Spec the Halls entry – Happy Christmas Morning

This story is a part of the Spec the Halls contest for speculative winter holiday-themed fiction, artwork, and poetry. You may find guidelines and links to other entries at http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html

    Happy Christmas Morning.

Carrie’s eyes flew open, her heart was pounding. It was Christmas morning. It had to be, because yesterday was Christmas Eve and now it was a whole new day. It was still very early. Carrie knew it was early because it was still dark, she couldn’t see much of her room. There was a bit of light coming from under her curtain but Carrie thought it was probably the street light.

Carrie lay in bed, paralysed with excitement. It was Christmas at last, after all the waiting and the wishing and the agony. Carrie had spent all of December preparing for Christmas. So many hours making gingerbread with her mother, decorating the Christmas tree, drawing cards and writing Merry Christmas inside them and putting them into envelopes for her friends at school.

Last night had been the hardest. Carrie and her parents had sung Christmas carols, although her father didn’t know some of the words, and they had watched A Christmas Carol on the vidscreen, but Carrie hadn’t been a little bit sleepy even when it was an hour after her bedtime.

But that was over now, it was Christmas morning. Carrie slid her feet out of the bed, moving as quietly as she could manage. She slipped her feet into her bunny slippers, pulled on her dressing gown and slowly, ever so slowly, crossed the room to her bedroom door.

She’d long ago mastered the art of opening her door silently. First she picked up Mr Squiggleberry, her teddy bear, and smushed him over the speaker box. That way the beeping that her door did to let people know it had worked would be smothered. Second she put her towel along the floor so that the door wouldn’t make a banging noise when it slid open. The doors weren’t supposed to bang like that, Carrie knew, but their section of the station wasn’t as new as it had been. Her mother sometimes said it was falling apart, but Carrie’s father said she was overreacting when she’d said it.

The door opened and thumped gently against the bunched up towel end. Carrie snuck out into the shared habitation area. The Christmas tree was still lit up, the fairy lights glowing red, purple, blue and yellow. Under the tree were the presents Carrie already knew about, the small green plastic wrapped packages that her parents had put under there a week ago and which she had spent a long time feeling. She had guessed what each one of those was.

Carrie looked over by the wall, where she had hung her stocking. The stocking was one of her old microfiber boot liners that she’d grown out of. The terrain outside the station was still not completely terraformed, so extra layers of protection were required. The stocking was bright green and Carrie had painstakingly sewed on it a yellow star cut out from one of her mother’s old shirts.

The stocking was bulging and there was something sticking tantalisingly out of the top. Carrie stood and stared, overwhelmed with anticipation. She hoped it was the stuffed pony she’d asked for. Carrie was bursting with a need to look in the stocking but her parents had forbidden her to touch it until they were awake.

There was only one thing to do.

Carrie ran to her parents’ bedroom door, punched in the access code and burst into the room.
‘It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!’ she shouted. They didn’t move immediately so she jumped up onto the bed and onto her father’s shoulder. ‘Wake up, wake up, Santa came!’

Carrie’s mother moaned and rolled over, she blinked at Carrie. ‘What time is it?’ she said.

‘It’s Christmas time!’ Carrie said. Her father shifted under her and she slipped down between the two of them.

‘S’not even oh six hundred,’ her father said. He sounded groggy.

‘Santa came! Can I open my stocking now?’ Carrie nudged her mother’s arm. ‘Can I?’

‘OK, go back to the lounge, we’ll be up in a moment. Just look at the tree ‘til we get there.’

Carrie slid back off the bed and ran back into the shared habitation area. She knew her mother called it a lounge because of that’s one of the words they used back on Earth, but to her it would always be the SHA. Carrie sat on the cushioned seating units and bounced up and down, she looked back at her parent’s room every couple of seconds. She could see them get out of bed, pulling on their dressing gowns and talking. She couldn’t hear what they were saying.

Finally they came into the SHA.

‘Can I have it now?’ Carrie asked.

‘I need a coffee,’ Carrie’s mother said. ‘Wait until I have my coffee.’

‘Awww,’ Carrie said. Her father sat down next to her. He stretched one tentacle out, reached across the room and wrapped the tip gently around her stocking. He unhooked it from the wall and drew it back over to the seat.

‘You can hold it,’ he said, ‘but you can’t take anything out til Mummy gets back, alright?’

‘Thanks Dad,’ Carrie cuddled into her father’s side, balancing the stocking on her lap. He laid one tentacle across her shoulders, hugging her close.

Carrie listened as the kettle boiled and her mother manipulated the mysterious machine that produced coffee. She came back in, holding two steaming mugs. She gave one to Carrie’s father and sat down on the other side of Carrie.

‘Go on then, let’s see what Santa brought you.’

Later, when Carrie had torn the paper off all her presents and given the gifts she’d made to her parents and they’d had breakfast and Carrie was dressed they had a moment of quiet.

‘This is nice,’ Carrie’s father said.

‘My advent calendar!’ Carrie shouted, ruining the tranquillity. ‘I haven’t opened today’s window!’ She leapt up from the seating unit, ran across to the communicator and picked up the battered cardboard. It had a big picture on the front, of an apartment building in one of the old Earth cities. There were people on the street outside it, walking with plastic bags full of presents. There was a Santa in one corner, ringing a bell. Her mother had called the picture ‘quaint’ but Carrie thought it was beautiful, she loved to look at all the things in the windows, like the old fashioned televisions and the optometrist shop that sold glasses.

She ran her fingers over the picture, looking for the one unopened window. There, with the number ‘25’ on it, she pulled it open and looked at the tiny drawing underneath. ‘It’s some people looking at a baby,’ Carrie said.

‘It’s the birth of Jesus,’ Carrie’s mother said.

‘Not this again,’ Carrie’s father said. Carrie looked up, he had sounded grumpy and she could see his skin was turning a darker shade of purple, which meant he was angry.

‘Don’t be like that, darling,’ Carrie’s mother said. ‘It is the reason why we have Christmas. I mean, his name is right there in the title.’

‘I think it’s archaic and strange,’ Carrie’s father said. Carrie tried not to cry, she hated it when her parents disagreed and this was Christmas day, they should all be happy. Carrie’s mother could see Carrie’s chin wobbling and held out her arms to her.

‘Well, that’s how it started out,’ Carrie’s mother said. ‘But it’s not really why we do all this.’ Carrie climbed up onto her mother’s lap, clutching the advent calendar. She wished she’d never opened the stupid last window.

‘Why do we do Christmas then?’ Carrie asked. Her father turned to look at them, clearly wondering the same thing.

‘Well, I guess it’s because it’s good to let people know how much you love them,’ she said.

‘But surely we should do that every day,’ Carrie’s father said. ‘Why would you restrict that to one day in 365? Why not just treat each other nicely?’

‘Humans aren’t very good at that, I’m afraid,’ Carrie’s mother said. Carrie leaned back into her arms, listening hard. ‘We forget, we get grumpy and we treat each other badly. We have wars and take each other for granted. We have Christmas to remind ourselves that we can love each other as well.’

‘Hmph,’ Carrie’s father said.

‘And of course, it’s nice to have a reason to get dressed up and eat a lot of delicious food,’ she tickled Carrie, making her laugh. Carrie had been asking about the Christmas feast all month.

‘Well, I can’t disagree with you there, the feast part of it is pretty amazing,’ Carrie’s father said. He looked at his wife and child and smiled at them. ‘Of all the human traditions you brought with you this is the strangest, but I guess I can get into it.’

Carrie leaned over and gave her father a kiss on his long rubbery face. ‘Merry Christmas daddy,’ she said.

‘Merry Christmas kidlet,’ he said. ‘Come on, time for the rest of the presents.’ Carrie jumped down from the seating unit and sped over to the Christmas tree to sort out which presents were for her.

‘You think this is strange? I must’ve never explained about Easter to you,’ Carrie’s mother said.

‘Hmmm?’

‘A giant rabbit brings chocolate eggs.’

Carrie’s father just looked at his wife uncomprehendingly and then he smiled. ‘You’re joking.’

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The Mega Roleplaying weekend where I ran the Big Brother superheros game. The quotes still make me laugh. “I love you Streak”. These quotes too.

Huh. My first impressions of reading Twilight were very good. But New Moon made me a bit angry. By the time I got to reading Eclipse I was a bit over them, especially since the Bloody Jack books are so freaking good.

Writing is hard.

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generic funny links which are good.

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Exquisite Corpse

This entry is part of an on-line exquisite corpse – a short story told in 10 installments by 10 different authors. My 250 word installment is below; if you’re interested in writing the next part, scroll down to the bottom of this post for details on how this all works…

— — —

5.

and down. But she didn’t fall, the grip that the insect or whatever it was had on her back was strong, it lifted her.

Peter lunged forward and grabbed Dianne’s wrist.

‘It’s alright,’ he said. ‘I’ve got you.’
Dianne bit her lip to stop herself from crying out in fear. The last thing either of them needed was for her to lose it altogether. She grasped his arm with both of her hands. He heaved and the thing on her back let go and they fell in a heap on the muddy ground. They lay like that for a moment, breathing heavily.

‘It might come back.’ Dianne mumbled into the collar of Peter’s jacket. Then lifted herself gingerly up and looked around. ‘Should we keep looking?’

Peter looked as if he wanted to run home, now, as fast as he could, but he nodded. ‘If they’re in the gully we should be able to hear them soon right?’ Dianne nodded. Wondered if the night and the mist would ever clear away.

‘Let’s get going now then. Fast. OK? I am not keen to find out if that-’ she paused, she wasn’t sure what to call it. There was no way something that could lift her up could possibly be an insect. But what else could it possibly be? She didn’t want to think too hard about that so she said ‘-thing has friends.’

The helicopter buzzing started again, but there wasn’t just one this time. This time the flying thing

— — —

This is part 5 of 10. You can find the other installments here (but DON’T DO THIS YET if you want to join in):

1. http://www.sleep-dep.blogspot.com (26 June 2009)
2. http://www.multi-dimensional.blogspot.com (27 June 2009)
3. http://www.deb-onair.blogspot.com (29 June 2009)
4. http://www.additiverich.com/morgue/ (1 July 2009)
5. http://www.jennitalula.wordpress.com (1 July 2009)
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

WANT TO READ IT? Jump back to the previous entries using the links above.

WANT TO JOIN IN? This exquisite corpse operates on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to write the next installment, FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS:

1.IMPORTANT – Don’t read any of the previous entries! Read only the one you see here.

2.ALSO IMPORTANT – Post a comment here, saying “I claim the next entry”, followed by the URL/web address of your blog. If you don’t do this, we’ll never know where to find you.

3.Copy the text of this blog entry into a new post on your blog, but DELETE THE CHAPTER and write your own as the next installment. Start with the chapter number as I’ve done here, and start exactly where the last chapter left off (in mid-sentence if necessary).

4.Your entry should be EXACTLY 250 words long, unless you are writing chapter 10, in which case you must bring the story to a conclusion in 250 words or less.

5.At the end of the chapter, where the text reads: “This is part X of 10”, change this to the number of your chapter.

6.Add the URL/web address of your blog and today’s date onto the list below that, so people reading later entries can jump back to your chapter.

7.Finish your chapter and post it within 24 hours of claiming your place. There – it’s freaking easy! You can go back and read the rest of the story now.

8.IF YOU’VE JUST FINISHED ENTRY #10 and finished the story, DELETE THESE INSTRUCTIONS from the bottom of your post – they’ll just confuse people. ALSO, let CG know by posting a comment on the first entry (on http://www.sleep-dep.blogspot.com), or sending him an email on squid.mohawk@gmail.com. CG will assemble a full version and send it round to all of the contributors.

Late one evening

10 minute story, prompts from Matt. You must include at least two of the following things in your story:
Fog
Suspicion
The sound of distant laughter
Surprise

5.30

The fog was very dense. You couldn’t see more than a foot in front of you, which made walking the wharves something of a dangerous affair. If I’d had any say in the matter I’d be at home, sitting in front of the TV with my feet up and a hot cup of Joe. Unfortunately I was out in the mist, trying not to fall into the filthy harbour and trying to find a criminal.

That’s what you get when you’re the best cop in the city and the heiress to a major fortune has been missing for more than 48 hours. The plods didn’t have any leads, they never do. Of all the detectives on duty the commissioner had picked me. I guess he remembered that time twenty years back when I got those two boys back. I’d had my picture in the paper then, my Mother had been so proud. She was dead now. As dead as the wife I’d had twenty years ago as well. She was shot, a personal vengeance act from one of the guys I got stuck in jail.

My foot hit something hard. I looked down, peering in the fog. I pointed my flashlight and saw it was just one of those bollard things that they rope boats to. I stood still for a moment, listening, inhaling the night air. The fog made everything muffled, like it was coming from another world. I just made out the sounds of people laughing, a woman, maybe two, a couple of men. There was a new apartment building nearby, it could be a party on the balcony there. It was worth checking anyway.

I turned my flashlight off and stumped towards the laughter, the end of my nose was damp and I wiped it off on my sleeve. The apartment building suddenly loomed above me, lit up like a cruise ship in the Bahamas. I looked up and saw right into some guy’s bedroom. He was changing, his back to the window. I circled the building, looking for a balcony full of party goers. I saw them at the back of the building, just two floors up and illuminated from behind by fairy lights.

I dropped my flashlight. My wife was up there. Laughing with the heiress. Passing them drinks were the commissioner and the head of the local mob.

5.40.

If you would like to see more 10 minute stories, please feel free to comment with prompts. It’s easy, just choose one each of the following if you don’t have any ideas: Person, Place, Weather, Time

PoF: Batgirl
CO: Coldplay

Blind Date

Ok, this is a little clunky, but I like it all the same. Written using Debbie’s prompts from Wednesday…
A shaved head
Night-time rendezvous
Coffee
A pair of gloves

Comments/feedback welcome, or you can write your own in the comments if you like! You only get 10 minutes though, remember.

12.50

I sat in the café window so I’d be obvious, easily spotted. I held the coffee cup in both hands, curling my fingers around the cup for warmth. My gloves meant I couldn’t hold it with one hand, woolen fingerless gloves are tricky that way, but I liked the hotness on my hands anyway. The night was bitter and rainy and I was pleased to be inside.

My stomach turned over when the door opened, I hadn’t thought I would be this nervous but then I didn’t go on a lot of blind dates. I had this image in my head of what it would be like when he finally turned up, our eyes would meet from across the room and he’d come over, sit down and just start talking. We’d have so much in common, we’d be able to talk about everything. I love classic novels and in my mind he would be carrying a copy of Dracula. Corny, I know, and actually totally inappropriate but in my head it was super romantic that he had it. We’d talk for hours, he’d order cake for us to share, we’d laugh about stuff. He would be so attractive, pale skin like so pale he was almost translucent. He would have an edge of danger about him, a mystique. He’d be so sexy, talking in a low gravelly voice, a voice that betrayed his years of dark experiences.

We would talk about blood, of course. It was inevitable that the talk would eventually turn to blood, his, mine. Drinking it. His handle on the website had been ‘O-positivelover’ after all.

I put my coffee down as the door opened again and he walked in. He was wearing a black suit jacket with a white camellia in the pocket – the signal. It was really him. He wasn’t pale, his cheeks were rosy from the cold and his eyes were normal, just brown. He sat down opposite me, looking nervous rather than self assured. He didn’t have a copy of Dracula. I could smell the fear, he was sweating with it.

I smiled to put him at ease, I let my fangs show between my lips. He wasn’t the dream man I’d imagined, but his blood would taste sweet all the same.

1.00

Evolution (Short fiction)

It happened fast. Much faster than anyone thought evolution should to make a difference. And it wasn’t just happening to babies like you’d expect it to either. It was something that happened to all of us, even grown adults. I suppose that the situation was pretty extreme since civilisation as we’d known it had fallen apart. The zombies had overrun the cities, they wandered the country roads. If the zombies saw a house that was still standing they would target it. No idea how they did it but more and more dead bodies would just appear. Like moths to a lightbulb. They were very determined when it came to getting inside where people were.

Those of us who had survived, who had managed to not just give in to the fear or the zombies themselves had learned the value of high places. Treehouses were easy to hide and the zombies weren’t so clever that they could learn how to climb up the rope ladders. Plus, it’s easy to pick them off from above, a dropped rock will do it.

There was this whole village starting out up a mountain, the climb to it was only manageable with a hardy four wheel drive and the snow stopped the few zombies that made it that far up. The snow was deadly to them. They had no circulatory system left so no way to keep themselves warm.

The thing that happened, it happened to me first when I thought I was going to die. I was walking along a ridgeway, a lush green field with weeping willow trees. I was surprised by a wandering mob of zombies. They surrounded me. I don’t know what it was that had attracted them to that spot, it’s possible that they could smell me I guess, like a fox tracks a rabbit. They appeared and I had no weapons. I’m not a fighter, I’ve survived as long as I have by running away. I’ve left my family, my husband, my friends. The random people I met on the road who tried to help me. Every time the zombies have got too close I’ve run. This time I couldn’t see anywhere to run to. The zombies were every way I looked, shambling closer each second. I panicked. I whipped my head around but there was no way out. I started crying I think, from the fear.

I decided to try running anyway, insomuch as I could decide anything. It was probably more like a flight response. I aimed at a gap between two of the zombies. The gap couldn’t have been more than a metre wide and it was a slim chance at best, but when I took those first steps something shifted inside of me and I felt myself rising instead of running. Instinct took over, I relaxed, stopped running altogether. My body lifted into the air sweetly and easily, like a ghost. Like a silk scarf.
I sailed up into the air, my body getting blown about a bit. I rose quickly, out of reach of the monsters who looked up at me, uncomprehending.

The sky is open. There is so much space up here and no one to share it with but the birds and the bats. Now I live in a settlement in an old ski lodge just on the borders of the village. There are about five of us living together, trying to make a life in this new world. Everyone’s lost all the people they cared about, we’re just muddling along, trying to be there for each other. I room with Matt, he and I bonded because we both miss MTV.

The lodge is much too high for the zombies to walk to, if they even know we’re here. We do flyovers and check out the cities, find quiet spots where we can grab food. Some of the others have started vegetable crops. They don’t need to stay to tend them because the zombies aren’t interested food that grows in the ground. They’re just interested in us. We can water the fields from above with buckets filled with snow melt. Harvest time will be a bit harder to manage but I think it will be alright. The ground is mostly theirs now, but there’s plenty we can do from the air. The most important of course, is running away.

Matt pointed out that it’s only a matter of time though, before one of them catches one of us. Then we don’t know what will happen. Will the zombie be able to fly? I don’t like to think about it.

_______________________

[By the way, feel free to comment with feedback, constructive criticism or joyful gushing :)]

Short fiction – The Other Side – Sam’s curse

Sam Depp We moved into the other world because my father was offered a job there. The existence of a Medieval fantasy world alongside our own had been discovered about 5 years earlier. Well, discovered is a nice word for it when the portal just freaking opened up in the middle of a road in Chicago. Hard to deny really. It had been long enough since official portals had been regulated (read: guards added) that there was an Earth embassy over there. The UN and some particularly enterprising, or as I like to call them, stingy corporations had moved in. The companies out sourced call centres to The Other Side, because India had got too expensive. Why bother employing humans at all when orcs and elves were dying to fin dout what it was like to answer a telephone and get paid minimum wage.

There’s your vague world view. Hope you liked it. The story I’m trying to tell is about how I had to start a whole new school. I had been against the move from the start. I had friends at my high school, my sister was settled in some sort of Barbie doll haze with a bunch of other 8 year old girls. We had a house with a double garage and wireless broadband. We were happy.

Mom and Dad were sketchy about exactly what Dad would be doing on The Other Side and I can’t say I was that interested. I just protested every way I knew how against moving at all. And I thought up a lot of ways. It didn’t work. Since when do 16 year olds get a say in their own lives? Since never. The retarded thing about it all is that they came to this new world and we had this house with a white picket fence and a yard with a rock garden and Dad planted a lawn out the front so that he could still go out and mow it on the weekend.

Like, let’s move to this whole new environment where there are actually dragons flying around and elves and shit and just change nothing about how we live our own lives. So there we are with a new two car garage and two storeys and lace curtains in the kitchen and outside people are being beheaded if they look at the King the wrong way.

Kelly and I had to go to the same school. It was an Earth style school so it was like super popular with all the non-humans. That was good because it meant it was big enough to have classes for each year level and we weren’t stuffed in the same class with the 5 year olds like some back water country school. Mom and Dad took us in when they enrolled us and the school principal was a fucking centaur. Like yeah, sure, we’ve just transferred from another dimension. I can’t get MTV here and if I misbehave in class I’m going to be sent to half a horse. Whatever. Continue reading