Here's the beginnings of a Christmas story I'm working on. It is as yet untitled.
Dozens of little bodies lay broken on the floor.
She wasn’t aware of what she had done as her attention was riveted to the television screen, where only moments before the Yule Log had been burning brightly and the sound of Bing Crosby dreaming of a white Christmas drifted from the speakers. Never in all her years, of which there were many, had the Yule Log broadcast been interrupted by a newscaster claiming to have breaking news. Until now, that is.
“We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this Special Report.” The Network logo that had appeared on the screen was replaced by the view of a newsroom and a rather handsome anchorman. “Christmas Eve,” he said, obviously reading from a teleprompter, “and there’s violence in the streets. Reports are pouring in from all across the country that unprovoked acts of violence have been breaking out, leaving behind a bloody trail of mass murder.” Behind his blond head, a video screen came to life showing a real-time image of Times Square. It was pure chaos. Bodies and paper and plastic shopping bags littered the streets. Panic-stricken last-minute shoppers ran along the Avenue of the Americas, dodging slower-moving people who seemed to be disoriented and turning up side streets in an attempt to get away from. . .
It wasn’t exactly clear what they were running from at first, but then she saw a woman who refused to give up the bags she had fought the masses for take a tumble, tripped up by her day’s purchases. A shambling figure, obviously male, was on her in a heartbeat. At first, she thought the man was attempting to rape the woman he’d fallen on, but when he raised his head she could see the bloody wound at the woman’s neck. Even from the distance, she could see the spray of blood as it coated the sidewalk. The news anchor continued.
“This scene, broadcast live from Times Square in New York City, is being repeated all across the country. There is no known cause for this sudden outbreak of violence. The extent of the violence is so wide spread that the President has declared a state of emergency and has called out the National Guard. People are being advised to stay indoors. Do not, under any circumstance, venture out doors. I repeat, under no circumstance should you go outside. We will keep you apprised of the situation as developments occur. We now return you to our regularly scheduled program.”
The next instant, the Yule Log was burning merrily away again, a stark contrast to the mayhem and murder she had just witnessed, and for just one moment, she was too stunned to do anything but just stand there. Her complexion, normally joyfully ruddy, was pale. The shock of seeing a woman murdered on live television had drained the color from her rosy cheeks. Her hands started to tremble. She reached out for the counter to steady herself, trying to clear her head. Papa needed to know about this. It was too dangerous for him to venture out tonight. Wiping her hands on her apron, she hurried from the kitchen, crushing the broken bodies of the gingerbread men underfoot as she went.
Outside, the snow was starting to fall. It was a light fall, barely more than a flurry, with large flakes swirling gently around. Such was her hurry to inform Papa of the news, she forgot her shawl. Not that she needed it. She, like all of the others that lived and worked here, was immune to the freezing temperatures. The snow had been trampled by hundreds of tiny footprints, and here and there she could see evidence that the sleigh team had passed by the house. In the distance, through the veil of snow, she could see The Factory. The lights were on and smoke was billowing from the numerous chimneys. Even this close to departure time, it was still all a-bustle with activity. Whatever they didn’t complete in time for this year could always be counted towards next year.
She scurried across the snow, driven by the fear of what she had witnessed. Papa had to know what was going on. She reached the door and pushed it open without a moment’s hesitation. The sounds of Alvin and the Chipmunks singing All I Want for Christmas greeted her as she stepped inside, and she winced at the sound. Those little rodents always affected her like nails on a blackboard, but the elves worked best to any song by them, and on Christmas Eve, that particular song played all day long, and to add insult to injury, the elves always felt compelled to sing along. That was enough to drive anybody to commit suicide, but it wouldn’t do her any good. Her blessing – or curse – once she married Papa and moved to this magical land was immortality. If she could die, she knew what her Hell would be. She only had to stay in The Factory for an hour on Christmas Eve to have a small taste of it.
She started to climb the stairs, hoping against hope that Papa hadn’t started hitting the bottle yet because once Papa started drinking there was no talking him out of anything. If the children only knew the real reason for those rosy cheeks and that cherry-like nose, they’d be crestfallen.
There was still hours to go before his scheduled departure, but she kept her back to the wall as she made her way up the stairs to allow room for the elves as they made their way down the steps with sacks of toys to load into the sleigh. While not as big as Papa, her bulk was ample enough that if she wasn’t courteous, the elves would have had to wait until she reached the top. She could have taken the elevator, but that would mean having to make her way across the floor, and this close to departure time, it was a madhouse. Making her way through a minefield would have been less hazardous than trying to get through the over-industrious elves.
At the top of the stairs, she pushed her way through the wave of diminutive bodies flowing towards her and felt like a salmon swimming upstream. Her destination was the source of the swarming elves, an open set of double doors that led onto a gallery that overlooked the work floor. Once through the doors, she looked around, immediately locating her husband. He stood at the railing, supervising the activities below. He seemed oblivious to the events going on behind him, but he, like mothers, seemed to have eyes in the back of his head. Nothing slipped by him. Dressed in a wife-beater t-shirt, his red pants with white ermine trim, and black boots, he never failed to take her breath away. He was as handsome today as the day she married him, and just for one moment she completely forgot the urgency that drove her from the house. His moustache, shoulder-length hair, and beard that fell to mid chest were as white as the snow that covered the northern landscape. The love she felt for him rekindled the fear and she hurried forward.
He turned at her approach, a “Ho, ho, ho,” ready to greet her, but the expression on her face caused the laughter to dry up before it left his mouth. He crossed the floor and met her half way. “What is it, Mama?”
“You have to cancel Christmas, Papa. It’s too dangerous.”
This time the laughter did come out, deep belly laughs that really did make his belly shake like a bowl full of jelly. “Ho, ho, ho! Cancel Christmas? Not a chance.”