A Yuletide Garland of Stories
This week brings you seven touching and inspirational stories of Christmas, with a barbaric touch. God Bless.
5. Gift of the Magi
They were newlyweds, and poor in all but love. For the first year, that was enough. For the second, a tightness came to her face, and he looked a bit less elegant, with his thrice turned cuffs. He looked a bit pathetic, going from one place of business to another looking for work after he lost his job at the bank. She smiled less and they stopped talking of having children, having them soon, anyway. He made due with patched shoes and shiny, threadbare suits. She mended her dresses and tried to be patient with staying home every night of the week and week-ends too, when they used to dance four nights of the week and dine out three before they were married. All that remained of his former affluency was his heavy gold watch, the pride of his family for generations. Even in his impoverished state, he was always reassured when he pulled it out, hefted it in his hand, the ever true timekeeper. Somehow, it made him feel a little better.
But now it was Christmastime, their third as man and wife, and by far the hardest. The gas had been shut off, and they lived at night with candles. She sparingly used their meager hoard of firewood only when he was home, freezing beneath a shabby comforter awaiting his return. He was not home a great deal, for he walked the streets vigilantly and diligently each day, searching for work. But none was to be had.
Still, it was Christmas. Outside the carolers sang for a cup of wassail, or for the blessing of good folks.
"Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the New Born King"
He felt very deeply that he should make some grand and noble and sacrificial gesture to brush away, if only for a moment, the sadness, the poverty, the pinch. Perhaps she would be less sad, if only for a smile and a kiss. One of her old smiles.
She felt it just as keenly, and had an idea exactly parallel to his. To make an monumental sacrifice, that they might change their lives together, perhaps before that spark of love was extinguished for lack of fuel, before that fragile flower wilted through lack of the water of life.
There was only one treasure she had worth sacrificing, that would make any appreciable return. She was blessed with long, silken, flowing raven hair. It framed her too pale face, making her beautiful. It was her pride, and his also.
Many times, she had walked past the wig-maker's shop, with the sign in the window,
'Human Hair Bought Here, Good Rates.'
But she had always passed by, after considering. This time she resolutely rushed in, before she could lose heart, and sat in the chair and bade the proprietress to do her duty.
Just at that moment, in another part of town, he just as resolutely strode into a pawnshop and made his own sacrifice.
Later that evening, Christmas Eve, after another fruitless day of hunting for work, he entered their tiny one-room flat and closed the door gently. He turned to see her at her vanity, gazing at herself in the mirror. Then, with shock and surprise, he saw her gorgeous locks had been severed into a short, mod page-boy bob. She smiled wanly, begging with her eyes for him to say something nice, something comforting, that she might be able to keep from crying. Her happiness at her gift for him was hard to keep at the forefront of her mind, she was so disconsolent about her shorn tresses.
"Merry Christmas, dearest, how do you like my new coif?" she said, with artificial brightness. "That long hair was so much trouble, why every night I would have to brush it 100 strokes, and many times you were so kind as to brush it for me, until it snapped with electricity, and..." here her voice caught and she kept speaking, too quickly, trying to get through it and give him his gift before she broke down and ruined everything. "I was just desperate for a new look, so I know I was bad not to consult you, my dearest husband, but I treated myself to a new hair-do. How do you like my bangs?" she threw her arms around his neck and presented herself for a kiss.
"It is absolutely stunning, it suits you so well, and you look as young as a schoolgirl. Ah, your lovely neck and shoulders are so scrumptious I could eat them up," he lied, kissing her below ears and chin. In truth her hair had been her beauty, her Samson's strength, her character and her lion's mane of confidence. Without it, a certain glow had gone from her face. Without it framing her in its wavy, raven fullness she was not the beauty he had married. She was merely plain and dull looking. More than ever he resolved not to regret his own actions of the afternoon.
"And now for your Christmas present, my lovely husband." she forced a cheery grin to her face and ran to her cabinet to fetch his gift. For she had indeed sold her raven locks, and with the money bought him a handsome watch-chain and fob for his stately gold watch, his own pride, his own treasure.
"Darling, it's absolutely stunning, you should not have." he managed to choke out, looking away from her eyes.
"Hurry my dear, let me see how it looks on your watch," she begged, smiling into his face as she playfully tugged his vest open to find his watch-pocket. "You will look quite the elegant gentleman now."
Well, gentle reader, I am sure you have guessed the truth of this sad little tale. He had of course, that very afternoon, tragically and ironically sold his watch to buy something to alleviate her own sadness, her ennui, her angst.
He pulled himself up with dignity, and looked into her eyes, so trusting, so fleetingly happy, and he felt his heart break at their poverty, at the dashing of all their hopes, at his own inadequacy and failures, and braced himself to give her the gift for which he had sold his life's dearest possession.
He reached inside his vest pocket, and drew out the pistol he had traded his watch for, and quickly, before he lost his resolve, shot his dearest love between the eyes. She fell heavily, an ugly black bruise rising on her forehead, and a smoking, bloodless hole between her brows, her pale, weak face calm and at last at peace.
He placed the barrel in his mouth, tasting the oily, steely metal, and the last thing he heard before the second shot was the high, sweet, quavering voices of the carolers outside:
"Silent Night, Holy Night; All is Calm, All is Bright"
6. 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.
7. Reindeer Games
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"