Tag Archives: Christmas

Grendel Christmas

Twas the night before Solstice, when all through the hall

Not a person was stirring, except for the thralls.

The axes were hung by the chimney with care

In hopes that Grendel soon would be there.

The vikings were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of murder danced in their heads.

And Frigga in her hjalmr, and I in my hatt,

Had just settled our bloodlust for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the armaments there arose such a crash,

I sprang from the bed to see Brogin turned to ash.

Away to my claymore I flew into a rage,

Tore straight for the battle and onto the stage.

The moon on the breast of the hoarfrost below

Illuminated the blood on the new-fallen snow

When, what to my murderous eyes should appear,

But towering jaws and a man flailing in fear.

With a spine-splitting crack, the man’s body fell

I knew in a moment it must be Grendel.

More savage than bjornkin his talons they rent,

And he growled, and he rampaged, and their bodies he bent!

“Now Agni! now, Alrek! now, Olaf and Gunnbjorn!

On, Ottar! On, Egil! on, on Brunin and Hallbjorn!

To the top of its skull! To the front of the hall!

Now hack away! Hack away! Hack away all!”

As woodland creatures before the great fire burn,

When they follow their wyrd, and are pierced by the thorn.

So did Grendel tear apart the brave fighters,

With a mouth reeking of death, the one called the Blighter.

 

And then, in a crippling, I heard a great yawn

The growling and scratching that came with the dawn.

As I averted my eyes, and was saying a prayer,

Down the hall stomped Beowulf the serpent-slayer.

 

He was dressed all in hides, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tattered with war wounds and soot.

Then he stripped the clothing right off his back,

And he looked at the monster while cracking his neck.

 

His eyes-filled with madness! His jaw lines drawn tight!

His clenched hands were bleeding, anticipating the fight!

Drool came from his mouth and he wiped it away,

And the stubble on his chin stood right at end.

 

In Grendel’s own teeth, the stump of a man,

And billowing around it was the fog of the land.

He swallowed the limb right into his belly,

It cackled with laughter, my legs turned to jelly!

 

Beowulf’s spirit was not lessened, a terror as well,

And he stood and he laughed at this creature from Hel!

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And took Grendel’s arm and it tore with a jerk.

And twisting in pain, the beast howled in alarm.

It escaped from the battle, but left its own arm!

 

Beowulf raised up the limb, jumped on our table,

And growled with a bloodlust more than the monster was able.

But I heard him exclaim and it was quite a sight,

“Who’s next, all you dogs? Who wants to fight!”

 

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XX

Traditions (“Hindsight: Christmas Miracle” Revision)

“Oh, sweet baby Jesus,” Sarah says over and over to herself, teeth chattering. Her husband’s, Travis’s, old pickup truck didn’t insulate the heat well enough, in spite of the blankets they jammed throughout the interior, covering the windshield entirely. She looked out of the little peephole in the passenger side window, but there was no sign of Travis. Travis said he’d be back by sunrise. By sunrise, everything would be better again.

Her husband took the rifle but they kept a pistol in the glove compartment that he had taught her how to use. “Oh, sweet baby Jesus,” she repeated, huddled up in the old quilt her mother had made her when she was a child. It had animals painstakingly sewn into the fabric. She shivered. “Travis. Please be okay out there.”

Nights are the worst. Sarah sees creatures in the shadows, ones that are there as often as not. She usually never knows for sure until she can see the creatures well enough to hear their hooves crunch through the snow. One time, a squirrel jumped onto the windshield and tried to gnaw through it to get to them. Sarah thought, in a situation like that, that she would have screamed hysterically. But she just sat there, gun pointed at the squirrel, heart hammering against her ribs. Travis never woke up and she never told him about the incident, either. There’s enough terror in the daytime without Travis hearing about the sound the owls make when they’re dead. When undead birds sing, there’s no music in it. There’s just a low, long whistle. Sarah thinks that the owls sound deeper and sadder than anything she’s ever known. Nights are the worst, but Sarah chooses them. She’d rather stay awake through the horror than never wake up.

“Where are you, Travis?” the warm air leaves her mouth like a ghost. She huddles up in her animal blanket, hiding from the creatures in the night. Sarah feels warm in her mother’s patchwork. If the zombie outbreak had never occurred, she and Travis would be celebrating Christmas at her parents’ house in Michigan. They’d be eating ham and watching the wild turkeys hobble by outside the glass sliding window. One of their family traditions was to roast up chestnuts and eat them by the fireplace. She would always fall asleep there, feet toasty warm. Sarah dreamed sweet dreams back then…

* * *

It’s still night, but Sarah is following a star, almost as bright as the sun. It looks pale and lonely in spite of its light. She finds a barn where she can take refuge. There are people and animals inside. They’re all standing still, looking at something. Sarah has their pistol out; they’re quiet but they all look alive.

“What are you all looking at?” Sarah asks. No answer. She leans forward to see Joseph and Mary sitting over their child, looking every bit like the ones in her parents’ nativity set. “He’s our Lord and savior,” says one of the wise men. They’re all standing still and staring like in a painting. Sarah leans forward to look at the tiny child in the manger. Its jaw hangs loose. Its eyes are gray and dead. It reaches out to touch Sarah and she backs off. Mary’s neck is broken. Joseph’s jaw is missing. His tongue hangs loose onto his robes. One of the wise men, eye holes bleeding, lunges at her and she backs into a llama with filmy eyes and crooked teeth. It hisses and bites her.

* * *

“Sarah! Open up!”

She pulls out the pistol and points it at his head.

“Christ! Sarah!” he ducks. “I’m not a zombie yet! Put the gun down!”

She looks through the peephole. The sunlight is barely grazing over the trees, making the tops look yellow.

“It was a little farther than I remembered. But look!” He holds up the gas can. “It’s a Christmas miracle!

Sarah says nothing. “I think we have as much as three gallons, but the stations just tapped out now. We’re lucky that there was anything at all. People probably just haven’t used this one because of how far away from civilization it is.”

Sarah remembers her parents’ home, walking in and seeing the glass door broken, a corpse strewn out on the kitchen floor. Red entrails stretched out on white linoleum. She couldn’t even recognize it as her mother, or maybe she didn’t want to believe it at the time. Travis looks into Sarah’s glazed over eyes. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah…” she says, shaking her head. Those memories won’t do her any good. She has Travis and that’s all that matters now.

Her husband runs his hand through her hair and puts his lips to her head. “Check me for bite marks,” he whispers to her forhead. She shrinks back from his touch.

“God dammit, Travis! I don’t care if you’re turning or not.”

“Don’t say that.”

“No! No!” she swats away an arm aimed at comforting her. “It’s not like we can help it! I’d rather die too!”

“Sarah. This is important. It would kill me if I…”

“You’d already be dead. Just drop it.”

“All right. I just…”

“Drop it.”

They sit for a minute, looking out at the growing light outside. It’s a silent morning.

“I’m sorry,” Sarah says.

“For what?” Travis asks. Sarah has never apologized after these arguments, but then she wasn’t apologizing about the fight anyway. She made up her mind that she would stick with him when they got married, before she even knew that the dead could get up and walk again.

“I was asleep when you got back. I had… I had a bad dream.”

“Sarah, I’ve been thinking about something,” Travis says, clutching his gas can. “I don’t think we can do this anymore. We need to make good use of this last gasoline that we were given. We may be able to get close to the coast on just a few gallons. I don’t know why I thought we could hide out forever, but maybe immigration has settled down a bit. I mean, the initial scare is over, so I don’t think they’d shoot us unless we were the undead. Sarah?”

“Hmmm?”

“Sarah. What do you think?”

“About what?”

“Civilization.”

Sarah wraps her mother’s quilt around them both. “I think… I want to sleep together without taking shifts. I don’t care what happens today. I just want to sleep her with you.” She rests her head on his stomach.

“Merry Christmas,” she whispers.

“Merry Christmas,” he replies, setting the gas can at his feet.

Outside the window, the sunrise gives the snow a reddish hue. Just this one time, he pulls the quilt over both their heads and they dream sweet dreams.

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Filed under FEATHERTON III, Flash Fiction

All I Want for Christmas

“A Vintage 1977 Port,” Martin says, his arms crossed, thumbnail in his mouth.

“That’s what you want?” says the mall Santa. He wouldn’t let Martin sit on his lap, but he was willing to hear his Christmas wish.

“That’s all I want.”

“I take it that’s a good year?”

“The best,” Martin beamed. “It’s the year I was made, too.”

“Oh, very good, Martin. Well, I hope you’ve been a good boy. Maybe you’ll get your wine.”

“No, no, Santa. Port.”

“What difference does it make?” Santa asks, his black boot padding the floor.

Sir,” one elf butted in. She would be been attractive if she wasn’t so angry-looking. “We have a lot of children waiting. Santa doesn’t have time to argue with a grown man.” She said that as if it was a bad thing.

“What year were you born?”

“I’m not going to answer something like that!” the woman holds her hips. They weren’t very big; she’d probably never had kids.

“Look. It doesn’t really matter,” Martin shoots back. “You look pretty young. Have you ever had a fine Port?”

“I can’t say that I’ve ever had port. No.”

“You’ve been deprived, Miss…” Martin sees Santa beckoning the next child in line. He steps in to cut the boy off. “Now, to answer your question, Port is completely different from just wine.”

“But it is wine,” Santa says.

“And a tiger is also a cat,” Martin wags his finger at Santa’s jolly nose.

“Sir, I’m calling mall security,” the elf says.

Martin laughs with all of his Christmas spirit and holiday disdain rolled into one. She raised the radio to her lips. “Little girl, I merely wish to make sure that Santa understands. I wouldn’t want a Vintage Pinot instead. You understand, don’t you?”

Her dull eyes look like that of a fish staring out of its tank at a troublesome child. “This is Sasha. We have a man here bothering Santa. Thanks.”

“Santa, may I ask for one thing before I go?”

“What is it,” Santa sighs.

“Amnesty. I’d like to think that we’re still square.”

“Of course, Martin. Just keep staying good for the holidays. Maybe you’ll get your Port.”

“Thank you, Santa. You’re a saint. The saintiest!” Martin calls as he jogs away, waving.

“Was that guy for real?” the elf says.

“Only as real as you or I, Elf. Don’t let it worry you so much,” he smiles at the confused child and his perturbed mother who are waiting next. He pats his knee slowly. The child, thumbnail in mouth, moves forward with his mother’s coaxing. Everyone in line takes another step forward.

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Filed under FEATHERTON SESSION, Flash Fiction

Hindsight: Christmas Miracle

“Oh, sweet baby Jesus,” Sarah said over and over to herself, rocking back and forth in her husband’s old Silverado. She wanted to close her eyes but she couldn’t. If she closed them, she might miss one of those creatures sneaking up on the car. Travis said he’d be back by sunrise. By sunrise, everything would be better again.

Her husband took the rifle but they had a pistol in the glove compartment that he had taught her how to use. “Oh, sweet baby Jesus. Travis. Please be okay out there.”

Nights are the worst. Sarah sees creatures in the shadows, ones that may or may not be there. She never knows until she can see them get enough to the truck or hear their hooves crunch through the snow. One time, a squirrel jumped onto the windshield and tried to gnaw through it to get to them. Sarah thought she would have screamed hysterically, but she just sat there, gun pointed, heart hammering against her ribs. Travis never woke up and she never told him about it, either. There’s enough terror in the daytime without Travis hearing about the sound the owls make when they’re dead. When undead birds sing, there’s no music in it. There’s just a low, long whistle. Sarah thinks that the owls sound deeper and sadder than anything she’s ever known. Nights are the worst, but watch the nights than fall asleep knowing she might not wake up.

“Where are you, Travis?” the warm air leaves her mouth like a ghost. She grabs the extra blanket from the back and jerks back pointing her gun at the windshield. If her back was turned for a moment, something might sneak up on her. She has to be aware. Always aware. But she’s tired and it’s cold.

* * *

It’s still night, but Sarah is following a star, almost as bright as the sun. It looks pale and lonely in spite of its light. She finds a barn where she can take refuge. There are people and animals inside. They’re all standing still, looking at something. Sarah has their pistol out; they’re quiet but they all look alive.

“What are you all looking at?” Sarah asks. No answer. She leans forward to see Joseph and Mary sitting over their child. “He’s our Lord and savior,” says one of the wise men, though she can’t tell which one. They’re all standing still and staring like in a painting. Sarah leans forward to look at the child in the manger. Its jaw hangs loose. Its eyes are gray and dead. It reaches out to touch Sarah and she backs off. Mary’s neck is broken. Joseph’s jaw is missing. His tongue hangs loose onto his robes. One of the wise men lunges at her and she backs into a llama with filmy eyes and crooked teeth. It hisses at her.

* * *

“Sarah! Open up!”

She pulls out the pistol and points it at his head.

“Christ! Sarah!” he ducks. “I’m not a zombie yet! Put the gun down!”

She lowers the weapon and opens up the door. “Get in!” She looks around. The sunlight is barely grazing over the trees. “It’s sunrise. What took you?”

“It was a little farther than I remembered. But look!” He held up the gas can. “It’s a Christmas miracle!”

“There was still gas there?”

“A little. I think we have as much as three gallons, but the stations just tapped out now. We’re lucky that there was anything at all. People probably just haven’t used this one because of how far away from civilization it is.”

“That’s a relief. But I don’t want you to go on any more of these stupid suicide missions, y’hear?”

Travis runs his hand through her hair and puts his lips to her head. “Check me for bite marks,” he whispers.

“Travis! We’ve been over this. I don’t care if you’re one foot in the grave. I’m not leaving your side and you’ve got no say when you’re dead anyway.”

“Sarah. This is important. I want you to be able to go through with it if I’m lurking around trying to eat you.”

Sarah shakes her head. “Just don’t get bit an’ we won’t have to worry about it. Got it?”

“All right. I just…”

“Drop it.”

They sit for a minute, looking out at the growing light outside. It’s a silent morning.

“I’m sorry,” Sarah says.

“For what?” Travis asks. Sarah has never apologized after these arguments, but then she wasn’t apologizing about the fight anyway. She made up her mind that she would stick with him when they got married, before she even knew that the dead could get up and walk again.

“I was asleep when you got back.”

“Oh,” Travis says, clutching his gas can. “I don’t think we can do this anymore. We need to make good use of this last gasoline that we were given. We may be able to get close to the coast on just a few gallons. There’s probably people there. We couldn’t stay away from them forever and all this going out on the lam and taking watches in the truck… it’s not healthy for you. We’ve lived through another Christmas but it’s just borrowed time at this point…” he pauses. “What do you think?”

“Travis, I’ll follow you to the ends of the Earth.”

He smiles. “That’s what I’m worried about.” Before she can respond to that, he plants a big, wet kiss on her lips. “Merry Christmas, honey.”

“Merry Christmas,” she replies.

“Let’s get this thing gassed up and get the Hell out of here. Take the pistol and cover me.”

She gives a mock salute. “Yes, sir!”

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Filed under FEATHERTON SESSION, Flash Fiction