Tag Archives: story

NEW YEAR’S DAY – SHAKESPEARE REWRITE: Kill Me Tomorrow, Let Me Live Tonight by Louise Gornall

20140102-014731.jpg
Happy 2014, everyone!! To celebrate the new year we have a Shakespeare rewrite by Louise Gornall. She usually writes urban fantasy, so I chucked her one of my favourite genres. This blue haired beauty is one of my bestest Twitter friends and I strongly suggest you go follow her. But first, read this. (And try to guess which of Shakespeare’s works it’s based on!)


Kill Me Tomorrow, Let Me Live Tonight
by Louise Gornall

Mum pulls her knife back and forth across her turkey breast. The perfectly polished silver blade catches the porcelain plate and makes a  screeching  sound. She smiles politely and dabs her lips with corner of her napkin.

“So, Oliver,” she says, reaching for the string of pearls around her neck. “Delilah tells us you’re an officer.” The words march out her mouth, coated in condescension. I lift my eyes and look at my father who appears to have frozen. The glass of Merlot in his hand hasn’t quite managed to meet his mouth.

“Yes ma’am,” Oliver says.

She doesn’t ask him to elaborate, instead she fixes a plastic smile, tilts her head a little to the left and raises her eyebrows.

Oliver gives me a brief glance before he starts telling my mother about his colorful army career. He talks, she twists her pearls and asks him questions that make my insides curl. I drink until my face goes fuzzy.

A thousand years later, dinner is over and Oliver’s entire life story is led in the middle of the table, spread eagle, panting and desperately seeking a cigarette.

My mother picks up the coffee pot. “White or…black?” she says, putting far too much emphasis on the black.

I choke.

It doesn’t matter how brilliant Oliver is. She can’t — won’t — see beyond the colour of his skin.

I need vodka.

“Would you look at the time. We really have to go,” I say, standing up, throwing my napkin in my dish, wishing I was throwing it at my mum’s face.

“You’re leaving? So soon?”

“We’re going to meet Charlie.”
My mum’s eyes light up. She loves Charlie, possibly even more than she loves me.

“Why didn’t you ask him to dinner?”

“I did. He already had plans.” I snatch hold of Oliver’s hand and drag him up off his seat.

“Goodbye, mother.” She kisses my cheek. I feel the sting of frostbite. “Send my love to Charlie. Tell him we’re looking forward to seeing him tomorrow.”

“I will.”

I bend down, lean into my father. “Goodnight, daddy.”

“Be good,” he says. I know his eyes are on Oliver. Not if I can help it, I think and flounce out of the room, dragging Oliver behind me.

****

The cold air hits me like a slap across the face and suddenly I feel sober. Oliver laces his arm through mine and we begin walking up the drive, leaving footprints in the fresh blanket of snow.

“Your parents seem to like Charlie.”

“My parents like anyone with money…”

“And white skin?” he interjects. I swallow nails.

“Who cares what they think? They’re vile. Horrible,” I say, pushing my lips against his. His mouth curls up into a crescent.

I continue listing all the things my parents are in between kisses, until he says, “You didn’t tell them we were married.”

“I told you I wouldn’t.”

“I didn’t think you were serious.”

“Why does it matter?”

He looks at his feet. I snatch his cheeks in my hands and lift his head. My thumb traces the bumps of a war wound under his left eye.
“I love you. That’s where I begin and end.”

My parents wouldn’t understand. They don’t know love. They don’t touch, don’t kiss, don’t cling to one another like the world is about to end. I’ve known Oliver a month and in that time we’ve shared more love than they have in twenty years.

The smell of stale liquor and cigarette smoke assaults my senses before we’ve even stepped into the bar. I breathe it in and exhale a blissful sigh.

The place is alive with laughter and music. It warms my insides like whiskey. Charlie is sitting at the bar, his face swallowed by his smile. He sees us, leaps up off his seat and ploughs into Oliver’s chest. I think of wild bears wrestling as the two embrace each other and exchange merry Christmas wishes.

“And who is this divine creature on your arm?” Charlie winks at me as he unwraps himself from Oliver’s embrace.

“Oh stop,” I tease and simultaneously flap my lashes.
He takes my hand, kisses it then spins me under his arm. Charlie and Oliver serve together. Without Charlie, Oliver and I might never have met.

“So, how did the big meet and greet go?” Charlie asks flashing two fingers at the bartender.

“It was ghastly.” I flail and throw a hand to my brow.

“Her parents think I’m a Neanderthal.”

“No?” Charlie replies, handing each of us a small glass overflowing with bourbon. I lick the sticky excess off my fingers.

“It’s true. They think he’s going to defile me.”

“Perhaps I should have told them I already have.” Oliver grins and throws his drink down his throat as Charlie and I laugh.

The world rocks back and forth, I feel like I’m on a boat. I’m tingling from the tip of my nose to the bottom of my toes. Oliver and Charlie have made friends with the pianist, they’re leaning against his piano, wailing to one another like a couple of warring cats. My cheeks sting from smiling.

I’m absently running a finger round the rim of my glass and making it sing, when someone taps me on the shoulder. I flick round, the face looking down on me puts a bullet in my mood.

“What do you want?”

“Is that anyway to greet an old friend?”

“You are no friend of mine, old or otherwise.”

“Don’t be like that.”

I look away, pick up my drink and watch the thick brown liquid splash around my glass. My unwelcome visitor, Nigel, sits by my side.

“Let me buy you a drink.”

I ignore him.

“Come on, Del.” He strokes the back of my hand with his finger and I fix a stare on him that I hope will peel the flesh from his bones. I’m more than disappointed when it doesn’t.

“What do you want, Nigel?”

“I wanted to say hello, maybe buy you a drink. I thought maybe with it being the season for forgiveness…”

“Well you thought wrong.”

He grins, all teeth.

“If you don’t forgive me our dance at your parent’s party tomorrow is going to be very awkward indeed.”

I feel like he just punched me in the gut.

“You’re not invited.”

“Am so. Your mother called this evening and invited me herself.”

“What if I don’t want you there?”

“I’ve all ready accepted.”

“Then un-expect.” He’s still grinning, it sours the liquor in my stomach.
He lifts his hand to my cheek, tucks a stray curl behind my ear and I am eighteen years old again, listening to this man promise he’ll love me forever.

“Del?” I startle and loose half of my drink over the side of my glass. Oliver’s glare flits back between me and the strange hand caressing my face. “Everything okay?”

“Can we help you with something?” Nigel says. He’s on his feet before I can take a breath. He’s half the size of Oliver, half his age too, but he squares his shoulders and juts out his box chin.

“Oliver, this is Nigel. Nigel this is Oliver, a dear friend of mine.” I see Oliver flinch when I say friend, feel it in the pit of my stomach, but I’m not about to start discussing my current relationship with my ex. This is not the time or the place. Oliver holds out his hand. Nigel doesn’t shake it.

“Nurse! Oh nurse,” Charlie calls from over by the piano. He’s chortling away, but I’m too busy watching Nigel and Oliver, trying to murder each other with silent stares.
“Del, I think I might be bleeding to death.”

“What?” My head snaps round to see Charlie cradling his face, rivers of red seeping through his fingers.
“Oh good Lord,” I squeal and snatch a Bourbon soaked napkin off the table. I hold it under his nose and tilt his chin with my fingertips.

“What happened?” Oliver asks. My shoulders drop. I’m sorry Charlie is bleeding, but I’m mostly relieved that Oliver is distracted.

The already waterlogged napkin is falling to pieces. A drop of Charlie’s blood drips on my hand, rolls down my wrist, slow and sluggish.

“Just started bleeding.” His words tumble from his lips in a drunken stupor and land in a pile on the floor. He wraps a sloppy arm around my waist and ushers me toward the bar.

“Barkeep, more of your finest napkins,” he yells. I look back over my shoulder, Oliver takes a step to follow us, but Nigel chooses this moment to take his hand and shake it.

*****

Charlie’s head pivots uncontrollably. I tug on his chin to keep it still.
“You’re making this impossible,” I snap. He finds this cute, flicks one of the curls from my forehead and giggles like a schoolgirl.

I can’t concentrate. Oliver and Nigel have been talking for ten minutes. Oliver keeps looking over at Charlie and I, his face crinkled with concern.

“All done,” I say, pushing a wad of napkin up Charlie’s left nostril. “Now breathe through your mouth.” It’s only taken six attempts to plug him up. Charlie lunges forward, kisses my cheek. His lips linger.

“You’re an Angel, Del,” he says. His voice lazy, sexy, just like it was the day he told me he loved me.

“Okay, Mr Baker.” I push him back. “Let’s get you home.”

I pull his arm over my shoulder. He leans into me, sags, and I feel the full weight of his one hundred and ninety pound frame hanging off my hip. Oliver sees me strain and dashes over.

“Need another set of hands?” Nigel is asking, but it’s too late. We’re already out of the door.

******

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Oliver says, turning his back on me. I lean over, plant my lips on his cheek.

“Goodnight then.”

He hasn’t mentioned Nigel since we got back. I know he’s sulking. It radiates off him, like heat from a fire. But if he’s going to be a baby about it, he can damn well stay in the dark. I slam my head back down on to my pillow and flick off the lamp.

“What did Charlie say to you?” his voice is shaky, darker than midnight.

“When?”

“When he kissed you?”

“He didn’t kiss me.”

“I’m not blind. I saw him.” I know then what him and Nigel were talking about. Nigel didn’t tell him about our affair. He told him about Charlie and I. Playing mind games is what Nigel does best.

“Charlie is like a brother to me. You know that. He’s like a brother to you too.”

“He’s in love with you.”

“Was.” It’s my turn to lie.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“There was nothing to tell.”

His breathing is heavy. I wait and wait, but he says nothing. My heart is charging. The darkness is suffocating. I close my eyes and wait for sleep to pull me under.

*****

I force my eyes open, and as always, run my hand across the space beside me. My palm does not find the lumps and bumps of Oliver’s chest as it normally does. I’m stroking empty sheets. I sit up, pull the covers up to my chin and drown in the freezing cold atmosphere that envelopes my room.

The rest of the day drags. I spend it alone, buried in my blankets, reading and trying to sleep away a blazing headache.

Oliver strides through our bedroom door just after five. He’s wearing a grin as big and as bright as the sun. I’m confused, concerned, but he walks over and plants a kiss on my cheek.

“We’re going to be late for your parents’ party,” he says, strolling over to the wardrobe. There’s blood on his cheek.

“Where’ve you been?”

“Shooting.”

I laugh. Oliver abhors anything pompous and overtly British. Horse riding, shooting, the royal family. It’s one of the things we have in common.

“Your friend Nigel invited me.” My throat tightens.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You never asked.”

Somewhere between dinner with my parents and our party at the bar, an ocean has formed between us. I should have expected it. This place has always been poisonous.
“Are you angry with me?”

“Of course not.” He slips off his shirt and pulls a crisp, clean white one off the hanger. “Are you planning on showing up to your parents house in bed sheets?” He winks, but I hear a seriousness in his words that makes me shrink.

“What if we don’t go to the party? What if we stay here instead?”

“Your parents would be disappointed.”

“My parents are always disappointed.”

“It’ll be fun,” he insists, buttoning up his shirt. “Give me a second chance to prove my worth.”

“Prove your worth? You don’t need to prove anything to anyone.”

He expels a laugh that makes the walls of our room shake. It’s thick and deep, distinctly patronizing.
“Get dressed,” he says, pulling his dinner jacket over his arms as he leaves the room.

*****

I’m wearing a red dress. It clings to every curve. The silk is cold, it makes my skin feel wet. My lipstick is the colour of blood and my neck is dripping with diamonds.

I’m charged, angry with my new husband for taking his self-esteem issues out on me.

I don’t know him here. I want to be back at the base, where past indiscretions are buried and he’s not being constantly reminded of the differences between us.

The first person I see when I step into the hall is Charlie. I free myself from Oliver’s arm, glide over and throw my arms around him.

“How’s the patient? Let me look at you.” I grab hold of his chin and inspect his face. I can feel eyes burning into my back. “Well the good news is you’re going to live.”
Charlie, picks me up and spins me round. Then, as always, he turns to his friend.

“What’s the matter with you? Face like thunder,” he says.

“Nothing a stiff drink won’t fix,” Oliver replies.

“Good shout.” Charlie throws his arm over Oliver’s shoulder and the pair wander off into the dining room.

A shadow falls over me from behind. “Curious fellow, that friend of yours.” Ice slips down my spine.

“What did you say to him?”

“Me? I didn’t say anything. It’s none of my business what you do, or who you do it with.”

I spin round to face Nigel. “That’s right. It’s not.”

The thing about Nigel is he has a way with words. It’s what makes him an amazing lawyer. He could argue black was white and end up convincing you of the same. Manipulating people is his sport.

“Stay away from us.”

“Not sure I can. I’m having far too much fun.”

“Darling, there you are.” Mum’s shrill voice cuts through me like a knife. She’s marching toward me, arms up in the air. I want to disappear.

****

“Let’s dance.” I grab hold of Oliver’s arm and pull him into the middle of the room. I can’t stand to watch him buddy up to Nigel a second longer. He wraps his bear arms around my waist and we sway in-time to some melodramatic, maudlin nonsense the band is playing.

“Don’t listen to Nigel. He’s very good at lying.”

“So, you were never with Charlie?”
I swallow hard, without meaning to, and he sees.

“Who is really the liar here?”

“I never lied to you.”

“But you didn’t tell me,” he growls and the couple beside us look over. I’ve never seen Oliver jealous before. It makes my skin prick.
“Nigel tells me you and Charlie are the reason your relationship ended.”

“That’s not true.” Mostly.

“So you didn’t find comfort in Charlie when Nigel was in America?”

“I…I…” The people around us have stopped dancing and are starting to stare. I feel like my dress has disappeared. He pulls me tighter into his chest. His fingers are pressed so hard against the bottom of my back I worry they’ll pierce my skin.

“I let you be alone with him. I let him walk you home. I let you undress him when he’s too drunk to help himself,” he snarls into my ear. “You must think I’m an idiot.”

I push myself back off him. Take a composing breath. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a headache.” I flee the room.

My mind is racing, my heart hammering at the back of my throat. I forget to watch where I’m going and collide with a chest.

“Del, what’s wrong?” Charlie. He runs the back of his fingers down my cheek. They come away wet. “Why are you crying?”

I hadn’t realized I was. My tongue has seized. I can’t talk. Sobs keep bursting from my throat. Charlie glances behind me then leads me into the nearest guest room.

“What’s happened?” He pulls a handkerchief from his breast pocket and dries my eyes.

“Oliver is upset. I’ve never seen him so angry.”

“Angry over what?”

“Over you and I?”

“What you and I? There is no you and I.”

“But there was. And Nigel has been poisoning his mind. His head is consumed with jealousy.”

“Stop crying. I’ll talk to him.” Charlie squeezes me and I sob into the nape of his neck. I feel safe.
“Tell him that he’s being ridiculous that you and I…”

The door slams shut. Charlie and I break apart so fast it makes me dizzy.

“Oliver, what on earth…” Oliver doesn’t give Charlie a chance to finish. He marches toward him and throws him arm forward. There’s a popping sound as bone connects with bone. Charlie wilts to the ground, blood dripping from the new split in his eye.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I shout, but he pushes his hand against my mouth and we fall back onto the bed. He stares deep into my eyes. I’m drunk just inhaling the fumes on his breath.

“Harlot,” he growls. I shake my head in protest as he snatches a pillow. I wriggle, try to break free from his grip, but he has the strength of an elephant.

“I love you,” I say when he moves his hand to hold down my arms. “Please. Don’t do this. Whatever you think you know, you don’t.”

“You think I’m a fool,” he spits. He keeps saying harlot, over and over again as lifts the pillow to my face. Tears are rolling down my cheeks and pooling in my ears. I’m still shaking my head.

“Oliver, don’t do this,” I choke as he pushes the soft, sweet smelling fabric against my face.

I can hear him mumbling. Talking about an affair with Charlie that never was. Talking about idiocy. About self worth.

In seconds my face is numb. I can hear the ocean in my head. He sobs, but pushes down harder on the pillow. I hear him tell me he loves me before everything goes black.


Advertisements

2 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS – FUTURISTIC: by Juliana L. Brandt

20131223-205329.jpg

 
On this Christmas Eve Eve, Juliana L. Brandt taps into the Ghost of Christmas Future – pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy this quick little number…
 


 
by Juliana L. Brandt
 
 
1 Volcanic rock crunched beneath Claus’s crimson snakeskin boots. Soft grey ash fell about his shoulders.

2 He took another step.

“We don’t gotta to do this Claus,” Frost shouted from behind him.

“No,” Claus took his 3rd step, “I’m sure we do. I gave you twenty-four hours to clear out of town, Frost. You’re still here, so now we duel.”

4 The pistol at his hip weighed against him. Claus kept his steps even.

“This ain’t your territory. I don’t know why you see fit to disrupt the community.”

“I’m merely taking back what was mine to begin with.” 5 “You’ve been naughty, Frost. It’s time the north fell back under Claus rule, and I plan on taking you down.” Claus tipped back the brim of his ten-gallon hat.

“The old rules shouldn’t apply. No one can control all the land.” Desperation snuck into Frost’s voice. “You keep the south. We’ll stop pushing at the border.”

“No.” Claus ground his heel into the earth. 6 steps gone, four left. The clouds above, heavy with smoking embers, hung low. Vapor clung about the shoulders of his duster.

7 Four generations past, no one would have contested his claim to this land, but the Clauses had become lax and the Frosts had snuck in. It wasn’t long before a perimeter had risen and the Clauses no longer reigned.

Frost’s 8th step came a moment behind Claus’s. A hesitation. A pause. “Don’t know why you think killing me will do any good. There are plenty of other Frosts after me.”

“Then I’ll take them all down too. You’re just a good place to start, is all.” He stepped again. 9. “You counting, Frost?” He called over his shoulder.

“10!”

Claus turned, flicking back the skirts of his coat. The revolver came loose from the holster. His finger found the trigger. A click. The kickback jerked his wrist, but his aim stayed true. Frost crumpled before he had freed his gun from his own holster. Burgundy blood blossomed across his shirt front.

Claus sheathed his pistol. One down. Soon enough, the world would be the Claus’s again. Under one rein. Winter, again, would be his.
 



3 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS – ADULT: Letting Go by Cassandra Page

20131222-203601.jpg

 
Christmas is getting so close now, so I thought you deserved a special treat – it’s Cassandra Page, author of Isla’s Inheritance, stepping out of her urban fantasy comfort zone into the world of the Adult. Cass is one of my nearest and dearest, and she’s a damn good writer. Check it out.
 


 
Letting Go
by Cassandra Page
 
 
Michelle decorates the house in silence.

In previous years, her home had been filled with carols and laughter. Her family decked the halls to Deck the Halls, and the night was anything but silent. At fifteen, Ben was too cool to hang baubles, and he’d ceded the right to top the tree back to his father after ten years of hogging the privilege. But Michelle caught glimpses of childhood delight behind his surly exterior, and hid her smile behind her hand.

That was before she found the emails.

Now she strings the tinsel alone, performing the familiar ritual not out of celebration but because she’s fallen into a rut with steep sides—too steep to climb. There is no joy in it. She hangs out his stocking next to hers, over the mantelpiece. The pair hang limply.

The phone rings, piercing the silence like a scream. A glass bauble slips from her fingers, shatters on the empty tiles beneath the tree.

“Hello?”

Silence on the other end. Then a familiar voice speaks. “Michelle.”

“Darren.” Her voice is as sharp as the glass shards. Glittering crimson.

“How are you?”

She fishes the dustpan and brush from under the sink, cradling the phone against her shoulder. “Fine,” she says. It’s even sort of true. She is hollow, mercifully empty of emotion behind carefully constructed walls. “Why?”

“Well, it’s the first of December, and I thought…” He trails off.

He knows her. After twenty years of marriage, he ought to. The first of December is when the decorations go up. And she’s alone.

“I’m fine.” A white-hot spot of anger flares, burning away some of the numbness. She grits her teeth, suppresses the emotion. If she lets anger in, the rest will follow. When she speaks, her voice is cool. “The divorce papers arrived yesterday.”

“You don’t have to do anything with them right now. Wait till after the holidays.”

“I signed them already.” She sweeps red shards onto the dustpan.

“Oh.” He sighs. “Did you want some company?”

“No.” She frowns. Why is he pretending to care? He left her after Ben— She can’t even think the word. “Is there anything else? I’m busy.”

He’s quiet for so long she wonders if he hung up and she didn’t notice. Then he says, “Have you read the emails yet?”

This old argument. When will he stop blaming her for what happened? “I read them last year.”

“Read them again. Properly, this time.”

“Leave me alone.”

“Goodbye, Michelle.”

She hangs up and tips the glass in the bin. It patters down onto a shrivelled banana peel, an empty milk carton, Darren’s discarded stocking.

It has been almost a year since her fight with Ben about the emails. Electronic love letters between him and that girl. Brittany. Bad enough that her boy was fourteen. Worse that the girl was so far from the wrong side of the tracks that she couldn’t even see them. Her older sister had died of a drug overdose; her father was an alcoholic who spent all his time at the RSL, feeding his welfare cheque into the poker machines.

Ben had stormed out of the house, hared off on his bike. The car hadn’t seen him in the dark.

The guilt claws at the walls around her emotions, tearing through them. Its talons are her grief, its wings her regret. She’s familiar with the beast. But before it can drag her down again, in a tangle of self-loathing and bourbon, a little mouse, curiosity, creeps in behind it.

The next afternoon, when the hangover recedes a little, she reads the emails.

***

The soup kitchen is bustling, the queue almost out the door. The first smell that invades her nose is of salty gravy, the next of unwashed bodies. She holds her breath and ducks inside.

“Hey, no cutting,” a bearded man mumbles, glaring at her from watery eyes.

“I’m not here to eat.” Her stomach churns. “I’m looking for someone.”

He smiles, gap-toothed. “Is it me?”

“No. Sorry.”

“Well, if you change your mind…” He winks, and she finds herself smiling back. Just a little.

“You might be able to help me. I’m looking for this girl.” She shows him the printout of the photo. It is pixelated, poor quality. Ben took it on his phone.

“Sure, I seen her. She’s up there.”

Michelle turns, squares her shoulders. Walks along the queue till she finds the girl.

“Excuse me.”

Brown eyes turn to her. There is no flash of recognition. Ben never introduced them. “Yes?”

“I’m Ben Rigby’s mother.”

Now there’s recognition. Also anger and grief. Brittany swallows the feelings, but Michelle can see they are old companions. As they are Michelle’s.

“What do you want?” Brittany says, eyes narrowed.

“To see you. I—” Michelle hesitates, looking the girl over. She’s the same age as Ben would have been, still a teenager, but looks older. Her hands are calloused from work; her bare arms bear faint green and yellow bruises, like bracelets.

“What?” The girl stares back, examining Michelle just as Michelle examines her. “If you came here to yell at me, forget it.”

“I didn’t. Actually, I’m planning Christmas dinner, and I wanted to invite you.”

Brittany’s mouth falls open. Then her expression hardens. “I ain’t interested in being your charity case.”

“It’s not about charity. I know you and Ben … cared for each other.” Brittany’s cheeks redden and she lifts her chin. Michelle looks down at her shoes, conspicuously expensive next to Brittany’s scuffed slip-ons. “I’ve spent the last year blaming you for taking him away from me, as much as I blamed myself for driving him away. And, well, Christmas is the season for forgiveness.”

“I don’t want your forgiveness,” Brittany says.

“No.” Michelle looks up, meets her gaze. “But I need to give it. If you’ll let me. I need to let go.”

The girl gnaws her lip, thinks for several moments. “I reckon Ben would want me to,” she murmurs. “Sure, I’ll come.”

Michelle feels something then that she hasn’t felt for almost a year. A tiny piece of joy. She gives the girl a piece of paper with details written on it. Brittany folds it, slides it inside her purse next to a battered photo. Ben smiles back at Michelle from the image, reminding her of Darren when they’d first met. She can’t help but smile back.

She pulls her phone out of her pocket. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone else I need to invite.”
 



4 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS – SATIRE: A Very Whedon Christmas by Angi Black

20131221-205720.jpg
 
Alright, you lovely ladies and gentlemen! Angi Black has done us the honour of writing an AMAZING satire. Read it, love it, and stick some words in that comment box at the bottom. Seriously, the title is ‘A Very Whedon Christmas’. GO!
 


 
A Very Whedon Christmas
by Angi Black
 
 
I sat at my desk, pouring over a story I was never going to finish. My editor had called four times and I’d ignored the ringing every time. I just wasn’t funny. There was nothing funny to me. I tapped on the keys wishing words as magical as rainbow-spewing unicorns would pour from my fingers. That didn’t happen. They looked more like the smiling pile of poo emolji on my phone.

I texted one to Bonnie, my editor.

The phone rang immediately. I picked it up, downing the last of my coffee.

“You missed deadline.”

“Fully aware, but trust me, you don’t want it.”

“Whether I want it or not, I have to have it. The anthology is happening.”

I huffed and puffed. “Tell me what to write then.”

I heard her nails clicking on her desk as she thought. “I don’t even care at this point, write me Christmas According to Whedon, for all I care, just have it to me by tonight. And make it funny!”

I sat there listening to dead air. Fine. Whedon Christmas it is.

**

A vampire with a soul, a slayer, and a witch walk into a bar.

They met up with Xander and danced to an emo 90’s band on a school night.

Ah, the good old days.

I deleted the joke. How do you write a Whedon Christmas? Hey kids, here’s Santa. He’s most likely a lovable demon whom you’ll adore and right after he’s redeemed and you’re feeling good about life – BAM – he dies.

Yeah. Merry Freaking Christmas.

I wracked my brain for good story ideas. How would The Night Before Christmas be different if it was a tale of Whedon? Maybe something like this:
 
 
T’was A Story By Whedon

T’was a story by Whedon, and all through the show
Your love for the characters was surely to grow.
But little Joss Whedon cares not one little bit
Their untimely end, so soon will they get.

The women were strong, not one needed saving.
They can fight crazy monsters without a head shaving.
Black Widow and Echo, and Zoe and Buffy,
Will always kickass, whether rainy or sunny.

The characters aware of their unusual plight,
Use witty banter to pull us into the fight.
They may not be perfect, or make the right choices,
But we root for the heroes with their snarky voices.

But after laughs and a cry and a cringe here and there,
A burst of song is coming, so please never fear.
Whether Lorne reads your soul or Dr. Horrible is reeling,
You can always count on Once More, With Feeling.

In Whedonverse, chaos is the order of the day
Fighting The Man is always the play.
The Mayor, The Alliance, the potent lure of power,
Order is the big bad sitting up in the tower.

Now Murder! Now Mayhem! Now heartbreak and fears!
On, Demons. On, witchcraft. On superhero tears.
To the deep darkest parts! To the edge of our soul!
Then tell us a joke to make big laughter roll!

Sometimes it’s goofy, and sometimes it’s rough,
But it’s always worth watching for any story buff.
A musical, a puppet, a sci-fi western in space,
In the big Whedonverse, they all have their place.

And then, just when you thought, what’s cooler than that,
Shakespeare at his house steps up to the bat.
With Wesley and Fred and Mal there to boot,
The movie shot in a month is just a real hoot.

Nothing is easy, not plain white and black,
Things are all gray, that’s a matter of fact.
Captain Hammer fights evil in sweet, singing style,
But Dr. Horrible still triumphs with a tear in his eye.

While Joss likes his heroes, and big storylines
He always makes time for the other little guys.
Like Xander and Tara and Coulson and Wash,
He’s happy to make their spotlight flash(ßMust be said with British accent to rhyme)

Each character is solid, a force all their own,
A story to tell, one that must be told.
As great as they are, they’re still individual,
But make them a team, they’re nearly invincible.

In the Whedonverse, you’ll meet lots of new faces,
But try not to worry because in all the right places,
You’ll see people you know and have come to love,
Fit seamlessly in, like a comfortable glove.

Sometimes Joss knows just when to quit,
Others get pulled too fast from his grip.
Firefly and Dollhouse, we miss you a lot.
Buffy season six, please run off to rot.

But to every project that’s been and the ones still to come,
To a place in our hearts, know you always can run.
For we Whedonites know it will all be all right
We hear those sweet words,
“Grr. Argh. And to all a good night!”
 
 
**
 
I looked over the words filling my screen. It could work, but what about plot. I mean, is Christmas a plot? Maybe I could make it easy and have a choir tell the story, like minstrels. Nothing is more Whedon than throwing in a song or two.

First, they can stop in Sunnydale:
 
 
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

You know Cordy and Willow
And Xander and Giles,
Dawn and Anya
And Angel and Spike.
But do you recall
The most badass slayer of all?

No?

She saved the world. A lot.

Buffy the Vampire slayer
Had a very pointy stake
And if you ever saw it
A big pile of dust you’d make.

All of the other Scoobies
Used to run and hide in fear
They always let poor Buffy
Save the day with her sweet gear.

Then one Graduation day
The mayor came to say,
Buffy with your plan so bright
Did you kill my Faith tonight?

And how Sunnydale loved her
As they shouted out, “Help me!”
Buffy the vampire slayer
You’ll go down in…well, the hellmouth, but really, that’s the same as history, right?

Next stop – L.A.:
 
 
Angel the Vampire

Angel, the vampire, had a tortured, hapless soul
With a leather jacket and the sewer track, and skin that’s really cold.

Angel the vampire, is a really old, they say.
He had a soul, but Buffy knows, Angelus came to life one day.

There must have been a loophole in that gypsy curse they cast,
‘Cause when the slayer dropped that ring, he came back to Earth at last.
Angel, the vampire, was as souled as he could be
But Xander would say, he could kill and slay,
So you better watch out, Buffy!

Contrivancey, hey, hey, contrivancey, hey, hey,
Look at the Powers That Be.

Contrivancey, hey, hey, contrivancey, hey, hey,
Up in the clouds, Is that Cordy?

Angel the vampire, knew the LA sun was hot,
So he bought a convertible for his car, because he’s super smart.

All through the city, he saves them if he can,
Running here and there, jumping in the air,
Sayin’, “Please, don’t touch the hair!”

He follows Cordy’s visions, and sometimes Lorne helps out.
There’s Fred and Gunn and Wesley, too. Fang Gang, yo – shout out!

But Angel, the vampire, had redemption on his way
He saved and saved sayin’, “Don’t you cry, I’ll be back to brood someday.”
 
 
Then they can go to space, because every good story should go to space!
 
 
Carol of the Mal

Hark! Serenity
Sweet Serenity
Now flies away
Mal seems to say
“No, not today.”
Jayne is all that,
Bringing his hat.
Crocheted to say
I’m on ebay.

De-fine De-fine
Interesting.
Oh god, oh god
We’re all
Going to die.

Hey, River Tam.
Browncoat, I am.
Safeword you say
NO grenades!

Oh Serenity.
Sweet Serenity.
Capt Mal is the best,
Jayne stands the test.
Wash holds a stance,
Hello, it’s a lance.

No, never fear
Capt. Mal is here
Never, never, never, never take
Never, never, never, never take

Oh Serenity
Sweet Serenity
No, they’ll never take
The sky from me

De-fine, De-fine
Interesting.
 
 
And there could never be a choir stop of Whedonville, without a trip to New York.
 
 
The Avengers

The Avengers, Must Assemble,
It’s time to fight for the city.
Suit up to fight, day or night,
Soon it will be Shawarma time.

Tony Stark snarks, Jarvis remarks,
It’s Ironman in that suit.
Hawkeye charms
Hey! Nice arms!
Please shoot an arrow.
Captain America,
Gets a new style
Bruce Banner keeps a smile,
And through the halls of S.H.I.E.L.D. you’ll hear

The Avengers, Must Assemble,
It’s time to fight for the city.
Suit up to fight, day or night,
Soon it will be Shawarma time.

Loki comes to Earth,
Thor’s brother by birth,
Though he says he’s adopted.
Hulk gets to smash,
Just in time for the alien blitz.

See Natasha
(She’s Black Widow)
Convince Bruce Banner to join.
And make sure to look for
Stan Lee!

The Avengers, Must Assemble,
It’s time to fight for the city.
Suit up to fight, day or night,
Soon it will be Shawarma time.

Suit up to fight, day or night,
Soon it will be Shawarma time.
 
 
I read back over my work, just thankful I’d completed the project. Happy with my words and what I thought to be terribly clever, I sent an email to my editor, prose attached. I began to close down my computer for the night when gmail dinged at me.
 
That was so quick, she must have loved it. Clicking the icon, I couldn’t wait for it to open. The screen lit, all white save one line. That had to be good news, right?
 
“I’ll go ahead and extend your deadline.”

Balls!
 



5 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS – APOCALYPTIC FICTION: by J. Elizabeth Hill

20131220-195106.jpg

 
CAN YOU BELIEVE THERE ARE ONLY FIVE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS? ME EITHER. Today the fantastical J. Elizabeth Hill begins the Christmas apocalypse. If you don’t know her, freaking follow her on Twitter. She’s ace, and so is this…
 


 
by J. Elizabeth Hill
 
 
I look around the yard outside the door leading down to our underground shelter, then down the road that leads to our town. The sky is grey overhead, the same shade as the ground. Snow mixes with ash as both fall, robbing the world of color. No one’s sure if the volcanoes have stopped. The radios stopped working a couple of days ago, so we haven’t had any news.
 
That’s bad, but even at twelve, I can tell things are getting worse. There’s almost no food left and now my brother’s disappeared. I have to find him before they shut the door for the night. Once that happens, no one will open it until morning, no matter what. They won’t even check who’s knocking, because it might be the others, those we turned away because there wasn’t enough room or supplies in the shelter. Ben, one of the grown ups, was talking the other day about how many they’ve refused to let in in the past week. He said if the others organized, they’d overrun us, but there’s no sign of them doing that. He called it a small mercy.
 
I understand why they can’t let everyone in, but I wonder if my parents were turned away, or if they’re just gone. I hope they’re at least out there and okay, but I don’t know anymore. I haven’t seen them for so long, not since before the sirens went off.
 
I look around again, trying to think if there’s anywhere downstairs I didn’t look, but I don’t think so. I’m almost certain he left and if he did, I know why. Last night, one of the grown ups had mentioned it was Christmas Eve as we were collecting our small ration of beans. Liam had brightened up for a moment, but then he’d asked how Santa was going to get to us without a fireplace. The shelter has an old furnace, enough to keep us from freezing, but Liam was certain it wouldn’t work for Santa. I don’t have the heart to tell my six-year old brother there’s no such thing. I’ve overheard some of the grown ups talking about how this might be the end of the world, depending on how bad the volcanoes are and how many have gone off now. How can I take Santa away from the kid?
 
The snowy ash is falling again, so it’s hard to pick anything out in the yard. Then I see it, a smaller shape than the other footprints, then another one a foot or so away from it. Footprints. And they’re the right size. I swear, then look behind me at Tom and Nick. Either they didn’t hear me or they don’t care if some kid who’s a stranger to them swears.
 
I take a step to follow my brother’s trail, but Tom calls after me.
 
“You shouldn’t go off, Matthew. It’ll get dark soon. You know what that means.”
 
I nod to show I heard him, but I go anyway. I’m all Liam has, and I have to find him. I can’t let anything happen to him.
 
Walking down the road in the dim light, my eyes never stop searching. I listen for any sound that shouldn’t be there. Only I don’t really know what our town should sound like when everything’s this messed up, so I jump at every sound, even my own coughing from the ash in the air.
 
The end of the road comes into sight and with it the rest of the town. It’s not much, really. Dad called it a wide place in the road, but he always smiled when he said it. Mom said it was a great place to raise a family. To me, it was the most boring place on Earth. Or at least it had been before the closest volcano had gone off.
 
I stop where the shelter road and Atterly Road meet. Atterly’s the major road in Vernon. Practically everything in town leads to it. From where I stand, I can just see the mouth of Tomkin, our street.
 
I’ve lost the tracks I’m sure were Liam’s. There are too many others around here, proof that there are still people around town. What if Liam’s been taken by one of them? Would they try to use him to get in the shelter?
 
The crash of glass nearby interrupts my thoughts. I see a chair lying in the street in front of David’s, the local diner. Someone’s tossed it out through the now broken front window. I hide behind a large tree, peaking around the trunk. I can’t let anyone sneak up on me and I need to know what’s going on.
 
I see two guys come out through the busted down door of David’s, each with a large sack slung over their shoulders. Both have cloths over their mouths, but they’re coughing a anyway, worse even than the grown ups who take turns at the door of the shelter. The two men talk for a few minutes, though I can’t hear what they’re saying. I think they’re arguing though. One shoves the other, but then they go off together. Grown ups never make much sense.
 
I wait as long as I dare before darting out to check that the two guys are out of sight. They are, and I breathe a sigh of relief. The street is empty.
 
Standing there at the corner, I try to decide what to do. Where do I even begin to look for my brother? My eyes are drawn again to Tomkin. I can see Mr. Smith’s house just a bit down the street, the porch columns wrapped in broad red and green ribbons. Our house is just three away from his. It’s not that far. I should be able to make it without anyone seeing me. I know I have to try.
 
I move as quickly as I can down Atterly, then turn onto Tomkin. As I pass Mr. Smith’s, I smell something familiar and look up to see smoke trailing from the chimney. I don’t stop or even think of going inside, though Mr. Smith’s always been nice to us. Maybe if Liam’s not at our house, I’ll try there.
The more I think about it, the more certain I am that’s where Liam’s gone. Last year, he discovered where Mom and Dad always hide our presents. He came running to me about it, as if he thought I didn’t know already. He might be after those, instead of looking for Santa.
 
I’m only one house away from ours when I hear a shout back down near Atterly. I leap over the hedge that borders the Richards’ yard without turning to see who it is. My back hits the ground and for a moment, the breath is knocked out of me. I hear running feet approaching and I know I have to move. If they saw me, they also saw me jump the hedge. I roll onto my hands and knees, the cold, crusted snow biting into my palms and fingers. Crawling toward the fake well, my chest is on fire the whole way. The moment I’m behind it I draw my knees to my chest and drop my head, trying to make myself small enough that whoever it is won’t see me.
 
“I’m telling you, it wasn’t one of ours. Do you think they opened the door at last?”
 
The voice is so close that I flinch. She’s got to be standing right where I went over. I pray she won’t see the trail I probably left in the icy, ash-laced snow.
 
“Probably. Can’t hide in there forever,” a male voice says.
 
I swear silently, using words Mom would yell at me just for knowing. Two of them, and both sounded like grown ups. I can’t possibly outrun them and the light is fading at an alarming rate. Even if I find Liam at our house and he comes with me willingly, I’m not sure we can make it back in time. The idea makes my stomach clench and my heart race, but I don’t have time for it.
 
“You think they’ve got any more supplies than we do?”
 
After a pause, the woman says, “I don’t know, Brad. Maybe. I mean, it’s the emergency shelter, but they built it during World War II. And that mountain went off before the scientists thought it would, and way worse. I’m not sure the supplies in there are any good. It’s possible we’re doing better out here than they are in there.”
 
She’s only partly right. They’d added to the canned food and other stuff, but the new ones were long gone. Now all we had were old cans of beans and corned beef, things like that. And every third or fourth one we opened was off. The grown ups were worried about it, but I was too busy worrying about trying to take care of Liam.
 
“Look, I’m not keen on waiting around here. I know you’re worried about some kid wandering around, especially with that bunch that blew through here yesterday destroying stuff, but we’re going to be in danger soon too. We need to get back to the house before dark.”
 
Brad sounds as anxious as I feel and I will them to give in to that. I need them to go away. I can’t possibly get anywhere without them seeing me, not if they’re standing there looking for me.
 
“But we can’t let a kid–”
 
“If the kid’s hiding, we’re probably not going to find them, not before we have to get back. Even if we do, whoever it is will probably be too afraid of us to let us help. Tara, be reasonable.”
 
After a long silence, Tara says, “All right. We’ll stop in to check on Greg though, and while we’re there, we’ll ask him to keep an eye out for anyone coming down this street.”
 
I hear them walk away after a moment, but I don’t move right away. They sounded so nice, like they were really worried. Were the others at the shelter wrong about those we’d locked out? What if they wouldn’t take everything, as I’d been told?
 
I shake my head and concentrate on listening for them or anyone else. I can’t afford to think about anything but finding Liam and getting us back to the shelter. It takes me a while to be sure I don’t hear anything. I peek around the fake well and no one’s there. I make myself wait for another moment, then run across the Richards’ yard, trying to stay low to the ground. I hop the low wood fence and land in my front yard.
 
It’s the first time I’ve seen the place since we evacuated to the shelter. Dirty snow lies everywhere, grey crusting the top. Our windows are coated with the stuff to the point that I can’t see in them. Mom would be pissed if she saw this. If she’s still alive. I’m starting to doubt that, though I keep putting on a brave face for Liam when he asks about them.
 
On the walkway, I see what I was hoping for. Footprints, though they’re barely visible under the fresh snow. But it’s not exactly what I wanted to see. Liam’s small ones are there, but so are larger ones. I can’t tell which are older and which are newer. Did someone follow my little brother back to our house? Is Liam even still here?
I can’t go in the front door. For one thing, anyone might be watching. I don’t know who’s out there. But that’s okay. I know another way in, if it isn’t locked.
 
I run along the side of the house toward the back, looking everywhere for watchers as I go. Suddenly I fall to the snow, my palms stinging as I try to catch myself. My feet are tangled in something. I look back, first to see if anyone’s there and coming for me, then to see what I tripped on.
 
It’s a belt, one I know well. It’s his favorite after all.
 
I glance around but there’s no sign of Liam or any more of his clothes. I’d check for any remaining signs of what happened, but I’m sure there won’t be anything left after all the flailing I did on the way down. I grab the belt and scramble back to my feet, running for the small window beside the deck, just above the ground.
 
Mom was forever telling us to leave all the windows of the house locked. Every time she found one unlocked, she fixed that. And I would come along behind her every time to unlock this one. It wasn’t an act of defiance. I just liked to go out and skateboard in the park at night. It was quiet and the stupid, cool people from school weren’t around to give me a hard time. The question now was whether Mom had discovered it unlocked before she and Dad left that last time.
 
I slide my fingers around the frame until I find the end of the fishing line. I tug lightly and the latch moves. The window opens a little. I pry it the rest of the way open, then look in the basement. Nothing’s out of place there. Along one wall, I see the boxes of seasonal stuff Mom keeps. Kept.
 
Rather than think about this, I climb through the window and drop to the floor. The sound of the window closing behind me is loud in the silence, but I know from experience it’s not even loud enough to be heard in the living room above me.
 
I make for the stairs and head up, skipping over all the places where they squeak and creak. At the top, I crack the door open and peer around. When I don’t see anyone, I open it all the way.
 
There’s dust and not much else. No one’s in sight, and I hear nothing. I don’t see any footprints in the dust here, but it’s the back end of the house, so I didn’t really expect to. As I make my way up the hall, I’m amazed at the way the floor is coated. I look back at my footprints, clearly visible. Mom would have a fit. It’s got to be the ash in the air causing this.
 
The front hall finally gives me some sign that my brother’s at least been here. His footprints are there, going to and from the door, but I don’t let it discourage me. All the footprints actually stop in front of the narrow glass panel beside the door and I can see smaller, grey handprints on the white curtain there.
 
I follow the tracks up the stairs and, to my surprise, most of them lead to our parents’ bedroom, not his. When I get to the door, I hesitate. I haven’t seen any sign of a grown up here in the house, so he’s probably alone, but what if he’s not? I know I’m letting fear take hold. I can’t afford to, not if we’re going to make it back to the shelter, but I can’t stop it.
 
I open the door and just about laugh with relief. There’s Liam, sitting in the middle of the bed with Dad’s box of mementos. It’s always been my little brother’s favorite thing and no matter how many times Dad tells him not to play with the stuff in that book-sized box, Liam goes straight for it every time he can. Only usually he’s got it spread everywhere, and this time he’s just holding it in his lap as he stares at me. There’s a bruise on his forehead, but he looks okay other than that. Except his eyes are wider than I’ve ever seen them. If he wasn’t smiling, I’d be more worried than I already am.
 
“I knew you’d come, Matty.”
 
Ugh. The nickname I hate the most. It took me forever to teach him not to call me that around anyone, not even Mom and Dad. Still, I’m so happy to see him I don’t really care this time. I cross to the foot of the bed.
 
“You can’t run off like that. We have to get back.” I try to hold off the scolding tone, but I’m failing. “What were you thinking?”
 
“I had to drop my letter to Santa off.”
 
I stare at him. “There’s no mail pick up anymore, Liam.”
 
“But Santa’s magic. He gets the letter the moment you drop it in the box.”
 
“Who told you that?”
 
He rolls his eyes at me. “Everyone knows it. All the kids at school were talking about it, how we shouldn’t let our parents take our letters, because they don’t need to.”
 
I decide not to argue with him. “Come on. We’ll talk about it when we get back to the shelter.”
 
“No! We can’t go now, Matty.”
 
Glancing at the window, I try to judge the time. It’s hard, with the windows so grimy and the sky always grey, but I’m sure the light is slipping away faster than ever. “There’s no time to argue. We have to go now. If we run, we can probably make it back in time.”
 
I reach for his arm, but he scoots back on the bed, all the way to the pillows.
 
“You’re not listening!”
 
Trying not to sigh or yell, I say, “Then tell me.”
 
“We have to wait here because Christmas isn’t over yet and Santa might still bring them.”
 
I can’t believe what he’s asking. He knows it’s dangerous outside the shelter. He’s been told that by everyone, yet he wants us to stay out here. “What did you ask for that’s so important?”
 
He looks down at the box and chews his lip, telling me I haven’t masked my irritation as much as I’d hoped to. His reply is too quiet for me to make out, even in the otherwise silent room.
 
“What was that, Liam?” I ask in the kindest voice I can manage while every instinct is screaming at me to just grab him and drag him back.
 
“Mom and Dad.”
 
I can only stare at him. Suddenly I wish I’d told him the truth, that Santa’s a myth. Instead, I’m stuck with this line of crap. “I don’t think he does that sort of thing.”
 
“But he has to. When I wrote my letter, I told him he had to bring them home, because then you’d smile again.”
 
“What?”
 
His eyes are shining now in the dim light. “You never smile anymore, and you don’t play. You’re not fun. You act like everything’s fine but it’s not. You’re sad all the time and you’re getting all grown up and I hate it, Matty. I want my brother back!”
 
I feel like someone punched me in the gut. Have I really been like that? The more I think about all the extra stuff I’ve been doing, trying to show we can pull our weight around the shelter, the worse I feel.
 
“Please, we have to stay until the day’s over. There’s food in the pantry. Remember? We didn’t take it with us. We can have a dinner that’s not beans. Our Christmas feast. Please, Matty?”
 
I look into his eyes and sit on the edge of the bed. I don’t have the heart to tell him what I really think will happen, anymore than I can bear to tell him Santa’s not real. Besides, I want to believe with him. I want to wake up in the morning and find our parents have come home. It’s a stupid idea after so many days, but I hope for it all the same.
 
With a heavy sigh, I nod and Liam throws his arms around me in the most crushing hug his little body can manage. When his grip finally eases, I grab the blanket from the end of the bed and wrap it around him. Darkness is falling anyway, so it’s too late to get back tonight. “We’ll stay until morning, then go back.”
 
“We’ll take Mom and Dad with us.”
 
He grins at me and my throat closes up for a second. I pull the comforter around us. At least he’ll still have me in the morning, and I swear to myself I’ll do better at being his brother. He deserves that much, since he can’t have his Christmas wish.
 



7 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS – in the style of GREEK MYTHOLOGY: The Christmas Scroll by Rob Kristoffersen

20131215-191041.jpg
 
There are only seven days until Christmas, so in honour of such an occasion, today Rob Kristoffersen unfolds a scroll of Herculean proportions (see what I did there?) What better way to ring in the final week ’til Christmas than with an Odysseus-esque tale?
 
(This made me giggle a tad. In a good way.)
 


 
The Christmas Scroll
by Rob Kristoffersen
 
 
“Today the Christ birth is celebrated with the arrival
of the preternatural being and the human.
The magi gifted domain to celebrate His birth,
man feasts with Behemoth and expels Satan’s hand
on the good earth.”

 
– Romanos the Melodist… probably

 
 
No one ever expected that one of the codices found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, would have ended up in the hands of Carl Gustav Jung, but it did.
 
Two brothers, literally digging for shit (fertilizer), unearthed a library near the Jabal al-Ṭārif caves containing numerous codices (leather bound books). At first, they tried selling them, splitting them up to maximize profits. They got uneasy; they started to burn them.
 
The only one to get out of Egypt was purchased by a Belgian antiques dealer. After numerous failed attempts to sell the manuscript, it was acquired by the Carl Gustav Jung institute in 1951 and remained among their collection even after Jung’s death in 1961. When it was finally returned to its homeland in 1975, scholars dubbed it the Jung Codex, the first in the series. They also noticed that there were pages missing.
 
A debate raged for decades as to the whereabouts of those missing pages, and until recently, they remained hidden.
The funny thing about grave robbers: nothing remains in their hands for long. It’s a cut throat world and the past can only remain hidden for so long.
 
This is the Christmas Scroll, so named for its rolled nature, most likely done by Jung himself. It’s in Coptic, most likely translated from Greek. It’s author is unknown, and as a Gnostic work, it’s largely ignored by the Christian community.
 
In the time of Christ’s resurrection; when the thirty year old martyr appeared before His disciples and fulfilled His promises, He left the Earth. His physical presence dispersed, but continued working through the miracles of humanity, most notably, the conversion of Paul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.
 
After He made John the Revelator, Jesus took the rare creatures from the Earth.
 
Mankind saw turmoil. Those who aligned themselves with the Christ figure were crucified like He was. Nero’s particular form of cruelty could be heard by violin, and it sounded like burning. Nero would fade; Rome would see the rise of Christ.
 
During Man’s time, the demons no longer walked among men, trying to steal their souls. The angels watched, but from a distance. For 300 years, man progressed. He became closer to God and closer to the Earth, until the demon Krampus walked the earth. Satan created him and sent him every December, his month of choosing being a mockery of Christ’s birth in the spring time. Krampus was of large stature; tall, with a large set of horns on his head, a tongue that jutted from his mouth often. His legs and ears resembled a goats, and he was completely covered in white fur. The legend of Yeti in the high Himalayan hills were attributed to him, as his loud roars would echo off the mountain tops.
 
Krampus would emerge on December 5th with a basket hanging over his back, walking the town of Myra in Lycia. He would take three children every year and violently shove them into his basket. He would feast on the flesh and sins of mankind to sustain himself for another year.
 
God saw this and devised a plan. He would send a human, but not Jesus; his time was over, though his second coming is foretold. God sent Nikolaos of Bari, one of the signers of the Nicene Creed at the First Council of Nicea and Bishop of Myra. God granted powers of the Divine unto him. He would urge everyone to remain indoors on the 5th day of December, and to leave a pair of shoes outside all their doors. When Krampus was defeated, he would leave coins in everyone’s shoes as a sign of the peace to come.
 
Nikolaos would walk with an empty scabbard at his side, and a rod in his hand. His robe shone red against the night sky as a beacon of hope. Krampus would walk the streets of Myra and Nikolaos would meet him. They would battle each other with the powers they were granted, and good would always win.
 
Of the powers granted to Nikolaos, the greatest was love. To Krampus love was like the sharpest sword against the fairest skin. Krampus would leave the Earth every year in defeat and would leave it forever in Nikolaos’ final year.
 
When Krampus had taken his final steps from the good Earth, Nikolaos would walk from house to house, placing the coins in every shoe. When the citizens of Myra heard the sound of coin hitting shoe, they would emerge, one by one from their homes.
 
On the 6th day of December, there would be a feast. Nikolaos would call forth Behemoth, for he carried the feast in his mouth. Together, Myra would partake. When the feast was over, a great rumbling would come from the sea. Leviathan would emerge from the sea and a great fish rode his back. When that fish touched land, he would take human form, and the great Monk Fish would lead the people of Myra in prayer. When the prayers were lead, and the Monk Fish was finished, he would return to the sea on the back of Leviathan; Behemoth would return to the ground. Man would find peace for another year.
 



8 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS – SPY FICTION: Oh Come All Ye Assassins by Jolene Haley

20131215-191041.jpg
 
Can you believe it’s just over a week until Christmas? Today I bring tidings in the form of a snow-filled spy fic courtesy of the wonderful Jolene Haley. Jolene’s home-genres include YA horror and action/adventure, so she was out of her depth with this one, but she nailed it like a Chinese throwing star.
 


 
Oh Come All Ye Assassins
by Jolene Haley
 
 
Merry Christmas you heartless bastard, thought special agent Mason Blackwell.
 
He could have been home, in Oregon with his family and his high school sweetheart (who always seemed to linger), drinking eggnog from porcelain cups.
 
But no.
 
Instead he was in some New York hotel, thirty-nine floors up, utterly alone and loading a sniper rifle.
 
If he got the hit done quickly, Mason could be on a plane in a few hours, to be home before the snow melted on the ground. He only went home once a year, always at Christmas, which is why he was particularly peeved at his assignment.
 
An assignment on Christmas wasn’t normal for him. And if there was one thing Mason hated the most, it was a change of plans. It was a bad pet peeve for a secret agent.
 
Mason Blackwell was born a happy bouncing baby with brown hair and crystal blue eyes. He smiled often and visitors of the child would often comment on his good looks and cleverness. In thirty years, not much had changed except for the fact that now Mason (also known as Agent 99) rarely smiled and well, now he murdered people for a living.
 
Most people didn’t know Mason. He was a shadow in the night. A lone figure on a building top. A figure disappearing into the darkness of an alley.
 
Mason glanced at the clock.
 
11 o’clock.
 
The message with his target always came in at 11:01 on the dot. Anything else meant that the mission was compromised. He watched the clock, inching closer to the phone.
 
Exactly at 11:01 am the phone rang.
 
“Yes?” Mason said.
 
A robotic voice was on the other end. Mason knew from experience that it was a text based computer program that read type.
 
“99, this evening is the mayor’s ball. Wouldn’t it be nice for a dance?”
 
The line went dead.
 
He rolled his eyes. Sometimes the company was so dramatic.
 
Mason hated when an assassination wasn’t just a quick shot. He much preferred the calls that detailed only a name, a place, and a time. It was easy and quick, for him and his target. Instead, giving Mason only a location meant that there were more details to come and he’d likely have to take someone out at a close range. He hated that.
 
Seeing the light drain out of someone’s eyes was never something to get used to.
 
Mason much preferred intelligence-based missions over contract killing. He could extract information from any person with ease. It was a natural born talent. Sadly, those missions were few and far between.
 
Tonight, he’d probably have to strangle someone or inject a poison into some poor bastard. But this was just another hazard of being an agent at the Intelligence Rescue and Observation Network, or IRON for short.
 
Of course they couldn’t make it easy on him for Christmas. This whole thing was just plain wrong.
 
Mason was already dressed to a T, with an expensive black fitted suit and shoes the color of coal. His brown hair was gelled in place and his white teeth were dazzling. He’d be the last person anyone would expect of foul play. Mason always said that any person who said being good looking was not an advantage was either lying to themselves or just plain ugly.
 
At six o’clock, Mason walked into a ballroom filled with hundreds of people. The floors were covered in a rich, scarlet carpet and the walls were gold with crimson trim. The rest of the attendees were as put together as the décor.
 
And now the part that bugged him… the wait. Until next contact, he had no choice but to observe, mingle, and meet people. Since he spoke ten different languages fluently, he could easily move between them. One minute he would be Pierre Le Fonsec De Plume, foreign royalty, and the next he’d be Barry Barnes, powerful and rich investor. People were way too trusting with the information you told them.
 
“Excuse me.”
 
Mason felt a hand clutch his bicep.
 
Sometimes it was hard to balance his training with the real world. Normally anyone that touched him would be taken out with a swift thrust to the face. But here, in a crowded ballroom made of magnificent columns and velvet curtains, shedding a stranger’s blood wasn’t an option. He’d have to at least wait to get them in a janitor’s closet..
 
He unclenched his jaw, and turned with a smile.
 
In front of him stood a woman with golden brown hair and the face of an angel. Her dress was long, made of black lace, and hung just right on every curve of her body. Those types of girls were the most dangerous. She could be a spy—just like him, sent to distract him from his mission. She could be a fellow agent at IRON. Hell, she could be his mark.
 
“Yes, madam?” Mason took her hand in his, bent over in a bow, and kissed it while making eye contact.
 
She gave a slight smile before replying, “I saw you across the room and I had to meet you. I don’t think we’ve met. My name is Victoria Queen..”
 
Of course they haven’t met. It was one of Mason’s first times in New York.
 
“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” Mason said, grinning.
 
She didn’t move. She wanted to make small talk. Mason did not mind chitchat, but not while he was waiting for a sign.
 
Just keep walking lady, Mason thought. But no luck. She stood her ground.
 
“Are you from New York?” he asked to be polite, but made a point to look around as if he was looking for someone. You know, the way people with manners say, “fuck off.”
 
She didn’t answer his question. Instead, Victoria Queen held out her arm. “Would you like to dance?”
 
A smile spread across his face and Mason was torn between feelings of flattery and annoyance. Women. They could never resist him in a suit. Too bad Victoria wasn’t finding him at an airport bar or something. He’d dance alright, horizontally, until the early morning. But they weren’t at some dive bar and Mason was on official IRON business. Now wasn’t the time for distractions.
 
“Thank you for the offer, but I’m waiting for someone. A date.” He gave her a fake grin and spun away to keep looking around.
 
She leaned in, placing her hand back on his arm. “Don’t be a fucking liar, 99. It’s the mayor’s ball. Wouldn’t it be nice for a dance?”
 
It didn’t really matter who Victoria Queen was before that moment. But once those exact words left her mouth, she was much more. She was now a sexy walking and talking information database that knew about him and his mission. He needed to find out more about her.
 
Mason’s left brow rose. “I’d love to dance.”
 
She grabbed his arm and led him to the dance floor. His arm snaked around her waist, pulling her close. Mason led but only because Victoria let him.
 
Mason inhaled the scent of lavender that emanated off of Victoria’s body. She was mesmerizing to him in more ways than one.
 
“So?” Mason started, whispering into her ear, while keeping his eyes searching around the room. Sure he wanted to know what she was doing here, but Mason knew one thing: something felt off. IRON would never send an agent to him in person. He usually just received a sign of some sort or a coded message.
 
What exactly was Victoria Queen’s game?
 
“Listen very closely, 99. In a few moments a man in a red tie will walk past us while we dance. He will smile in your direction and then disappear up the stairwell. It’s not a chance encounter. Tonight, you’re his target. And I’ve been sent to save you.”
 
Mason blinked, trying to keep his feet moving while he wrapped his brain around Victoria’s words.
 
Ten years with IRON, and all of a sudden they want to take him out? Assuming it was true and Mason was a target, this Christmas could be his last. He shook his head to will away the idea of his family having Christmas day dinner without him.
 
Fuck that. Mason wasn’t going to die. He would save himself, just like he always had if an assignment went awry. Victoria seemed like she was there to help. But was she really? What if Victoria was full of shit? He needed to be careful. There were a million reasons not to trust her.
 
“Why would I be someone’s target?” Mason asked. “I haven’t compromised any information, I’ve followed every rule, and I’ve always done exactly what was asked of me. So what’s going on, Victoria? You’re doing to need to give me a little more information.”
 
Victoria’s skin glowed under the lights and her dazzling smile almost made him forget what a serious situation he was in. She took her time, but finally answered.
 
“That’s a great question, 99. Why would you be a target? Who exactly did you piss off?” Her expression changed from playful to dark in a moment. The smiling woman’s eyes had turned from playful to passion, treachery, and secrets.
 
Sure Mason had killed a lot of people with targeted hits, but they were controlled and calculated. Hell, those orders had come directly from the company! Was someone in his agency responsible for designing some type of sick game where the lion becomes the lamb?
 
Mason chewed his bottom lip as he tried to figure out Victoria. A color caught his attention.
 
Red.
 
A man with black hair walked past the dancing couple. He was wearing a red tie with his otherwise black ensemble. As he passed, he made direct eye contact with Mason, gave a smile and a wink, and headed up the stairs.
 
Victoria had seen the man too. “Believe me now?” Victoria said with a smirk.
 
“So, who exactly are you?” Mason asked. “Why would someone be after me? Why are you even here?”
 
Victoria shook her head. “Why are all the pretty ones, little idiots? Don’t you see? We’re on the same team, Mason. I’m here to save your ass. So excuse me when I say suck it up and let’s go pay a visit to the man in the red tie.”
 
Victoria broke away from Mason and he followed her up the winding grand staircase.
 
They worked quickly and methodically, both clearing each room for the other assassin. So far, all five rooms upstairs in the left wing were empty.
 
Mason stared down the hallway at the right wing. The man that would try to kill Mason would be discovered in the next five rooms. Mason swallowed hard and shook his head. He could not believe that something like this could happen to him.
 
Let’s get this over with.
 
Each room was cleared on the right wing, except for one; the men’s bathroom.
 
Mason reached into his jacket pocket for his small, trusty handgun, and slowly opened the door, his heart thrummed against his ribcage. Even though Mason had faith in his abilities, the fact that he was a target was unnerving him. He couldn’t make his pulse slow down. Nerves meant mistakes, and Mason wouldn’t have it.
 
Mason plowed through the door, startling the man he’d seen downstairs, who was washing his hands at the bathroom faucet. Mason had his gun raised. This man sure didn’t look like some contract killer. In fact, with a deer-in-the-headlights expression and hands raised in the air, he looked like he was anything but a secret agent.
 
Moments later a woman’s voice rang from behind Mason.
 
“Lower your weapon.”
 
Mason turned his head back to see Victoria standing behind him, gun aimed at his head.
 
What the fuck.
 
Mason had to decide. Who was the bigger threat? Mason swiveled his body around, aiming his gun at Victoria. The man in the red tie ran from the room, cowering and whimpering.
 
“You,” I whispered to Victoria.
 
She smiled and slowly nodded. “Silly boy. Don’t you know better than to trust a complete stranger? I mean, how easy were you trying to make it for me?”
 
“But what about the man? The red tie? The wink?”
 
Victoria shook her head. “It’s called intelligence and observation, 99. That man was the mayor’s brother. I got here early to meet him and noticed he was greeting and winking at all the guests. He was easy bait.”
 
“Why me?” Mason’s eyes were darting back and forth between Victoria and the room. There had to be a way out.
 
“99, there are so many reasons for this but we don’t have time to go into it. Since you pulled a gun on the mayor’s brother like a genius, I’m betting we only have about three minutes left before police storm in.”
 
There were no large windows in the bathroom and nothing nearby that Mason could knock over to startle Victoria. There was no clean escape route except to run directly over her. He needed a plan, and he needed it now.
 
“What do you want, Victoria?”
 
“You, Mason. Don’t you get it? You’re my mark.”
 
Mason shook his head in disbelief. “After everything I’ve done for IRON. I can’t believe this. Let me go, Victoria. For all you know, you could be next. If they can turn on me, they can turn on you.”
 
Mason needed to keep her talking and distracted. Sadly, Victoria, didn’t take the bait.
 
A troubled looked flashed across her face, if only for a moment.
 
“One,” She started.
 
Mason could shoot her and hope she didn’t have time to pull the trigger herself. That was a tough plan, because most agents were sharp shooters.
 
“Two.”
 
Assuming she was only counting to three, Mason didn’t have much time left. His eyes worked from side to side. Shit. Shit. Shit.
 
“Merry Christmas, you poor bastard,” Victoria said.
 
Mason lunged at Victoria as the sound of her gun pierced their ears.