This week brings you four touching and inspirational stories of Christmas, with a barbaric touch. God Bless.
Waiting for Santa
Little Bobby was so excited he couldn't even shut his eyes, let alone sleep. The sounds of the night were muffled by the falling snow outside his bedroom window. The silent night was broken only by the soft, sweet breathing of his little brother and baby sister, her crib pushed into their room to make way for uncles, aunts and cousins in the nursery.
Bobby clutched his Teddy tightly, and strained his ears for a jingle of sleigh-bells, a tread of hooves on the roof, a rush and rustle in the chimney stack.
Only this week, that bad boy Danny Rawls had been teasing him and taunting that there was no Santa, that Santa was a lie. But Bobby refused to believe Mommy would tell him such a fib. Santa was too good, too generous, to beautiful and wonderful not to exist.
Still, Bobby had a hard, painful knot in his chest. Maybe Danny was right. Maybe there was no Santa. Maybe Daddy and Mommy laid all the sparkling presents, gay in their wrappings and festive bows, beneath the fragrant and shining tree each year. Maybe when he was older, the magic would end, and there would be no miracles, no beauty, no imagination, no Santa.
Bobby had suffered in silence all Christmas week, too miserable to ask his Mother the questions that tormented his days and haunted his dreams. Perhaps he was afraid of what the answer might be.
Through the interminable hours (we oldsters forget how time drags on for a children, especially waiting for a great event like a Birthday or a Holiday.) Bobby's mind was fevered with doubt, sick with certainty, then alternately wistful with hope.
For in a moment of revelation, when praying in church the Sunday before Christmas, Bobby sent a small, beseeching plea to the large statue of Christ crucified, awesome and holy, to please let Santa be real, and to please Lord, let Santa be revealed to him.
And Jesus had answered him, looking directly at Bobby with his soft brown eyes, so full of understanding and love.
So Bobby was lying in the dark, as wide awake as if it were noon, praying to Jesus to be with him, and show him the great secret. As the night reached the wee hours, Bobby heard the slightest sound downstairs, and he knew the time had come.
Bobby crept down the stairs, Teddy bumping his head on each one as he descended, dragging up the rear. Bobby's eyes became accustomed to the dark, catlike, and he made out a form on the living room sofa. A chubby, jolly form, soft in the shadows, indistinct and hazy, but Bobby knew who it was.
He drew nearer, shyly at first, then as he saw the red fabric covering the seated form he knew his prayers had been answered and reached out his arms to embrace Santa.
Bobby saw a great light, a beautiful red glow, and felt himself leave the Earth, an angel, floating free and light, heard beautiful music and the gates of Heaven, and was happy.
Bobby's Uncle Barry lowered the shotgun and peered near-sightedly through the darkness to see if he his aim had been true, clouded as it was by the many egg-nog brandies he had consumed Christmas Eve. It was a good thing he had stayed up to guard the presents against the Christmas Burglar who skulked into homes after families were fast asleep. By the looks of the shotgun riddled remains at Uncle Barry's feet, the Burglar had robbed his last house. Wait until the family, calling out in alarm at the shot, came in and saw Uncle Barry's handiwork. Then they would be singing a different tune.
They were very poor. The mother worked very hard, but somehow there was never enough food for the little girl, let alone the mother.
Even the rats and roaches that tormented their first months in the shabby room had left them alone now, for there was nothing in the house to eat.
The mother looked at her child's hunger-drawn face, and felt despair at ever having enough to fill out those cheeks, bring light to those beautiful eyes. She herself had not had a real meal in over a year. And now it was Christmas, and she had no job, and no food, and they were starving.
The young mother decided she could no longer stand to see the child dying before her eyes. Something must be done, and she would do it.
"Well, do you know what day it is, my darling? It's Christmas." she said with a great attempt at gaiety, hoping to cheer the child.
The child said nothing, just looked back with eyes so hunger-filled, their was no room for hope, for love, for imagination, for play, for cheer. Only hunger.
"And since its Christmas, I have decided we must have a Christmas goose. And I am going right out to select a fat one now." said the mother, wrapping her thin, ragged shawl around her shoulders and stepping into her broken shoes. "Now you get the table ready, and I will bring back a Christmas supper such as which you have never seen."
She kissed the child and left the hovel.
The child did not, in her heart of hearts, believe her mother was coming back with a goose. Still, she was so starved it eased the pangs to move about, so she began setting the places for a dinner she had not had since she could remember. She had always been hungry.
She set out the cracked cups, and the mismatched plates, one with a sunflower, faded and spidered with cracked glaze, another with a moon and stars. She laid their two bent spoons and the sole fork, the only one they had. Optimistically she set out the chipped creamer and hatless butter plate as well. There was no sugar bowl.
Perhaps they would need the teapot, long unused in the top cupboard. She stood on a chair, piled a book, then an upturned wastebasket until she could reach far back into the topmost cupboard shelf.
She pulled out the pot, then behind it she saw a gay red bit of color. Her unbelieving eyes widened as she saw it was a bag of striped candy bobs. Afraid it was a only a hunger induced mirage she reached out her hand slowly and touched the bag. They were real. She pulled them down, in her haste almost toppling the tottering tower of chair, book and wastebasket.
The little girl laid them on the table, not daring to tear the bag open. Her mother must have hidden them there as a Christmas treat after their dinner. Now she truly believed in the feast to come, for why else would Mother hide these sweet, sugary treats and let her go hungry unless she was to eat all her meat, vegetables and pudding first, then have a bon-bon.
It was very hard not to open the bag, but she was a good, obedient girl, and she waited, not patiently but panting and in agony to open the bag and taste the sweetmeats within.
She did wait a good long time, by her own lights, but a youngster's hunger is unknown to adults, a body eating itself alive trying to stretch her growing bones. It gnawed with an insistence that overcame her stolid, good-hearted will to obey her sweet mother.
At last she could wait no longer, and tore open a tiny corner of the bag and cozened out one bon-bon. Even then she hesitated, then in one gulp, swallowed the treat whole. Then another, then another, then on the fourth, she left it on her tongue to savor the sweetness. It was so good and satisfying the sugar tasted almost bitter, almost like almonds. Then she felt a pang, then twisted in a rictus of agony. She fell, convulsing, staring and foaming at the mouth, then quickly, mercifully dead. She had eaten cyanide-laced bon-bons, thought hidden safely out of her reach by her mother, there to kill the rats which until lately had tormented them so.
And there she lay - poor starved body and cruelly tortured eyes staring unblinkingly at the door- awaiting the return of her widowed and sickly mother who, when she opened that wooden door and took off her shawl, would find - oh, too sad for words. Thank God the mother was spared that most heart-breaking of scenes.
For the mother hadn't planned on ever coming back anyhow.
Peace on Earth
Three millennia had passed since the very first Christmas.
For first 500 years of the first millennium, He was largely unknown to the world, kept alive by a chosen few believers who nurtured His flame, who transcribed and passed on his words of Peace, Benevolence, and Kindness.
Throughout the second, His words were twisted and misrepresented to justify killing and war in His Name.
By the end of the second, much of His message had been obscured by base commercialism and secular debasement. The humanist politicians, with their hate of all things religious, had destroyed the true spirit of God's love. The all important message of Christmas: "Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men" was lost to everyone who rushed through malls to buy a Pokemon.
It took most of the third millennia for Mankind to finally mature enough to digest the words of the Babe born in a Manger, so many long years before.
Two millennia ravaged by wars, scarred by hate, jealousy, rivalries, envy, bitter selfishness and materialism, elitism, racism, hunger, want, ignorance, poverty, divisive nationalism, disease and pestilence.
Somehow, after an enormous shattering inferno of lives and souls, of political upheavals and much death, killing, maiming, torturing and all manner of hatred and evil, finally Mankind overcame his primal instincts.
At long last, after untold generations decimated, genocide purges destroying the promise of entire races, trillions spent on weapons of destruction, trillions of dollars of damage done.
At long last, after the Earth is despoiled almost beyond recognition and resurrection.
Then, at perhaps the last moment before his annihilation by his own hand, Mankind learned how to really live His most important message:
"Love They Neighbor As Thyself"
It took the near Holocaust of the entire human species, but at long last, Mankind experienced the revelation of spirit and began to live the precepts of Christianity as He always meant them to be lived.
In only a generation, there was no hunger. There was no ignorance. Poverty, disease, want, cruelty, brutality, crime and racism were all wiped out completely.
Most astounding of all, every weapon, from the least switchblade knife to the most sophisticated nuclear missile was destroyed, 'beaten into plowshares' as the Good Book said.
And a Golden Age dawned on Mankind, and within another generation all belligerent instincts were wiped from the very genes and DNA of Homo Sapiens.
No one was even alive who knew how to manufacture or create any kind of weapon whatsoever.
And from space, the New Conquistadors saw that the Earth was ripe for the plucking, and easily slaughtered half of the pudgy, soft, pacifist humans in the most painful manner possible. Then they did gruesome experiments and dissected alive several billion; then enslaved the rest, fattening the choicest for their feasts. The first and most elaborate, (with over 20,000,000 infant babies grilled and served "en croute"), was on Christmas Day, 3001.
The reindeer stood unshivering in the sub-zero temperatures of the barn, harnessed and ready for the annual flight. The flight that defied both time and space, that tested them to the extreme of their stamina, that strained each one of them to the limit of their endurance and strength. After such a flight it took an entire year for the reindeer to recover.
The reindeer communicated without speaking, a communion of minds, a shared memory and life-experience, for they had been born together, and had never been apart since. They had no need of words, they spoke with their hearts, each hearing the thoughts of the others as plainly as if they were spoken aloud.
They thought of the many years of flights they had made, of the thrilling sting of the whip, of the panting, gasping exertions as each strove to support another who might be flagging. Each sacrificing himself that the quest might live, that Santa's trip would succeed. They thought of the long, hard, tortuous night ahead.
The mission was all important. Nothing else mattered, not fatigue, nor injury, no matter how agonizing. Like the year Donner had misstepped a landing and broken his foreleg, and had to continue for thousands of more houses, each time nearly passing out with pain as he landed unavoidably on the same shattered hoof.
Or the many times the reindeer had gone beyond all endurance, mouth frothing and ribs heaving with exhaustion, only to push on to the next house, and the next and the next, all senses deadened and tortured bodies ignored, until the trip was finished and the mission complete. The healing process of Immortals has its price; a wracking, mind-twisting pain that nearly maddens those so cursed as to be Immortal.
And now it was time for another journey.
Santa entered the barn, long whip in hand, and the reindeer shared a thought.
Blitzen gored him first, razor-sharp antlers stabbing in below the ribs and piercing his kidney.
Then Comet and Cupid, Comet coming in high and Cupid low, slicing open his stomach and severing his jugular at the same time.
Donner, Dancer and Prancer, stabbing and tearing with the precision of surgeons, disemboweled Santa before he hit his knees, staring stupidly at his own mangled intestines, steaming before him on the straw of the barn stall floor. Dasher gored deeply into Santa's crotch, and that obese old elf groaned in agony as Dasher castrated him brutally, ripping his genitals from his body and cruelly perforating his bladder. Vixen lifted her horns deftly, gouging out his eyes and entering his forebrain, effectively lobotomizing him for the final thrust.
Blitzen delivered the killing blow, going in under the ribs and collapsing the lungs, then onward into Santa's oversized heart, swollen from years of pumping blood through his corpulent body, ripping it from the viscera and hoisting it triumphantly above his head, while all the reindeer snorted approval and pawed their hooves into Santa's entrails. He fell solidly on his face, into a large pool of blood and organs, steaming and stinking in the cold, rapidly cooling and congealing.
That was all the elves found in the morning, that and the broken and trampled harnesses of slavery. That and a message, pawed into the snow with blood:
"Sic Semper Tyrannus"