To whom it may concern
If you are writing this, you are a murderer.
If you are reading this, I’m sorry.
I pulled out my phone while the man beside me was breathing down my neck. I started to dial and sidestepped away from him. He took a step closer.
“Mind backing up a little” I asked. “Thanks”. I called my brother. “Tyler, I just had a thought”.
“Dude, I’m suited up for an interview so this better be important” said Tyler. I imagined the sight, his short stature and his formal attire. It looked like a child holding a clipboard.
“It is” I replied. “So what if an acapella group-”?
Tyler stopped me. “If this is one of your puns, I swear, I’m changing the Netflix password”.
“It’s not, it’s not” I assured. “So if an acapella group got into gardening…”?
“This is a pun Bruce, admit it” replied Tyler.
“I’m telling you, it’s not” I defended. “So if an acapella group got into gardening, would they call their band Pitches and Hoes”?
Tyler groaned on the phone “I’m going to give that a negative four out of ten”.
I got a dissatisfied look from the man beside me. “No but seriously, I called to tell you about my emergency cigarettes”.
Tyler expected another pun saying “Ok…”.
“There’s a box under my bed and it has about three in there. If you’re going for an interview, take them. Just buy a packet of mints as well. Pop a mint after your cigarette”.
Tyler was shook by the lack of a punchline. “Ok, thanks”.
“And Tyler, you’ll be fine. No matter what happens, you’ll be fine. I love you”.
“Ok man, I got to go, but thanks for the cigarettes, and the advice”.
“Anytime Tyler” and I hung up. I turned to the man behind me. “Thanks for bending the rules. I’m ready to go now”.
Technically, the glass from the windscreen broke my heart. But Tyler looking at the car crash, that is what broke my heart. He roared like a missile, aware of its purpose as it fell through the sky. Being ok was an impossible thing. And he would go on believing this for the rest of his life. But when he checked the time of our last call, he understood impossible things can happen.
We can only see the horrific cataclysm of our reality when we leave it. That is the last thing Cassie said to me. Well, Lucid Cassie. Now there are aphids between her ears, manning controls they do not understand. That was one constant Cassie now had. The aphids in her head that whispered futures. And I knew I had my work cut out for me when…I had to take the power drill from her. “No! The, aphids, speak, the, messages. I, need to, let, them, out. Tin, is, the, only, metal, the, beast, bows, to”. It broke my heart when I thought of what she said as fortunes of no futures. Was that my destiny caring for her?
She always says a monster gave her the aphids and if you heard what her daddy did to her, you’d say she was right. Trauma can drown what is real in acid. But she always had her loyal loyal John. I’d die before I let her destroy herself. The problem was, she’d destroy herself if the walls told her to.
Then she said something amongst the neurons flaring from broken synapses. “A, green, man, towers, over, a, feast, of, corn”. The green man, she was talking about the Green Giant Sweetcorn! Her visions were real! Not in the way she understood, but if I could show her what she was seeing was just fragments of what she knew and not the will of insects, maybe she could distinguish reality from nightmare.
There is not one can of Green Giant Sweetcorn. But I had a thread of her visions. If I tugged, it would all unravel. So I listened carefully to every sentence of insanity. The Silver owls of flaccid trees, the volcano that points down in the name of time, everything. Until she said it. “The, bath, is, black, from, the, ink, that, pens, the, way, of, the, enemy”. I knew the black bath. Lucid Cassie and I have been to it. And we were going back!
An abandoned institution, as grey as the ghosts rumoured to haunt the place. No one remembers the purpose, just the name. Saint Dymphna’s. All the windows were broken, and the inside was scattered with dust, empty beer cans and syringes. On the second floor, sat a bath tub. And it was half full of oil due to something leaking on the floor above.
“Rats, will, own, all, the, vowels, and…is that the black bath” Cassie asked.
“Yes Cassie, yes” I screamed. “Don’t you see, your mind is just twisting places you’ve been, things you’ve seen, saying they are visions. But this is real”!
“So the aphids are…just in my head, figuratively” asked Cassie returning. All I could do was hold her and cry. Her father be damned, she was better.
“No” she said into my chest and pulled away. “No, this, is, a, vision”.
I was so close. I would not lose her. “No Cassie, this is real. Look, the black bath” I said pointing.
She clutched her head, screamed and ran downstairs. I chased after her until the screaming stopped in a silence as sudden as a car crash. I slowed to a cautious pace, poking my head into a room where I last heard her.
She had fallen onto a window frame face first, and the shard she landed on started to part her hair on the back of her head. She twitched in reluctance of this glass mosses splitting a sea of red.
Then I finally saw it. The, aphids. I, see, everything, now.
Pete was having a cigarette in the snow outside of the workshop. His dark skin converting flakes that landed on his face. He saw through the white, two short men dressed in green. Pete greeted the elves.
“Hey Tony” said Pete.
“Hey” said one of the newcomers pulling out a cigarette. “This is the new guy” said Tony talking about his companion. “His name is Greg”.
Greg spoke before he thought. “But you’re not an elf”.
Pete smiled and inhaled slowly “Yeah, see, about that. Pre-Krampus, pre-Grinch, pre-Anti-Clause, there was me. I was the first before television got their hands on what we do here”.
“So…you steal Christmas” asked Greg not understanding. Tony took a small step away from Greg waiting for Pete’s response.
“Bit blunt, aren’t you short-stuff” stated Pete. Tony relaxed. “No, I don’t steal Christmas. I just give coal to naughty children”.
“So, you ride with the boss on work night” asked Greg in shock. “Jesus”.
“Speaking of,” said Tony “guess who’s coming to the new-years party. Dobby is free to do wine slushies”.
A question came to Pete’s mind. “Actually, you never told me how you got the party in the first place. We don’t exactly have a union”.
“Why, want to get us another one” asked Tony.
Pete inhaled deeply, wondering if his idea was too far out of reach. “No, I was just wondering…since you got the party and all…that maybe…The boss would give me something I want”.
Tony knew Pete was walking into dangerous territory. Making requests to the boss was unheard of until this year. “What are you thinking”?
Pete blurted out his response. “I want to ride the sleigh, without the boss breathing down my neck. I want to see the birds, look at the moon, watch the sky without getting barked at to do this and that”. Greg and Tony gave the response a plumber would to a pipeline that had ingested a grenade.
“The boss would wrap you up in a box and give you to a kid in India before he’d let you ride the sleigh without him” said Tony.
“But how did you get your party” asked Pete. “Maybe if I did the same…”.
“I’m going to stop you there” said Tony. “We asked the boss, but we had to do something in return”.
“What” asked Pete feeling the sky touch his face already.
“You’re better off asking him yourself” explained Greg. “See what he says”…
* * *
Greg and Tony saw Pete having a cigarette in the snow. They trudged over to him.
“What did he say” asked Greg excited.
“I can see why you didn’t tell me what you did” said Pete. “Everyone has a different task to do in return”.
“But what did he say” asked Greg again.
“I have to make someone’s Christmas” said Pete. He inhaled deeply and said “A lot of someones. But there’s a catch”.
“The boss is always nasty with his catches” said Tony. “What’s yours”?
“I can only use what I have” said Pete. Greg and Tony shared a mournful look with Pete. All Pete had was a packet of cigarettes, a lighter, and an infinite supply of coal.
“Sorry man. I know you had your heart set on riding the sleigh” said Tony and patted the back of Pete’s leg comfortingly.
Pete threw his cigarette into the snow and took out another one. “Yeah, such a shame. I really wanted to fly free, you know”.
Tony had not said anything because he was thinking, calculating how Pete could achieve his dream. The boss gave him those conditions for a reason. It was possible, and Tony had worked out how.
“You still can” said Tony. “I have an idea. What if you gave your coal to homeless children”?
Pete could have done more than kissed Tony. He would have married him, bore his children and shared a coffin at the end of their long and happy marriage.
“No” said Greg. “The boss has a list. He’ll take care of everybody”.
“Everybody with chimneys” shouted Pete. “Oh my god this could work.
Greg said “So, when the doctor was supposed to slap you as a baby, did he straight up rugby tackle you into the wall? Cause that’s the only thing I can think of that would explain that new breed of stupid you just said”.
“I think I can do it” restored Pete.
Greg laughed at the idea. “Ok, listen real close, You have two days to do that. There is no way in hell you have the time”.
“The boss does what he does in one” replied Pete. Tony nodded in agreement.
“As if you knew how The boss does all that in a day”.
“I ride with him every year. I know how” explained Pete.
Tony was in quiet contemplation. “Problem” he said. “If you’re making their Christmases, you’ll need transport”.
But Pete was on a roll so he said “There is one thing that can make the journey”. A large grin crawled on his face
Greg checked Pete to see if he was serious. “You want to steal the boss’ ride” shouted Greg.
“Well, I can’t ride it on my own, so I want us to steal it”
“Rugby tackled babies, the lot of you”.
“I get to ride the sleigh and do my job in the one night. I get to ride all the reindeer, in the sky, without him“.
“Come on” said Tony “If I help him on my own, we’ll get caught”.
Greg sighed and agreed to help them. They all started walking to begin their theft.
“You know” said Greg “A black man stealing the boss’s ride. There’s a joke in there”.
Pete stopped, looked down on Greg and said “I’m bigger than you, and we’re going to be a couple of thousand feet in the air in a few minutes, do you really want to make that joke”?
“I retract my statement” said Greg. And he mumbled “Going to be doing a lot of that in court when we get caught”.
* * *
The three thieves stood in front of the Boss’s cabin. Behind the three lay the carcass of a destroyed sleigh and concussed reindeer, trying to find balance by leaning on the snow beneath their feet. The boss standing outside his front door, whit an expectant look hidden behind his large white beard. “And that was…” their superior asked.
“Can I retract my statement” asked Greg.
“You haven’t made a statement” said Tony.
Pete stood in front of the other two, who used this opportunity to back away. “Look, Sir, I made people’s Christmases, like you asked. I gave my coal to the homeless. All the homeless. Everywhere. They’re sleeping warm tonight”.
Their boss stroked his beard. “And tell me, did you do it just to ride my reindeer”?
Pete thought about this for a second, then he spoke honestly. “At first, yeah, but after I started handing out coal, I was just happy these people were getting something for Christmas. They don’t have chimneys so we look past them, but for one night, they weren’t cold”.
“Let me get this straight” said the victim of their theft, “You stole my sleigh, covered it in soot, spooked my reindeer with your driving, crash landed here knowing you would get caught, all to give coal to the homeless”.
“The crash landing is my fault” said Tony raising a shaky hand. “I’m insured and Pete’s not so I took the wheel and, well, one thing lead to another, which lead into a tree which almost lead into an airplane and” Tony noticed he was talking too much by crystal eyes above a long white beard glaring at him. “Sorry” said Tony in a way smaller than his size
“Was it worth it” asked their employer.
“Yes sir” said Pete without hesitation.
“I’d like to weigh in” said Greg about to deny as much as he could. All three characters shot him a glare and he stayed silent.
“Would you do it again” asked the largest of the company, sticking his thumbs behind his large belt buckle.
“Would you do it again next year”? Pete smiled, laughed and then jumped up and down in joy. He had a job. He was not the Christmas bad guy anymore, and he got to fly “Oh, I wouldn’t celebrate too soon” said his boss pulling out a toothbrush from his pocket. “You have a sleigh to repair and clean”. Pete did not care, he had made many people’s Christmas, and his Christmas was made.
So, I’m going to do something a little different and not write a story. I am not going to talk in a character’s voice in a setting of my design. This is just a theory I had a few years ago and I wanted to run it by you. If you were expecting a horror story, read this till the end, because all I said was this was not a story.
Halloween. The night when the veil between this world and the next is at its weakest. Now I don’t believe in monsters. But many different cultures have spoken about the cracked barrier. So I’m agnostic when it comes to this. But let’s humour the idea for a second. Afterall, you will find people who believe there are far worse things below Heaven than us.
So, monsters can cross over on this night, due to the fact that whatever separates this plain from another has phased. It’s become transparent like a ghost. And there are countless legends of mythological creatures coming to this side. Which is fine; if I believed in the veil and its weakness, it would make sense. Open a door and eventually, something comes through. But nobody thinks about what this open door actually is.
Monsters cross over because they can. But when it comes to an open door, isn’t it possible that we could go through the other way? Isn’t it possible we could be taken there? What is stopping evil doing just that? Dragging us to the other side, begging, kicking, screaming. To a place we barely see a fraction of on one night of the year. Hell, I can imagine a beast made of fear and malice grabbing my ankle with it’s teeth, and come sunrise, I would be in a place where ivory fangs digging into my flesh would be the happiest memory I will ever have, from now until eternity. And the last marks I make in this world would be the ones I scratched on the floorboards. But this is just a theory…right ?
Probably…I mean, I give the idea of monsters the benefit of the doubt because people have “claimed” to have seen and heard them. From the phrase “The devil made me do it” to people swearing they saw ghosts. I’m not giving my theory any credibility because no one has come forward saying they were taken to the other side on halloween by nefarious creatures. Not one. But then again, how could they?
Why would we even hear about it? What if those people who were taken, are never heard from again? What if they remain trapped there, forever? What if the most horrifying stories, are the ones we never get to hear? But it’s just a theory…right?
I can start a war or end one. I can give you the strength of heroes or leave you powerless. I might be snared with a glance but no force can compel me to stay. What am I?
He managed to do it! But this world is better off not knowing how, so I won’t tell you who he is or where we were that night. As for what he did, that is the most important thing you can ever know. “I can teach you if you like” he said to me. To explain the deed, you need to know who he was, before. This man loved and hated. He was elevated with his wins and crushed underneath his losses, until now. You see, he managed to extract his emotions. No joy or empathy or hatred. Just this. Just a Tin Man. And if only he had a heart.
“Are you kidding me” I exclaimed. “You sold your soul! Just to be soulless! Why in God’s name would I want that!? Why do you even want to teach me? I thought the heartless couldn’t want”?
“Greater purposes call for greater numbers. I need you to be just like me. And you do too” explained The Tin Man.
He was completely insane! So I said “You aren’t going to understand this, but the idea makes me sick to my stomach. You’re not happy or elated or even blue! You’re just…white”.
I could see The Tin Man’s vapid eyes registering what I said but being numb to the sentiment. “Tell me,” he retorted quickly “have you never wanted all those insanities gone? Pain hate loss guilt.”. I thought to myself ‘Of course not…I mean, other than mom dying, which still hurts. Then there are the times I think of the mistakes I’ve made. And sometimes life just keeps piling up problems.
Shamefully, my silence was his answer. Maybe life is easier like him. Maybe what’s beating in my chest is beating me down. Maybe…”No” I said. “No, we need to feel. You’ve lost your love for the little things. Like buying a big chocolate bar for yourself. Looking at art. Fuck it, looking at seagulls. You may not be able to feel it, but you have my pity”.
“I am the apex of humanity,” replied The Tin Man calmly “so why would I buy a chocolate bar”?
I wanted to say to him “Case and point” but he wouldn’t understand. There had to be a translation from my world to his. It was then that the riddle came to mind. So I made a deal with him. If he couldn’t answer my riddle, The Tin Man would leave and never return. But if he could, I would slice out every speck of my soul, becoming a functional nothing. He agreed so I began. “I can start a war or end one. I can give you the strength of heroes or leave you powerless. I might be snared with a glance but no force can compel me to stay. What am I”? As he paused I considered would losing my emotions hurt? Then I thought to myself ‘only when I’m losing them, not when they’re lost’.
“…Nothing has that kind of power” said The Tin Man.
“One thing does” I said with a grin. There was a pause and his head tilted to the side, like being wrong was a new concept to him.
After a few seconds he said “It…it’s a trick. The riddle has no answer. You are lying”.
“The answer”, I said “is love”.
Because I had the answer to the riddle, I mourned when we parted.