Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Christmas Chill | Short Story

 I wrote this last year, and rereading it this year, I discovered that it's probably better (in my eyes) than a lot of stuff I've written recently. So here it is, a nice, depressing, cynical short story for Christmas, with a weird ending. Enjoy, and I hope everyone has a wonderful and peaceful Christmas. (Basically, the opposite of this story.)

To most humans, it was a time of celebration. Humanity went about their daily business with an added frivolity, an added sarcasm, an added smile that wasn't needed, and occasionally an added smile that was. Relatives and in-laws arrived with presents, and the presents arrived with annoyance after being taken from house to house in the same bag, and building up the hopes of all the other sons and daughters and sisters and brothers and cousins twice and thrice removed that the relatives and in-laws had visited. “Oh no!” The relatives and in-laws would joke. “These aren't for you, it's a very big family y'know!” And then follow this with a laugh that seemed patronising to the little seven year olds who had opened the more exciting and less-sock shaped present in the bag was theirs.

But they were content when they opened their socks.

This celebration was called Christmas. It had been called Christmas by the pagans, and called Christmas by the religious, and called Xmas by all those too lazy to call it Christmas, and agreed that X was a perfectly acceptable abbreviation for Christ. For weeks now, everyone had been readying themselves and trying to get into the festive spirit. Perfectly beautiful landscapes that were untouched became touched by tinsel and occasionally graffiti that coupled the word 'Christmas' with an expletive. Choirs would walk from door to door – singing as soon as the door was even a centimetre away from it's closed position, rather than asking the owner of the house if they would like to hear their singing first. The aforementioned relatives and in-laws would spend most of Christmas in their cars and with their dogs that none of the other members of the family liked, but would receive comments of “we couldn't leave him at home” as the dirtied boots of these rarely seen relatives entered the front door. When their present giving and relative-touring was done, the relatives would return home (with their dog, thankfully) and allow the canine to open their presents for them, not long after a suspiciously dad-shaped Santa had placed them underneath the tree.

On this particular Christmas, a young man was walking home. He had his coat wrapped tightly around him in the cold, and the cold had it's long talons out to scratch any exposed piece of flesh. This was currently only the young man's face, and his cheeks turned red as the talons continued circling themselves on the surface of his skin. The young man, on his walk home from the local town, had been asked by six charities to donate money, and each time he had refused. He wished to, but his pockets were empty, and his wallet had become a rescue shelter for moths, so he simply shook his head and muttered his apologies, and continued his walk towards his home.

Somewhere on his walk home, the young man had noticed the talons of the cold had grown longer, and now seemed to be slipping round his waist and his legs. A further chill had been brought over his body. He had been distracted from it at first, as relatives and in-laws had been coming out of a series of houses near where he lived and had insisted on making some kind of conversation with him about trivial matters. Yes it was cold tonight. He would have preferred to have been in the warm and not making small talk about it. When he was alone, and focussing on the warmth that awaited him at his parent's home (as he had lost his own flat due to a lack of money and an increase in the moth population three months earlier), he felt colder.

It didn't bother him, until the chill started to increase even more. As if someone was not just walking over his grave, but tap dancing on it to music played from large stereo speakers attacked to the gravestone. The chill vibrated inside him, as if it was alive.

If it was alive, then it shall be killed by the heat, thought the young man, as he saw the rooftop of his parent's home appear out of the darkness and the navy sky. Yet the chill did not want to be vanquished – and it increased it's grip on the young man. It felt sentient, growing up the flesh inside his shirt, spreading to him, spreading down his legs, spreading inside him. Then his muscles started to ache, and he found his throat growing colder as he took a breath. He took another breath, and his temperature decreased further.
Then it seemed to reach his heart. The young man was forced to stop walking but the temperature, he rubbed his hands together to try and warm them up, but they only seemed to grow colder. In the distance, the young man could see lights and sound and people – reality. Reality was tempting him, but it was too far away. The young man was shivering uncontrollably.

The cold finally got too much for him – and no one, no relatives, in-laws, or friends, noticed.

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