Meadow was a small wolf… A Christmas Short Story

I started the journey with Meadow and her pack as long as November. Trying to map out this journey was difficult as the environment that they lived in, as I was writing from a perspective I have never written from before: a young wolf on the cusp of finding her own identity, feeling and seeing from her perspective, joining her on her journey to decide her future path. This year, I wrote a fable that hopefully talks about courage to speak, to find yourself and the complexity of family ties. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Meadow was a small wolf…. she wasn’t the smallest or the smartest wolf. She wasn’t even the heart of her pack. Meadow was a small wolf.

It was day. The fir trees were frozen from the cold, bare to the elements and the marks of bears that have long gone to sleep. The pack had just stopped moving, their breaths flowing into the white of the sky, and in their forest, they decided to lie down and camp. Their forest was cold, the ground even more so, that even without the snow was hard and chilled their fur, their paws. They were on the outskirts of the wolf-lands, but since Samson died, they’ve been without a champion in their traditional grounds, a champion that could stand against the other packs in the forest. Food was scarce around these parts, particularly in this season, but their parents, their leaders all the same, wanted to make one of those pups into the next champion. The one that would take care of them, of the ones that they had taken care of.

They lay all together, keeping tight and making a chain of warmth, keeping in rank as much as they could. They would change the rotation every night, making sure that each one of the pack had a fair share every night. Warmth was something to be respected, and you had to give back what you take. On the other hand, Meadow usually didn’t get enough of the warmth, as the others would forget where she was and when it was her turn, and no one wanted to argue just in case the parents would get involved. She always thought it was an unfair situation, but she never really complained, or at least openly. She rested on the idea that she would get there soon enough. The pack had their favourites, but Meadow was a small wolf, and wasn’t their champion.

Soon they all fell asleep as the sun started creeping up, while Meadow, attempted to sleep under the white sky. She was aware of the rustling of the leaves, the feel of the pine needles, and the sounds of the breaking wood. While they were all asleep, and in their sleeping minds still at play, Meadow’s eyes would be open.

This winter was tougher than the most. They felt the bite a lot harder and the bark at night was deafening. They felt alone together, and for them it was something they had become used to, but they were truly isolated in the light of day.

The day before, the hunt had been disastrous. With only a few small, boney mice for the lucky ones, and a smattering of red berries where they could get them, they didn’t know who would survive the winter. If any would survive at all, if things were going to continue in this way. They felt a collective guilt, shared liberally amongst them for failing to find what they needed. If there were any more new-borns, winter would grip them and not let go, their mother would be glad enough, but danger would still be around whether it had a face or not.

They only had enough food to pull around and sedate their sore stomachs and their pride, but not a lot to share around. So they were going to prepare to dream of food of all kinds: the different deer they could try; the rabbits that they couldn’t spare; the weasels caught in their jaws; teeth into flesh and the taste of blood on the tongue, eating and drinking, eating and drinking ‘til twilight.

Meadow usually dreamt of running, always of running. She didn’t wonder about the future as much as the others, she wasn’t obsessed with the next victorious kill, or to practice for the day an enemy would creep up behind them. She would always be running. Sometimes she would be running for a reason, but she sometimes she simply ran for fun of it. She would run when she was awake, it made her feel alive, and when she dreamt she could go even further, even deeper into the forest, into lands unknown to them. The amount of running in her sleep made her legs jitter and kick, sometimes leaving bruises on the rest of her kin. She was always apologetic, but they did not return the favour. Running is something you do, not what you are. She kept it to herself.

Running is something you do, not something you do for fun. You are evading capture, you are the hunter, you are keeping toe to toe with your prey and you’ve got them when they make that fatal mistake, and then you enjoy the victory. You are avoiding the edges of the cliffs, and the trees falling and then killing you. You can play and practice and run and chase but running is not your life, it is survival.

You spot the deer, you can smell its wet fur, you can hear it casually chewing away as you hide, maintaining the perfect distance. You tell your brothers and sisters, you tell them that you’ve found their next meal. You are looking forward to the pursuit, and looking forward to the first bite, you see the steps in the ground and smell the scent on the bushes nearby. ‘You run with intent’, Meadow’s mother used to say to her.

Her mother was her harshest critic. While she was hard on them all, on their foibles and in the moments they weren’t thinking straight, she would always look over to Meadow and the rest of her pups, it was a hard love that allowed them to survive, her love. She forbad them from pointless dithering, and she could see every time Meadow’s mind wondered. She regretted much of what she had to do and what she had to say, but it had been for the right reasons. If one wrong turn meant death, as one wrong turn could in this forest, she would rather inflict temporary pain or discomfort than learning of death too early. She made sure to teach them all she knew, what her mother and father had taught her and the lessons she had personally grabbed along the way. Their father was the leader, but their mother had the vision. She didn’t foresee Samson’s death.

As they were resting, they hungered all the more, and they also feared privately. All needed strength for all, and apprehension was never permitted. The pack works for one and one for all, Meadow tried to remind herself. Meadow did not fear often, but it was hard for her hide her fretting, she had to hide her hopes and her dreams. The pack were more important.

Small flakes touched their wet noses, their breaths were steady, their eyes aflutter as they drifted into sleep. All except Meadow. She struggled to lie down, to rest, tossing and turning, making her coat more ragged and unkempt, covering it with lines of mud warmed by her body, but did nothing to help her. Her mind was running at a thousand miles per hour, she couldn’t settle down.

Was it the hunger? Was it the cold? She didn’t want to think about it, but there it was, the true question coming to her like a thief in the night; is she right for this pack? What would happen if she was gone? Would it matter? She stood up and looked over her family, tiptoeing and seeing not only their breath rising, but their warmth seemed to be as steam exuded by their bodies, rising from them into the bright white sky, mostly hidden by the deep canopy of pine and spruce.

She saw her father, his deep scar notably marking his kind face; her mother’s sharp teeth struggling to be kept behind her lips; Ajax, shivering in his impressive white and black coat; Apple curled up and bored to be asleep; Lake lying on her back with her tongue out; Pine lying still.

Did she belong? She loved them, but did she belong to this rabble? This collection of schemers and jokesters? She experienced great joy with them, but she felt belittled and picked upon, especially when questioned as to why she didn’t have enough blood on her fur… that her kills of small rabbits who had been too fast and lacked the fat on their cheeks… that they had wanted her to guard, but she would end up searching for phantoms, that…

She decided to walk away, just walk away, to see what would happen.

She got up and moved around the sleeping wolves, and make it into the woods. The snow started falling heavier, making each of her steps deeper as she crushed the stone underfoot, leaving a trail behind her which quickly got covered over of where she had wandered.

As she wandered down the valleys, and wandered up the hills, she saw the berries, winter and mistletoe, building up lashes of snow and cold, and saw everything was still and at peace.

As she approached a hillside, she started climbing up, forgetting that it was a mountain that she was about to face. She ran up, climbing over some rocks, making sure to not slip down below. She got farther and farther and looking back, the world started looking small to her. She climbed and climbed, and soon the rocks turned into hills and the hills into a mountain. She made sure to not slip down below, she had no fear of the world that was growing small beneath her. She was far away, but she turned to look back.

She stopped in her tracks, staring at her land, her territory, the land of her pack. She didn’t finish climbing to the top of the mountain, but she saw home.

Home to her was extended as far as the end of the valley basin, white and green for miles and miles, surrounded by peaks and the cold. The air was fresh up there, and after so much wandering, she felt, for the first time in a long while, content. She knew that the world down there was different from the world up here. She promised herself that she would never forget this place.

She took in the view for longer, thinking of her family and what they’d make of this, being beyond where they’d ever been and of telling them of what she had just seen. Another thought came quickly, another shock to her, she thought that she could leave them. She could find out what it was like on the other side of the mountain, that she could find pastures with countless deer, sheep and goodness knows what else? She looked up to the tallest peak covered in snow, and also thought that there might be death up there. She hadn’t known of a wolf, a bear or a man that had come back from the other side of that mountain, so whether it was paradise or hell on the other side, the mystery remained yet to be solved. Dying to be wrong, dying to be right, the mountain still felt cold and alone in its beauty.

On the other side, was her home. There may be other packs, sure, but not like hers, they were not hers. Her pack made her laugh, make her look forward to life, so different now from the big hulking rocks and ice that stood behind her.

She never saw the valley this way before; the snow, the stream that broke through the miles and miles of trees, their land of winter. It might look like the other land farther on with their leaders and their packs, one that sings songs of a saviour and a man in red.

She looked to the right of the basin, and spotted something sinister: a fire and smoke, near to where the pack had made their camp. She already knew what she had to do. No questions this time. She started climbing down the rocks as quickly as she could. As she made it to solid earth, she starting running, running as far and as hard as she could. She could see the smoke rising high, until the canopy completely hid it from view.

By looking up, just to see the smoke disappearing into the immense white, she tumbled forward, separating the snow.  She shook off the mud and snow, and saw bruises on her body. She howled, not only from being in pain but it also helped ease her mind. She then howled as much as she could, trying to call out to her kin. She saw blood on the side, realising that she must have been cut somewhere. A new pain came in, a feeling she had known before, when Samson died….

In her wild running, she had fallen down the steep hill, rolling down violently, screaming in panic and terror. Thud! She was out, lying still, unconscious, specks of snow settling on her fur. There was a silence, but not for the lack of the wind, because it goes where it has to. For only for a moment, she felt more helpless and trapped than she had ever before. She started to recover, but not enough as she struggled to open her eyes, she could only see the red behind her eyelids and fragments of white light.

Meadow picked herself up, and aided by blurred vision, began running through the forest, determination coursing through her body, but it was futile. She only made it through a few trees and shrubs before slamming into some timber. She willingly fell onto her side, lying down, hyperventilating.

She needed to rest, but didn’t want to. She wanted them safe, so she couldn’t have it.

She closed her eyes.

She had left a trail of blood.

––––––––––

She awoke at night. It was dark, still and eerie, but she was embracing the dark as a comfortable blanket. She got up, feeling rough but seemed okay until she realised that she was struggling.

She knew that she hadn’t broken her leg, but she was limping, her leg was swollen. The cut on her face felt fresh and was bleeding. She started making her way, but had to stop occasionally, resting here and there on the bigger trees, fearing that she would do more damage to herself, breaking the smaller branches into sharp spikes.

Her breathing was laboured, heavy. She tried to breathe through her teeth, but she had to breathe through her mouth, allowing the cold in while the breath she had exhaled disappeared into vapour. She had to stop. She closed her eyes, and took in the moment, the smell of pine and the cool of the evening as she steadied herself on the ground.

A twig had snapped in the distance, and her ear twigged. She opened her eyes and turned to face the threat, kneeling down and hunching her back, she struggled to get into position with her injured paw. Her vision was still partially impaired, so she was compelled to rely on her other senses. She steadied herself, growling instinctively. If she had to attack, she would. She howled.

Her opponent howled back; her father. She relaxed and howled again, louder, making sure they knew she was there, and that she was alive. Her pack howled back in jubilation. They rushed over as she howled again, gathering around her, each in turn licking her wounds.

She was still a part of the pack, and they still loved her. They had come to find her together, and that they knew what had to be done, that she had been lost. She had needed their help, that she now knew that she was important to them. Some howled again, some of them jumped for joy and some danced for the first time since the last spring. They said it was a miracle, some were just relieved.

Her mother came over to her, and looked into her eyes. She looked her over, all her injuries and bruises and her cut-up face that made her look like her father. She didn’t want to see her in such pain, but she just saw her daughter, her pup looking back to her with her intense blue eyes, and she proceeded to lick her wounds, telling her that she loved her.

The hunt had to continue, Pine interrupted. He told Meadow that they had found food, but that it was going to be a challenge. It was a big beast, and they were all needed to take it down. The beast, he said, needed their speed, their strength and their all to bring him down. Pine gathered their father, mother and the kin, and invited her to come. They needed Meadow, but Meadow declined, as she was too weak to hunt. Their mother elected to stay with her to take care of her. It was then agreed, Pine was disappointed, but he understood. The group disappeared, one by one, into the night, following Pine’s call.

Meadow and her mother were left alone with each other.

They lay down on the ground, resting between the pine trees, sharing the warm of their bodies. Meadow’s mind was at peace. She was at home, and whilst battered and bruised, they came to her as she would to them. In this state of clarity, she remembered the top of the mountain, the mountain of death and possibility, a memory that will follow her to the end of days.

And it was up to wolves to stand against it’s inevitable madness, against that miserable current. She looked up to the moon, shining through the clear sky and accentuated by the stars. The moonlight surrounded them, and despite all the other parts of the forest, it seemed to encircle them in and they drew comfort in this light.

The smoke. The fire. The memory came back to Meadow. Determined, she got up, shocking her mother. Her mother got up as well, concerned. Meadow told her what she had seen on top of the mountain, and stopped her from interrupting her. There was a fire and smoke, and if this was of the great beast, they don’t know what they were getting into.

Her mother believed Meadow, though she wanted to know why she had gone up that high, she wanted to believe Meadow more. Meadow took the lead and they started to run, but she couldn’t maintain momentum, starting and stopping to catch her breath. She felt tired and ill and all things in-between.

Her mother told her that she would lead, and even though they became separated a bit of distance before Meadow picked up the scent again. Meadow was never going to be alone again.

Her mother led the way, and even Meadow couldn’t see her, she could hear her, as she every so often howled, and Meadow would howl back. They went for miles through the tundra, the fallen trees without leaves and the snow mixed with the rotten vegetation. In short time, Meadow became stronger and stronger, with her mother powering her to continue, to strive, and to live.

‘Are you still there?’ Mother howled.

‘I am’ Meadow replied.

‘Keep going’

‘I will’

‘Where are you?’

‘I am here, I’m not far’

‘I am also here, I’m close by’

‘Follow my voice’

‘I hear your voice’

‘Don’t give up’

‘Never’

‘Only a few miles now’

‘I can feel it, I can feel it’

‘I love you’

‘I love you too’

They made it to a clearing, both silent. As they stood together, Meadow’s mother rested her head on top of Meadow’s.

They took cautious steps into the clearing and could hear themselves walking as they broke the snow piece by piece. And then, the sound of baying wolves, growing louder and louder as they progressed further into the empty field.

They turned a corner, they saw the pack in prime position, surrounding and circling their prey. They were deep into their battle as the pack surrounded the beast: it was a bull, with a temper. The bull was bloody from his wounds, its skin dirtied with a mixture of blood and mud knotted in, as the bites and the nips had punctured parts of his skin. None of the wolves had injuries, their taunts were getting louder and louder.as their hunger intensified.

Meadow told them to stop! She shouted and yelled for them to stop.

She told them of the smoke and the fire, that it was close by and they had to run. Pine dismissed this, seeing that their prize had been almost conquered. They were hungry, and they had to continue. Meadow said that they should wait for their food, they should wait for the deer promised to them. The beast was a trap, it would destroy them.

Her father questioned her, unsure himself about what they should do. The bull charged at him, and he dodged its horns by the skin of his teeth. He said he had to make the decision, and saw reason in both arguments, their convictions bold, but he couldn’t let anyone die that night or the following night.

Apple saw the fire and the smoke, BANG!

She howled for them to run!

They all heard the blast released into the air, smoke rising and sparks of flame.  They had not seen the burly man dressed in red, coming out of a shining cabin hidden under dead branches. He held his shotgun high in one hand and a bright, steel lantern in the other. His shot was a warning into the night sky. The wolves had to go.

Pine relented and he led the pack back into the woods. Running, one by one, they disappeared into the dark. Meadow, who had almost looked into death’s eye, was the last one left. The man walked a toward Meadow, with his face reflected in the moonlight. She stopped see death in his eyes, but a concerned look. She would always remember that, the moment of mercy as she too took off into the dark.  The man let out a sigh of relief, and attended to the bull’s wounds. The champion puffed, and took a breath, still standing.

Her father said he was proud of her, laughed as he noted that the scar resembled his own, and that they were very much alike. Pine apologised to Meadow, but she consoled him, saying he would have been right any other time. They were all still cold and hungry, but knew they would figure something out.

At the stream they drank, in the darkness they had found water. A night wasted, but a night regained. They praised Meadow, they would celebrate with her in a great feast when they had found one; they would run and dance and sing again and all else un-wolf-like. Meadow couldn’t hide her happiness as much as she tried to remain humble.

They lapped the calm flow, letting the gentle noise of the currents seep into them in the hope they would have accompanied them in their dreams in the morning. Meadow knew her pack, her family and that they were hers and they were with her and for her.

She wasn’t a champion, Meadow was a small wolf… but one of their best.

Meadow lifted her head up from the stream and smelt blood in the air. She drifted away from the stream and started to track the animal. Her mother walked to her, asking where she was going, but she just told her to follow her this time.

They went into the deep woods and up a hill. At the bottom of the hill, there was a stag who had fallen from sheer sharp edge, trapped by the weight of a fallen log, asleep and unaware of his fate, as he calmly dreamt and breathed.

Mother and daughter howled.

Meadow was a small wolf… but she was the right wolf for them.

 

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Correspondent – A Short Christmas Story

A family reunion.

With such a busy year, I haven’t had the time to flesh out this short story I have been working on, so see it as a first draft being publicly presented. It is more of a sketch, a scene rather than a short story. It is darker than last year’s more comedic tale, a family drama in miniature. It was inspired by ‘Jim: The James Foley Story’.

Christmas Day. He was reluctantly smoking a cigarette with his cast-covered arm. He swore he wasn’t going to have one until the end of the holidays, blowing white smoke into the air, equal parts formed by smoke and the cold. He looked out onto the garden that winter had made ruffled and muddy, with a lone swingball from last summer standing like a rusted monument. It reminded him how alien he felt every time he came back to the UK; how Kate’s kids looked and acted differently every time he saw them; the endless questions about his future, like, when he was going to get a girlfriend or if he’d move back into the area. His sister Kate hated his dependence on cigarettes, not just because she didn’t want her patio covered in ash and cigarette butts, but that her baby brother would be giving himself a death sentence. He brought his own ashtray, which he set beside him on the floor.

‘You’re going to miss the Queen’s Speech,’ Kate said as she slid the patio door open. He turned and they looked at each other, one bemused and the other in resigned acceptance he is in trouble. Kate’s eyes rolled as she saw the cigarette in Arthur’s hand as she slid the door closed. ‘I’ll forgive you, just this once’
‘I brought an ash tray’
‘I saw, it looks like a love heart’
‘Would you believe me if I told you the others were sold out?’
She kept silent.

Kate folded her arms and she kept moving around in the same spot. She was just wearing a Christmas jumper with a picture of a deer jumping over a log on to keep her warm, and she wasn’t planning to stay out there long. It looked like it was going to snow. ‘So, been enjoying today? I know it’s not like mum’s-’
‘It’s been good, it’s been good.’ Arthur put out his cigarette in his ashtray, and looked out to the sky, a grey canvas. Kate looked at Arthur and wondered what was really going on, as he had been rather quiet throughout Christmas morning, particularly when her kids started to excitedly rip open his presents to them. They were always enamoured with Uncle Arthur’s presence every time he came to visit. He didn’t visit much. When Arthur was silent, it meant something.

Arthur knew he had to tell her what was on his mind. He could see that she wasn’t going back in, and he needed her to go back inside and watch The Queen’s Speech, and could catch something if she stayed out for too long . ‘Kate, go back inside, I’m about to finish up.’
‘Arthur, I need to ask you if you’re…’
‘Yes, I’m going back Kate.’ Kate pretended that she was shocked, but she couldn’t pull it off, there was a reluctance in her to give up, even though it was a losing battle. ‘What do you mean-?’
‘You’re pretending, don’t pretend.’
‘I’m not pretending.’
‘You want me to say it out loud, like it will change it.’
‘Why can’t you ever say it? Anyway, you’re freelance, you’re don’t need to go anywhere or do anything’
‘Kate, I have to go. I’ve already got the flights booked and my equipment packed.’
‘I will refund you the costs.’
‘You can’t afford-’
‘I will pay-’
‘I have to go.’
‘No, you don’t. You never ‘have’ to go Arthur.’
‘Have you talked to Paul about this?’

Kate stood her ground, but they both knew she hadn’t told Paul. Paul would explode in anger if he were to find out about Arthur’s next move. The destructive effect it had on Kate’s temperament, and the continuing days or moments that she would think of her little brother made Paul somewhat hesitant to accept Arthur as his brother rather than brother-in-law. ‘I can’t tell Paul.’
‘Maybe I will be the one to tell him this time.’ Kate went up to Arthur and knelt down on her haunches, she looked at Arthur, ‘Please don’t go,’ Arthur started to tear up but remained calm. He looked at Kate, and just shook his head. Kate held Arthur’s cold face with her palm, feeling his beard, ‘please don’t go.’

Kate stood up as Arthur sat frozen. Arthur couldn’t articulate why he was going, or why this time, but he had to. He didn’t want to say it was the only thing he was looking forward to in the new year. He loved his sister and her family, as they’ve been his ballast, but he had to go back for the others who didn’t have them. Kate saw just her little brother in his mind, but while Kate knew what he had to, but she knew it would end him.

‘Don’t tell him today, leave it ‘til tomorrow. Promise?’
‘I promise.’

Kate moved the sliding door as the Queen was just finishing up her speech. ‘Kate,’ Arthur said. Kate turned back, and looked over, ‘Is the Turkey ready yet?’
Kate reluctantly smiled and chuckled. She shouted over to the kitchen, ‘Is it ready yet?’
‘What’s ready?’ Paul shouted from the kitchen,
‘Oh you numpty, you know what I meant’
‘Soon?!’
Kate looked back to Arthur, ‘Soon, he says.’
‘Good.’
Kate took a step inside and left the door open. Arthur got up, went back into the house and closed the door behind him.

It was their last one together.

Would you wish for Christmas everyday? – A Short Story by Milan Matejka

 

This story is set in England, where all the shops, cinemas and event venues tend to be closed on Christmas Day. If this happened in America,  I guess everyone could rewatch Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and eat Chinese takeout every day. This type of Christmas might not be as bad as the story that is about to follow.

 

One Christmas ball hanging on leafless branch against of white background. Isolated

One day, a couple of days before Christmas, in some undetermined year, in a different time and space, in a different England, Abi wished, mistakenly, to have Christmas everyday. She was a child, and was not to know the cost of such a ridiculous, errant Christmas wish. Her wish, though naive, had a good intention at the time. So, on that fateful white Christmas day, where the normal festivities were unfolding according to tradition, or at least what people felt was appropriate. People went to church, some went outside to make snow sculptures, some had too much to drink, and some have fallen asleep in front of some mindless tripe on television. Little did they know that this would soon change for everyone in her town, Scrooge and Christmas lover-alike. A snowglobe of hell.

It was like Groundhog Day, the movie, not the actual day. Everything seemed to be repeating, aside from the fact that everyone was now aware of their new situation. Roger Penforth, of 27B Wilson Drive, tried to go to another town nearby to visit his parents, but found that his car refused to move beyond the town limits, having bashed his front bumper beyond recognition. Tracey, of 12 Lambert Avenue, tried to jog around the nearby, beautifully scenic forests that surrounded the town, and found that by hitting, at first invisible, glass wall at full pelt, it would break her nose. This invisible wall between them and out there…. It was like groundhog day, and they couldn’t get out of it.

In this microcosm, the town had started learning The Queen’s Speech off by heart, almost as if it was a mantra. The words of goodwill turned religious and irrelevant at the same time, a white noise you would only notice when you paused and started to listen. Previous complaints by families, children, and adults regarding the endlessly repeating Christmas television programs went on overdrive, as it took over all the media around them. Social media was also frozen in this time bubble, like the outside world was trapped with them. Their pleas for rescue were turned into romantic Christmas soliloquies. ‘I need help’ became ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘I’m dying’ turned into a post about cracker jokes. Marie-Claire Matthias, of Elm Walk, wrote a suicide note that, as soon as she pressed the send key, put up lyrics of ‘Wonderful Christmastime’, repeating ad nauseum. Christmas doesn’t have to be too nice.

Whatever was broken on Christmas Day became suddenly fixed. At the start, car wrecks littered around the four corners of their district, to which, Arnold, of 23 Admiral Street, added his Ferrari to this collection. He stand on the side of the road, crying both about his negated excuse of existence, and the failure in his attempt to get out of town in one piece. Each car would soon be returned, repaired and snow covered. For Arnold, this was definitely a mixed blessing.

A Santa’s Grotto, located near the shopping centre, was destroyed piece by piece by vengeful Dads repeatedly through the passing weeks. First they liked to draw spiteful penises with spray paint, and then they beat the thing into a near pulp so they could and set fire to it. Neal West, of 423 Springfield Road had a neon green spray can. The next day, the Grotto returned as a fort of Christmas cheer and dodgy looking elves gnomes.  Nothing they did would dent that Christmas feeling, that malicious Christmas feeling.

Pretty soon after, they tried to loot the shops. They tried to find Easter eggs. They tried to find anything that was not glittered, festive and merry. The shops which decided to stay closed on Christmas Day had a supernatural spell all on their windows and doors. They will never be breached, they will never be opened. they could not be breached or could be unleashed. The Goldbergs, of 65 Tower Road, the only Jewish family most people knew that outright refused to do anything festive and ‘jolly’, were called upon to unleash the doors and allow people the freedom of choice. The freedom to have anything other than turkey, turkey roast, turkey sandwich, turkey stew, turkey du vin, turkey fajitas, coconut turkey, paleo turkey, turkey nuggests, liquid turkey, turkey salad, turkey anything.

However, The Goldbergs were not successful. As they put their hand to door handles to open the door, to cricket bats to smash the snowman decal off the windows (and the windows too), they could not breach the crystalised stillness inside of that Poundland. Other non-Christmas families tried, many who condemned the pagan roots, and those who celebrated Christmas in January to believers of other faiths and creeds. It didn’t matter. They failed. The Haques, the Muhammeds, the Farahs, the Usmans, the Osmonds, the Chans, the Fletchers, the Cromwells, the Lees, the Batras, and they even let a haggard homeless man have a go. Christmas as a whole was in the air, and it affected everyone like a virus. It doesn’t discriminate who was naughty or nice, or plain indifferent.

People couldn’t die on Christmas. Jerome K. of Archer Way threw himself into the sea, and came back in his bedsheets, next to his Staffie, Chuck. Jerome K. was thankful that it was permanent when Chuck decided to lick his face. He too knew what happened, burying himself into the bedsheets to get closer to his master. A Christmas Miracle! Margaret Ribbon, of 23 The Willowsby, and her family, Bob, Chuck, Khaleesi, tried poisoning. A Tiramasu of doom, Margaret did not tell her family that she had done this, and thought better to not tell them. A Christmas Miracle, for they awoke in their rooms to no adverse affect! Margaret had to explain herself however, leading Bob to question Margaret’s sanity. Charlie Hack, also of The Willowsby except he lived at 18 The Willowsby, hated Tim Bucket, of 1 Tyler Lane. Tim hated Charlie. Charlie decided to bludgeon Tim with a frozen turkey, but as soon as dawn approached, Tim can now plot his own vengeance. A. Not. So. Christmas. Miracle. Christmas wishes were both miracles and curses to the eye of the beholder. Christmas opened up immortality to the populace, and some found the idea of it wanting. Stabbings, car crashes, beheading, gunshots to every orifice, countless people throwing themselves at gravity’s hands, and meeting pavement with crimson below. The trauma they inflicted on their bodies would heal, but not of their minds… that soon.

Leftovers of their nights became uncooked as they woke, and the presents lost their allure in their state of perfection under trees. Some, like Thomas Abbott, of Flat B of Rock House, on the corner of Faraday Road and countless others, decided that they should burn the trees and the presents, to say to the deity that has trapped them they give in. They gathered their decorations, their cheer, their apparel and their fairy lights, and placed them into the middle of the town square. Fake and real, green or teal, no tree was missing as they were piled and piled. They wanted to stop this wish, but a wish is not something you worship or appease, it is something to be given and taken away. Bonfires of many Christmas nights smelt of pine and plastic, and spread across the town. Each cloud would collect and drift into the sea, trying to find somewhere to call their own, and drifting into the cold, sea air. It was the best Christmas Thomas had in awhile, as he was not alone. However, no amount of electronic tablets would appease as they woke back up from their Santa themed bed covers.

Everyone knew they were just re-enacting the plot of Groundhog Day, but they had to do something.

Not to say that many were horrified, some actually learned to live with it, loving this new found metaphysical freedom from the wilds of the working life. Some were glad they did not have to bear with the winter’s cold air, staying in hibernation, with some nice hot chocolate and a fire nearby. Many were glad they could have a forever renewing food source and they never have to pay for the heating again for the rest of their lives (the McCarthys, of Gloucester Road, were just happy from the landlord’s unintended reprieve, but January is always waiting for them to be put out in the streets), and and some decided to experiment with the types of Christmas they could have. Trevor MacDonald, of Abbey Wood, proceeded to put pineapple with his turkey instead of his gammon. He was proud. Some, the Taylors of East Ride Drive, were a bit more inventive, learning the myths behind Germanic folklore and Christmas, and growing closer as a family. Many families shared more about their dreams and aspirations more than ever could in a year. Trevor did not have to go to work early the next morning, and learned which Ben-10 was Johnny’s favourite. Trevor would finally understand why.

Some learnt they hated their families more than even their enemies. Joel and Margaret Smith of Bailey Road, learnt their passion has grown cold after many years of verbal barbs. They would toss and turn in bed, they would fight over what repeat was going to be on the television, what they should do with the turkey this time. Endless chaos, endless depression for the both of them. Margaret and Joel came to the decision separately, but together they told each other. They wanted a divorce. And then they went to friend’s houses for Christmas instead. But… every morning they would be returned to the purgatory of moan and groan, and awkward shuffles out of their wedded house. They would share their hatred and bed together, but then it turned into silence. They, in the morning, would silently get up separately, change and go about their day. But then nothing, drifting past each other as ghosts without feeling. Their children were in other parts of the country and could not return for Boxing Day to remind them of their vows or why they stuck together in the first place.

The police could do nothing. The hospitals could do nothing. The Fire Station could do nothing. DO THEY KNOW IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME? YES THEY DO. It was the only song that inspired justifiable murder, but then forgiven the day after. Other countless, Christmas songs that permeated the day were also banned. People grew to love and hate each other more and more, learning more about their neighbours, and learning to put up with their foibles/blessings. Tim and Charlie are the only exemption, no one willing to get a word edgewise to stop their madness.

On some days, the town gathered every day in the local church, arguing about their situation. Why were they in such a state? In sessions they called Convenings, they proceeded to ban festive garbage and make concessions to families and neighbours in efforts of goodwill, bringing an oddly Christmas spirit in trying to manage this crisis. They made a government that dealt with the mind and soul, seeing as they could not fix that pothole on The Avenue, no matter how much old pensioner Faye Canterbury, of Battle Road, would shout in every Convening, at least until her expulsion. Governance was steady, taking turns at dealing with crises and concessions, but they were ever hopeful they would be freed.

Until… after so many Convenings, after so many meetings, the small girl arrived, parents in tow (Andrea and Dave) and announced her sin. The one who began it all. Abi Trout, of Westmore Road, wished it could be Christmas everyday.

At first, they were outraged, not by the mere fact that she committed the wish, but that they referenced a banned song, ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ by Wizzard, which was banned at the 26th Convening. As the jeers became low, she tried to eloquently explain, for a seven year old, why she made the wish in the first place. She wished that it would be Christmas, that her dad could stay, that mummy wouldn’t drink too much, and they both wouldn’t leave each other. Abi didn’t want all this madness, and she just wants it to stop, but she admitted the wish worked, and the family were stronger now.

The Head of this Convening, Mark Donovan of Trinity Road, proceeded to tell the girl that the town will personally make sure that her mum and dad will never divorce. Joan Kettle, of Riverwood Terrance, tried to question the validity of trying to stop two people divorcing, even other town members questioned if they should meddle. The parents, Andrea and Dave answered that they already have promised to Abi that they would not try to divorce any time soon. Mark, hearing this, told the little girl that because the wish worked, it means everything should go back to normal, and she should say thank you to Christmas.

Abi said thank you.

Nothing happened.

Thomas, of Flat B of Rock House, after so many burnings and still feeling the crippling isolation broke at that moment. He pulled out a pistol and proceeded to shoot Abi multiple times, killing her, and then he shot himself.

A Christmas miracle. Abi woke up to the smell of cinnamon, the warm fire in the midst of winter, to thankful parents united in their love for her. Thomas was alone in his flat, cold, similar to the last Christmas he had. He cupped to his face, crying. He doesn’t know what else to do.

With no recourse to change the fate of the town, the town learnt to live with Christmas, to live with it for eternity. While peace and goodwill became more common admittedly, there was nothing interesting going on, people learnt to love it and hate it in good measure. There was barely any crime, and whatever was done the day before could be undone meant that the town seemed to be more inclusive of each other, and more accepting of their current places. Perhaps boredom allowed many families to unite and commune. They talked. They shared. They cared. While it might be years until they were freed, they learned to make do with the now. It snowed every day.