Santa at supermarkets or on the old steam railways were a highlight of the holiday season. What did those trips mean if Santa isn’t a real person, but rather just an elaborate show that the whole world (or what seemed like it to my young mind) goes along with?

I was eleven years old at this point and even it really did feel like the the end of an era. Santa, the Easter Bunny (which admittedly made even less sense than Santa), the Tooth Fairy. These things used to be very comforting to me. They were a little magic in the world, and I loved all the little signs of their presence. The stub of a carrot (for Rudolph – apparently no love for the other reindeer) left on a plate that had also carried a mince pie for Santa (now crumbs) and an empty glass that had contained some fancy alcohol, mostly cognac I think. Coming downstairs to see presents under the tree, my younger sister and I revelled in the fact that we’d left something for him as well. Perhaps because I had a younger sister contributed to my delusion for a few extra years too…

Christmas lists, with accompanying reference numbers from the Argos catalogue were dutifully written out, thoroughly discussed with our parents – who pointed out that some of the more outlandish requests might be a little impractical, so it might be better to be more realistic about our expectations. Not that we remembered that on Christmas morning. We were just gleeful. Santa had been!

Not to brag, but my parents rarely had to threaten either of us with “the naughty list”. A more discerning mind would have found it extremely convenient that such a mechanism of control existed. In this day and age, I think such an intelligence gathering operation is a massive privacy violation and data security risk, but when I was young those things didn’t really exist. And such considerations are so… adult. So boring.

Of course my parents told me that I had to keep maintaining the illusion for the benefit of the younger members of the extended family. My sister being only two years younger than me was told at the same time I was that it was true that there was no Santa, but my cousins were still younger and it wouldn’t be right to shatter their illusions. 

When you think about it, it’s quite staggering that so many people stage this illusion for the benefit of the children around the world. A deception on that scale for almost any other reason would be horrifying, but because it brings happiness to so many children, we allow it. It probably doesn’t hurt that the children of the world have someone other than their parents to blame if they don’t get what they want for Christmas.

Which of course brings me to the present day, as I prepare for my first Christmas as a father. My daughter will be just over eight weeks old on Christmas day, and too young to understand or remember what’s going on. So I’m saved the explanation for this year at least, but the question has come up; what do we do about Father Christmas, given how shocked, betrayed and disappointed I was when I found out he wasn’t real?

Understandably my view of the world is changed enormously in the twenty years since I believed. The explanation my parents offered at the time still holds up – Santa is the generous part within each of us. I begrudgingly admit that I like that idea. But actually as I think about the whole thing now, at the end of 2016, I think we need Santa more than ever. The world has serious problems, and not a day goes by where I don’t feel a form of anxiety and even despair about what is happening around the world and right here at home. It’s easy to feel like the world is a harsh, unforgiving place, and you can’t expect any help to come from anyone unless they have a vested interest. But I want my daughter to grow up with just a little more hope than that. 

In a cynical, depressing world, what better thing to believe in than someone who brings joy to the lives of so many?

I can’t deny my daughter the joy that my sister and I had growing up, rushing downstairs to find out if Santa had visited during the night. Sure, one day she’ll be hurt that it was not really true, but until then, there’ll be a little more magic in her life. And who amongst us couldn’t benefit from a little more magic? 

So for my daughter, once again, I believe in Father Christmas.